Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Saturday Faculty and Sessions

Saturday Faculty and Sessions

Betsy Bird BBIRD
Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system,
Blogger for School Library Journal’s A Fuse #8 Production 
Former Youth Materials Specialist for New York Public Library

Trendwatch or Change Is Good (Right?) 
Keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s new and happening the world of children’s literature is awfully difficult.  Who are the movers and shakers in the field? What kinds of books are getting the most attention these days (and what books will be getting attention in the future)?  

What are the issues schools and libraries are most interested in?  Keynote speaker Betsy Bird breaks it all down, from weirdo trends in children’s novels (2016 is now The Year of the Fox) to the current state of publicity and promotion on the part of publishers.  

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, former Youth Materials Specialist for New York Public Library, and current blogger for School Library Journal’s A Fuse #8 Production.  In addition to reviewing for Kirkus and The New York Times, Ms. Bird is the author of the picture book Giant Dance Party (Greenwillow, 2013) and Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (Candlewick, 2014) which she co-wrote with fellow bloggers Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta. You can follow Betsy on Twitter at fuseeight or read her blog at


stephen barbaraStephen Barbara 
Inkwell Management

A Tale of Three Agents  
Stephen tells the story of his career in three phases, drawing on personal experiences and anecdotes from my life to give the audience a sense of an agent’s education, and the different skills needed to truly help writers.

Stephen Barbara joined InkWell in January of 2015, after six years at Foundry Literary + Media and three years as Contracts Director of the Donald Maass Agency. He focuses on high-quality books for young readers as well as select adult fiction and nonfiction. One of the world’s leading agencies, InkWell proudly represents major literary prize-winners as well as some of the world’s bestselling and best-loved authors.

Stephen’s clients include Lauren Oliver, Laura Amy Schlitz, Lisa Graff, Lynne Jonell, Leila Sales, Sam Munson, Paul Tremblay, Todd Strasser, and Jack D. Ferraiolo, as well as the companies Paper Lantern Lit and The Story Pirates, among many others.


Linda Camacho 
Prospect Agency

Marketer Turned Agent Talks Craft: Writing a Manuscript That Gets and Keeps Everyone’s Attention
Manuscripts are vetted at so many levels. They pass from the eyes of agents to editors to marketing to sales, and while there are some variables outside of the writer's control, craft is not one of them. In the end, publishing folks seek the same thing: A good story. Every good story has certain key elements that I looked for as a marketer at Random House and even now as an agent. If the manuscript falters on any of these counts, it's a pass. In this workshop, I'll talk about several key story fundamentals that not only grab an agent or editor's attention, but that of the acquisitions board as well.  

Linda Camacho joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin before happily settling into children’s marketing at Random House. She received her MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and enjoys reading a variety of genres, ranging from clean and lighthearted contemporary to edgy and dark fantasy.For more information on her submission guidelines and Linda’s favorite reads, please visit

Follow Linda on Twitter: @LindaRandom


Mallory P. Grigg 
Senior Designer, Simon and Schuster

So You Want to Get Published?
Join me for a brief guide to the steps that will lead to a publishing deal. When that doesn’t work, we’ll dive into a more comprehensive guide to inspiration, networking, and answer frequently asked questions. 

Born and bred in the Lone-Star state, Mallory is a sixth-generation Texan who found her way to Brooklyn, New York where she works as a Senior Designer for Simon and Schuster. She’s dropped the accent, but she still loves to get her boots dirty on all manner of projects. Specialties include book design, hand-lettering, branding and identity design. 

Andrew Harwell Headshot_photoSenior Editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books


Nanci Turner-Steveson

Revising a Novel from the Author’s and Editor’s Perspectives
Nanci Turner Steveson and I will discuss the revision process for her debut middle-grade novel, Swing Sideways. I will bring copies of my letters and edit notes, and Nanci and I will walk attendees through everything that happened from the moment the novel was acquired to when it was sent to the printer. 

Andrew Harwell is a senior editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where he edits award-winning and bestselling middle grade and young adult fiction. His favorite books are the ones that take risks and play for keeps, and that push normative boundaries to reach readers who feel like they exist outside them. Andrew is also the author of the middle-grade novel The Spider Ring. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Andrew now lives in Brooklyn.

Me and Story grass calmer


Nanci Turner Steveson grew up with a book in one hand, the reins of a pony in the other. She is on the Board of Directors for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference; a professional theatre Stage Manager; and founder of The Literacy for Hope Project, dedicated to getting books to the homeless. She writes realistic fiction for middle grade readers in her historic meadow-cabin at the foot of the Grand Tetons.






Ava Jae Ava Author Photo_smallJPG
Sweet Sixteens Debut Novelist

From the Ground Up: World Building in Sci-Fi/Fantasy 
So you’ve got a great idea for a novel in a world unlike our own, but building a world from 
scratch is no easy feat. Where do you begin?

Ava Jae, author of Beyond the Red, focuses on how you can create a strong and compelling Sci-Fi/Fantasy universe. From language and culture, to environment, religion, and social structure, every participant will complete a worksheet allowing them to leave class with a world in their hands, including a map.

Ava is an author, blogger, YouTuber, college student, and assistant editor at Entangled Publishing. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in English in April 2016, Ava will probably find a bookstore to live in, where she can write her next novel surrounded by the smell of new books and coffee.

She resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and can be found on Twitter at @Ava_Jae
or at her website 







Janet Sumner Johnson JanetJohnson.small
Sweet Sixteens Debut Novelist

Pitch Perfect 
Now that you've written and revised your book, you are ready to tell the world about it! Except it turns out that one to three sentences can be A LOT harder to write than a 50,000-word book. In this class we'll go through the 3 basic types of pitches (twitter, one-sentence, and query), and what makes a good one. We'll then workshop together to write the perfect pitch for your book. Come prepared with a book idea that you're ready to tell the world about!

Janet Sumner Johnson's debut MG contemporary book The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society will be released in April 2016 by Capstone Young Readers. She signed with her agent, Victoria Marini, through the Pitch Madness contest run by Brenda Drake. When she's not writing, Janet loves playing tennis, running, eating cookies, and playing with her kids. She lives in Oregon with her family. You can find her at

karaKara Laughlin 
Author and Artist

Write to Inspire: Work for Hire 
When we dream of becoming children’s book authors, many of us imagine inspiring children with our own fictional worlds or real-world passions. But children encounter all manner of writing daily, from passages for reading instruction, to textbooks and reference books. All of that writing needs to be written by someone—and written well. Enter the work-for-hire, or contract, author. Writing on a work-for-hire basis can be a satisfying way to become an author, as well as a smart way for published authors to support their careers in an industry where steady paychecks are rare. 

We will discuss the pros and cons of writing-for-hire, how to break in to the industry, and 
leveraging work-for-hire titles into school and library visits. Participants will have an opportunity to develop a plan for approaching educational publishers, and we’ll spend a little time brainstorming unique book-based programs that are attractive to schools and libraries.

Kara L. Laughlin is an artist and writer living in Virginia. She is the author of two dozen nonfiction books for kids, including Paper Artist Creations Kids Can Fold, Tear, Wear, and Share, and a six-book series on service dogs from The Child’s World. Her latest project, Sparkle 
and Shine!: Glam Earrings, Necklaces, and Hair Accessories for All Occasions
, is due out in Fall of 2016 from Capstone.


Kathy Macmillan Kathy MacMillan author photo r200x200dpi
Sweet Sixteens Debut Novelist

Taking Off the Training Wheels 
Neil Gaiman says fanfiction can act as a training ground for writing original fiction. Is he right? 

Join Kathy MacMillan for a discussion of the ways writing fanfic can prepare you to take on original writing – and for the ways it can’t.

Kathy MacMillan is the author of the YA fantasy novel Sword and Verse (HarperTeen, 2016), as well as several resource books for educators and parents.  She is the PAL Member Coordinator for the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region and founder of The Sweet Sixteens debut group of 2016 MG and YA authors. Find her online at


VickiVictoria A. Selvaggio 
Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Composing the Query Letter 
As an Associate Agent, receiving hundreds of queries a week, not to mention the many authors and potential authors she encounters, Victoria A.Selvaggio has learned that the mention of writing a query letter is something that brings forth many different reactions.  Some love it…some dread it…some don’t understand it—its purpose.

While mastering the art of writing that well-polished manuscript takes time and skill, so does composing the query letter. Join Victoria as she covers the essentials of a query, in which she’ll include a few do’s and don’ts. This presentation will also include, as time allows, a bit about The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency and Victoria—her protocol on reviewing queries vs manuscripts, what she looks for in submissions, partial vs full manuscript requests, and Victoria’s overall agent goals.

With a strong background in business ownership, Victoria A. Selvaggio comes to JDLA as an Associate Agent with over 7 years of actively working as a volunteer and Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio.  Drawn to the publishing scene first as an Author writing all genres, with her most recent publication in the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Vicki’s passion for honing the craft carried over into reading manuscripts for the agency. Currently, she is excited to read compelling manuscripts that will resonate with her long after she’s done.
Twitter: Victoria Selvaggio @vselvaggio1  
Facebook: Vicki Selvaggio 
Linkedin: Victoria Selvaggio 

LoisLois Sepahban  
Sweet Sixteens Debut Novelist

Fiction Doesn’t Mean Fake: You’re drawn to history and historical fiction, and you have an idea for a novel set in the past. But where do you begin? Join Lois Sepahban, author of the historical fiction novel Paper Wishes, in a workshop focused on using real stories and real people to create authentic emotional experiences for your characters. From gathering the facts to translating them into your story, participants will walk away from the class with research strategies and a new way to look at writing their historical fiction novel.

Lois Sepahban lives in Kentucky with her family and a barnful of rescued animals. Her debut novel, Paper Wishes, comes out January 2016 from Margaret Ferguson Books, FSG. Visit her online at


Laura_ShovanDSC_5879Laura Shovan 
Sweet Sixteens Debut Novelist

Dancing Down the Page
Children’s novels-in-verse are enjoying a moment in the sun, with BLACK GIRL DREAMING and THE CROSSOVER winning major book awards. Join debut verse novelist and poet-in-the-schools Laura Shovan for an overview of this genre. “Dancing Down the Page” will focus on three key ways that poetry appeals to young readers: white space, wordplay, and voice. Laura will also lead a writing exercise that authors of any genre can use to hone a character’s voice. 

Laura Shovan is a poet, children’s author, editor, and educator. She is Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s current writer-in-residence. Laura edited Maryland Writers’ Association’s anthology Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems and co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artists-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her middle grade novel-in-verse, debuts in April (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).


Jess Tice-Gilbert
Senior Art and Novelty Designer at Scholastic's Cartwheel Imprint

What Makes a Great (Novelty) Picture Book
Details to follow.

Jess Tice-Gilbert is many things: an experienced designer, a paper engineer, an innovator, an artist, and a creator of publishing novelties. But most of all she considers herself a Military Brat who discovered a lifelong passion for the arts thanks to her family's numerous travels during her youth. It was in 2004 that her travels led her to New York, where she began an internship with pop-up book authors Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. It wasn't long before she was invited to join their studio full-time and contribute to such best-selling titles as Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs (2005), Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy (2007), and Beauty & the Beast (2010). During this time, she also headed up the Museum of Modern Art holiday card line for 7 years, earning her studio –and herself– a bevy of prestigious awards.

Today, you can find Jess's work and keen eye for design under Scholastic's Cartwheel imprint, where she spends her days as a full-time Senior Designer of novelty books. Notable titles include Carry and Learn Colors (2015), Are You My Daddy? (2015), and If You're a Robot and You Know It (2015).


Traci Todd headshot_ttodd
Executive Editor of the Appleseed imprint at Abrams Books

Writing with Pictures: Considering the Pictures When Writing for Picture Books and Graphic Novels.
In this program we’ll look at how to leave room in your writing for images to tell at least half the story. We’ll look at manuscript examples and published books. Handouts will be provided.

Traci Todd has been in children’s media for over 15 years. She began her career as a scriptwriter for educational media. After a slight detour as a content writer for, Traci returned to children’s media as a producer for LeapFrog. From there she became an editor at McGraw-Hill, then Heinneman-Raintree, Chronicle Books and VIZ Media. She is currently Executive Editor of the Appleseed imprint at Abrams Books.


Karen Whiting 

Turning Imagination and Play into Books 
Childhood days of cutting paper and making crafts became the basis of writing for children. Karen will share how she cuts shapes to make patterns and cut and tell stories for her craft books. She will also share how to use personal experiences in writing engaging nonfiction for 

Karen Whiting ( is the former television host of Puppets on Parade, an international speaker, and national award-winning author of eighteen books, with three more releasing in 2016. Her writing experience includes more than 600 magazine articles and over 100 puppet scripts. She currently writes for Leading Hearts and Molly Green magazines plus creates the craft page for The Kid’s Ark. Her inspirational craft book God’s Girls # 1 is in its eighteenth printing.