Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Conference Schedule

Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference


Austin SCBWI’s 2020 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 Gayleen Rabakkuk)

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 M Clark

9:15 – 10:05 Keynote “Creativity is a Wild Mind & Disciplined Eye” with author Laurie Halse Anderson
Description: What I’ve learned from nearly thirty years of writing, publishing and trying to make a difference.

10:05 – 10:15 Break

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

First Impressions Matter: How to Perfect Your Opening Lines” with editor Tiffany Liao (Novels)
Description: What makes a good first paragraph? How can you establish your character and world while avoiding the dreaded Infodump? Is it true you should always begin a chapter with action? We’ll look at some different examples of beginning lines that work — and some that don’t — and learn how to craft an opening passage that will hook the reader. We’ll be doing in-class exercises, but attendees are encouraged to bring the first page of their works-in-progress.

Get In, Writer, We’re Going Plotting: Your Character In the Driver’s Seat” with author Lynne Kelly (Novels)
Description: All stories have obstacles, but every character responds differently to those obstacles. Whether you like to plan your whole novel before you start writing or figure it out as you go, the characters you create determine how your story unfolds. In this session we’ll work on developing characters that drive the plot, and plot points that reveal who our characters are.

Inside the Author-Agent Relationship” with agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill and authors Lindsay Leslie and Christina Soontornvat (Professional Development)
Description: Join agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill and her clients Lindsay Leslie and Christina Soontornvat as they discuss how they found each other, how they work together, and more. Moderated by Meredith Davis

Before the Book” with art director Danielle Carnito (Illustrators)
Description: What are some details you can take care of or prep you can do for a book project BEFORE you really get going on the illustrations? From contract basics to character sketches (and maybe even some points after that), I’ll talk about aspects of book project prep that will help make the illustration process more enjoyable for everyone working on it.

11:05 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:05 “Your Publishing Questions Answered” panel
Description: Agents Stephanie Fretwell-Hill and Laurel Symonds, editors Karen Chaplin and Tiffany Liao, imprint lead Cynthia Leitich Smith, and art director Danielle Carnito will discuss the industry, their jobs and more. Moderated by Samantha M Clark

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: “Drawn To Books” with author/illustrator Ben Clanton
Description: Ben Clanton shares about his publishing journey from reluctant reader to writer and illustrator with a focus on how his understanding and relationship with books has been changed and challenged.

2 – 2:10 Break

2:10 – 3 Breakouts 2 (Choose One)

“Revising One Step At a Time” with author P. J. (Tricia) Hoover (Novels)
A presentation on taking revisions one step at a time, even when they seem daunting and overwhelming.

Complex characters for complex readers: crafting memorable characters in picture books” with agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill (Picture Books)
Description: Why do some characters stay with readers long after the book has closed? In this session, we look at techniques for creating and writing character details to help your picture book come to life. Some of the topics we cover include finding inspiration; how to use voice, dialogue, and plot to create richer characters; and techniques for revealing character effectively (including through artwork).

Agents, Queries, and Contracts: Oh my!” with agent Laurel Symonds (Professional Development)
Description: A not-scary exploration of the role of a literary agent, how to write a successful query letter, finding the right agent match, selling a book, and how an agent works on your behalf even after your book is sold. Soon this process will feel like a walk in the park! There will be plenty of time for Q&A.

Illustrators and the editorial process 101″ with editor Karen Chaplin (Illustrators)
Description: A basic discussion of the editorial process for a picture book and how illustrators work within it.

3 – 3:05 Break

3:05 – 3:55 Breakouts 3 (Choose One)

From Castles to Condominiums: Building Immersive Worlds in Fiction” with agent Laurel Symonds (Novels)
Detailed world-building is essential to strong fiction—but it’s not just for fantasy and sci fi! Learn the key points to creating believable worlds and how the world influences plot and character.

Tell Me a True Story: The Nuts and Bolts of Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books” with author Donna Janell Bowman (Picture Books)
Description: Whether you’re writing an informational picture book about butterflies or a picture book biography about a butterfly scientist, how you focus and structure your text makes all the difference. Let’s explore ways to elevate your text from factual to fantastic.

Let’s Promote!” a panel with authors Meredith Davis, P.J. Hoover, Lynne Kelly, Lindsay Leslie, Christina Soontornvat (Professional Development)
Description: Five authors share their tips and techniques they’ve learned through marketing their own books. Moderated by Samantha M Clark

From Pictures to Words” with author/illustrator Don Tate (Illustrators)
Description: Don Tate presents his journey to becoming an illustrator, his steps to author/illustrator, and everything that came in between. Information for the burgeoning artist, the blooming writer, and those seeking to be both. Receive practical career tips and insight from one of the most prolific children’s book creators in the industry.

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

4:15 – 5:05 General Session: “20 Lessons From 20 Years” with author and Cynthia Leitich Smith
Description: Cynthia Leitich Smith gives us 20 lessons she’s learned over the 20 years she has been in the children’s book 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: “Harnessing the Power of Revision” with author Laurie Halse Anderson
Description: Practical tools and techniques to take your story to the next level

Picture Book Track: “Setting and Satisfying Expectations: How To Use Structure to Perfect our Picture Books” with author Liz Garton Scanlon
Description: A good idea is really just the beginning. We will use beginnings and endings, pacing and page turns, and language-level tools to take our picture book ideas to the next (submittable!) level.

Illustrator Track: “InterPLAY: Words and Pictures” with author/illustrator Ben Clanton
Description: In this hands-on workshop explore the different ways words and pictures can interact with a focus on creating characters and sparking spontaneity.

12 – 1 Lunch

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

Novel Track:Windows, Mirrors & Doors: Fundamentals to Writing Cross-Culturally” with editor Tiffany Liao
Description: If you’re supposed to “write what you know,” how can you write convincingly and respectfully from a perspective outside of your own? We’ll establish a craft-oriented approach to portraying diverse characters as it relates to character, plot, and voice. We’ll cover several writing exercises, as well as specific dos and don’ts to avoid blind spots and pitfalls.

Picture Book Track: “Picture Book First Draft: Writing and Editing a Picture Book” with editor Karen Chaplin
Description: We’ll look at writing a first draft of a picture book manuscript then getting it ready for an editor. Plus we’ll go through the editorial process and discuss how the illustrator/illustrations play in.

Illustrator Track: “Elements of Nonfiction Picture Books — for llustrators” with art director Danielle Carnito
Description: Illustrators will create a rough spread from text from one of two non-fiction published works. The roughs will be due a month before the conference. The day of the intensive, the art director will present her feedback on the submitted pieces. She’ll share the published spreads and talk about the process behind them. Illustrators will then work revisions on their piece in the intensive while she provides feedback and guidance. **After March 8, email the Austin chapter Illustrator Coordinator following your registration for assignment details.** All artwork and correspondence will be sent to the Austin chapter Illustrator Coordinator C.S. Jennings at with the subject line “Illustrator Intensive”. WHAT TO BRING: Paper and drawing tools SUBMISSION DEADLINE: April 2

** 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.