Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Spring Spirit Conference Schedule


Spring Spirit 2020

Conference Schedule and Workshop Descriptions


You may register for any session. The key below is intended to provide information to help you choose.

KEY: PB = picture books, CB = chapter books, NOV =  middle grade or young adult novels, GEN = general audience/everyone, PAL = published audience, IL = illustrators, NF = Nonfiction, BEG = beginners

8:00-8:30- Doors Open, Conference Check-in, Coffee/Tea/Breakfast Items Available

8:30-8:50- Welcome, Team Introductions, and Faculty Introductions: Co-Regional Advisors, Nikki Shannon Smith and Kristen Schwartz

8:50-9:10- Opening Keynote: Mitali Perkins

9:25-10:25- Session One (Choose One)

Luana Horry: Take Center Stage PB, CB
A broad discussion of secondary characters and the vital role they play in character-driven picture books. This presentation will examine why select characters are important counterparts to famous picture book characters.

Jennifer Chen Tran: Highly Illustrated Middle Grade/Young Adult and Graphic Novels NOV, IL
Learn the difference between a highly-illustrated MG or YA novel versus a MG or YA novel. Compare elements of both to better understand what editors are looking for and what has worked successfully in the past. Learn what you need to pitch a graphic novel and what the components of a successful pitch proposal looks like.

Naomi Kinsman: Level Up – A Design Thinking Workshop to Identify Next-Step Challenges and Unleash New Possibilities PAL
In this hands-on workshop for published authors, participants will use design thinking tools to define points of friction that stand between their current circumstances and next-level dreams. The process gives us the opportunity to clarify and define a specific obstacle, ideate options, design a prototype solution and make plans for how to test and refine the prototype in the coming weeks.

Shirley Espada-Richey: First Steps: Beginning Your Writing Journey BEG
In this session designed for those in the early stages of their writing careers, learn about the various categories of children’s books, how to strengthen and format your manuscript, and how the submission process works. Mentor texts will be used as exemplars and there will be time to ask questions. After attending this session in the morning, beginning writers will have a better understanding to bring to sessions throughout the day.

10:40-11:40- Session Two (Choose One)

Mitali Perkins: Dialogue: Crafting Conversation in Fiction for Young Readers NOV
Writing excellent dialogue is crucial when your audience is young readers, who are finely attuned to the way both adults and their peers converse with each other. In this hands-on, interactive workshop, participants practice writing lively conversation and learn to avoid seven common dialogue busters.

Andrea J Loney: Mining Real Life Emotion for Fictional Stories GEN
Fantastic fictional story ideas can come from anywhere, but some of the most beloved tales can spring right from our very own lives. In this workshop we’ll explore the real-life emotional journeys behind some great children’s books, and we will create our own new heartfelt fictional tales based on stories from our own lives. Be prepared to write or draw, discuss, and share.

Talia Benamy: On Process: What Happens from Acquisition to Publication GEN
Publishing is a waiting game, and for authors and illustrators, there’s often a lot of down time in the process of making a book. But plenty is happening behind the scenes! In this session, we’ll take a look at what happens on the publisher’s side of the process between a book’s acquisition and publication, reviewing the many steps and stages along the way.

11:40-12:20- Lunch Break (See Conference Menu Link)

12:20-1:00- Editor and Agent Panel: As lunch ends, our agents and editors will take the stage in the Community Hall. They’ll share information about their company, what they do, and an insider’s view of the industry.

1:15-2:15- Session Three (Choose One)

Luana Horry: Keeping Up With the Commercial PB, CB
A deep dive into the art of the commercial and character-driven picture book. This presentation will explore the key components of commercial and universal-appealing picture books, character development, the advantages of going commercial, and the potential roadblocks of building a franchise.

Mitali Perkins: A Whole New WorldWeaving the Magic Carpet of Place NOV
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 class and get feedback on the spot from the instructor in a guided, positive discussion.

Naomi Kinsman: Writerly Play – A Character Development Workshop GEN
Play your way to the page! In this active workshop, writers will play improvisational games to deepen their understanding of their cast of characters. Our games will focus on backstory, character motivation, conflict, interior monologue, and endowed objects.

Ellice Lee: Revising that Won’t Crush You IL
How to determine a workflow and mindset so that revising won’t crush your spirit. We’ll go through specific projects and discuss what worked best for each. This will be interactive, so questions are highly encouraged!

2:30-3:30- Session Four (Choose One)

Talia Benamy: Sticking the Landing: Ending Picture Books Well PB
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.

Jennifer Chen Tran: Pitch to Persuade–How to Write a Stellar Query Letter to Better Position Your Middle Grade/Young Adult Manuscript NOV
We will take a big-picture view of pitching (to the agent or editor) by looking at successful query letters. We will also learn about high-concept pitches, elements of a successful query letter that will grab an agent or editor’s attention, and why knowing your market will help you better position your MG/YA manuscript. Bring your questions!

Andrea J Loney: Fascinating Nonfiction: Creating Compelling Characters and Stories from Real Life NF
This workshop explores different techniques for choosing a nonfiction topic, constructing a narrative spine for stories depicting historical and/or actual events, locating and managing research materials, crafting relatable characters, and telling compelling stories based on real people and events.

Ellice Lee: A Window into Working with an Art Director IL
What’s it like to work with an art director from start to finish? We’ll walk through best practices and share cautionary tales on how to ensure the most optimal project collaboration possible.

3:45-4:00- Afternoon Sweets and Special Announcements! Co-Regional Advisors, Kristen Schwartz and Nikki Shannon Smith

4:00-4:20- Closing Keynote: Naomi Kinsman

4:20-4:30- Farewell and Critique Pick-Up