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.