Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2018 Midsouth Fall Conference Schedule

FRIDAY, September 14

 (Use #SCBWImidsouth18 in your social media to win a bookstore gift certificate)



7:30am-9am; 12pm-12:30pm; 2:30pm-3pm; 7pm-9pm



Pre-conference intensives are available for an additional fee. Registration is limited. To register for intensives, please check the appropriate box on your online conference registration. Intensive registrations are non-transferable, and there will be no refunds.


8:30am-11:30am | Cheryl Klein—Vocal Exercises: Aspects of Voice ($60)

Voice is the oxygen of a novel, often invisible to the reader—and, even more, to the writer—and yet suffusing every sentence on the page. In this three-hour intensive workshop for novelists, we’ll talk about both the technical and soulful aspects of voice. Beyond discussions of tense and person, we’ll examine diction, syntax, tone, image systems, and other elements that you can develop or adjust within your manuscript. We’ll pay attention to the differences between middle-grade and YA voice and try multiple hands-on exercises to explore what we’re learning. By the end of the workshop, you’ll have new techniques in hand to make the voice of your novel more distinctive, pleasurable, and ultimately useful to your narrative purpose. Limit 50.


12:30-2:30pm | Bess Cozby—Building a Revision Toolbox ($55)

In YA, reader experience is especially crucial. With so many digital distractions, teens expect books to start fast and stay fast. They want characters to jump off the page. How do you achieve pitch-perfect pacing that still engages readers with characters they can root for? Revise. Revise. Revise. In this workshop, we’ll explore different tips and tricks so you can make the most of each round of revision, implement reader feedback, and ensure the pacing is on-point for a YA audience. From reader questionnaires to scene cards, outlines, character arc breakdowns, and book-maps, you’ll leave with all the tools to rock a revision. Limit 30.


12:30-2:30pm | Alyssa Mito Pusey—The Nonfiction Mechanic: Taking Your Writing Apart and Putting It Back Together Again ($55)

Learn strategies for fine-tuning your nonfiction in this two-part, interactive intensive. In the first part, we’ll work on developing the clarity and effectiveness of your writing for kids. We’ll explore different tactics for helping young readers understand big, complex ideas. In the second part, we’ll work on making your nonfiction pitch clear and irresistible to editors and agents. We’ll deconstruct your pitch and rebuild it, keyword by keyword. Bring a nonfiction manuscript or passage that’s not quite clicking, as well as your elevator pitch (two to three sentences that convey the essence of your nonfiction book). Limit 30.


2:45-4:45pm | Debbie Dadey—Series Writing ($55)

Debbie Dadey’s first book, Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots (co-authored with Marcia Thornton Jones), came out in 1990. Since then she has traditionally published 165 additional books. Learn how Debbie sold thirteen series, how she spent years writing a book a month, and how she creates a series proposal. Limit 30.


2:45-4:45pm | Patti Ann Harris—An Illustrator Intensive ($55)

Participants will develop an illustration assignment provided by creative director Patti Ann Harris. Initial sketches will be turned in approximately two months before the conference with comments returned from Ms. Harris by August 15th. Final artwork will be reviewed and critiqued in a group setting during the intensive on Friday, September 14th. Registrants will receive assignment details from illustrator coordinator Mary Uhles after registration. Conference registration, intensive registration, and all fees must be received by July 5th 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.)


7:30-9:30pm | Midsouth Dessert and Autograph Party with Portfolio Showcase (all welcome—no need to pay for this)

Come to meet and greet other Midsouth conference attendees and our esteemed faculty. Purchase that special book and have it signed by a PAL or conference faculty member. Friends and family are welcome to attend the autograph portion of the party—this party is open to the public!


Click HERE for PAL opportunities for this party!

Click HERE for Illustrator opportunities for this party!



SATURDAY, September 15

(Use #SCBWImidsouth18 in your social media to win a bookstore gift certificate)


7:30-8:00am | Registration


8:00-8:15 | Welcome


8:15-9:00 | Opening Keynote

Cheryl Klein—Purpose, Premise, & Promise

A writer sits down with a PURPOSE for the story he or she is telling. That purpose manifests through the book’s PREMISE, its story, concept, or central argument. Readers then buy the book for the PROMISE it makes, of insight or pleasure or adventure. In this lighthearted talk with application for all writers, we’ll look at these three concepts and learn how you can refine your purpose to make a premise with a promise for a wide number of readers.


9:00-9:15 | Break


9:15-10:15 | 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. Michelle Hasty – School Visits: What Teachers Want

Teaching students how to revise is one of the biggest challenges teachers experience. Based on educators’ research, authors discussing their revision strategies has a positive and unique impact on the teaching of writing and students’ concepts of themselves as writers. How can authors reveal their processes in kid-friendly and teacher-friendly ways? In this session, authors will brainstorm revision strategies they can bring into school visits and teacher workshops. Please bring a piece of writing you would like to revise.


C. Alyssa Mito Pusey and Heather Montgomery—Nonfiction to Knock Your Socks Off

From outrageous illustrations to irreverent voices, today’s boundary-pushing books are chipping away at the confining walls of humdrum nonfiction. Come examine how innovative topics, distinct voices, and surprising structures carry today’s books beyond the traditional approaches to conveying information. In this session we will compare different approaches to the same topic, practice stretching our own voices, and explore books that play with the fiction/nonfiction line.


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.


10:15-10:30 | Break


10:30-11:30 | SESSION II

A. Bess Cozby—The First Five Pages

The first five pages of your manuscript are crucial, both for setting up the world, plot, and characters of your story and for catching the attention of an agent, editor, or reader. In this workshop, editor Bess Cozby goes through the elements readers are looking for—and how to implement them successfully—whether you’re writing contemporary fiction, fantasy, or anything in-between. Using examples from popular YA novels, we’ll do a deep dive into why some openings work and how to apply those techniques to your story.


B. Carter Hasegawa—Killer Robots, Time Portals, and Wizards—Oh My!

From monsters to wizards, from dystopian governments to cute, fluffy bunnies, from servants to heroes, we will look at how you can create authentic and relatable characters and build worlds that your readers will love. Be prepared to write, share, and discuss.


C. Sean McCarthy—Lost in Pace: Making Sure Your Picture Book Doesn’t Go Off the Rails

In this craft-oriented session, we will examine character development, plotting, structure, and transformation in picture books and discuss how to keep your book on track.


D. Patti Ann Harris—Keeping It Fresh: Going from Sketch to Final Art

Discover how to retain the energy and life so often found in illustrators’ sketches in your final art. We’ll also discuss how to avoid the pitfalls of overworking a piece and making the best of digital media as an editing tool.


11:30-12:30pm |Lunch


12:30-12:35 | Door Prizes


12:35-1:10 | Keynote

Andrea J. Loney—The Epic Power of Picture Books

Andrea shares how reading, writing, sharing, and publishing picture books has expanded her world, how she defines the peculiar power of picture books, and how you can apply this power to your own work. 


1:15-1:50 | Author and Illustrator Panel


1:50-2:00 | Break


2:00-3:00 | First Pages

First Pages is a unique opportunity to gain insight into the first impressions of an agent or editor when a manuscript comes across his/her desk. Published authors will give specifics on how to follow the editor’s advice. Anonymous first pages will be chosen randomly and read aloud to the group, then 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.)

  1. Picture Book—with editor Alyssa Mito Pusey and author Jessica Young
  2. Middle Grade—with agent Natascha Morris and author Kristen O’Donnell Tubb
  3. Young Adult—with editor Bess Cozby and author Courtney B. Stevens

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 on them, but may include the title. They must be double-spaced in a 12-point font, printed in black ink on white paper, and should not exceed 200 words (excluding title). One submission per attendee. First pages exceeding word count, having 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 | Session III

A. Natascha Morris—Writing Compelling Characters

Let’s talk character driven stories and dig into the motivations and “why” that makes them so compelling. A lot of authors don’t dig deep enough into why their character is reacting or engaging in a certain way. I’ll give you some tips to help make your characters more compelling and make them pop from the page.


B. Sean McCarthy—Everything in Its Right Place: An Overview of Agenting and Publishing

This presentation and Q&A will give a broad look at a literary agent’s perspective to crafting a long-term career in children’s publishing across genres, including some potential deal-breaker missteps to avoid along the way. We will talk about changing market conditions, best practices to determine viable projects, and how to read between the lines on responses and rejections.


C. Debbie Dadey—Underwear: Using Humor

Yes, underwear is always funny in a children’s book and kids love to laugh. Learn how you can write funny, even without using underwear!


D. Alyssa Mito Pusey and Susan Eaddy—The Whole Shebang: Writing, Acquiring, and Editing a Picture Book

In Poppy’s Best Paper, Poppy the rabbit learns that good writing takes time, thought, and lots and lots of revision. Just like in real life! This behind-the-scenes peek at a debut picture book and its follow-up title gives insight into what catches an editor’s eye, what leads to acquisitions, and how an author and editor work together on a manuscript.


4:15-4:30 Closing announcements, Social Media Contest and Illustration winners announced.


Happy Hour Options:

A. 4:30-6:00 | Free Optional Peer Critique Groups & Ongoing Paid Critiques

 Click HERE for more information.


B. 4:45-5:45 Marcie Colleen – Help! I’m on Draft #39!

Marcie’s first picture book sale, PENGUINAUT! (Scholastic, 2018) sold after 2.5 years and 39 drafts. Drawing from her own personal experience, Marcie will share her concrete tips on how to re-imagine and revise your manuscript to help you get unstuck no matter what draft number you are on.


C. 4:30-6:00 | PAL Meetup with Stephanie Appell from Parnassus

Click HERE for more information. 

Parnassus Manager of Books for Young Readers Stephanie Appell will give you the inside scoop on how to develop a relationship with your local independent bookstore. From providing a highly curated selection of children’s and YA books to getting your book onto shelves to proposing and hosting a book launch, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how and why independent bookstores can be one of your strongest allies at every step of your publishing journey.


6:30 | Kid Lit CreatorsDinner

Round off the day with Kid Lit friends, old and new. Click HERE for more information. 




SUNDAY, September 16th


8:15-8:30am | Welcome


8:30-9:30 | Editor, Agent, and Art Director Panel


9:30-9:40 | Break


9:40-10:40 | Session IV

A. Carter Hasegawa—Hearing Voices

Using examples from published picture books and novels, we will study how authors establish and use “voice” in varying yet successful ways. This will be hands-on and interactive, so please be prepared to talk.


B. Cheryl Klein—21 Revision Techniques

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. Natascha Morris—The Dreaded Second (or Third) Novel

Why is the new manuscript so hard? You’ve written one book that someone loved, so why can’t this book behave? From the agent and editor comments floating in your head, to playing to the market, together we’ll talk about the issues that make writing your next novel so hard and how to combat the challenges.


D. Patti Ann Harris—The Visual Narrative from Pacing to Page Turns

Examine picture book and board book sequences and analyze what contributes to making strong visual narratives. We’ll look at using storyboards, scale, bleed, and point of view as effective tools to build satisfying page turns.


10:40-10:50 | Break


10:50-11:50 | Session V

A. Debbie Dadey—A Hook and a Character

Explore two of the most important elements in a chapter book: the hook and the characters. These are what will make your story stand out from others in the slush pile and make readers hungry for another one of your books.


B. Bess Cozby—Deep Dive into Story Structure

Having a working knowledge of story structure is invaluable for writers at any stage of their careers. Whether you’re using it to write an outline, revise, or compose a synopsis, knowing the three-act structure and how to apply it will make the job easier! Using examples from popular YA novels, editor Bess Cozby takes a deep dive into universal story structure and provides techniques for using it to outline, revise, or summarize your novel.


C. Andrea J. Loney – Mining Real Life Emotions for Fictional Stories

 Fantastic fictional story ideas can come from anywhere, but some of the most beloved tales can spring right from our very own lives. In this workshop we’ll explore the real-life emotional journeys behind some great children’s books, and we will create our own new heartfelt fictional tales based on stories from our own lives. Be prepared to write, discuss, and share.


D. Patti Ann Harris and Claire Easton—Illustrator Website 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 websites on an overhead screen for all to learn. Submit your illustration website for consideration by August 13th to Mary Uhles at with the 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.


11:50-12:00pm | Break


12:00-12:10 | Door Prizes and Manuscript Winners Announced


12:10-12:50 | Closing Keynote

Marcie Colleen—PARTY BEAR Self-Care: How to stay positive and productive on this publishing path

Marcie will share inspirational advice on how to block out the blues and get your party on to enable the creative process.


12:50-1:00 | Closing Remarks