Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2023 Conference Schedule

Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference 2023

Austin SCBWI’s 2023 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*

7:00 – 7:50 Registration (7:30 – 7:50 Conference orientation and Q&A)

7:50 – 8:00 Welcome announcements

8:00 – 8:35 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.

8:40 – 9:30 Keynote: “The Story of Your Life” with author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (IN-PERSON ONLY)
Description: e.E Charlton-Trujillo talks about story in this opening keynote.

9:30 – 9:40 Break

9:40 – 10:30 Breakouts 1 (Choose One)

Creating Strong Characters in Picture Books with authors Candy Wellins, Debbie Zapata, and author/illustrator Kristin Wauson (Picture Books)
Description: Characters are the heart of every story, and when picture books tell such short stories, those characters have to be strong from the first word and image. Learn how to create strong characters for picture books with this panel.

How to Write a Novel Without Getting Intimidated with author Samantha M Clark (Novels)
Description: Writing a story that’s 50,000 or even 90,000 words can seem daunting. Where do you start? How do you plan? How do you develop characters, build a world and corral all the details into a story that’ll keep readers turning pages? In this breakout, Samantha M Clark will give you tools to help guide you through your novel-writing process.

Thinking like a Writer: Tips and Tricks for Illustrators Who Have Their Own Stories to Tell with agent Rachel Orr (Illustrators)
Description: Would you like to illustrate your own stories, but have no idea where to start? Using inspiring examples from her clients’ work, Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency will share tips on how to generate ideas (including those stemming from portfolio pieces), utilize mentor and public domain texts, and create a solid picture-book dummy that can be shopped around for submission. She’ll also speak about thinking outside the picture-book box with genres that might be a more natural fit for your style, including novelty, graphic novels, and illustrated adult books. In addition, Rachel will speak about the different kinds of agents who represent illustrators, as well as how she works with her illustrator clients.

Writing Vs. Publishing with editor Anna Sargeant (Professional Development)
Description: What are the key differences between writing and publishing? How do you make the transition from being a writer to being an author? Come learn what we, as acquisitions editors, think through when considering whether your writing is ready to be published.

10:30 – 10:40 Break

10:40 – 11:30 Breakouts 2 (Choose One)

RHYME: Beyond Mechanics with author Melissa Coffey (Picture Books)
Description: Trochees and dactyls and anapests, oh my! Writing in rhyme can be intimidating. In this breakout, we’ll focus less on vernacular and more on rhyme’s many nuances. We’ll examine why authors choose to write in rhyme and how they mix it up; demystify a few industry (mis)perceptions; and explore how rhyme as a literary device can help tackle tough topics, elevate humor and deepen poignancy through sample mentor texts.

Building Worlds Readers Can Live In with authors P.J. Hoover, Kelis Rowe and S.G. Wilson (Novels)
Whether a story is set in our real world, an alien world or something in between, readers want story settings they can feel like they can live in. Join these three authors as they demystify the process of world-building.

Be Brave and PLAY! with agent Eliza Kinkz (Illustrators)
Description: How to bring life into your illustrations, and stories by listening to the child inside of you that still yearns to scribble. Bring paper, favorite art materials or just a good ole pencil, and be prepared to let loose.

Comfortable Collaboration: A Conversation with author Samantha M Clark and her agent, Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency (Professional Development)
Description: Samantha and Rachel have been working together for eight exciting years on a wide range of chapter books and middle-grade novels. They’ll chat about their close partnership, give tips for authors and illustrators seeking representation; and reveal their grand plan to someday travel through time. This is a talk you won’t want to miss!

11:30 – 11:40 Break

11:40 – 12:30 General Session: “Your Publishing Questions Answered” panel
Description: Agents Rachel Orr and Saba Sulaiman; editors Tiara Kittrell, Sydnee Monday, and Anna Sargeant; and art director Maria Middleton discuss the industry, their jobs and more. Moderated by Samantha M Clark

12:30 – 1:40 Lunch, including SCBWI PAL member celebration, door prizes and Betty X Davis Award winners

1:40 – 2:30 Keynote: A Piece of You, a Piece of Me: Finding Our Passions with illustrator Shannon Wright
Description: Shannon Wright wears her heart on her sleeve and that includes the things finds interest in. Within the past 4 years, she experienced major burnout and have just recently been finding her way out of the hole she was in. In this keynote, she will touch on trying to take this ball of interests and narrowing it down to bite size pieces and returning to making what she loves and hopes to continue to create for herself and others.

2:30 – 2:40 Break

2:40 – 3:30 Breakouts 3 (Choose One)

Breaking the Rules to Find Brilliance with author Lindsay Leslie (Picture Books)
Whether you are beginning your journey as a picture book writer or you’ve been around the block, we’ve been pummeled with the rules of the picture book writing road. But if we all followed the rules, we’d end up writing the same stuff over and over again. BORING! Author Lindsay Leslie will share some of those picture book rules, how to break them in the best of ways, and published picture books that have done it well.

Decoding Voice with agent Saba Sulaiman (Novels)
Description: In this presentation, we’ll talk about what it means to have a “strong voice,” how to identify one, and (most importantly) how to develop the strength of one’s own voice (hint: it’s absolutely do-able!)

Digital Portfolio Building with art directorMaria Middleton (Illustrators)
Description: Illustrators will learn how to craft, edit, and organize their best work in a suitable online platform by:

• Creating a cohesive catalog of images that includes more than one style, plus personal and professional work

• Learning the dos and don’ts of portfolio basics

• Discovering what an art director looks for when viewing potential work

TK” with editor Tiara Kittrell (Professional Development)
Description: TK

3:30 – 3:40 Break

3:40 – 4:30: Breakouts 4 (Choose One)

The Story of Your Life with author Carmen Oliver (Picture Books)
Description: In this breakout, Carmen Oliver will discuss writing lyrical picture books.

TK (Novels)
Description: TK

Creating the Illusion of Light with author/illustratorKristin Wauson (Illustrators)
Description: Turn on the lights! Explore how thoughtful use of lighting can help us tell better stories and learn how to approach using value and color to light your illustrations believably.

Don’t Get Knocked Down: How to Embrace Rejection and Make it Your Superpower with agent Saba Sulaiman (Professional Development)
Description: This presentation will give you the 4-1-1 on how to process, navigate, and wield the rejection you can expect to face as a writer (hint: it’s A LOT). But the good news is: there is no correlation between being rejected and being successful. Ask any bestselling author how many times their books have been rejected at any stage and they’ll chuckle knowingly because, well, it’s inevitable. Being rejected is part and parcel of being a professional author — with the right mindset and some helpful tips, you can learn to harness rejection to help you make the right decisions for yourself and your career.

4:30 – 4:40 Break (Last chance to bid on Silent Auction items)

4:40 – 5:30 Keynote: More Stories, Greater Truth with author Linda Sue Park
Description: Linda Sue Park will close out the first day of our conference with her wisdom and inspiration.

5:30 – 5:40 Closing Announcements, including Portfolio Showcase and Emerging Voice Illustrator Mentorship winners and the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award finalists.

5:40 – 6:30 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:Be Real” with author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (IN-PERSON ONLY)
Description: Mine authentic experiences to inspire fictional realities with interactive activities to ignite your first novel or persevere through your current one. #WriteBold

Picture Book Track:Stay Playful: Creating Experiences in Picture Books ” with author Carter Higgins
Description: TK

Illustrator Track: TK with illustrator Shannon Wright
Description: This intensive will focus on creating your very own 4-5 page comics with the inclusion of at least one character (more can be involved, but it’s good to start with one very strong character). You will touch on what they look like, their goal for the story they create, how their character plans to achieve that goal, and if they do or not. Shannon will be providing her own example of a 5 page story she created that follows these same requirements to help you along.

12 – 1 Lunch

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

Novel Track:Hands-on Revision Workshop” with author Linda Sue Park (IN-PERSON ONLY)
Description: Award-winning author Linda Sue Park will teach tools and techniques for making your novels better through revision.

Picture Book Track:Getting to the Heart of Your Story” with editor Sydnee Monday
Description: In this presentation, I’ll take the audience through free-write activities, and highlight through two picture book processes — how revision can help get to the heart of a story based on real events.

Illustrator Track: The Art of Illustrated Jackets with art director Maria Middleton
Description: Illustrators will receive a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing strong illustrated covers for picture books and middle-grade fiction. They will learn how to:

• Use the anatomy of a book to maximize its potential

• Understand the interaction of typography and art

• Turn on the flow of ideas

• Craft a visual pitch to guide the cover concept

• Create a series of cover sketches for group critique

** 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.