December 12, 2011

40 Reasons I Love S.C.B.W.I.

Forty years ago, Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, noticed something was missing -- a community of children's book writers (and eventually, illustrators) who support, educate and inspire one another.

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser

So they went about the business of creating it.

When they started S.C.B.W.I.  (SOCIETY OF CHILDREN'S BOOK WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS), Lin and Steve couldn't have imagined the people around the globe they'd positively impact . . . or how hard those initials would be to pronounce. "Scubahwi?"

Here's an homage to my favorite community on the planet:



1.  I connected with my uber-agent, Tina Wexler, from International Creative Management through the S.C.B.W.I. message board.

 2.  Jay Asher's dreams came true.  Did you know that before Jay became a best-selling author, he won S.C.B.W.I. creative writing contests and grants with his funny, clever entries?

3.  Bruce Hale, author of the popular Chet Gecko series, met his agent, Steven Malk, at the S.C.B.W.I. conference in L.A. in 1998.  (That's the same year that Steven Malk connected with Sonya Sones and acquired her fabulous novel in verse, Stop Pretending:  What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy.)

4.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator and writer, exuberantly shares how S.C.B.W.I. made her dreams come true in this YouTube video:

5.  With international reach and local critique groups, S.C.B.W.I. is helping make dreams come true every day.


6.  Thanks to the standards, education and support of this organization, the quality of children's literature has increased exponentially.

7.  If writers or illustrators are members of S.C.B.W.I., an agent/editor/art director knows they have taken at least one giant step toward professionalism.

8.  It's good to have the combined muscle and companionship of a huge, world-wide organization.  It makes one feel less alone in an inherently lonely profession.

9.  With master classes by Tomie dePaola and Richard Peck, one can't help but improve one's craft.  (I shared the Richard Peck DVD with our local critique group, and it was a big hit.  "Pass the popcorn, please.")


10.  As S.C.B.W.I. grows, they try to provide opportunities for the pre-published and the published.  Their newest offering is a grant for students studying illustration to attend conferences.

11.  The year I was nominated for the Sue Alexander Award, I'd never felt so much validation.  Thank you!

12.  Speaking of opportunities, in an effort to recognize an often ignored genre of children's literature, S.C.B.W.I. created the Sid Fleischman Humor Award

13.  And I had the great pleasure of winning the award in 2009 for my book As If Being 12-3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!

14.  S.C.B.W.I. flew me to L.A. to accept the award.  You'd think I'd be nervous giving a speech in front of 1,000 people, but they were my people.  My community of children's book lovers.  And it turned out that surrounded by my community and my friends and family, I had the best weekend of my life.

Me, Hubby, Agent, Tina Wexler, friend, Riley Roam in L.A., August 2009

15.  There are so many grants, awards, etc. available.  Did you know that Ruta Sepetys's novel, Between Shades of Gray, is now a New York Times best-seller and has received 4 starred reviews . . . and in 2007, Ruta won an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant?

16.  Three years before that, Cynthia Lord won a Work-in-Progress Grant.  She went on to write several books:  Touch Blue, Hot Rod Hamster, Happy Birthday Hamster and her Newbery-honor-winning book, Rules.  

17.  Which grant or award will have YOUR name on it?


18.  I had the great pleasure of attending the national summer conference in L.A. three times -- 2001, 2005 and 2009.  And I hope to get there this year, too.  Don't forget the New York conference, January 27th - 29th!

19.  At the conference in 2009, I met amazing people like Karen Cushman, Ellen Hopkins, Varian Johnson and Mary Hershey.  The authors, illustrators, editors and agents are all so accessible at these conferences!

Karen Cushman

Ellen Hopkins

Varian Johnson

Mary Hershey

20.  I remember hearing Sherman Alexie's opening talk and thinking, "Well, I could leave right now and I've gotten so much out of this conference."  But of course, there was more.  Much more!

21.  Dove Bars.  Yeah, S.C.B.W.I. is like that.  Served those delicious treats between sessions. 

22.  And crazy, wild parties.  The D.J. at the party I attended said, "Who knew children's book authors and illustrators were such a wild bunch?"  Hadn't he ever read Where the Wild Things Are?  The wild things are at S.C.B.W.I. conference parties!

Dan Santat and others get wild at the 40 Winks Pajama Party in L.A.


23.  While S.C.B.W.I. has a global reach, it's the local component that gives members access to great resources, like critique groups, meet-ups and conferences.  (Check out regional events here.)

24.  I floundered for years after I moved from Philadelphia to South Florida.  Where were my people?  More than a decade ago, Linda Bernfeld, Saundra Rubiera and a group of dynamic volunteers put on an amazing conference with excellent speakers in a school cafeteria -- serving lunch and dessert -- all for $35.  I had found my tribe.

25.  I've gone to nearly every annual Florida conference since, watching it grow and flourish.

26.  It was at the regional conference that Sid Fleischman reached over and touched my arm and said, "That was a fantastic speech you gave."  Sid Fleischman!  I'm so, so grateful I got to meet this kind, gentle and generous man.

Me and Sid Fleischman, 2008

27.  It was at the FL regional conference that I heard Linda Sue Park talk about story structure -- point of view, showing, not telling, first person vs. third person, etc.  (If you want to hear Linda Sue Park and Rebecca Stead talk about winning the Newbery Medal and other stuff, check out Katie Davis's Brain Burps Podcast.)

28.  I had the good fortune of attending a workshop about character building with the late, great Paula Danziger.  I share Paula's gem when I teach my quirky character workshop:  "What is your character hiding in his/her closet?"

29.  I've presented at regional conferences in New England, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.  Each has its own flavor and vibe.  Hard-working regional advisers and volunteers make it all happen.


30.  The Bulletin is brimming with information, articles and great artwork.  You can contribute articles and artwork to The Bulletin.

31.  S.C.B.W.I. members find unique ways to give back.  The Fairy Godsisters (Thalia Chaltas, Valerie Hobbs, Mary Hershey, Robin La Fevers and Lee Wardlaw) pooled their resources to provide an annual scholarship to the international conference as a way to give back for several years.  Jay Asher has done the same. 

32.  Want to help bring an author to a school that can't afford an author visit?  Consider donating to the Amber Brown Grant

33.  Want to help fund a scholarship for someone to attend one of the summer or winter conferences?  Consider honoring someone by donating in his/her name to the Tribute Fund.

34.  More than a decade ago, I joined the West Palm Beach critique group run by the magnificent Sylvia Andrews.

Sylvia with author, Sharon Creech at Books & Books

35.  When Sylvia asked Linda Marlow and me to run our own S.C.B.W.I. critique group in the Palm Beach Gardens, we said, "Yes!"  Seven years later, our group of compassionate, talented writers and artists is still going strong . . .

Laura, Amy, Ruth, Linda, Donna, Becca, Sylvia, Riley (Not shown:  Dan, Kelly, Stephen King, Gail, Amy, Ann, Carmen, Felice, J.K. Rowling, Janice, Jennifer, James Patterson, Maryann and Peggy)

36.  Linda Marlow and I volunteered to drive speakers to the FL regional conference.  We picked up Arthur Levine -- author and publisher -- a real mensch.  He asked about my new book -- How to Survive Middle School -- and I told him how my Jewish main character wanted to the the next Jon Stewart, but first had to survive 6th grade.  Arthur invited me to speak at the BK Book Festival he helps put on every year to benefit his synagogue and local bookstore, Watchung Booksellers.  I combined the event with a couple school visits and had a great time!

Arthur Levine, Margo Sage-EL (owner of Watchung Booksellers) and me  

37.  When people tell me they want to write or illustrate books for children, I tell them five letters that might change their lives . . .  "S.C.B.W.I."


38.  S.C.B.W.I. is the most generous community I know of.  Steve and Lin began that spirit of generosity, of living and learning and passing it on.  Now, thousands of people around the world continue that tradition of providing help and hope.

39.  I've left every conference I've ever attended (both international and regional) with at least one new friend.  (Hi, Margie, Lisa, Melinda, Gail, Carole, Katie, Ena, Paul . . . )

40.  The wonderful people I've met through my local S.C.B.W.I. critique groups are among the most precious in my life.  They enrich my life daily.

Sylvia, Dan, me, Linda and Riley celebrating my first book's release

These 40 reasons don't begin to cover how grateful I am for Lin and Steve and the amazing community that is S.C.B.W.I.  I hope this organization continues to grow and flourish, because while those initials may be difficult to pronounce, they are filled with magic.

Thank you.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi said...

Heh...thanks for mentioning me in your list. Great post! And I love SCBWI, too!!!

Wild About Words said...

Apparently, Blogger decided to delete reasons 27-40. Sigh! Take my word for it, they were filled with fun photos, videos and lots of SCBWI love. Alas, perhaps this is a sign to quit blogging and get back to writing!

David LaRochelle said...

So many good friends (like you!) and connections I've made through SCBWI. And the weekend I accepted the Sid Fleischman award was also one of the highlights of my life! Thank you Lin and Steve!

Amy Goldman Koss said...

Great post!

Dan R. said...


As you know, I'm an unpublished writer of YA fiction, but on the newest business cards are the words: SCBWI-FLORIDA. Yep, I too, am proud to be a member.

Gail Shepherd said...

Agreed! And I agree on principal with reasons 27-40, whatever they were.

Becca Puglisi said...

Awesome list! I thought I'd have something to add but you totally covered it.

Becca @the Bookshelf Muse

Theresa Milstein said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I attend NE-SCBWI every year. While I've had only a few short stories published, I've learned a great deal. Someday all I've learned will come together. In the meantime, I've met so many wonderful people.

Melinda Long said...

Wonderful! You hit the nail right on the head. I love being part of SCBWI.

Tina Wexler said...

Funny. My #1 reason for loving SCBWI is your #1 reason!

Riley Roam said...

Oh my gosh! What an amazing post! And thanks for all the shout outs. I agree that SCBWI is an absolutely AMAZING organization filled with dedicated, pasionate, talented people. There are so many reasons to love it. But my #1 is all the amazing friends I've met, especially you!!!

Lisa Yee said...

What David LaRochelle said.

Joanna said...

Am new to writing and SCBWI France/International this year... already proving some of the best decisions I have taken! YAY for SCBWI!

A Journey Illustrated said...

Great post. Never before have I felt the sense of belonging that I have when I'm among my SCBWI peers. I am so grateful to Lin and Steve!

Wild About Words said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments and for sharing the S.C.B.W.I. love. Isn't it great being part of such a warm, welcoming, talented tribe?