That's where Shop Talks come in. Our group meets once a month in a book store. It provides an opportunity to meet up, network, share information, and develop ourselves as writers and illustrators. Sometimes we bring works-in-progress (pages or artwork) for critiquing. Other times we share wisdom gleaned from conferences, workshops, and retreats. It might be an idea on how to approach revision, a technique for helping find voice, or advice on making book dummies.
Some evenings our gatherings feel like "mini-conferences" or writing workshops. For example, our shop talks have featured:
- a workshop on plotting with a local author
- using screenwriting techniques to map the emotional arc in a story
- when to use rhyme in a picture book
- digital illustration with our regional illustrator advisor
- a storytelling duo sharing what they learned when they put their stories on the page
How to find a Shop Talk Group
Check out the SCBWI website. Scroll down the home page to "Regional Chapters" and look for your state - or, in the case of California, New York and a couple others, your part of the state. Click on that and you'll find that many of the regional chapter pages have a list of conferences, events, and local meetings. They may even have a link to shop talks. At the very least, the regional adviser can help you find a local group.
No Shop Talk group? Start your own.
I asked one of the founding mothers of our shop talk group, how they got started. She had been a member of an active shop talk group in a larger city - four hours to the east - before moving to Ithaca. She attended a regional conference with a couple friends, and they thought it would be great to get a shop talk going in the Ithaca area. They were able to send out an email invitation to SCBWI members who lived in the area and then set up a list serve to connect writers and illustrators. They worked with an independent book store to secure a space to meet once a month. Over time the group has changed but the mission has remained the same: to provide fellowship, share information, and develop the craft both as writers and as illustrators.
What happens when you send out the invites and only a few people show up? Consider meeting in a public location where there is more visibility. I know of a group that meets in a library and their meetings are advertised on the library calendar. Not everyone who shows up is a SCBWI member, says the shop talk leader, but they are all serious about writing for kids and young adults.