Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Give Your Kidlit Career a Boost

By Heather Phan


We’re counting down to the SCBWI Southern Breeze Spring Mingle 2023 conference, and if you haven’t yet registered then be sure to get your name on the list by Saturday, March 18th, for a day of great insights, networking opportunities, and craft.


In the stories we write, our characters are often moved forward by moments big and small. Whether a sudden change, or a series of small pivots that over time have a profound cumulative impact, this forward movement catapults our characters from one place to another. Our language offers many ways to describe this sudden forward movement. Our co-regional advisor Melissa Miles described this recently as a boost, which is a great word to convey a sense of dynamic, forward movement. Geek out with us for a moment as we look again to picture book characters and how some of their big moments can help us better understand the value and impact of a conference-inspired career boost!


Du Iz Tak? By Carson Ellis


The big moment in this charming and inventive picture book is one for readers when we discover that despite our relative lack of vocabulary, as the pages turn and we learn more about this unfamiliar world, the pieces begin to fall into place, and we’re swept up in this whimsical story; we are a part of it. A conference can act like a primer to help you pick up not only the kidlit craft and biz lingo, but to better understand the kidlit world as you determine and navigate your place in it.


Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James

P.S. Perhaps it is a blue goldfish?

One evening, Emily finds a whale in her backyard pond and writes a letter to her teacher, Mr. Blueberry, for advice on how best to care for the blue giant. Skeptical from beginning to end, Mr. Blueberry is encouraging but steadfastly maintains that whatever Emily sees in her pond, it is not a whale. Undeterred, Emily takes guidance from her teacher’s suggestions but perseveres despite his disbelief and eventually figures out how to help “Arthur” return to the ocean. While most of us may not experience the fantastical, we’re sure to experience challenges that help us learn and grow; and despite Mr. Blueberry’s incredulity, his guidance and willingness to help steer Emily in the right direction contribute to her success and help her meet her goal to get this pond-dwelling blue whale back home. To this reader, Emily’s big moment comes from finding the right balance between Mr. Blueberry’s definitions of what’s possible and her steadfast belief in her own experience and dedication to her own path. The conference experience offers opportunities to measure, grow, and refine your knowledge, and to get the feedback from others that can help you find the balance that’s right for you.


Thank You Bear by Greg E. Foley.

He wondered whether it was so great after all.

Bear struggles to get others to see the value in his gift to Mouse, which he believes is the best thing ever. But each animal he meets casts doubt on his choice, all unable to see beyond their own perspectives. In the end, Mouse is delighted with the gift—which, to him, really is the best thing ever!—and readers are invited to appreciate Bear’s thoughtful choice and the joy that both experience from this gesture of friendship. A conference puts you in the mix with a lot of different people and perspectives, and, like Bear, you’ll be challenged to work through your doubts to find your big moment where belief in yourself and your work leads you to find the right people, opportunities, and fit for you.


Not Quite Narwhal by Jesse Sima

That is, until he was swept away by a strong current.

In one sudden, unexpected act, not-a-narwhal Kelp is swept away to a different place where he discovers who he truly is—a unicorn. Discoveries about ourselves can be small, large, or completely transformative but, like Kelp’s, most often occur when we journey to new places and meet new unicorns—er, people. A conference welcomes you into a new community, and whether you are looking for the right creator-partner, agent, or editor for your work, be fearless in your exploration, because knowing what’s out there can help you determine where you truly belong.


The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers

Together they thought of ways to fix their machines and how to get them both back home.

Like finding a friend just when you need one, a conference provides opportunities that can have a big-moment, game-changing impact on your career. In addition to opportunities to grow your skills and challenge yourself, learn new things and benefit from the experience of others, and expand your network, you’ll also gain valuable insights and tools to help you problem-solve. If two heads are generally better than one, then taking advantage of the breadth and depth of the vibrant and dynamic kidlit community and all it has to offer may be just the thing to help bring it all home.


That Fruit is Mine! by Anuska Allepuz

The elephants looked on, astonished. “OURS?” said the elephants.

Like the elephants at the beginning of this story, you may have been having a fine time on your own. But some things—like plucking exotic fruits from a tall tree or publishing a book—are not acts accomplished by one alone. If you’ve ever marveled as the credits rolled after a film at the number of names associated with its creation, you’ve seen that it takes a small city’s worth of people to turn a manuscript into a movie. If books came with credits that named every hand that moved your manuscript to the shelf, you’d likely see similar lists. Your connections—your friends, creator-partners, and your professional network—will support your career in ways that may be hard to imagine today but can provide big-moment support in the future. Like the elephants, pivoting from “mine” to “ours” will help you see the big picture and allow you to accomplish more together than one alone.


Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast by Sophia Blackall

Like Little Doctor, perhaps you feel like you know your reptiles…we mean, your craft, the kidlit community, and the children’s book publishing business. But we all know that there will always be experiences unlike any that have come before, and that some of these experiences can be transformative. Whether you find yourself facing down a fearless beast or working through the most challenging project of your career, being a part of a knowledgeable, experienced, and supportive community will help see you through even the most fearsome and challenging times.


If you haven’t yet registered, now’s the time to explore and sign-up.


Write your own story, kidlits, and we can’t wait to see you there!