Connecting – 15 Reasons Why I love the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

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scbwi_logoWhen 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!

2nd Place at the LA SCBWI 2011 Pajama Party with the Turbo Monkeys

2nd Place at the LA SCBWI 2011 Pajama Party      with the Turbo Monkeys

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.


on the terrace at the SCBWI LA 2013 conference

Bar Tabac Brooklyn - Kidlit Dinner

Bar Tabac Brooklyn – Kidlit Dinner

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.

No one should be left out!

No one should be left out!

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.

A big thank you to Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver, our great visionary leaders of 42 years, and to all the RA’s and assistant RA’s, who work their butts off for the SCBWI chapters worldwide.

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.


PDF of Onomatopoeia Booklet

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59 Responses to Connecting – 15 Reasons Why I love the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

  1. SCBWI Louisiana-Mississippi. I completely agree with everything you wrote. Have my first novel coming out in Spring 2014 with Pelican Press in New Orleans. Never, ever would have happened were it not for SCBWI and my five star critique friends. Steve Mooser helped me with the contract. The whole group helped me celebrate the event. So happy I found them.

  2. Darshana says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Welcome Back! Wonderful testimony to SCBWI. I would not be where I am right now if it were not for SCBWI, 12×12, and PiBoIdMo. I love the kidlit community!

  3. Dana Atnip says:

    So true! One of the best decisions I have ever made was to join SCBWI! What an amazing community filled with such amazing, creative, warm-hearted, supportive people!

    • Joanna says:

      Dana, yes, I am so glad that when I did my first picture book course with Emma Walton Hamilton she underlined again and again the value of the SCBWI!

  4. Lori Degman says:

    Awesome post, Joanna – you covered everything and I couldn’t agree more!! The Onomatopoeia book looks great – thanks for sharing it!

    FYI – I LOVE your accent!!

  5. Meg Miller says:

    I hope it’s that way for me too! I’m attending my first SCBWI Conference in October. Thanks for the encouraging words Joanna! 🙂

  6. Sing it, sister! I was encouraged to join SCBWI through a friend who just kept insisting one should not attempt to go it alone, and am forever grateful for all the connections membership has led to, despite the fact that it took me sooo long to say the acronym without tripping over my own tongue!

    • Joanna says:

      With SCBWI and social media, writing no longer needs to be in isolation and I am so glad for all the support I receive. I think the acronym is best learnt at a conference after a few chocolate martinis!

  7. Wonderful post, Joanna! SO true. (If there are degrees of trueness!) I am so grateful that I was at SCBWI LA ’11 — and got to meet you! — and so wish I could have been at LA ’13. Some day.

    Everyone involved in creating kidlit owes it to him/her self to join SCBWI. It is an amazing community where one is welcomed wholeheartedly and warmly, and cheered every step of the journey.

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, it was one of the very special things about LA 11, meeting you. How grateful I am that Emma Walton Hamilton insisted to us the importance of joining SCBWI!

  8. Sylvia Liu says:

    What a super post. I used to think interacting with strangers on the internet was creepy, but when those strangers are SCBWI members, it’s a whole different story.

  9. Love! You said it all. I know you cause of SCBWI and what a better world it is to know you! Thanks for posting this.

  10. This wonderful post says it all, Joanna. Thank you! I owe my debut pb, HENNY (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), as well as getting my agent (Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media), to SCBWI! Hip, hip HOORAY, SCBWI!!

  11. This is a great post! Well said. I would never give up my SCBWI membership either.

  12. Perfect post, Joanna! You summed up the benefits of SCBWI well. You go, girl!

  13. Suzanne Morgan Williams says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Joanna. You’re a terrific part of my SCBWI community yourself. As for FB friends and SCBWI people, my husband sometimes asks me, do you know all those people? My answer, “A lot of them. And the others are writers and illustrators – so, yes. Or I will.” Loved the photos.

    • Joanna says:

      I know we can be quick to point out the time-suck of social media, but for me, especially when I was living in France, it was a godsend to make friends and contacts in the SCBWI community. Real-life meetings have never been a disappointment.

  14. Excellent post, Joanna! Your list of fifteen is fantastic! I feel very strongly about the benefits of SCBWI, also. Without it, I wouldn’t have found a fraction of the resources that I use or the groups that I am thrilled to be a part of.

    And many, many thanks to all of you who worked on the Onomatopoeia Book! What an treasure for all of us writers!

  15. Joanna says:

    Penny, thank you, what a treasure trove of people and resources indeed! We had a lot of fun with the onomatopoeia booklet. Thanks to Kristen Fullton for initiating that!

  16. Joanna, I came back to check out your blog because I saw the PPB review, and discovered that the comment I left here this morning never posted. I was the very first to post. Don’t know what happened and don’t remember all that I said now. LOL I am just very happy that you’re settled in NYC, doing what you want and loving every minute of it! Love the pictures from SCBWI and your comments about what is important. Downloaded the The Onomatopoeia book. It looks great. Thank you for sharing!

    • Joanna says:

      Hi, Pat, I think you left a message on the resources page, but it’s lovely to have one here too. I look forward to hearing how your SCBWI Ohio conference is. 🙂 So glad you downloaded the onomatopoeia booklet.

  17. Tina Cho says:

    Great post! I still have yet to make it to a SCBWI conference, but I love the online connections!

    • Joanna says:

      Tina, while I was still in France, the online connections really kept me going. I hope you can get to a conference over the next year. Maybe a SE Asia one?

  18. What a great tribute to the SCBWI! I agree with everything you shared. It is such a wonderful group of people. I enjoyed your review in pictures.

  19. A great group indeed. LOVED all the photos!

  20. Rhythm says:

    what a lovely inspirational post. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Joanna says:

    Rhythm, I have also noticed what great animal-lovers this group is. Woof!

  22. What a lovely tribute to a phenomenal organization! It’s hard to fathom the impact SCBWI has had on not only authors but the children, parents, teachers and librarians who enjoy the books they’ve produced as a result of the SCBWI community.

    It was SUCH a pleasure to meet you in LA!! Now I can see and hear you and see your smiling face behind everything you write. 🙂

  23. Joanna says:

    Julie, you are so right. The SCBWI has impacted so much more than just the book creators! It is worth shouting their praise from the rooftops.

    I was also sooo happy to finally meet you!

  24. GREAT post, Joanna – and all of your reasons are exactly why SCBWI is an incredible organization, resource, inspiration – and filled with many new friends and cheerleaders. 🙂

  25. Hi Miss Marple!!! Here is my most asked question – can children join the SCBWI? 🙂 Sounds like fun! Great (and FUNNY) pictures! 🙂 I downloaded the Onomatopoeia book. Thank you for it!

    • Joanna says:

      Erik, this is a great question, and I don’t know the answer, but I am going to email SCBWI and find out. After all you are about to publish your first book!

  26. And on the far side of that rainbow, J., those of us who have loved this organization for so many years totally love growing our network of friends like you. So happy you found us, and that we have found you!

  27. Sarah Towle says:

    I feel exACTly the same way about SCBWI, Joanna. We are wonderful, aren’t we?!?! Love your posts. Keep ’em coming 🙂

  28. Cheers, dear Joanna! Author, colleague, friend, family — you are all of that rolled into one! And that’s thanks to our SCBWI connection! I feel lucky to be part of your–and this–tribe! xo

  29. Joanna says:

    Emma, I have a LOT for which to thank SCBWI, huh! xo

  30. Judith Gardiner says:

    Anytime you are in Portland, OR, let me know. I have spare guestroom you can use! I totally agree with you comments about SCBWI! And, thanks also for the shout outs to us RAs! Any friend of Emmas is a friend of mine!

  31. TRUE! TRUE! It’s all completely true! I love SCBWI and it’s how I “met” you. (It was the Comment challenge 2 1/2 years ago, remember?)

  32. Pingback: Illustrator Interview – Joyce Wan | Miss Marple's Musings

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