Monday, April 18, 2011

Why join SCBWI?

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?


  1. Support, support, support - the friends I've made through SCBWI - the honest opinions I get - the drive for professionalism - the information about publishing - the uplifting messages of success - worth every penny of my subs xx

  2. I just got back from my regional SCBWI conference. It was my second time attending, and it was amazing. I'm so happy I joined SCBWI. My regional chapter is constantly adding events. I also love the bulletin and all the resources available through SCBWI.

  3. Hi, Anne!

    I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd stop by and show my love. :D

  4. I joined for the critique group which has provided tons of invaluable feedback. I live close to London so get to go to some of the events there which are informative and have a bar (if only it was a free bar).

  5. Kathryn: Yes, yes, yes! Emotional support, professional support, it's all there! Thanks for stopping by and sharing that.

    Kelly: Oh, I'm so glad to hear from an American SCBWI-er who has such an active region. I really hope wherever life takes me next I can find the same! That's great that it's been so worthwhile for you.

    TD: Thanks for your love! Hope you're doing well!

    Mark: Hah! I hadn't thought to include all the added benefits of British SCBWI hosting many of their events at a pub. =) That's great that your critique group has been so valuable! I wish I lived closer to one--or to London. But ah well, still getting a lot out of it! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. SCWBI is a wonderful connection to other writers of children's fiction. I feel that it the networking that goes on is invaluable.

    Btw, saw on Miss Snark's First Victim's blog that Victoria Marini is looking for dark YA and I thought of you. If you haven't already looked at her, you may want to.

  7. I've joined but mainly for the (int'l) newsletter and resources. Our chapter barely exists. I'm going to a meeting next month - last year when they held their (one) meeting, 2 people showed up.

  8. hey! I just saw I'm in your blog list! Thanks! :-D

  9. Bridgette: Yes, the networking, and just the chance to meet other people that do the same things we do--so reassuring, a great point.

    Elisabeth: Oh, that's too bad. I wouldn't have expected you to have a big chapter, but TWO people. Oh dear. Maybe they'd let you start something?

    You're welcome on the blog list! So glad you've noticed; I've added lots of new writer friends and sites. I've been meaning to update the list FOREVER, but never get around to it. Just embarrassed I didn't do it earlier.

  10. There are masterclasses, too, writing retreats and big conferences, with a reputation strong enough to pull in big names like Beverley Birch and Malorie Blackman. There are newsletters and forums filled with contest information, interesting articles from the media, advice on school visits, etc.

    As a volunteer, I've found that SCBWI-BI gives its members the enthusiasm and support they need to shape the chapter however they want to. Every voice is listened to, especially those who are willing to step up and make the projects happen.

    And a special huge thanks here for Natascha and Ben for all their hard work that makes SCBWI-BI what it is.

    Sara OC

  11. I'm a recent member, having tried JacketFlap, Linked-In's various relevant groups,, WriteLink, UKAuthors, The Cloud and a couple of others whose names I forget. None have grabbed me. SCBWI-BI has, especially their yahoo group. It lives and breathes, you get to meet real people at regular events (I'm coming, honest!), its members clearly write (and write books I read) and get published and, well, I've found where I want to stay and take part. I don't want lists of contacts or "friends" or mere chat but real writing life. I write! Please don't take this as criticism of the mentioned groups. Each serves a good purpose for someone but not me. I agree with all the above benefits of SCBWI (and BI in particular).

  12. Sara: Thanks for chiming in! And of course, Undiscovered Voices wouldn't exist without YOU stepping up and making it happen! So yes, definitely thanks to Ben and Natasha, but also to you and Sara Grant, and all the other wonderful SCBWIers who have made it such a great organization.

    Eleanor: Thanks for stopping by; it's so exciting that SCBWI has worked out so well for you. And I completely agree--it's all about the writing! And how thrilling to see it working, and members being published and finding success. Yay SCBWI!

  13. It's the people! It's the 'can do and will do' attitude. The networking online, the meeting face to face (with hugs!) the support when the words won't come in the right order, the Yay's! when they do and you can announce success. It's the not being alone in the attic! It's being connected to all the other folk tapping and drawing away in their attics, sheds, or at their kitchen tables. It's the best thing I've ever belonged to.

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  15. I certainly upped my game after joining (British) SCBWI and discovering that there was so much terrific unpublished talent out there. Winning the 2008 Undiscovered Voices got me my agent, but all the craft work and networking helped me write a publishable book. And when my book came out in the US I contributed an article to the SCBWI Bulletin which goes out to the tens of thousands of members all over the world. Best of all, I've met people who share the same passion

  16. Maureen: Thanks, such a great response! It's such a lonely profession, it really does come down to all these great people!

    Candy: Thanks for sharing this, Candy. People see the obvious successes (like winning a place in UV, or getting published) but not all the work that leads up to that. And SCBWI is such a big part of it. I also love your idea to use the SCBWI Bulletin as a marketing tool.

  17. Thanks so much for this post, Anne, and all the useful comments too. Sounds like I need to hurry up and join! :)

  18. You're welcome, GF! That does seem to be the consensus. =)

  19. Thanks for this post Anne, it's so, so true. My most popular blog post ever was in praise of SCBWI so it's clear that it's an organisation - especially in the UK - that stirs up a certain cheerful fanaticism in its members (and I'm no exception).


  20. Nick: It really is proof that it's working, isn't it? So glad we could be a part of it.


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