Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2019 Conference Schedule

Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference 2019

Austin SCBWI’s 2019 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 click on their names below to read their Q&As. Register for the conference here. Need a place to stay or got questions? Read our FAQ.

Saturday Sessions*

7:30 – 8:30 Registration (8 – 8:25 Conference orientation and Q&A)

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.

9:15 – 10:05 Keynote: “Writing for Young People: Career and Vocation” with author Mitali Perkins
Description: Mitali Perkins presents seven career hacks that have helped her keep publishing during changing times in the industry, and challenges writers to take hold of a vocational calling that will sustain them through the years

10:05 – 10:15 Break

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

Breaking Through and Breaking Out” with agent Lorin Oberweger (Novels)
Description: Take your writing from “almost there” to ALL THE WAY. This workshop is for the solid mid-list author, the “I liked this so much but didn’t LOVE it” writer, and/or the ones who have worked and worked and feel THIS close to success. In this workshop, we’ll explore Lorin’s “WAGE” technique, talk about the common craft elements that keep writers from succeeding, and help you add critical skills to your writing arsenal. Please bring a laptop or notepad (or both) and your willingness to go deep and work hard.

Two Imprints, One Editor: A Conversation with Editor Sarah Jane Abbott and Authors Chris Barton and Samantha M Clark(All Writers)
Description: Simon & Schuster Associate Editor Sarah Jane Abbott works with two different imprints—Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books. She assists on multiple books for other editors along the entire publishing process, including work by Chris Barton at Beach Lane, and as an acquiring editor at Paula Wiseman Books, Sarah Jane champions her own list, including the middle-grade novel THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST by Samantha M Clark. In this chat, Sarah Jane, Chris Barton and Samantha M Clark will discuss their work with both imprints.

Social Media and the World of Children’s Lit: How to Work It and Make It Work For You” with author Lindsay Leslie (Professional Development)
Description: Author Lindsay Leslie will break social media down – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, OH MY! – and help you figure out what is the best use of time based on how you like to work and communicate. In addition, she will show you some tricks of the trade to get noticed, stay engaged, and open doors to editors and agents. Get ready to get social!

First ‘Pages’ For Illustrators” with agent Sean McCarthy (Illustrators)
Description: This “first look” session provides an opportunity for illustrators to have their work reviewed and commented on by agent Sean McCarthy. You’ll get to see what catches the eye of an agent as he’s seeing an illustration for the first time. He will also give feedback on what he identifies as problem areas in the pieces. Illustrators are invited to submit up to three of their strongest samples for review—though they may not all receive feedback, depending on number of illustrations submitted for the session overall. Samples may be sent to Illustrator Coordinator C.S. Jennings at between April 1 and May 1.

11:05 – 11:10 Break

11:10 – 12:00 Breakouts 1 (Choose One)

A Little Louder Please” with editor Mekisha Telfer (Novels)
Description: How to turn the dial up on voice in your novel and make your characters really stand out.

Poetry Power” with authors Sean Petrie and Kari Anne Holt (All Writers)
Want to break through writer’s block? Add some panache to your prose? On-the-spot poetry does both! Discover how the process of creating instant poetry can help you get words on the page, add sparkle to what you’ve already got, and generate new story ideas. Plus, it’s just plain fun. There will be vintage typewriters on hand, if you want to try it old-school style! Led by Sean Petrie and Kari Anne Holt, children’s authors and co-founders of Typewriter Rodeo.

Everything In Its Place: An Overview of Agenting and Publishing” with agent Sean McCarthy (Professional Development)
Description: This presentation and Q&A will give a broad look at a literary agent’s perspective to crafting a long-term career in children’s publishing across genres, including some potential deal-breaker missteps to avoid along the way. We will talk about changing market conditions, best practices to determine viable projects, and how to read between the lines on responses and rejections.

Dynamic Duos in Picture Books: Elements That Make a Good Time” with author/illustrator Vanessa Roeder (Illustrators)
Description: George and Martha, Elephant and Piggie, Wolfie and Dot. Dynamic duos saturate children’s literature. Why do these pairs work so well? What makes their relationship so compelling? What can we learn from literary relationships that we can infuse into our own manuscripts and illustrations? Dynamic means characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. A great duo will work in such a way where one or both of the characters will experience growth. But what are some tried and true elements that can trigger this type of growth? We’re going to explore some classic duos and see what makes them stand the test of time. As we discuss elements such as juxtaposition, humor, conflict, and heart, we’ll get creative with some exercises to make our own duos dynamic.

12:00 – 12:10 Break

12:10 – 1:00 Lunch, including SCBWI PAL member celebration and Betty X Davis Award winners

1 – 1:10 Announcements and door prize drawing

1:10 – 2 General Session: “Your Publishing Questions Answered” panel
Description: Agents Lorin Oberweger, Sean McCarthy and Ann Rose, editors Sarah Jane Abbott and Mekisha Telfer, and art director Kirk Benshoff discuss the industry, their jobs and more. Moderated by Samantha M Clark

2 – 2:10 Break

2:10 – 3 Breakouts 2 (Choose One)

“In Cahoots With the Reader: The Art of Exposition” with author Susan Fletcher (Novels)
It’s often said that writers create fictional worlds, but that’s only part of the story. In truth, reader and writer are in cahoots; together, they co-create a world. This lecture will explore the art of exposition, including techniques that entice the reader to join in the act of creation. I’ll identify eight techniques and then go beyond, to more rarified ground, including art, judgment, and courtesy to the reader. If there is time, I’ll invite the audience to co-create as well, through writing exercises.

Tammi’s Top Picture Book Secrets” with author Tammi Sauer (Picture Books)
Description: Tammi Sauer will unveil her favorite picture book secrets for writers and illustrators. She will focus on the key picture book components, explore what to include in a picture book’s beginning, middle, and end, and offer strategies for building the much-sought-after heart and humor into manuscripts.

Quelling Your Query Conundrums” with agent Ann Rose (Professional Development)
Description: Dread no more and tame the query beast during the Quelling Your Query Conundrums session with Ann Rose of Prospect Agency. She will highlight the do’s and don’ts of querying so your submission will rise above the slush. Ann will workshop willing participant’s queries to optimize the chance of an offer of representation. If your query could use a spit shine, email your query letter to Assistant Regional Advisor Gayleen Rabakukk at between April 1 and April 15. Names will be withheld and all queries will remain anonymous. Submission is not a guarantee that your query will be used.

For the Love of Chapter Books” with art director Kirk Benshoff (Illustrators)
Description: Chapter books for young and early readers are growing and growing with lots of potential for cool illustrator projects. We will talk about the format and where it’s going and what publishers are considering when looking at potential projects.

3 – 3:05 Break

3:05 – 3:55 Breakouts 3 (Choose One)

Minutiae and You…tiae” with author Jo Whittemore (Novels)
Description: While it’s important to focus on big picture elements of storytelling (plot, character, setting), details are what add depth to a story and take it to the next level. Learn how and where to look for places in your writing where you can enhance your story without slowing it down.

“Picture Book Patterns” with author Chris Barton (Picture Books)
Description: One thing that SHARK VS. TRAIN and THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS have in common is their pattern. Despite being very different in tone and substance and family, both books have a circular pattern — the stories end by recalling their beginnings. When we reflect on the patterns of the stories we read, we give ourselves more tools to use for the stories we write. The more patterns a writer knows, the better they’ll be able to recognize the right one(s) (could be a hybrid) for telling a particular story, regardless of which family it falls in.

From Submission to Acquisition” with editor Mekisha Telfer (Professional Development)
Description: Learn about the business of book acquisitions and what editors are doing behind the scenes between the moment your manuscript lands in their inbox and when you have an offer in-hand.

I Is For Illustrator” with author/illustrator Emma Virján (Illustrators)
Description: This breakout session will discuss tips, techniques, inspiration and practices that will help develop your skills as a children’s illustrator.

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

4:15 – 5:05 Keynote: “A Slow Growing Mass of Tangible Thoughts” with author/illustrator Dan Santat
Description: Lessons learned from a career of adapting to a constantly changing publishing industry.

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:Get Your Novel Submission-Ready: Structure, Setting, and Snappy Dialog” with author Mitali Perkins
Description: In this intensive, we will focus on strengthening story structure, anchoring scenes with a strong sense of place, and creating momentum with excellent, real-time dialog. You’ll enjoy in-class guided writing exercises and constructive feedback on your work. You’ll leave with a plan of action to improve your MG/YA novel so that it’s ready to submit to agents or editors.

Picture Book Track:Writing the Irresistible Picture Book Manuscript” with author Tammi Sauer
Description: Do you want an agent or an editor to fall head over heels for your latest picture book manuscript? Start by coming up with a fresh idea and making those first fifty words irresistible! In this session, we will explore a variety of idea-getting strategies, delve into a wide range of picture book structures, discuss ways to give beginnings some va-va-va-voom, and push our manuscripts to woo you-know-who. (Each attendee should bring a work-in-progress and writing tools.)

Illustrator Track: “Form Follows Function” with author/illustrator Dan Santat
Description: In depth exploration of art and writing for picture books. Understanding why books work by studying the structure of the balance of words and art.
BRING WITH YOU: Something with which to take notes. A sketchbook or paper, and things to draw with.
Dan’s sessions will be a presentation, but he may open it up to do some drawing or development on the spot.

12 – 1 Lunch

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

Novel Track: “(Un)Stuck In the Middle” with agent and author Lorin Oberweger
Description: In this workshop, agent and author Lorin Oberweger will present strategies to help keep promising early chapters from melting into a mushy middle. Bring your WIP and be prepared to explore methods for building your novel’s premise and other story elements to make certain you’re creating the foundation for a rich work, filled with escalating stakes and complications; developing fully formed characters whose backstories, desires, and motivations are powerful enough to support a compelling narrative; and more! 

Picture Book Track:If At First You Don’t Succeed, Revise, Revise Again” with editor Sarah Jane Abbott
Description: As a picture book writer, sometimes you’ll have a character or a story you love, but the manuscript just isn’t working. Instead of abandoning the idea, delve into intensive revisions! This workshop will provide tips and tricks for overhauling your manuscript. We’ll cover topics like strengthening character and plot and focusing the heart of the story, as well as various revision exercises like blind rewrites, changing the POV, making a dummy to check pacing, and more.

Illustrator Track: “Character Design: Getting More Personality In Your Protagonist” with art director Kirk Benshoff
Description: Kirk Benshoff will talk about character design, how it’s evolved, and show how basic fundamentals can push your protagonists and give them more depth, relate-ability, and learning potential to the reader. You’ll also learn how to articulate 
what is and is not working 
in your design.
BRING WITH YOU: Come with a character design. Plan to potentially speak to it. We will modify it during the intensive, so bring paper and things to draw with.


** 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. Need a place to stay or got questions? Read our FAQ.