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By Ann Whitford Paul

*Editor’s Note: After a successful SCBWI Los Angeles Writers Day, whether you attended or not, we thought you might be looking for more ways to “level up your writing, no matter the stage of your career, so we asked author Ann Whitford Paul, who belongs to a lot of groups, to share some community-building, group-oriented ways you can do just that for this quarter’s “Community Corner. Read on for her fabulous insights!

You’re a writer. You prefer to be alone in the peace and quiet of your home, creating ideas, developing and revising them. Still you know you should (and you want to) make time to be with others, just not so much that it interferes with your writing. What about joining or creating groups that may take you away from your computer, but also enhance your career?

The most obvious group is a critique group where you can get valuable feedback on your stories and help make sure your manuscript, before submission to that important editor, is the best it can be. LA SCBWI has a new Critique Exchange to help you get started.

Another group you can learn much from is a reading group with not only writers, but teachers, librarians, and illustrators. I belong to one that gathers monthly to sip wine, nibble snacks, and discuss one picture book and one longer book. Besides being exposed to new books, and evaluating the writing, the teachers and librarians explain how they would use them in the classroom. You can join our group virtually and read the summaries of our opinions here: http://bookchatthursday.blogspot.com.

I also couldn’t live without my write-in group that meets every Monday morning in a neighborhood coffee shop. We eat breakfast and lunch (our only socializing time) and stay late into the afternoon. Away from the distractions of home, having to force myself to concentrate with music and chatter all around, spurs my creativity. You, too, will be amazed at how much you can accomplish.

I also belong to a sharing group of children’s book writers in the same stage (late) of our careers which meets monthly to discuss all aspects of creating, the publishing business, and our writing lives.

New to the field and don’t have an agent? What about a get-to-know-your-publishers group. I used to attend one where each month a member collects picture books from a specific house, or imprint, to share. Then the books are read aloud and discussed. This type of group will keep everyone aware of recent titles and help them come up with a submission plan for their stories.

I’ve never been in a promotion group, but for those wanting to learn about promotion, share ideas, and work together to cross promote each other’s books, they can be extremely helpful.

All these groups nudge we hermit-writers into the world to interact with and learn from others. While groups may take you away from your desk, they’ll help you feel less isolated, keep you up-to-date on the business, and most importantly, inspire you to keep creating.

 

If you’re an SCBWI member in good standing and would like to contribute to “Community Corner,” see our submissions page for more info.

 

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

  

Check out Ann Whitford Paul’s website at http://annwhitfordpaul.com to read her biography, and publications. While you’re there, sign up for her monthly (when she’s organized) e-mail newsletter. Upcoming in 2018: If Animals Kissed Goodnight and a revised and updated Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.

Photo by Sonya Sones. Book covers provided by Ann Whitford Paul.

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