SCBWI Gives a Boost to Underrepresented Book Creators with New Award

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Offering assistance to marginalized children’s literature creators as they launch their publishing careers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has introduced a grant that recognizes new talent and supports their future success. Dubbed the OMA (Out From the Margins), this honor is open to all SCBWI members beginning next month and will be given to eight winning submissions, named later this year. The OMA will also be promoted during the 50th anniversary of the SCBWI summer conference (July 29–Aug. 2).

This program marks the SCBWI’s latest effort in fostering initiatives that address equity and inclusion through sponsorships, grants, and scholarships. “This is the largest award we have ever offered in the history of the SCBWI,” said April Powers, chief equity and inclusion officer. “It not only reflects the broader conversation around inclusion the industry is having, but also offers a partial solution.”

“More books by underrepresented creators are being sold, but they do not necessarily find their way to as many readers as they deserve,” said executive director Lin Oliver. “The OMA program is our attempt to address that problem: to provide recipients a budget to promote their new book to consumers, schools, and libraries and to also help them hone their marketing skills, so they can effectively advocate for themselves and their work over the course of their career.”

How to Apply, What to Submit

To be eligible for the OMA, SCBWI members must first complete their online profile on the new member page (coming in July). Black, Indigenous and people of color, disabled, and LGBTQIA+ children’s book creators whose books have an expected publication date between fall 2022 and summer 2023 must show proof of contract. While traditional and independently published applicants are welcome, they may not have more than four published books prior to entry.

When submitting manuscripts, author applicants must supply the following information: a personal artist’s statement, a synopsis of their work, expected publishing date and names of their editor, agent, and publisher. Illustrators will be required to submit an artist’s statement, 5–10 illustrations from their work, and a synopsis or full text.

While the judging panel has not yet been finalized, it will be comprised of authors, illustrators, publishing executives, and agents. This group will deliberate for one month, analyzing submissions based on merit, personal stories, and creative goals. Winners will be announced in December and presented at the SCBWI winter conference next February.

Each of the eight OMA winners will receive a comprehensive prize package, which will include: $5,000 cash; admittance to group sessions focused on media training, sales markets, promotions and publicity; a six-month mentorship with a children’s book professional; registration to 2022 SCBWI conferences and workshops; a one-year SCBWI membership; and participation on an SCBWI panel, among other benefits.

OMA grant recipients will be required to share how they spent their prize earnings, participate in a virtual monthly cohort group, provide a summary report of their experience, and participate in at least one cohort session for future award winners.

SCBWI is hopeful that this honor will become an annual tradition, designed to give more attention to lesser-known, underrepresented creators. “Not every book can be a lead title from a well-funded publisher,” Oliver said. “There are plenty of great books and great authors and illustrators who need a chance to get into the spotlight and have their work seen and experienced.”

The OMA also represents an opportunity for booksellers, educators, and librarians to expand their offerings and provide a platform for diverse, emerging voices in children’s literature. “The bookshelf should not be limited,” Powers said. “We don’t need to make more space; we can simply build a bigger shelf. We hope this award will provide scaffolding for the careers of budding authors and illustrators, so that their talent has the best opportunity to shine.”

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