by Karol Ruth Silverstein
Editor’s Note: A “changing of the guard” has taken place recently at LA SCBWI, with our wonderful Contest Coordinator, Marcelle Green passing that baton to our equally wonderful Mingle Meister, Karol Ruth Silverstein, who has, in turn, passed the Mingle Meister baton to, yes, another wonderful volunteer: Jennifer Pitts. Read on as Karol explains the change-over, and why the contest-addiction struggle is real! Many thanks to Marcelle for all her hard work over the year. We wish her the best of luck on all her future endeavors! And welcome to the team, Jennifer!
I have a confession: I was addicted to entering contests.
Unlike casual contest entrants, who may really benefit from the manufactured deadlines and bravery required to put their work out there (not to mention the potential cash and prizes — woohoo!), it became an unhealthy obsession for me. Writers Day events weren’t about the great faculty and enjoying a fun day with my fellow children’s book writers and illustrators. Increasingly, they became about the contest. If my manuscript won — which a few have — I was high as a kite. If I didn’t win or place in the contest — which is what happens more often than not — the day felt like a total waste. Never mind the inspiring keynotes or illuminating panels. Even if I came in second or third, the initial high of being “a winner” was soon replaced by the disappointment of not having been deemed “the best.”
I’d literally dream of winning contests. Any addiction specialist will tell you that the cure for obsessive compulsion is complete abstinence. But could I do it? Could I really walk away from entering all the SCBWI LA contests voluntarily? I wasn’t sure I could.
Enter Marcelle Greene — SCBWI LA Contest Coordinator for the past three-plus years. I met Marcelle at the first SCBWI LA Board meeting I attended as Mingle Meister (technically Schmooze Schmizzard back then). We were both fairly new to the board and soon realized we had a few non-writing-related things in common. I liked her right away…but. She was the Gatekeeper — the person who metaphorically stood between me and the contest victories I so badly craved…She’d be the one who secretly knew if I was going to be thrilled or crushed.
It didn’t take Marcelle long to pick up on my obsession and, to her credit, she was always gracious and friendly toward me. We left my inevitable victories or defeats outside of our interactions when we’d see each other at events and board meetings, and we’d laugh about some of our unique similarities, which included how highly organized and meticulous we both were. The fact that my contest-entering bordered on obsession was always unsaid, though, and I knew Marcelle was sympathetic to the emotional impact it had on me.
Meanwhile, I was enjoying the challenges of my own board position — and there have been many in the past three years, not the least of which was the name change from Schmooze to LitMingle. I had been a Schmooze coordinator myself for four years before taking the position and loved working with my coordinators…but. I’d gotten to the point where I wasn’t sure how much more value I could bring to the LitMingles. I was, I had to confess, a bit burned out.
But did that mean I should stop volunteering for SCBWI LA completely? I didn’t feel ready to do that. I still really enjoyed and found great value in being a volunteer and felt dedicated to giving back to an organization that had given me so much.
Enter Marcelle again. At the most recent board meeting, she announced she’d be stepping down as Contest Coordinator. She went on to say that her replacement would need great attention to detail and that she’d created a blueprint for job, which she’d gladly explain to the next person who took the helm. She didn’t need to state the obvious to me: that I’d make a great Contest Coordinator. Plus, in taking the position and rendering myself ineligible to enter SCBWI LA contests, I would be letting go of an obsession that wasn’t serving me…I needed only to find a suitable replacement for my Mingle Meister role. I didn’t want to leave my coordinators untethered.
Enter Jennifer S. Pitts, co-coordinator of the San Fernando Valley Mingle. I knew she was sharp as a tack and would make a terrific Mingle Meister, but I had no idea if she’d be willing to take on the role. I cautiously floated the idea by her, and to my delight, she accepted!
As of the end of August, the batons were officially passed from Marcelle to me, and from me to Jennifer.
Honestly, I’m thrilled to be the new Contest Coordinator. Not only will my contest entering addiction be put in check, but I’ll also get to be the person who spreads joy and encouragement to my fellow local writers.
“And the winner is . . .” I think all of us, really.
You can learn more about volunteering with SCBWI, all the great perks and freebies it entails, and what positions are open from the links below. We need everything from graphic designers to LitMingle coordinators to event hosts. If you want to give back, we’ll find a place for you!
SoCal Region (email for info)
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Karol Ruth Silverstein writes various genres of children’s books. 2017 has brought Karol’s first two book sales — her picture book, Other, was acquired by RedLeaf Press and her young adult novel, Cursed, was acquired by Charlesbridge Teen. She is represented by Jen Linnan of Linnan Literary Management and lives in West Hollywood with her two exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo.
Images provided by Karol Ruth Silverstein, Marcelle Greene, and Jennifer Pitts.