Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2019 Orlando: Saturday Workshops


All Workshop Agendas and Homework Coming Soon:

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Picture Book: Emma Ledbetter, Brian Floca, Laurent Linn, and Alma Fullerton

8:30 – 9:00 AM: MAIN CONFERENCE WELCOME (All attendees will meet in the large room before breaking out into separate workshops.)


9:15 – 10:05 AM: ALMA FULLERTON

Getting a Grip on emotions: 

Alma Fullerton will talk about using emotions to draw your readers into the story and make them care about your characters.

10:05 – 10:20 AM: BREAK

10:20 – 11:10 AM: EMMA LEDBETTER

Let’s Be Honest: Crafting Frank and Perceptive Stories for Picture Book Readers

In this session, we’ll take a look at what makes picture books truthful, genuine and engaging: from nonfiction that is fun, fresh, and appropriate to fiction that is authentic and honest. We’ll cover elements like tone, writing style, and focus—and we’ll have some story time, too!


Noon – 1:00 PM: LUNCH

1:00 – 1:50 PM: LAURENT LINN

Creating Ideas from What Matters to YOU

Meaningful picture books that resonate and reflect the uniqueness and particular creativity of the writers and illustrators who create them, not market trends or perceived “popular” themes or what’s been published before. By exploring your own unique passions, curiosities, and view of the world, you may discover an idea never seen before.

1:50 – 2:40 PM: BRIAN FLOCA

From the Earth to the Moon

Brian Floca will discuss career paths, finding ideas, research, rough drafts, dead ends, more research, storyboards, dummies, revising, making final art, more revising, sharing a studio, and trying to let go.

2:40 – 2:55 PM: BREAK


3:30 – 4:00 PM: Q&A

4:00 – 4:45 PM: MAIN CONFERENCE WRAP-UP (All attendees will meet in the large room directly following our Workshop for wrap-up.)


*For possible critique in front of the group (we will not have time to critique all): Please bring a first page of a picture book manuscript to the workshop. The page should be double spaced with 12-point type and one-inch margins. OR— Submit one original illustration appropriate for picture books as a jpeg in advance to Dorian at by May 20. Please choose either a first page to bring the day-of or an illustration to submit in advance. First pages and art images should not have your name on them.

Also, for the in-class exercises, please bring your laptop or paper and pens/pencils to write and/or draw on.



Middle Grade: Margaret Mincks and Bonnie Bader


Diving into Middle Grade Fiction

Bonnie Bader & Margaret Mincks

8:30-9:00 AM:     All groups meet in large room before breaking out into separate workshops.

9:00-9:10 AM:     INTRODUCTIONS

9:10-9:30 AM:     SESSION 1: Testing the Waters: What is Middle Grade?

What exactly is Middle Grade? There is young middle grade, middle middle grade, and upper middle grade. Find out about the different lanes and which one (or ones) you want to swim in.

9:30-10:00 AM:    SESSION II: The Starting Block: The Importance of Strong Plotting and Setting

What happens? Where does it happen? A strong plot and setting are essential ingredients to any good book. Learn how to enhance your plot and setting and build a rich, believable story.

10:00-10:15 AM:    Writing Exercise

10:15-10:30 AM:     Break

10:30-11:15 AM:     SESSION III: In the Deep End: Creating Compelling Middle Grade Characters

A lot of successful Middle Grade books have compelling characters who stay with you no matter how hard you try to shake them away. Learn how to create unique details for your characters and discover what is important – and not so important – for supporting characters.

11:15-Noon          Activity & Writing Exercise 

Noon-1:00 PM:    Lunch

1:00-1:45 PM:      SESSION IV: Adult Swim vs. The Kiddie Pool: Straight Talk on Dialogue

Kids are smart. They can tell when you are trying to talk like them and will tell you when you are failing miserably. Dialogue can make or break your book. In this session, Bonnie and Margaret will give you some tips and advice.

1:45-2:15 PM:      Activity & Writing Exercise

2:15-2:30 PM:      Break


3:15-3:45 PM:      SESSION V: Make a Splash: Grab the Reader and Don’t Let Go

A few words – or sentences – on opening lines.

3:45-4:00 PM:      Q&A

All groups will meet in large room directly following Q&A for wrap-up.


  1. Bring in your work-in-progress Middle Grade book.
  2. Bring in a hardcopy of the first page of your Middle Grade book, without your name on it, for possible critique in front of the group during the First Page Critiques.
  3. EXTRA CREDIT: Come to class with your favorite, actual kid quotes – any sentences, slang, or observations that give a taste of how kids in the real-world talk.                             


Young Adult: Eric Smith, Hannah Milton, and Deborah Halverson


Retell Me a Story: Retelling Classic Tales: Alex Flinn and Lauren Smulski (For middle grade and young adult.)


How Screenwriting Can Improve Your Novel: Greg Pincus and Elizabeth Law

9:00-9:10 AM: Introductions and Overview

9:10-10:00 AM:  Structure: What screenwriters know about setting a character’s goals, mapping pace, and using last-act reversals. We’ll look at how to use these tools in your novels to keep a reader turning pages.

10:00-10:15 AM: Writing Exercise/Writing Time

10:15-10:30 AM:  Break

10:30-10:45 AM:  Posterize It – a movie poster is another “big picture” way of looking at your story. Imagining your novel’s “poster” in advance can be exceedingly helpful in keeping your writing on track, helping you hone your hook, and help you pitch your story succinctly and powerfully.

10:40-11:45 AM:  Making a Scene – using clips from movies, we’ll break down the who, what, when, where, and why of how a screenwriter makes a scene work for the screen and how you can use the same tricks to make every scene in your novel keep your story moving forward.

11:45-Noon: Writing Exercise

Noon-1:00 PM:  Lunch

1:00-2:00 PM:  Scene Sequences – again using examples from movies, we’ll break down how a screenwriter strings scenes together and how to use the same approach to keep your novel reader always wanting to see what comes next.

2:00-2:45 PM:  Revision: Revising is more than checking off an editor’s comments, it’s inquiring and deepening your work. Here’s what the pros do that can work for you.

2:45-3:00 PM:  Break

3:00-3:45 PM: First pages or scenes written today: sharing your work, getting and giving feedback.*

3:45-4:00 PM:  Q+A and Final Thoughts

*For this workshop you may bring in the first two pages of an anonymous manuscript for possible critique in front of the group.