Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Making the Impossible a Possibility

Date(s) - 10/22/2021 - 10/24/2021
12:00 am

Franklin Junior High
4801 Franklin Avenue - Des Moines, IA 50310

Making the Impossible a Possibility – Writing Retreat

Welcome Back to Junior High!

October 22-24, 2021 – Franklin Junior High, 48th & Franklin, Des Moines, IA


 Registration Information:

  • Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the number of attendees is limited to 11 writers and 10 illustrators. 
  • Attendees must be a member of SCBWI.
  • Proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required at check-in.
  • In the event Prairiewoods Retreat Center changes their Covid-19 policies to allow more people on-site, there will be a waiting list for attendees.
  • Writers will share two different polished picture books or polished scenes from a MG/YA manuscript for round table critiques. These should be different from the paid critique submission.
  • Illustrators will need to bring three copies of their dummy book or storyboard for critiquing purposes.

Retreat Expenses:

  • Member Ticket for Retreat: $250.00 **
  • Hotels can be booked through the Hilton Garden Inn in Johnston if you need. Here’s the link to our reservation block.
    • Room Rates are $109 + tax per night
    • To make a reservation, call 515.270.8890 and mention the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)

**Payments for the retreat can be made online during registration with a major credit card or sent by check to Iowa SCBWI, 6732 Northview Drive, Urbandale, IA 50322**



 Samantha Gentry – Editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Samantha Gentry is an Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where she edits picture books, middle grade and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. She has a particular interest in pop-culture tie-ins and platform-driven stories in nonfiction. She is always on the lookout for voice-driven middle grade with unforgettable characters, a friendship story at its core, interesting family dynamics, and a touch of magical realism. In picture books, she’d love to see character-driven stories with a touch of humor and quirk, but she’s also a sucker for the charming tales that feel like an instant classic. In YA, she is looking for stories and storytellers from diverse backgrounds, contemporaries with a strong and distinctive narrative voice, and a touch of romance is always welcome.





 Mallory Grigg – Art Director at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Mallory Grigg is an Art Director for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group where she works on everything from picture books to middle grade chapter books to YA fiction. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.






Alex Weiss – Agent at Azantian Literary Agency

Alexandra Weiss joined the world of publishing in 2016, as an associate agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. In 2021, she joined Azantian Literary Agency where she represents fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and select adult nonfiction. She holds a BFA in creative writing and publishing from Columbia College Chicago and has written for Bustle and Buzzfeed, among others. She regularly volunteers with literary organizations and has a soft spot for working with young readers. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably baking up a storm or snuggling with her cat.




Meals for the Retreat 

All meals are included in the cost of registration and feature primarily locally-grown, organic ingredients, and can accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free and health-related diets. Meals are eaten in the Center and are served buffet style, including beverages and freshly-made desserts. 


On-Site Critiques:

Written Critiques are all sold out. 

  • Sam Gentry (Editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Alex Weiss (Azantian Literary Agency)

Submit the first 10 pages and a synopsis in standard manuscript format to by 5:00 PM on Friday, September 10, 2021. Late submissions will be charged, but not critiqued. Your subject line should include the title of your manuscript and your name. (Example: The Best Novel Ever Written by Eileen Boggess). 

On-Site Portfolio Reviews:

There are still spots for 3 more portfolio reviews from illustrators. Must attend the retreat to receive a portfolio review. $50.00 per review.

  • Mallory Grigg (Art Director at Macmillan Publishing Group)


Tentative 2021 Fall Retreat Schedule                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

W: Creative Writing Classes

I: Art Classes

A: All students


Friday, October 22

A 12:00-12:30 PM Homeroom & Registration – Make sure your vaccinations are up to date! 

A 12:30 PM All-School Assembly 

W 1:00-2:30 PM First Period – Round Table Critiques

  • Ms. Boggess’s Class (Sam Gentry) 
  • Ms. Gansemer’s Class (Alex Weiss) 

I How an Art Director Works with an Illustrator in Editing a Dummy Book or Storyboard (Mallory Grigg)

A 2:30 PM Snack Break – Chocolate Chip Cookies fresh from the oven!

W 3:00-5:00 PM Second Period – Round Table Critiques

  • Ms. Boggess’s Class (Sam Gentry) 
  • Ms. Gansemer’s Class (Alex Weiss) 

I Illustrator Workshop (Mallory Grigg) – Share and discuss dummy books or storyboards with Mallory and other illustrators. 

A 5:15-6:15 PM Third Period – All-School Assembly: Sam Gentry: A Day in the Life of an Editor 

Learn about the book-making process from start to finish from the Editor’s perspective. We will discuss everything from evaluating submissions from agents and the acquisitions board to the editing process and the joys of holding a finished book in your hands. More importantly, discover the real reason why you haven’t heard back about your submission in a timely manner! (Hint: there aren’t enough hours in the day!)

A 6:30 PM Dinner – Cheese and Sausage Chicago-Style Pizza and Gluten-Free Vegetarian Pizza

A 7:00-8:00 PM Extra-Curricular Activity: Academic Quiz Bowl 


Saturday, October 23

A 8:30 AM Home Room – Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls, juice, and coffee. Gluten-free option available

W 8:45-9:45 AM First Period – What Happens After an Editor Makes an Offer: Alex Weiss 

After waiting and waiting… and more waiting, a shiny offer finally arrives! What happens next? During this presentation, hear from the perspective of an agent on the next steps in bringing your book to life and how your agent can support you throughout the journey. We’ll discuss some dos and don’ts during this exciting time and when to shift gears to begin working on your next project.

I 8:45-11:45 AM Second Period – Illustrator Workshop (Mallory Grigg)

Illustrators share and discuss their dummy books or storyboards with Mallory and other illustrators. Work time to redraw and problem areas and make edits.

W 10:00-11:45 AM Third Period – Round Table Critiques 

  • Ms. Boggess’s Class (Alex Weiss) 
  • Ms. Gansemer’s Class Critiques (Sam Gentry) 

A 12:00 PM Lunch Period: Hamburger, hot dog, or vegetarian gluten-free wrap, chips, and drinks

W 12:45-2:00 PM Fourth Period

  • Ms. Boggess’s Class (Alex Weiss) 
  • Ms. Gansemer’s Class (Sam Gentry) 

I 1:00-5:00 PM Illustrator Study Hall 

I 1:00-5:00 PM Paid Art Tutoring Sessions with Mallory Grigg 

W 2:15-5:15 PM Recess

  • Playground Games (weather permitting) 
  • Quiet Study Hall 
  • Recreational Study Hall 

W 2:15-5:00 Writing Tutoring Sessions (Paid Critiques)

  • Sam Gentry 
  • Alex Weiss 

A 5:30 PM Dinner – TBD

A 6:30-8:00 Extra-Curricular Activity: Free-Style Art Contest


Sunday, October 24

A 8:30 AM Home Room – Breakfast: Rolls, juice, and coffee. Gluten-free option available.

A 9:00-11:00 AM First Period – Show and Tell 

  • Ms. Boggess’s Class 
  • Ms. VanSickle’s Class 
  • Ms. Camling’s Class 



  • Questions about registration can be sent to Cindy Johnson at
  • Questions about everything else can be sent to Eileen Boggess at