Meetings: It is stated in the bylaws that one of the purposes of the Guild is "to provide a medium of contact between authors, illustrators and other specialists in children's literature." As we look over the now-fading records of early membership meetings and the colorful lists of programs in recent years, it is obvious that this purpose has been well accomplished. Despite heavy snowstorms, restaurant closings, and other unexpected hindrances, hundreds of meetings have been held since the first one in March 1945; and this number does not include the large luncheons which used to be held by the Guild each November to commemorate National Children's Book Week.
Reading through old records, we find that besides the regular monthly meetings, additional group excursions were made to see special book exhibits. Here we get a sense of the early members' enthusiastic interest in every aspect of children's reading - as well as their enjoyment in each other's company. Although the July and August meetings eventually were given up, Guild members continued to get together for picnics away from the city's heat at Frances Carpenter Huntington's estate, "Journey's End," above Bluemont, Virginia, or at the home of Eloise Lownsbery near Mount Vernon.
For the most part in the early years, regular luncheon meetings were held in the YWCA or AAUW dining rooms, or at the Iron Gate Inn. There have always been programs with one or more speakers, arranged in advance by the program chairman. Visiting speakers were rare at first, and members were delegated to discuss subjects pertinent to their particular interests. Our charter members tell us that by and large these talks or panel discussions were very stimulating.
Some of the subjects discussed in the 1940s and 1950s were similar to those that interest us now, such as creating characters and plot, methods and means of research, author-illustrator's work, rights and contracts. Specialist members representing local organizations talked about their work with children's reading, trends in new books, and award-winning titles. "What Librarians Look for in Choosing Children's Books" was the subject of one discussion, and this was followed the next month by a panel of youngsters on "What Children Look for in Choosing Their Books." In the minutes, this program was described as "challenging." Possibly equally challenging was a talk on "Books in Search of an Author," and we wonder how many books by Guild members may have been conceived at that meeting.
Topics which would have little interest for us in the 1980s included "The Use of Word Lists in Writing for Children," "Adapting and Abridging the Classics," and "Do Contemporary Children's Books Have Too Many Happy Endings?" Occasionally New York editors would come to talk about the functions of their departments, or booksellers spoke on recent popular titles. The greatest number of speakers from outside the Guild described children's literature in other countries, which included Italy, England, Holland, Poland, Siam, Israel, India, Japan, China, and countries in Latin America. This concentration on the international scene is rather surprising until one remembers that the time was just after World War II, when Americans were especially concerned with world recovery.
Around the Guild's twentieth birthday, in 1965, a remarkable change in the children's book field began to be reflected in the programs of Guild meetings. In the vanguard was Louise Bonina of Random House, who took the bull by the horns, eschewed the usual editor's noncommittal words, and instead told the group "What Editors Really Want." She was soon followed by a panel of three Washington area Supervisors in Charge of Libraries, whose topic was "ESEA Title II." With government funds pouring into schools and libraries across the land, a new era had begun, not only for libraries, but also for publishers, writers, and illustrators. The editors of juvenile books became increasingly agreeable about accepting invitations to come to Washington and speak at Guild meetings, as well as representatives from their production, promotion, and sales departments. Guild members were also hearing talks by editors of children's magazines, book clubs and paperback houses, agents, jobbers, reviewers, and people working with children's books in television and films. Nevertheless there were still at least two or three meetings each year with members of the Guild as speakers, and this practice continues today.
In the 1980s, the publishing world continued to speak frequently at Guild meetings, even though ESEA funds were not as widely used for children's books as they were formerly. Over the past forty years Washington has become what publishers call a "book town," rivaling Boston and San Francisco, and membership in the Guild has about trebled. Picnics in Virginia and group excursions are no longer feasible, but Guild members continue to flock to meetings and enjoy the programs and each other's company as much as ever.
Newsletter: Another "medium of contact" which should be mentioned here is the Guild's Newsletter. Of special interest to active members, it also enables inactive and nonresident members to keep in touch with the Guild - and the Guild with them.
The idea was initiated in 1961 by Esther Douty, who compiled seven yearly issues to 1978, with news of members. For the last three issues she had the assistance of Esther Brady and Helen Jacob. Margaret Rasmussen compiled a "Biographical Newsletter" with Helen Jacob's help in the spring of 1980.
Larry Callen founded our Newsletter as it exists today. It is issued monthly from September to June, and besides carrying news of our members and their books, also brings information about exhibits, writing courses, reviews, awards, and other pertinent announcements.
Larry singlehandedly compiled two dozen Newsletters from September 1980 to January 1983, and by the time he had to give up this labor of love, his periodical had become indispensable to Guild members. A roving editorship was initiated, and this in itself has brought our members closer together. As of this writing twenty people have been responsible for different issues, and it is hoped that many more of our members will be as generous with their time and talents over the years ahead.
Continue to VII. Promotion