SCWBI+ The SCBWI Bulletin 'Art Spot' and Regular Bulletin Art Submissions

This time on the SCBWI+ series Elizabeth Frattaroli talks to Valarie Gray,  Polina Poluektova and Hazel Mitchell about their experiences of being the featured ‘Art Spot’ illustration in the quarterly SCBWI Bulletin, and to Ryan Middaugh for having his art included in the Spring 2021 issue.

SCBWI Bulletin Spring 2021

Each issue of the Bulletin features a winning ‘Art Spot’ illustration, with the winner receiving $100. The publication also regularly features other pieces of spot art submitted from members, and in that instance members receive $50 for each piece that is used. SCBWI retains only the first-time rights; artists keep all other rights to use the art. All SCBWI members are eligible to enter by submitting one or more spot illustrations. The exposure gained is not only to other SCBWI members, but also to many industry members who hire illustrators, and there’s no limit to how many pieces you can submit — submissions are permanently open.

EF: Welcome to you all and thanks for joining me. 

Can I start by asking what made you decide to submit?

Winning 'Art Spot' illustration by Valarie Gray, SCBWI Bulletin Spring 2021


I was recently looking into contests I could enter to get my work critiqued when I stumbled upon this entry for the SCBWI Michigan page.


One of my favourite things when I receive the new SCBWI Bulletin is to look at all of the wonderful illustrations, so I decided to try and submit a few of mine. I mostly illustrate in colour, so I chose a few that I felt translated well into black and white.

Polina Poluektova's winning illustration in the SCBWI Bulletin Spring 2021 


Even though I’ve been a SCBWI member since 2018, I finally submitted my illustrations for the Bulletin for the first time after seeing a submission call post on SCBWI’s Instagram page in 2020. The call was originally for the spring issue so I thought I would try it out! As a freelance illustrator, I try to keep an eye out for online opportunities, contests and challenges that might interest me and could be beneficial for my career.


Oh, you know, it was an opportunity to introduce my work to people, and when you are getting started you need to be proactive. In fact, you never stop being proactive!

EF: How easy was it to submit? How did you feel when you found out you’d been selected?


It was really easy to enter, just a quick email, and when I was emailed back saying I was selected I was so excited. As a fresh-out-of-college student, I felt it was a win to see that someone appreciated my work and that I was on the right path for children's illustrations.

Ryan Middaugh's winning illustration in the SCBWI Bulletin Spring 2021 


Submitting is very easy. Just make sure to follow the guidelines. I made sure that all of my images that were originally full-bleed were changed to vignettes and made grayscale in Photoshop. I enjoyed going through my portfolio and seeing what my art looked like as black-and-white. Some art worked and some didn’t. It can really change the look of an illustration. Sometimes for the better! I also digitally enhanced the shadows to keep them from looking too flat.

Each time a Bulletin would come out, I would look to see if my art was selected. It took a couple of issues, but when the Spring issue came out, I was elated to see my artwork. Around the same time, I was fortunate enough to be selected to illustrate the April Reading List banner for the SCBWI website, with the theme of Celebrate the Earth


The submission process was pretty straightforward — there were detailed, easy-to-follow guidelines on the SCBWI website. I compiled several illustrations that I thought could work as editorial/vignette illustrations. All of them were painted in full colour, so I used Photoshop to turn them black-and-white and tweaked the values a little. As previously mentioned, I originally submitted my artwork for the Spring 2020 Bulletin. I didn’t hear anything back for several months  — and to my total surprise, my art was chosen for the Fall 2020 issue! It was my first publication in the SCBWI Bulletin, so of course I was excited. But having another illustration chosen for the next issue, the Spring 2021 one, was an even bigger surprise!


It was very easy to submit. I was delighted when I was selected! It was an honour.

EF: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of submitting their artwork?


My advice is to enter, even if you think no one is going to like it. All feedback and experiences are good experiences for growth!


I feel that SCBWI has been instrumental in helping me to grow as an illustrator, and I highly recommend utilizing all of the opportunities for illustrators that they have to offer!


Follow the submission guidelines, and look through previous SCBWI Bulletin issues to get a better idea of the illustrations featured there. If you think your artwork fits, go ahead and submit it! In my case, I wasn’t accepted for the Bulletin I originally submitted my artwork for, but several months later it was featured in two issues in a row. So you just never know, please be patient and have faith in yourself.

Polina Poluektova's winning 'Art Spot' illustration for the SCBWI Bulletin Fall 2020


Do it! What do you have to lose? In fact you should enter your work everywhere you can and believe in yourself. You never know who is looking, and you learn from everything you enter.

EF: Do you think the exposure had a positive impact on your illustration career and, if so, in what way?


I definitely think it had a positive impact on my career. I got to know more illustrators in the Michigan branch, and it gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep on creating!


I submit regularly to the Oregon SCBWI Newsworthy newsletter and recently won the juried portfolio competition at this year’s conference. My involvement with SCBWI has helped me to make lots of connections with local illustrators, enhanced my knowledge of the industry, and improved my skills through conferences and critique groups. A couple of months ago, I also signed with my agent, James Proimos!


I submitted my illustrations right at the beginning of the pandemic in early March 2020. Almost everyone was hit hard by it, including, of course, the kidlit community. As a result of the cancellations of book fairs, local onsite events and meet-ups, the feeling of isolation in a generally isolated job (freelance illustration) was quite intense. Also, just like many other artists, I do have self-doubt from time to time, especially considering my mixed cultural and educational background. I am originally from Russia, and being brought up surrounded by classic Russian picture books and folktales has impacted my art style. I got my art education in the US, which also shaped the way I express myself artistically. Now finally settled in Switzerland, I try to make my artwork appealing for a wide international audience while still staying true to myself. Moving to a new country where you don’t know anybody is always stressful, and in my case it was tougher since I relocated straight after graduating from the art university. But even as a student, my teachers advised me to join SCBWI. So I did just that and was introduced to the local Swiss kidlit community, met amazing fellow writers and illustrators and got a chance to take part in the 2019 Europolitan conference in Zürich.

Receiving the happy news that my illustrations had after all been accepted into the SCBWI Bulletin was incredibly reassuring. It reminded me once again that despite everything that is happening in the world and despite the seeming isolation, I still am a part of the international kidlit community. I feel so grateful.


I’m from Yorkshire originally and attended art college in England, then worked as a designer and commercial illustrator. However, it was only when I moved to Maine in 2010 that I began to illustrate and write books for children and started to work for trade publishers. My art was featured in the Bulletin Summer 2012 issue shortly afterwards, which was great. I signed with my agent, Ginger Knowlton, in 2014, and she sold my first book as author and illustrator, Toby.

Hazel Mitchell's winning 'Art Spot' illustration in the SCBWI Bulletin Summer 2012

Bulletin Art Submissions are always open and you can read how to apply here:

Art pieces for consideration should be emailed to:

To find out more about our featured artists, please visit their websites:


Elizabeth Frattaroli is a YA and MG writer who lives by the sea near Dundee. She has been longlisted in the Bath Children’s Novel Award, the Mslexia Children’s Novel Award and the WriteMentor Children's Novel Award (twice), and is one of the team behind Write Magic. She is on Twitter as @ELIZFRAT.

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