Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Grow Your Picture Book Garden

Date(s) - 08/11/2018
8:15 am - 4:30 pm

Drake University
2507 University Avenue - Des Moines, Iowa 50311

Grow Your Picture Book Garden

A One-Day Event to Dig In and Make Your Picture Books Bloom!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Drake University – Collier-Scripps Hall (Room 301)

Registration will open SATURDAY, May 26 at 9am


About the Speakers:


Eliza Berkowitz is a senior editor at Sterling Children’s Books. One of the things she likes best about her job is the freedom to acquire and create books across many different categories. One morning she might be shaping the text for a nonfiction book about real-life dog and wolf best friends, and come afternoon she could be brainstorming ideas for a pop-culture book for tweens. In particular, she loves working on picture books, especially picture books about cats! Eliza lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, with her husband, 9-year-old daughter (for whom she not-so-secretly wants to make all those cat books), and cat (confusingly named Bunny). In terms of the types of picture books she likes the most, Eliza leans toward the more quirky/funny/silly. She loves a book with a strong message, but also finds value in a book being fun for fun’s sake.


Jill Esbaum is an Iowa picture book author whose recent titles include How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, and If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party. Several of her books have been nominated for state awards, and her I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite award. She also writes nonfiction for National Geographic Kids, with 24 books published or on the way.

Jill created a group blog of fellow picture book writers and illustrators called Picture Book Builders (, teaches writing at conferences around the country, and co-hosts (with Linda Skeers) the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop each summer. Find more information at her website,


Charlotte is the author of Prince and Pirate (Putnam/PRH, 2017), Halloween Hustle (Two Lions, 2013), and more than thirty poems which have appeared in the Cricket and Highlights families of magazines. She’s a three-time recipient of the Highlights Pewter Plate Award. Charlotte’s hobby is making kids laugh and getting them jazzed up about reading. She’s been lucky enough to share her stories (and dance moves) at schools, libraries, bookstores, and festivals from Phoenix to Montreal, and Paris to Portland. Learn more at


Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent and children’s author. Prior to joining BookEnds Literary, she worked as a Communications Manager, a freelance editor, an agents’ assistant at Curtis Brown, a children’s book reviewer, a newspaper correspondent, and a freelance copywriter for Scholastic Book Clubs.

As an author, her debut picture book, Chicken Wants a Nap, is available from Creative Editions (Fall 2017). She is an Amazon bestseller that’s been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer’s Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A in Writing for Children from Simmons College and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric from Binghamton University.


Tammi Sauer is a full time author who presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 32 picture books to major publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. In addition to winning awards, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. Nugget & Fang was made into a musical and is currently on a national tour, Wordy Birdy was named a Spring 2018 Kids’ Indie Next pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and a Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month, and Your Alien, an NPR Best Book of the Year, was recently released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, and French which makes her feel extra fancy.


The conference will be held at Collier-Scripps Hall (Room 301) on the Drake University campus.


Drake University

Collier-Scripps Hall (Located on 27th Street)

Room 301

Des Moines, IA 50311


Directions to Drake University:


Drake Campus Map:



A block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Express just off the Drake Campus.


Holiday Inn Express

1140 24thStreet

Des Moines, IA 50311

Phone: (515) 255-4000

Room Rate = $122.08 total per night per room

Each room has 2 queen beds.

Please mention “SCBWI Conference” when you call to reserve your room.

The State Fair is going on during this time, so we recommend reserving your room early.


Registration Information:

  • Cost for SCBWI Members before June 30: $125.00
  • Cost for Non-Members before June 30: $140.00
  • Cost for SCBWI Members after June 30: $140.00
  • Cost for Non-Members after June 30: $150.00



Payment can be made online during registration with a major credit card or by sending a check made out to IOWA SCBWI to:



P.O. Box 7613

Urbandale, IA 50323



There will be a selection of baked goods served from 8:15-9:00 AM and complimentary water and soda served throughout the day.


Lunch is on your own  

Feel free to bring your own lunch. (Please note: there is a refrigerator available)


In addition, below is a limited list of restaurants close to the Drake campus.

  1.    Drake Diner – 1111 25th Street, Des Moines
  2.    Gazali’s (Greek) – 1205 25th Street, Des Moines
  3.    Subway – 1315 31st Street, Ste 3, Des Moines
  4.    Jimmy John’s – 2416 University Ave, Des Moines
  5.    China Place – 2414 University Ave, Des Moines


Written Critiques:

Written critiques will be offered for $40.

Critiques are assigned on a first come, first served basis.

No in-person critiques.


Eliza Berkowitz: 10 critiques

Jill Esbaum: 6 critiques

Charlotte Gunnufson: 5 critiques

Tracy Marchini: 10 critiques

Tammi Sauer: 4 critiques


After you’ve registered and paid for your critique submit one complete picture book manuscript. Use standard manuscript format and send as an email attachment to by 5:00 PM on Saturday, June 30, 2018. Your subject line should include your first and last name and the title of your manuscript. (Example: Eileen Boggess, The Sloth Exercise Guide). Please use .doc or .docx, not .pdf.


Submissions to Editor and Agent:

The editor and agent will accept submissions from attendees after the conference. Please follow the submission guidelines each has provided in your conference folder.


Tentative Conference Schedule:

8:15-8:45 Registration

A selection of baked goods will be provided from 8:15-9:00am. Complimentary water and soda will be available throughout the day.

8:45-8:55 Welcome

9:00-10:00 Tammi Sauer – Psst!Tammi’s Top Picture Book Writing Secrets — REVEALED

Tammi will unveil her favorite picture book writing secrets. She will focus on the key picture book components, explore what to include in a picture book’s beginning, middle, and end, and offer strategies for building the much-sought-after heart and humor into manuscripts.

10:00-10:10 Break

10:10-11:10 Eliza Berkowitz, Senior Editor at Sterling Children’s Books – Tools to Help Your Writing Blossom

Just as the right garden tools will help your garden grow, the right literary tools will help your manuscript flourish. Eliza will discuss some useful literary devices and techniques to help cultivate dynamic and interesting writing.

11:15-12:00 Tracy Marchini, Agent at BookEnds Literary – FaceTime Q & A

Tracy will chat with us via FaceTime about BookEnds Literary and answer questions from attendees.

12:00-1:30 Lunch on Your Own

Feel free to bring your own lunch or there are a limited number of restaurants close to the Drake campus.

1:30-2:15  Charlotte Gunnufson – Seeds, Soil, Scenes, and the Power of the Page Turn

Dig in! Charlotte will help you discover the practices that make your brain fertile soil in which ground-breaking ideas can germinate. Learn how to use scenes and the power of the page turn to show growth, deliver surprises, and invite readers to participate in the story.

2:15-3:15  Jill Esbaum – Weed Identification 101: How to Tell Violets from Velvetleaf

Jill will help you identify and root out story “weeds” using examples from published authors whose less-than-lovely drafts eventually sprouted and bloomed.

3:15-3:30 Break

3:30-4:15 Editor/Author Panel

A question and answer session with Eliza, Tammi and Jill as they discuss the process from time a manuscript is submitted until it is published from both sides of the desk.

4:15-4:30 Farewells/Raffle Prizes

5:00-6:00 Book Signing Party at Beaverdale Books

Tammi, Jill, and Charlotte will be signing books.

Beaverdale Books

2629 Beaver Avenue, Suite 1

Des Moines, IA 50310