Meet Sue Burgess

Sue BurgessWhy did the idea of joining an organization for children's book creators appeal to you in 1980?

I had begun attending The New England Authors and Illustrator's Workshop critique group at the Boston Public Library, but was dissatisfied with the lack of helpful feedback. I explained to the coordinator why I would no longer attend, at the same time that she was sending a letter of resignation to participants. 

Although interested in taking over the group, I knew relatively little about the children's book world, so did not want to go it alone. I contacted Jane Yolen, the only other person in New England with a critique group, and she not only offered support, but "brokered" my SCBW inclusion with Steve Mooser. So, the short answer is that SCBW offered support and information as well as a larger community of like-minded people.

What have you gained by being a member of SCBW(I)?

First and foremost, it's been the collegiality. While I have learned a vast amount, most of that has come through practice, reading, and applying my background knowledge. What I have always loved about the organization are the caring, enthusiastic, and accessible community members. Secondly, it has given me a rewarding teaching venue. I love leading critique sessions and conducting workshops.

Why do you think people who are interested in writing or illustrating children's books should join SCBWI?

SCBWI offers the support and practical education not available anywhere else. In that way, children's book professionals are unique in the world of publishing.

What is your favorite SCBWI memory?

I don't think I'll ever forget standing on the stage in a darkened room at the Maine conference directed by Betsy Hanscom. I led a workshop that had an audience of four hundred people! In all my years of teaching, it is still a record for attendance. Had I known how many people were out there, I probably would have panicked, but since SCBWI folks are both kind and attentive, they made little noise and I never had a clue I was facing such a crowd.

What do you consider your most important contribution to SCBWI New England?

At the onset I had hoped to establish a critique workshop within a 2-hour reach of everyone in New England. I fell woefully short on that goal and was disappointed for years. However, my "little newsletter," which was initially an afterthought, is still going strong. It is probably my most lasting legacy.