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’ve been hearing the term “tribe” quite a bit these days. At a music festival I attended last year, everyone referred to their small communities as tribes. The festival even built a small village of Teepees and wooden shelters for people to hang out in. Then I noticed the term surfacing in magazines, online, and among the social groups I attended in San Francisco. “Find your tribe!” they said. What is this phenomenon, I thought? Have I been blind to it all along, or is it actually trending?
In our current social state, people want a grounded form of community that’s connected in reality and self-sustaining – similar to a tribe. We have thousands of online meet-up groups and blog communities, yet we yearn for a simple group of people that think like us and share our passion.
Why do we long for this? Why do we need to be understood? In my research, I came across a poignant explanation: “Everywhere we turn in the laboratory, whether in physics or chemistry or biology or psychology, we find that isolation is impossible and relatedness is everything. A lone atom is meaningless, whereas a related atom is the building block of nature.” We want relationships so that we may witness our complete selves, and what better way to do this than with a little cluster of relationships? #tribe
Writers and illustrators have this fiery need to express and communicate their thoughts. It’s painful to balance everyday life with this urge, especially if making books is not your full time job. We are stronger with support – with someone to tell us it’s ok to sit down and spend several hours working on a story that may not produce any money. Because it’s not about the money, it’s about something bigger. Only someone with true understanding of the shadows and the light along this path of storytelling can lend us the support we need.
SCBWI is full of these lovely people who see the bigger picture, pitfalls and triumphs, hefty advances and labors of love, yet continue to pursue their art and support each other in the process. Beyond that, there are agents and editors that welcome a manuscript/portfolio review now and then, but inevitably those folks are there because they believe in the story. SCBWI’s community is incredible, abundant, and selfless. I can assure you that at every event, the person next to you wants so very much for you to succeed and would love to hear about what you’re working on. Talk about making kindred spirits!
You can look for groups outside of SCBWI, and plan your own events at bookstores or art shows. However, for people who seek kid lit associations, SCBWI is here for us, and we love our community. I couldn’t ask for a greater group of people to share my work with, plus I am overjoyed to read and experience what other members have created over the past several years. I’ve found my tribe, and I’m proud to say it.
Annie Ruygt is currently an in-house illustrator at a tech startup in Mountain View. Outside the office, she puts on her writing hat and is completing a middle grade novel and a picture book. If there’s time, she likes to play guitar covers of Taylor Swift and Radiohead. You can connect with her on her website and Twitter: @annieruygt