Do you write for children? Illustrate children’s books or magazines? If there was only one thing that you could do to help your career as a children’s writer or illustrator, my advice would be to connect with the Society of children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Become a member; attend programs in your area hosted by your local chapter of SCBWI, which are open to non-members as well but discounted to members.
I’m still new here in Missouri, and one of the best ways that I could think of to meet other children’s writers was to attend the MO SCBWI Fall conference. Of course there was much to offer besides meeting people. The conference featured Heather Alexander, an editor from Dial Books for Young Readers, and Quinlan Lee, a literary agent from Adams Literary Agency which represents exclusively children’s authors. Other keynote speakers were Suzanne Morgan Williams, children’s novelist, and Rich Davis, children’s illustrator.
There is much to gain by attending a conference, both from the speakers and from the people you meet there. At the best, it opens doors to publishers and agencies that are normally closed to unsolicited manuscripts. Here are just a few ‘pearls’ gained from the SCBWI Missouri conference.
Heather Alexander, editor:
The way to make your work stand out is with exceptional writing.
Writers make their writing exceptional by having a responsibility to their readers.
A writer reads, observes, imagines, interprets, listens, and thinks.
from Quinlan Lee, agent:
Agents know publishers. Her plan is to match the editor with a great story.
What to look for in an agent—knowledge of the market, reputation in the industry, passion for their work, commitment to your work.
from Suzy Williams, author:
“Writing is a journey; the road is not always straight, but the results can be surprising.”
Write what you want to know. Write from the inside out. And “Take risks.”
She gave a great workshop on revision.
Rich Davis, illustrator:
Art serves all subjects in school—we remember so well with pictures.
We are most creative when relaxed.
His ‘Pick and Draw’ card game was a great way to inspire creativity in both writing and illustrating.
Sue Bradford Edwards, nonfiction author:
Read today’s nonfiction for children, in books, magazines and online.
Connect your topic to the school curriculum.
Research your information well; use primary sources and sources published in the last five years.
I came away from the conference feeling inspired and connected to children’s writing and writers. Now it’s time to follow up, re-connect, and write!
To find out more about SCBWI and the MO SCBWI chapter, follow these links: