“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” Emily Kimbrough, author and broadcaster (1899-1989)
Before I was published I heard stories about how writers hoarded their best writing advice, or how opportunities were snatched up jealously, and the names of contacts never shared. That may be so in some writing circles, but that hasn’t been my experience in the world of children’s authors and illustrators. We tend to give our all at presentations, in our critique groups, and on our blogs, etc. I have joyfully learned at the feet of others, filled notebooks with writing advice, loved connecting folks with each other, and supporting my fellow writers. Best of all, I have met great folks and made many friends. Wherever I travel there are friends—SCBWI members in all corners of the world! We are not in this endeavor alone.
That said, sometimes I still feel there is more we can do to help each other. Below is a short list of easy things to lend a hand to our fellow writer or illustrator. What you do just might be the break a colleague needs.
- Never just say “no.” If you’re invited to speak or present somewhere, and can’t do it, say, “I can’t, but I am sending you a list of writers (or illustrators) who might be able to. Then keep a list of folks you know who do great presentations with their contact info and webpage URLs. It only takes a few moments to copy and paste and send it with your reply.
- When you’re at a book festival or conference, thank the organizers and let them know that you have a list of other writers, or illustrators, who might like to participate next year. And then hand them your list, or follow-up with an email. (A lot of organizers have no idea how to contact writers and illustrators. BTW: I always include links to our speaker’s bureau.)
- Tell your local booksellers about writers in the area who have books coming out soon.
Shutta Crum and Jonathan Rosen sharing a book launch
- Buddy up! Do your own signings and book launches with another author. You can double the audience this way, and cross-introduce family and friends to each other’s books. Booksellers love it. Even go for three authors—make it a party! Don’t wait for the bookseller to suggest this.
- Have an elevator pitch for the manuscripts of friends. I’ve heard of one writer who used her precious ten minutes with an editor at a conference to pitch all the manuscripts in her critique group! What a heart. The editor asked to see three manuscripts from the group.
- Open the door for someone else. Support SCBWI scholarships. Even if you can only donate a little. Make it an annual giving, and help members who may not be able to attend otherwise.
- Help each other by critiquing when you can. I know time is precious, and we can’t all do this, or are uncomfortable doing this, but lend a critical ear and eye if possible. This also means attending your critique group sessions even when you don’t have any of your own writing to share. Good groups thrive on giving—you should not be there just to get feedback on your own work.
- Use your social media to advertise the books, awards, and successes of others—not just your own. Share FB posts and retweet often! Spread the good word beyond your own circle of family and friends. How hard is it to push that “share” button?
- And don’t hoard information about writing/illustrating opportunities, online classes, agents, editors, pitch parties, spur-of-the-moment markets, freebies, etc. Sometimes these kinds of opportunities come and go too quickly to make it into the Bulletin or chapter newsletters. No miserliness allowed! Push that “share” button on Facebook (It’s easy!), and use group emails for like-minded friends.
- Finally, of course, volunteer as you are able. We all know that life happens, and what available time we have gets co-opted quickly. But every little bit helps. (And remember to thank our volunteers whenever you see them. Thanks, Leslie, Carrie and the whole AdCom board! We couldn’t do what we do without you.)
Grab a friend by the hand, and let’s get going!!!
(NOTE: This article was first published in THE MITTEN, the Michigan SCBWI newsletter, January, 2018.)