Spring Cleaning at One SCBWI Chapter

"Hide and Seek," by Alan F. Stacy
Our New Mexico Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI-NM, chapter held its first “Write & Sketch” monthly meeting in early March 2020, pre-pandemic. We are currently looking into ways to continue meeting online for now. But in the future, for SCBWI chapters and other writing organizations looking for a way to meet and still get some work done, this post is for you.

Prior to “Write & Sketch,” our monthly meetings were called “ShopTalk.” Our facilitator would organize the evenings based on themes members were interested in. For example, a panel of four presented an evening’s discussion on “Diversity,” which I described in my November 27, 2019 post Diversity: Is Research Enough?; and turned out to be one of our last themed get-together's.

Our new facilitator decided to try something different. She took a look at what other SCBWI chapters are doing, gave us some examples, and opened up for discussion. How did we want to reshape our monthly get-together's, if at all, as some chapters don’t hold monthly meetings? In a nutshell, here are a few examples of what she found:

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Region hosts six events:

  • Writer’s Day March: A one-day conference featuring speakers, intensives, writing contests and awards.
  • B-I-C Retreat April (even years): A three-day, two-night retreat featuring your butt in a chair working on your craft.
  • Critiquenic June: Free, informal critiquing sessions for writers and illustrators, held after a picnic lunch.
  • Working Writer’s Retreat Sept/Oct: A three-day, two-night retreat featuring editors, speakers, and intensive critiquing.
  • Illustrator’s Day Oct (odd years): A one-day conference featuring speakers, juried art competition, contests, and portfolio reviews/display.
  • SCBWI-Los Angeles’ members host smaller events throughout the year called LitMingles. LitMingles are informal get-togethers, often held monthly, where general topics are chosen for group discussion.

New England: Alternate every other month between free ShopTalk meetings and paid presentations.

New York-Manhattan Metro: Write & Sketch; Roundtable discussions every other month on social and equity topics in children literature; and 3-4 times/year formal paid workshops.

Oregon: Write Directions social hours at a coffee shop to network for 45 minutes-1 hour.

Others: Only conferences and no monthly meetings.

SCBWI-NM Takeaway
One of our concerns is to reach out to beginning authors, as well as PAL authors—those who have traditionally published books, and indie or self-published authors. Out of the other chapters’ ideas, we came up with three ways we might meet our members’ needs.

  • Write & Sketch
  • Periodic field trips for inspiration
  • Periodic low-fee workshops presented by our members and others in the community, such as local authors, editors, agents, and librarians.
  • Conference and retreat: In addition, our chapter holds a fall conference each year, Handsprings, and every other year a writer’s retreat at the Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
Our Write & Sketch Maiden Evening
Our first experiment with Write & Sketch was a great success. Our Chapter Regional Advisor arrived early and arranged the tables and chairs in the room in groups. The meeting began by members sharing their news. When it came time to work, our facilitator set her watch for an hour, and left time afterwards to talk about how we did.

My Table
I sat with two artists and two other writers. During our hour it was gratifying to look up and see the concentrated expressions on everyone’s faces, and all the work we were getting done. Most surprising and delightful were our table's results:
  • Debbie, one of the artists, experimented with colors with her portable paint set and her water brush, to decide on the hair color and other features of characters she was working on. Debbie says water brushes come in a range of sizes; the smallest brushes can make a mark as delicate as a pen stroke, but her brush was a bit larger than that. 
  • Alan, the other artist, drew in his sketchbook from a prompt provided for the evening: to create a character and then have him hide or hangout somewhere. Alan ran with the prompt and came up with the illustration he named, “Hide & Seek;” which he thought was fun and which he has graciously shared with us.
  • The writers edited and revised our current writing projects; such as a book about a therapy dog and my mystery/ghost series.
A Bright Future
Plans to visit a Jim Henson Muppet exhibit at an Albuquerque museum and other activities, of course, had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). But once the danger passes, I think our members are excited about our new plans and look forward to sharing social and work time with new ways to be excited and inspired . . . together.
Enjoying a sunny day in Alamo Canyon
Alamogordo, New Mexico

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook. Website coming soon.


Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for these inspirational ideas of what SWCBWI chapters are actively doing. I was delighted to see it. Book sales are up (at least for my publisher, Morgan James--but I suspect across the board), Book publishing has weathered many storms and will weather this one. I encourage people to look for change and then see it as an opportunity. For example, one of my long-term publishing friends has just switched from one publishers to going to lead a children's imprint at a major publisher (announced yesterday). We are connected on LinkedIN--a great resource--and I tracked down her current email and immediately emailed her. I reminded her of my own work in children's books and offered to help if she needed it. Writers have to keep knocking on doors. You never know what will open.

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Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, thanks for reminding us of the many ways SCBWI keeps writers and illustrators connected and inspired. I've attended several local paid workshop here in Long Island - they're so beneficial. And as Terry notes, it's important to keep knocking on those doors. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Linda Wilson said...

Thanks, Terry. I agree wholeheartedly. Connecting with each other is key. It is always so gratifying to discover how much authors are willing to help each other. I'm a beneficiary of that help and try to pay it forward as much as possible.

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you, Karen. I agree, SCBWI is the best resource a children's writer can have. And for those who don't live near a chapter, the national organization is there for you.

deborah lyn said...

Thank you Linda. This is so informative, inspiring and fun! I've wanted to become a SCBWI member for a long time, but other things have gotten in the way...

Linda Wilson said...

I understand, Deborah. Any way we can connect with fellow writers is a big help. You can get a lot of sympathy that way!

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