Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Fall Focus Retreat 2018

Loading Map....

Date(s) - 09/21/2018 - 09/23/2018
5:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Capital Retreat Center
12750 Buchanan Trail East - Waynesboro, PA 17268


Don’t miss this weekend retreat where we delve deep and focus on craft!

September 21-23, 2018 at Nesiya Lodge, Capital Retreat Center, 12750 Buchanan Trail East, Waynesboro, PA 17268

Three Tracks: Picture book writing ~ YA/Middle Grade writing  ~ Illustrating

Three industry professionals: Sarah Jane Abbott, Editor at Simon and Schuster ~ Jim Hoover, Art Director at Viking ~ Tiffany Liao, Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Small Class sizes: Each track will have a maximum of 27 people.


Picture Book Writing Track – Led by Sarah Jane Abbott, Editor at Simon and Schuster

A close up and personal intensive picture book workshop on overhauling/revising—ways to approach a current manuscript that isn’t quite working.  Attendees will bring two manuscripts in process to work with. Sessions will cover strengthening character, social messages in writing, plot, and heart and will also include revision activities like blind rewrites, changing POV, and dummying to check pacing and page turns. The weekend will include time for hands-on work and circle critiques,  as well as opportunities for one-on-one critiques or written-only critiques with Sarah. Track size – maximum 27 people.

Sarah Jane Abbott is an assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster. She started her career at S&S as a publicity assistant in 2013 before joining Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books as editorial assistant in 2014. She is also on the editorial boards of Simon & Schuster’s and She is actively seeking agented and SCBWI submissions for Paula Wiseman Books. She loves quirky, character-driven picture books with a lot of heart and unique, literary middle grade novels.


YA/Middle Grade Writing Track – Led by Tiffany Liao, Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

A focused look at the big question: What does the character want? Your character motivation is the heart of the story and will inform every element in your book including voice, plot, pacing, and world-building. In this track, we’ll discuss how to dig deeper to create authentic and empathetic (not the same as likeable!) characters. We’ll also cover how to write convincingly and respectfully from a perspective outside of your own. The weekend will include time for hands-on work and circle critiques as well as opportunities for one-on-one critiques or written-only critiques with Tiffany. Track size – maximum 23 people.

Tiffany Liao is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Previously, she was at Penguin Young Readers. She’s had the pleasure of editing authors such as Tomi Adeyemi, Margaret Owen, Henry Lien, K.D. Halbrook, Kristin Tubb, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Lesley Livingston, among others. She acquires young adult and middle grade fiction of all stripes, as well as the occasional nonfiction title. A Bay Area native, Tiffany now resides in Brooklyn, where she continues to pine for a good avocado. She (mostly) tweets about bookish things at @tiff_liao.


Illustrators Track – Led by Jim Hoover, Art Director at Viking Children’s Books

Dive deep into illustrating covers for picture books and middle grade novels. Jim will take us through the overall picture book process and then focus on creating successful covers. The course will include homework prior to the event, an in-depth look at what makes a successful cover, in-person critiques of homework sketches, time to work on assignments and revisions and then roundtable critiques of new sketches. Attendees will bring completed homework as well as art supplies to continue work during the weekend. The retreat will include time for hands-on work and circle critiques as well as opportunities for one-on-one critiques or written-only critiques with Jim. Track size – maximum 20 people.

Jim Hoover is the Associate Art Director at Viking Children’s Books. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design in Illustration, Jim has been in publishing now for nearly twenty years. He speaks regularly at SCBWI and has designed and art directed hundreds of books including: PICTURE BOOKS: (Tea Party Rules with K. G. Campbell, Shy with Deborah Freedman, Ella with Marcos Chin, Bus! Stop! with James Yang) NOVELS: (Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch books, Max Brallier’s New York Times best-selling series The Last Kids On Earth) NONFICTION: (National Book Award Finalist Elizabeth Partridge’s, Marching For Freedom, Printz Award-winning John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth and Boots On the Ground: America’s War In Vietnam, and the children’s book adaptation of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.


All lodging and meals will be provided by Nesiya Lodge at Capital Retreat Center. Registrants can choose a single room or shared room with 1 roommate. Each room has 2 queen beds, a private bath,  in-room high speed internet access, individual room climate controlled air-conditioning and heat, linen and towel service, desk, phone, and in-room safe. The retreat center has ample free parking. Nesiya Lodge was built in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, including van accessible parking, automatic door openers, guest rooms with over-sized entry ways, extra space for wheelchairs, roll-in showers, and vanities with clearance underneath. Find pictures and more info about the site at


Friday, Sept 21

5 PM: Registration
6 PM: Dinner
7 PM: Welcome/icebreakers
8-9 PM: Breakout Tracks – Opening lecture/activity with your track

Saturday, Sept 22:

7:30 AM: Breakfast
9 AM-12 PM: Breakout Tracks – Intensive workshop combining lecture and hands-on activities
12 PM: Lunch
1-5 PM: Attendee work time and one-on-one critiques by appointment
6 PM: Dinner
7 PM: Social activity

Sunday, Sept 23:

7:30 AM: Breakfast
9 AM- 12PM: Breakout Tracks – Roundtable critique sessions with your track
12 PM: Lunch
1-2 PM: Closing activity


Retreat registration (Includes all meals, lodging, and group activities. Sorry, no commuter rates are available for this event.)

September registration rates:

SCBWI Members:
Shared room with one roommate: $385
Single room: $575
Shared room with one roommate: $485
Single room: $675


Face-to-face critique (10 manuscript pages or portfolio review) with your track leader during the retreat (15 minutes): $60
Written-only critique  (10 manuscript pages or electronic portfolio review) from your track leader, to be delivered via email 2 weeks after the retreat: $45
NOTE: As of 8/31/18, all critiques with Sarah Jane Abbott and Tiffany Liao are SOLD OUT. There are still in person and written only portfolio reviews available with Jim Hoover.

Payment Options:

  • Online with a credit card (processed through PayPal, no account required)
  • Online with a PayPal account balance

No refunds will be issued for cancellations made after September 6, 2018.

Registrants must be age 18 or older.

If you have any questions or need to request accommodations for this event, please contact

 Please note that Nesiya Lodge is a kosher facility. No outside food or drink is allowed, but the dining room will make every effort to accommodate special dietary needs.