In response to my recent post about British SCBWI's Undiscovered Voices 2012, Girl Friday asked me: "I'm not a member of SCBWI yet - what are some other [besides UV!] good reasons for joining?"
I've heard this question, and a multitude of answers, discussed frequently. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is the most well-known, and international organization for children's authors and illustrators. On a basic level, membership shows a commitment to writing and/or illustrating (ie, it's a good thing to put in query letters!), and a commitment to the profession. But at $85 (approximately £52) for your first year, and $7o (£43) for each following year, it's not cheap.
I didn't belong to SCBWI when I lived in Chicago. For some reason the city didn't have an active group with regular events (maybe that's changed since?). I attended one event in the western suburbs (over an hour-long drive) and found it wasn't geared towards my interests or needs.
But when I moved to the UK, I found British SCBWI to be a new, and somewhat small, but thriving group. I joined and haven't looked back. Winning a place in Undiscovered Voices 2010 alone makes it all worth it. But I've found SCBWI has a lot else to offer.
SCBWI offers numerous prestigious grants and awards (like the $2000 Work-in-Progress grants). However, Undiscovered Voices is a British SCBWI thing only (sorry Americans!), and British SCBWI also offers several other, smaller competitions, including regular Slushpile Challenges that are judged by different agents and editors. As opposed to the major SCBWI grants, these competitions have a much smaller pool to draw from. The competitions are also a great (and free!) way to get attention from British publishers and agencies.
British SCBWI also offers a number of events hosted by publishers, agents, and published writers. These can be opportunities to meet publishers and agents, but also chances to learn about the market and improving your craft. The majority of the events are held in the evening in London (not so good for us non-Londoners), but there's also an annual conference, a retreat, sketch crawls (like pub crawls, except with drawing!), and several other opportunities such as regional and online critique groups.
SCBWI has a mailed bulletin, British SCBWI has an online journal, and besides being informative and practical, they offer another market for writers and illustrators to try for (I published my first article ever for British SCBWI's journal). Plus the SCBWI magazine compensates writers and illustrators with a free year's membership!
One of the most exciting things about British SCBWI, in my opinion, is that it's still growing. So if you want to start your own critique group, or organize an event, or become actively involved in your region, there's probably room. British SCBWI also has an active Ning with several discussion groups and an email list for people to post good news, questions, and information.
Obviously my experience is only with British SCBWI, but for anyone considering joining SCBWI, the best thing is to do some research on SCBWI in your area, see if there are events and opportunities you would be interested in, and an active local group. To me, it's been an ideal way to make connections in the industry, improve my craft, and find support from others with the same interests.
Find out more about British SCBWI, and what they have to offer, here.
And I do love this video Candy Gourlay (author of Tall Story, and another previous Undiscovered Voices winner!) put together to celebrate the members of British SCBWI:
For those of you who are also members of SCBWI, what has it offered you?