To paraphrase Marsha Qualey, “the good thing about the Hamline MFAC program is the variety of places called home by the students and faculty and the resulting mix of people. The crummy thing is the post-residency (and after graduation) far-flungedness of friends.”

The last time I sat down to work on my novel, writing was still (for the most part) a solitary act. The good news is that your circle of friends and supportive community may be a lot larger than you know.

You’re probably already doing all the right things right. Right? You’re taking classes, writing with consistency (butt in chair) and you’re a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). You’re NOT a member! Why not?

Did you know SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for writers and illustrators of children’s books? SCBWI can connect you to editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people, from Board Books to Young Adult novels.

From my very first conference (where I was greeted by Marsha Qualey!) to my current role as Minnesota’s Regional Advisor, I have grown personally and professionally. Thanks to the Hamline faculty, and in particular Ron Koertge, I was prepared to submit my verse novel, GILT, which subsequently won the 2012 Work of Outstanding Promise Honor Award and the attention of my agent. (I won’t lie; I’m still on cloud nine.) Of course it’s great to find an agent or an editor, but there’s so much more!

Your membership to SCBWI gives you access to great events scheduled around the world or in your backyard. In addition, you have access to all kinds of information on the website including a resource library, an illustrator gallery, a member bookstore and a section for awards and grants. But the best thing you will find is other like-minded people. SCBWI is a great way to continue to learn, network and have fun!

Take it from me. Even when you’re sitting in front of your computer working on the final revision to your final-final-final draft, you can bet someone else is too–someone you met in your growing circle of friends.

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Quinette Cook is a January 2012 graduate of the MFAC program. She lives and writes near Minneapolis, Minnesota.