Monday, 8 June 2015

Joining In by Jane Clarke

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! 


Jonathan Emmett said...

After years of going it alone, I joined the Scattered Authors Society last year and greatly enjoyed getting together to talk shop with a few of their other northern members in Leeds last year.

I think our paths crossed many years ago at a Norfolk Libraries event, Jane. It looks like they might cross again if you're moving northwards.

Jane Clarke said...

Hope our paths manage to cross again in the not too distant future, Jonathan!

Abie Longstaff said...

Ah the SAS has been a lifesaver! I have fond memories of all our walk'n'chats in the forest, Jane, and I loved the group brainstorming we did. Makes up for all that time we spend by ourselves, typing at our little screens, lost in our made-up worlds :)

Moira Butterfield said...

I have found that joining the SAS has given me a very supportive community. I'm also a member of Nibweb, for children's non-fiction authors.

Linda said...

What you're too modest to mention, Jane, is how much you've helped other writers. I'm not the only person who has gained so much from your encouragement and kindly ear when the rejections bite.

Jane Clarke said...

Aww, thank you, Linda (snuffles a bit because I'm going to miss you and the Canterbury crew) x

Jane Clarke said...

Yes, those meet ups are a fab boost, hoping for more walks and chats, Abie!

Jane Clarke said...

Thanks Moira, for adding another useful group

Paeony Lewis said...

Good list, Jane. Yes, I adore the support of the Scattered Authors' Society, albeit you need to be published to join. However, when I first started I went on a local weekend course on writing for children. We all swapped email addresses and many years later I'm still friends with a few of them and we've supported each other along the way. It has meant a lot to me. So nowadays I always suggest to the students on my writing evening classes that at the end of the course they swap emails and continue to meet up. Of course, lots will fall by the wayside, but a few might go the distance. Plus if there's nothing local, there are always email groups.

Helen Dineen said...

I'm very glad to be writing in an age where it is possible to connect with people much more easily through the internet. I am a huge fan of SCBWI (in fact I attended your wonderful school visit workshop last September in London, Jane), and I'm looking forward to the monthly SCBWI goal-setting evening in Southampton tomorrow and seeing all my friends. Good luck with your move Jane and your new SCBWI group.

Jane Clarke said...

Thanks, Helen x