Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Austin SCBWI 2019 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference Highlights

More than 215 people attended the Austin SCBWI 2019 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference on May 18-19 and left inspired and ready to create.

Author P.J. Hoover moderates the publishing panel.

Author P.J. Hoover moderates the publishing panel. Photo: Susan Johnston Taylor

Three large publishing houses were represented with Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman/Beach Lane Books Associate Editor Sarah Jane Abbott, Macmillan/Roaring Brook Associate Editor Mekisha Telfer and First Second Art Director Kirk Benshoff. Agents Sean McCarthy from Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, Lorin Oberweger from Adams Literary Agency and Ann Rose from Prospect Agency rounded out the publishing faculty.

On the author/illustrator side, we were thrilled to have National Book Award finalist author Mitali Perkins, Caldecott Medal winning author/illustrator Dan Santat, as well as acclaimed author/illustrators Vanessa Roeder and Emma J. Virján and authors Chris Barton, Samantha M Clark, Susan Fletcher, Kari Anne Holt, Lindsay Leslie, Sean Petrie, Tammi Sauer and Jo Whittemore on faculty.

Once again we began the conference honoring local members who had a book published in the last year. On the panel were authors Amy Bearce, Lynne Kelly, Catherine Stier, Charlotte Sullivan Wild and R.L.Toalson, along with illustrators Patrice Barton and Carlos De la Garza.

Author/illustrator Dan Santat gives his keynote. Photo: Samantha M Clark

Starting the presentations on Saturday, Mitali Perkins kept everyone laughing as she spoke about adapting to the publishing roller coaster through changing times. Dan Santat offered a moving, honest talk about his ongoing decision to create books for young readers even when other more lucrative options were presented. The two keynotes book-ended Saturday’s sessions with equal doses of inspiration and connection, while empowering attendees to continue their creative journeys.

The editors, agents, and art director answered questions in a publishing panel, moderated by author and former Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover.

Saturday also featured twelve breakouts on writing picture books and novels, including voice, poetry and picture book patterns; a professional development track including social media tips and insight from agents and editors.

The illustrator track featured inspiration, advice, and practical application. Highlights: Agent Sean McCarthy‘s first look breakout offered stellar insight into the work of the illustrators who submitted. Art Director Kirk Benshoff presented the whole range of chapter books from beginning readers up to YA.

On Sunday, attendees dug into their work with intensives on novels, picture books and illustration.

Author Mitali Perkins giving her keynote.

Author Mitali Perkins giving her keynote. Photo: Samantha M Clark

In novels, Mitali Perkins offered techniques for improving structure, setting and dialog; and Lorin Oberweger discussed keeping stakes and tension high, even in the challenging middle.

Tammi Sauer started the picture book track exploring strategies for identifying fresh ideas and writing irresistible openings. Sarah Jane Abbott gave tips on revision and editing to end the day.

In the Sunday illustrator intensive track, Dan Santat presented a master class on picture book illustration—everything from pacing, to color, to composition, and even how he paints his illustrations. Art director Kirk Benshoff‘s engaging character design intensive took the attendees through the character design process.

The weekend also included critiques, pitches and awards.

We honored two new recipients of the Betty X Davis Young Writers of Merit Awards: Alicia Pope for middle school and Sheila Nyamsi Djiekei for elementary school. Their winning pieces were read at the conference to a rapt audience. This year’s presentation included a video about Betty X Davis, one of Austin SCBWI’s founding members and the inspiration behind this award. Read more about the award here.

Illustrator Kyle McBride was honored with the Meredith Davis Volunteer of the Year Award. Kyle has been the volunteer graphic designer for Austin SCBWI for a few years, always saying yes when asked for help and even volunteering to help with our conference audio/video setup without bring asked.

Anna Boxall won the Emerging Voices Illustrator Mentorship with this year’s mentor, Vanessa Roeder.

Our Portfolio Showcase winners were:
Rivkah LaFille – Grand Prize
Eliza Kinkz – Honor Winner
Rachel Bostick – Honor Winner

Look out for a new header for our website and enewsletter from Rivkah LaFille soon.

And the nominees for our Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award are Seth Barton, Madonna Bock, Jennifer Braham, Meghan P. Browne, Romy Goldberg, Heather Anne Harwood, Brooke Hollon, Shachi Kaushik, Sommer Maxwell, Maria Rodriguez, Ehigbor Schultz, Korinne Salas Young, Kara Stockinger, Kristin Wauson and Lynn Wong. These writers were nominated by the critiquing faculty as having a manuscript of high quality. Our 2019 mentor, Varian Johnson, will announce the winner soon.

The nominees for the 2019 Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award.

The nominees for the 2019 Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. Photo: Gayleen Rabakukk

We also honored Austin SCBWI member author Varian Johnson for receiving the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for his MG novel, THE PARKER INHERITANCE (Arthur A. Levine, 2018) from the American Library Association, along with all the other acclaim the book has received.

We were thrilled to have our Creators of Diverse Worlds Scholarship recipients at the conference as well. Read about them here.

And for the first time, we welcomed Scholarship Recipients of the Austin SCBWI RA Scholarship.

Read highlights on the #atxscbwi19 Twitter feed. And check out more photos in our Facebook album.

We’re hard at work planning our 2020 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference, set for May 2-3, 2020. See you there!