Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 Conference Schedule

Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference 2021


Austin SCBWI’s 2021 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference schedule consists of keynotes and panels for all attendees, plus breakouts geared for Picture Book writers, Novel writers, Illustrators or Professional Development. You can view the full bios on all our speakers here, and you can register for the conference here. Got questions? Read our FAQ.

NOTE: All sessions are being recorded and will be available for two (2) weeks after the conference EXCEPT sessions with NR (No Recording) by the title.



5:00 – 7:00 PM
Orientation Happy Hour (Everyone)
Join us online for a chance to test your tech to get ready for the conference and meet and mingle online with fellow attendees


7:00 – 7:15 AM
Welcome! Plus Door Prizes (Everyone)

Join us as we celebrate the start of our conference with announcements and door prizes.

7:15 – 7:50 AM
PAL Celebration (Everyone)

Help us celebrate and honor our PAL members who had a book published over the last year. Learn from their experiences.

20-minute break

8:10 – 9:00 AM
KEYNOTE: “Write the Story Only You Can Tell” with author Kelly Starling Lyons – NR (Everyone)

Early in my children’s book writing journey, I heard the advice, “Write the story only you can tell.” It connected with me in a deep and meaningful way and has resonated ever since. Each of us has struggles and victories, history and hopes that make us who we are. In my keynote, I’ll share my path to publication and how my life and perspective inform the stories I create. Along the way, I’ll offer tips on mining your life and encouragement to believe in the power of your voice.

20-minute break

9:20 – 10:10 AM
BREAKOUT: Assembling Your Team – Finding the Right Agent for You with agent Susan Graham (Professional Development)
How to research agents, some common Do’s & Don’ts, serving your work, & the questions to ask once an agent (or two) pays attention.

20-minute break

10:30 – 11:20 AM
BREAKOUT: Becoming a Published Author Through Educational Publishing with Carol Kim (Professional Development)
Becoming a published children’s book author is a long and slow journey for most of us. But there is one path that gives writers faster access to publication: educational publishing. Learn about what this market is, how to break into it, and whether it is the right path for you.
BREAKOUT: From Concept to Dummy: How to Take Your Picture Book to the Next Level with art director Véronique Lefèvre Sweet (Illustration)
In this presentation, associate art director Veronique Sweet will give an overview of what makes a great picture book, from details to the whole project. She will explore rhythm, visual storytelling, and the various stages of creating a book. Additionally, she will discuss common mistakes and how to fix them.

20-minute break

11:40 – 12:30 PM
BREAKOUT: Tips & Techniques: Novelists Share Their Secrets panel with authors Adrianna Cuevas, Jason June and Britta Jensen (Novels)
There is no right way to write a novel, and there are probably as many writing processes as there are finger printers. For novelists, it’s all about finding what works for them. These three authors share their best tips and techniques so you can try them yourself and see if they work for you.
BREAKOUT: To Do’s and Don’ts for Children’s Illustrators with agent Adria Goetz (Illustration)
This workshop aims to give guidance to illustrators on how to navigate the publishing industry, build their portfolio, appeal to agents, editors and art directors. The instructor will share real client experiences, and will help you avoid some common mistakes. Attendees will walk away from the workshop with a list of tangible things they can do to make progress in their careers and portfolios.

45-minute lunch

1:15 – 1:30 PM
Announcements, door prizes and BXD Awards 

1:30 – 2:20 PM
KEYNOTE: The Open Book Keynote with author/illustrator LeUyen Pham (Everyone)
This is an opportunity to get first hand answers to anything that has ever puzzled you about this picture book world from direct experience.

20-minute break

2:40 – 3:30 PM
BREAKOUT: Two Tools for Tension & Pacing with editor Karen Boss (Picture Books)
Does your picture book or novel have enough tension (or any at all)? What is tension, and how is it different from pacing? Learn the answers to these questions and walk away with two tools for considering the tension and pacing in your WIP.

20-minute break

3:50 – 4:40 PM
BREAKOUT: Lights! Camera! Illustrate! Influencing Your Illustrations through Cinematic Storytelling with author/illustrator Vanessa Roeder (Illustration)
Setting the scene, framing the shot, using light and color to capture the mood. Approaching illustration as a filmmaker can hone your skills as a visual storyteller. In this presentation, we’ll explore tricks and tools filmmakers use to tell beautiful cinematic stories and learn how to apply them to create our own captivating illustrations. We’ll examine memorable movie scenes and break them down into the basic elements like composition, framing, lighting, color, and transitions and see how those elements translate into enchanting illustrations.
BREAKOUT: Finding the Plot (After You’ve Lost It) with author Jenny Elder Moke (Novels)
If you ever find yourself saying “But what happens next??” or “can’t my characters just hang out and be moody??” then this is the workshop for you! We’ll talk about what makes a plot, why it’s not the boogeyman you think it is, how it’s tied to your character development, and how to keep your story moving (especially through that murky middle). We’ll also share some tips and tricks for how to make your story the kind to keep your readers up way too late because they just NEED to know what happens next. Elder Moke’s books have been called “a twisty, fast-paced adventure” by School Library Journal, “an exciting read from beginning to end” by Kirkus Reviews, and “pure fun from start to finish” by #1 NYT Bestselling author of the Caraval Series, Stephanie Garber. She loves plot the way people love their cats and has made it her personal mission to convert the rest of the world into plot-lovers.

20-minute break

5:00 – 5:50 PM
BREAKOUT: Writing for the Youngest Readers panel authors Carol Kim, Kari Lavelle and Jason June, and author/illustrators Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books)
Writing for children is all about making sure the voice and content is right for our readers, not just that it’s age-appropriate. From picture books to early readers to chapters, fiction and nonfiction, these authors have enchanted the youngest readers. Learn how they do it, so you can too.

5:50 – 6:00 PM
First day closing announcements
After a packed day, we’ll prepare for day 2.


7:00 – 7:10 AM
Welcome back, Door Prizes

7:10-7:50 AM
GENERAL SESSION: “Your Publishing Questions Answered” panel (Everyone)
Agents Adria Goetz and Susan Graham; editors Karen Boss, Kat Brzozowski and Joanna Cárdenas; and art director Véronique Lefèvre Sweet answer your questions about craft and publishing.

20-minute break

8:10 – 9:00 AM
BREAKOUT: How to Write a Great Query Letter with agent Adria Goetz (Professional Development)
Writing a great query letter is an art and a science, and this workshop examines the core elements every strong query letter has, and how to add that extra pizzazz that will capture the attention of an agent or editor. Real examples from the instructor’s inbox, both good and bad, will be shared, as well as a specific formula workshop attendees can plug their information into in order to generate a great query letter.
BREAKOUT: Selling A Graphic Novel: & Infinite Exceptions with agent Susan Graham (Graphic Novels, Illustration)
Pitching a project with teamwork as the standard and writing and drawing from there.

20-minute break

9:20 – 10:10 AM
BREAKOUT: Marketing Your Book on a Budget with author Kelly Starling Lyons (Professional Development)
You don’t need to spend lots of money to promote your book. You just need to use some elbow grease and think creatively. Blog tours, trailers, targeted giveaways, e-blasts, launch parties. I’ve done them all. In this workshop, I’ll share free and low-cost ways to get your book on readers’ radars.

20-minute break

10:30 – 11:20 AM
BREAKOUT: Countdown to Publication with editor Joanna Cárdenas (Professional Development)
Do you ever wonder what’s happening behind the scenes after your manuscript goes to copyediting but before it becomes a finished book on shelves? There might be stretches of time when you aren’t hearing as often from your in-house team, but that doesn’t mean your book is at a standstill. Join Joanna Cárdenas, Senior Editor at Kokila, as she walks through the publishing timeline to reveal what’s happening when it might feel quieter on your end and suggests ways you can make the most of this part of the publishing process.
BREAKOUT: Feel the Feelings: Crafting Picture Books with author Bethany Hegedus (Picture Books)
Editors and agents are on the hunt for picture books that gracefully handle an array of feelings: anger, empathy, understanding. Books touching on these topics routinely hit the NYT best-seller lists. Bethany believes the successes in this market space are not a publishing trend but a reflection of our society’s aim to focus on kindness and inclusion in an even more divided world, but how do we craft them? How do we structure a picture book that will capture difficult emotions? And touch reader and gatekeeper hearts? Join us as we explore this ever expanding market space and get tips for writing our own drafts.

20-minute break

11:40 – 12:30 PM
KEYNOTE: Write Free, and Find Your Shetland Pony in that Pile of Poop! with author Crystal Allen (Everyone)
Humor is abundant, in everything, even the worst situations. Our job is to find it and use it to enhance the reading experience for our readers.

12:30 – 12:35 PM
Keynote and breakouts close


1:15 – 4:15 PM Intensives 1 (3 hours – Choose One)
Novel Track: “Getting Personal With Your Main Character, Plus More” with author Crystal Allen
All attendees must present as their main character throughout the presentation. They cannot come to this presentation as themselves. Questions will be asked, and answered, as the main character only. Writing exercises must be in the voice and personality of the main character.
Picture Book Track: “Rising from the Wreckage: How to Successfully Revise Your Picture Book” with author Pat Zietlow Miller
Writing a draft of the story in your head is often the easy part. The hard part is revising that story until it’s the best-possible version of itself so it can sell. And how do you even know when you’ve achieved that goal? This presentation talks about the two types of revision every story needs and shares actionable tips to help your story rise from the wreckage and stand tall and proud. ATTENDEE NOTE: Please bring a manuscript you’re working on to this session.
Illustrator Track: “The Whole Picture” with author/illustrator LeUyen Pham
Understanding how composition works and how to keep the eye trained on the page can help you communicate far more than words can. This session will cover basic tips of composition — first reads, second reads, eye path, etc – that every illustrator should know. These basics can turn even the simplest of styles or designs into very sophisticated interpretations.

20-minute break

4:35 – 6:35 PM Intensives 2 (2 hours – Choose One)
Novel Track:Revision Intensive” with editor Joanna Cárdenas
Learn more about one editor’s revision process in this two-hour intensive on what comes after the first draft. In the first hour, Joanna Cárdenas, Senior Editor at Kokila (Penguin Random House), will share insights on what to consider when revisiting your work and polishing it for delivery. In the second hour, Joanna will facilitate a hands-on workshop to look at a project of your choice. Attendees will need to submit a one-page sample text (e.g. the first page of a novel or a short picture book text) prior to the session.
Picture Book Track: “Four Factors for Fabulousness” with editor Karen Boss
Take a dive into four important factors in making every picture-book manuscript sing: beginnings, character, plot, and endings. Consider these aspects of your WIP with a fresh perspective and walk away rejuvenated and feeling renewed energy to revise!
Illustrator Track: “Character Study and Opening Spreads for a Picture Book” with art director Véronique Lefèvre Sweet
For this workshop, you will be asked to create character studies and sketches for a couple of spreads for a provided manuscript. You will be able to chose between 2 manuscripts, to increase the chances that one of them will be inspiring for you.

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