Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

Date(s) - 04/23/2021 - 04/25/2021
12:00 am

Let the Wild Rumpus Start! – Spring Online Conference

Online Zoom Conference: April 23-25, 2021

*The conference will be recorded and available to all attendees for 30 days after the conference.*


Registration is now open!

  • Conference Cost for SCBWI Members: $50.00
  • Conference Cost for Nonmembers: $100.00
  • Paid Critiques are assigned as first-come-first-served basis and are an additional $50.00. 
  • Paid Round Table Critiques are assigned as first-come-first-served basis and are an additional $50.00.

**Payment can be made online during registration with a major credit card or sent by check to SCBWI IA/MN, 6732 Northview Drive, Urbandale, IA 50322**



Jessica Anderson


Jessica Anderson, Editor Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Jessica Anderson is an Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and works on a wide range of picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Columbia University.




Kirk Benshoff


Kirk Benshoff, Art Director First Second Books

Kirk Benshoff is an art director at Macmillan managing their First Second imprint with over twenty years of experience creating graphic novels, trade books, magazines, logos, illustrations, websites, and more.








Luana Hory Headshot


Luana Horry, Editor at HarperCollins Publishers

Luana Horry is an editor of board books, picture books, and young graphic novels at Harper Collins Children’s Publishers. She has been a member of Harper Children’s flagship imprint for five years and worked on bestselling titles such as Pete the Cat series created by Kimberly and James Dean; the Fancy Nancy series written by Jane O’Connor; The Bad Seed series created by Jory John and Pete Oswald; I’ve Loved You Since Forever written by Hoda Kotb; Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union; the #1 New York Times bestseller I Promise by LeBron James; Fresh Princess written by Denene Millner; Not Quite Snow White written by Ashley Franklin and more.

Some of her upcoming titles include Shady Baby written by Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade; The McClure Twins: Make It Fashion written by Ava and Alexis McClure; and Indigo Dreaming written by Dinah Johnson. Luana is looking for character-driven, inspirational, and clever commercial projects, and has a strong interest in stories that center Black and brown women and girls.


Aneeka Kalia


Aneeka Kalia, Editor at Viking Children’s Books (Penguin Random House)

Aneeka Kalia is an Editor at Viking/Penguin Random House and works on Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction and Narrative Nonfiction with a particular interest in sports (although definitely open to other categories). Aneeka likes humor in stories for all ages, contemporary/realistic fiction in the Middle Grade and Young Adult spaces, and character driven picture books.






Joe Hox

Joe Hox, Illustrator

Joe Hox was born with a spade in one hand and a pencil in the other. He was raised on an Iowa farm where he spent summer days vanquishing thistles and sneaking off to sketch critters. These days, he lives in town and sketches for a living. He’s illustrated more than a dozen books. His favorite projects have been in collaboration with his wife, Kate Hox, a writer and in-home art director.





Jenny Moyer


Jenny Moyer, Author

Jenny Moyer is the author of the young adult sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL, and its sequel FLASHTIDE (Henry Holt/Macmillan.) She is a regional Emmy award-winning scriptwriter and co-owns Luminary Creative with her filmmaker husband. Jenny grew up in Arizona, where she learned to fly before she could drive, studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, and now lives with her family in Des Moines, Iowa. FLASHFALL was nominated for the Iowa High School Book Award.




Bao Phi Author


Bao Phi, Author

Born in Vietnam, raised in South Minneapolis, Bao Phi is a spoken word artist, published poet, and children’s book author. He was named by Minneapolis Monthly as Best Author 2016, and an Artist of the Year and Author of the Year by City Pages, 2017 and 2018.



Melissa Richardson


Melissa Richeson, Agent at Storm Literary Agency

Melissa Richeson is an Associate Literary Agent representing children’s books at Storm Literary Agency. Melissa works with published and pre-published creators across all children’s categories. Her clients are pleased to have found homes for their work at big five imprints and high-quality, independent publishers. Melissa continues to actively build her representation list, looking for that next great project to help kids develop a lifelong love of books. 

You can connect with Melissa on Twitter @MelissaRicheson and read more about her literary interests at




Kristen Schroeder


Kristen Schroeder, Author

Kristen Schroeder is a Twin Cities-based picture book author. Her debut title, ALIEN TOMATO, was published by Page Street Kids in July 2020. In addition to being a member of SCBWI, she’s also a contributor in the 12×12 community. Her second and third picture books are scheduled for publication in 2022.




Zoom Round-Table Paid Critiques (Limited to 32 attendees)

Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Aneeka Kalia, and Melissa Richeson will each host a Round-Table session. Each table holds 8 attendees and are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. $50.00 to participate. Each participant will be limited to one PB manuscript or four pages of a MG/YA manuscript.

Please bring what you’d like to share to the Round-Table Critiques Session in order to get feedback.

Zoom Face-to-Face Paid Critiques:

Critiques are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis and are $50.00 per critique. 

Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Aneeka Kalia, Jenny Moyer, Bao Phi, Melissa Richeson, and Kristen Schroeder will each do up to 10 critiques. Please familiarize yourself with their submission preferences prior to registration. Read this link for information on how to submit your critique.

Zoom Portfolio Reviews:

Portfolio reviews are assigned first-come-first served basis and are $50.00 per review.

  • Kirk Benshoff (Art Director): 10 portfolio reviews
  • Joe Hox (Illustrator): 10 portfolio reviews

Read this link for information on how to submit your portfolio for review.

Pitch Party:

Submit your pitch for a chance to have it reviewed by professionals. Please read this link for complete guidelines on how to submit your pitch. Due to time constraints, not all pitches will be read. Submit all pitches to our ARA – Brooke Gansemer at by April 2nd at 5pm CST to be entered in the pitch pile.

Submissions to Editors/Art Director:

Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Aneeka Kalia, Melissa Richeson, and Kirk Benshoff will accept submissions from attendees for six months after the conference. The submission details will be announced at the conference.


Conference Schedule:

Workshop Key: G (general); PB (picture book); MG/YA (middle grade/young adult); NF (nonfiction); I (illustrators); C (paid critique)

Friday, April 23

9:00-11:15 AM Kirk Benshoff – The Graphic Novel Process 

What to expect, things to consider, and how to prepare for your next graphic novel project so you get your best book possible!

C 11:30 AM-2:30 PM Round Table Critiques (Limited to 32 attendees)

Join either Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Aneeka Kalia, or Melissa Richeson and seven other attendees for a Zoom round table critique. Each attendee will read a maximum of 4 pages (double-spaced/12 point Times New Roman Font) or one picture book aloud of their polished manuscript for a critique by peers and a professional staff member. Time limit is 20 minutes per person.

G 2:45 PM Eileen Boggess, SCBWI IA/MN RA: Welcome 

MG/YA/NF  3:00-4:00 PM Jessica Anderson – Novel Writing Intensive: Balancing Action and Emotion: Keys to Revising and Knowing When You’re Ready to Submit 

C 4:15-7:15 PM Individual Portfolio Reviews/Critiques 

PB/MG/YA/NF Critiques:

  • Jessica Anderson (Associate Editor Henry Holt Books for Young Readers): PB, MG, YA, NF
  • Luana Horry (Editor HarperCollins): PB, MG
  • Aneeka Kalia (Assistant Editor of Viking Children’s Books): PB, MG, YA, and Graphic Novels
  • Jenny Moyer (author): PB, MG, YA
  • Bao Phi (author): Poetry, PB 
  • Melissa Richeson (Agent at Storm Literary): PB, Chapter Books, MG, YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and NF
  • Kristen Schroeder (author): PB

I Portfolio Reviews:

  • Kirk Benshoff (Art Director First Second Books): Graphic Novels and PB
  • Joe Hox (illustrator): PB

Paid Critiques: 

Submit the first 10 pages and a one-page synopsis in standard manuscript format or one full picture book manuscript (double-spaced; 12 point Times New Roman font) to by 5:00 PM on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Late submissions will be charged, but not critiqued. 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 attach as a .doc

Saturday, April 24

G 8:30 AM Welcome 

PB 8:45-9:45 AM Luana Horry – A Day in the Life of Your (Seemingly Chill) Picture Book Editor

It’s no secret that editors are busy—almost all publishing professionals are! But our job consists of more than reading manuscripts and giving authors feedback on how to make their work stronger. This presentation will give a fun (and honest) peek into how an editor ushers in a picture book from submission—or idea—to publication and beyond.

PB/MG/YA/NF 10:00-11:00 AM Aneeka Calia – The Role of Authenticity Readers

As the industry seeks to diversify its story offerings for young readers, authenticity readers are being employed during the editorial process more often. We’ll talk about their role in the editorial process, the experience of working with them as an editor, what it’s like to be an authenticity reader, as well as how they can offer new perspectives on your writing and make stories stronger.

PB/MG/YA/NF 11:15 AM-12:15 PM Melissa Richeson – From Query to Offer…and Beyond! 

So you’ve polished your project and fine-tuned your query. Your work is ready to be sent into the agent realm. But what happens after you press “send”? We’ll discuss what happens on the agent’s side after receiving a query, including research, timing, that illusive “gut feeling”, and other factors that play a role in decision-making. Wondering what makes the difference between “I like this” and “I NEED this!” for an agent? It might not be what you think! Then, we’ll move into the stages and expectations of an author/agent relationship. Although it may seem like you’ve “made it” after signing with an agent, there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’ll take a peek into what an agent should do and what an author must do, in order to pursue a career beyond that first manuscript.

I/PB 12:30 PM-1:30 PM Kirk Benshoff  – Behind the Scenes

Books aren’t made in a vacuum. This session will explore who is involved in the decision-making process and the factors that influence those decisions so you can better understand the industry and best navigate it for yourself.

PB/MG/YA/NF 1:45-2:45 PM Jessica Anderson – Style & Craft Intensive: Optimizing Symbolism and Plot Devices: How to Ensure Your Style and Pacing Work Hand-in-Hand 

  • Individual Work Beforehand: 
    • What can you identify as a symbol or plot device in your manuscript? 
    • Does it organically weave into the global setting, characterization, action and themes of your work? 
    • Does it fall short of meaningfully connecting to any of these elements?
    • Make a list of 1-3 symbols or plot devices currently at work in your manuscript and evaluate each one through the questions above. Identify which symbols/plot devices feel essential and why, and which are not effectively serving the telling. 

G 3:00-4:00 PM Luana Horry – The Frenzied Submissions Folder and How One Editor Tackles It

As acquiring editors, our submissions folders are jam-packed with projects that (we hope) have lots of potential. But when there are dozens (and sometimes hundreds!) to read, how does one manage it all? This presentation will explore, first, my personal acquisitions taste, and then talk about what queries stick out to me, why, and how I move forward with my favorites. We will also touch on what not to do and how submissions quickly fall into the TBR abyss.

PB/MG/YA/NF 4:15-5:30 PM Pitch Party Panel with Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Melissa Richeson, & Aneeka Kalia

Submit your pitch to Brooke Van Sickle at by Friday, April 2, 2021 for a chance to have your pitch read aloud to editors and agents and receive valuable feedback. In order to get as many pitches as possible read aloud, all pitches must be a maximum of three sentences (Less than 30 seconds when read aloud).

G 6:00-7:00 PM Virtual Wild Rumpus Happy Hour

Grab your favorite beverage and hop on for a virtual social hour. Individuals will be put in random break-out rooms to chat about the conference, their current project, or how much they miss seeing real people. Every 20 minutes, the break-out rooms will switch to meet more conference attendees.

Sunday, April 25

G 8:30 AM Welcome

MG/YA 8:45-9:45 AM Aneeka Kalia – Revising Like an Editor

An inside look into how editors approach the revision process for novels and the kinds of questions that we ask ourselves along the way. Take away tips and tricks that you can apply to your own writing and revision process.

PB/MG/YA/NF 10:00 AM-11:00 AM Kristen Schroeder – Yay! You Got a Revise & Resubmit (R&R) Request! Now what?

Getting a Revise & Resubmit request from an agent or editor is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Using case studies from her own experiences, as well as other authors’, Kristen walks through some of the possible scenarios and outcomes.

11:15 AM-12:15 PM Melissa Richeson – Royalties and Legalese: Understanding and Negotiating Realistic Contracts

Escalators, option clauses, basket accounting … Does contract language make you break out in a sweat? During this session, we’ll decode the legal jargon and take a look at what to expect—and what to avoid—in both agency contracts and publishing contracts. We’ll also talk about contract negotiations, including what’s standard and what you can ask to change. Think you can retire to a private island after signing on the dotted line? Well, you might not want to quit your day job just yet—we’ll discuss realistic advance payouts, tax preparation, and other career-related issues beyond that first contract.

MG/YA 12:30-1:45 PM Jenny Moyer – From Premise to Bookshelf: Writing Marketable MG and YA

Want to write a middle grade or young adult novel that stands out in a crowded market? Author Jenny Moyer will take you through the process of writing a story with a strong commercial hook, as well as getting your completed manuscript into the hands of agents and editors. Get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work with an editor at a major publishing house, and tips and tricks you can use to make your own stories reach their publishing potential.

PB/G  2:00-3:15 PM Bao Phi – A Different Journey: My Path to Picture Books

When asked to speak about my journey to my first picture book, I often feel pressured to fit it into an existing narrative: work hard, find an agent, grind it out until it gets done. But my path to it, as my path to poetry, was not typical. I will give a short presentation on how “A Different Pond” went from a rough poem to, inexplicably, a Charlotte Zolotow award winner for Outstanding Writing in a Picture Book, and open the rest of the time for a conversation with participants. The aim of this event is not to promote exceptionalism, but rather suggest that sometimes you have to make a road that no one will make for you.

I 3:30-4:45 PM Joe Hox – Purposeful Play 

An illustrator must also be a business person but this doesn’t mean we have to work the way other people do. Purposeful play can break through creative blocks; offer alternate solutions to problems; and even help with promoting your work. Come ready to collaborate and play!