Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2018 Houston SCBWI Conference Schedule

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SEPTEMBER 29-30, 2018  



7:30-8:30             Registration

8:30-8:45             Conference OpeningVicki Sansum, Houston RA                                               

8:45-9:35              Get to Know the Speakers—Panel with Editors and Agents                                   

9:35-9:55              Opening Keynote: The Power of Passion by Linda Sue Park, Author

Linda Sue will talk about the importance of passion to both the content your manuscript and its ‘form’–the writing itself.

9:55-10:05            Break                                                                                                                       

10:05-10:55          Session ONE            Choice of Sessions:

Picture Book: Joanna Cardenas, Editor Penguin Random House/Kokila:   What makes an editor say YES to a picture book submission?

Joanna Cárdenas will explain why she said yes to one particular manuscript (Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko). Using many picture book examples, she will go over what you can do to catch an editor’s eye and make your work stand out over other submissions.

Novels: Alexandra Arnold, Editor Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins: Staking out the heart of your story

Your novel needs a compelling plot, winning characters, and an emotional through line to pull in your readers. This editor would argue that the key to all of these elements circles back to one important component of craft: creating high stakes. We’ll talk about defining your stakes, making them bigger, and most importantly, making them personal—and wrap up with an exercise to guide your current WIP.

Illustration: Kelly Light, Author-Illustrator: Acting Out: Drawing characters that feel alive requires- acting.

Let’s do some exercises. Bring your paper and pencils. Yes, you. I mean it. “I have to think as Bugs Bunny, not of Bugs Bunny. – Chuck Jones.”

Professional Development: Joy Preble, Author: Advice from a Bookseller (Stuff Bookstores Want You to Know, But Might Not Tell You)”

From community building to partnering for events and school visits, to hand selling your books, advocating for authors and more, booksellers and bookstores (particularly independent bookstores) are a key element in an author’s success. This session will discuss the secrets of building real and meaningful partnerships with your local bookstores, and help both debut and seasoned authors navigate that relationship and mine it to its fullest.            

10:55-11:10             Break for Silent Auction, Portfolio Showcase, Bookstore, networking

11:10-12:00            Session TWO Choice of Sessions

Picture Book: Ellen Cormier, Editor Dial Books for Young Readers: Words Alone: Writing picture books when you’re not an artist (and even if you are!)

Ellen Cormier will discuss crafting a compelling voice and balancing text and art before the art even exists.

Novels: Nikki Loftin, author: Unforgettable Settings: Creating New Worlds from Familiar Places

Is there a place you’ve seen that has stayed with you your whole life? Or one you’ve imagined, a secret Narnia or Terabithia of your own? Whether you craft fiction or nonfiction, creating a vibrant setting is vital skill for any writer. In this presentation, Nikki Loftin will lead participants to explore the emotional power of remembered places, and show how these settings can bring their writing to life.

Non-Fiction: Ana Maria Rodriguez, Author: How to make your nonfiction narrative shine: the power of detail and where to find it.

Learn how to incorporate details into your nonfiction narrative to make it more engaging and where to find them using a variety of different sources.

Professional Development: Jessica Sinsheimer, Agent, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency: Internet Stalking Without Being Creepy: How To Research, Network, and Become A Priority

Everyone knows that social media can build your platform, expand your network, and make you look more appealing to a potential agent. But for the introverts among us, blasting content can feel unnatural, intimidating, and borderline creepy. This course will show you how to think of this now-essential task as a way to build authentic connections and find real friendships—while also locating the people most likely to move your career forward. In this course, you’ll learn how to build your list of potential agents, how to do targeted research that helps you personalize your pitch, and how to become a known factor—to present yourself as someone great to work with—so your name leaps out, and the agent already likes you, when you finally do submit your work.

12:00-1:15          LUNCH       Networking, viewing of Silent Auction, Portfolio Showcase, Bookstore           

1:15-1:25             Door Prizes and Announcements

1:25-1:40            Ann Rose, Agent Prospect Literary: The Ins and Outs of becoming a literary agent. Working in the literary world outside the Big Apple.

1:40-2:55            First Page First Look Panel: Editors, Agents, and Art Director view First Pages and First Illustrations and give critiques: See Link for information about entering your page.                                                                                               

2:55-3:15            Cookie Break for Silent Auction, Portfolio Showcase, Bookstore, networking                                                                       

3:15-4:05            Session THREE Choice of Sessions

Picture Book: Kelly Light, Author-Illustrator: Character Counts: Writing Real Personalities.
Everything I know I learned from cartoons.

“A comedian is not a person who opens a funny door — he’s the person who opens a door funny.”- Chuck Jones. Creating clear, memorable characters that feel real to kids. Let’s get real about kids. Let’s talk like kids, think like kids and write like kids in order to write in a way kids can connect with (and not date yourself). The core of childhood can be found, it’s still in all of us.

Novels: Lauren Spieller, Agent, Triada US: Tricks to Writing a Great First Page

First pages are tough! Using examples from published books, attendee submissions, and her own forthcoming novel, Lauren will teach you how to write a stand out first page that will grab a reader’s attention and not let go.

Illustration: Nancy Brennan, Art Director Viking Children’s Books: The Picture Book Puzzle: (For Beginners and illustrators, focusing on Picture Books).

Get down to the nitty gritty and explore the full step-by-step process of illustrating picture books from an Art Director’s point of view. From story dummy to embellished endpapers, this break out session will tell you everything you need to know.

Professional Development: PJ Hoover, Author: Websites and Book Extras that Librarians will Love

Every author should have a website, but not all author websites are created equally. With your published book, you’ll have lots of people visiting your site. You want it to be the best, provide solid content, and be easy to navigate. And sure, if visitors can have a little fun while they’re checking it out, all the better (especially for the kids). Come learn how to make your website sparkle and dream up marketing extras you’ll have librarians scrambling to share with their kids!

4:05-4:15       Final Break for Silent Auction, buying books, Door Prizes

4:15-5:05       Closing Address: The Best-kept Secret (why we write for kids) Linda Sue Park                       

In this presentation, Linda Sue discusses two sides of the coin: why what we write matters so much to what they read. Included is a hands-on exercise that will help participants think about their own work in terms of authenticity and its importance to young readers.

5:05-5:20      Conference Announcements, Prizes and Closing Remarks—Vicki Sansum

5:20                Book signings at Tables set up in Foyer Area. Final time to purchase from Blue Willow.

6:15               Cash Bar Opens in the Foyer Area

7:00              Dinner, Literary Games, DJ, Dancing . Must purchase ticket during your registration
or email Bruce Foster at in advance.




Lunch will be from 12:00 to 1:00 for all participants


9:00 AM to 12:00 noon Jennifer Hamburg, Author: Picture Book Punch Up: Taking Your Manuscript from So-So to Spectacular

In this writing intensive, we’ll focus on fun and effective techniques that will help make your story SING (no actual singing required). We’ll start by going BIG (big ideas, big characters, big humor, big ending). Then we’ll “mold the middle” where your story and signature writing style will really come alive. Finally, we’ll engage in interactive writing exercises to flesh out dialogue, tone, humor, and visual potential. Please bring a work-in-progress – any length is fine, just something on paper to get you going!

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Sandra J. Howatt, Author: Let’s Rock and Roll with Rhythm and Rhyme: Understanding and Creating the Magic of Verse in Picture Books

What makes a rhyming picture book manuscript irresistible to editors? Even the ones who think they despise rhyme? It’s a well- choreographed story infused with rhythm and rhyme so musical it dances straight into their hearts!

In this intensive, we’ll spotlight that musicality and explore the symbiotic relationship of rhythm and rhyme. We’ll decode, demystify and SIMPLIFY any scary terminology. We’ll focus on hearing sounds, feeling beats and avoiding the missteps that impact the fluidity of both. Sandra will share her method for counting beats and her ten steps to editing and revising a rhyming picture book manuscript.

Using examples throughout, we’ll discuss what does and doesn’t work best. If you’d like to add a bit of your own work to the discussion, email with four to eight lines as soon as possible after registering. Indicate if you don’t want your name shared.  She will include as many as time permits.



9:00 AM to 12:00 noon Linda Sue Park, Author: Word by Word: revision for novelists

In this workshop, we’ll examine how word choice and sentence structure affect three vital aspects of novel writing: voice, world-building, and pacing. Hands-on techniques will be demonstrated for participants to practice in real time. Requirements: Bring the draft of a novel manuscript (preferably 50 pages), ideally ON A LAPTOP. IMPORTANT: If you are unable to bring a laptop, please note that for several exercises, you will be taking notes rather than practicing the actual technique.

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Crystal Allen, Author: Ignite to Write! Four Fiery Steps to Successful Writing Using the Forgotten Senses

In this session, Crystal Allen will break down four important components to a successful story, and how to utilize our senses to boost the intensity of important scenes.



9:00 AM to 12:00 noon Kelly Light, Author-Illustrator: Freeze Frame: The animated story inside your head becomes a book.

This Intensive is about storyboarding a picture book, the cinematic approach. You will study storyboarding and the storyboarding process. We’ll talk about the importance of visualizing the book in the theatre of the mind. Once that book is in the hands of a kid- the kid becomes the director, the actor and the editor. Give that kid a book that is a lot of great images that string together in a story that lived in their imagination. Kelly Light will share storyboards for her books. She will also send out a pre-conference assignment. You will workshop like they did in the old animation studios: using 5X7 cards, changing out shots and options for scenes and text. Let’s make a book.

12:00-1:00 Lunch

 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Nancy Brennan, Art Director Viking Children’s Books: The Charm of the Chapter book (Beginner to Professional)

Chapter books are often overshadowed by the colorful pageantry of picture book, but any bookstore visit will show how vast and diverse this market is for today’s newly independent, voracious, and loyal readers. In this session, we will explore the unique challenges and opportunities for illustrators working within this genre by adding your own unique twist to a chapter of the classic book Alice’s Adventures Underground. (Homework assignment details will be passed along following registration.)

“Illustrators need to email their conference assignments to SCBWI Houston IC, Diandra Mae at by August 9, 2018 in order to receive feedback from Viking Art Director Nancy Brennan. Responses will be sent to participating illustrators September 8, 2018. Illustrators will have until the day of the conference to make revisions. They will need to bring revisions and all process steps with them to the conference’s Illustrator Intensive on the September 30, 2018.