However much the internet is used for evil purposes, it’s also the source of a lot of good information, all free – if you don’t count the cost of the internet service itself. So does reading someone else’s ideas cost more than a penny per thought after all? Hmm. How many extra pennies, if any? That’s almost a tongue twister.
Anyway, I’ve found plenty of writing and publishing advice, and groups I could join for free. But others cost a pretty penny. Recently, I found the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, or SCBWI, a national group with regional chapters. The fees are hefty, over 3 times the yearly dues of Emerald Coast Writers. Ouch. I decided to investigate their benefits before plunking down my money, around 8500 pennies the first year.
I checked the Florida chapter’s website, featuring a conference in Miami – in January. Alone, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that city. Or should I say if I went alone, I would be caught dead, and nobody would catch the murderer? I’ve been there, in a car with my family as my husband drove us to the docks for a cruise. That was scary enough. But in January? Who has extra money to spend in January?
So I searched closer to home. The Florida panhandle is almost southern Alabama anyway. The Southern Breeze Chapter, including Alabama and Georgia, plus others, had an October conference in Birmingham. That’s much closer to home. But I wasn’t happy when I saw they wouldn’t allow contest entries from members of other chapters, even if the entrant lives closer to the Southern Breeze conference city than their own chapter’s city. Is local talent so lacking that these protective measures are necessary to give their own members a chance? I can’t say, but it seemed unfair.
Searching for a local SCBWI critique group yielded no results either. It felt like another dead end. But our church scheduled a trip to Birmingham for the same weekend as the writers’ conference and I had time to attend a Friday evening dessert social. I asked permission from one of the organizers to attend and talk to people, and she not only said yes, she was very kind and helpful. She pointed out the critique group coordinator. It turned out she’s updating her list soon and SCBWI membership isn’t required to join one of the online groups.
I also spoke to other Florida writers from the Cuppa Critique group in Tallahassee. The chairman told me about converting her middle-grade novel to a young adult book. From the description she gave, I’m pretty sure mine is middle-grade. No sex, no drugs, unless you count I-scream or blue-bury pie. As a middle-grade book, mine is too long unless I divide it again. Though digesting that information gave me heartburn, it helped when I got to talk to an agent and an editor. The agent told me who to ask at her agency for advice.
I have Mr. Logan, whose first name I forgot, to thank for the pictures of the agent and editor featured in the conference packet. He’s a seminary graduate (not LDS) and ex-Navy Chaplain who had an interesting book idea that sounded familiar enough for me to advise him to read another author’s book to make sure he covers the territory in a different way. Who knows, maybe I’ll see him at another conference when he’s far enough along to swap critiques. Yes, I think I’ll try to attend a whole conference next time.
I found out conference fees are reduced for volunteers, plus there’s a discount for SCBWI members. And the text of national conferences is available on the SCBWI website for members too. So I guess I’ll start saving my pennies to join SCBWI, and to attend the Atlanta conference next spring. Maybe I should save quarters too. These days, pennies aren’t good for anything more than thoughts. I hope this batch made a quarter’s worth to someone.