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What are the benefits of SCWBI

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OddBerryCreations

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Without trying to sound like a total pessimist, I wanted to know more about the SCWBI. Is it expensive, is it worthwhile, and what are the benefits of attending conferences, etc. I'm not part of any illustrators groups and I've heard that this organization could be the best thing for me. I'm looking to expand my illustration network and wanted tips on how to go about doing that.
#1 - November 14, 2012, 03:24 AM

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I'm one of the co-directors for the New England SCBWI conference, so I'm biased, but I think it's one of the best things you can do for networking (both for writers and illustrators).

In New England, we have workshops specifically designed for illustrators and authors--from people just getting into the field to published mid-listers.

There are opportunities to meet art directors, agents, and editors and get your work critiqued. We have great keynotes and panels. To me, the best benefit has been meeting and forming a great network of talented friends and colleagues.

The NESCBWI conference is May 3-5, 2013, and registration opens February 6. Feel free to DM me if you have specific questions. I can't speak for the other regions, but I'm sure they are equally beneficial to regional members!  http://www.nescbwi.org/

Kris Asselin
#2 - November 14, 2012, 05:39 AM
Kristine Carlson Asselin
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OddBerryCreations

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I'm still new so I can't DM yet, but I will definitely when I'm able to. I'm in VA so do you know of any contacts I can reach out to in my area whether locally or virtually? The fact that I'm a student, would the fees be less? I've heard both positive and negative feedback about joining huge communities like this but...coming from someone of your position within the organization it helps give me an inside view.
#3 - November 14, 2012, 05:58 AM

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Join. The fees are relatively small compared to other illustration communities you might join. The community is geared to the kid lit industry so you won't get lost in a sea of other types of illustration genres. There are things about children's book publishing that you can only learn from other people in the children's book publishing industry.

When I joined in 2004, I was so totally clueless and the local conferences were a huge eye opener. SCBWI is a great place for beginners.
#4 - November 14, 2012, 06:03 AM
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I don't have any contacts in that area--but maybe someone else on the board does? Here's the link to SCBWI Mid-Atlantic. http://www.scbwi-midatlantic.org/

You might not get a discount--but you can usually opt to attend for one day rather than the whole weekend. That can be a way to test the waters, and decide how much you want to get involved. I would also recommend volunteering--again, probably no discount, but it'll definitely ramp up your networking opportunities and help you get involved faster. Our region also has isolated workshops, which tend to be really affordable, so you might check to see if your region does that as well.

I like the online community, but there's something about attending a conference in person that is very exhilarating and inspiring to your art/craft!

Kris

#5 - November 14, 2012, 06:04 AM
Kristine Carlson Asselin
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I'm a long-time member of SCBWI, and a former (for a short time) Regional Advisor. Joining SCBWI was the BEST single thing I ever did to shorten my journey to publication. Not only did I learn a massive amount from SCBWI conferences and workshops, but some of my closest friends and best critique buddies were made through SCBWI, as well. Check out their website to find the Regional Advisor who lives in your area and to see what conferences are close to you. http//www.scbwi.org
#6 - November 14, 2012, 06:12 AM
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You can attend conferences without being a member. (Members get a discount, but if you can't attend all conferences, it can be cheaper to save the yearly membership and go to the conference at nonmember cost, if that makes sense. If you go to EVERY conference, it's of course cheaper to be a member.) It would be a good way to see how much it works for you right now. I will say that in recent years, SCBWI has really upped their offerings for illustrators, and my surface skimming impression is that while there is stuff out there for illustrators, SCBWI is really the only game that focuses on children's illustration. It can be hard to find out the particularities of the children's illustration business, so I do think it's worth checking out.

If you go to scbwi.org, you should be able to find information on your local regional chapter, and what kinds of events they have currently planned.

Ah, I see Kris has already provided a direct link to your local chapter.
#7 - November 14, 2012, 06:16 AM

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A good friend of mine dragged me to my first SCBWI meeting. I thought you had to be "professional" to join, but it was exactly what I needed as a newbie writer (I had only a couple of things published at the time). I learned to become a professional writer. We had monthly events/classes on craft, business, even taxes (groan), and the friendships I made are the best.

I think it's helpful to check out your local region and see what's going on. I am still a member, even though I've moved to a region where the events are farther away. It's so refreshing to be with other children's writers, even if you get to go just once a year. By the way, you don't need to be a member to go to SCBWI events, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. If you were a chemist, you'd belong to the ACS, if a microbiologist, to the ASM, and in a similar vein, you become part of a community of children's writers when you join SCBWI. OH, one last benefit -- they have grants available for members.

Good luck as you poke around and figure out your needs/wants. You can also search the boards for other discussions on the SCBWI.

Vijaya
#8 - November 14, 2012, 07:01 AM
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 07:06 AM by Vijaya »
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So the SCBWI is benefical for illustrators? I'm not sure if children's books is where I'll end up which is part of the process of me figuring out where I belong in the illustration world.  :thankyou
#9 - November 14, 2012, 07:57 AM

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Attending a SCBWI conference before you decide to join may be an option, especially one that has workshops geared towards illustrators. Non-Members can attend, but usually pay a slightly higher fee for the conferences.

For myself, attending an open portfolio review was enlightening. Not only did I see others' work, I also heard input from a professional in the industry about the art which helped me learn and apply it to my own work.

One of the better workshops I attended was facilitated by Carol Heyer. As she does a lot of cover work and has rendered work for other writers as well as her own PBs, she is versatile. She also spoke of doing commercial work, telling artists to look at products in stores and think about artwork on soup cans, etc.

There is a thread a bit further down asking about the SCBWI for illustrators that may have a bit of information:  http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=63974.0

I agree with the in-person benefits, especially with art critiques as the tangible product takes the beauty up. Being with others who speak the same artistic language is helpful.
#10 - November 14, 2012, 08:57 AM
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 12:49 PM by Cynthia Kremsner »
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I'd also add before you join look at your local area and see what's going on and how far away from you these things are. I have to travel well over 100 miles if I want to join in because of the area of my state I live. Also in my area there are far more things for writers than for illustrators. So I'd say take those things into account.

That being said I do like being a member and there is some good info on the website and also the few events I've been to have been OK.
#11 - November 14, 2012, 12:10 PM

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Also, there are any number of Illustrators who post reviews on their blogs of SCBWI conferences they have attended. You can google and search for that type of thing. We also have a few on our blog. http://onceuponasketch.com/category/events/conferences/

Conferences can be expensive though. If you are just trying to decide if this is the right world for you I'd continue researching online before making a financial commitment to SCBWI. Get books on Children's Publishing and really explore the possibilities. If Children's Books are for you then invest in a membership and go from there.
#12 - November 14, 2012, 01:45 PM

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Right, but there are so many forms of illustration finding out my own unique path and THEN finding my style is essentially where I'm at. I'm not quite sure how to get started or what to do to begin with so I'm a little intimidated. Books on children's publishing...how would that benefit me? Essentially I just want to draw for a living. I'm pretty sure it's not THAT simple but that's basically what I want to do. I could be a writer...I mean, I'm creative enough and I have made some stories up for school but it's never been something I considered as a career choice. I like drawing and creating digital art but I'm not sure where I would fit in...I mean I know there are a TON more people out there that have the same passions as me but...I seriously just feel like I'm wandering aimlessly down the illustration path.

Thanks for the suggestion of researching BEFORE investing money... :grin3
#13 - November 14, 2012, 01:51 PM

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Books on children's publishing would help you because you need to understand how this business works before commiting to it. Would you go hiking on a mountain trail blindfolded, because all you really want to do is hike? :) It's sort of the same thing.  Yes, you want to illustrate...but part of being an illustrator is being a business person, too.  Research, research, research!
#14 - November 14, 2012, 02:14 PM
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Right, but there are so many forms of illustration finding out my own unique path and THEN finding my style is essentially where I'm at. I'm not quite sure how to get started or what to do to begin with so I'm a little intimidated. Books on children's publishing...how would that benefit me? Essentially I just want to draw for a living. I'm pretty sure it's not THAT simple but that's basically what I want to do. I could be a writer...I mean, I'm creative enough and I have made some stories up for school but it's never been something I considered as a career choice. I like drawing and creating digital art but I'm not sure where I would fit in...I mean I know there are a TON more people out there that have the same passions as me but...I seriously just feel like I'm wandering aimlessly down the illustration path.

Thanks for the suggestion of researching BEFORE investing money... :grin3

SCBWI isn't for illustrators in general. If you are considering SCBWI and asking questions in regards to it then yes you'll want to research and read books on the Children's Market and Publishing since that is the primary focus of that organization. SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators) is meant for artists and writers who want to walk down that particular path.

Like you said, there are many forms of Illustration. Each aspect of the industry will call for different things and subject focuses in your portfolio, how you network and how you find work. Luckily all of those markets have websites, books, blogs and communities dedicated to sharing information on how those industries work and what is expected. I would start with what you like to draw and what flows from you naturally. Let what makes you happy be your guide.

Are you on LinkedIn? There are a large number of illustration/Art groups with individual focus on varied aspects of the Illustration field. That could be a good researching option for you as well.
#15 - November 14, 2012, 02:20 PM

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Ahhhh, that makes a lot more sense. No you're right, I wouldn't go hiking blindfolded and it does seem like that's exactly what I'm doing. I'll look into the children's publishing information and go from there. I also realized my youngest son has a ton of books that I can use for reference. Who knew!!

I am on LinkedIn and some of those illustration groups I am a part of. I'll have to go diving a little deeper it seems.

 :thankyou
#16 - November 14, 2012, 03:27 PM

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I wouldn't have made some amazing friendships without SCBWI--especially Verla Kay who has become like a sister to me and we both regularly drive 1,0000 miles to visit. 

It's the conferences that really make SCBWI worthwhile, where you learn a lot but even better are the friendships that grow from a shared understanding of a writers journey.  I'm in a critique group, too, that was formed from SCBWI friends, and meet every 2 weeks.

Ditto all the great comments about SCBWI.. The organization has given a lot to me and I never miss the conference in LA every summer. It's like a friendship reunion.
#17 - November 15, 2012, 07:16 AM
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Essentially I just want to draw for a living.

If you just want to draw for a living, the reality of children's books (at least trade book publishing) is that there's usually not a lot of money in it. Also, it takes a while to get your foot in the door, sometimes many, many years.

There are new opportunities all the time, with writers self publishing and needing artists. If you go that route, Wilson Williams Jr. started a great thread about questions to ask: http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=65291.msg771031#msg771031 Here's another thread about illustrating for a self publishing author: http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=65025.msg768161#msg768161 Make sure you are getting a fair price for your time, skills and expertise, and make sure you have a contract to protect yourself should the deal go sideways.

There are also new small publishers and upstart epublishers where you might find illustration work. New publishers can be wonderful opportunities or shady businesses that you'll wish you stayed away from. Beware of who they are and what kind of contract you're signing before you decide to work with them.

Don't forget to consider illustrating for magazines like Highlights. There are online magazines you could illustrate for as well. Again, beware of the contract you're signing, the rights you're giving them, and whether or not you're being paid (they should pay you, although there may be a case where you believe in something enough to illustrate for free).

Most of those things are for illustrating picture books, or illustrating for young children. Don't forget to think about illustrating covers and black and white illustrations for the interiors of chapter books and middle grade novels. Check out current books at the library or bookstore to see what kind of work is being published now, and who publishes it.

Look through the posts on this site for illustration, contracts, magazines, small publishers, etc. There's a ton of info here about the industry. It will give you a better idea of what it's all about and whether or not you want to pursue children's books and illustrating for children.

The truth is that if you want to make a living in this field, you will likely have to do many different jobs/types of illustration for kids. At least at first. Being able to draw people, especially children is a big advantage, but if you're really good at drawing animals, that could work too.

The biggest thing is to have a strong portfolio that reflects the market you're trying to work in. So, if you want to illustrate for kids, you need to look at the art in picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels, children's magazines, and online sites for children. Think about your strengths and what you like to draw. Then consider where you might fit in to this market. Create art to focus on that. When you have a really strong portfolio, that you think can compete with the art that's out there for what you want to do, start submitting. Make sure to follow guidelines on how to submit.

As for conferences, if you want to illustrate for children, once you have a portfolio to show, it can be a great help to go to a conference and get a professional critique. Just remember that everything is subjective, and you could have two portfolio reviews with two people on the same day, one of which will love your art and one who will hate it (it's happened to me many times). Either way, if you get constructive feedback on what's working, what's not, and how to improve for the market you want to illustrate for, it's a successful critique. Unfortunately, not all critiques are successful, but most give you some take away that will help your art and career.

If you do decide to pursue illustration for children, then a membership to the SCBWI is something I'd recommend. It's true that there are more resources for writers, but they are increasing the resources for illustrators. And don't discount the advice for writers. I've learned a lot about illustrating for kids by learning about writing stories for them. The biggest benefit of the SCBWI (for me) has been community. Meeting people, going to conferences, sharing resources and critiques. Finding others that are at the same stage in their journey is important, so that you have someone who understands where you're at and can cheer you on (and you can cheer them on too).

If you decide that you DON'T want to illustrate for children, you will still need to do research on whatever field you decide you DO want to illustrate for, and you'll need a strong portfolio. Remember that in any field, it will take time to break in. Although you could get lucky and be at the right place at the right time for a great opportunity. Don't discount luck in all of this; it plays a large part in a lot of careers. But don't count on being one of the lucky ones either. Most of the time you have to make your own luck, by having a great portfolio and getting your name and work known, so that you're in the position to be in the right place at the right time.

Good Luck with whatever path you decide to take!
#18 - November 15, 2012, 09:27 AM
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 09:32 AM by Stephanie Ruble »
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It has been invaluable to me, and I actually blogged yesterday about why I'm thankful for SCBWI.  The post is more my ramblings than anything else.
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#19 - November 15, 2012, 09:51 AM
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Stephanie R. thank you so much for ALL of that added info. I'm still learning how to move around these message boards and as I'm doing so, I am getting so much helpful information from everyone it's simply amazing. I will take all of this info and put it to good use. Thanks soooo much!!
#20 - November 15, 2012, 10:27 AM

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I firmly believe I would not be published now with out my SCBWI friends. SCBWI helped me find critique partners and through conferences and local schmoozes helped me become a better writer. Whatever happens, I know my SCBWI writer friends are with me, encouraging me and letting me know someone else understands the life of a writer:-)

God bless,
Susan
#21 - November 15, 2012, 10:57 AM
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And that is what I'm hoping to find in a group of illustrators. I've come to realize it's going to be a tough road but I'm hoping to build a strong support group to share the pain with.
#22 - November 15, 2012, 12:59 PM

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My first children's book was published this past year (I'M BORED written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by me, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers) as a direct result of my going to the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2010:

How a rejection got me a book deal: My career-changing SCBWI Summer Conference experience

After getting rejection letters for many years, I had made the decision to start going to conferences. I am SO VERY VERY GLAD that I did.

Not just because of the book deals, but because the SCBWI conferences offer so much more, including meeting other children's book writers and illustrators, opportunities to learn from industry pros, inspiration and mutual encouragement.

Here's a thank you letter I wrote to the SCBWI earlier this year:

http://inkygirl.com/inkygirl-main/2012/7/19/a-thank-you-letter-to-the-scbwi.html

My biggest piece of advice before you attend:

Know what you want to get out of it, and have realistic expectations.

Fingers crossed for you!

Debbie
#23 - December 25, 2012, 12:57 PM
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p.s. Stephanie Ruble's post earlier in this thread is EXCELLENT ADVICE.

Stephanie: do you have that on your website or blog anywhere? I'd love to be able to point people there.

Debbie
#24 - December 25, 2012, 12:59 PM
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p.s. Also, do enter the Portfolio Showcases! You never know what might happen.

Even if you don't get a book contract or an award at the time, I've heard many cases in which an editor or art director or publisher picked up a business card or postcard beside a portfolio and then contacted that artist months later.

If you enter the Portfolio Showcase at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, you may also be picked for the Mentorship Program (I learned SO MUCH).

Debbie
#25 - December 25, 2012, 01:04 PM
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I don't have any experience with scwbi, but if you want to do illustrations I would start by practicing your craft.  Be obssessed with producing work, a variety of work.  My professional job is being a supervisor at a visual effects studio and we have to deal with a lot of the client /business/subjective end result that illustrators do.  I also screen peoples portfolios for hiring and it all come down to your work, are you skilled and capable in what you want to be hired to do.   The networking part can come later when you are ready to try and get your foot in the door somewhere.
#26 - December 30, 2012, 10:46 AM

Meeting editors and ADs and attending workshops and asking them questions. You'll learn what each (house and individual) likes and not... and expertise in genre stuff.

Critique sessions... this will reveal your best works for various publishers. AD group and individual critique sessions... this will expose you to all kinds of knowledge.

Pitch sessions will give you guidance on your scripts.

Over time (years) you should be piecing things together for your projects if you get positive feedback.
#27 - December 30, 2012, 04:09 PM
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1. The first person I ever talked to about my writing was an editor from Random House (at an SCBWI conference critique just after I started writing) She used the critique to teach me about the form of pb and said my ms was "publishable" and even found me later in the conference with books from her list that demonstrated the direction she wanted me to take that ms
2. I have learned so much about the ins and outs of children's book publishing through SCBWI - the newsletters, the online resources, the workshops and conferences. Not just *learning* but the fact that so many people are trying to help me in the journey to publication was SO motivating. I really couldn't give up because so many people I admired had told me they wanted to read my books when they were published.
3. I was awarded a grant through SCBWI. They offer a lot of grants for illustrators and writers at many stages, especially beginners. I was awarded the grant before I had any (not even an article / magazine / ezine) writing credits. The grant money was a huge help, but even more than that I appreciated that belief in my work.
4. A member can attend conferences / events anywhere in the world. I take advantage of this when I travel if I can.
5. When you have books in print conferences and workshops are another place to hold book signings.
6. Okay, I'm a fan girl I've met a lot of my favorite illustrators and writers at conferences (I won't name names!) But not just glimpsing at them across the room or viewing them on stage - I'm talking about having conversations, lunch, coffee, chats . . . all with people whose books I love and whose work I've admired for years.
7. Opportunities to pitch - in critiques, special pitch sessions, first pages or just chatting. The last SCBWI conference I attended I had requests for 6 different manuscripts -6!
8. You will meet some of the most amazing people in the world who will encourage, support, push you and motivate you if you do have the goal to illustrate children's books.
I could go on and on but these were just the first reasons that came to my mind. In addition to the lifelong friends I've made and that I'm certain that I would never have been published without SCBWI.

BTW I am biased too -I'm another SCBWI volunteer. I serve as their assistant international advisor.

#28 - January 01, 2013, 12:55 PM
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I think that you have convinced me to join... :thankyou 
#29 - January 01, 2013, 01:40 PM
I've always said I'll write someday...my someday is now.

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