Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators


You must pre-register for breakout sessions on the online registration form. Please refer to this section when making breakout session choices.
FRIDAY, September 29
To our great consternation, we realized after all contracts were signed and several faculty members hired, the dates of our conference conflict with Yom Kippur. Because of this error, we have decided that, for this year, attendees MAY register for and attend 1 or 2 Friday Intensives WITHOUT attending the rest of the conference. Please know we deeply regret our error.
Pre-conference intensives are available for an additional fee of $55 each. Registration is limited. To register for one or two intensives, please check the appropriate box on your online conference registration. Intensive registrations are non-transferable and there will be no refunds.
12:30-2:30 pm Robyn Chapman, The Graphic Novel from Acquisition to Publication 
Just what goes into creating and publishing a graphic novel? Robyn Chapman, an associate editor at Macmillan's graphic novel imprint, First Second, will walk you through the development, editorial, and production stages of a typical graphic novel. She will cover the different approaches used to edit comics pages, as well as the creative challenges that are unique to this form of storytelling. Limit 30.
12:30-2:30 pm Katie Carella, Writing for the Early Chapter Book Audience
Do you want to break into the early chapter book category, but you aren't sure how to write for newly-independent readers? Then this intensive is for you! Early chapter books are an exciting format because they serve as the training wheels to children's independent reading careers. Manuscripts generally range from 2k-6k words, so picture book authors/illustrators often enjoy exploring this format. Before jumping in though, it is important to recognize that transitional readers have specific needs, and that it is our job as children's book creators: to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. In this intensive, Katie Carella will review appropriate vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation, pacing, character development, and more! Please come prepared to participate and share during our activities. Limit 30.
2:45-4:45 pm Hayley Wagreich, Get to the Good Stuff: Plotting a Three-Act Structure
Accessible to writers of all skill-levels, Hayley Wagreich will teach how to plot a novel with a three-act structure—the Alloy way. With an emphasis on character-driven action, the inciting incident, act breaks, and Alloy’s signature “yoda” moment, writers will focus on how to outline their story before beginning their manuscript or how to use an outline to guide their revision process. Limit 30.
2:45-4:45 pm Irene Vandervoort, An Illustrator Intensive
Participants will develop character sketches and illustrate their choice of a spread of a manuscript provided by Art Director Irene Vandervoort. Character sketches and spread sketches will be critiqued with constructive comments from Ms. Vandervoort by August 25. Final artwork will be reviewed and critiqued in a group setting during the intensive on Friday September 29. Registrants will receive assignment details from Illustrator Coordinator Mary Uhles after registration. Conference registration, intensive registration, and all fees must be received by July 1 to participate. Limit 12. (Want to observe this intensive? Illustrators wishing to observe only may do so for a fee of $25. Check the “observe only” box on the online registration. Limit 15.)
7:30-9:30 pm Midsouth Dessert and Autograph Party with Portfolio Showcase
Come to meet and greet other Midsouth Conference attendees and our esteemed faculty. Purchase that special book and have it signed by a PAL member or a conference faculty member. Friends and family are welcome to attend the autograph portion of the party – this party is open to the public!
SATURDAY, September 30
7:30-8:15 am Registration
8:15-8:30 Welcome
8:30-9:15 Opening Keynote – Laurent Linn, Kick Open The Door!
Writing and illustrating is a solo sport, but getting your creation out in the world takes a team—a big, crazy, and wonderful team. So, take a deep breath, then open that door and let them in.
9:15-9:30 Break
9:30-10:30 Session I
A. Susan Eaddy, Writing for Teens and Children 101
“I’ve written a book for teens/tweens/middle graders/children: now what? Do I need an agent? How should I format my manuscript? How do I find a publisher? What should I do at THIS conference?” A highly recommended session for those attending their first conference or just beginning the writing adventure.
B. Alex Slater, Writing a Compelling Opening
When searching for an agent, the first page of your manuscript is the most important page of your manuscript. This session will discuss devices and tools, with professional examples, that can help your reader turn to page two. For middle grade and young adult writers.
C. Linda Camacho, YA Today: Where the Market is Now and How to Stand Out
Young adult fiction has undergone quite the evolution over the last several decades. In the latest golden age of the category, we’ll evaluate what defines YA, the past and current trends, and discuss how to blaze a trail in today’s saturated market.
D. Mary Uhles, Beginning the Illustrator Journey
How should I put together my portfolio? Do I need a website? Do I need an agent? Learn strategies for promoting yourself and getting your artwork in front of creative directors. There will be tips for illustrators at all levels whether you are fresh out of school or just new to the world of children’s books.
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-11:45 Session II
A. Alex Slater, A Day in the Life of a Literary Agent
You should know what an agent does before you begin your search for one. We will discuss many facets of the publishing business, from the query process to foreign rights. 
B. Christina Pulles and Irene Vandervoort, The Team Behind a Picture Book
The journey from several hundred words in a Word document to a beautifully illustrated 32-page picture book is a long one. This session, led by an art director and editor who've worked on many picture books together, will take you through all the steps of that journey, from what we're looking for in a manuscript and how we go about matching a manuscript with the perfect illustrator to how the author/illustrator/art director/editor team works together throughout the process. We'll also touch on pacing and paginating your manuscript, when to let the illustrations speak for themselves, and answer all your burning questions, such as, "How many words can my picture book manuscript have?" and "How many illustration notes are too many?”
C. Alisha Klapheke, Self Publishing: It’s Not as Easy as You Think! 
Agented and self-published author Alisha Klapheke will give you the low-down on self-publishing your work, marketing, and connecting so you know your options and your challenges before you head into the fray. Topics will include how to use Instafreebie to get an email list started, how to upload ARCs to BookFunnel for your release team, and how to actually drum up a release team and keep them smiling, as well as the nitty-gritties on releasing your book babies into the world. 
D. Robyn Chapman, Sequential Storytelling 101
Comics is a unique storytelling medium, with its own strengths and challenges.
In this one-hour session, Robyn Chapman, an associate editor at First Second and the author of Drawing Comics Lab, will break down how the comics page works. She will share creative techniques that can be used to build effective comics, with a focus on storytelling and pacing. She will also cover the pitfalls that often befall beginner cartoonists.  
11:45-12:00 Break
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:10 Break
1:10 Contest Winners
Fiction Manuscript Contest Winners, Social Media Contest Winners, Illustration Contest Winners
1:15-1:50 Author and Illustrator Panel – Book Making is a Team Sport
1:50-2:00 Break
2:00-3:00 First Pages
First Pages is a unique opportunity to gain insight into the first impression thoughts of an agent or editor when a manuscript comes across his/her desk. Authors will give specifics on how to follow the editor’s advice. Anonymous first pages will be chosen randomly, read aloud to the group, and faculty will discuss the ever-important question: Would I read more? (First page submission is not required to attend this session, and not all first pages/materials will be read/examined. Attendees may pre-register for one session only.)
A. Picture Book – Christina Pulles and Jessica Young
B. Middle Grade – Linda Camacho and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
C. Young Adult – David Arnold and Hayley Wagreich
To submit a first page, please place two copies (one for the faculty members, one for the reader) of your first page in the session submission box for which you have pre-registered: Picture Book, Middle Grade, or Young Adult. Submission boxes will be located at the conference registration desk between 7:30 and 8:15 am on Saturday. First pages must have NO AUTHOR NAME, but may include the title, and must be in standard format, on white paper, with 1-inch margins, black ink, 12-point font, and double-spacing. Limit 200 words (excluding title), one submission per attendee. First pages exceeding word count, with identifying marks, in non-standard format, or placed in the incorrect submission box will be discarded.
3:00-3:15 Break
3:15-4:15 Keynote: All Paws on Deck! It Takes a Team to Make a Book
Senior Editor Katie Carella and award-winning author Jessica Young will pull back the curtain on the book publishing process! They’ll talk specifically about how Katie acquired Jessica’s Branches early chapter book series, Haggis and Tank: Unleashed, and about how they worked together to create a successful series. How does a book really come to life? When is a manuscript final? How do the editor and author work with the illustrator? What do you do when you're stuck in the middle of the ocean with no food, no water, and no hope of finding land, drifting in endless circles of doom? The answers to all of these common questions—and more!—will be revealed!
4:15-4:30 Break
4:30-6:00 Free Optional Peer Critique Groups & Ongoing Paid Critiques
4:30-6:00 PAL Marketing meeting with David Arnold and Courtney Stevens
6:30 Kid Lit Creators’ Dinner
Round off the day with Kid Lit friends, old and new. Click HERE for more information.
SUNDAY, October 1st
8:15-8:30 am Welcome
8:30-9:30 Editor, Agent, and Art Director Panel – Assembling a Dream Team
9:30-9:40 Break
9:40-10:40 Session III
A. Linda Camacho, Persistence – How to Keep Going In This Crazy Business
There are many talented writers out there, but not all of them will be published. The difference between the published writer and unpublished writer? Persistence. This workshop will show you how to maintain persistence in the face of an ever-changing publishing market. We’ll discuss how to get in the right mindset, develop a routine, and deal with rejection, even after you're published.
B. Christina Pulles, In Control of Your Characters: Taking the Star(s) of Your Story to the Next Level
In this intensive workshop, you will dig deep into one or more of your characters. We’ll complete activities that will help round out traits and backgrounds beyond the walls of your manuscript. Then we’ll spend time exploring your characters’ motivations and story arcs, examining the voice through which your character speaks, your character’s relationship to and conflict with other characters, and how all this contributes to the overall tone of your work.
C. Courtney C. Stevens and David Arnold, Peer Critiques 101
Courtney and David have been critique partners for years, and have had the pleasure of reading each other’s books—and offering insight and suggestions—long before those books hit the shelves. In this session they’ll discuss the importance of peer critiques, how they go about critiquing each other’s work, and even show a few “before and after” examples from their own books. Attendees should come prepared to ask questions, and feel free to present to the room any stumbling blocks they may be experiencing in their current manuscript.
D. Laurent Linn, Bring the Reader into Your World: Writing Visually by Painting the Picture with Words
No matter if you’re writing YA, middle-grade, or even picture books, writing visually doesn’t just mean setting the scene, it can bring your writing to a new and deeper level. 
10:40-10:50 Break
10:50-11:50 Session IV
A. Katie Carella, Growing Readers One Early Chapter Book at a Time
Katie Carella will introduce you to the early chapter book category as it stands in the marketplace and to Scholastic's Branches early chapter book line in particular.  Katie Carella will discuss why the following are crucial to newly-independent readers' success: CHOICE, series publishing, age-appropriate and reading-level-appropriate texts, artwork that directly connects to the text, and more.
B. Tracy Barrett and Hayley Wagreich, It Takes Two: The Author/Editor Relationship
Alloy editor Hayley Wagreich will discuss the author/editor relationship with Tracy Barrett, the author of the middle grade novel Marabel and the Book of Fate. Emphasis will be placed on the collaboration process between a book packager and writer—from the first audition to the final manuscript.
C. Sheba Karim and Ashley Herring Blake, Sex in Young Adult Fiction
As the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Awards attest, writing about sex can be a writer’s greatest challenge.  Some choose to avoid it altogether while others do quite the opposite.  But what if you’re writing for young adults?  Could including sex in your book affect your chances of getting published?  Are there any special considerations? When does it become gratuitous?  And how do you write about sex while avoiding the myriad of minefields—too cheesy, too implicit, too explicit, unintentionally humorous?  Join authors Ashley Herring Blake and Sheba Karim for a frank conversation on how best to approach writing about sex for a young adult audience.
D. Irene Vandervoort and Laurent Linn, Web Portfolio Peeks
Most art directors see your illustrations for the first time online. Are you showing illustrations that work for the children’s publishing market? Would an art director contact you after seeing your work online? Attendees will hear feedback from two art directors as they review the websites on an overhead screen for all to learn. Submit your illustration website for consideration by August 15 to Mary Uhles at with subject line WEBSITE PEEKS (all caps). Websites will be seen in random order, and all may not be seen. No website yet? No problem! All are welcome to observe.
11:50-12:00 Break
12:00-12:15 Door Prizes and Announcements
12:15-1:00 Closing Keynote – David Arnold, How I Became A Writer
Everything from books I loved as a kid, to the pursuit of me being a Rock God (it's true), to finding my family at SCBWI, to dealing with a number of medical issues, and how all those things came together to make me a published author.