When I sold my Nice apartment and packed up and stored my 11 boxes a year ago, I terminated all standing orders and subscriptions on my French bank account except one, my SCBWI membership. I’d give up beer and cheese before letting go of this!
I am still thanking the literary gods that my student visa arrived four days before the LA 2013 conference and there was a seat available on the plane!
People – SCBWIers are some of the silliest, warmest, wackiest, kindest most supportive people I know!
Celebration – Who knew that if you put a bunch of fairly introverted agents, editors, authors, illustrators and publishers together with a liberal flow of beverages, you get a phenomenal party palooza? SCBWIers know how to celebrate life, with all the hiccups as well as the small and big successes in this journey, and that would be others’ successes not just their own.
Challenges – All the challenges in which I am involved are spearheaded by SCBWIers: Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, Kristen Fullton’s Wow-NonFicPic, NaPiBoWriWee by Paula Yoo and Susanna Leonard Hill’s writing competitions. My writing has benefited enormously from these regular deadlines.
Conferences – I leave local and international SCBWI conferences not just with new friends, craft tips, sleep-deprived, elated and oozing with inspiration, but with an acute sense of belonging and belief in our readers and our stories.
Craft – while I learn craft from many sources – courses, reading, critiquing, writing etc, I have sat at the feet of some amazing SCBWIers as they share tips, experience and enthusiasm with me. Most recently, the intensive on revision that I attended with editor, Emma D. Dryden, at the LA conference last month gave me handfuls of concrete strategies (and highlighters) that I could immediately apply to
trashing improving my novel.
Grants/Awards – to inspire, reward and promote the newbie to the veteran, SCBWI has an array of these for both writers and illustrators. New ones are added regularly. Jane Yolen created the middle grade mid-list author grant last year, and this year a new peer-voted self-published award was announced at the LA conference. Many careers, such as illustrator-author Debbie Ohi’s, have rocketed from these launch pads.
Friends – I have made many spontaneous lifelong friends within the SCBWI community. And, nope, we don’t just talk kids’ books! We play, drink, dine, laugh and cry together.
Generosity – I have lost count of the number of SCBWIers who have offered me hospitality, often only knowing me from my facebook page! This takes guts! They have: picked me up at airports, welcomed me into their homes and families, taken me hiking, given me lifts, introduced me to friends, advised me, critiqued my work, laughed at my accent, ignored my idiosyncracies and cheered for me on my adventures.
Mentoring – I believe passionately in mentoring as an invaluable tool for writers and illustrators’ professional development and for stronger, richer, more conscious, more beautiful writing. SCBWI also believes this. I have had the blessing of being involved in one of the oldest mentor programs in the organization, the SCBWI Nevada mentor program, which I highly recommend. And I suspect it is no coincidence that I met my mentor at a SCBWI conference and she is a board member!
Belonging/community – I have sought community in many different ways over the years: scouting, volunteer programs, sports etc, but I had a unique sense of homecoming when encountering the SCBWI tribe for the first time in LA in 2011! These are my peeps and I love how inclusive we are.
Peers and pros to emulate – One of the things that sets SCBWI apart from many groups with which I have been involved is the equal estimation of everyone, whether they have just penned their first poem, or are celebrating their 5th Caldecott. I have never felt undermined or put down because of my lack of experience or publishing credits by my fellow writers/illustrators!
Fund raising and giving – the examples are numerous, but author Kate Messner launched an all-star kidlit auction for Hurricane Sandy relief effort. If you look through the list of donating authors/editors, I think you’ll find all are SCBWI members! I know numerous illustrators and authors who donate time and books constantly to encourage reading among children. Roxie Munro introduced me shortly after my arrival in New York to Bellevue Hospital Center’s Reach out and Read Program.
International – I need this. It’s in my genetic makeup to feel restricted in some way if my community is only made up of WASPS… thank goodness SCBWI cuts across the continents and cultures and is working hard to promote and embrace diversity in its midst. My first contact with the organization was with SCBWI France, and while I never made it to a Paris meeting (8 hours drive from Nice) I eventually met and became friends with Dana Carey and Sarah Towle.
Crit groups – I found my first online crit group through the SCBWI boards and my closest crit partners through SCBWI contacts! I couldn’t progress without them!
Humour and humility – yes, I do think these go hand in hand. Those who know how to laugh hard at themselves are rarely arrogant. ‘Teh funneh’ and unpretentiousness dance a great duet in the SCBWI! We are, after all, flawed, fragile and at times foolish creatives.
And to finish today’s post, I wanted to let you know of a little collaborative project in which I was involved. A group of us, led by Kristen Fullton, got together earlier this year to create an onomatopoeia booklet, which can be downloaded by clicking on this image or from my resources page.