Sunday, December 06, 2015

Why I'm Quitting the SCBWI (Even Though I Think It's Great)

I'm planning to quit the SCBWI when my annual membership runs out in February.

I've loved the organization. At one time I had over 10,000 posts and comments on the SCBWI boards. I've written for the SCBWI Bulletin, illustrated for it, too. I've won a monthly SCBWI writing competition. I even put together the SCBWI Illustrator's Market Guide under Harold Underdown​, which was difficult but rewarding. I've enjoyed attending SCBWI conferences and workshops, particularly in New Jersey, and I love the critique group I helped assemble through the SCBWI boards. In the past, the SCBWI was great for me.

Over the last couple of years, though, I feel like everything SCBWI related has been moving me backward, instead of forward, and like all of us, I need to keep moving forward.

When the SCBWI boards changed hosts, all my old posts and comments--all the help and encouragement I'd provided to other SCBWI members over the years--pretty much vanished, and I started again from zero.

The new boards weren't easy to use, and fewer people used them, mostly to try to promote their own work. The sense of camaraderie--of fellow writers and illustrators supporting each other on this journey--vanished. I no longer felt like I belonged there.

Then the SCBWI started PAL (Published And Listed) membership, which I applied for. Twice. However, since my traditional credits are for illustrations, articles, stories, and other works in newspapers and magazines, I apparently don't qualify, although no one from the SCBWI thought to inform me of that. I put in my request and received no response at all. It now says that PAL status is only awarded to those who have published books with traditional publishers. Over 12 years of publishing history and all the work I've done for the SCBWI doesn't count for beans.

I've been building sandcastles, and they've been washed away. I've seen this happen to others, too. I've seen a SCBWI RA (Regional Advisor) pretty much work her butt off for the organization, and while I can't speak for her, I do feel she hasn't been rewarded for all that she's done.

All of this makes me sad.

I don't feel that my time has been wasted. I've learned a lot, things I'm putting into practice now as an indie publisher. I've made some great friends. But the truth is I probably should have left the SCBWI a few years ago.

I make it a rule in life to occasionally stop and ask myself, "Why am I doing this? Why did I start this, and am I getting what I thought I would out of this? Is there a better use of my time and energy?" When it comes to the SCBWI right now, the answers are "I don't know why I'm doing this anymore. I started this because I wanted to find an agent and a publisher, but I don't want to do either of those things anymore. My time, energy and other resources would be better spent elsewhere."

I still think the SCBWI is a great organization for anyone new to writing and illustrating for children, or for anyone who has already had a book traditionally published. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), that's not me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Notes from the "Social Media for Creators" Panel from New York Comic Con 2015

One of the most useful panels I attended at NYCC this year was the one on Social Media for Creators.

Buddy Scalera from moderated, and Jimmy Palmiotti, Matt Hawkins, Tim Washer, and Dennis Calero spoke and answered questions.

Here are my notes:

In the "Kickstarter Generation," you can be successful by excelling in these areas: you can be good, you can be fast, or you can be cheap. Just pick two!

 Of course, there’s a bit more than that.

You also have to be likeable.

 Jimmy suggested starting with your family/friends/coworkers. He also suggested that you be inquisitive about people. Talk to them. “What do you do?” is a good place to start. Find like-minded people on Twitter and engage. Build relationships using connections, contextualizing them, and letting them know what you want to happen.

Self-branding. Using humor. The evolution of journalism.

Tim Washer on the importance of humor. He showed us a pie chart of the percentage of people who like to laugh. It’s everyone!

 So how do you make that work for you? Have can you be funny with your social media? 

Brevity is the soul of wit, so be brief. And funny. Don’t worry about being too ludicrous and absurd. The ludicrous and absurd GETS ATTENTION! Play around, have fun, and just trust that something will happen. 

He mentioned a woman with 23,000 followers on Twitter who got a free trip to Japan because she made short videos using lots and lots of photos (with music) about the stuff she loves. She said she wanted to go to Japan, and she got it! Follow her lead. Be passionate, have fun, be brief and say what you want.

LAUGH! Relax. The big ideas will come to you.

 One way to come up with funny ideas is with Comic Juxtaposition. (I know about this from my political cartooning days. One thing makes you think of another and so on. Suddenly you find two things that are so different and yet weirdly fit together—and that’s funny! That’s the “Oh, I get it” moment in comedy. For example, there are many similarities between school and prison life. They both have cafeterias where people get served food on trays and have to take those trays to a table where they have to eat with others who are in the same position. Taking things that are exclusive to one of those situations and putting it in the other could be funny. For example, you could draw a comic strip with two tough looking school girls sitting at a table in a cafeteria. One asks that others, “So what are you in for?”)

 Tim Washer had us give example of two things that don’t go together. We went with “banana” and “toy store.” We then had to give attributes for each of those. One of the attributes for banana is that people slip on them. Two of the attributes for toy stores are that they sell toys to parents.

Suggestion #1: BANANA
Attributes: Slipping

Suggestions # 2: TOY STORE
Attributes: Toys, Parents
Tim put those two together and came up with the idea of a Slip ‘N Slide at an office. It’s funny, because it’s absurd.

 This association process is also called “webbing.”

Matt gave ThinkTank on Facebook as an example of a good strategy. ThinkTank is about science, and the guy who does it writes observations, personal stuff, and some promotion. (I don’t know if this is the same ThinkTank I found, but these people post a video a day.)

You have to discover your VOICE. In Improv, there’s a game called “The Rant.” The point of the rant is to let you see who you truly are. It helps you discover your honest Voice.

On dealing with trolls: Jimmy and Matt will delete comments and block attacking commentators (on their blogs and/or Facebook pages?). You can argue, but keep it civil. Jimmy will sometimes DM people to get them to stop their angry comments. Usually when they realize there’s a human being on the other side, they stop. Jimmy says that when you’re dealing with an angry person, you should smile, wave, and say, “Have a nice day!” You can delete the thread that’s gotten out of control and post a picture of a sunset. It diffuses the situation. Comedy diffuses bad situations.

Dennis says that people want to get to know you, warts and all. If you have problems, people will support you.

 Someone recommended a book called On Intelligence, which is about the brain and pattern recognition. Humor is about seeing patterns in disparate things (what I call the third “S” of comedy: “Sense.” The other two are “Setup” and “Surprise”).

 Matt says, “Be about something.” You can’t be mysterious if you aren’t famous.

Dennis says you should be a Voice with a distinctive personality. People tend to forget there’s a real person on the other side. Remind them.

 Someone asked which platforms they prefer.

Tim likes Instagram and Facebook, but you have to find the platform that works for you.

Jimmy also likes Instagram. Twitter is great, because you can ask for retweets—AND you can retweet others.

Dennis draws every day and posts on Instagram. (This is probably a habit I should get into, posting something visual or a video EVERY DAY.)

Matt gives freebies and writes a week of promotional tweets and Facebook posts one day a week and then schedules them. (This is probably a habit I should get into, too.) He loves Facebook advertising and spends $50 a day, money he considers well spent.

Dennis says build a following and put out a pure vision.

THE TAKEAWAY FOR ME: Post something funny, short, and visual that helps show who you are at least daily. You can create this content once a week and schedule it to release through the week. Use Facebook and Twitter--and start using Instagram.  Post your observations and personal stuff, and just a little promotional stuff. Use the ludicrous and the absurd to get attention. Laugh, relax, be passionate, have fun, and be brief. Be inquisitive about others, find connections to contextualize your relationships online, and let them know what you want to happen.