Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2023 Houston SCBWI Retreat: Choose Your Own Adventure!

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Date(s) - 05/19/2023
12:00 am

Camp Allen Retreat Center
18800 FM 362 - Navasota, TX 77868



2023 Houston SCBWI Retreat:





Check-in opens at 3:00pm on Friday, May 19, 2023



The retreat will close at 2:00pm on Sunday, May 21, 2023



Camp Allen Retreat Center, Navasota Texas



Escape to a world of inspiration and relaxation at the Houston SCBWI writers and illustrators retreat!


Nestled in the heart of the Navasota woods, this serene retreat offers you the perfect setting to unleash your creativity and recharge your artistic battery. But it’s not just about writing; it’s also about having fun, discovering new friends, and making unforgettable memories. Join us for social gatherings, fun crafts, and an evening bonfire where you can relax and connect with like-minded individuals. In this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure retreat, you can choose how much to do…or not do!


We are thrilled to announce that author Jennifer Ziegler will join us as our guest speaker. To keep the focus on the act of writing and illustrating, Jennifer will share two craft-based presentations with attendees, as well as opening and closing remarks. As faculty member of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Jennifer is sure to bring a deep knowledge of craft to the retreat!


The Goal

To provide the time and space to recharge and create. We understand that creators have different needs. That’s why we’ve structured this retreat as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure – to give flexibility to meet those needs. Attendees will have their choice of working spaces: a shared quiet room, a roundtable room for discussions and writing sprints, in the shared common areas of the retreat center, or in isolation in their rooms or on the grounds of Camp Allen! Along with the other activities we have planned, we encourage attendees to join in as much or as little as they like. This is your time!

There are limited rooms available so be sure to book your spot as soon as registration opens!


What’s included?

✏️ Uninterrupted time to write, draw, ponder, recharge, and create!

✏️ Access to all four sessions with author Jennifer Ziegler

✏️ Access to multiple quiet and conversational working spaces

✏️ Two nights in a private room with private bath* (rooms have A/C, two full beds, and a desk)

✏️ All meals* & beverages (fountain drinks, coffee, and hot or iced tea)

✏️ All social events & crafts

✏️ Access to many of Camp Allen’s amenities:

          -5 miles of walking trails through Camp Allen’s serene pine forest

         -a zero entry lap pool

         -fitness center

         -athletic courts, including basketball, sand volleyball, and tennis

         -catch & release fishing–equipment can be borrowed

         -and more!


*We will contact attendees prior to the retreat to ask about dietary restrictions, food allergies, and accommodation requests. Please send any questions to Retreat Chair, Annie Harmon, at



Remember: this is your weekend and outside of fixed meal times you can participate as much or as little as you like. Please Note: we are in the process of finalizing details with the venue; all times are subject to change.


Friday May 19

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Arrival and check-in at Camp Allen

Late arrivals should note that the check-in desk closes at 11:00 PM; however, room keys can still be picked up after hours.


6:00 PM



7:00 PM

Welcome Keynote with Jennifer Ziegler: Finding Your Writing Process + Meet Your Monster: Preparing for the Thrills and Chills of Drafting

Many people overlook the pre-writing step, eager to start drafting an idea. But taking the time to get into the right mindset and plan out your project can help you avoid problems that might stall you completely. Think of it as preventative medicine. And think of this talk as the spoonful of sugar.


8:00 PM

Bonfire and smores!


Saturday May 20

8:00 AM



9:00 AM

Jennifer Ziegler: Let’s Complicate Things: The Messy Business of Getting to Know Your Characters

Characters are the key to good storytelling, as they inform all other aspects of your tale. We hear about “full” or “three-dimensional” or “complicated” characters, but how does a writer construct them? Here are a few ideas. Come ready to write and think and make a glorious mess.


10:00 AM

Quiet creating time or roundtables and writing sprints


12:00 PM



1:00 PM

Jennifer Ziegler: Word by Word and Line by Line: Making Your Sentences Sing

At some point in the writing process, it is time to “clean house.” But you can know your story isn’t yet ready and still not see what needs to be done. Together we will look at ways to reassess choices, spot “placeholder” writing, and add depth, music, and lyricism to your draft.


2:00 PM

Quiet creating time or roundtables and writing sprints


6:00 PM



7:00 PM

Wine charm craft party


8:00 PM

BYOBeverage Social – Join us in the TV room to enjoy a favorite beverage, play games, and socialize!

Please Note: Outside beer and wine are permitted within your hotel room and the hotel common areas, but are prohibited on the grounds of the retreat center and dining hall.


Sunday May 21

8:00 AM



11:00 AM


Retreat close with Jennifer Ziegler: The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Writer

As we head out, ready to write on our own, we need to be careful about quashing our creative self. Each of us must figure out the right settings, routines, provisions, and mental tricks to stay on track – but it isn’t always easy or straightforward. Wrangling with our wild, susceptible writer selves might sometimes require creative stunts and careful negotiations. It might involve scolding or competition. It might even involve chocolate. Let’s learn from the best and find ways to better understand, respect, and nurture the writer within you.


12:00 PM



2:00 PM

Depart Camp Allen


Jennifer Ziegler

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of several novels for young and young-at-heart readers, including How Not to Be Popular, Revenge of the Flower Girls, and Worser, which was named one of the best books of 2022 by Kirkus, The New York Times, and Booklist. She also serves on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. A native Texan of Mexican American heritage, Jennifer lives in Austin with her husband (and favorite author), Chris Barton, and their boss, a terrier mix named Ernie. When not teaching or creating books, Jennifer loves to visit schools, festivals, and conferences to lead workshops and presentations, urging readers and writers to recognize their own powers and use them for good.

Photo Credit: Sam Bond Photography


About Camp Allen

A ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, Camp Allen is located on 1,100 serene acres of forest in Navasota, Texas and employs 99 full time employees. The retreat and hotel grounds have been designed to leave guests feeling renewed, inspired, and ready to come back again soon.



Members: $385

Non-Members: $485


Retreat Scholarships

Scholarships are now closed.



An attendee information document will be provided prior to the retreat and will include a full schedule and packing list.

Please send questions to Retreat Chair, Annie Harmon, at


Registration is currently open for members of Houston SCBWI. Check your email for how to access!

General registration opens Monday, April 3rd.


National SCBWI Covid Policies for In-Person Events

U.S. Regions are required to comply with the following policy:


To minimize the risk of Covid-19 at all SCBWI in-person events with more than 75 attendees, event organizers are required to implement the following attendance policy:

Within three days of the event, attendees must submit current proof of vaccination OR proof of a negative covid test administered by third-party healthcare, taken no earlier than three days prior to the event, as a condition of attendance.

At any SCBWI in-person event, regardless of the number of attendees, organizers must offer each attendee a free disposable mask, provide hand sanitizing stations throughout the event area, and post this policy in its entirety in areas visible to attendees.

Comments regarding this policy should be directed to SCBWI headquarters by emailing Include your name and contact information in order to receive a response.


Please Note: This policy does not apply to the retreat, as we will not exceed 75 attendees. Hand sanitizing stations and free disposable masks will be available in all retreat areas occupied by Houston SCBWI.


Houston SCBWI’s Refund Policy

If an attendee becomes unable to attend the retreat the following refund policy will apply:


If the cancellation occurs no later than midnight on Friday, May 12th AND a Replacement Attendee can be found, a 90% refund will be granted.

Candidates for the Replacement Attendee will be found in the following order:

1) from the waitlist, if one exists,
2) from current members,
3) from current friends of Houston SCBWI, and
4) by the Canceling Attendee. Any replacement found by the Canceling Attendee should be familiar with and work within the children’s literature market.


If a Replacement Attendee cannot be found OR the cancellation occurs on or after Saturday, May 13th, no refund will be provided.


In order to protect fellow attendees, those who contract Covid within the weeks prior should follow CDC Quarantine and Isolation Guidelines to determine when it is safe to return to in-person events.


By registering, In-Person Attendees acknowledge that they have read and agree to the above policies.


Pay through Zelle and help the chapter save on fees!

1. After selecting your ticket and clicking “Continue”, scroll to the bottom on the pop up screen (should show your attendee info).

2. Under the Payment Information header, select “Pay by Zelle” from the drop down menu and click “continue”. You should see a registration confirmation email.

3. Then, access Zelle (may be through your banking app) and create a new contact for Houston SCBWI using this email:

4. Click the “Send or Request Money” button & select “send”.

5. Select Houston SCBWI from your contacts list.

6. Enter the amount of your registration ($385 for members, $485 for non-members).

7. Click “review”.

8. Click Send.

Thank you for helping the chapter save money which will be used towards excellent programming and member benefits like scholarships!