Sometimes people ask about the benefits of joining SCBWI and the benefits of the conference as well. This is author, Katrina Germein's response.....
To be honest, I'm not especially looking forward to this year’s conference. I’m feeling a little panicked and wondering why I agreed to speak on a panel instead of swanning around with a notebook for the weekend. No one said I had to speak. I could have said no. I can only blame myself and as my 2012 self seems firmly against the idea of a panel debut I'm blaming my 2006 self instead.
In 2006 I promised, or possibly challenged, myself to take every opportunity available to me as a children’s writer. With my four year old twins starting kindy I was emerging from the haze of never-ending nappies, vomit and conjunctivitis.
I had a plan to re-focus and write something publishable. It was six years (the age of my eldest son) since my last picture book had been published and I was receiving regular visits from that whiny inner voice. I can’t write anymore. The other books were a fluke. My writing is rubbish. I’ll never be published again. I knew that I had to stop the whining and take action. I had to start to take every opportunity.
That year I was invited to a publisher’s Christmas party. I had been corresponding with Jane Covernton at Working Title Press about a submission for The Little Big Book Club’s reading pack. We had developed a relationship through the rejection letters Jane had been sending me and knew each other through email only. I was touched to be invited but, a Christmas party where I wouldn’t know anyone? I hadn’t even met the host in person. Could I take somebody? Would that be weird? What would I wear? Who would I talk to? It was all sounding a bit too scary. Plus, it was years since I’d had a book published. I wasn’t even a real author anymore. I considered skipping the party altogether but remembered I was supposed to be taking every opportunity.
Alone and friendless I arrived at the Christmas party. I stood at the gate clutching my bottle of champagne, took two steps forward and stopped. I didn’t know anybody. Not anyone. Jane spotted me. (I was probably easy to spot, standing stock still like a frozen lizard only a metre from the gate.) I was introduced to a few people and then I met a few more people and then a few more.
I still felt like a fraud (these were real authors!) but from that party I began to form relationships with other kids’ writers. And guess what comforting things I learnt then? Other writers sometimes feel like frauds too. Other writers often doubt themselves too. Other writers have their work rejected too.
What are the benefits of SCBWI?
Getting together with likeminded people - sharing the frustrations and pleasures of writing for children. When you make even the smallest effort to be involved in the children’s writing community, the children’s writing community is quick to respond with friendship, support and humour.
And what are the other benefits of the conference? If you’re serious about a career as a children’s author it’s definitely worth taking every opportunity.
Post Script: The text I was working on was Baby Gets Dressed. It was published for the trade nationally in 2008 and a free copy was given to every baby born in South Australia that year. It was re-printed again at the beginning of 2012.
From Katrina ... see you at the conference!