Monday, February 4, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #2: SCBWI

Hi all -
Welcome to the second installment on my picture book workshop.  If you missed the first one, it's here.

Today I want to talk about the importance of joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  This is the main organization for kidlit.  There are others, I'm sure.  But this is the Big-Daddy.

For one thing, you get lovely magazines with current tips on trends, and articles on author and illustrators and school visits and crafting characters, etc.  Once you've read one book on the craft of Children's Lit, it's nice to just read a magazine article and try that tip out for awhile.  Like lessons delivered via slow-drip. 

Plus, it's going to be more up-to-date than some books.  The world of picture books is changing a lot these days with all the digital options out there.  Gotta have the info.

But for me, the biggest reason to join SCBWI is the connections; connections you can make at conferences.  Connections you can make online in critique groups.  All that jazz.  Because despite the fact that I sit at home alone most days, I have a group of people in the industry that I bounce ideas off of, or critique my latest draft, or console me when I've been rejected, or cheer me on when something cool happens.  And that's crazy important.

But let's talk conferences.  Way back when I was just starting out and had sent a few dummy books out, gotten some rejections, and had joined SCBWI, I learned of an Illustration Day Mini-Conference that SCBWI was hosting in NY.  It was just a one day event.  Illustrators came in with their portfolios and dropped them off in a big room, and then we went downstairs and enjoyed a lecture.  I heard the great pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda speak, and I signed up to have my first ninja book critiqued by a professional editor.  (Most conferences have 15-minute critiques you can sign up for with agents and editors.)

Now, the picture book critique was off to a rough start when the lady asked, "What's a ninja?"  I kid you not.  She was older and apparently unfamiliar with kick-ass warriors of the East.  But I listened to everything she had to say, and I mean, it's good to put yourself out there even if it doesn't end in a contract.

But what was great was that while I was off explaining what ninjas are and learning stuff, editors and agents were upstairs looking at the portfolios.  If they liked what they saw, they left you a business card.

At the end of the day, I picked up my portfolio and headed to the train station and -much to my delight - I had some business cards.  Some were editors.  But the most important one was from an agent - Scott Treimel - who is my agent to this day.

Scott has worked with me on many projects.  My work has grown tremendously through his criticism and guidance.  And he gets me contracts.  Yay Scott!

And it's all because I went to a conference.


(SCBWI can also hook you up with a critique group - which is essential.  But I'll save that for a later post.)


Mirka Breen said...

Yes, I concur. I wish I had joined it way back when I was a Newbie, because this organization is a particularly good resource for beginners.

Julie_c said...

Thanks Mirka. I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Yaaay, Julie! Love the story behind your now-famous story of ninjas. :-)

Julie_c said...

Thanks Kip.