Sunday, June 7, 2009

Far From the Madding Slush

I've seen mentioned in various places that it's important to belong to organizations like SCBWI and to mention it in your cover letter/query. How do you feel about that?
There are many lovely things about the SCBWI. I've been a member myself.

The overarching thing that's great about the SCBWI, though, is that it gives everyone who already knows their way around the industry a place to send newbies instead of trying to give the uninitiated several mountain-sized clues oneself.

Membership in the SCBWI indicates a willingness to learn, and that absolutely counts for... a tiny little bit. Because it doesn't indicate an ability to learn, or an ability to write.

Willingness to learn is important, sure, because it shows you know there is something to learn.
But it really just puts you on the step above the dreadful amateurs who think they'll send the story they wrote for their grandchildren (the single story they've ever written) to a publisher and see what happens; the crazies who feel the world owes them a publisher for having written something (the single something they've ever written) of such genius and power; the maniacal jerks who think the only thing that stands between them and wild success is "persistence," defined as "pressuring, harassing, and stalking publisher staff."

Joining the SCBWI is a good thing, and if used well, it can be a great thing. But it's not going to the school of SCBWI that will get you published. It's graduating.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

The SCBWI Bulletin's have interesting articles in them.

The regional events are the best part of the SCBWI. However, a lot of times you don't need to be an SCBWI member to attend the regional events -- but non-members are charged a bit more for events.

Parker said...

I love SCBWI. I hooked up with a great crit group through SCBWI.

EA: I miss the First Pages. I hope you find the time to do a couple soon.

Jo said...

I belong to SCBWI and the CLN (Children's Literture Network) and surfing those member boards and asking questions of wiser, more experienced members has definitely kept me from putting my foot in my mouth quite so often. Plus writing is lonely work and it's nice to belong to a club.

Anonymous said...

Without disparaging the positive things it provides, I will say I have always felt that SCBWI billing itself as a professional organization--when it is open to anyone and therefore is anything but--is rather deceptive. Encouraging beginning writers and illustrators to list it as some kind of credential is false advertising.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'm also not sure of the value of joining SCBWI if you're short on cash and unable to attend conferences. For the first year I was a member it was very helpful--after that I kind of outgrew it. I'll probably join again if I start making a decent amount of money from writing OR hit a time in my life where conferences are feasible, but for now? I'd rather spend the money on paper and toner and internet.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I laughed and nodded about the having a place to send the newbies. Almost for that alone it's worth supporting-- I was happy to find an information dump (even thought they're trying to be all things to all people and therefore have less of everything), as a newbie I wanted to know it all and it was very good for me.

Deirdre-- it's interesting that you say that about feeling you've outgrown it, b/c I didn't have those words, and that's how I'm beginning to feel.

In Alaska I'm too far to visit any conferences in the States (Anybody have a spare house payment lying around?), and nothing is happening locally any more-- with such a *small* membership.

But, EA, with this description I feel foolish including the mention in a query. It makes me feel like mentioning it highlights me as an almost-sucker for telling them I pay money for something that can't influence them.

Is it a reference to not mention? I mean, I still see the value in it and will glean all I can, but is it something to keep to myself?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous comment above. I paid to be a member of SBWI for a while, but it is very far from a professional organisation - most members are unpublished - and I felt it did not meet my needs as a professional writer at all. I can't see how claiming membership of SCBWI would give publishers a higher opinion of you. By all means be a member if the support it offers is suitable for you - it is very helpful to many people and I wouldn't knock it - but membership is not a professional credential.

working illustrator said...

I think SCBWI's usefulness curve has two peaks: one, as Dierdre says, right after you join; the other after a longer period of hearing lots of different people speak, often saying contradictory things, and arriving at your own synthesis of what the big picture really is.

That said, I think I've learned more good, basic stuff reading this blog than I ever did going to conferences and hearing mostly star speakers make nice into microphones.

Mara said...

I won a runner-up work-in-progress grant once, so that paid my dues for a few years. :-) Belonging to the SCBWI also makes you eligible for the Golden Kite awards. But when I recommend the SCBWI to new writers, I always also recommend the Blue Boards (http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php), which are free to join and offer a terrific online writing community, with discussions at all levels and writers at all stages in their careers.

Anna Claire said...

I've been going back and forth on whether I should join--thanks for the post. The conferences sound fun and it would be cool to network with other writers, but since it can be expensive, it's good to know membership not a necessity.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Amy Jane,
I don't see a negative in mentioning it; just in mentioning it like it's very meaningful. I don't think less of anyone for being a member-- I've met some really terrific people on their way up in SCBWI. But I've also met some people who were just going nowhere.

Anonymous said...

SCBWI is a non-professional, for profit organization. For struggling beginners, their national conference costs are excessive, largely because of the high-priced hotel venues they use. I was already published when I joined, was disappointed by the general level of amateurism, and, as Deirdre described, outgrew it rather quickly. It offers more to writers, but listing it as a credential can look amateurish, especially for illustrators, for whom the only criteria is the work.

Jennifer Mann said...

The single best thing I ever did for my children's publishing career was to join SCBWI. I am very lucky to live in the Seattle area, and this chapter of SCBWI has grown to be a world class operation, in my book. I take advantage of every opportunity I can to get my work in front of the incredible consultants and faculty that come to our conferences and retreats, as well as critique groups and art shows, and it has paid off in myriad ways. Probably one of the best is the community of caring, supportive, enthusiastic and TALENTED writers and illustrators, who are willing at every turn to share their wealth of knowledge and do their part to ensure the success of those who desire to become excellent at their craft. It can be expensive, but there are ways to offset the costs, by volunteering, applying for scholarships, etc. And it is not just for newbies...part of its wonder is that the old pros and the newly successful keep showing up to learn more.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Deirdre. I joined for a year and then outgrew it.

I had no critique groups in my area, and had high hopes of finding one through them. Which was part of the problem -- I had to join to get my local SCBWI chapter's critique group info, and then found there were no active groups in my area.

After I joined I found the conferences were way too expensive (for me, at least) and there weren't conferences that wouldn't have required a hotel stay, not to mention, in most cases, airfare.

I never considered putting my membership in a query letter, because, as others have stated, you don't have to be published to join, so it isn't a pro organization.

I'm with Parker@6:55... I hope we can still do the First Pages. Even if EA's comments are sparse, I find blog readers' comments helpful.

Nancy Coffelt said...

I do think that the discussion boards are useful and it's a good place to start and also to find other writers in your area.

I've taught at conferences and I got good feedback, so I hope my class was useful. :)

I even snagged a picture book contract at a conference - one I taught at. I had a bit of an edge because the faculty usually has dinner together the night before and I make sure the editors' wine glasses are never empty.

Wine goggles aside, having an attending editor that's willing to see submissions even if her house is closed to unsolicited material is a pretty good opportunity.

Like anything else, I think SCBWI works for some people until it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting. What kind of profit do they make? I'm curious because I've long been concerned that there's an underlying message -- on the discussion board and elsewhere -- that attending conferences (the personal connection) will help new writers win contracts. It's true that some writers make sales from conference connections, but I believe it's because those writers just happened to be "ready" at that particular time, not because they made a personal connection. Also, I would love to see the SCBWI project a more professional image. Unfortunately, the discussion board is dominated by newbies who tend to offer unprofessional advice to other newbies.

working illustrator said...

Jennifer Mann said: "I am very lucky to live in the Seattle area, and this chapter of SCBWI has grown to be a world class operation, in my book.


A good friend of mine moved out to Seattle a while back and everything she's told me supports what you're saying. It sounds like you've got a great group out there.

joelle said...

I read the comments with interest. I have been a member of SCBWI for years and I have never gone to any of the big conferences (went to one or two local ones). I am not a member for the conferences, but for the bulletin and the online resources.

Might I suggest to people who have outgrown it that you write an article for the bulletin? You get $50 and a year's membership. I have been writing for them for years and have "credit" towards dues until 2011. Also, The Writer magazine picked up one of my stories after reading it in SCBWI. Many, many, many of my blog readers (and now friends) have come as results of articles I've written for them too. When I was under consideration with an agent, she saw the latest bulletin and my article and sent me an email just to say she liked it, so the industry is paying attention to SCBWI somewhat too. Now that I have an agent, I'm not too concerned about that aspect, but my editor saw my last piece and dropped me an email too...people are reading it.

I actually am not as PRO SCBWI as this might sound. I do think the national conferences are EXTREMELY expensive and the fact that they're only in two places in the whole country has never made sense to me at all. Why not move them around, especially to less expensive cities?

All in all, the dues don't seem that bad for what you get...a couple of dinners out or your time writing an article. And I can say this because I DON'T have an article in this bulletin, but I've been reading the latest one and I'm struck by how much more useful the articles have become lately. I'm in the third round of edits for my book that will come out next year from Putnam and I found a bunch of stuff in this bulletin that was great info, both on editing and marketing. And a great tech book review.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I think maybe the SCBWI thing feeds into the discussion earlier on CSK about how most writers/editors are upper-middle-class.

If conferences are a great way to break in, you immediately exclude all the people who can't afford 1000 for a three day weekend. (Heck, a lot of us couldn't even justify 1000 for a week-long family vacation!)

SCBWI membership may be "A few dinners out", but when your family only eats out maybe once a year, it's both out of the budget AND an unfair sacrifice to expect from your spouse and children.

And if you live in the vast middle of the country, even the gas money to your 'local' events can become prohibitive, if you happen to live in the wrong town.....

60$ a year for a magazine subscription still seems high, IMO. And if you're internet savvy, most of the info is available elsewhere.

I've nothing against SCBWI, but personally, the cost/benefit analysis is WAY out of whack.

(And really, if I DID have enough money to attend the LA conference, I'd probably hit Chataqua instead...those highlights workshops sound AWESOME.)

ae said...

I've heard June is a great month for graduations and weddings. Oh, and proms too. :)



The word verification is matiotor...kinda like a bull fighter.


(You've got great word verifications here. That is another reason I read your blog.)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Dierdre. "Not expensive" is relative. Honestly, I can't afford to keep myself in printer cartridges lately, and if I've got a spare fifty bucks I'd love to buy a few nice new shiny books from an actual bookstore rather than having to put my name on the reservations list at the library.

I do sometimes envy those that get to go to BEA, and all the SCBWI events, soak up the atmosphere and grab those ARCs, but that's life. The real leveler, of course, is your WIP, which doesn't care how much money you have/don't have.

Emily Kokie said...

Of course everyone has to make their own cost-benefit analysis for them and their families, but I will say that I have found SCBWI immensely helpful and supportive, and I do recommend it to writers and illustartors all the time.

As a caveat, I am unpublished, as are many of the members in my regional chapter. But from my observations, at least in my chapter, the more experienced and published members have formed a very strong support and informatin network for each other, and seem to get enough out of the membership and experience to continue year after year. :}

I have been to regional and national SCBWI conferences, and have found tracks at both for the experienced/published writers and the less experience/unpublished writers. Both have been terrific experiences for me.

And as an unpublished writer who no longer considers herself a newbie, I still find SCBWI membership to be a good choice for me.

Is it the golden ticket to an agent or an editor? Of course not.

Are there a lot of unpublished members, and maybe even a fair amount who will never achieve a published book? certainly.

Do I rely on SCBWI for writing news and research? Not primarily, no.

But I find that, like many, many things in life, SCBWI is very much a you-get-out-what-you-put-in experience. Crit groups, contacts, peer-support, information, etc...in addition to conferences that may or may not appeal to you or meet your budget.

I can't recommend it enough, if the cost is not prohibitive for your budget.

Emily

Anonymous said...

I found SCBWI helpful when I was getting my feet wet on how the industry works. I indirectly found my crit group that way, too. And I like the Bulletin.

However, I've never been able to afford going to a national conference, and when I've lived close enough to somewhere where I could attend a regional one, I had varied results. I recently didn't renew my membership because I felt that now I know the basics, it just wasn't offering me anything for the fees I was paying. I found very little for the intermediate writer--the one who is well-versed in all the newbie stuff, yet doesn't yet have a contract of their own. The message boards seemed populated by the same old questions, and anything useful to me that I might find there I had already found somewhere else on line--for free--quite a bit earlier. I felt frustrated and didn't renew.

I do think, though, that having a great local group makes a difference. I hear wonderful things about other places, from advanced writers, even...

Mara said...

Joelle, are you sure the SCBWI still offers a year's membership along with payment? I had a piece in there not long ago about a school visit I did in Jamaica, and it seems to me they told me they had dropped the free membership thing. Has it been reinstated?

Anonymous said...

For folks in the NY/NJ area (or those willing to travel there), check out the Rutgers One on One Conference. I went twice as an alternative to the SCBWI conferences and found it very helpful and inspiring (although the first time was better than the second). You have to apply and be accepted to attend so it's slightly less newbie-ish than the SCBWI's.

Here's the link:
http://www.ruccl.org

Bonnie A said...

The strength of SCBWI is in the regional chapters, and I'm blessed with a terrific one (Carolinas)which has an active message board where published authors and illustrators regularly check in to offer support, advice on tips (new agents accepting submissions, etc.).

I got my first publishing credit by following up on an item in the Bulletin, so I'm happy to repay the favor by helping to organize local events.

Regional conferences are a great alternative to the national shindigs, which ARE prohibitively expensive for me. Our region also sponsors retreats and workshops that are very reasonably priced and frequently feature one-on-one attention from editors at closed houses.

And yes, anyone can join at the associate level, but there are three professional levels beyond that, open only to industry people and to published authors and illustrators.

I'm with Emily--I can't recommend SCBWI enough. But I also agree with EA: paying dues to an organization is no guarantee that your work will be judged on anything but its merits.

I list SCBWI on my website to demonstrate that I know something of the shape of the industry and that I'm trying to pay attention.

Anonymous said...

I've been published 5 times, and I remain a very proud SCBWI member.

I don't know about 'outgrowing' it. I don't think one ever stops learning. Yes there are many newbies in SCBWI (and good for them!), but at all conferences/events I've been to there are still sessions for intermediate and advanced writers and illustrators. I still take great and varied things away from each one.

I found my wonderful (and also several times published) critique partner through my local branch's listserve. I have also found writing jobs, fruitful connections, and worthwile events this way.

Because I've met and hung out with highly successful, award winning authors who inspire me, and editors willing and kind enough to share their time.

I have met many wonderful people (published and pre-published) through SCBWI and it's important for those of us in this industry to have a support network who understand our passion/obsession.

Also, the fact that one has the chance to submit to editors one meets at conferences (whose houses are closed to unsolicited subs) is incredible. I have a MS under consideration right now because of one of these one-on-one personalised contacts.

I have also seen essentially 'closed' publishers' submission guidlines which say they will accept unsolicited subs from SCBWI members.

Do I send newbies to SCBWI? Absolutely, because I believe in SCBWI. Do I put that I am a member on my queries and covers. Of course! I've heard (firsthand) a number of editors say that they do take notice of that. Do I think it's the big thing that gets my work noticed? Of course not, but I consider it mentionable and in it's own way very worthy.

I could go on! But I, too, can't say enough great things about SCBWI.

*Proud Active Published SCBWI Member*

jenny2write said...

My experience might be different from many peoples' here, as I'm a member of the British SCBWI chapter. It's been professionally useful to me over several years.

I'm not that much of a socialite but I like the feeling of community, bolstered by the very lively Yahoo group and a good website.

As I live in London I sometimes get together with other members in "real life", and we've had very reasonably priced meetings in pubs where agents and publishers have come along to speak. I've learned a LOT from these meetings.

There's also a blog critique group which has been very useful.

I have published a couple of (adult) books and have a third coming out here and in the US (St Martin's Press) next March. I also do professional travel writing and journalism. At present I have a children's book waiting to go into an acquisitions meeting at a major publisher, (although with the market as it is now I wonder if anyone's buying anything, so I'm not too optimistic at this time.)

So I have had some success but I don't believe I'm likely to be more successful long term than the people in my SCBWI group who have not so far got published.

Everyone is learning and many people have skills which they are willing to share with those like me who lack them - skills that help their work get noticed. Good blogging or internet communication skills, or marketing and self promotion skills, for instance. I've been intrigued lately to see how a vanity press book has garnered much more attention than you'd expect, because of the author's exceptional flair for promotion.

As in all groups, SO much depends on the people who volunteer their time, and I am sure that if there were power struggles and squabbles, the chapter would be awful instead of inclusive and fun.

It follows from that that our group seems inclusive. Someone here said their experience is that SCBWI holds conferences in ritzy hotels. Is that a status thing, aimed to make professionals take them more seriously? If so, I bet it doesn't. If the history of literature shows anything, it's that literary talent is definitely not confined to affluent people from well groomed suburbia who like to stay in the Ritz- Carlton!... publishers with a living to earn are surely smart enough to realise that too.

Oh well, that's my 2 pennies worth. It's been interesting to me to read the different takes on SCBWI and I hope my comments have been interesting for other people to read.

Bob Schechter said...

I think SCBWI is useful the way this blog is useful, which, for me, is (a) to provide a sense of community in a field that means something to me and with which I would otherwise have very little contact, and (b) maybe to pick up a few stray tips and leads about the industry. Is it a credential to boast about? Of course not. I don't think any editor would be impressed if I wrote in my cover letter than I am a SCBWI member or regularly read Editorial Anonymous (unless, of course, I happened to pick the eponymous Anonymous herself -- hmm, but can you be both eponymous and anonymous at the same time? That's a toughie).

Anonymous said...

As a long time member, volunteer, presenter at conferences and illustrator of 45 or so published works, I can say that I still get a lot out of being an SCBWI member. On a regional level, I think you basically get out of it what you (and other volunteers) put into it. If you want a more professional track, volunteer to organize an event that would meet those needs. My own region has grown tremendously in the last ten years, due to the hard work of a wonderful regional adviser and numerous volunteers. We offer programs for all levels of experience. Being able to meet and network with editors, agents, and top industry professionals outside of the immediate NYC area is a big plus. Having your manuscript/artwork critiqued by these professionals is probably one of the most important benefits.
I agree the national conferences are quite cost prohibitive, and I wish that they were more affordable, but there never seems to be a lack of people attending despite the high costs. Taking advantage of what is offered locally is often a much more affordable option, and volunteering to organize an event may even allow you to participate for free (depending on how your region is run).If you live in a more remote part of the country, contact your regional adviser and perhaps you can organize and event closer to to home, provided there are enough local members to make it worthwhile and cost effective.

Back to the original question...just being an SCBWI member doesn't really mean all that much as anyone can join, but it does let the person you are submitting to know you have made the initial steps to educate yourself about the business and what it takes to get published.

ABH said...

With all the resources on the Internet, you don't need an SCBWI membership to educate yourself about the industry. But I am still a member. Some of the members-only web resources are useful to me, and my region (mid-Atlantic) puts on a couple of good annual events close to my home.

Any event attracts lots of newbies, but I also hooked up with my critique group at an SCBWI event. I could not ask for a better group -- insightful critics and supportive friends. Several of them have had books published, so they can offer useful advice on dealing with editors.

Last year I helped out with the annual fall conference, mainly to support and connect with other writers. I'd begun to think there was nothing new to learn at conferences. But a couple of the speakers actually said stuff I hadn't heard before. I paid $35 extra for a manuscript critique from an editor I respect, and everything she said to me was useful.

The chance to submit to editors from closed houses is another nice perk of attending a conference. Not that I've had anything published that way.

I also have heard editors say they're more interested in a manuscript if the author is an SCBWI member. Maybe they feel that when speaking at an SCBWI conference, it would be rude to say membership makes no difference? It's hard for me to imagine someone accepting or rejecting a ms based on the author's SCBWI membership status.

KATE COOMBS said...

I often recommend SCBWI to newly aspiring children's book writers, and this post made me think about why. I also attend the annual conference here in L.A., and this year I asked myself if I really wanted to go. A few thoughts:

--I tell people there are no guarantees of connecting with editors at the conference; this usually happens, not on a personal level, but with an announcement like "We don't usually accept unagented manuscripts, but we'll accept them from conference attendees for the next few months." This is how I found my first publisher, in fact.

--While SCBWI can't screen for talent directly, I suspect it tends to winnow out people who aren't intent on a long-term career in this field. Those who are more dedicated probably practice more and study more, so OVERALL, I'm guessing the quality of writing of SCBWI members is a bit higher. Like American Idol, it does a little screening for publishers.

--SCBWI is really about having a community. Writing can be a very isolated effort. That's not always a bad thing, but the feeling that you're part of a group of like-minded individuals, mostly people who love children's books, can be heartening.

--As I considered attending the conference this year, I read over the list of presenters and realized that just because I'm published and know the ropes doesn't mean I don't want to go. I find that the conferences, get my creative juices flowing, especially thanks to the speakers.

--Conferences in any professional organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, cost money. I believe the going rate is a little over $100 a day. I attended the California Teachers of English conference a few months ago, and it was three days for $350. The SCBWI conference this summer is $450 for four days, not $1000, as has been reported. You can bet the American Medical Association charges at least this much for its conferences--it simply takes money to rent a space and hire speakers. And no one has to stay on-site at the expensive hotel; you can stay at Motel 6 and take the bus. But some people can't afford conferences, and that's just life, unfortunately. I suppose the tax write-off helps. Regional events are usually more affordable, some of them free.

--I met someone at the last SCBWI Conference who's now a key member of my new local writing group.

--SCBWI gives newbies an excellent introduction to the world of children's publishing. If they're listening, it can also help them hone their craft. Not everyone's equally teachable (able OR willing), but the knowledge is offered.

--I've talked to people who are offended to find out that SCBWI is for-profit. I don't believe for one minute that the organization is making a huge profit, and when I hear the leadership speak, it's always about their passion for children's books. I've never seen dollar signs in their eyes. If a for-profit provides a valuable service, great!

To state the obvious, some people are going to find benefits from SCBWI, and others aren't. But I'm glad it's available.

Anonymous said...

I'm a SCBWI member and have been to two national conferences. I don't mean to sound harsh but my impression is that this organization is cashing in big time on the hopes and dreams of thousands of aspiring writers who will never get published. But that is my humble opinion.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Kate-- I believe the 1000 figure is closer to the mark for those of us who DON'T live in CA... Remember, for most people it's not just the conference cost--it's also hotel, food and airfare each way--- If SCBWI held the conference in the midwest some years (Chicago, or St. Louis or Indianapolis) I'd be more likely to go, as it would be DRIVEABLE, and I'd be able to stay with family or friends. But for those of us w/o NY or CA connections the two big conferences are out of reach...

Other professional organizations (ALA, for example) move their conference every year, so that even if memebrs can't afford to go one year, they may be able to make it the next.

Also, even if they only moved the conference to Vegas it would probably be cheaper--air and hotel are more affordable to Vegas than to CA.....

Like I said-- if at some point I start making enough money to cover conferences, I'd probably join and attend... but for most people, Especially those with spouses and children, even the $500 is a bit hard to justify.

(Sorry, the whole "x isn't a whole lot of money" thing always boggles the mind. There is no amount that will be "not a lot" to everyone you talk to! But I think that the emphasis on pricey conferences just reaffirms the idea that writing is a rich white lady's game......)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:06,
If that were the case, then why would those of us who have been published multiple times be such huge SCBWI fans?

Yes, there are people in SCBWI who will never get published—but there are many more wannabes and non SCBWI members who think their first clumsy MS is a bestseller waiting to happen who will never get published. But good for SCBWI members for at least trying to learn more about the industry. And good for SCWBI for being there for them.

And good for the all the editors and agents who take their time to come to these events—I can’t imagine they make a lot of money out of it—and before you start telling me how much speakers get paid, think of the countless unpaid hours of going through conference attendees’ submissions after the conference, and in some cases before, and do the math. But perhaps it is worth it for them, because every now and then they do find something that they want to see more of. I have just had a full MS requested because of one of these recent contacts.

Better to aim your disillusionment at the many scam agents and publishers out there—they are the real predators. SCBWI's aims are high-minded and despite the fact that I am published, I will continue to support them wholeheartedly, and continue to send newbies to them—I know that with SCBWI behind them many of them (for all the reasons outlined by a couple of other posters) have a much higher chance of achieving success. At very least along the way, they’ll be able to enjoy the ride with their SCBWI companions.

Jim said...

ON BENEFITS: Like with most things, what you get out of SCBWI will be in direct proportion to what you put in. I was a Regional Advisor for the organization. It was a lot of work, but I now personally know many great editors, agents, writers and illustrators. (As I am writing this, I am at a retreat with 4 other people at the house of NYT Bestseller Ellen Hopkins--also an RA for SCBWI) And people who volunteered also got a chance to make great connections, as did those who came to conferences.
Over 30 books were published as a result of connections made at the local conference I used to run. Of course, you need to be a good writer or connections won't help, and SCBWI can play a small role in making you one, if you are willing to put in the work. You can meet experienced local authors who will help you hone your craft and develop your stories.
ON COSTS: We did everything we could to keep prices down, but the fact is that conferences are expensive to run. We offered need-based scholarships to our big annual conference and ran a variety of smaller affordable events. Being a member of SCBWI is around $60 a year, and that is more than worth it when you consider that they hand you marketing information wrapped in a bow. The time spent trying to find where to send your manuscript (and you are doing that-right?) would cost far more than the membership fee. I suspect that people who feel the cost/benefit ratio is out of whack don't understand what a huge amount of resources come with membership. Oh- BTW my first book won a Zolotow Honor, and I have 3 more books coming out- 2 of which S&S acquired in an auction preempt. And all the editors/agents/publishers involved in that success I met through SCBWI.

Laurie J. Edwards said...

I've found SCBWI invaluable for the connections I've made over the years--my wonderful crit groups and supportive friends in many parts of the country. When I moved a few years ago, the first thing I did was sign up for a SCBWI retreat, and I immediately became part of an extended writing community in my new state.

I've been to many SCBWI regional conferences and several national ones and do think most events are geared more to beginners than those of us who are published. But I continue to go because it often helps me get my foot in the door of publishing houses that are closed to unagented submissions.

Some people mentioned Chautauqua and Rutgers, those are great opportunities too. Chautauqua is better for early in your career, but the Highlights Foundation workshops are excellent for more advanced skills. They are pricey, however. Rutgers is wonderful for intermediate writers who are struggling to get published. I'd also recommend the Institute of Children's Literature for those who are starting out in the field.

Unfortunately, all of these cost money, so they aren't in reach of everyone. Harold Underdown www.underdown.org/ & Verla Kay have lots of resources for writers.

But if you can afford it, I think SCBWI is a worthwhile investment. I spend more time now helping SCBWI newbies learn their craft, but I consider it payback for all the times others helped me. Multi-published RAs wherever I've lived have always generous with their time and advice. And I wouldn't be able to support myself with my writing if it weren't for all the SCBWI contacts I've made. Every writing job I've gotten has come about because of a friend I've made at SCBWI. For that alone, the dues are worth it. Because of SCBWI, I'm living my dream.

Laurie Edwards
http://lje1.wordpress.com/
Author of Rihanna (People in the News)
Summer Lovin' (The Wild Rose Press)

Anonymous said...

SCBWI needs to wake up. There are 3/4 women members and yet at the NYC conference they only had male keynoters. One RA told me that they help the men because there were so few. Stop washing their diapers. Talk about the ego that one meets at those conferences. If you are lesser known than that famous new author that walks over a back get turned towards you. And if Lin is reading, we were sitting in the back of the big hall last summer when the we asked for the speakers on the panel to talk louder and into the microphone. Your staff by the doors in the back were making fun of us, putting us down loud enough for those PAYING members to hear. First of all it's the responsiblitiy of the moderator to remind the panel to speak into the mics. And it's the responsibilty of the panel to know how to speak into the mics. And it's the responsiblity of the SCBWI staff to show respect to PAYING members. I was going to leave a suggestion in the box but saying this publicly feels better.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's not the most constructive strategy. Complaining on an anonymous blog is hardly as effective as making a suggestion directly to the organizers of a conference you attended.

As to male/female ratio of speakers; I'm not sure that a person's gender is the strongest measure of whether they are providing the best information, inspiration, etc.

Even so, a casual look at the SCBWI Summer 2009 conference shows four male keynoters and nine female keynoters.

Lastly, I would like to point out that "Editorial Anonymous" didn't say that belonging to the SCBWI was useless. It seems to me that she was only saying that mentioning it on a cover letter doesn't make her view the writer in a markedly more positive way. And she went on to note that it was what one LEARNED as a result of SCBWI that was much more important than the simple fact of SCBWI membership stated on a cover letter.