The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a dynamic community of professionals and aspirings. Here’s one member’s story about how SCBWI has influenced their work and connected them to publishing professionals, life-long friends, and the tools they need to share their stories with children of all ages.
My name is Sarah Parker-Lee. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2013, at the suggestion of an editor from Simon and Schuster, who is also a member. She told me, if I was serious about writing for children, and I wanted publishers and agents to know it, I needed to be here. And she was right. Nothing has influenced my work more or guided me on my career path like the SCBWI.
It took this introvert a little while to get up her courage, but eventually I started going to workshops, the International Summer Conference held in Los Angeles, and my local LitMingle. Feedback from agents and editors showed me why my YA alternate history queries were being rejected and what I needed to work on. Coming from a film background, where it’s mostly dog-eat-dog, I was so surprised by how genuinely nice everyone was and their willingness to answer questions and give advice on craft and career. SCBWI members care deeply about children reading. When a child has a good book in their hands, no matter who created it, we all win.
The best thing that’s happened to me so far was finding my amazing critique group. We meet every 4-6 weeks, sometimes in person and sometimes via a group Skype. (Which is a great way to make schedules work. We’ve even had a morning pajama-party Skype!) As writers, we know our story by heart. Our readers don’t. We need other storytellers to make sure we’re communicating well, to get us out of our own heads, and to brainstorm with when we get stuck.
It’s hard to find a group of people with whom you connect and share complementary schedules, and who are in it for the long haul. Even though a couple groups fell through for me, I kept looking. The Critiquenic was a great place to start, but using the member critique board was how my group came together.
By refining my work with my critique group, I’m going to be ready to query again in a few months. And I will get manuscript requests! Another member of our group already has!
I plan to be at the next Hollywood LitMingle, which is open to members AND non-members. Come say hi and make the most of SCBWI!
Sarah Parker-Lee is managing co-editor of Kite Tales, reviews books for Dwarf+Giant, & writes for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs. She also writes YA alt. history & sci-fi. Her humor blog, Dogs and Zombies: A Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, shambles towards your tasty brains Summer 2016. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel