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By Julia Edwards 

If you are thinking about applying to SCBWI-LA’s Sue Alexander Grant, JUST DO IT! It was the best thing I could have done for my middle grade manuscript — twice! In 2017, I applied with a very early draft of Anno Catti: In the Year of Our Catand was lucky to be the first runner-up. Then, in 2018, after major rewrites, I applied again and received top honors and a free ride (!) to the coveted Working Writers Retreat weekend.

For those who have never been to WWR, here’s the deal: WWR_EditingSeshyou meet with your small critique group four times over two days, with each session led by a different faculty member — i.e. editor/agent/writer. These folks are your new best friends because they can give you what you no longer have — fresh eyes. Use your crittime as you wish: you can bring different chapters of one book, four different projects, or work your butt off on your first pages. In between sessions, you can rewrite like a madman, get more advice from your new friends, or simply ponder all the feedback.

WWR_ClassGroupPhotoTired yet? Well, come Sunday, things get really intense. Everyone goes to the First Pages session, where you stand up in front of the entire conference, somehow manage to read through your first page, and receive on-the-spot feedback from a panel of professionals. Yeah. It makes my palms sweat just thinking about it. But, man, is it worth it! Hearing other writers’ first pages, witnessing their feedback, and processing my own made me realize that I need to hook the reader from those first words or my manuscript will never end up on a bookshelf.

I’ve heard numerous writers talking at conferences about the importance of finding trusted critique partners, but I hadn’t had much luck in that department…until I went to the WWR. There, I met some fantastic, smart, generous writers who have helped me push the manuscript boulder ever closer to the summit. Thanks to them, I am polishing my “final” draft of Anno Cattiand plan to send submissions out this spring. Fingers crossed! I am also very excited to be working on a new piece that I hope to bring to next year’s WWR.

WWR_KaraokePartyWe need perspective. We need encouragement. We need community. We need space. And guess what? We can find all those things and more — like wine and karaoke! — at the SCBWI-LA Working Writers Retreat. And by applying for the Sue Alexander Grant you just might get to attend FOR FREE! Good luck — and I hope to see youat the WWR!

2019 SAG submissions will be accepted from 3/29/19 until 5/10/19. Winner announced on 7/17/19 here on Kite Tales! Eligibility requirements and submission instructions online here. All kid lit genres and target age groups welcome! 

If you’d like to learn more about additional SCBWI-L.A. contests and how you can participate, check our contest page.

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.


Julia Edwards is a playwright and teacher. Several of her plays for young audiences have been published with YouthPLAYS, including Scareville, Lockdown, and A Loser Like You. Family Planning won the LA Ovation award for Best Small Production. Edwards has taught creative writing for kids from nursery school to college. She loves to witness students of all ages realize that they have a voice and words have power.


Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash. Writers Retreat photos courtesy of Nutschell A. Windsor, Katya Dove, and Jessica Chrysler. Headshot provided by Julia Edwards.