Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Beginning to End: Building plot, voice, characters and emotion for your picture book or novel – by editor/author Jill Santopolo

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Date(s) - 09/26/2015
10:15 am - 4:30 pm

Mary Lib Saleh - Euless Public Library
201 N. Ector Drive - Euless, Texas 76039


Jil Santopolo Author Photo

Writing books for kids and teens is an art that requires great skill in plotting, voice, character developing – and writing with emotion. During this full-day workshop, Jill Santopolo, who is an author and editor, will cover them all.

*  PLOTTING YOUR PLOT: There are tons of ways to plot a story. We’ll look at as many as possible so you can add an arsenal of plotting tools to your writer’s toolbox. This session will focus on finding and plotting the heartline–the emotional core/arc of your story–as well as the traditional action plot line.

*  YOU'RE SUCH A CHARACTER: Learning all you can about your protagonist can help make your story stronger because it informs dialogue, motivation, action, voice, and plot. Using techniques from the theater, we'll all shed our writers' hats for a while and become our characters in this session.

*  RAISE YOUR VOICE: Agents, editors–and readers!–love manuscripts with strong, unique voices. In this session we'll talk about the concept of voice and dissect books in which it works so we can figure out why. Then writers will do exercises to apply what they know to the voice in their own WIPs.

*  SO THAT'S HOW YOU FEEL:  Making an emotional connection with your reader is a great way to deepen your story and make that reader feel more invested. Through a series of exercises, we'll talk about ways to get your characters' emotions across in your stories in a powerful and sophisticated way.

The workshop will close with a first page group critique. Please bring the first page of a current work in progress and Jill will read and discuss as many as there is time for before the session ends. First pages should be formatted in 12 point Times New Roman with one-inch margins. Please include the type of story (YA, MG, PB) at the top of the page. The title should be halfway down the page with double-spaced text taking up the bottom third of the page. You don’t have to include your name on the first page.

This is a completely hands-on workshop. ALSO BRING a laptop or paper and pens because there will be lots of exercises throughout the day. 


10-10:15 a.m.  Registration (library opens at 10 a.m.)
10:15-10:30     Welcome
10:30-11:45     Plot Workshop including finding your story’s heartline
11:45-12:45     Character Workshop
12:45-1:15       Lunch
1:15-2:15         Voice Workshop
2:15-3:15         Emotion Workshop
3:15-3:30         Break
3:30-4              First Page Group Critique (as many as possible in half an hour)
4-4:30              Q&A

CRITIQUES – critique spots now full

Jill will do 10 manuscript critiques. These critiques will be written-only with no face-to-face meeting. Critiques will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Jill will critique the first 10 manuscripts paid for and received. You must submit your manuscript by August 24, and you must register and pay for the workshop and critique prior to submitting your manuscript. 

Submission guidelines:

·  Please email your manuscript (up to 10 double-spaced pages from one manuscript) to Carol Barreyre. Use standard manuscript format as outlined in “From Keyboard to Printed Page: Facts You Need to Know”.  

·  At the top of your manuscript, include your name, phone number, title, genre (i.e. picture book, middle grade, etc.) and word count.

·  You may also include an optional one-page cover letter or synopsis. 

·  Your file should be in Microsoft Word file format (not PDF). PLEASE ONLY SEND ONE FILE. 

·  Please save your file with this naming format:  FirstName LastName_Book Title. 

·  You must registered and pay for the workshop to be eligible for a manuscript critique.

·  We will post an update to the website when the 10 manuscript slots are full.

·  Jill will bring the completed critiques to you at the workshop. 


Jill Santopolo is currently an executive editor at Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. Prior to that she was a senior editor at Balzer + Bray and at Laura Geringer Books, both imprints of HarperCollins Children's Books. Jill has edited many award-winning and best-selling authors including Peter Abrahams, Atia Abawi, T.A. Barron, Terry Border, Andrea Cremer, Olivier Dunrea, Lisa Graff, Alex London, Erin. E. Moulton, Shawn L. Stout, and Jane Yolen.Alec2-rev-215x312 

Jill is also the author of the Sparkle Spa series (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), the Follow Your Heart books (Puffin), and the Alec Flint Mysteries (Scholastic). In her not-so-spare time, she is an MFA thesis advisor at The New School. She holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a certificate in Intellectual Property Law from NYU. You can visit her online at and follow her on Twitter at @jillsantopolo.

Workshop Cost (including deli lunch)
    Member:  $80
    Guest:  $100

Critique Cost
    Member:  $45
    Guest:  $60

Credit card or PayPal payment is preferred. If paying by check (made out to SCBWI N. Texas), checks must arrive by Monday, September 21 and mailed to SCBWI North Texas, PO Box 1875, Addison, TX  75001. You still must register online if paying by check.  Registration will remain open until the event is full. Walk-up registrations will be accepted, space permitting.

Space is limited, so please register by Monday, September 21, 2015 to confirm your seat.

Lunch  Choice of box salad or deli sandwich with chips along with a cookie and iced tea will be provided. We will email the menu from Jason's Deli prior to the event to collect your order in advance. Anyone who does not reply to the emal with your lunch option by September 24, we have a standard turkey and swiss sandwich. There will be vegetarian and gluten free options. Email Carol Barreyre with questions or to share dietary restrictions.

Location  Euless Public Library, 201 N. Ector Drive, Euless, Texas  76039. Meet in the Library Meeting Room. Turn right when you enter through the main entrance.

Timing  The Registration begins at 10 a.m. when the library opens. The workshop begins at 10:15 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m.  We'll break for lunch around 12:45 p.m..

Post-Workshop Dinner

Please join Jill and other workshop attendees for a Dutch-treat dinner, cocktails or a soda after the workshop. We will meet at Texas Land and Cattle Company (1813 TX-121, Bedford, TX  76021 – where 121 and 183 split). The reservation is for 4:45. The restaurant is about 2.5 miles away from the library. Hope you can join us.

Please note that SCBWI North Texas will not offer refunds for paid events, critiques, conferences or workshops.