Friday, December 2, 2016

On Being a PAL by Dawne Webber

I joined SCBWI in 2014, and it didn’t take long for my writer-self to realize I’d finally found a home and I couldn’t wait to get involved. I joined the MichKids listserv and began attending Shop Talks. When the conversation at one of the meetings revolved around querying, I offered to write a series of articles on SCBWI Michigan's blog, The Mitten. I’d spent a lot of time in the query trenches and hoped to make the process a little less intimidating.

I continued attending the Farmington Shop Talks and at the last meeting before summer break, we all bemoaned the fact we wouldn’t see each other until the fall. Being the social animal that I am, I offered to plan a night out so we could meet over the summer. I contacted Carrie Pearson, one of Michigan’s Co-Regional Advisors, wondering if it was possible to share the invitation to our night out with all the MichKid members. She thought it was a great idea, and the night out was quite a success.

I’d told Carrie that I wanted to get more involved in our chapter and a few months later, I got a call from her and Leslie Helakoski, SCBWI-MI’s other Co-Regional Advisor (they are lovely ladies).

They were looking for someone to communicate with Michigan’s 110 PAL members and share information regarding events, educational and marketing opportunities, as well as organizing PAL events and activities that would benefit them. They ended by asking if I would like to become the Michigan chapter’s first PAL Coordinator. That sounded right up my alley (excuse the cliché) and I enthusiastically accepted the position.

Before I continue, let me give a refresher on SCBWI’s levels of membership which are:
  • Associate members - Open to unpublished writers and illustrators of children’s literature or media, and those with a general enthusiasm for the field. Writers or illustrators who have been published in markets other than children's literature (but not in children's literature), as well as journalists, bloggers, educators, teachers and librarians.
  • Full members - Open to those whose books, articles, poems, stories, illustrations, photographs, films, television or electronic media for children have been published or produced.
  • PAL members - This PAL doesn’t mean friend, although you may have a friend who is a PAL. PAL stands for Published and Listed. In a nutshell, the books of Published and Listed authors/illustrators must be published by traditional publishers that do not charge money to authors or illustrators. For detailed guidelines on PAL membership, click here. For a list of current PAL publishers, click here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Updating your membership status to PAL:
Once you have been published by an accepted publisher, in order for your status to be PAL, you must go to the SCBWI website, upload the book, article, etc. that qualifies you as a PAL member and click on the publisher in the drop down menu. Your status will then automatically be changed to PAL.

SCBWI’s mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world. That’s a huge undertaking, and, although they offer many types of support to members in general, each type of membership also has specific needs. PAL members are interested in more intensive and advanced level of instruction. For this reason, on a regular basis Michigan SCBWI AdvisoryCommittee (AdCom) plans programming at conferences or a retreat that’s geared toward more experienced SCBWI members, such as the writer/illustrator retreat in Boyne this past October.

Because PALs have books to sell, they also have a vested interest in the marketing, networking, and outreach aspect of the publishing world. As the PAL coordinator, I share resources and advice with PAL members, and relay information about bookfairs, conferences, and events they might want to participate in.

On a national level, PAL members are supported by The Reading List Program which includes books of all genres from PAL authors and illustrators. It’s available on the national website as a resource for educators, librarians, and parents. Also at the national level is the Book Blast Program. It’s a fantastic way to boost a newly published book's outreach. Members design a one-of-a-kind, online page that gives visitors an inside look at them and their book.

This year, SCBWI-MI has been very busy planning the upcoming MERRY MITTEN HOLIDAY. Twenty-eight Michigan SCBWI authors and illustrators are teaming up with six Michigan bookstores for one-of-a-kind signing events that will take place throughout December. We’re all very excited about the program and hope it will become a yearly holiday staple around the state. For more information, dates, times and locations, visit the Merry Mitten website and Like/Share our Facebook page.

Thanks in advance for supporting our PAL members at Merry Mitten Holiday bookstores and beyond!

Dawne Webber has been the PAL coordinator for the SCBWI-MI chapter since 2015. Feel free to email her with PAL related questions. 

Coming up on the Mitten blog: A Michigan author/illustrator wins the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award - twice! And it's time for our final Hugs and Hurrahs of the year. Send your writing/illustrating/book news to Patti Richards by December 12th to be included. You inspire us - let us trumpet your success!

Kristin Lenz

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