I recently attended the annual conference for the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I'd heard great things about the organization, but as an author with books that are kind of on the fence between "children's" and "educational", I wasn't sure if this particular group was a good fit. While most of the attendees seemed to be picture book authors and illustrators, they were very welcoming of me and my books. And, as I had hoped, I walked away with new knowledge and fresh ideas.
The most interesting aspect for me was a presentation given by an art director with a small-ish publishing house. She walked us through the production of a book, from sketch to layout to end product, complete with photos (great for us visual folks!). It's a process that happens mysteriously for most writers – we send in our words, then many months later, we magically see the galleys (the stage before the published book), with their laid out pages and illustrations. It was nice to see how that happens.
And, I think I'll be joining SCBWI.