Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Meet the 2018 Faculty

We are pleased to announce the faculty of the SCBWI Carolinas annual conference.  We have included, for each faculty member, the participating conference session(s).  Additionally, our SCBWI Carolinas mentors participate in our faculty and provide critiques for members who submit. Access the conference schedule HERE.

Caroline Abbey, Senior Editor, Random House Books for Young Readers, acquires chapter books, middle grade, and YA, loves contemporary stories, humor, and magical realism at all age levels. Looking for  a great school-based chapter book or middle-grade series (think Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School). Some of my recent and upcoming titles at Random House include chapter book series Purrmaids, by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen; an empowering middle grade Property of the Rebel Librarian, by Allison Varnes; Stacy McAnulty’s middle grade debut that turns math into a super power, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl; a new interactive series by Bill Doyle and illustrated by Sarah Sax that puts kids in the middle of history starting with Escape This Book! Titanic; and the genre-bending Glitter, a teen novel that is Breaking Bad meets Marie Antoinette by #1 New York Times bestseller Aprilynne Pike. I sometimes refer to myself as a“reluctant reader” because I need a strong hook to go along with strong writing. But beyond that, I’m open to most genres! That said, I’m not the best fit for high fantasy.

Caroline will participate in the general session First Pages.

Breakout session: Conversations: From Idea to Publication with Stacy McAnulty and Lori Kilkelly.

Breakout session: How To Find a Hook  What is a hook and why is it important? Does my project already have one? If not, how do I find one? Are there different hooks for different readers? In this session, we’ll discuss hooks, what makes them effective, walk through examples, and then break into small groups for a fun brainstorming exercise that will send you home ready to jump into a new project or spruce up the one you’re already working on!

Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty-five picture books, including most recently William’s Winter Nap, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Disney-Hyperion), a Junior Library Guild selection which Booklist called “beautifully paced, rhymed and cadenced” in a starred review. Linda’s books have been included in the “best of the year” lists of the New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library, Bank Street College and more. She is also the author of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, leads writing workshops, and contributes to a group blog about writing at Visit her at

Breakout Session: Writing the Rollicking Read-Aloud  As picture book writers, we often imagine reading our stories to an attentive, book-loving child—our own toddler, a grandchild, a favorite niece. But sooner or later, if we’re lucky, we’ll find ourselves facing a roomful of squirmy, chattering preschoolers. Challenging! In this session, we’ll cover strategies for keeping even the most distractible kids focused and listening—things like rhyme (good rhyme, not the stuff editors routinely reject), songs, refrains, repetition and more. Through examples and exercises, you’ll leave armed and inspired to write stories that are fun to read aloud, pleasing to the ear, and keep kids involved and engaged.  Please note this is a double session on Saturday 9:30 AM to 11:45 AM [The first session is a prerequisite for the second. The second session will focus on writing exercises—e.g., writing rhyme using different meter and rhyme patterns—and sharing the work.]

NOTE: Part of this two-hour session will focus on meter and rhyme schemes. If you’d like to have part of your own rhyming manuscript used as an example (of well-done rhyme or rhyme that needs work), please email it to with the subject line SCBWI RHYME SAMPLE. Also indicate whether I can use your name or you’d prefer to be anonymous.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young readers.

Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz.  Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art. The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.
Vanessa will present the opening keynote address.
Breakout session:Breaking Into Chapter Books: How to Find Ideas, Create Memorable Characters and Make Magic  Chapter books make a big impression on kids. They’re that sweet spot between picture books and novels that hook them and keep them longing for more. Join Kelly Starling Lyons and Vanessa Brantley-Newton as they discuss these special books that add confidence to the advancing reader. They’ll talk illustrations, characters, ideas and plot, giving examples from titles including their acclaimed Jada Jones series. Warning: As every kid knows, chapter books are addictive. You just may leave with the urge  to write one of your own.

Linda Camacho, Agent, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, was always a fan of escaping into a good book, so the fact that she gets to make it her career is still surreal. She graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Communication and has seen many sides of the industry. She’s held various positions at Penguin Random House, Dorchester, Simon and Schuster, Writers House, and Prospect Agency. She’s done everything from foreign rights to editorial to marketing to operations, so it was amazing to see how all the departments worked together to bring books to life. Somewhere in between all that (and little sleep), Linda received her MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Now at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, Linda continues to work with colleagues and clients who inspire her every day in both the children’s and adult categories. Linda is looking for MG, YA, and adult fiction across all genres (especially upmarket, women’s fiction/romance, and literary horror); she’s also seeking select picture book and graphic novel writer-illustrators.

Linda will participate in the general session Meet the Agents.

Pre-Conference Intensive: Start and End Novels With a Bang  Writers often agonize over the middle of the novel–so much so that they sometimes forget to focus on the bookends of the story. The beginning of the narrative sets up a promise to the reader and the ending is meant to fulfill it. This workshop will provide you with the tools to grab the reader with that opening and leave them satisfied with the finale.

Breakout Session: Marketer Turned Agent Talks Craft: Writing a Manuscript That Gets and Keeps Everyone’s Attention Manuscripts are vetted at so many levels. They pass from the eyes of agents to editors to marketing to sales, and while there are some variables outside of the writer’s control, craft is not one of them. In the end, publishing folks seek the same thing: a good story. Every good story has certain key elements that I looked for as as a marketer at Random House and even now as an agent. If the manuscript falters on any of these counts, it’s a pass. In this workshop, I’ll talk about several key craft fundamentals that not only grab an agent or editor’s attention, but that of the acquisitions board as well.

Julia Day is an award-winning author of Young Adult contemporary novels, including Fade to Us and The Possibility of Somewhere (St. Martin’s Press). She lives in Cary along with two twenty-something daughters, one old husband, and too many computers to count. When she’s not writing stories or software, she’s traveling to faraway places or exercising with little enthusiasm. Julia also writes YA magical realism as Elizabeth Langston.

Breakout Session: Writing for the Diverse Market  The children’s fiction market is making progress in buying books from diverse authors and publishing books with diverse characters. But there is another diversity goal to consider—ensuring that stories are accessible for diverse readers.  For people with communication challenges, reading fiction can be a chore instead of a pleasure. With guidance from my autistic daughter, I’ve developed revision techniques for increasing the accessibility of YA novels.  Whether the reader has language challenges from a difference like the autism spectrum or through struggles faced while learning a new language (like ESL), we’ve discovered small changes that can make big improvements in understanding. 

Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank (Flashlight Press, 2012) and other stories and poems for children. She recently sold a manuscript to High Five magazine and has been a mentor for the SCBWI-Carolinas Revision Quest program for the last few years. Donna lives in Concord, NC, with her hubby, their three daughters and two Plott hounds. You can find her at and @Donna_Earnhardt. 

Donna will present the closing keynote.

Breakout Session: Picture Books, Patterns and the Power of Three! Goldilocks understood the “Power of Three”… and we can, too! In this workshop, we will examine the unique language of picture books, read some modern examples of the Power of Three, and explore ways to harness this age-old writing tool in our dialogue, descriptions, and plot. 

Saho Fujii  is an art director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She has designed a wide range of books including picture books, board books, activity and novelty books, middle grade and young adult novels. She currently oversees the LBYR’s picture book list. She has worked with many award-winning illustrators including Jerry Pinkney, Sophie Blackall, Javaka Steptoe, Molly Idle, Bryan Collier, Mordicai Gerstein and John Rocco. She lives in New York City. 

Saho will participate in The Illustrator Café including First Impressions.

Breakout session: The Picture Book Process: A Complete Overview   In this presentation, I will go over making of picture books step by step. I will talk about 1. General picture book schedule, 2. Trim size, pagination and paper, 3. Character study and sketches, 4. Type samples and galleys, 5. Rough layouts, 6. Test proofing, 7. Final art, 8. Jacket and interior mechanicals, and 9. Proofing process. I will also talk about what we look for in illustrators at Little, Brown.

Alan Gratz is the bestselling author of a number of novels for young readers, including Samurai Shortstop, The Brooklyn Nine, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, The League of Seven series, and Ban This Book. His latest novel is Refugee, the story of three different refugee families struggling for freedom and safety in three different eras and different parts of the world. A Knoxville, Tennessee, native, Alan is now a full-time writer living in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and daughter. Visit him online at

Your Career Starts Here  This is a nuts and bolts beginners session that will answer all those burning questions new conference-goers come armed with: How do I query editors? What editors should I query? Do I query agents instead? How do I write a query letter? If I’m writing a picture book, do I have to find an illustrator? What’s an advance? Do I have to pay it back if my book doesn’t sell? How do royalties work? [this program is from 1:45 to 2:45 PM Friday September 28] 

Breakout session: Look for the Flag Pole Bestselling middle grade author Alan Gratz did more than 100 paying school visits in 2017, and is on pace to do more than 100 school visits in 2018. Join him for a discussion of all things school visit: how to get them, how to do them, how much to get paid for them, why you want to do them in the first place, and perhaps most important of all, why it always helps to look for the flag pole.

Friday apreś-conference session: Kidlit Family Feud It’s time to play the feud! Join host Alan Gratz and two “families” of agents, editors, illustrators and authors from the faculty who will compete to guess the answers YOU gave to our questionnaire. Survey says you’ll have fun!

 Megan Hoyt‘s first picture book, Hildegard’s Gift, was released in 2014 (Paraclete Press). She is the winner of the 2017 SCBWI Work in Progress Award–Picture Book Category and is represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. She teaches creative writing to middle schoolers and frequently speaks on educational topics at conferences for teachers in the US and Canada. She has a BA in English and History (double major) from Southern Methodist University, and an MA in Theology from Regent University in Virginia.  Megan lives in Charlotte, NC, where  she is surrounded by three furry pups and piles upon piles of books. Find out more at To follow  Megan on Twitter: @meganglasshoyt. 

Breakout session: Writing Lyrically: From Mentor Text to Finished Product  In this session, you will learn how to craft lyrical sentences that lilt and soar, swirl and sing. We will take apart and analyze passages from lyrical picture books like Cloth Lullaby and The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, learn which books make strong mentor texts for lyrical writers, and practice writing lyrically using hands-on prompts/activities. (Suitable for PB, MG, and YA authors, but most examples will be PBs.) 

Liz Kossnar enthusiastically joined the Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers editorial team in November 2013. She mostly acquires middle grade but occasionally works on young adult novels, chapter books, picture books, graphic novels, and nonfiction. While working at Simon & Schuster, she has had the privilege of working with authors such as Stuart Gibbs, Whitney Gardner, Jessica Lawson, Michelle Hodkin, and many others. She most enjoys reading whimsical, diverse middle grade, and subversive, contemporary young adult fiction, or any work of fiction that inspires a sense of empathy or makes her learn something she didn’t know before. Anything feminist is a plus. Liz is not the best match for animals, sentimentality, or traditional romance. You can follow her on Twitter @liz_adventures

Liz will participate in the general session First Pages.

Breakout session: It’s All Been Done Before: Finding Your Hook in a Saturated Market  With so many books being published every year, how do you make YOUR book stand out to agents, editors, and consumers? This presentation will take a look at familiar stories that have broken through and how to use this knowledge to help your work stand out, from plot to pitching.

Lori Kilkelly recently announced that she is starting her own children’s literary agency, LK Literary. Prior to this move she worked with Paul Rodeen’s eponymous agency, Rodeen Literary Management, for nearly a decade.  Lori began her career in publishing after a number of years in sales and marketing, by attending the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009. She subsequently connected with Denver Publishing alumnus Paul Rodeen and commenced working with RLM as an intern, and then assistant, as Rodeen transitioned from working with publishing great George Nicholson at Sterling Lord Literistic, in New York, to opening his agency in Chicago. Lori began representing her own clients in 2013 and has since done more than (80) deals, and has worked extensively with each of the major trade publishers. Lori’s clients at LKLA include the New York Times bestselling author of the Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site series, Sherri Duskey Rinker; Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner, and author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, Stacy McAnulty; author/illustrator Vesper Stamper, who has just been longlisted for the National Book Award for her debut illustrated young adult novel, What the Night Sings, and other talented authors and illustrators who publish across the range of children’s and young adult literature.

Lori will participate in the general session Meet the Agents

Breakout session: Conversations: From Idea to Publication with Stacy McAnulty and Caroline Abbey.

Breakout session: Nearly Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about Publishing Rodeen Literary Senior Literary Agent Lori Kilkelly answers your pressing publishing questions you’d ask an agent if you had the opportunity. “What is an auction?” “How do you build relationships with your clients?” “How long does it take for a book to publish after the sale?” “How do foreign rights work?” Using questions submitted in advance, Lori will curate a selection of topics and concerns for every level of writer from the newbie to the published author, agented or not. Send your questions by 8/17/2018 to submissionslori@rodeenliterary.comwith subject line “Carolinas Agent Question”  to be included in the discussion. 

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author, teaching artist and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf. Her books include CCBC Choices-honored picture book, One Million Men and MeEllen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection, Tea Cakes for Tosh, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Hope’s Gift, an IRA/CBC Children’s Choices selection and Storytelling World Award winner and One More Dino on the Floor, a Scholastic Reading Club pick. Her Jada Jones chapter book series debuted last year with two titles: Rock Star and Class Act. Book 3, Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist, will be released in January. Kelly regularly presents at schools, libraries and conferences around the country. Learn more at

Breakout session:Breaking Into Chapter Books: How to Find Ideas, Create Memorable Characters and Make Magic  Chapter books make a big impression on kids. They’re that sweet spot between picture books and novels that hook them and keep them longing for more. Join Kelly Starling Lyons and Vanessa Brantley-Newton as they discuss these special books that add confidence to the advancing reader. They’ll talk illustrations, characters, ideas and plot, giving examples from titles including their acclaimed Jada Jones series. Warning: As every kid knows, chapter books are addictive. You just may leave with the urge  to write one of your own.

Natascha Morris spent most of her childhood in a leather chair with her nose in a book. Formerly an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster, her passion for books across genres and her desire to finding amazing talent drove her to make the transition from editorial to literary agent. Her editorial philosophy stems from the idea that all books should be well written and entertaining.  Some of her favorite authors include Molly Idle, Sherwood Smith, Ann Rinaldi, Sabaa Tahir, and Meg Cabot. Check out her Pinterest for a quick look at her favorite books.

A Texas native, Natascha can often be found hunting for the best Tex-Mex in New York. Outside of reading, she is interested in urban farming and cooking.

Natascha is primarily looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is also looking for artists that speak to her creatively.

Natascha will participate in the general session Meet the Agents

Breakout session:Working with an Agent So you know how  to query and what happens after a book is sold, but what about the grey place of having an agent but no book deal? What are your expectations? What are agent’s expectations? Bring your questions and learn what is like working with an agent.

Stacy_McAnulty_01Stacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a dog therapist (is that a thing?), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). Her debut middle grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, was called “beautifully authentic” in a Publisher’s Weekly starred review. She is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor Recipient for Excellent Ed. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years and Sun: One in a Billion, Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, Brave and Beautiful, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath. She’s also authored the chapter book series The Dino Files. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, take pictures of her dogs, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.

Breakout session: Conversations: From Idea to Publication with Lori Kilkelly and Caroline Abbey.

Alexandra Penfold began her career in publishing as a children’s book publicist at Simon & Schuster. For eight years she served as an editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster working on award-winning books for young readers of all ages. She is currently a literary agent with Upstart Crow Literary representing children book authors and illustrators as well as select adult projects. She’s especially drawn to projects that make her laugh, think and feel. Alexandra’s client list includes Jessixa Bagley, Elizabeth Baddeley, Bethany Hegedus, Suzanne Kaufman, Adam Lehrhaupt, Meghan McCarthy, and Stephanie Ledyard, among others. Alexandra is the author of several books for children: Eat, Sleep, Poop, illustrated by Jane Massey, We Are Brothers, We Are Friends, illustrated by Eda Kaban, Food Truck Fest, illustrated by Mike Dutton,The Littlest Viking, illustrated by Isabel Roxas, and All Are Welcome, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @AgentPenfold.

Pre-Conference Intensive: Picture Book Writing for Illustrators. This is a closed intensive for participants of the Picture Book Dummy Challenge for Illustrators. 

Alexandra will participate in the general session Meet the Agents

Breakout session: Revise Like an Editor.  Picture Book Revision from the Ground Up. Agent, author, and former editor, Alexandra Penfold will take attendees through real life edit notes and share best practices for revising your picture book work so it shines.

Rebecca Petruck is the author of Boy Bites Bug (May 2018) and Steering Toward Normal (2014), both with ABRAMS/Amulet. Bug received a starred review from Booklist, who said it’s “…funny, perceptive, and topical in more ways than one.” SLJ called it “a sure bet for reluctant readers.” Steering Toward Normal was a BCCB Best Book of the Year, and an American Booksellers Association New Voices selection as well as a Kids Indie Next List title. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington, and is a mentor for Pitch Wars, Writing in the Margins, and SCBWI-C. She is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary. Visit Rebecca at and @RebeccaPetruck on Twitter

Breakout session: So Close: Tips to Take Your Manuscript to the Next Level  So many of us are so close to being offered representation or publication. We’ve received inspiring rejections, been invited to submit a new project, been asked to revise and resubmit. Some of us have had agents but parted ways when the first manuscript didn’t sell. Or are agented but have been on sub with several manuscripts, with none finding the right home. Filled with practical advice from a mix of established and debut authors, and including her years of experience as a mentor for SCBWI-C, Pitch Wars, and Writing in the Margins, author Rebecca Petruck offers this workshop to help those who have done the work take that final leap to cross the “finish line.”

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 Disney*Hyperion, 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. 

Pre-conference Intensive: Writing the Irresistible Picture Book Manuscript  Do you want an agent or an editor to fall head over heels for your latest picture book manuscript? Start by coming up with a fresh idea and making those first fifty words irresistible! In this session, we will explore a variety of idea-getting strategies, delve into a wide range of picture book structures, discuss ways to give beginnings some va-va-va-voom, and push our manuscripts to woo you-know-who. (Each attendee should bring a work-in-progress and writing tools.)

Breakout session: 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.

Annie Stone is the international account manager at BookBub, where she works with publishers in the UK, Canada, and Australia to promote great books and get new authors discovered. Before BookBub, Annie worked as an editor at Alloy Entertainment, Harlequin TEEN, and HarperCollins, focusing on YA and children’s fiction. Some favorite books and authors she’s worked with include the Fancy Nancy series, The 100 series by Kass Morgan, new teen mysteries from Sara Shepard (of Pretty Little Liars fame), and the upcoming YA fantasy Mirage by Somaiya Daud.
Smitten with books from a young age, Annie was lucky to be able to indulge her obsession with children’s classics in her undergraduate career at Harvard College, culminating in a Comparative Literature thesis on images of daughterhood in CS Lewis’ Narnia. Annie currently lives in Cambridge, MA with her rambunctious cat and enormous pile of books.

Breakout session: The Magic of Writing Great Copy  Updating your website? Running a marketing campaign? Writing a query? Putting together compelling descriptive copy that sells is hard but it’s not magic. In this session Annie Stone of BookBub shares how this growing online platform reels in readers of middle grade and YA books. Hear trend data gleaned from more than 15 million readers and learn what you can do to test your own copy.  

Holly West is an editor at Feiwel & Friends and Swoon Reads. She grew up in southern Kentucky as “that girl who reads a lot” but in 2005 she escaped to NYC where she was lucky enough to land her dream job of working in publishing. She started out in publicity but soon decided that editing would be much more fun. Working closely with Jean Feiwel, she helped to launch Macmillan’s YA imprint Swoon Reads in 2013, and now works with authors like Mo O’Hara, Meg Cabot, Tricia Levenseller, Sandy Hall, Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas, Jen Wilde, and Danika Stone.

Holly will participate in the general session First Pages.

Pre-conference Intensive: The Shape of Stories  Your book should be like a roller coaster: always moving forward, full of twists and turns, and ups and downs, but also smoothly transitioning between them so you don’t lose your readers. This workshop will help you organize your revision process, focusing on plot structure, pacing, and tracking character emotions. *Note: Please bring an outline of their current work. This will probably be most helpful for authors who have finished a rough draft of their novel and are working on larger revisions. 

Breakout session: The Reader Contract  The opening of your story is making a promise to the reader about the experience they are about to have: the genre, the tone, the types of characters, the voice, the setting, etc. and it’s up to you, as an author, to uphold that promise.