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FRIDAY, September 13
Pre-conference intensives are available on Friday for an additional fee. Registration is limited. To register for intensives, please check the appropriate box when registering for the conference online. Intensive registrations are non-transferable, and there will be no refunds.
8:30–9:00 a.m. | Registration
9:00–11:00 a.m. | Eric Smith—Social Media and the Author: What It’s For, What It’s Not ($55)
When authors talk about social media and the dreaded “platform,” it often leads to feelings of panic. Are you going to have a hard time selling a book if you don’t have a ton of Twitter followers? Do you HAVE to be on Snapchat? What if your Instagram is just full of family photos? Relax. In this intensive, we’ll take an in-depth look at social media, the best ways to use it (hint: it’s not to sell books), and the mistakes that are often made. Limit 40.
11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Registration
12:00–2:00 p.m. | Lynda Mullaly Hunt—Organization for the Non-Linear Thinker: How to Organize the Threads within Your Manuscript, Track Characters, and Deepen Plot ($55)
Novels are usually read from beginning to end, but they don’t necessarily have to be written that way. Author and non-linear thinker Lynda Mullaly Hunt will explain how she pieces together novels from scenes that come to her out of sequence. She will also discuss how she keeps it all organized and how this process aids her in revision, specifically character development and pacing, as well as cutting extraneous information, deepening emotion, and making sure sub-plots don’t drop off. In addition, she will address how she keeps track of many drafts of the same book and organizes notes and ideas for future projects. Hopefully, by the end of this workshop, you will be happy to embrace your non-linear approach and realize it’s actually a strength. Limit 30.
12:00–2:00 p.m. | Stephani Stilwell—Illustrating a Picture Book Jacket and Case Cover ($55)
Covers are an important way to get readers to pick up a picture book, and there are many issues to consider when illustrating one: composition, story, mood, and tone, as well as how the story is represented in one image. In addition to tackling these topics, designer and illustrator Stephani Stilwell will also discuss how to illustrate a strong case cover for the instances when the jacket is removed from a picture book. In these situations, the art is almost like a second cover and can make for an exciting reveal when a reader takes the jacket off the book. Full participants will create sketches and a final piece for review during the intensive. Illustrator coordinator Mary Uhles will contact these participants with instructions after registration Limit 12. (Want to observe this intensive? Illustrators wishing to observe only may do so for a fee of $25. Observe-only Participants will not participate in creating sketches and a piece but may participate during the final critique. Just check the “observe only” box when you register for the conference online. Limit 15.)
2:00–2:30 p.m. | Registration
2:30–4:30 p.m. | Tiffany Liao—What the Heart Wants: How to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters ($55)
With every book she edits, Holt editor Tiffany Liao always starts with one big question: What does the character want? Your character motivation is the heart of the story and will inform every element in your book including voice, plot, pacing, and world-building. Tiffany will show you how to dig deep into your character to establish a motivation that is compelling, believable, and urgently drives the story forward from page to page. Limit 30.
2:30–4:30 p.m. | Will Akers—The Three-Act Structure and Beyond! ($55)
This intensive will analyze story points from well-constructed movies (and a board book or two) as we explore what each act in a three-act structure must deliver. Screenwriter Will Akers will break acts into building blocks and examine how character drives structure. He will also discuss powerful methods for discovering where and how to begin your story, why an act break must be visible from the moon, how to avoid the dreaded Act II sag, and much more as we unpack why beginning, middle, and end are just the start. Limit 30.
5:30–6:00 p.m. | Registration
5:30–6:30 p.m. | Happy Hour Regional Meet-and-Greet
Meet the Midsouth officers, the Midsouth conference committee, the Midsouth critique coordinator, your region’s Midsouth social director, and other people from your area (and perhaps make dinner plans) at this meet-and-greet during the Embassy Suites happy hour in the hotel atrium.
SATURDAY, September 14
7:30–8:00 a.m. | Registration
8:00–8:15 a.m. | Welcome
8:15–9:00 a.m. | Opening Keynote—Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Long and Bumpy, Joyous and Painful Journey… and Why It’s ALL Worth It
The journey to publication is often a long and bumpy one, in which both heartbreak and triumph are part of the ride. Many of us consider giving up. Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt will tell the story of her complicated and unlikely journey to publication and explain why, even though it’s a struggle for so many of us, it is so, so worth it.
9:00–9:15 a.m. | Break
9:15–10:15 a.m. | Session I
A. Susan Eaddy and Mary Uhles—Writing and Illustrating 101
What type of story have I written? Do I need an illustrator? Do I need an agent? What is the difference between a query letter and a cover letter, a synopsis and a partial? How do I make my portfolio shine? In this basic overview of the children’s writing and illustrating world, from board books to YA, author Susan Eaddy and illustrator Mary Uhles will answer these questions and explore the dos and don’ts along the path to publication.
B. Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and Jessica Young—Making the Most of School Visits: Part I
There’s nothing like connecting with young readers in person, and school visits are a great way to do it. In the first part of this two-part breakout session, children’s book authors Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and Jessica Young will share their tips about school visits, including scheduling and pre-visit communication, partnering with bookstores like Parnassus for school events, structuring visits for maximum impact and fun, incorporating elements that enhance curriculum, finding funding sources, creating teacher resources, and following up after the visit. (You are welcome to sign up for one or both parts of this two-part session.)
C. Dave Connis—How Characters Are Like Lasagna
Noodles. Childhood. Cheese. Family. Sauce. Hobbies. Every character has a recipe for what makes them who they are. In this session, we’ll talk lasagna, cultural contexts, regional dialects, family structures, etc. and learn a few tricks and tools to help write characters that jump off a page, slap you in the face, and then apologize afterward.
D. Stephani Stilwell—Character Development in Picture Books
When illustrating a picture book, it’s important to develop characters in a thoughtful way. What is the world they live in? How would this character react to different scenarios? How do their body type, clothing, accessories, and so forth tell the reader what sort of character they are? The smallest details an illustrator contributes to a character can set a story in motion and help tell it without any words needed. We’ll discuss these concepts in detail during this session.
10:15–10:30 a.m. | Break
10:30–11:30 a.m. | Session II
A. Molly O’Neill—Openings Inside-Out: From Early-Stage to Final Book
Get a behind-the-scenes peek at the publishing process by looking at the openings of several published books. See real-life samples from early drafts and finished pages, learn the nitty-gritty of what changes were made from submission to published book (and why!), and consider how the suggestions of an editor or agent can better the reading experience of a book’s opening for the sake of readers. Note: this breakout will focus primarily on novels.
B. Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and Jessica Young—Making the Most of School Visits: Part II
In the second part of this two-part breakout session, children’s book authors Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and Jessica Young will conduct a mock school visit. They’ll re-enact some of the discussions and activities they typically incorporate into their school visits as well as inviting audience members to ask questions and share their own experience and expertise. (You are welcome to sign up for one or both parts of this two-part session.)
C. Tamar Mays—10 Things I Think About When Reading a Picture Book Submission: An Editor’s Point of View
This session provides a behind-the-scenes look at what HarperCollins executive editor Tamar Mays considers when reading a picture book submission—from “Is this something I can’t stop thinking about?” and “Does the story lend itself to illustration?” to “How successful could this be?”
D. Mary Uhles—Six Tips to Make Your Portfolio Sparkle
While flipping through another illustrator’s Instagram pics or real-life portfolios, we often notice standout pieces but get frustrated when trying to work that magic into our own art. However, there are some easily integrated techniques you can adopt in your illustrations no matter what style or medium you work with that will boost your emotion and take your storytelling to the next level. This session will look at those techniques, as well as teach you how to “analyze like an artist” so that you can better critique your own work and learn from the next amazing #kidlitart piece you see.
11:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. | Lunch (optional $29)
1. To purchase a box lunch for Saturday, please select that option when you register. You will need to pick up your box lunch at the registration desk on Saturday between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. Feel free to eat in the hotel atrium with other conference attendees. This is your chance to get to know each other!
2. If you choose NOT to order a box lunch when you register, you should plan to either:
A. bring your own lunch (to eat in the hotel atrium or elsewhere)
B. purchase lunch in the hotel bar or at a nearby restaurant. (See the Midsouth dining map!)
Be aware that you only have 75 minutes for lunch unless you skip door prizes!
12:45–1:00 p.m. | Door Prizes (You must be present to win.)
1:00–1:45 p.m. | Author and Illustrator Panel
1:45–2:00 p.m. | Break
2:00–3:00 p.m. | First Pages
First Pages offers conference attendees the unique opportunity to witness an agent’s or editor’s first impression when reading a new manuscript. Anonymous first pages will be chosen at random and read aloud to the group. Then faculty will discuss the ever-important question: Would I read more? They will offer specific suggestions on how to improve the appeal of a story’s opening. (First page submission is not required to attend this session, and not all first pages/materials will be read. Attendees may pre-register for one session only.)
A. Picture Book—with editor Tamar Mays and author Jessica Young
B. Middle Grade—with editor Tiffany Liao and author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
C. Young Adult—with agent Eric Smith and author Dave Connis
To submit a first page, please bring three paper-clipped copies of the first page of one PB, MG, or YA manuscript to Saturday morning registration. 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 the title). Only a selection of properly formatted submissions will be read and discussed.
3:00–3:15 p.m. | Break
3:15–4:15 p.m. | Session III
A. Lynda Mullaly Hunt—Fireside Chat Q & A
Come by for a fireside chat with author Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Lynda will delve into all aspects of publishing—everything from craft to failure—as well as the importance of staying a happy human through the ups and downs. Bring your best questions! Lynda will instruct as well as inspire you.
B. Eric Smith and Dave Connis—Mastering the Query Letter and the Hook
Query letters are scary. Getting ready to pitch a novel can create all kinds of anxiety. In this session, agent Eric Smith and author Dave Connis will use REAL QUERY LETTERS from published authors to break down how to craft the perfect pitch.
C. Alice Faye Duncan—The Future Has a Past: Notes on Writing Nonfiction and Historical Fiction for Children
Award-winning author Alice Faye Duncan will discuss the five strategies she uses to write nonfiction and historical fiction. Her session will address preparing the writing space, honing the craft of writing with poetry, using music to inspire memory, finding helpful reference sources for research, and selecting the perfect tools and technology for the physical act of writing.
D. Tiffany Liao—Mirrors, Windows, and Doors: Writing and Thinking Cross-Culturally
If you’re supposed to “write what you know,” how can you create convincingly and respectfully from a perspective outside of your own? Holt editor Tiffany Liao will offer insights and craft-based advice based on her experience editing and reading cross-culturally.
4:15 p.m. | Closing Announcements
4:30–6:00 p.m. | Face-to-face manuscript critiques and portfolio reviews (these may take place throughout the rest of the conference as well.)
5:00–6:30 p.m. | Midsouth Cocktail and Autograph Party with Portfolio Showcase (free and open to the public)
Come mingle with us before the gala dinner! Check out illustrator portfolios and purchase that special book you want to have signed by a faculty member or an SCBWI author. Bring your drink coupon, cash, or credit card to use at the cash bar. Friends and family are welcome to attend the autograph party. It’s free and open to the public!
7:00–10:00 p.m. Silver and Steam Gala Dinner (for conference attendees and faculty)
Saturday concludes with the Silver and Steam Gala Dinner for both conference attendees and faculty. The gala will include a full sit-down dinner, as well as a presentation of contest winners (fiction, illustration, social media, portfolio showcase). The theme is “silver and steam,” so dress appropriately. Think dinner attire with a bent toward steampunk—leather, gold, silver, steel, etc. Everything from a top hat or goggles to a leather jacket or a full-on costume. Take your pick and have fun with it! This is a great opportunity to unwind after a long, productive day and socialize with both attendees and faculty. (The cost of dinner is included with your conference tuition.)
SUNDAY, September 15th
8:15–8:30 a.m. | Welcome
8:30–9:30 a.m. | Editor, Agent, and Art Director Panel
9:30–9:40 a.m. | Break
9:40–10:40 a.m. | Session IV
A. Molly O’Neill and Tiffany Liao—Fly on the Publishing Wall
Ever wish you could be—as Lin-Manuel Miranda perfectly expresses it in Hamilton—in the room where it happens? (Or at least secretly lurking on the phone call or cc’d on the email chain where it’s slowly unfolding because everything in publishing happens slowly?) In this session that’s one minor part improv, one major part information, editor Tiffany Liao (Holt/Macmillan) and agent Molly O’Neill (Root Literary) will simulate a variety of conversations that happen every day somewhere in publishing land. You’ll have a chance to hear how they talk about good news, bad news, and everything in-between: from pitches, offers, rejections, and revision requests to covers, sales tracks, deadline extensions, next book ideas, and much more! Along the way, they hope to illuminate how different players in the publishing equation work together in support of authors, illustrators, and their books.
B. Mekisha Telfer—How Does This Sound?: Finding Your Voice
Voice is an element of writing that is mentioned by editors and agents a good deal, but what does it actually mean? And can it be improved? In this session, we’ll discuss ways to pin down the elusive (but wildly important) elements of voice in your manuscript.
C. Tamar Mays—Writing Great Picture Books: Think Like an Illustrator
Great picture books are a wonderful melding of art and words. As a wordsmith, it’s important to think visually. What is the right amount of text? Does the story lend itself to illustration? What happens on the page turns? How is the pacing? We will review how to use a book map as a tool and how to think visually while also sharing some thoughts on art notes.
D. Stephani Stilwell—The Pacing of a Chapter Book
Illustrated chapter books are important for kids—they can be a great first step for children who aren’t feeling totally confident about reading just yet. Including illustrations on every page is a great way to break up the text: they can give a child some context about what they’re reading and keep them engaged along the way. We’ll talk specifically about the ways in which illustration can support a chapter book’s text. When should an illustration be a spot versus a half or full page? Is there a particular order that text and illustration should follow? How do you keep the reader engaged using illustration? We’ll talk about all this and more during this session.
10:40–10:50 a.m. | Break
10:50–11:50 a.m. | Session V
A. Mekisha Telfer—Under Pressure: Raising the Stakes in Your Novel
In this session, we’ll discuss ways to turn your manuscript into a real page-turner, from fully fleshed-out characters to unexpected plot twists.
B. Eric Smith—Building Your Platform
Platform. It’s a scary word sometimes. Let’s fix that by demystifying it. In this session, we’ll spend some time talking about how authors and illustrators can build a platform online AND offline, as well as how the definition of platform extends far beyond just having a Twitter account.
C. Patsi Trollinger and Rita Lorraine Hubbard—Look Back, Think Forward: How to Create an Award-Winning Picture Book Biography
In the last five years, picture book biographies have garnered attention as Caldecott winners and honor books. The genre is hotter than ever—and so are publishers’ expectations of authors and illustrators. In this session, veteran authors Patsi Trollinger and Rita Lorraine Hubbard will teach participants how to test the strength of a new idea, set a plan for research, and make use of lyrical writing to tell a life story.
D. Stephani Stilwell and Molly O’Neill—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 an agent and an art director 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
11:50–12:00 p.m. | Break
12:00–12:10 p.m. | Door Prizes and Announcements
12:10–12:50 p.m. | Closing Keynote—Alice Faye Duncan
Five Lessons from the Mountaintop
While researching the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Alice Faye Duncan learned great lessons that had a major impact on her creative process and changed the demands she put on her publishing career. Across the decade required to write Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, she found that Dr. King practiced power-packed principles that will help writers achieve their goals. Alice will share these five principles in an interactive presentation that includes poetry, music, and movement.
12:50–1:00 p.m. | Closing Remarks