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My journey as a member of the SCBWI began in 1993. I savored the bimonthly Bulletin and dreamed from afar. Once I started attending events and joined a critique group, I was asked to be the Critique Group Coordinator for the Ventura/Santa Barbara Region (which includes Kern and San Luis Obispo Counties), now known as the Central-Coastal California Region, which was led at that time by our illustrious Regional Advisor Alexis O’Neill.

When I first joined the SCBWI, my interest was in illustration. As my visual exploits floundered, I began my voyage into poetry as an introduction to writing. Poetry soon became my mode of expression.

I have poems published in children’s magazines and several anthologies, including two HarperCollins I Can Read! collections and Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems (Margaret K. McElderry Books).

Although I am currently employed in the special education department of a local middle school, I try to write as often as possible. With my daughter off to college and my husband busy with his own career, I hope to make more time for creative ventures.

During our region’s annual Writers’ Day, usually held at the end of October, I provide critique group questionnaires for those who are looking to join, expand, or create a critique group. Writers and illustrators from the CenCal Region may also e-mail me anytime with requests and questions. Critique group coordination is neither a perfect science nor a fine art. It’s more of a hit-or-miss proposition. I feel fortunate to be able to connect writers or illustrators with like-minded artists. Some groups form and flourish; others do not. Sometimes I have no contacts in a specific geographical area and share the frustrations of my searchers. I am but one way to make a group connection. Some groups form from chance encounters, others through craft classes, and still others by way of online message boards. Creators of children’s material should use any and all options available, which I hope includes contacting me.

My role as editor of the CenCal regional news pages for Kite Tales is new. I recently took over these duties from Mary Ann Fraser, our current esteemed Regional Advisor. She has been most helpful in guiding my forays into this new enterprise.

Functioning as Critique Group Coordinator has given me the opportunity to meet many talented and motivated creators of works for children. Being the Regional Editor for Kite Tales has allowed me to collaborate more closely with my fellow generous, hardworking, and fun-loving CenCal board members, plus the marvelous Kite Tales Co-Editors, Beth Navarro and Maggie Grinnell.

As my journey continues, I recall what Mary Ann Fraser wrote in her own Volunteer in the Spotlight entry, “. . . you get out of an organization what you put into it.”

Ann Rousseau Smith can be reached at annrousseausmith@yahoo.com, or visit her Web site at www.annrousseausmith.com.

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