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

Registration will open Saturday, February 13 at 9:00 AM

  • Conference Cost for SCBWI Members: $75.00
  • Conference Cost for Nonmembers: $125.00

**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**

NOTE: Five Conference Scholarships (Valued at $75.00 apiece) will be granted to under-represented individuals in the SCBWI Organization.



  • Jessica Anderson, Associate Editor at Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Macmillan
  • Kirk Benshoff, Art Director First Second Books
  • Luana Horry, Editor at HarperCollins Publishers
  • Aneeka Kalia, Editor at Viking Children’s Books (Penguin Random House)
  • Joe Hox, Illustrator
  • Jenny Moyer, Author
  • Bao Phi, Author
  • Melissa Richeson, Agent at Storm Literary Agency
  • Kristen Schroeder, Author

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.

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.

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

Pitch Party:

Submit your pitch for a chance to have it reviewed by professionals. Pitches must be only 2 to 3 sentences in length and are aimed at hooking the reader. They are not a synopsis or summary of your story. Due to time constraints, not all pitches will be read.

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:

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!

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

  • Jessica Anderson
  • Luana Horry
  • Aneeka Kalia
  • Melissa Richeson

2:45 PM Welcome 

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 

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

Saturday, April 24

8:30 AM Welcome 

8:45-9:45 AM Luana Horry Presentation 

10:00-11:00 AM Aneeka Calia Presentation 

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.

12:30 AM-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.

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. 

3:00-4:00 PM Luana Horry Presentation

4:15-5:30 PM Pitch Party Panel: Jessica Anderson, Luana Horry, Melissa Richeson, Aneeka Kalia

Sunday, April 25

8:45 AM-9:45 AM Aneeka Kalia Presentation

10:00-11:00 AM Melissa Richeson – Royalties and Legalize: 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.

11:15 AM-12:30 PM Kristen Schroeder Workshop

12:30-1:45 PM Jenny Moyer Workshop 

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.

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!