Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2019 Conference Schedule

The full schedule is below. To see suggested tracks by genre or by place in the publishing journey, click here.

Friday, March 22, 2019

3:00 PM: Hotel Check-in begins for those staying in the hotel

5:00-7:30 PM: Dinner served in dining room for those staying in the hotel

7 PM: Happy Hour Social (Hotel Bar Area)

8 PM: Badge Pickup/Icebreakers and Kidlit Games (Auditorium Corridor)


Saturday, March 23, 2018

7:00 AM-9:00 AM: Breakfast served for those staying in the hotel (Hotel Dining Room)

7:45 AM: Registration opens (Auditorium Corridor)

8:00 AM-8:15 AM: Orientation for First-time Conference Attendees (A306); Volunteer Orientation (A306)

8:00 AM-5:30 PM: Conference bookstore (Books With a Past) open (Auditorium Corridor)

8:30-9:30 AM: Welcome/Keynote Address by Lola M. Schaefer (Auditorium)

9:30 AM – 12:30 PM: Critiques by appointment (Bridge Room); Query or First Page Critiques – drop-in, $10 for 10-minute critique (Break Area)

9:40 AM – 10:30 AM: Breakout Session A (pick one)

 A1. The Art of Novelty and Board Books: The Journey to Creating Interactive Books for the Youngest Readers (Chieu Anh Urban): What makes a board book interactive? Explore the various novelty formats in today’s board books, and be inspired to create fun and innovative stories for preschoolers. In this session, I will share my process and tips from concept to dummy making, and explain how to prepare a novelty board book submission. (A304)

A2. Ask the Editor (Amanda Ramirez): Come prepared with any and all questions about the book publishing process! Amanda Ramirez is an Assistant Editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and has been with the S&S team since 2016. Whatever insider info you want to know, she’ll tell you. (And what she doesn’t know, she’ll make up!) (Auditorium)

A3. Published Authors and Illustrators Forum (moderated by Kathy MacMillan): Once your book is published, that’s just the beginning! Join us for an interactive session addressing the concerns of published authors and illustrators. All published attendees, traditionally published or indie, are invited to share best practices and learn from others! (A306)


10:40 AM – 11:30 AM: Breakout Session B (pick one)

B1. The Truth About Trucks, Trains, and Toddlers (Kevin Lewis): Agent and author/illustrator Kevin Lewis discusses the building blocks of creating enduring works for the very young. (A304)

B2. Agents: Avenues for Connecting Including (But Going Beyond) Cold-Querying (Beth Phelan): From snail mail to email to internet pitching, this session will cover the various avenues to connecting with agents (and sometimes editors/publishers, too). We’ll talk about the query letter, submission research and etiquette, Twitter pitch events other forms of social media discovery. (Auditorium)

B3.Writing for Multicultural Kids (Lisa Crayton): Effectively reaching a culturally diverse kid and/or YA readership is challenging. Discover how to effectively write for multicultural readers while strengthening your commitment to target audiences. (A306)


11:40 AM – 12:30 PM: Breakout Session C (pick one)

C1. Marrying Words and Pictures: What self-published writers need to know about hiring and working with an illustrator (and vice versa) (Cheryl Mendenhall): Designed for both writers considering self-publishing and illustrators looking to take on self-published jobs, this presentation will give an overview of the process and pitfalls of co-creating an illustrated book. Topics covered will include formulating a business plan, finding/choosing an illustrator, setting expectations, pricing and kill fees, rights and contracts, scheduling, project stages, the revision process, and final formatting. Participants will come away with tips for acting professionally, fostering creativity, and negotiating differences. We may also touch on the whens and hows of bringing in related contractors, such as graphic designers, artists reps, and scanning/pre-press services. (A304)

C2.  Sticking the Landing: How to Reach the Perfect Ending to Your Picture Book (Talia Benamy): Though they have fewer words, picture books can be notoriously difficult to write — and one of the most challenging components is often reaching the exact right ending. Where should a story conclude? What best drives home a message or a joke? How can an ending feel both inevitable and also surprising? There are many elements to consider, and in this session, we’ll touch upon a few of them. (Auditorium)

C3: Fiction for Hire (Erin Teagan, L.V. Pires, Kathy MacMillan): Work for hire isn’t limited to educational nonfiction! Learn about work-for-hire opportunities, writing for book packagers, and ghost-writing. Erin Teagan is the author of the Luciana series from American Girl, L.V. Pires has ghostwritten many books in a successful speculative fiction series, and Kathy MacMillan is the author of the Chronicles of Cavallon series produced by a book packager. (A306)


12:30 PM – 1:30 PM: Lunch (Hotel Dining Room)

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Critiques by appointment (Bride Room); Query or First Page Critiques – drop-in, $10 for 10-minute critique (Break Area)


1:40 PM – 2:30 PM: Breakout Session D (pick one)

D1. Writing with Pride: Creating LGBTQ Characters in Kidlit (Robin Talley): Fiction should be just as rich and intricate as the world we live in — and that means including characters who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and elsewhere on the spectrum. Robin Talley, the author of five YA novels focused on LGBTQ characters, will lead a session discussing how to create complex characters that avoid falling into tropes like the sassy gay best friend, the tragic queer character, or the token LGBTQ sidekick. We’ll also discuss the importance of intersectionality when creating LGBTQ characters and look at examples of books featuring main and secondary LGBTQ characters who are written with skill and depth. We’ll discuss both realistic and genre fiction. This session will focus primarily on YA, but much of it will be applicable to MG and picture books, too, and we’ll examine examples from all three categories. (A304)

D2: Facts are Fun: Writing, Researching and Publishing Nonfiction for Children (Susan Stockdale, Mary Quattlebaum, and Debbie Levy): Nonfiction for children is one of the fastest growing markets, especially since what’s known in any given area–from dinosaurs to current events—is constantly changing. Today’s editors, educators, parents, and young readers are looking for compelling nonfiction that is scrupulously researched and frequently connects with STEAM elements. Two children’s nonfiction authors and an author/illustrator share their process and experiences. They have written about topics as varied as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and historic figures, fabulous birds and fishes, flowers, ecosystems, animal friendships and families, and Civil War and Civil Rights songs. They will discuss research with primary sources; ways to narrow a topic and take it in a new, fresh direction; finding and including quirky, kid-engaging details; creating a narrative arc, as appropriate; energizing language and infusing writing with voice; developing back matter; and working with experts and editors. (Auditorium)

D3: Rhyming Picture Books: When to Write Them and How to Write Them Well (Rachel Kolar): Some rhyming picture books are timeless classics of children’s literature . . . and others are riddled with forced rhymes and nonexistent rhythms. In this session, we’ll look at the pros and cons of writing in rhyme and the kinds of picture books that are best suited to a rhyming format. Then, should you decide that rhyme is right for your project, we’ll discuss the ways to do it well. (A 306)


2:40 PM – 3:30 PM: Breakout Session E (pick one)

E1. Fast Drafting for the Not-So-Speedy Writer (Erin Teagan): Even though fast-drafting may not be for everyone, it is a skill that many writers will have to use at some point in their careers. It could for a deadline, or NaNoWriMo, or even utilized as a final push to get a stubborn idea fully on the page. In any case, fast drafting is a skill worth developing. We’ll explore practical tips and exercises that a writer can do to train themselves to become a fast-drafter. We’ll share and discuss roadblocks to fast-drafting and brainstorm solutions, including how to turn off that annoying internal editor. (A304)

E2:  Writing Outside the Lines (Moderator: Meera Trehan. Panelists: Lisa Crayton, Debbie Levy, Mary Quattlebaum, Lola M. Schaefer): Picture books, middle grade, young adult. Contemporary, fantasy, mystery. Non-fiction, science fiction, historical fiction. As writers, we educate ourselves on the various age categories and genres. But what if you don’t want to stick to just one? This panel will feature authors who write for multiple age groups and/or in multiple genres. How does writing for different audiences influence their craft? What are the challenges they face? And how does a writer build a career across categories? (Auditorium)

E3.Behind the Scenes: How Decisions are Made (Kirk Benshoff): Books aren’t made in a vacuum. This session will explore who are involved in the decision-making process and the factors that influence these decisions to better understand where the industry is and ways to navigate it for yourself. (A306)


3:40 PM – 4:30 PM: Agents and Editors Panel with Talia Benamy, Kevin Lewis, Beth Phelan, and Amanda Ramirez (Auditorium)

4:30 PM-4:45 PM: Prize Drawings (Auditorium)

4:45 PM: Book signing (Auditorium Corridor)

5PM-7:30 PM: Dinner served for those staying at the hotel (Dining Room Salons F, G, H, I). Conference attendees who are not staying in the hotel may purchase dinner tickets at the hotel front desk for $26.00 each. Open Mic Night will take place during dessert.

8 PM: Mix and Mingle Social (Hotel Bar Area)


Sunday, March 24, 2019

7:00 AM- 9:00 AM: Breakfast served for those staying in the hotel (Hotel Dining Room)

9:00 AM-12:00 Noon: Intensive Workshops (pre-registered)

A. Let’s Concentrate on Craft: Making the Most of Every Word (Lola M. Schaefer): Attendees will practice strategies for word choice, voice, succinct writing, character development, and show, don’t tell. Whether you’re writing picture books, easy readers, middle grade novels, nonfiction, or young adult, nothing replaces strong craft. Editors are ALWAYS on the lookout for writing that paints pictures, sounds authentic, holds the reader’s interest, and is original. Join us to learn concrete ways to change blah prose to powerful passages during the revision process. You may bring a manuscript with you or simply take notes to return to your work-in-progress. (Auditorium)

B: Selling Yourself: How to Reach Out to Schools/Libraries/Bookstores (Veronica Bartles): You have your book. You have a great school/library presentation ready to go. You’re all ready for great author visits! … But how do you let schools, libraries, and bookstores know you are available? Who do you contact? What do you say? And what do they mean when they ask you to send a “high resolution” photo for publicity? In this hands-on workshop, we’ll put together a “media kit” with photos, links, bio, etc. that you can have available for all of your upcoming author events. Plus, I’ll share the tips I’ve learned in working with booksellers, school administrators, and librarians on how to present yourself in the best light. We’ll even work on drafting a personalized email that you can send to schools and libraries to let them know you are available for events. (A302)

C: First Pages Plus (Kevin Lewis and Amanda Ramirez): Agent Kevin Lewis and editor Amanda Ramirez speak about what they look for in the first pages of a manuscript—and what they don’t. Then, they’ll review YOUR anonymous first pages live. All attendees who submit a first page are guaranteed to have it reviewed at this event. At the end, Kevin and Amanda will answer any questions you might have about first pages, writing, publishing…or anything else you want to ask them! (A306)

D: Positioning Your Pitch (Talia Benamy): In this session, we’ll take a look at how editors/publishers think about the submissions they receive, the process of acquiring books, and the way books are presented to others in-house. Keeping all of those factors in mind, we’ll discuss what makes a pitch impactful and effective, and we’ll practice writing and structuring pitches as we go. (A303)

E: Character Design: Communicating More Personality in Your Protagonist (Kirk Benshoff): This intensive is for any illustrator (or author) who wants to push the boundaries of character design. Go beyond just cute and create characters with more depth. Learn how to better communicate visually the character personality and take advantage of the growing educational market. Bring characters you are working on or create new ones in this hands-on session. (A304)


12:00 Noon: Luncheon and Closing Keynote with Ronald L. Smith: From The Query To The Call. Book signing to follow. (Hotel Dining Room, Private Salons F, G, H, I)