Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2017 Austin SCBWI Authors & Illustrators Working Conference Highlights

Austin SCBWI held its 2017 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference on May 20-21, and it was the biggest ever with a sold-out crowd of more than 200 attendees.

The weekend of learning and networking included sixteen faculty members, two keynotes, three general sessions, twelve breakouts, six intensives, 142 critiques and portfolio reviews, 48 pitches, 32 portfolios in the portfolio showcase. Many joined for a networking dinner and a lot of attendees came home with fantastic items from the silent auction. The auction once again broke records and this year donated to Austin SCBWI’s Betty X Davis Young Writers of Merit Award, which gives scholarships to student writers. Thank you again to all of the donors!

Saturday began with a kick-off of the many authors who had books published in the last year, including Donna Janell Bowman, Tara Dairman, Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover, Caroline Leech, Cynthia Levinson, Pat Miller, Christina Soontornvat, and Emma Virjan, and moderated by Regional Advisor Samantha Clark.

Award-winning author Coe Booth discussed the everyday risks and unexpected rewards of creative life during her keynote, and award-winning author/illustrator John Hendrix kept the momentum going in the afternoon with his keynote about how to publish the unpublishable, highlighting his children's book John Brown His Fight for Freedom.

Moderated by author Lindsey Lane, the Your Publishing Questions Answered panel included agents Linda Camacho (Prospect Agency) and Stefanie Von Borstel (Full Circle Literary), editors Kendra Levin (Viking Children's Books) and Melissa Manlove (Chronicle Books), and art director Giuseppe Castellano (Penguin Random House) talking about the industry and their jobs. Kendra Levin, also a life coach, closed out Saturday with a general session about being the hero in your own creative process.

Throughout Saturday, attendees could select from a variety of breakouts, with two writing tracks, a professional development track, and an illustrating track.

Illustrators enjoyed hearing about the three dimension for picture book illustration from author/illustrator Jeff Crosby. He used models and maquettes as a tool for character development and creative environments. Later Giuseppe Castellano discussed the ins and outs of a children's book art department – from what happens to a mailer once it is sent to the various art he directs to the methods he uses to find artists. Lastly, Stefanie Von Borstel went step-by-step on how to build a career as a children's book illustrator.

In the writing breakouts, Stefanie Von Borstel focused on diversity in children's book publishing – how to write and publish books that feature diverse characters and viewpoints for all readers. Author Varian Johnson dove into points of view for novel writers. Author Carmen Oliver moderated a panel with authors Varian Johnson, Kathi Appelt, Lindsey Lane and Cory Putnam Oakes, who talked about writing across genres from picture book to MG to YA, and the skills and sensibilities each one require. Editor Melissa Manlove focused on narrative nonfiction picture books and discussed bringing out feelings to go with all of those facts. Agent Linda Camacho led a talk about writing a manuscript that gets and keeps everyone's attention. And, author Shelley Ann Jackson talked about shaping your picture book story with the illustrator in mind.

The professional development track began with author and law professor Jacqueline Lipton who guided attendees through a simple guide to the law for authors and illustrators. Agent Linda Camacho answered the question – I have an agent … now what? And author Susie Kralovansky taught how to become financial awesome in the world of writing.

During lunch, all enjoyed readings by the well-deserved winners of Austin SCBWI's 2017 Betty X Davis Young Writers of Merit Awards. Toward the afternoon, attendees gathered again to cheer on winners of other awards and mentorships:

Meredith Davis Volunteers of the Year – Kyle Carroll and Sandy Powers for their tireless work building our Silent Auction for the past three years

Illustrator Portfolio Showcase Winners – Priscilla Boatwright

Emerging Voice Illustrator Mentor Award – Katie Wray Schon

Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award finalists – Gloria Amescua, Mercer Black, Jennifer Bross, Heather Harwood, Rebecca Kyriakides, Molly Lasco, Kari Lavelle, Pat Miller, Lauren Neil, Alicia Salazar, Flor Salcedo, and Cheryl Spears Waugh. The winner will be chosen by our 2017 mentor, Bethany Hegedus, and mentored for one year.

The learning continued on Sunday with three tracks of craft intensives for picture books, novels and illustrators. Three-hour morning intensives were taught by Coe Booth (novels) on understanding protagonist through their families and home life; Kathi Appelt (picture books) on plotting, pacing, and page turns; and John Hendrix (illustration) on discovering yourself through a sketchbook.

After lunch, each track had a two-hour intensive to close out the conference, with Kendra Levin (novels) on writing bravely; Melissa Manlove (picture books) on exploring voice; and Giuseppe Castellano (illustration) on stretching creative muscles with prompts.

See more photos on our Facebook page.

We're already looking forward to our 2018 conference! Save April 28-29. We’ll see you there!