Monday, September 30, 2013

Thank You, SCBWI (aka I Love You, and That is No Fib)

Many moons ago, when I was still just a screenwriter, I had a meeting to talk about TV shows with a writer-producer named Lin Oliver who, it turned out, had something of a passion for children's books. So did I! Cool.

Up until then, I'd never heard the un-pronouncable acronym SCBWI - which stood for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, an organization that, it turns out, Lin and Stephen Mooser had started - but Lin convinced me it was a good thing. I joined SCBWI, pronounced it letter-by-letter, and have been a member ever since.

It took over a year before I decided to actually do anything with that membership. Since I live in Los Angeles, I figured it would be easy for me to start with the little summer conference thing they put on here. Holy overwhelming motherlode of children's book wonderfulness! I walked in to that first conference not really knowing a soul there. I walked out being part of a tribe.

At that very first conference, I met the man who would become my editor, Arthur A. Levine. He thought the t-shirt I was wearing was funny and offered me a deal on the spot! Nah. That's a fib. But I did get to talk with him and decided that I'd like to work with him (as did about 973 of what I believe were 974 attendees there. No comments about number 974, please).

I was rejected by Arthur and many other lovely editors who I met at SCBWI events for years. What a fantastic organization, being responsible for allowing me to experience rejection! Yay! :-)

I also learned incredible amounts about children's literature from gifted speakers, fellow attendees, and, well, everyone I met. And I could go on for hours with stories of great (fanboy!) conversations (with Lee Bennett Hopkins! Sid Fleischman!), but I'll (Ashley Bryan! Linda Sue Park!) spare you.

At an SCBWI-Orange County Editors' Day, Rachel Griffiths, then working with Arthur but now at Scholastic Press, mentioned me from stage! No, it was not for a book deal, but rather for my rejection of her rejection letter. Still, she later found me in the crowd and told me that she and Arthur wanted me to stop with the picture books and write a novel already. I was flattered... though, of course, I had just come up with a great picture book idea.

In 2006, this blog went viral and into the New York Times (more on that soon, by the way). I ended up getting a book deal, and yes, it was with Arthur... for what became The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., a novel that is, as they say, hot off the presses.

The deal... this book... the ability to write this book... I don't think any of it would've happened without SCBWI. For that I'm incredibly grateful.

But you know what I'm even more grateful for? The tribe.

In the years before and since my deal, it has been the people I've met in SCBWI - at local, regional and national events - who have sustained me, taught me, advised me, and given so generously of ideas and support. I kid you not when I say that because of SCBWI, I have hundreds of friends I never would've had... and they are great people.

When I try to describe my SCBWI experience to folks in different lines of work... they understand it intellectually, but have no point of reference for it emotionally. Maybe it's because we all share a passion for and understanding of the power of what we do - after all, how many of us were touched by, empowered by, intrigued by, shaped by, or saved by books as a kid? Or maybe we just happen to all be really nice and smart and fun, too. Probably, it's a bit of both.

Whatever the reasons, though, I'll take it. So thanks Lin and Steve, everyone in the main office, and all the volunteers that keep SCBWI going strong. I'm so grateful to be part of the tribe... and I look forward to celebrating children's literature with y'all for years to come.


Bonny Becker said...

What you said, Greg. Wouldn't be here without them or, at the least, getting "here" would have been way, way harder. Congrats on your book!

Ed DeCaria said...

Thanks for sharing your POV. I have been a member for some years now, but in name only. Aside from my first six months or so of membership, I really haven't used its services, community, or even read its publications for the most part. Think its 'bout time I took it more seriously ...


Greg Pincus said...

Thanks, Bonny. And Ed - for me, it's about the people moreso than the publications or services (which I have learned from/used, too). You know your Madness community? It's about that for me with SCBWI. It's an essence rather than a specific "go to this event and you will learn or experience some thing." I feel like I've got hundreds of mentors and countless friends and am part of a community that's global. And I like it!

Ed DeCaria said...

Yeah, I understand what you mean. That comes with attending the events (and staying in touch online thereafter) which I've never done, but I think I will start to get more involved/interactive with time.

Anyways, thanks for giving me something to think about. (As always!)

Lee Wardlaw said...

I've been a SCBWI member since 1980-ish. I've learned so much from them over the years. Happy Book Bithday to you!

Charles Waters said...

Best post ever at GottaBook! Thanks for that Greg and congrats on THE 14 FIBS. You rock and inspire me. By the way, besides your wedding, birth of your kids and the book release December 15th is the coolest day isn't it! :-)

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Congratulations, Greg! I hear ya! I, too, owe it all to SCBWI: I got my fab agent and my debut PB as direct results of the SCBWINY and SCBWIWA conferences. Amazing org, amazing people! Again, congrats on your book!!