The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a dynamic community of professionals and aspirings. Read on for a 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.
I’d been an on-again off-again SCBWI member for more than fifteen years when I decided to get serious about writing picture books. My son had recently moved out and I chose to fill my empty nest by digging into the world of children’s publishing. Naturally, I turned to the SCBWI.
I attended Writer’s Days, Agent’s Days, and Editor’s Days. I found a “best” writing friend and a critique group. I attended the summer conference where knowledge, inspiration, and advice were dished out like candy on Halloween.
Even though I was a fairly active member, my SCBWI community remained small until, with the oft heard admonition to “know the industry” ringing in my head, I started a book club.
It began with a post to the SCBWI-Los Angeles Yahoo group: “Would anyone be interested in joining a monthly picture book club?” I wasn’t sure if I’d get much of a response, but I know myself well enough to know that the secret to reaching a goal is to make sure someone else is relying on me to get there. Even one or two members would mean I’d be more likely to fulfill my objective of learning what makes each publisher unique.
Plenty of people were interested, though. And the Picture Book Publisher Book Club was born.
Here’s how it works: Every month, I ask my librarian to print a list of picture books published within the last five years. Each time, I request books from a different publishing house. I order the books that are available and while I wait for them to arrive at my local branch, I try to find out who edited each one. (I recently discovered that if you email a publishing house, politely requesting the names of editors who worked on certain books, sometimes they tell you!) On the second Saturday of each month, writers and illustrators fill my living room. We read as many books as we can, trying to discern a common thread among them.
Armed with the knowledge we gain, those of us without agents are better equipped to submit directly to editors, and all of us, agented and unagented alike, are more informed about what’s being published today.
The book club has been going strong for almost a year now. And my SCBWI community has grown by leaps and bounds – along with my craft and my knowledge of the publishing world. My nest is far from empty these days. Instead, it overflows with new friends, new manuscripts, new goals, and piles and piles of picture books.
If you’d like to follow along with our meetings or get tips on starting a picture book publisher club of your own, visit pbpublishers101.blogspot.com.
Colleen Paeff is an SCBWI member and picture book writer. She lives in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.