While writing may appear to be a solitary profession, in reality, no one creates children's books alone. We look to our community for mentors, critique groups, beta readers, book recommendations, professional development opportunities, authenticity readers, collaborators, and (when the going gets rough) handholders.
Here are a few of my favorite kid lit and music community things:
88 Cups of Tea is "an online platform and podcast for creative writers looking for guidance in their storytelling journey and connection to a community, fostering year-round conversations around the personal and professional life of a writer. They explore and unpack conversations that touch on topics like overcoming rejections and challenges, querying tips and crafting advice, lifestyle habits that support the heart and the soul, what it means to be Human while navigating a creative path, and more." Go to the 88 Cups of Tea website or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. They believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. Bookshop is an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support local bookstores at the same time.
The mission of I’m Your Neighbor Books is "to build a stronger America, one where immigrants are welcomed and where first-through-third-generation Americans truly belong." They curate, loan, and gift collections of children’s books centered on the experience of New Arrivals and New American communities with an aim to: (1) start conversations on modern immigration, (2) refute false narratives about communities of color, (3) create emotional connections to a vast diversity of voices, (4) share the joy and strength of immigrant and new generation families, (5) build the cultural competency of all readers, and (6) lay the groundwork for cross-cultural communication."
Ashley and I asked all of our music mavens to suggest resources for teen and young adult readers interested in developing themselves in music performance, composing, conducting, audio engineering, producing, and more. What emerged is a broad, international list of extraordinary mentorship programs, online classes, and nonprofits. We included these resources in the back of our book and also created a webpage with links.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is the preeminent global membership organization for children’s book creators–including writers, illustrators, translators, publishers, librarians, advocates, and other industry professionals "working to establish a more imaginative and inclusive world through the power of children’s literature." SCBWI's mission is "to support the creation of an abundance of quality children’s books, so that young people everywhere have the books they need and deserve." SCBWI gives established writers and illustrators the tools and resources to manage their careers. They also educate and support those who are not yet published. Membership fees are reasonable and well worth it.
Considering a Master of Fine Arts degree? Check out VCFA's low residency programs: MFA in Writing; MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults; MFA in Graphic Design; MFA in Visual Art; MFA in Music Composition; and MFA in Film. Non-degree programs include the VCFA Picture Book Intensive Semester, the Center for Arts + Social Justice at VCFA, Professional Development in Art and Design Education, as well as writers' retreats and postgraduate writing conferences.
A Winter 2019 VCFA grad, I loved every minute of my four semesters at VCFA, including the VCFA Picture Book Intensive and my summer residency in Bath, England. Since graduation, I have twice served as a Graduate Assistant during residencies.
What's my favorite, takeaway from VCFA? The community of alumnx and faculty who continue to embrace and uplift me every day.
We Need Diverse Books is a non-profit organization that "strives to create a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book." WNDB programs curate and celebrate a wide range of diverse children's books, provide mentorships for diverse writers and illustrators, advocate for changes in book publishing, and provide books to classrooms throughout the US.