When I started writing picture book texts for children (at the age of 40 , I was a late starter), I didn't tell my friends. I'd snatch an hour here and there, then blindly send off the results to random publishers and keep silent when the rejections arrived. I had no confidence in myself as a writer, and no connection with anyone who was writing – as far as I was aware, I was on my own. I only admitted what I was doing to my immediate family - they were supportive, but in a vague that's-a-nice-hobby sort of way.
I don't think I'd be published now if I'd continued to be secretive about my writing. I plucked up courage to join an Arvon Foundation writing course.
The first Arvon course I went on was led by Pat and Lawrence Hutchins. It was inspirational to be with people who shared my passion for picture books.
Then I joined Wordpool
and SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)
Our own Natascha Biebow is Regional Advisor of the British branch
I participated in lots of critiques, attended what conferences I could get to, and gradually made connections through them which led me to find an agent and get published. They're a wonderfully supportive bunch, too.
As time's gone on, I've become a member of the Scattered Authors Society
and the Society of Authors (Children's' Writers and Illustrators Group).
It's a joy to attend writing conferences and meet up with people like my fellow PictureBookDenners. I try to give back a bit by running a monthly SCBWI drop in and chat meeting for children's writers and illustrators in Canterbury - I'll set up one in Market Harborough when I move there later this year.
It's also fun to join in with Picture Book Ideas Month in November (you can't register for 2015 until October)
The best writing choice I ever made was to stop being secretive and join in. Please share the names of other groups or organisations that you have joined that have been helpful to you.
The first two books in Jane's new series of How to... board books, wonderfully illustrated by Georgie Birkett, are out this month -yay!