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. Read on for former Hollywood LitMingle Coordinator Deborah Fletcher Blum’s story!
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators launched my career as a filmmaker. It may sound odd to credit a children’s writers and illustrators group with this, but writing and filmmaking are integrally connected artistic disciplines. As an artist and English teacher, who wrote poetry and non-fiction, I embarked on a middle grade novel in the Summer of 2010 and joined SCBWI soon after.
When I was hard at work on my middle grade novel, I attended the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, and listened as a speaker asked: “Why are you writing your main character the age she or he is? What happened to you at that age?” I froze in my seat; something happened to me at the age of eleven, I realized suddenly.
At eleven years, I moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Santa Monica, California. Before that, we’d been living in Israel, and before that, in various other cities around the U.S. Though my family was from Los Angeles, attempting to settle down here was not easy for me, because at eleven, what is most important in a girl’s life? Sigh, friends. At school, the girls had known each other for years and were already bonded. I was the new kid in town. I persevered, and managed to make some great buddies. Nonetheless, the experience of being on the outside looking in never left me.
Oddly, this sort of disconnect serves writers well. And SCBWI takes us under its wings, and allows us to explore our childhood as adults. We find ways to express our experiences – however painful or joyous or exciting – in stories. Then, we hone our skills as writers and create novels and picture books that appeal to children and help them deal with their experiences.
All writers engage in this process, but children’s authors must use extra caution, because childhood is a fragile time fraught with volatile emotions. The process of growing into an adult is intense and vivid and indelible. And the stories that SCBWI nurtures help children around the world tremendously.
It is with a touch of sadness that I step down from my post as SCBWI Hollywood Mingle coordinator, but I know that I leave the Mingle in good hands. A. J. Cosmo, author and illustrator, will take my place and work alongside Jean Perry, whom I have enjoyed working with very much for several years.
I credit SCBWI with allowing me the opportunity to be a Schmooze Coordinator and then a Mingle Coordinator. Thank you for enabling me to grow and learn to become a writer, to stretch my wings as a leader, and to form strong friendships that are so nurturing to the creative process. As a former teacher who worked with children more than adults, I was able to improve my “people” skills and gain the confidence to pursue my dream of becoming a filmmaker and a published author. Thank you, SCBWI!
Deborah Fletcher Blum is a writer, artist, and producer. She also works as a writing coach, helping writers craft their stories. She is currently producing a documentary film about her family and their involvement in Hollywood history. Find her at deborahblum.blogspot.com and deborahfletcherblum.com.
Photos provided by Deborah Fletcher Blum and Sarah Parker-Lee.