SCBWI : A Driving Force for Kidlit Authors and Illustrators

congregate – verb, adjective


  1.   to come together in a group or crowd
  2.   to bring together in a crowd, body, or mass; assemble; collect


3.    congregated; assembled

4.   formed by collecting; collective

scuttlebutt – noun

  1.   Nautical.
    1. an open cask of drinking water.
    2. a drinking fountain for use by the crew of a vessel.
  2.    Informal. rumor or gossip

July of 2014, I met @JamieASwenson, author of picture books ‘Big Rig’, ‘BOOM BOOM BOOM!’ and ‘If You Were a Dog’ at our public library where she works. I volunteer there but never ran into her until then. I asked her what was the best advice she had for new children’s books writers. Her answer, “Join SCBWI which stands for Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. If you join and stay in and work hard, you will be successful. Just don’t give up because the road is long to publication.”

I took Jamie’s advice to heart and joined SCBWI-Wisconsin in August 2014. @SCBWIWisconsin scbwi-wi.comSCBWI Member-badges-300x260 I checked out the website and the questions I had about it, I asked Jamie the next time I saw her.

Since the annual Fall Conference for Wisconsin SCBWI came up quick after I joined, I did not have enough money saved to go. Needless to say I was disappointed. The upside is that I kept writing and researching like all writers do and eventually I finally was able to attend an SCBWI event, the Spring luncheon where authors and illustrators and guest speakers congregate to share news about this crazy industry.  This was exciting to me and I met several people and made new friends such as authors, @JanetHalfmann, @SilviaAcevedo, @SandyBrehl, @BridgetBirdsall and @MirandaPaul. At the luncheon they all gave me advice which I have taken to heart and continue to use which brings me to the annual Fall Conference that was held last weekend, October 16-18.

I was able to go!

Attending this conference brought about a turning point for me. I have been struggling with my writing since the loss of my beloved dog, Brittany in July and have not been putting my heart into my writing as much as I should. My sadness resonated from me and members from my previous critique group rallied around me (we finally met at the conference) and gave me encouragement to keep at it and if I had to, cry my way through the story that was haunting me the most to write and holding me back. (Note: I had dropped out of that critique group as they are Young adult writers and I was writing picture books and young adult and could no longer keep up). Thank you @ChristineVirnig, @KateLindsay @SarahMartinCrowell & @AnnieVihtelic for your encouragement.

Not only did I meet this critique group for the first time, I also met my current picture book critique group for the first time at the conference. Laura Greene, Karen Condit and Susan Twiggs met me there and we shared new news, notes and meals. Being at the conference so far gave me the opportunity to meet my online critique group sisters as well.

Another wonderful reason to attend this conference was to meet more people and that I did. I met with authors whose books I have read and learned from and reviewed and I met illustrators who allowed us into their creative world which was insightful and useful to help me write better. And, I met editors from three different publishing houses who gave inspiring and insightful presentations.

Every speaker had information to share that I learned something. I made connections, made new friends and gained knowledge about every aspect of the swirling children’s books writing business. It was incredible to be around like-minded people who share the same passion as I do: getting great quality literature out to children of all ages.

This conference would not have been as successful if it were not for the numerous people who volunteered their time to make it happen: Jamie Swenson, Michael Kress-Russick, Miranda Paul, Deb Gross for planning and organizing the whole thing; Pat Schmatz, Mary Ali-Masai, Bridget Birdsall,  Sandy Brehl, Jacquelyn Brimley, Joy Chase, Amanda Coppedge Bosky, Rochelle Groskreutz, Janet Halfmann, Jerianne Hayslett, Ingrid Kallick, Emily Kokie, Andrea Skyberg, Annie Vihtelic & Annetta Wright who headed up the Diversity committee and so many more.

National industry stars, Bruce Coville-author, Eleanora E. Tate-author, Dan Santat-author/illustrator, Stacy Whitman-founder and publisher of Tu Books, Whitney Leader-Picone-Senior Designer @HMH Books for Young Readers and Katherine Harrison-Assoc. Editor @Knopf Books for Young Readers gave fantastic presentations encouraging all of us to put our best foot forward and stay with it.

We even had Breakout session presentations by regional speakers tackling specific aspects of writing and or illustrating for children’s books. These fantastic speakers are Andrea Skyberg-author/illustrator, E.M. Kokie-author, Joann Early Macken-author, Lisl Detlefsen-author and Jane Kelley-author. No scuttlebutts were ever said the entire weekend, just straightforward and delightful.

Leading into a new week of creativity, @PatZietlowMiller sent us off with encouagement and a promise that if we stick with it, stay tenacious and involved in our writing we will succeed at what we do.

The road is long and the work is hard even though it is invigorating and creative. If you are serious about wanting to be a children’s books writer, then take the first step in your career and join #SCBWI.

I did. When my first success comes, I will share it on here so stay tuned.

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting,, ,


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