Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Novel Writing Retreat

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Date(s) - 11/10/2017 - 11/12/2017
12:00 am

Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center
5602 Hwy 317 N - Temple, TX 76502


Join us for our first Novel Writing Retreat

Nov. 10-12

Write, critique and learn from Little, Brown Editor Deirdre Jones and Bradford Literary Agency Agent Natalie Lakosil.

The retreat will include roundtable critiques, workshops, writing time, as well as a limited number of longer critiques and one-on-one meetings with our faculty.


About our Faculty

Natalie Lakosil, Agent at Bradford Literary Agency

Natalie is an agent at Bradford Literary Agency. She is drawn to talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialties are children’s literature (from picture book through teen and New Adult), romance (contemporary and historical), cozy mystery/crime, upmarket women’s/general fiction and select children’s and adult nonfiction. Her interests include historical, multi-cultural, magical realism, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, middle grade with heart, and short, quirky or character-driven picture books. She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, professionalism, good grammar, and fantastical, beautifully written, engaging and sexy plots.

Critique style: Honest? I like to comment on market viability as well, and always like writers to keep in mind this is subjective, and food for thought and reflection.

Natalie Lakosil
Natalie Lakosil


Deirdre Jones, Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Deirdre Jones is an editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she works on picture book, middle grade, and young adult projects. For picture books, she gravitates towards anything that will get kids (and adults) laughing, as well as creative spins on universal themes. She also loves unique nonfiction topics and picture book biographies written in a narrative style. For middle grade and young adult, she looks for stories that let her escape into a new world, making her a fan of fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, magical realism, and the occasional high-concept contemporary story, as well as fast-paced plots and strong writing.

Among others, she has edited Radiant Child by Caldecott award-winning artist Javaka Steptoe; Claymates by author Dev Petty and artist Lauren Eldridge; The Star Thief by debut author Lindsey Becker (agented by Natalie Lakosil!); the New York Times bestselling Frostblood by debut author Elly Blake; and World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives series. Find her online @DeirdreEJones.

Critique style: My critique style is encouraging. I try to point out aspects I like about a project as well as elements that could be improved. I do try to be honest but to frame my comments in a helpful light.

Deirdre Jones
Deirdre Jones


Breakout Sessions/Roundtables

Plotting and Pacing with Natalie Lakosil

Homework/Assignment: Chapter-by-chapter outline (roughly a paragraph per chapter) of novel.

This hands-on intensive walks through various methods for plotting and pacing using a chapter-by-chapter outline to help the writer plot for optimal pace and narrative arc development. These methods will include both emotional (character) and plot development tips and tricks. Writers will have a chance to apply methods discussed within the intensive.

Take-away: authors will leave with an arsenal of revision strategies for plotting and pacing development, along with direction to improve/revise existing (work-shopped) novel.


Revision Roundup: Common Missteps, Helpful Hints, and Editorial Lingo with Deirdre Jones

Editor Deirdre Jones from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will discuss a number of issues writers face when revising, both on their own and with an editor, such as common revision missteps, helpful techniques for taking a manuscript to the next level, and clues about what may feel like cryptic editorial feedback.



The roundtables will consist of about 6 authors.
Each author will have 15 minutes total to read from and have their work discussed.
A timer will be used to ensure each participate has equal time for their work.
Each author will participate in two of the four roundtables.
Either Natalie or Deirdre will be in one of the two roundtables.


Retreat Schedule

Friday, November 10, 2017

10:00-10:30 Registration

10:30-11:00 Welcome announcements

11:00-12:30 Plotting and Pacing with Natalie Lakosil

12:30-1:00 Break/Writing Time/Check-in

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-3:00 Break/Writing Time

3:00-4:40 Roundtable 1

4:40-6:00 Break/Writing Time

6:00-7:00 Dinner

Saturday, November 11, 2017

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:30 Revision Roundup with Deirdre Jones

10:40-12:20 Roundtable 2

12:20-1:00 Break/Writing Time

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-3:00 Break/Writing Time

3:00-4:40 Roundtable 3

4:40-6:00 Break/Writing Time

6:00-7:00 Dinner

Sunday, November 12, 2017

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:40 Roundtable 4

11:00-12:00 Q&A Session with Natalie and Deirdre

12:00-12:30 Farewell Announcements



A limited number of critiques will be provided by Natalie and Deirdre.
If you would like a critiques, please register early as they will sell out quickly.
Each critique will consist of the first 20 pages of your MG or YA manuscript along with an up to 2 page synopsis.
A 10-minute face-to-face meeting at the retreat will also be included.
October 10th will be the deadline for sending in critique pages. Details will be emailed to those who sign up for critiques.



Q: Do I have to participate in the Roundtables? I’d prefer to not read my work aloud in front of others.
A: Yes, participation in the roundtables is a required part of the retreat. The read-aloud selection will be about 3 minutes of reading time which will be about 2 full pages.

Q: The critiques are all sold out. Can more be added?
A: Once the critiques are sold out, no more may be added.

Q: What type of food will be served? What about those with dietary considerations?
A: Meals during the retreat will be provided, and there will be a variety of options. There will be gluten-free options.
If you have special dietary needs, please email Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover at after you register to let us know. We will do our best but cannot promise to accommodate every dietary need.
Meals provided will be Friday lunch and dinner, Saturday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and Sunday breakfast.
You will be responsible for bringing your own snacks.

Q: What type of beverages will be provided?
A: The Austin SCBWI chapter will bring wine and soda to share during Friday dinner, but please feel free to also BYOB.
Coffee during the day will be provided.

Q: How early can I arrive on Friday?
A: Room check-in will not be available until Friday afternoon, so there is no reason to arrive before the 10 am registration time.

Q: I am only able to stay for one evening. Can I get a discount?
A: This retreat has very limited available spaces, so attendance is reserved for writers who can participate in the full retreat.

Q: What are the sleeping arrangements? Will I have my own room? Can I request a roommate?
A: Each Cedarbrake Retreat Center room has two twin beds and a private bathroom. Attendees will share a room. There is one room that has four twin beds.
You may request a roommate, and while we cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to accomodate all requests, we will do our best.
For roommate requests, BOTH attendees must email Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover at
For special sleep considerations (such as snoring, light sleeper), please also email P. J. Hoover after you register to let her know. We will do our best to accommodate.

Q: Will I be able to submit my work to Natalie or Deirdre after the retreat?
A: Yes. Specific details will be give to attendees at the retreat.

Q: I’m not religious or I’m not Catholic, but I notice the retreat is at a Catholic retreat center. Will there be anything religious about the retreat?
A: No. The Catholic center is the location, so there may be religous symbols around, but there is nothing religious about the retreat. The space is a beautiful location with lots of walking paths and areas for quiet thought.

Got a question? Please email Austin Regional Advisor Samantha Clark at to ask.


Registration is now open.