Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Change the World with Words

Date(s) - 10/06/2018
8:15 am - 4:45 pm

318 5th Street - West Des Moines, IA 50322

Change the World with Words

October 6, 2018

Gravitate, West Des Moines in Historic Valley Junction 

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Registration will open SATURDAY, July 28 at 9:00 AM

Wendy Delsol is the author of four novels,The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls(Penguin/Berkley) and Stork, Frost, and Flock (Candlewick Press). Stork received a star and “Perfect Ten” award from VOYA. Wendy is also the recipient of an Iowa Author Award. She has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a graduate degree from California State University, Long Beach. She was born in Canada, grew up in Michigan, lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, and now resides in the Des Moines area.
Melissa Edwards joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016 and she opened MLE Consulting, a publishing contract consulting business, in March 2018. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a 40-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa represents authors of children’s literature, adult commercial fiction, and select pop-culture nonfiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and commercial young adult fiction. She also manages a select picture book list. She can be found on Twitter @MelissaLaurenE, where she often tweets her active Manuscript Wishlist requests under #MSWL.
Brian Geffen is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Previously, he was at Penguin Young Readers. He acquires middle grade, YA, and graphic novels of all stripes, particularly fiction with a focus on fantasy and contemporary realistic novels, as well as the occasional nonfiction title. Brian is the editor of books by Julie C. Dao, John Flanagan, Mike Lupica, Matilda Woods, Andrew Maraniss, Gregory Zuckerman, Heather Kassner, Remy Lai, and William Shivering, among others. Born and raised in New York, Brian lives in Queens, where he’s constantly on the lookout for good food and good books. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Geffen.
Nephele Tempest joined The Knight Agency in January 2005, opening the Los Angeles-area office. As an agent, she works with a number of talented writers, assisting them to hone their skills and build their careers. Nephele comes from a diverse publishing and finance background, having previously worked on the editorial side of the business, as well as for several major New York investment firms as a financial advisor and later a financial marketing and communications writer. Her previous experience provided her with insight into multiple aspects of the publishing industry. Nephele continues to actively build her client list and looks for work with both strong, well-developed characters and a story that pulls her in and won’t let go. She is seeking women’s fiction, historical fiction, single-title romance, fantasy and science fiction, and both young adult and middle grade fiction of any sub-genre. In particular, she would like to see some fantasy with diverse cultural influences, #ownvoices projects, and stories that inspire and/or make her think.


Gravitate, 318 5th Street, West Des Moines, IA (in Historic Valley Junction)

Nearby Hotels:

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hilton Garden Inn, 204 South 64th Street, West Des Moines, IA at $119+tax for Friday and Saturday. Please call (515) 223-0571 and state you are with SCBWI by September 7 to reserve this rate.

Registration Information:

·     Cost for SCBWI members on or before August 30: $150.00

·     Cost for Non-Members before August 30: $165.00

·     Cost for SCBWI Members after August 30: $165.00

·     Cost for SCBWI Non-Members after August 31: $175.00


Payment can be made online during registration with a major credit card or sent by check to Iowa SCBWI, PO Box 7613, Urbandale, IA 50323


There will be a selection of baked goods served from 8:15-8:45 AM and complimentary water and coffee served throughout the day.

Lunch is off-site and not included in the cost of admission. There are many restaurants in Valley Junction or you can bring your own lunch and eat at the conference site.

Off-Site Written Critiques:

Written critiques are assigned as first-come-first-served basis and are $40.00 per critique. You must register for the conference to sign up for a critique.

·      Melissa Edwards, Literary Agent with Stonesong Agency: 10 critiques

·      Brian Geffens, Editor with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers: 10 critiques

·      Nephele Tempest, Literary Agent with The Knight Agency: 10 critiques

·      Wendy Delsol, author: 5 critiques

Submit the first 10 pages and a synopsis in standard manuscript format to by 5:00 PM on Thursday, August 30, 2018. Your subject line should include your first and last name and the title of your manuscript. (Example: Eileen Boggess, The Best Novel Ever Written). Please use .doc, not a pdf.

Submissions to Editors:

The editor and agents will accept submissions from attendees after the conference. The submission deadlines will be announced at the conference.

Tentative Conference Schedule


8:15-8:45 Registration.
A selection of baked goods will be provided as well as water and coffee.

 8:45-9:00 Welcome

 9:00-10:20 Brian Geffen, Editor with Henry Holt for Young Readers
The Art of Characterization: How to Create a Winning Protagonist
Any great story begins, of course, with a great character. The protagonist is integral in so many ways: they are the lens through which we view the world a writer constructs, the source of the emotional stakes that keep a reader invested, and the catalyst that drives the intrigue. But crafting a gripping, flawed, and winning protagonist is no easy feat. How do you build a great character? How does their past, their back story, inform their present and future, and set the plot in motion? How do you create the layers of personality that make a protagonist feel three-dimensional? How do you ensure the reader will be invested in the character’s arc? In this presentation, we’ll explore the ins and outs of developing a winning protagonist from the ground up.

10:20-10:30 Break

10:30-11:50 Nephele Tempest, Literary Agent with the Knight Agency 
First Pages: What I Look for in the Opening of a Novel to Keep Me Reading
Grab your reader from the very start! It’s great advice, but what does it mean in practice? And even more important, what does it mean in your manuscript? While it might be easy to recognize a fabulous beginning in a favorite novel, it can be difficult to determine what works in your own writing, especially after a few drafts where nothing seems to pop. Join me to learn what elements make for a compelling opening, what I look for in the first pages of a manuscript to keep me reading, what details may differ based on genre, and how to avoid the mistakes that most typically negate a fabulous first paragraph.
11:50-1:00 Lunch 
Lunch is off-site and not included in the cost of admission. There are many restaurants in Valley Junction or you can bring your own lunch and eat at the conference site.
1:00-2:20 Melissa Edwards, Literary Agent with Stonesong Literary
The Call: What to Expect when an Agent Offers Representation
This intensive will help prepare authors for that ever-important first phone call with offering literary agents. Literary agent Melissa Edwards of Stonesong will prepare a checklist of topics authors can use to formulate questions: including editorial vision, style of communication, timeline for acceptance of offer, timeline for submission, and submission techniques. Melissa will provide a behind-the-scenes look into a literary agent’s thought process when answering a prospective client’s questions, including some translation of agent coded speech. This intensive will include a substantial Q- and- A section, as well as some on-the-ground Dos and Don’ts from Melissa’s own experience.
2:20-2:30 Break
2:30-3:40 Wendy Delsol, Author
Is your story plot-driven or character-driven? This workshop won’t ask you to choose. Nor will it become mired in debate. Instead, it will borrow the best from both schools of thought and list the beats that will help you navigate writing a novel from an opening scene to a final image. Beginning with a richly imagined main character—in particular, pressure points from his or her past—we’ll gauntlet this MC up and over a tried and tested story arc. By the end of the session, you’ll have a framework from which you can build out and up, while keeping plot and pacing on track.
 3:45-4:45 First Pages
Submit a polished and submission ready first page of your manuscript to Eileen Boggess at by Saturday, August 25A panel of our guest speakers will discuss whether they believe your first line is where your story starts; if your first line is further down the page; or if they believe your story should start at a different scene/time/place.

First pages will be read by volunteers to ensure anonymity. Due to time constraints, not all first pages submitted will be read.

4:45-5:00 Farewells/Door Prizes

This event is fully booked.