Want to Write for Kids? Join SCBWI!

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By Carol Ekster

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 7.49.04 PMWhen I first started writing twelve years ago I was naïve and uninformed about the publishing industry. I thought I knew about picture books. After all, I was a teacher. I used picture books to enhance my curriculum on a daily basis. I knew which ones worked, and which ones didn’t, for my students. What more was there TO know? Turns out–a lot!  Luckily, within weeks of my putting pen to paper, a good friend steered me in the right direction–toward  SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And that was a step toward success.

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 7.42.44 PMIf you read lots of kidlit blogs you’ll find this advice to newbies: “Join SCBWI.” That’s because it’s the best and most important advice for people who want to write for children. It isn’t free, but it’s worth it. SCBWI gives you the basics, connects you with other writers and illustrators, and it can even help you to find a publisher for your work, too.

A few years into my writing life, I saw a call for submissions in the January-February 2006 SCBWI Bulletin. Boulden Publishing was looking for picture books on divorce and other subjects.

At the time I happened to have a manuscript in the drawer: Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce. I sent it in and just six weeks later heard, “Is this still available?” Wow! Until that point I’d received twelve rejections.

wais bk coverThat first sale is sweet, but the joy doesn’t stop with each new baby. Emotions continue to run high! A few years after that, I was scouring the SCBWI discussion boards and saw a call for submissions by a new publisher, Character Publishing. What they were looking for was right up my Writer’s Alley.

I had many manuscripts that fit their criteria, and I sent off Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room. I heard seven months later that they wanted to acquire it for their debut list.cover:Ruth The Sleuth

Of course, both of those manuscripts were tightened and polished with help from my SCBWI critique groups. And then in one of those groups, a member was asked to write a picture book about forgiveness. As we worked on her manuscript at that meeting, I thought to myself, I have a story about gratitude. I ought to send it to that same publisher. And I did! Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You has its book birthday with Pauline Books and Media this coming January 1, 2015.

Front Cover - Before I Sleep  copy
Happy New Year / Happy Book Birthday! January 1, 2015

And then I got an e-mail, passed on by the leader of a different critique group, telling us that Schoolwide, Inc. was  looking for submissions for their new digital library. The directions said, “Put SCBWI in the subject line.” I submitted five manuscripts. Four were rejected, but Hip Hopping Books was accepted! Interested in finding out more about this publisher, I searched the SCBWI Blueboards, and sure enough there was a conversation about Schoolwide. This is another wonderful thing about SCBWI–members generously share their experiences in publishing with each other. I was reassured by what others had said about Schoolwide and signed the contract. My first e-book should be out March 2015.

Happily I have a couple of other stories being considered right now. Those leads might not have come directly from an SCBWI source, but the manuscripts became stronger thanks to what I’ve learned at yearly conferences encouraging me and guiding me to work on craft. And SCBWI hooked me up with my five critique groups, which I depend on for support, ideas, and improving my writing. Thank you, SCBWI. I most certainly would not have these successes without you!

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SCBWI’s THE BOOK is available as a download to all registered members.

And I most definitely would not have books out there touching children’s lives if I didn’t submit. And oh yes, to prepare those submissions I use THE BOOK: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children under the “Resource Library” on the SCBWI web site.

I’ve had over 1,000 rejections in my writing life. But perseverance is my mantra and I recommend it highly. Reach for success and you too shall achieve it…with a little help from your friends at SCBWI. It’s well worth the annual dues! SCBWI has chapters all over the world. Log onto their site at SCBWI.org and look for yours.

Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com and at SCBWI.org.

23 comments

  1. Does SCBWI also hook writers up for online critique groups? I live in Europe.
    Or does anyone know an online critique group for picture book and chapter/MG book writers?

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Al The Author's blog and commented:
    I have recently joined SCBWI, and hope I will be as positive about it a few years down the line. A good summary for those thinking of signing up, or for those who perhaps are not yet even aware of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on Beryl Reichenberg and commented:
    Any professional organization is worth joining. SCBWI happens to be one of the best. I also belong to a writing group called SLO NightWriters. This group is for all writers no matter what genre. Together they give me a wide perspective on many aspects of the industry. Beryl

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  4. Great post. By the time I joined SCBWI and attended my first regional conference, all I could think was that I should have done it long before.

    Like

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