Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Breakouts, Keynotes and Intensives–Detailed Descriptions


Saturday Schedule

8:45 a.m. Opening Keynote

●  From Ordinary to Extraordinary: The art of creating a great saleable story and the craft of teasing out its full potential–Sarah Davies

Where to ideas come from? How do you know if your story has commercial 'legs'? Sarah will address everything from the marketplace versus writing for oneself and concept and character to high stakes and settings and the mystery of voice. You will learn about shaping and focusing – what does your story SAY?, revision and the benefits of rewrite, pitching and querying and how to convince the industry to invest in YOU. This is a wide-ranging, inspiring and meaty look at factors that lead to writing success.

9:30 a.m. Keynote

●  Plotting Your Way to Success–Ellen Hopkins

As writers and illustrators, our first goal is often publication, but that is only the first step toward the real measure of success – an audience. There are many tools to help build, grow, and maintain an audience. Which are right for you?

10:30 Breakout Session 1

●  Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Published–Aaron Reynolds

Author Aaron Reynolds, with his characteristic humor and practical approach, shares critical lessons learned that will transform the way you write your stories, submit your manuscripts, and think about publication. (Audience: All: Writers, illustrators, published or not)

●  How to Write a Great Thriller (or any really exciting story!)–Sarah Davies

Mysteries, crime whodunits, action adventure, dystopia, paranormal, sci fi, thrilling romance. Everyone loves and edge-of-seat read – but how do you write it? Covering premise, protagonist, pace, high-stakes plotting, characters, conflict and tension (and lots more), this is a rip-roaring exploration of crafting an MG or YA thrill ride that no child or teen will be able to put down! (Audience: Writers at all levels of middle grade and young adult)

●  Dummies for Smarties: Taking "Good Design Fosters Good Reading" to Heart–Sylvie Frank

Picture books are typically thirty-two pages—but why? And why does this matter to an author? In this session, editor Sylvie Frank will dive into the details of the physical picture book and take a close look at how production and design elements affect the text. Once we’ve explored picture book production and design, we will put our new-found knowledge to good use by making picture book dummies. All participants should bring a work-in-progress manuscript to this session. (Audience: This breakout will be most informative to authors, and less so for illustrators and author-illustrators.)

12 p.m. Keynote

Why Authors Matter–Jordan Brown

The publishing industry is changing rapidly.  In a landscape populated by self-publishing opportunities, low-priced e-books, and publisher-developed intellectual property, how has the traditional author/publisher relationship been affected?  In this keynote, Jordan will touch on the shifting ways in which editors and publishers work with authors and illustrators, and why the work you do—developing a great story, a relatable character, and an accomplished voice—is more important than ever.

1:00 Breakout Session 2

●  Under the Cover: A Picture Book from Sketches to Final Art–Maria Middleton

Art director Maria Middleton uncovers the collaborative process of bringing a picture book to life from concept to finished art. (Audience: illustrators and picture book writers)

●  Writing for the Teen Landscape–Ellen Hopkins

Writing YA lit is not for the faint of heart according to author Ellen Hopkins. Today's teen landscape is riddled with more choices and temptations than ever, and finally – finally! – they are brave enough to talk about them. If you want to write YA, you'd better be prepared to listen. Their truths are sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful, and at the heart of almost all of them is one very human emotion. (Audience: Writers of young adult; all levels)

●  Check-1-2-3: A Guide to Avoiding Common Picture Book Pitfalls–Sylvie Frank

Has your manuscript ever been called “too quiet”? What about “not right for today’s market”? Or even just “not strong enough”? If these phrases sound familiar, you’re in good company. These are common reasons editors and agents turn down picture book texts, but what do these things even mean?! This session will explore picture book pitfalls and how to avoid them, plus provide writers with a checklist of picture dos (as opposed to don’ts). All participants should bring a work-in-progress picture book to this session. (Audience: Advanced picture book writers; published or not)

●  What We're Talking About When We Talk About "Voice"–Jordan Brown

What do editors mean when they say they're looking for "a great voice"? What makes some voices work where others fail? In this session, we'll seek to define the undefinable elements that constitute voice in middle grade and teen writing, take a look at several examples from published authors who are doing it right, and explore some ways of finding your own unique voice in order to help your writing stand out. (Audience: Writers at all levels of chapter books, middle grade and young adult)

2:30 p.m. Keynote

●  A Day in the Life of a Children’s Book Designer–Maria Middleton

What exactly does a book designer do? From scouting talent, conceptualizing projects, choosing fonts, and putting it all together: The inside scoop on an art director's approach to designing children's books.

3:15 p.m. Full Faculty Panel

●  Pushing Your Work Out of This World–This is your chance to ask questions and hear insight and advice straight from the experts. Karen Blumenthal, journalist and award-winning author of five young adult non-fiction books, will moderate the panel. 

4 p.m. Keynote

200 Rejections and Counting: My Journey to Publication–Aaron Reynolds

New York Times Best-selling and Caldecott Honor-winning author Aaron Reynolds shares his (sometimes painful but ultimately encouraging) journey from writing newbie to successful author. Aaron's talk is sure to challenge and inspire us all, whether we've accomplished our publication goals or have just begun our own journey.


Sunday Intensives

9 a.m.-12 p.m. Instensive Sessions

●  He Said – She Said: An Editor and Author Engage in Incredibly Insightful Banter for about 3 Hours with Sylvie Frank and Aaron Reynolds–Sylvie Frank, Associate Editor, Paula Wiseman Books and Aaron Reynolds, author of CREEPY CARROTS, CARNIVORES, HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS team up to bring attendees a unique dialogue between editor and author. They will agree, disagree, and argue over the publication process right in front of you. Get a front row seat as they unpack the practical details of the children's publishing world, each from their own point of view. Please bring one copy of a manuscript with you and Sylvie and Aaron will read first pages during the session.

●  Creating Characters Readers Care About with Ellen Hopkins–In great fiction, character is everything, so building three-dimensional characters is absolutely vital. Protagonists, antagonists, foils and even peripheral characters must jump off the page and into your readers' heads and hearts. It starts with motivation and ends with authentic voice. Learn the process from New York Times best selling author, Ellen Hopkins.

●  Get it Covered: The art of Young Adult and Middle Grade Jackets with Maria Middleton–This intensive with art director Maria Middleton will focus on illustrated YA and middle-grade jackets. From marketplace trends, to illustration styles, a short presentation followed by a hands-on session will help attendees explore what makes an illustrated jacket successful.