I just joined SCBWI! Any advice?

  • I have been wanting to join for a long time, and was finally able to do it today. I am apart of the Los Angeles chapter, which is great because of the amount of people, but it also seems a bit daunting for the same reason. Were there any things about being a member that you didn't fully understand until later, or maybe didn't know about right out of the gates?

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Eric-Castleman Hi, and should I say "welcome"? I do not feel a big sense of belonging to SCBWI to be honest, though they do cool stuff.
    Some things I took a while to understand about SCBWI:

    • It was born as a writer organization and it is still very much "writer-dominated"; Illustrators are still a small part of SCBWI and there is more activities and discussions that cater for writers than illustrators.
    • Their website is terrible to navigate. This is true also for the regional chapter (even more so);
    • "The book" is a great resource - that and the conferences are probably the best about SCBWI;
    • I asked and obtained to be part of a critique group. This is a cool way to get access to a peer-critique group, but I have the feeling it is very much Hit-or-Miss whether you find it useful;
    • A majority of SCBWI members are unpublished. I do not know the exact number, but is most certainly more than half. This gives SCBWI a distinct "aspirational" vibe, an underlying "you can do it, we can do it" kind of atmosphere. Even the fact that you do not use the word "unpublished" but the word "pre-published" when talking about yourself or others. This is obviously fine in itself (I belong to that majority of unpublished people), but I personally find it irritating at times. Maybe it is my European "down-to-earthiness" that is in the way of fully enjoying this group-hugging positivity.
    • I have been to an SCBWI retreat and honestly failed to see the value of it. Trying to do work outside of my studio in a suboptimal venue and in the company of strangers is not my idea of value-adding experience. Again, it may work for writers, but for illustrators? The conference I have been to, on the other hand, was very interesting.
    • The few people in the publishing industry I have talked with (art directors, agents or working professionals) do not see any added value in you being a member of SCBWI. I mean, they do not judge it negatively, but it does not carry any positive association either.

    So, at the end of the day, it is really for you to see if there is value in being a member and you get something out of it. I have met some Swiss-based writer and illustrators that I would not have met otherwise - and this was really good - but they are all "pre-published" (one published mid-grade writer) and I failed to get any information (from them or otherwise) about the European children publishing market. The NY conference was good and informative. I believe, however, that the value is more in the networking and the sense of community than in anything else of practical consequence.

  • Excellent reply, @smceccarelli I mainly joined for the networking, as well as the critiques from others who are pursuing the same goals as I have. What I was also interested in, and I do not know if this is a useful aspect of SCBWI for those not close to major cities, is agent day. I look forward to being able to present my book dummy to agents and see if I am even in the ballpark when it comes to getting my book published.

    However, I can totally see what you are saying is probably true. It makes sense that those who have gotten published would have less drive to attend group meetups, due to availability, and also a sense of being beyond such things. Overall I hope it merely prepares me to know what to expect, and the quality of work I need to produce to get published or work as an illustrator.

  • SVS OG

    In my opinion, SCBWI is all about the networking. The book, forums etc are also nice, but making connections is why you're there. Look into local meetings or conferences and go meet people!

  • I recently joined as well and @smceccarelli probably dreads my username for all the questions I have asked... thankfully she is a generous person (as shown in her response above).

    My initial impressions are similar to @smceccarelli as far as the site/forums are concerned.

    I have signed up for the Regional Summer Retreat/Workshop (including an extra "intensive" and a portfolio review... and a TSHIRT! heh.) and will be happy to report on my experience afterwards. My Regional contacts have been pretty great in responding and helpful in general. But the main illustration critique group for my region meets 2.5 hours away from my location. I plan to make it out to a couple of them but it would be tough to make it on a regular monthly basis (we'll see.)

    There are resources on the SCBWI site that I still need to look into more in depth, THE BOOK (which I have downloaded) and all the bulletins, newsletters and any leads to illustration contests, etc.

    The value of the membership remains to be seen because it's too early (obviously) to make a judgement.

  • One thing nice about SCBWI is you are not limited to your local chapter. I'm in the Mid-Atlantic chapter (a huge one) but I have attended and always get postcards about events for the smaller MD/DE/WV chapter. A lot of their events are closer to me than the Mid-Atlantic events. And because it is smaller, you get more one-on-one opportunities with the agents and editors. Look at all the different chapters and their offerings and then take advantage of them.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Joy-Heyer That is right, I have been told the same. So after experiencing the NY conference (lots of networking but no interaction with the faculty) I am going to the smaller Europolitan in May - only 70 participants with 20-30 faculty members. That is going to be quite interesting....

  • SVS OG

    I have been to two conferences, the national NYC conference and a regional conference. I enjoyed both, but the regional conference definitely allowed for more interaction with the faculty, as well as stronger connections with the people there.

  • SVS OG

    I found out about SCBWI and my local SCBWI Illustrators Network a few years back now, just as I was considering getting into illustrating children's books. But I did not know anything about it, and I did not know anyone who did this sort of thing so I did some searches online to find that there was a Chicago-area Illustrators network of the SCBWI here in IL that met montly at a public library. I reached out to the two co-coordinators for this group and they encouraged me to come to a meeting and learn more about them. They asked me to bring any work I might have that I could show the group so they could get to know me as well.

    These meetings are open to the public so you do not have to be a member to attend. I went and had a great time. That particular meeting was one with lots of fun drawing activities and then at the end they asked me to show my work and gave me some input and suggestions. Soon after I got home I joined SCBWI because I really felt good about this group. I have since gone to just about every single meeting since. Along the way they have brought in some fantastic speakers - some well known published illustrators like Mathew Cordell, the Creative Director of Albert Whitman and on and on. Other meetings they give presentations on any of a number of topics to help us all grow, building our websites, contracts, etc. I have been asked to present a few times now and it is always such a pleasure.

    Our latest initiative is quarterly postcards as many in the group have not really been doing them. I am even coordinating a master spreadsheet of mailing contacts for our members so we combine our efforts and help each other, as we all want to celebrate our successes.

    As @smceccarelli mentioned some in our group are published, others are not but working towards it. It combines a great mixture and lots of inspiration and discussion.

    The culture that these coordinators have created are what make it so worthwhile. But as I have said on this forum before - you get out of being a part of anything, what you put into it. So as others have mentioned, showing up, going to local events and big regional conferences and making connections and friendships and forming critique groups is what it is all about.

    Like Simona also mentioned - I find the SCBWI website leaves a lot to be desired. I am sure there is more value there than I am aware simply because I do not have the patience to dig around in it. I also agree SCBWI is far more concerned with the W - writers than the I - illustrators, overall. But groups like the one here certainly make up for that, I know not all areas have illustrator groups - but that doesn't mean you can't look into forming one!

    So @Eric-Castleman - I hope you are able to find the connections, inspirations and networking that you are looking for - but no matter what you are definitely taking a step in the right direction of putting yourself out there! Good luck!

  • @smceccarelli Wow! That is an amazing ratio of participants/faculty members. Sounds likes a great opportunity to make great connections.

    That would be my biggest piece of advice-- take advantage of every opportunity! SCBWI conferences offer critiques, casual conversations with faculty, permission to solicit closed publishers/agents, etc. But, if you don't follow through, especially on submitting to editors/agents who attended the conference, then you have wasted your opportunities. (I have wasted so many, I'm kicking myself!) And, like Rich, get involved! Your interaction with those who can help you (and who you can help) increases 10 fold.

  • @Rich-Green great information, thanks for sharing your experience!

  • I am thinking of going to the spring conference here but I am not sure it will be worth the price at the moment since my portfolio is pretty small and doesn't have a ton of angles/school scenes etc. Can anyone give me some idea of what the conferences are like for illustrators outside of networking with people locally and the one art director that will be there are there other benefits I am not quite seeing yet?

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