However you pronounce it (I favour "Scoobie" but I know many others lean towards "Scwibby") the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is a wonderful organisation with a terrible acronym.
The renewal notice that dropped into my inbox the other day reminded me how very much has changed during the first year of my membership. Before May 2009, I was an unknown writer with a horror novel of dubious quality, no agent and self-esteem issues. Now, I'm an undiscovered (i.e. slightly less unknown) writer with a pretty kick-ass horror novel, no agent and ... erm ... well I'm still working on the self-esteem stuff. And maybe the agent thing will be sorted out fairly soon and ...
Who am I kidding? SCBWI has CHANGED MY LIFE. You will not meet a nicer, more welcoming or more focused bunch of people anywhere - on or off the internet. I laboured in adult writing groups for quite a few months, but the fact I was writing for children set me apart and I could never get the kind of market-led and solidly structural critique that I really needed. This is not the case since joining SCBWI - in fact I have way too many critique opportunities now, and am now struggling to keep up. Everyone seems so gracious and well-informed, and despite the time pressures I have been really pleased with the way that my own critical abilities have blossomed over the last twelve months.
Every time I walk into the children's section of a bookshop nowadays, I see books written by SCBWI members. Just yesterday in Blackwells - without particularly seeking any of them out - I saw Greek myths retold by Lucy Coats and Saviour Pirotta, The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43 by Harriet Goodwin, Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner and of course the marvellous Mortlock by Jon Mayhew. The idea that I know and can actually talk to people who write published children's books, that these people are in a very real way my peers - is still pretty mind-blowing.
The key thing that any writer needs is belief - it's also something that's very hard to supply on your own. Ok, sure, there are your family and friends, but you get the feeling that they would support you whether you were writing books or making a range of Patagonian llama cheeses: "Oh yes, it's very nutty - don't you think, Bernard? And you really fermented all this yourself? You could be the next J.K. Rodriguez!"
(Billionaire Patagonian cheese magnate and self-crowned King of Coagulation)
Fret no more about your Mum's leaden palate and liking for misery memoirs, and turn to the fine members of SCBWI. Just like the Ghostbusters, they're "ready to believe you." To cheer your successes and commiserate on your failures. To tell you that you're "nearly there" when your beloved manuscript is rejected for the seventh time. Because the eighth time might be the charm and if you give up now, you'll never know that. Many of the Scoobies are my very good friends and I hope many more will be my friends in the future. At the Professional Series and the Masterclasses, on Yahoo and Facebook, at the Conference, Retreat and new Pulse events, SCBWI rocks!
But always in an age-appropriate manner.