Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators


For a printable version of the schedule, please click HERE.

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**Please note that all sessions/faculty members are subject to change without notice

FRIDAY – September 11, 2020

  Session Key

PRE-CONFERENCE SESSIONS (Pre-recorded, watch at your convenience)

I, B, R Illustrator 101: Illustrator pre-session Karen “Kaz” Windness
This session will introduce you to the world of children’s book illustration, the RMC-SCBWI, and offer tips on maximizing your conference experience. Frequently asked questions will be addressed. Feel free to draw while listening!


B, R Children’s Publishing 101 Dow Phumiruk
How do I get started in children’s publishing? What’s the “slush pile”? Do I need an agent? Join RMC-SCBWI co-RA and author-illustrator, Dow Phumiruk, for a short informational tour. She’ll cover some industry terminology, submission etiquette, and anything else she can squeeze in! Recommended for those new to children’s publishing, but all are welcome.



SATURDAY – September 12, 2020

8:45AM – 9:00AM            WELCOME & ANNOUNCEMENTS

9:00AM – 9:50AM            OPENING KEYNOTE:

Writing for Young People: Career and Vocation – Mitali Perkins

Mitali Perkins presents seven career hacks that have helped her keep publishing during changing times in the industry, and challenges writers to take hold of a vocational calling that will sustain them through the years.


10:00AM – 10:50AM        BREAKOUT SESSION ONE (choose one)

I Editor-Proof Your Dummy Pat Cummings
Have you ever wondered what elements you need in your dummy book before you submit to a publisher? In this session, Pat Cummings will demystify the self-editing process and provide a step-by-step checklist to ensure that your next dummy book submission is an ironclad success.


P Preachy versus Poignant: Heartwarming Picture Books and the Pitfalls to Avoid Megan Ilnitzki
As an editor, I’m always looking heartwarming, poignant picture books that delve into important themes and topics for the youngest of readers in an engaging and age-appropriate way. It can be a delicate balance between poignant and preachy, and in this session we’ll look at some common of the pitfalls to avoid and dive into some techniques for making your picture books as heartfelt as possible!


N Complex Characters for Complex Readers: Crafting Memorable Characters in MG and YA Fiction Stephanie Fretwell-Hill
Why do some characters stay with readers long after the book has closed? In this session, we look at techniques for creating and writing character details to help your novel come to life. Some of the topics we cover include your characters’ wants, needs, and flaws; how to use setting, POV, dialogue, and plot to create richer characters; and techniques for revealing character effectively.


R The Possibility of Poetry: Considering Verse in MG and YA  Megan Freeman
Are you intrigued by all the novels in verse that are finding their way into the marketplace? Have you experimented with poetry or contemplated writing a novel in verse? In this workshop, we will explore differences between writing in verse and prose, look at a variety of middle grade and young adult mentor texts, and play with possibilities for using poetry in your own work.


11:00AM – 11:50 AM       BREAKOUT SESSION TWO (choose one)

M Do You Accept This Rose?: The Author-Editor Tell-ALL – Sylvie Frank and Martha Freeman
Author Martha Freeman and editor Sylvie Frank take a deep-dive into their careers, sharing their darkest secrets and wildest dreams. Errrr, let’s try that again. Martha and Sylvie met in Sierra Birth Center thirty-three years ago. They have worked together for seven of those years. (Truth bomb: Martha is Sylvie’s mom.) StoryCorps-style, they will interview each other to get to the heart of what makes a successful author-editor partnership, what to look for in an agent, what they wish they had known before starting their careers—and a whole lot more. With combined industry experience of four decades, this team will cover many facets of publishing, making it perfect for those new to SCBWI and the industry.


P Crafting POV: Eye-witness to Heart-witness – Beth Anderson
Come explore the power of point of view, from the basics to the more complex ideas of psychic distance and interiority. See how POV affects characterization, voice, “show don’t tell,” and, most importantly, how it affects the reader. We’ll look at the challenges and how you can use POV to enhance the emotional arc.


N MICRO-TENSION: Riveting Writing in Tiny DosesNanci Turner Steveson
If you have ever read a chapter of a book where not much happens but you still can’t wait to turn another page, that is because the author has expertly used bits of micro-tension to build interest and anticipation in their story. Whether you are a literary writer or shooting for the next big blockbuster novel, micro-tension can make or break your book’s appeal and a reader’s journey. Use it or lose them. This workshop is suitable for any writer who wants to enhance their work, whether a middle grade novel in verse, young adult fiction, or the start of a younger audience series.


R Mental Illness: Creating an Authentic “Elephant” in the Great Green Room of Children’s Books – Nancy Bo Flood
This hands-on workshop will describe what creates an accurate, authentic portrayal of mental illness and what stereotypes, tropes, and generalizations do not. Two award-winning examples will be discussed: Nikki Grimes’s memoir in verse, Ordinary Hazards, which describes her discovery of books as a safe place to “escape” and journaling as a relief valve for exploding emotions; Dan Santat’s picture book, How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again, the use of metaphor to depict depression and the possibility of climbing back up that “impossible” wall. An annotated bibliography is included.


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM          LUNCH

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM  CRYSTAL KITE AWARD WINNER AND KEYNOTE SPEAKER Jean Reidy (pre-recorded)

Congratulations to Jean Reidy, winner of the 2020 Crystal Kite Award for the Southwest Division of the SCBWI (SW Division includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Southern Idaho, New Mexico). The Crystal Kite Award is a peer-voted honor bestowed for excellence in children’s books upon winners today in 15 US and international divisions. SCBWI members vote to recognize outstanding books written and illustrated by their peers. Over 1,000 books across all categories including picture books, middle grade, chapter books, young adult, and nonfiction were entered in the competition.


1:40PM – 2:30PM BREAKOUT SESSION THREE (choose one)

I All About Graphic Novels – Lily Williams
From pitch to publishing day – let’s talk about graphic novels! Graphic novels are flying off bookstore and library shelves, but they can be an enigma to learn how to make. So let’s break down how to get one published from start to finish, including going over a pitch packet, script, thumbnails, pencils, inking, and more!


P Why are Picture Books So Hard? – Natascha Morris
Picture Books seem like they should be the easiest thing to write. 500 words, so easy, right? But come learn why one of the smallest forms of fiction is actually the hardest to master and all the various ways you can help yourself as you craft a stand out manuscript.


N Revising Like an Editor – Aneeka Kalia
An inside look into how editors approach the revision process for novels and the kinds of questions that we ask ourselves along the way. Take away tips and tricks that you can apply to your own writing and revision process.


B,P,  I,R Beyond the Big Books: A Look Into Smaller Markets – Angela Hawkins
While embarking in the world of children’s books, it’s easy for less-experienced authors and illustrators to focus on Big Publishing Houses. While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, it might eclipse the value gained from working in smaller markets. Working in these trenches can equip pre-published authors and illustrators with experience, resume value, a little cash, and the thrill of seeing their work in print. Beyond the Big Books will explore a sampling of these opportunities, pros and cons of working with smaller publishers, and things to consider before leaping in.


2:45 PM – 3:30 PM               INDUSTRY PANEL

Question & Answer Session with –

Editors:                Aneeka Kalia, Megan Ilnitzki, Sylvie Frank

Agents:                  Natascha Morris, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill


3:40 PM – 4:30 PM        BREAKOUT SESSION FOUR (choose one)


I Illustration Session – Karen “Kaz” Windness
In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn how to design characters so compelling they sell themselves story unseen. We’ll touch on everything from picture books through graphic novels and you’ll leave with concrete skills to take your character designs to the next level. Bring your sketchbook and favorite drawing tools. Kaz is offering a limited number of draw-over consultations as part of the presentation. Interested? Send a JPEG of your character design to, Subject: L&L 2020 no later than August 18.


N Demystifying the Hero’s Journey – Olivia Chadha
We all know the simple diagram with the circle with the line across the middle. An original consultant on Star Wars, the comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell and his “hero’s journey” is probably the most widely used reference in writing circles. It is a useful and simple cycle that can be directly applied to so many heroes across all genres since the beginning of time. He presents the concept of the monomyth, a pattern he noticed in global folklore and mythology. However, it has its limits. Some say it’s an overused tool today. Other say that if you try to apply the hero’s journey to novels with diverse heroes or protagonists who are marginalized, their journeys look much different. Most of the time the entire novel is simply that character finally being allowed to have their own story, to gain agency and being allowed to begin their journey. Why? In this session we will discuss how the hero’s journey works and how we as writers can diversify it in order to bring awareness to our own work, and the work we read. We will discuss unconscious bias, #ownvoices projects, and writing outside of your culture/community.


NF Adventures in Research – Laura Perdew
The research process is often quite daunting. But it doesn’t need to be! Research an essential part of both fiction and nonfiction. The presentation will outline the research process including • Defining the research task • Making the most of libraries, library systems, and librarians • Using the Internet • Talking to experts • Finding atypical sources • Sifting through piles of information and turning it into engaging writing. Writers at any level wanting tips and ideas about how to approach research for both fiction and nonfiction projects will benefit from this presentation.


R Earily Entertaining: How Podcasting Can Amplify Your WritingWriting and Dial In Wider Audiences

– Jennifer Mason

In 2019, over 155 million Americans tuned into podcasts. 50% of all households in the country are podcast fans. That’s over 60 million homes enjoying this screen-free entertainment option. Podcast genres are nearly endless, from insightful interview formats, investigative reporting, lifehacks, relationship Q&As, and of course, storytelling. Writers for young readers represent a crucial bridge between the written and the spoken word. From picture books to novels in verse, children’s writers are modern renditions of the ancient oral storytellers. And yet, too few children’s authors partake in podcasting. This presentation will introduce fundamental podcasting how-to’s, including recording supplies and software for creators on a budget, where to store episodes, plus how to distribute them. We’ll also explore how podcasts deviate from audiobooks, how episodic storytelling can expand and enrich your interactions with your audience, and how a focus on sounds can dial up your diction, spark your story settings, and boost your writing voice.



4:40 PM – 5:30 PM      BREAKOUT SESSION FIVE (choose one)

I Let’s Talk Taboo – Lily Williams
Kids books help children understand the world around them. Especially when the books include topics that are uncomfortable, awkward, or even “unapproachable”. However when we sit down and make these books, sometimes creators second guess if topics are appropriate for kids. Taking tough topics and breaking them down is an art form, so in this session we will discuss how to write and illustrate with that sensitivity in mind.


N The Final Word– Darby Karchut
As writers, we all acknowledge the value of an engaging opening scene or chapter. Just as important, however, is your story’s ending. A compelling finale and a perfect realized closing line has a powerful magic of its own, no matter if your book is one in a series or a standalone. In this workshop, we’ll touch upon the fine line between reader satisfaction and frustration, take a deep look at some classic endings and why they work, and examine ways to use what you’ve already written to nail that perfect conclusion.


B, P Where Do Ideas Come From  Jeannie Mobley
People often ask where writers get their ideas for a novel. In this presentation, we will explore where and how to get ideas and how to nurture the seed of an idea into a novel.


R Skip the Slow Parts: Using Effective Transitions to Pass Time and Cross Space – Leslie Vedder
Do you struggle with everything in your book happening in one day, or get bogged down in the unnecessary details of moving characters from one scene to another? Effective transitions can cut down on extra material and keep your book hopping while managing timeline and scene movement. We’ll discuss different transition strategies, as well as the importance of blank space on the page. Beginning to intermediate; this class will focus on fiction writing (particularly YA).



SUNDAY – September 13, 2020

  Session Key

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM               WELCOME / ANNOUNCEMENTS

9:00 AM– 9:50 AM                KEYNOTE:

Change Your Narrative: The Prickly Hike from “Who is Going to Let Me” to “Who is Going to Stop Me?” – Pat Cummings


10:00 AM – 10:50 AM             BREAKOUT SESSION ONE (choose one)

I, R First Impressions (pre-recorded) – Dan Santat and Kaz Windness

Would you like to hear Caldecott Award winner Dan Santat’s take on your illustrations? This session will be pre-recorded the first week of September (date/time TBD). Illustrators who submit images for review will receive an invite to watch the live session and provide questions in advance. The video recording of the session will be made available to all attendees during the conference weekend.

In an effort to provide all attendees with an illustration critique, a group format digital slide show session will be utilized. Each attendee may submit up to three illustrations. Each image will be anonymous and critiqued live on-screen.

NOTE: See the Illustrator Extras page for details on how to submit your illustrations by the deadline.


P Creating a Story in (Approximately) 500 Words – Aneeka Kalia
Picture books do the amazing work of addressing the basics of storytelling, like characterization, plot, and conflict in a small amount of space. In this workshop we’ll go over some tips and tricks for how to make sure your picture book manuscript has satisfyingly included all these elements as well as take a look at some of the evergreen trends in the market.


NF Don’t Bore the Children! Martha Freeman   
Once upon a time, every biography for kids started with the subject’s date and place of birth. Thank heavens we have gotten beyond that! Still, we are writers who happen to be adults, and as such vulnerable to the temptation of focusing on adult interests – or worse – what we think ought to be children’s interests. This session will focus on writing nonfiction, in particular biography, that engages readers by putting their interests first. Have pen and paper at the ready. We will brainstorm and scribble together.


N Create a Scene: Why Place Matters Mitali Perkins  
In this interactive, hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to weave together the three strands of plot/emotion, place, and character into a single, gripping scene. They will be equipped to engage the five senses in creating a sense of place to transport readers directly into the scene. Participants will write in session and get feedback on the spot from the instructor in a guided, positive discussion.


R Navigating the Author Journey – Beth Anderson
For those just starting out, navigating the author journey can be daunting. There’s no GPS, no map, no shortcuts, and the road is full of potholes and dead ends. How do you find your way? This overview shares resources, ways to be active and intentional, and, hopefully, enjoy the adventure!


11:00 AM  – 11:50 AM
           BREAKOUT SESSION TWO (choose one)

I Untangling the visual chaos of a story – Larry Day
In the beginning, there’s a manuscript. Following that, there are scribbles, thumbnail sketches, and visual chaos. Join award-winning illustrator, Larry Day as he takes us through the process of storyboarding and smoothing out the visual clutter, getting to the emotional heartbeat of story and character.


M Just the Right Fit: How Finding an Agent is Like Finding Romance – Stephanie Fretwell-Hill
The first barrier to finding an agent is the quality of an author’s work. But even skilled writers with stellar manuscripts get turned down, often with the mysterious phrase “not a fit for me.” What does that really mean? And how do you find the right fit? Just like in love, the best author-agent relationships involve respect, communication, mutual admiration, and a little bit of chemistry. In this session, we talk about finding and querying agents, selling them on you and your work, and moving on if he or she isn’t “the one.”


N The Art and Crafting of Compelling Characters — Megan Ilnitzki
No matter what genre or age range you’re writing for, dynamic characters are essential for a compelling story. We’ll take a look at examples from some classic children’s literature and talk about some tips and techniques for creating unforgettable characters that will resonate with young readers.


R, B, N Baby-Stepping Into Book Promotion — Darby Karchut
While authors are expected to promote their books, the task often feels heavier than the weight of the world, especially for new writers. But fear not! In this workshop, we’ll cover the five fundamentals every author should do (four cost nothing and the fifth is fairly inexpensive), talk about additional opportunities and extensions (loads of these), zero in on the unique marketing expectations of various genres, and explore what promotional activities best fit YOUR personality and comfort zone.


12:00 PM – 1:30 PM       LUNCH


1:30 PM – 2:20 PM        BREAKOUT SESSION THREE (choose one)

I Adding Drama: Color and Composition for Emotional Impact – Jessica Lanan
In this session we will analyze how composition, color, and perspective choices in your illustrations can be used to bring momentum to the story and heighten your book’s emotional impact. Learn how to borrow techniques from a variety of sources like classical art and film to take your illustrations to the next level.


P The Nitty and the Gritty, the Ins and Outs, the A to Z: Everything Ever About Making a Picture Book – Sylvie Frank
By now you know that I love picture books, and more than that, I love spreading picture book love. So here’s the gist: together we’ll take a close look at the picture book-making process — manuscript revisions, selecting an artist, sketches, typesetting, and at last, the bound book. In taking apart and putting back together a picture book, we’ll see how agents, editors, art directors, authors, and illustrators all work together to create the art that is a picture book. The goal: for you to leave informed and inspired as you craft and revise your own manuscripts.


N Reverse Engineer a Story! – Natascha Morris
Whether you are agented or not, this is a great way to use the market, and your own taste, to come up with a book you really love. We take inspiration from everywhere, why not reverse the normal process?


R Writing for the Education Market – Laura Perdew
Learn about the opportunities the education market has for freelance authors and how to query educational publishers. This presentation will discuss the process of breaking into and writing for the education market. Points highlighted will include • Approaching educational publishers (query letters, proposals, etc.) • Choosing assignments (as well as the variety of assignments out there!) • Generating a writing sample • The research process • Writing (including writing to assigned specs and reading levels) • The editorial process • Record keeping tips, links, other resources The target audience for this presentation is an author of any level interested in writing for the education market.



POST-Conference four options (two novelist options, one picture book option, one illustrator option).

Post-conference intensives are optional, cost an additional $40 fee, and pre-registration is required as there are a limited number of spaces.

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Bring the first 50 pages of your novel in progress so we can dig in! In this intensive we’ll be using our manuscripts to practice different revision strategies and techniques, giving you skills and insights into how to stretch that revision over the entire novel. Come prepared with the first 50 pages printed out and ready for markup, highlighters, colored pencils or other color-coding mechanisms, as well as tons of enthusiasm for taking your novel to the next level! Limited to 20 participants.


    Pre-register for this roundtable for chapter book, middle grade, and young adult novelists, and hear how an editor responds to the first FIVE pages of your work in progress. Space is limited to 8 writers. You’ll meet in an intimate setting and receive live, on-the-spot feedback on the first five pages of your work (yes, it must be pages one through five from the beginning; please see detailed instructions for formatting). Not only do you benefit by receiving direct feedback from an editor on your work-in-progress, but you also grow by hearing constructive comments on everyone else’s work, too.

NOTE: All participants should be prepared to submit the first FIVE pages of their work-in-progress picture book manuscript to be shared with your faculty member as well as other session attendees. Format 12 pt. Font, Times New Roman, double spaced, one-inch margins.


I ILLUSTRATOR CRAFT INTENSIVE: Story Idea Jumpstart – Pat Cummings
Please pre-register: in this 1.5 hour intensive, illustrators will have the unique opportunity to workshop with a master writer and illustrator to develop a spark of an idea into a fleshed-out book concept. Bring your sketchbook and favorite writing and drawing materials. You will leave with the thumbnail drawings, ready to be turned into a submission-ready dummy book. Limited to 20 participants.


Pre-register for this special roundtable gathering and hear how an editor thinks. Space is limited to 8 writers. You’ll meet in an intimate setting and receive live, on-the-spot feedback on the first five pages of your picture book manuscript (please see detailed instructions). Not only do you benefit by receiving direct feedback on your work-in-progress, but you also grow by hearing reactions and comments on everyone else’s work, too.

NOTE: All participants should be prepared to submit the first FIVE pages of their work-in-progress picture book manuscript to be shared with your faculty member as well as other session attendees. Format 12 pt. Font, Times New Roman, double spaced, one-inch margins.