Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Fall Conference – Breakout Descriptions and Schedule

Conference Home ]  Registration ]  Sessions/Schedule ]    [ Faculty Bios ]   Critiques ]   Portfolio Showcase ]   [FAQs ]



Click here for a downloadable version.




SCBWI North Texas’s 2020 Virtual Conference Saturday schedule consists of a keynote and panel for all attendees, plus breakouts geared to more individual needs. Each breakout period has two writer sessions and one illustrator  session or a session for everyone. 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. Please note: Any times/sessions listed are subject to change.


Keynote with Author/Illustrator Arree Chung

Arree shares his path becoming a picture book author/illustrator and his journey in building two successful online businesses. Arree shares his background as a son of Chinese Immigrants and the expectations placed upon him to follow a traditional career. In this inspiring and practical keynote, Arree will give antidotes on overcoming limiting beliefs, imposter syndrome and growing a healthy relationship with money and creativity.


Breakout Sessions

Please note: Some breakout sessions will be presented concurrently

Have a “Heart”: Writing Picture Books with a Message in Mind with editor Sara Jane Abbot (Picture Book)

As creators of picture books, we have the privilege and responsibility of making books that children will read at an important and formative time in their lives.  When writing a manuscript with a message in mind, how can we communicate that message in a non-didactic way while telling a fun and entertaining story?  In this session, we’ll talk about writing picture books with “heart,” rather than with a “moral.” We’ll explore different techniques to incorporate heart into a story, from metaphor to symbolism to allegory, and talk about crafting stories with multiple levels of meaning that are open-ended enough to spark discussion.


Humor in the Hard Places – with Editor Daniel Nayeri (Novel)

How do you write a book with deep and meaningful truths, about topics that are complicated, without burdening your young reader? How do you talk about real pain, but use your story to show a path toward resilience and personal growth? How do you find funny in the midst of suffering? In this session, we’ll discuss insights into these topics, as I discovered them in the writing of EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE: A True Story. 


The Colorful Tale: Storytelling with Color – with Author/Illustrator Jen Betton (Illustrators)

Color provides impact, mood, and is a way of focusing attention. This presentation will focus on the application of color: shadows, temperature shifting, atmosphere, time of day, and use of symbolic or emotional color. We will discuss picking a palette and common color mistakes as well as painting tips and tricks. Examples will be drawn from fine art, animation, and classic illustration. Suitable for beginners or advanced students who wish to learn more about light and color. 


Re-Envision: tips and tricks for revising your novel with Agent Natalie Lakosil (Novel)

A session that moves through tips and advice for novel revision, covering character, voice, plot, pacing, conflict, and inside agent tips. 


Industry  Panel 

Agents Christa Heschke and Natalie Lakosil plus Editors Sara Jane Abbot and Daniel Nayeri weight in on questions regarding industry trends, publishing in the time of COVID, etc. Want to ask a question? Submit it to with the subject line “2020 Industry Panel”!


Finding Your Voice within Middle Grade and YA with Agent Christa Heschke

In this session, Christa Heschke (McIntosh & Otis) will break down the differences between MG and YA from word count to subject matter, themes, and age range. 


How I became an Illustrator with Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrators)

Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton shares her journey to becoming an illustrator and the ups and downs of the business and the struggles she overcame.


Self-publishing 101 with Author Karlie Lucas (Novels)

What I wished I’d known when I started self publishing, a look into the basics of self-publishing and all it entails. The idea of self-publishing is often daunting and most people don’t know where to start. Come learn the basics and what all self-publishing, or Independent Publishing, entail, from setup to distribution and marketing. Beginner or expert, there’s always something new to learn.


Creating Timeless Picture Book Characters for a New Generation with Author Erin Golden (Picture Book)

We all remember our favorite picture book characters from childhood, classic characters like Winnie the Pooh, Corduroy, the Cat in the Hat, and many more. So how do we create these unforgettable characters in our picture books today? This session will explore the qualities that endear picture book characters to children and make those characters memorable to readers of all ages. By looking at mentor texts and studying some essential elements of character creation and development, attendees will come away with new methods for crafting timeless characters kids will want to read about over and over.


Creating Cohesion and Connective Tissue Throughout Your Novel with Author Sean Easley (Novel)

Getting dressed? Choose coordinating colors. Cooking dinner? Pick flavors that complement one another. Writing a novel? Match elements, themes, characters, and world building to create those perfect moments of clarity and implant a single, cohesive vision in your readers’ minds. From voice to characters to setting, we’ll look at the elements that give each book its own unique flavor so that you can lean into what makes your book yours with all you’ve got and create a distinctive, memorable experience that will stick with readers for a long time. 


Strategizing Your Success: Agent Secrets Revealed with Agent Natalie Lakosil

Pre-published, contracted, or newly released? Discover the steps to take now that will build a foundation for a long, healthy writing career. Hear directly from the agents what dream clients do and how to become one. Creating your writing career involves talent and hard work, but also strategy! In this 60-minute presentation, you’ll learn what separates a beginner from a contender, from branding and professionalism to short and long-term career planning.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Revise, Revise Again with editor Sara Jane Abbot (Picture Book)

As a 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 picture book 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.


Writing an Engaging Mystery: Atmosphere, Tension, Pacing and Premise with Agent Christa Heschke (Novel)

An engaging mystery successfully melds together a creepy or foreboding atmosphere, swift pacing, mounting tension to an exciting conclusion, and a killer premise. I will provide tips on making sure your premise stands out, how to add surprising twists and keep your reader in suspense as they eagerly turn pages, and create a captivating cast of characters. **Many of the tips here apply to any genre!**



Picture Book Track:

Session 1: The ABCs of PBs with Author Erin Golden

Want to write picture books but have no idea where to begin? This session is for you! We will study the craft of creating picture books by examining elements of the genre as well as looking at mentor texts. We will discuss characters, kid-friendliness, thinking visually, drafting and revising, structure, and picture book dummies. We’ll also discuss page turns, two-page spreads, front matter, and storyboards. You’ll leave this session with a thorough understanding of the picture book form and the inspiration to start creating and revising works that children (and agents and editors) will love.

Session 2: How to Build a Successful Author Business Online with Author/Illustrator Arree Chung

In this intensive, Arree walks though the three essential parts to a successful Author Business: Audience, Email List and Books/Services. Arree will share key business concepts such as the value ladder, acquisition costs and customer life time value. Furthermore, Arree shares how writers and artists can build a business that serves the world and grow their author business at the same time!


Novel Track:

Session 1: Writing a One-Page Memoir with Editor Daniel Nayeri

What is the object of memoir writing? How do we retain memories, and why would we try to share them? What is their purpose? In this workshop, we will write, share, and rewrite a one-page memoir with the goal of finding a narratorial voice, and honing our skills of description and storytelling. 

Session 2: Your Story World’s Strata with Author Sean Easley

How does someone grow an entire world from such a small seed? How could anyone communicate all this world building in so few words? Starting from your core idea, we’ll discuss strategies for drawing out the essential characteristics of your story world and growing it into a reality that readers will want to inhabit, as well as how to bury and hide your exposition to help young readers gain quick mastery over your world and make it their own. 


Illustrator Track:

Session 1: Collaging Your Way To Freedom with Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton

In this session Illustrator/ Author Vanessa Brantley-Newton will share how simple collage can unblock stuck illustrators and authors. So many Creatives are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, creativity blocked, and uninspired. Vanessa asks that you bring your open mind and heart to try something as simple as cutting paper and making marks to help free the mind and soul and perhaps ignite a spark of creative light. Simple supplies are Paper of all kinds, glue, and scissors.

Session 2: The Visual Hook: Storytelling with Composition with Author/Illustrator Jen Betton

An activity-based workshop, with an intro presentation on the application of composition in creating visual interest and advancing the story. 

Composition is the foundation of visual storytelling. Composition helps us relate to the protagonist, draws us in, creates drama and focus. We will discuss adding excitement to dull compositions, matching the viewpoint and focus to the story, as well as key compositions to include in your portfolio. Topics include scale, focal point, viewpoint, clumping, layers of space, psychological shapes, emotional viewpoints, leading the eye, and taking compositions from good to great.  Examples will be shown from animation, comics and illustration. 

The second portion of the workshop will involve composition and storytelling exercises. Participants will need pencils, black markers (sharpies or any other black markers will do), and computer paper. If you have tracing paper, you may find it useful as well. Suitable for beginners or advanced students.