As I said last week, this year of horror is almost over and I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping for 2021 to be better. So, to that end I’m going to focus on the good things that await us—at least us writers and illustrators.

I’ll start with all the good stuff that SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators to the uninitiated) is doing as usual. If you are a writer or illustrator of children’s stories and have not joined this wonderful organization you are most decidedly depriving yourself of a wealth of information and comradery. They have online and in-person workshops and conferences, plus ways of promoting your work and articles on how to find publishers or improve your writing/illustrating. You’ll feel every so connected with the rest of the writerly tribe. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t just encourage and cheer for beginners, including authors and illustrators and editors who are widely recognized as on the top tier.

Since I started writing for publication, I’ve lived 2 states—Maryland and North Carolina—and have found many organizations that help writers, both locally and state wide. The state organization in North Carolina is North Carolina Writers Network. Again, they hold conferences and have a website where you can learn about writing, promote your latest publication, and learn about what contests they are holding. One of the biggies is the Thomas Wolfe Award. They also list what writers groups in each county are doing. For instance, in Craven (don’t you love that name?) County, where my handsome devil and I live, there is the NEXUS Poet group that meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the charming and very artistic New Bern.

If you look around your area, I’m sure you’ll find at least one independent bookstore that will be happy to sell your books for you. If you’re lucky, the store will also give you a spot to hold a book signing for your latest book. And, if you’re really lucky, will publish a literary journal where you can try to have your short stories, poems, or artwork published. New Bern’s Next Chapter Books and Art is the place here. It’s run by the talented and delightful Michelle Flye.

Your area will most likely have at least one local writer’s forum that meets once a month or so and hosts a guest speaker. If you go to the meeting, you’ll get information on how to write better and how to market your stories, but you also develop new relationships with people like you. In the Coastal North Carolina area, there are several in addition to NEXUS Poets. In the Pamlico County there is Pamlico Writers which generally speaking host a yearly one-day writers’ conference in the charming town of Washington inside the grand old Turnage Theater. Just to go see the theater is worth the price of admission. BTW, if you write for children you’ll probably heard of Sheila Turnage, who’s grandfather started the theater.

We also have Carteret Writers, which at the moment is having COVID break, but is hoping that someone will take over the reins in 2021.  This group usually sponsors a writers’ contest and publishes the winners in a literary magazine entitle Shoal. Again, they have a monthly speaker. Those of us who have put in a lot of effort to keep the organization going hope that a new group of people will raise their hands to take over the reins. (I know, I know, how can you take over the reins while you’re raising your hand?)  Look around your neck of the woods because I’m sure you’ll find someplace to have a writerly home. If not, start your own. To paraphrase a line from the delightful movie “Field of Dreams,” start it and writers will come.

The other thing you can do is look on websites or writers’ magazines and you will find lists of places to submit your sterling work and a number of them give you suggestions of what to write to have them interested in your work. Look on websites for magazines such as Writer’s Digest , or Poets&Writers, or The Writer Just use your favorite search engine and look for writer’s magazines. I use Author Publish when I’m looking for places to tell my readers about in the monthly newsletter I write for Carteret Writers. (The newsletter is aptly named “The Write Stuff.”) They do a lot of research about who’s looking for submissions, both articles and books. (We don’t need to rely on just the now 4 mega-trade publishers.)

You see? There’s plenty to look forward to in 2021. It may be the year you’ll end up on the New York Times best seller list. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, or whatever else happy you want to celebrate.

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