Yes that's a mouthful. It stands for the Minnesota Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. The SCWBI is a national organization I joined in April and provides information, news, contests and grant info, and just about everything an author/illustrator needs to find their way through the profession.
Last Saturday was the annual conference and I was blown away by how wonderful it was and how much I learned, and the people I got to talk with. I came away completely motivated to keep working and submit material and work on my art. I know that this is the right thing for me because the conference was all day and I never got bored, never looked at the clock, and the day just flew by.
The day started with an opening speech by Lin Oliver, a co-founder of the organization. She talked about how she got started in the business (she was a television writer in L.A. and also worked in production), and also spoke of her experiences getting published as well as other famous writers that just kept plugging away and working at it until they succeeded.
I spent most of my day going to the illustrator workshops, getting art critiques and talking with other illustrators and art directors and understanding the process of how everything and everyone fits together.
It's hard for me to decide where to focus, on art or writing. I've always drawn, but I don't have formal training. I didn't go to art school; it never occurred to me that this it was something that could be a profession. I sat with Christina Rodriguez (who is an incredible water colorist) at lunch and she showed me her "baby", a picture book called Storm Codes. It was absolutely stunning and had won an award; this really inspired me to see if I can take some art classes this spring semester and really learn how to paint and draw better.
All in all I would have to say to anyone who is interested in this career path to join their local chapter of this organization. It will give you a chance to learn directly from industry people - the editors, agents, art directors and authors and artists themselves, connect you to other like-minded people, and streamline all the hoops you do have to jump through. It also motivated me to consider myself as a professional and to understand the business side of it. Because it is a business. So with that in mind, I plan to get my website up and running soon, print up those business cards and fliers, and make a portfolio, and start getting my name out there.
Piece of cake.