Teresa Fannin (Carolinas)
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a ONE OF A KIND. There is no competition. True, other writing groups have sections or groups for children’s writers, but none develop the rapport with editors and agents of children’s literature to “give established writers and illustrators the tools and resources to manage their careers, as well as educate those just starting out.” And, most importantly, none, stand up for quality in children’s literature constantly and consistently as does SCBWI.
It’s hard to believe but when I started on a regional team what feels like a lifetime ago, (no, we didn’t call them teams in 2008), each region did its own thing on websites, regional logos if any, and programming. There were few rules, more like guidelines on becoming RA, getting an ARA as part of your team, how you developed an event, how you paid speakers, what programming your region provided to members. There was a lot of give and take between Regional Advisors mentoring each other as well as offering support and care on a list called RAWI. Getting a membership listing meant getting in touch with Sally Crock. LOL, yes, we did have email. As I recall the basics were that we had to have a non-interest bearing checking account with Steve Mooser as a signatory and we had to have one free event a year. I think that covered it.
And frankly, a decade ago, it was easy to remain focused on quality in children’s literature. Today we have many looking over our shoulder, wanting writers, illustrators, translators, editors, agents to do more, to take specific hopes and dreams and advance them into the public sphere. And not all hope and dreams are the same. We all want childhood to be a time of innocence. Looking at my grands, I too hope so, but I know that what is necessary today is different from mine, or even my children’s childhoods. It is this path we walk, rightfully, as content creators today, to be aware of and responsible for what is produced for children as we produce our own work.
As a One of a Kind, the same awareness and responsibility holds true for SCBWI. We are fortunate, as an organization, to have the ‘start up team’ still active in the providing strategic, tactical and operational leadership. Especially as the past several years have challenged SCBWI. Our goal and the goal of every regional team member should be how we, as SCBWI, remain the premiere voice speaking for children’s literature through all the educational, cultural, economic, and, political conversations taking place in our public square. A few ways we can assist:
- Use the term SCBWI or its logo, including regional logos, within the strict limits of the region or head office designation by regional team members.
- Ensure those who pay a fee to receive the benefits of membership in SCBWI honor the organization and its logo.
- Keep a consistent SCBWI message on all SCBWI platforms.
- Watch for a negative co-opting of that message by members.
- Be aware of negative messages about SCBWI on non-SCBWI platforms.
- Keep the head office in the loop.
While equity and inclusion issues are forefront topics of 2020, it is important that we continue to review the precedents set regionally, ensure these precedents are evenly handled and policies are clearly communicated inside and across the regions to all members. This could cover anything from how we set up events to registrations to opportunities for our PAL members and how we expand the opportunities for our members to participate in SCBWI as volunteers and as future regional team members.
Common sense, you may say. Maybe. Ever notice how when you go into a restaurant and ask for a coke, the wait staff may counter with ‘we only serve Pepsi products here’? (especially true in North Carolina, the home of Pepsi) Coca-Cola company has a copyright on the words Coke, Coca-Cola, Cola providing a legal protection of the words and a proprietary and financial position.
In 2021 The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators celebrates fifty years and holds a proprietary and financial position in the publishing arena that can be complicated by a thriving social media component in our public square. We all need to be keenly aware of and protect the name and reputation of ourselves as members, and the name and reputation of this organization not only within the domestic US but also internationally.
How SCBWI arrived at this One of a Kind place is the result of hard work, time building relationships, being honest and continually advocating for quality literature for children from infant to young adult in every region of the world at the same time doing the same hard work, relationship building and advocacy with and for its many members.
How SCBWI stays as a premiere voice in the critical area of children’s literature means all of us carefully maintaining the brand. It is not always easy, but it is rewarding. We are all reaping the awesome benefits of the One of a Kind branding of SCBWI.
Teresa Fannin doesn’t even remember a time of not knowing story and has a very hard time telling one in under fifteen hundred words. She left the corporate world and started writing MG murder mysteries after she joined SCBWI in 1996 in Massachusetts. Not long after a move to NC she accepted leadership of Carolinas, retiring as RAE in 2019. She reads, gardens, plays tennis, drinks too much tea and not enough Irish Whisky and eats more than her fair share of chocolate. Find her musing at her website.