If you are serious about wanting to write and/or illustrate children’s books, you absolutely must join SCBWI or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The SCBWI is an enormous and well-built organization that serves writing communities around the world, but unlike many huge organizations, it also has well-structured regional organizations that offer teaching programs, resources, and communities for members–no matter where they live.
Check Out the SCBWI Regional Chapters HERE
Although I have only recently begun pursuing publication for my picture books, I have been writing children’s books for years. In fact, I have already attended regional SCBWI conferences in 5 states, and during the coming year, I’ll add 3 more state conferences to that list. I believe that anyone can find 2 or 3 regional chapters within 4 or 5 hours from where they live. The SCBWI regional conferences are great places to learn about the craft of writing and illustrating and also about the business of getting books published.
I currently live in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, but I’ve attended the Oklahoma Regional Conference, which is almost 5 hours from my home. At the 2020 Oklahoma conference, there will be several intensive sessions for illustrators, as well as the usual meetings for children’s writers.
Midsouth SCBWI – Tennessee and Kentucky
In September, I’ll attend the Midsouth SCBWI Conference, and I’ll drive over 7 hours for that meeting which will take place in Nashville, TN. I grew up in a town that is halfway between my current home in the Ozarks and Nashville, and I’ll cut the trip by stopping midway, but the drive will be spectacular. I’ll travel from one mountain region to another, and there will be a kiss of fall along the trip. I always try to think of more than one reason to attend a conference that is not close to me. While I’m in Nashville, I’ll attend the Grand Ole Opry. I have already written a picture book biography about one of the Opry’s stars, and I’m about to begin another. I’ll do photoshoots for illustrations, and I’ll immerse myself in the culture of the Appalachians while I’m there. That trip will be rewarding and beautiful, and as usual, I’ll get a lot from the workshops and speakers at the conference, too.
I’ve also registered for the Jambalaya Conference, which is the meeting for the Mississippi and the Louisiana writers and is held in New Orleans. Although that is a 10-hour drive from me, I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, which is near New Orleans, for about 35 years. The entire Mississippi/Louisiana area is still home for me. Along the way, I’ll stop at the Natchez Pilgrimage, where I’ll re-immerse myself in the culture of the Old South.
Staton Hall in Natchez, Mississippi
I’ll also stop at several of the plantations that are strung along the Mississippi River, en route to New Orleans. I have researched New Orleans most of my life, and I have already written one picture book that is set there. I have several other books in the wings. I can’t begin to list all the reasons that it is important for me to attend the New Orleans Conference, in spite of the fact that it is 10 hours away.
While I was in New Jersey, I attended the New Jersey Regional Conference. I have also attended the Southern Breeze Conference in Alabama. This past fall, I attended a conference in Arkansas, which is about 3 hours from me, and I plan to also attend the Kansas and Missouri Conference, which is about 4 hours away.
The point that I am making is that I am so very firmly convinced of the value of SCBWI that I am willing to make long trips to participate in its events.
SCBWI Conferences Are Excellent Ways to Get Your Manuscripts in Front of Editors and Agents
In today’s competitive market, it is almost impossible to obtain access to the better publishing houses. SCBWI conferences are attended by some of the best editors and agents in the industry of publishing for children. Usually, the people who attend the SCBWI conferences are allowed to submit a manuscript to one or more of the attending agents or editors, most of whom are no longer open to queries. To be honest, this is the main reason that I am willing to drive long distances to attend SCBWI conferences.
There are numerous reasons to join SCBWI. I only dream of attending the national SCBWI conference in New York City, but my dream is moving closer to becoming a reality. SCBWI also allows its members to compete for scholarships and grants, but I’ll write about those opportunities in another post. Money has always been a problem for me, and I’ll be very honest in saying that I wince every time that I pay my annual dues, but somehow, I always manage to splurge enough to pay to belong to this invaluable organization for writers and illustrators of children’s books.
You Can Join SCBWI HERE