Monday, 10 May 2010

In Praise of SCBWI

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.

Nick.

22 comments:

  1. I love the SCBWI bookseller take-over. So true - it's happening! See you at Pulse tomorrow night?

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  2. Yes, I'm going to Pulse - looking forward to your interview, Sue!

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  3. Love SCBWI too. Great people - so welcoming, friendly and helpful, and lovely to be amongst other writers who know exactly what you're going through and don't think you're mad. I always say if I ever make it, it'll be thanks to SCBWI - the contacts I've made through it, the advice from critique groups, the lectures at conferences etc, etc.

    Have to agree with you. SCBWI rocks.

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  4. I love Scbooey people - they're so helpful - I'm with you all the way, Nick. Sadly, with the self-esteem bit too.

    @ Beverley ... " *when* I make it" ( not 'if')

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  5. Agree one hundred per cent. Scoobies are great people!

    Linda

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  6. Totally agree, Nick. Hmm, I thought it was pronounced 'Scoobwi'!

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  7. Awww, here here for Scbwi love in :O)

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  8. Scooby people are the best people in the world!

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  9. YAY YAY YAY! SCBWI changed my life too!

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  10. I agree 100%, Nick. It's the best thing I ever did, joining SCBWI.
    I get the same buzz when I see the SCBWI members books on the shelves - tis a lovely feeling.

    Feeling the love
    Tracy :)

    PS (I call it Scwibby).

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  11. I must be the only one that seperately pronounces S - C - B - W - I and then feels the need to repeat it in full!

    Does that make me weird?

    Alex

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  12. Well said Nick. Glad to hear scoobie has been so good for you! It's been a great focus for me too, in this country and elsewhere.

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  13. Look forward to seeing you tonight!

    What about calling it Scerbooey!!

    I agree, whatever you call it, it's the BEST!

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  14. Yes, yes and yes again. The SCBWI rules!

    Mariam Vossough

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  15. Couldn't have put it better myself! Scooby (as I affectionately call it) is most definitely the best club I've ever been allowed to join!

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  16. So glad I spotted this wonderful feedback! Of course I agree. I've watched international Scooby grow, outside of the US, from the tiny seed Erzsi Deak planted in Paris - was it 14 years ago? - and marvel at how active SCBWI British Isles in particular has become. Hope you don't mind me sharing this with the international SCBWI board :-)

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  17. Not at all, Bridget! I've been mostly involved with SCBWI-BI so far and I think it's fascinating how we're evolving and stretching as an organisation and how it's mirroring my own progress as a writer.

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  18. I was the second EVER person to join SCBW (then) which morphed into SCBWI. And I have always called it: S-C-B-W-(I). So Alex, you are not alone.

    Jane Yolen

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  19. As one of the co-founders of SCBWI, and now its Executive Director, I was so thrilled and inspired to read your blog. I think people who create books for children are the best peer group anyone could hope for. You're the evidence of that too!

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  20. Hear Hear Nick. I agree. SCBWI authors are great and such nice people to meet and I have learnt a lot from them. Hope to see some of them next Thursday at the Prof Series talk.

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  21. Janet Foxley15 May 2010 18:08

    The person who introduced me to SCBWI said it was pronounced Scibwy but I haven't come across any one else who pronounces it like this, with the 'w' where it should be after the'b'. Perhaps we need a referendum on it.

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