Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Oh, Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood?

Esther Hershenhorn (Illinois)

The above title of Jeff Moss’ tuneful 1969 Sesame Street song poses a question worth re-posing to our members, then answering fully with a focus on our Children’s Book World Gatekeepers – the folks we need to know to get our books to readers.

Think: booksellers, librarians (both public and school), teachers, academicians, reviewers, PTO Arts Chairpersons and literary festival organizers as well as “the Steve’s and Lin’s” of key relevant professional organizations.*

And think locally, regionally and state-wide.

We’ve done a swell job including many of the above professionals as speakers and panelists in our programming at all geographic levels.

Consider the following ideas to do an even sweller job:

  • Invite any of the above Gatekeepers (but especially those at a state or regional level) to be a Guest of Honor at your next seasonal/regional conference – if not for the entire conference, at least for all-attendee programming and/or a meal.  Offer your guests a lovely badge, an informative introduction to both the audience and the faculty and the opportunity to mingle with your members, especially the now-easily-identifiable-by-badge PAL members. The singular spirit and generosity of our community often surprises non-SCBWI folks; partnership possibilities suddenly take root.

Here in Illinois such guest conference invitations resulted in win-win connections that led to the creation of the Prairie State Author Award (see more at, exhibit booths at professional conferences, dedicated New Books pages in professional journals, participation in the Illinois Young Authors program, featured author luncheons at conferences and classroom visits.

  • Feature any of the above professionals in your newsletter and/or on your Listserv – perhaps under the title “Someone You Should Know.”

Again, think locally, regionally, state-wide.

You’ll be helping PAL members grow the contact list their publishers often request and your Chapter grow a solid-gold list of resources.

You’ll also be connecting pre-published writers and illustrators to folks who can help them learn and hone their craft.

  • Invite PAL members to introduce and profile their Gatekeepers to your Chapter – in newsletter and/or Listserv features such as Meet My Bookseller!/Meet My Librarian, at local meetings, perhaps as a conference or program guest, the cost shared by several PAL members.

We’re all about bringing books to readers.  The more we know – as in, our neighbors, info and opportunities, the better we can be.

Esther Hershenhorn, RAE Illinois

* the ABC Group of the American Booksellers, the American Library Association, the School and Library Media Association, the International Literacy Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the International Board of Books for Young Readers, the U.S. Board of Books for Young Readers, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, etc.)


Illinois’ RAE Esther Hershenhorn spends her days doing what she loves and loving what she does: writing picture books and middle-grade fiction, teaching adult Writing for Children workshops at the University of Chicago’s Writer’s Studio and Chicago’s Newberry Library and coaching writers of all ages.  Her latest books include the baby board book TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY and S IS FOR STORY: A WRITER’S ALPHABET (both Sleeping Bear Press). You can find Esther here