From Here to There . . . Why SCBWI is Key to Getting YOU There


SCBWI turns 50 this year. It started out when Lin
and Stephen Mooser, two newbie writers, commissioned to write some
children’s books, sought to learn more about their craft and the publishing industry.
Finding no established organization, they decided to start something.
Responding to their advert, Sue Alexander suggested getting in touch with published
author Jane Yolen, who was keen to help out.


Lin Oliver, Founder and Executive Director, SCBWI


Stephen Mooser, Founder, SCBWI


At the library,
Lin read and researched the children’s book section, then wrote to 10 authors
inviting them to a conference. She received 10 replies. Dr Seuss sent an
apology in the form of a hand-typed letter: ‘the more I talk as a talking
author, the less I write as a writing author’. Steve’s dad licked the mailing
labels and Lin’s mum made the potato salad for lunch.

And from there,
it grew . . . 


At the SCBWI Big 50 Conference,
Lin shares the letter she received from Dr Seuss

The founding
members started a monthly Bulletin at
Lin’s kitchen table
(it is still published today), and the friends started
pouring in: Judy Blume, Uri Shulevitz, Sid Fleishman, Tomie
dePaola, Judy Blume, Ezra Jack Keats, Dawn Freeman, Myra Cohn Livingston,
Mildred Fitzwalter, James Marshall, Walter Dean Myers, Laurence Yep, Arnold
Lobel, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Paula Danziger - the great voices upon which the
organization was built, who became friends and colleagues, organizing
conferences and meet-ups. 


Acclaimed author Jane Yolen was a founding member of SCBWI.
Bear Outside
is her 400th book.


More friends joined: Jerry Pinkney, Lois Lowry,
Arthur Levine, Bruce Coville, Christopher Paul Curtis, Pam Munoz Ryan, Elaine Konigsburg,
Linda Sue Park, Karen Cushman, Virginia Hamilton and Dan Santat – the community
was formed, and still is, by volunteers.


The Bulletin 1971

The Bulletin, May 2021 artwork by
Maple Lin

Now, 50 years later, the SCBWI is the largest international professional
organization for children’s book creators with over 26,400 members in 70
regions around the globe
. The British
Isles region
founded in 1996 by author Gloria Hatrick and E. Wein, started in a similar way, and now its
published members are those to whom new(er) authors and illustrators find
inspiration – Candy Gourlay, Chitra Soundar, Jane Clarke, Sara Grant, Mo
O’Hara, Kathy Evans, Sarah McIntyre, Bridget Marzo, Jasmine Richards, A M
Dassu, Patrice Lawrence, Teri Terry, Sarwat Chadda, James Brown, Loretta
Schauer and many others.


SCBWI British Isles Conference Mass Book Launch 2019

Why am I telling
you all this? I was inspired by a talk at the SCBWI big 50 summer conference by
Dan Santat in which he spoke about his creative journey from
the beginning to #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and
illustrator. What struck me was
that he talked about how when you look back at the creative path you took, and
you are in awe of what has transpired in the all the years you’ve been in the
business; you look back at your work and you see that there is really no
‘there’ because you continue to grow, find out about yourself and – and, here’s
the important bit – you do this with SCBWI as your family.


#1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and
Dan Santat and his picture books

In the words of
Lin Oliver: Picasso once said ‘Inspiration is great, but when it comes, it
better find you working’. So, we must combine our talents, with our training
and our dreams and our passions and then combine it with hard work. But even
more than this, we are more if we are part of a supportive community because
the path to creation is often a very solitary one.  


When you are part
of a community of critique groups, networking connections, friendships and happenstance opportunities such as those you find in SCBWI
standing on the shoulders of the published friends who came before you, innovating
and finding new paths then the creative journey as you grow from here to
?there?, the possibilities are infinitely expanded.


The themed Mass Book Launch cake features mini book covers made out of icing

What you get out
of the SCBWI isn’t something you can quantify
– it’s somehow more than the sum
of all its parts. Sure, your membership offers practical things like


• critique groups

• webinars,
podcasts and conferences

• mentorships, retreats
and masterclasses

• 1-1s with
industry professionals

• scholarships, grants
& awards

• industry
insider newsletters

• marketing & publicity opportunities, training and support

• porfolio

• mass book


But did you know
that you can . . .

• banter with an agent at a party?

• make
like-minded friends – the kind you can ask questions of at all stages of your

• make insider connections with industry professionals and super-famous authors
& illustrators by organizing an event you’ve always dreamed about?

• raise your
profile by writing for and editing for Words & Pictures, the British Isles’
regional magazine, or contributing illustrations?

• get top tips on
how to connect with those disruptive kids in your school visit audience?

• buddy up to
create promotional opportunities?

• get discovered
through the Undiscovered
Voices initiative

• make some art
that might land you a 1-1 meeting with an art director in NYC?

get your book
cover made out of icing on a Mass Book Launch cake

• eat pizza with a


Author Mike Brownlow with his icing cake cover of Ten Little Monsters at the SCBWI Annual Mass Book Launch

These are just
some of the priceless gems that you can tap into at whatever stage of your
career you find yourself.


Here’s a story


KitLit TV studio recording of the read-aloud
with Julie Gribble in NYC

Some time ago, I
was really STUCK with my picture book writing – I needed a new direction. Cue
fellow SCBWI member and PB Denner, Juliet Clare Bell, who recommended an online
non-fiction writing course with Kristen Fulton. As part of the course, I wrote
a new book. Shortly afterwards, I attended an SCBWI conference, where I met
author Sandra Nickel, who was a faculty member and whom I knew through SCBWI
France/Switzerland. Sandra’s agent, Victoria Wells Arms was also presenting at
the conference. At the drinks party after the wrap-up, Sandra invited me to
meet her agent. This makes it sound easy, but I was not at all sure I could
find the courage to even talk to her. After the conference, I pitched my book
to Victoria and she became my agent, too. Encouraged by the advice and success
of fellow SCBWI authors Candy Gourlay, Sara Grant and Mo O’Hara who run a
fabulous author bootcamp to help empower us to market ourselves successfully, I
peeked out from under my rock and decided to apply for an SCBWI Marketing grant.
After all, what did I have to lose? Well, I got it! I used more SCBWI Connections to help me organize a mini book tour to launch my book, THE CRAYON MAN, and even film a Read Aloud with KitLit TV (another SCBWI connection!), and so it goes. 


Paula Danziger of Amber Brown fame was an inspiration
to never give up and stay true to your voice.

It was an inspirational
for the SCBWI British Isles in London in the early 90’s (when it
consisted of only a handful of members),
by legendary author Paula Daniziger – one of those aforementioned founding
members Lin recruited –  that inspired me to join and, soon after, volunteer.
Who knew I’d still be volunteering and going ‘there’ on my  picture book craft journey alongside fellow
members some 23 years later?! (Psst, it even took me to the Palace to meet Prince Charles, who knew?!)


Truly, a gold
mine of friendship, connections, and information about publishing the world over is yours
with your SCBWI membership if you make the most of it, even more if you
volunteer. Plus, volunteering is meant to be good for your health!


All those moments of SCBWI glitter add up to something precious – a heartfelt THANK YOU to Lin, Steve and all the other authors and illustrators and creatives who have built the treasure that is SCBWI!



Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of the award-winning The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons,
illustrated by Steven Salerno, winner of the Irma Black Award for
Excellence in Children's Books, and selected as a best STEM Book 2020.
Editor of numerous prize-winning books, she runs

Blue Elephant Storyshaping,
an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering
writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission, and is the Editorial Director for Five Quills.
She is Co-Regional
Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.
Find her at


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