Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2018 Diverse New Member Pathway

(Graphic with the text “Congratulations, Felicia Whaley, Winner, 2018 SCBWI-IL Diverse New Member Pathway!” and 3 lively and expressive illustrations by Felicia Whaley. A young Black girl character in vignettes reading on the toilet and brushing her teeth; the same character waking up in a pink, purple and blue bedroom with light streaming in a window; and a young Black boy character joyously riding a bike with training wheels.)


Congratulations, Felicia Whaley, Winner, 2018 SCBWI-IL Diverse New Member Pathway!

SCBWI-Illinois’ Diverse New Member Pathway is intended to increase diversity among children’s book creators and among members of SCBWI.

SCBWI-IL acknowledges the recent conversations about sexual harassment in the children’s literature industry, much like workplaces throughout our society. We’re conscious that people lead intersectional lives and that there is work to do regarding harassment and discrimination specific to marginalized writers and illustrators. Please see the updated SCBWI Anti-Harassment Policy  The SCBWI-IL Diversity Committee reaffirms our commitment to work toward an industry that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.



Eligible to apply: Any Illinois children’s writer/illustrator (includes YA) with a diverse background, who has never been an SCBWI member. Past SCBWI membership holders are not eligible to apply. SCBWI-IL uses the definition of “diverse” as provided by the  We Need Diverse Books’ definition of “diversity.”


One winner will be selected and will receive:

–Free SCBWI one-year membership
–Free admission to the 2018 Spring Thaw–Pitch Perfect 2 with their SCBWI-IL Peer Guide
–The opportunity to serve as the 2019 Peer Guide.  The Peer Guide receives a 1-year SCBWI Membership renewal.


In addition, the winner will benefit from the experience of an SCBWI-IL Peer Guide for a six month period. The Peer Guide will:

–be available to answer questions about SCBWI events and opportunities such as grants/prizes, SCBWI resources, etc.
–attend SCBWI-IL Spring Thaw–Pitch Perfect 2, on Saturday, April 21, 2018 with the new member.
–help connect the new member with his/her nearest Illinois Network

(This opportunity is NOT a mentorship. The Peer Guide will not provide feedback on manuscripts or artwork.)


We’re thrilled to announce that the 2018 Peer Guide is Jiton Sharmayne Davidson, 2017 DNMP Recipient:

After a ten-year journey toward the Ph.D. at Penn State University, I released myself from the tortures of the dissertation.  It was a December, a few weeks later, I began work on my second Master degree.  This time, I finally honored the real me when I enrolled in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  VCFA is a blessed institution to be connected with as a children’s book author.  When I began the program, I had written 2 adult novels, and one middle grade novel.  Now, two years later and in my last semester, I have written a new Afrofuturistic middle-grade novel, 3 books in an early reader series, a picture book, and a lecture.  I also have a outlines for 3 future middle-grade novels.   I anticipate a book deal by the end of 2018.  My mission as a children’s book author goes beyond writing. I am also a teaching artist, a children’s advocate and activist.  I believe that in literature, as well as in mass and social media, black children must be given images that reflect them as citizens of this world.  Black children should see themselves as living, growing up, loving and being loved within the context of their own, multiple cultural experiences.  Further, I believe that these books must find a broader audience than black children.  We need diverse books not only for diverse readers, but also for white children. This is how children’s books change the world.   As the 2018 Diverse New Member Pathway Peer Guide, I look forward to sharing resources, access, and guidance to our new winner.  I am looking forward to sharing and growing as writers for children.

2018 Diverse New Member Pathway Schedule and Application Details:

February 09: Applications open (see application directions below)

March 16: Now extended until March 16! Applications close at midnight. 2018 Application period is now closed.

April 1: Winner announced


TO APPLY: In the body of an email addressed to Urania Smith , provide the following information in 250-500 words:

– how a membership in SCBWI will move your career forward

– why you want a Peer Guide

– how you would like to be involved in SCBWI

– a brief history of how you have been working on your craft

– your contact information: name, email address, phone number(s) and mailing address (NOTE: Applicants must be Illinois Residents and 18 years of age or older.)

Attach to the email 5 pages of a work-in-progress (if you are a writer) or a PDF of an illustration sample (if you are an illustrator); if you are an author-illustrator, feel free to send both.


Questions?: Email Urania Smith , SCBWI-IL New Member Chairperson or Susanne Fairfax, SCBWI-IL Diversity Committee Chair

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