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Networking For Children's Writers :
Begin with Writing Conferences and Online Lists

"Musings" - December 2006

by Margot Finke

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These days, networking is not only for the Old Boy's Club, or high-powered female executives intent on blasting through the Glass Ceiling. It is for anyone who wants to get ahead in their particular field of endeavor.  Writing for children definitely qualifies!

Careers often involve mingling with a variety of people, travel, and interactive social occasions. Networking under these conditions is a breeze.  Writers, however, are an isolated bunch.  We hide behind closed doors.  We hunch over computer keyboards. We live in our heads.  Our work does not involve social mingling and a large workforce.  The only bonding we do is with our computers.  Er . . . sort of: when and if that disaster-prone machine is in the mood!

Networking 101-- from the Isolation of Your Cave:

Networking, for those who write children's books, is easier than you imagine.  All the clues can be found on the Internet, from a starting point you are familiar with -- GOOGLE.  Google will link you to an amazing variety of places where you can network online, or make plans to actually leave your writing cave, and sally forth to meet fellow writers or editors. 

Once you have written that book, and reworked it several times, you begin to have doubts. You need feedback from others: people who understand the complexities of tight writing in picture books, or the need for a killer plot and believable characters in a mid grade novel.  Feedback from fellow writers means joining a critique group.  But HOW? Your cave is a great place to hatch a book, but you need to be plugged into the world around you to ask questions and receive good feedback.   The Internet holds the answer.

Online Networking -- for Incurable Cave Dwellers:

There are a myriad online writing lists designed with you in mind.  This is where critique groups can be found, friends made, and your writing questions answered.  Be specific: search for groups that write for children.  This way you will chat (e-mail) with specialists in your field.  What can you expect from joining such a list, you ask?  You will find that you are not alone.  Many others share your writing fears and uncertainties.  You can vent together and gain solutions and insights.  Well-published authors on these lists are generous with their advice and wisdom.  Your questions will be seriously considered, and thoughtfully answered.  Online children's writing lists allow you to tap into the collective experience of thousands of writers: writers who remember what it was like as a beginner.  I have been a member of the following lists for years -- many from their inception. 

Online Writing Lists I Recommend:

childrens poets

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childrens writers (Children's Writers & Illustrators)

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cw-biz  (Children's Writing Biz)

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NFforKids--for those interested in writing nonfiction for children

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ChildrensE-bookPromotion Group--for children's e-book authors to share promotion ideas and campaigns

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Childrens Writers Today

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Two Great NON LIST Places to Network:

CWIM (Children's Writers and Illustrators Market) is the Bible for writers in this genre.  This book comes out yearly, and lists agents and publishers that are legitimate, as well as many great writing articles.  Information about publishers can become dated after a few months, so check publishers' websites to make sure the editors and the needs listed still apply.

CWIM always lists publishers' website addresses, so go online and check the current submission guidelines of the publishers you earmarked for your book.

SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a worldwide organization.  Most states have at least one major branch, plus other smaller ones. There is a modest yearly fee, a bi-monthly newsletter, and writing conferences galore all over the USA and other countries.  This is just the tip of SCBWI's helpful iceberg, so check out what they offer on their website. Why are writing conferences especially important for beginners?  Because this is where you have a chance to meet and mingle with other writers -- published writers, whose brains you can pick!  Editors and agents are featured guests at these conferences.  You can hear, direct from the horse's mouth, what is hot right now, and what kind of children's books publishers want this year.  You can also take workshops and learn, learn, learn.

Networking Summary:

Networking means going online to find and interact with other writers.  It means joining a critique group with writers you respect and like.  It means sharing information, and encouraging each other through rejection and success.  You are no longer alone in your cave. Networking means going to conferences, where your chance of meeting an editor or an agent is high.  It means chatting up fellow writers and learning from them.  It means making friends who will be there for you.  You can even have your first three chapters critiqued by a real live editor.   Sometimes, it is not what you know, but whom you know, that prompts your success. 

Remember, editors do not make cave calls!

Caves are great places to withdraw into while you hatch and grow your stories, books, and articles.  Networking comes into play when you need questions answered, feedback from peers, comfort, writing support, and information about the world of publishing. 

My cave calls!


Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

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