Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 Spring Spirit Conference Schedule


Spring Spirit 2021

Conference Schedule and Workshop Descriptions

(Please note, the degree of session interactivity may be adjusted based on group size.)

Saturday, March 20: Spring Mixer

Free! 10:00am-11:30am: Regional Spring Mix(er) (SCBWI members only)
At this informal mixer designed especially for members of the California: North/Central region, we’ll begin with a brief introduction, and then members may move in and out of topic-specific breakout rooms. Topics for sharing and discussion will be stewarded by our team and will include: 

  • “Spring Training”: Q&A for New Members
  • “In the Young Readers’ Garden”: Writing board books, picture books, early readers, and chapter books
  • “In the Middle Grade and YA Book Garden”: Writing middle grade and young adult novels
  • “Hope Springs High”: Equity and Inclusion in SCBWI-CA: North/Central
  • “Spring Colors”: Illustrating Children’s Books
  • “Spring Social”: General Meet & Greet


Saturday, April 3 (Day Before Easter): Blossoming Characters

9:00-10:00am: Writerly Play – A Character Development Workshop with Naomi Kinsman
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.

11:00am-12:00pm: Fascinating Nonfiction: Creating Compelling Characters and Stories from Real Life with Andrea J Loney
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.

3:00-4:00pm: A Whole New WorldWeaving the Magic Carpet of Place with Mitali Perkins
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.

Saturday, April 17: Digging Deeper into Craft

9:00-10:00am: Sticking the Landing: Ending Picture Books Well with 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.

11:00am-12:00pm: Revising That Won’t Crush You (for illustrators) with Ellice Lee
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. Questions are highly encouraged!

1:00-2:00pm: Mining Real Life Emotion for Fictional Stories with Andrea J Loney
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.

Saturday, May 1st: How Does Your Garden Grow? Fertilizing Your Career (PAL Saturday)

9:00-10:00am: Level Up – A Design Thinking Workshop to Identify Next-Step Challenges and Unleash New Possibilities with Naomi Kinsman
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.

11:00am-12:00pm: Sowing Seeds with West Coast Book Festivals: A panel discussion with Amanda Bullock, Virginia Loh-Hagan, and Mina Witteman, Moderated by Nikki Shannon Smith
Do you have questions about how to participate in festivals like the Portland Book Festival, the Bay Area Book Festival, and the San Diego State University KidLit Fest? In this session designed for Published and Listed (PAL) members, you’ll hear from the organizers of these west-coast festivals! Our panelists will introduce you to their festivals, explain the application and selection process, and share a behind-the-scenes peek at how these events are run. A short Q&A will be included at the end of the presentation.

1:00-2:00pm: Flexing Opportunities In Your Own Backyard with Virginia Loh-Hagan
In this session, you’ll learn about ways to promote and amplify your work by utilizing opportunities in California. Get pro tips from Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan (SDSU faculty and children’s book author) who has chaired several KidLit conferences/events, served on book award committees, served as cover editor for THE CALIFORNIA READER, etc. There is much to be gained from local opportunities. Start local and go global!

Saturday, May 8: Growing Books, From Concept to Birth (industry) 

9:00-10:00am: On Process: What Happens from Acquisition to Publication with Talia Benamy
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.

11:00am-12:00pm: A Window into Working with an Art Director with Ellice Lee
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.

1:00-2:00pm: Working with an Agent with Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
Discover what it’s like to work with an agent from “the call” to a book sale and beyond. You’ll also get some insight and advice on what to look for in an agent relationship.