Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Saturday Keynotes and Sunday Workshops


Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple: Success Stories – The only way to define your own success story is with a yardstick of your own making. No matter how successful you are, there will always be more rejections than acquisitions. It’s how you view and use failure to your advantage that counts. Jane and Heidi will share their success stories AND failures to remind you to keep working and write your own success story.

Carole Boston Weatherford: Channeling Voices – An inside look at how award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford conjures voices for the characters and narrators in her acclaimed biographies, nonfiction, and verse novels.

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 discover how you can refine your purpose to make a premise with a promise for a wide number of readers.

Salina Yoon: The Power of Being Quiet – Salina Yoon will share her journey from being a quiet, non-English speaking child to award-winning children’s book author/illustrator. Through her silence, she looked inward to find her love for art that would connect her to the rest of the world.

Sarah Aronson: The Power of Play: Play is one of the most important (but underrated) phases of the creative process. With pressure to develop a brand, produce more work, and keep up a social media presence, many writers stop experimenting as much as they did before they were published. When Sarah was feeling a bit at odds with her writing and the market, she gave herself the challenge to spend six months playing. She made a commitment to write every genre she never thought she could publish—without expectations. What she discovered, after finishing a bunch of picture books, essays, a chapter book (with proposals for more), and the outline of an adult novel, will speak to the importance of play, hunches, and creativity.



Jane Yolen: Compression – Is your story flabby? Have too many unnecessary words? Are you having trouble getting it down to your desired word count? Jane will let you know her secrets (of which she has many) on how to elevate your picture book text through compression.

Lorin Oberweger: The PALS System: Breaking Out of Mid-list, Deepening Your Work, and Creating a Passionate Lifelong ReadershipThis workshop is for: solid mid-list authors; debut authors whose book sales sizzled then fizzled; published authors looking to break into other genres, including fiction for adult readers. It’s for PAL members who long to push themselves, to grow and to create richer experiences that readers will talk about for years to come. In this workshop, we’ll dig into techniques of concept, reader emotion, world-building (in any genre), voice, characterization, market/platform, and more to help you take your writing—and your career—to new heights. Please bring your manuscript, a laptop or notepad (or both) and your willingness to go deep and work hard. (PAL MEMBERS ONLY)*

Jill Davis: Page by Page: Visualizing Your Writing Into a Book – Every published book uses a format. That format comes with guidelines you may never have known about or considered. This includes everything from page count and trim size; chapter style and layout; amount of words or images on a page; integration of illustration with fiction in illustrated novels; most nonfiction for kids;  early readers; and many more. This workshop will discuss writing and self-editing from a more visual and concrete point of view. When writers and illustrators understand formats, it’s more likely that their work will evolve into what they imagined. You will learn to use format familiarity as shorthand for knowing how best to shape your story and see examples of how we edit for format.

Linda Camacho: Starting and Ending Stories With a Bang – Writers often agonize over the middle of the novel–so much so that they sometimes forget to focus on the bookends of the story. The beginning of the narrative sets up a promise to the reader and the ending is meant to fulfill it. This workshop will provide you with the tools to grab the reader with that opening and leave them satisfied with the finale.

Kandace Coston: From Slush to Success: Getting Your Picture Book Manuscript Out of the Slush PileIn this workshop, we’ll discuss the unsolicited submission process, how to strengthen the elements of your cover letter/manuscript, and creative ways to make your story stand out!

 Christy Tugeau Ewers: Portfolio Building: When Are You Ready to Meet the Market? – When is the BEST time to introduce yourself to the children’s market? When your portfolio is ready. I will be talking about building a robust and appealing portfolio that will impress at first sight. You only get ONE chance for a first impression in the industry, and it’s important to make sure that your portfolio is as strong as it can possibly be. I will be giving examples of successes and failures from my own personal experience, and giving some guidance on how to avoid common pitfalls in regards to entering the market.

 Stephen Fraser: How to Write the Perfect Elevator Pitch – This will be a working session in which every participant will learn to write (and improve) their elevator pitches of their submitted work. Everyone will leave with a perfect pitch.

Yolanda Scott: More Than Just the Facts: Exceptional Nonfiction and How to Write and Sell It – Long an underserved category, nonfiction is one of the most innovative categories in children’s books today, with an expanding market. Hear about the latest trends in nonfiction for children and teens, learn what an editor looks for in a nonfiction manuscript, avoid the common mistakes authors make in their submissions, and discuss and evaluate recently published nonfiction titles in this interactive workshop.

Heidi Stemple: School Visits 101 – Get ready to present to kids!  Heidi, a 20+ year veteran of the school visit will give you practical advice, secrets to keep you sane, and tricks to keep your audience engaged.  Plus, she will do this within the armature of her own school visit so you can experience one firsthand.

Tina Dubois: Here and Now, Then and There: Getting the Most from Your Setting – This workshop will explore ways to ensure that the setting isn’t just a backdrop for the plot. With written exercises and take-home worksheets, you will leave this session with a deeper understanding of how to use the setting to shape your characters, plot, dialogue, and tone.

Salina Yoon: Break It Down and Build One Up – Salina Yoon will analyze a picture book, scene by scene, to show how she uses color, line, and composition to help tell the story in a more compelling way. Then we will explore a technique in writing a picture book, scene by scene, in a non-traditional and non-linear way that can be applied to non-fiction and fiction books of all genres. This workshop will be geared both toward authors and illustrators.

Carole Boston Weatherford: Poetic License Renewal (not just for poets) – Open your writing to poetic possibilities. Tap poetic techniques that lend structure, add lyricism, and heighten the power of your words. Try pairing poetry with other genres in hybrid works that gain readers’ and reviewers’ attention.

Sarah Aronson: Cinematic Techniques for Writing: How thinking like a director can help you reimagine your next project – Thinking like a director means thinking with intention. It means standing back and analyzing and intuiting your manuscript from a healthy, authoritative distance. In this presentation and discussion Sarah Aronson will introduce you to this mindset. We will consider the visual nature of cinema and the effect visual cues have on story structure–and how we can use it to tap into our subconscious. We will analyze and access the filmmaker’s toolbox to create what Robert Olen Butler calls “omnisensual cinema” or cinema of the mind.

Cheryl Klein: Creating Multidimensional Characters – What makes a character come alive on the page for us? What qualities draw readers in, give the character dimension, make the protagonist an effective actor in a compelling story? We’ll explore multiple techniques to see your characters anew and endow them with more depth, interest, and drive.

Marjetta Geerling: Writer to Writer: Creating Presentations and Workshops for Conferences – This workshop will explore what it takes to create an engaging and informative presentation for other writers. We’ll start with concept development and navigate through the various challenges of content, technology, handout creation, session time management, and unique writing exercises. Participants should leave with an outline of a dynamic and marketable workshop suitable for a conference or other peer-to-peer environment. (PAL MEMBERS ONLY)*

 *PAL MEMBER WORKSHOPS: These are only for authors whose publishers are listed here: