What better gift can there be for a children’s book author or illustrator than being part of an organization like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This group is a dragon’s hoard of resources with a long history of helping creative people around the world. If you are not a member of SCBWI, you are missing something vital.
A trove of benefits
If you dream of a successful career as a children’s book author, illustrator or both, you need this organization. Do you crave a community of book people you feel comfortable with to build your network? Do you want information about book publishers? Or conferences with fascinating panel discussions and seminars teaching wondrous things? SCBWI offers all of these as well as The Book, a compendium of tips and information; major annual conferences in L.A., New York City, New England, and other regions; a bulletin filled with helpful articles; critique groups; a message board; a website with member pages; awards; and more.
A touch of history
Back in 1971 in California children’s book authors Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser had an amazing idea. They began an organization they called the Society of Children’s Book Writers. Their first member was Sue Alexander, and then Jane Yolen was the second. Jane organized the first SCBW critique group and conference in New England making SCBW nationwide. Many of the original East Coast members had belonged to the New England Authors and Illustrators of Children’s Books. Gradually the organization spread to many regions of the USA. Now there are approximately 22,000 SCBWI members around the world, who benefit from this amazing resource.
SCBWI originated in the US and consists of fifty-two American regional chapters, from Alaska to Wisconsin. There are also twenty-seven SCBWI international regional chapters from Australia to Zimbabwe.
This blog, WritersRumpus.com, is an offshoot of an SCBWI critique group in Andover, Massachusetts, USA. Each day, readers from around the world access this blog to learn about children’s book publishing. Within the past three days (as I write this) people from the following countries have come to WritersRumpus.com: USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR China, South Korea, Italy, Austria, Nigeria, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Chile, Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, France, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Switzerland, and Iceland. I was curious whether these readers belong to SCBWI chapters, so I clicked on one – Nigeria – on the SCBWI international chapters list. I discovered that a new SCBWI region began in Lagos in October of 2019, led by Ugochinyelu Anidi. Then I clicked another, and found that if you happen to be in New Zealand on December 14th, you might want to attend this SCBWI Australia East/New Zealand event. Or perhaps you would prefer a Skype Masterclass with Emma Dryden that will be coordinated by the Hong Kong SCBWI chapter. There are children’s book authors and illustrators everywhere keeping SCBWI vital and focused. Surely there is a chapter near you.
- Since many picture book illustrators also joined the group early on, the name of the organization soon changed from SCBW to SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators.
- The Golden Kite Award given by SCBWI is the only literary award for children’s books in the USA judged by a group of peers. The first Golden Kite was awarded in 1973.
- In 1977 annual dues were $25.00. Now a new membership is $95 and renewals are $80, but the benefits of membership have greatly expanded too.
- At the annual conference in Los Angeles, CA, Sue Alexander’s memory is honored by two awards in her name – one for a promising manuscript and another for a picture book.
- Jane Yolen has written hundreds of books for children and continues to be an active participant in SCBWI. An award in Jane’s name is offered annually too in the form of a grant for mid-list authors.
Belonging to SCBWI will give you membership in a vibrant global community of people devoted to a satisfying endeavor. When your work helps children appreciate good books, that gives a boost to their future and to yours.
Give yourself the gift of membership. It is a treasure.
What benefits do you enjoy from SCBWI? Tell us in the comments!