Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2016 Spring Spirit Conference Schedule

Friday Workshops—5:00pm-6:30pm

Choose one:

WORKSHOP CHOICE #1: Writing For Children: Everything You Needed to Know (But Didn’t Know to Ask):

The Basics with JaNay Brown-Wood (Author) & Gayle Pitman (Author)

Have you always wanted to write a children's book but didn't know how to get started? Maybe you've started a children's book but aren't sure where to go next. Get some tips on the craft of writing children’s books, and learn about the nuts and bolts of the publication process. Learn about board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books and middle grade. Why does a reader's age range dictate word count? Does word choice matter? What makes a child want to listen to a book over and over? This will be an interactive session, with time for Q&A at the end.

YA Dos and Don’ts with Jessica Taylor (Author) & Stephanie Garber (Author)

What makes a young adult manuscript stand out? How do you keep dialogue hip without making it dated? How do you know what's considered "cool"? Jessica and Stephanie will go over a checklist of best and worst practices to make sure your YA manuscript stands out for all the right reasons. 

Beginners will learn more than they thought possible at this interactive and engaging workshop with faculty members representing a wide variety of expertise. Whether you're thinking about becoming a picture book author, or middle grade, YA, or anywhere in between, learn what it takes to succeed in today's talented and crowded children's book market. If you've already written your manuscript, come learn if you're on track!

This workshop is best suited for the beginner and intermediate writer.


WORKSHOP CHOICE #2: Building the Illustration Side of the Story Through Character Development 

with Joy Allen (Illustrator)

How do character tags like "dignified" or "smug" affect how a character is drawn or how they change throughout the story? Each artist has their own approach and skills no matter what medium they use, but building story thru pictures is a common goal. Bring your sketch pad and learn how to build character development. This is a working session! Artist Joy Allen will share years of experience with Art Directors, authors, and a range of boutique to trade publishers to help you walk away with a stronger sense of how to make your characters ring true. (Did she mention one of her books is on Oprah's Young Reading list?) Joy will also touch on her success in the licensing artwork she has sold to manufacturers of ornament, fabric, outdoor/indoor decor, cards, flags, and wall design ("is that all?" haha). Ideally, there will be time left for Q&A…
This hands-on workshop is suited for artists that are just beginning all the way up to the multi-published illustrator. Come one, come all!


WORKSHOP CHOICE #3: Jump Start Your Writing with Poetry!

with Linda Boyden (Author/Illustrator)

You know you should be writing, but your Muse has gone off on a cruise and left you staring at a blank Word doc. Fear not: writer’s block is as common as house dust. This workshop will present a unique method to ease (lure?) writers back into the joy of writing. Learn not only engaging ways to write poems but also will how poetry can stretch “writing muscles” and keep your writing Muse happily at home.

This hands-on workshop will show how fifteen minutes a day writing a rough draft of a poem can rev up your prose writing. Doubtful? Come and see for yourself! Don't forget paper and pens/pencils.

This workshop is best suited for anyone at any level looking to add a lyrical, poetic touch to their work. Your Muse will thank you!



Registration/Check In begins—7:45am 

Breakfast social—8:10-8:30am 

Welcome from RA—8:35-8:45 


Keynote—8:45-9:15 Warrior’s Mind, Writer’s Mind

Bruce Hale (Author)

To get published and keep publishing, it takes more than luck.  It takes the right work habits, support, and lots of persistence.  Author Bruce Hale breaks down some concepts that can help you win "the war of art."


Breakout sessions—9:30-10:30 Choose one:

The Business of School Visits: price, cost, negotiation, approach BIZ TRACK

Alexis O’Neill (Author)

You’re published. Now what? In this interactive session, you’ll learn the business basics of setting fees, getting gigs at schools and other places, and designing memorable presentations. 

Mirrors, Windows, and Walls: Mirrors, Windows, and Walls: Diversity in the World of Children's Books CRAFT TRACK

JaNay Brown-Wood (Author) and Gayle Pitman (Author)

Despite our increasingly diverse society, the world of children’s books continues to be overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and heterosexual. This session will address and discuss the importance of diversifying children’s literature. We will discuss how children's books can allow kids to see themselves reflected in the world (mirrors), to better understand the experiences of others (windows), and to break down or, unfortunately, reinforce stereotypes (walls). Be prepared to engage in some simple writing and experiential exercises.

Make Your Story Unputdownable: 7 Secrets of Creating Suspense NUTS & BOLTS TRACK

Bruce Hale (Author)

How do you craft a story that agents, editors, and readers won't be able to put down?  Come learn the secrets of suspense, whether you're writing a picture book, novel, or something in between.

BONUS: Panel: Who I am, What I’m Looking For  

Tamar Mays (Editor) and John Rudolph (Agent)

It seems like everyone these days wants to write a children's book. And almost everyone has. But that doesn't mean they're all good stories. How can YOUR manuscript stand out in a crowd? How can YOUR manuscript submission make the cut? Editor Tamar Mays and agent John Rudolph have many years of experience weeding through manuscripts and they've seen it all. What does it take to get their attention? Learn how to make it to the top of their slush pile as they talk about not only what it rock THEIR world, but what it takes to look your very best in today's competitive world.


Breakout sessions—10:45-11:45 Choose one:

Contract negotiation: What to look for in a contract including movie rights, international, etc. BIZ TRACK

John Rudolph (Agent)

Publishing contracts can often be a source of great anxiety for writers and illustrators. In this workshop, I'll walk attendees through a typical contract, explain the various clauses, and highlight the key points that authors/illustrators should focus on. I'll also talk about red flags, what's negotiable, dealbreakers, and why you really don't need to hire a lawyer.

Building a cast of characters CRAFT TRACK

Jessica Taylor (Author) and Stephanie Garber (Author)

What makes an unforgettable cast of supporting characters? Whether your novel has a large set of characters or just few, Jessica and Stephanie will talk about how to give your characters varied personalities, unique goals, complete arcs, and more.

Early Reader Interactivity and Young Reader Comprehension (their actual abilities tend to surprise people—even writers!) NUTS & BOLTS TRACK

Tim Myers

Writers for children, especially picture-book writers, should have some sense at least of how children comprehend text, particularly what qualities of literary writing affect that comprehension. And you may be surprised at how good they can be—under the right circumstances.

BONUS: Indy Publishing: Added tasks, budgeting and accounting 

Christina Mercer (Author & CPA) 


Lunch—11:45-12:45  and FIRST PAGES ROUNDTABLE CRITIQUES—For Everyone! (including artists!) 

Bring a first page of your favorite (or most challenging) Work in Progress [WIP]  to read aloud to your lunchmates, and get real time feedback from a faculty member that will be stationed at your lunch table! It will be timed, so each person will have the same amount of time to share. There is no additional fee for this invaluable exercise! Bring 10 copies of your ONE PAGE so others can follow along as you read. Artists should bring a single piece of artwork to show. Faculty members will be randomly assigned AFTER you've been seated


Book signings, general socializing—12:45-1:00 


Workshops—1:15-2:45 Choose one:

Taxes, a working session BIZ TRACK

Christina Mercer (Author and CPA)

Though the professions of Author and Accountant couldn’t be more different in their main functions, authors come closer to becoming mini-accountants than they realize. Why? Because once anyone becomes an official business owner, he/she crosses into the realm of accounting and taxation. Join this author and trained CPA to get serious about your business by learning important basics on "Bean Counting for Authors".   

Character development, creating a setting, and how to plot for page-turning excitement CRAFT TRACK

Penny Warner (Author)

Writing for today's young reader requires realistic and relatable characters, a fun, familiar setting, and a compelling story that keeps the pages turning all the way to the exciting conclusion! Learn tips, tricks, and techniques for turning your story into a published–and popular–book for kids.

Work/life balance: Organizing for success, a working session NUTS & BOLTS TRACK

Tim Myers

Writing is not only a matter of craft, but also of crafting a life in which to create. How do you think of yourself as a writer? How does writing affect your relationships? How does the writing life shape a writer psychologically? Without some understanding of such things, you might not be prepared for the long haul!

BONUS: Doing Your Homework Now to Maximize Acceptance Later, a working session

Tamar Mays (Editor)

Focusing on books for young readers, especially board books up to the elementray age, Tamar will help you learn how to increase your chances of getting an offer by giving an inside look at how publishers study book retailers, and how they try to apply what they know about the marketplace to what they know about storylines. Will a book sell tomorrow based on what's selling today? What have they learned about what's NOT selling now that will help them figure out what MIGHT sell next year? Is there safety in numbers? How trendy is too trendy? Learn how timing might make the difference on a why a great idea simply might not work…for now. Give your manuscript the best chance it can get by doing your homework before you submit it.



Workshops—3:00-4:15 Choose one:

The Business Side of Writing BIZ TRACK

Sue Ford (Author)

Wish you knew the basics of the Business Side of Writing? Then this workshop is for you. We'll cover accurate record keeping & organization, accounting & taxes, protecting your records & your writing, and time management. There will be handouts!

Creating a World in 800 Words or Less  CRAFT TRACK

Alexis O’Neill (Author)

In picture books, less is more. Learn how to build a rich world for readers in small word counts. Try your hand at writing juicy verbs, repeating patterns, employing perfect similes and metaphors, and cutting excess.   

Buy my Book! – Promoting your book once it's published NUTS & BOLTS TRACK

Penny Warner (Author)

You've written your thrilling story, you've edited, rewritten, and polished it to perfection –and you've sold it to a publisher! Now…how do you get the word out and sell enough copies to recover your advance, get a second contract for your next book, and maybe even pay for your round-the-world book tour? Find out the secret to reaching your readers and selling your book!

BONUS: Perfecting the Pitch Letter, a workshop 

John Rudolph (Agent)

Pitch letters are usually your first introduction to an agent or an editor, so you've got to get them right! In this session, we'll go over the basic components of the pitch letter and discuss techniques that can help your work stand out, using your letters as examples. We'll also try some elevator pitching to help identify your selling points and get you comfortable with summarizing your work. 


Blueboards, Blogs, and SCBWI Oh my! Powerful Resources at our Fingertips-4:20–4:50 For Everyone!

Sue Ford (Author)

Are you getting everything you can out of the online SCBWI resources? Join me for a quick trip on the Internet road to see what the wizard, er, website, has for you. Those of little brain, cowardly, or wishing they only “had a heart” welcome.


Closing remarks, art winner, large doorprize winner—4:50-5:00

*The Portfolio Showcase FOR MEMBERS ONLY will be going on throughout the day: artists are invited to bring their portfolios and have them on display (for no charge!). Attendees are invited to leave comments and encouraging feedback. The faculty art professionals will choose one winner, who will receive a face-to-face free portfolio critique at the 2017 Spring Spirit Conference (the following year).
*There are also face-to-face portfolio critiques, which is different than the Portfolio Showcase. Please see the link to the right for details and differences. 
*Written manuscript critiques for authors will be handed out AT THE CLOSE OF THE CONFERENCE at 5pm. If you need to leave early, your critique will be mailed to you. No exceptions, for any reason, please do not ask.
*Don't forget to bring a First Page of a WIP to read aloud during lunch at the First Pages Roundtable! Reading off a laptop or mobile device is fine, but paper copies are a better idea so others can write and give you notes.
*We are extremely proud of our faculty line up! We hope you are as excited as we are!