Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2018 Conference Schedule

Austin SCBWI’s 2018 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference Saturday schedule consists of keynotes and panels for all attendees, plus breakouts geared to more individual needs. Each breakout period has two writer sessions, one illustrator session and one professional development session. You do not have to pre-register for the breakouts. You can view the full bios on all our speakers here, and you can register for the conference here. Got questions? Read our FAQ.

Saturday Sessions*

7:30 – 8:30 Registration (8 – 8:25 Conference orientation and Q&A with P.J. Hoover)

8:30 – 8:40 Welcome announcements

8:40 – 9:10 General Session: “New Books” celebration
We celebrate and hear about some of the new books that have come out of our community in the past year. Moderated by Samantha Clark

9:15 – 10:05 Keynote: “Being a Free-Range Author: Telling the Stories that Call to You” with author Elana K. Arnold
Description: In an industry when authors are often encouraged to develop a “brand,” I’ve chosen to be a “free-range” author. Reflecting on the seventeen books I have written (published and forthcoming) and the books that I read as a child, teen, and adult, I will discuss why I write across so many categories (picture books, chapter books, middle grade, YA, contemporary, fairy tale/fantasy, supernatural), as well as the advantages and drawbacks of “free-ranging.”

10:05 – 10:15 Break

10:15 – 11:05 Breakouts 1 (Choose One)

Picture Book Breakdown” with agent Marcia Wernick (Picture Books)
Description: Marcia will do an analysis of the different picture book structures in traditional narratives, retellings, concept, and nonfiction picture books to see how they function and what they need.

Characters: In the Driver’s Seat” with authors Jennifer Ziegler and Christina Soontornvat (Novels)
Description: A presentation on character development/function

Advice from a Bookseller (Stuff Bookstores Want You to Know But Might Not Tell You)” with author and bookseller Joy Preble (Professional Development)
Description: From community building to partnering for events and school visits, to hand selling your books, advocating for authors and more, booksellers and bookstores (particularly independent bookstores) are a key element in an author’s success. This session will discuss the secrets of building real and meaningful partnerships with your local bookstores, and help both debut and seasoned authors navigate that relationship and mine it to its fullest.

Illustrator Boot Camp, How to Become a Better Illustrator” with illustrator Marsha Riti (Illustrators)
Description: Whether you are new to illustration, or have been doing this for a while but are in a rut, Illustrator Bootcamp is for you! This breakout session will teach you: essential critiquing techniques, how to hone your critical eye so you can pinpoint exactly what your illustrations need, and core drawing skills for tackling tricky subjects so you can become a better illustrator.

11:05 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:05 “Your Publishing Questions Answered” panel
Description: Agents Marcia Wernick, Sarah LaPolla, editors Mallory Kass and Alvina Ling, and art director Lucy Cummins will discuss the industry, their jobs and more. Moderated by P. J. Hoover

12:05 – 1 Lunch, including SCBWI PAL member celebration and Betty X Davis Award winners

1 – 1:10 Announcements and door prize drawing

1:10 – 2 Keynote: “S is for Selina” with author/illustrator Selina Alko
Description: My childhood influences and how I became a Children’s Book Illustrator

2 – 2:10 Break

2:10 – 3 Breakouts 2 (Choose One)

“Teen Voice” with agent Sarah LaPolla (Novels)
The teen voice can be one of the hardest things to get right, but it doesn’t have to be! For the first time in the short history of MG & YA, even the oldest of your readers were born in the 21st century. Your characters should reflect that perspective and worldview, and their voice should be modern without relying on slang that will change by the end of this sentence. In this breakout, we’ll talk about writing in a way that meets teen readers at their level, even if you still use a flip-phone or think going viral requires an antibiotic.

From Stand Up to Sit Down: Funneling Surprise and Stand-Up Comedy into Humorous Picture Books. ” with author Cate Berry (Picture Books)
Description: In this break out session we’ll look at clips and interviews from professional comics that translate into practical craft elements for humorous picture book writing. We’ll look at research behind what makes people laugh and several elements of humorous surprise techniques— hopefully saving your funny-as-a-lead-balloon manuscript from its premature death.

A Day in the Life of an Editor” with editor Mallory Kass (Professional Development)
Description: Ever wonder what an editor does all day? Mallory Kass gives a behind-the-scenes peek into the life of an editor.

Digital Painting in Photoshop” with illustrator Thomas Jung (Illustrators)
Description: An introduction and demonstration of digital painting techniques and tools in Adobe Photoshop for all levels.

3 – 3:05 Break

3:05 – 3:55 Breakouts 3 (Choose One)

Writing A Series” panel with Chandler Baker, Mari Mancusi, Jennifer Ziegler, and Christina Soontornvat (moderator P. J. Hoover)(All Writers)
Wonder how to keep a series fresh with each and every book? Ever think about the pros and cons of writing a series? If you’ve ever wanted to write a series, don’t miss this informative sessions.

Self-Editing Before Querying” with agent Sarah LaPolla (Novels)
Description: In this breakout, we’ll discuss common reasons for rejections at the query stage and how minor edits can go a long way!

Ask the Agent” with agent Marcia Wernick (Professional Development)
Description: Sit face to face and heart to heart, and find out what you need to know about agent representation. Be ready with all your questions!

What makes a good picture book?” with editor Alvina Ling (Illustrators)
Description: “Good” can be subjective, but I’ll discuss what makes a book good in my opinion, as well as discuss the picture book market and what helps make a “marketable” picture book.

3:55 – 4:15 Cookie break (Last chance to bid on Silent Auction items)

4:15 – 5:05 General Session: “New, Now, Next: What’s Happening In Books Right Now, And How To Find A Niche ” with art director Lucy Cummins
Description: A discussion of current book trends in middle grade and picture books. What’s selling, and what publishers are looking for, market-wise from both a text and illustration perspective.

5:05 – 5:20 Closing, including announcement of Portfolio Showcase and Emerging Voice Illustrator Mentorship winners and the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award finalists.

5:20 – 6:45 Book signings, Silent Auction winners announced (Purchases MUST be collected during this time)

7 – 9 Networking Dinner (pre-paid ticket required)

*Critiques and consultations will be held throughout Saturday. You will receive your time at registration. Please be at the critique area at least 5 minutes before your critique or consultation to make sure you don’t miss it. Missed critiques or consultations can NOT be rescheduled.

Sunday Sessions**

8:30 – 9 Registration (for Sunday-only attendees)

9 – 12 Intensives 1 (3 hours – Choose One)

Novel Track:Listening to Your Story’s Heart Line” with author Elana K. Arnold
Description: One thing I’ve found to be true over and over again is that I have no idea how to write a book until after I have written it. Each time, the book teaches me how it needs to be written and what I need to do to become the writer it deserves. In this intensive, I will share stories from my own projects to illustrate the various challenges and solutions I have faced. I’ll talk about potential “doors” you may have taken (knowingly or unknowingly) into your story, as well as the dangerous “trap door” you should avoid at all costs. We will look at the shape of several of my books, other authors’ books you love, and your own work-in-progress, then diagram their “heart lines” and work together to make a revision plan. Each book I write makes me a better writer and a better person. I truly believe that we are drawn to the books we need to write… and a first draft is not yet the destination. Assignment: This intensive is for writers with a completed draft of at least one manuscript. Please have your manuscript accessible (laptop or hard copy). Please write and print a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel, as well. Also bring a copy of a published novel (middle grade, YA, or adult) that you love. Bring paper and a writing utensil. This intensive will focus on revision plans for a middle grade or YA novel.

Picture Book Track:From Fabulously Funny to Deeply Dark and Sensitive: How One Writer Can Create Many Characters and Character Journeys” with author Bethany Hegedus
Description: It’s not just the novelists that need to show range. Picture book writers/creators do too. So how does one plumb their creative well to create a body of work that will grab and agent and/or editor’s attention? How can we create characters that embody childhood emotional journeys from happy to sad, scared to content? How can we use all we have as a writer/creative: our happy memories, fearful ones? How do we call upon our own childhoods, observe the childhoods of today’s children, and keep in mind both the market, the world we are living in, and the future world we hope to contribute to? Bethany, with the group, will explore the character ARCS and themes of some recent bestsellers and books that have broken the mold: from fiction to non-fiction. In addition, we will do some character work, exploring how to bring the funny if we feel more sensitive and serious and how to stretch our lyrical muscles and explore darker themes without being didactic. Feel free to bring two manuscripts with you to work with in this intensive or use the ideas presented to generate new work.

Illustrator Track: “‘Self-Promotion: Selling Yourself to Me (and Others Like Me) Easily & Cheaply’ and Picture Book, or Middle-Grade Assignment” with art director Lucy Cummins
Description: PART 1: In this talk, Lucy focuses on self-promotion techniques. An art director will tell you exactly what to do (and not do) to get publisher attention and get work.
PART 2: Lucy focusses on idea development in this assignment. She has provided a middle-grade novel jacket prompt and a picture book spread and character development prompt (choose one to complete), which will be emailed. (If you have not received this information, or are just now signing up, please request by emailing: NOTE: The work to be done is sketched ideas brought with you day-of and not finished illustration. Critique will be offered in-session only. (Which is different from previous conferences where things were submitted ahead of time.)

12 – 1 Lunch

1 – 3 Intensives 2 (2 hours – Choose One)

Novel Track:Honing your character’s voice across all age levels” with editor Mallory Kass

Picture Book Track:How to edit and revise your picture book” with editor Alvina Ling
Description: Alvina will discuss the editing and revision process and give tips on how to edit your picture book text.

Illustrator Track:  “Picture Book Collage Demo and How-To” with author/illustrator Selina Alko
Description: Selina shares a demo showing how she works (making her own collage papers and also using all sorts of ephemera). In the second half she provides tips, tricks and join-in exercises for a time of experimentation with the medium. Bring your own material: (what you have on hand from this list) acrylic paint (variety of colors); newspaper (a stack to be used to make painted papers); rollers / brayers (1 per person); paper plates (to mix + roll paint); paint brushes; containers for water; glue sticks; scissors

** Pitch/consultations will be held throughout Sunday. You will receive your time at registration on either Saturday for full-conference attendees or Sunday for Sunday-only attendees. Please be at your pitch area at least 5 minutes before your pitch to make sure you don’t miss it. Missed pitches can NOT be rescheduled.

You can view the full bios on all our speakers here, and you can register for the conference here. Got questions? Read our FAQ.