SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Meet the 2019 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. 
  • Download SUBMISSION INFORMATION  This is a listing of all faculty who are providing consultations, if you submit digitally or via USPS, what categories they are accepting, and what genres they will critique.

 

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.

Kurestin will participate in the Meet the Agent session. 

Breakout:  ANALYZING OPENING PAGES  Discussion includes a breakdown and analysis  of different elements present in first pages from character building, world building, and plot, walking participants through applying these to their own opening pages, and drawing conclusions about what ratios are present in “successful” opening pages of different categories–hopefully enabling participants to apply this to other books they admire as they continue to revise.


John Claude Bemis is the award-winning author of seven books for young readers including The Wooden Prince (Disney-Hyperion) and The Nine Pound Hammer (Random House). He was selected as North Carolina Piedmont Laureate for Children’s Literature and received the Excellence in Teaching Award from UNC-Chapel Hill for his work as an author-educator. He leads writing workshops and story consultations. John lives in Hillsborough, NC.  Visit him at johnclaudebemis.com

Breakout: MICRO PLOTTING: Make Every Scene Engaging Learn how to structure individual scenes around advancing the plot or deepening the characterization and analyze how master authors use anticipation to anchor scenes.


Bea Birdsong is a former teacher whose time in the classroom left a lasting impression of the awesome power of books to educate, entertain, and empower. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Sisters in Crime. Bea lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and spoiled rescue dog. She spends her free time reading, traveling, and searching for hidden doors to other worlds. Bea is the author of I Will Be Fierce! (Roaring Brook Press) and the upcoming Sam’s First Word (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). She is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency. Visit Bea at www.beabirdsong.com and @BeaBirdsong on Twitter.

Breakout: FROM A, B, C TO 1, 2, 3: Crafting Character-Driven Fiction for the Youngest Readers. How do you craft a character-driven picture book with a fresh voice that appeals to children and adults all in 500 words or less? In this session, author Bea Birdsong will take participants through the process of writing a picture book from initial idea to penning the perfect last line. Join her for a discussion of what successful picture books have in common and how you can use those essential elements to write your own standout book. Learn what works from A, B, C to 1, 2, 3!


Vijaya Bodach is a former scientist who left the fascinating world of microbes and molecules for the most challenging job in the world–motherhood. The children drew Vijaya into their world and rekindled her love of children’s literature. She has written over 60 books for children and just as many magazine pieces, many of which are true stories or inspired by true events. You can learn more at www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com

Breakout:  WRITING MEMOIRS FOR CHILDREN  Harness the power of writing memoir. Recapture the awe and sensuality of childhood–how grass tickles the feet, the warmth of holding hands with your best friend, the utter emptiness of betrayal. Mine your memories, shape your stories, and create gems that become pure gifts for children. This is a hands-on workshop with techniques for excavating the best stories and strategies for shaping personal stories to add depth and meaning.  Inspiration to write, techniques for excavating the best stories, strategies for shaping personal stories.


Robyn Campbell is a published children’s poet,  who also writes picture books and YA novels. She directs the characters in her books every single day. Robyn lives in the Asheville area where she looks forward to setting the children’s book industry on fire with her new YA book on Nancy Hanks.

Breakout: CREATING VOICE IN PICTURE BOOKS  This breakout will discuss the key elements of voice, writing strategies that impact voice and show voice using power verbs, rhythm, punctuation and visual language.


Nora Carpenter is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, Nora Shalaway Carpenter is the author of the forthcoming YA contemporary novel, THE EDGE OF ANYTHING (Running Press, Spring 2020), editor and contributing author of the forthcoming YA anthology RURAL VOICES (Candlewick, Fall 2020), and author of the picture book YOGA FROG (Running Press, out now). Nora received multiple offers of representation, and sold her first book on proposal. Before she wrote books, Nora worked as associate editor of Wonderful West Virginia magazine. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, three young children, and one not-so-young dog. Learn more at www.noracarpenterwrites.com.

Breakout: QUERIES, PITCHES, AND FINDNG THE RIGHT AGENT FOR YOU  After all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into your manuscript, it can be tempting to rush the query. Don’t. In this breakout, learn what makes a stellar query and practice sharpening your own. We’ll study real queries of published books to understand the difference between querying and pitching and how our both can help us find our story’s heart. We’ll also discuss the qualities to look for in an agent and specific resources to help with the agent search.


Stephanie Fretwell-Hill is a literary agent with a sales and editorial background. After starting her career in foreign rights at Walker Books in the UK, Stephanie moved home to the US as an acquiring editor at Peachtree Publaishers. In 2016, she joined Red Fox Literary where she represents authors and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction and non-fiction. Some of her fabulous clients include Beth Anderson, Michael Belanger, Carolyn Crimi, Brenda Maier, and Christina Soontornvat. In addition, she regularly presents workshops, webinars, and talks both online and in person through SCBWI conferences, Manuscript Academy, and Inked Voices. Stephanie lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, two little girls, and a very clever border collie.

Stephanie will participate in the Meet the Agent session. 

Breakout: COMPLEX CHARACTERS FOR COMPLEX READERS: Crafting Memorable Characters in MG and YA fiction.  Why do some characters stay with readers long after the book has closed? In this session, we look at techniques for creating and writing character details to help your novel come to life. Some of the topics we cover include your characters’ wants, needs, and flaws; how to use setting, POV, dialogue, and plot to create richer characters; and techniques for revealing character effectively.


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 www.alangratz.com.

Alan will deliver the Farewell Keynote.


 

Mallory Grigg is an award-winning designer who has had the pleasure of working for Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Alloy Entertainment, Cider Mill Press, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Currently she’s the Art Director for Feiwel & Friends, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Swoon, and Squarefish at 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.

Mallory will participate in the Illustrators Café.

Intensive: STORYBOARDING WITH CHARACTER In this interactive session we’ll be working with participant-provided content. You will learn to look at a book with a “global view” and you will walk away with the ability to offer up constructive feedback to you illustration community. Plan to hang work up on the walls and participate in a constructive group critique. Our goal is to help you push your work to the next level (whatever level you may be at).

Homework: please bring any works in progress that you’d like feedback on, printed on paper (please do not plan to show work digitally). This may include a picture book dummy, character illustrations, loose concepts for storylines, etc. Work does not need to be finished to be considered. Sketches/thumbnails are welcomed and encouraged. Supplies: tracing paper, pencils/markers, and painters tape. Also, please bring a favorite picture book. 

Breakout: PORTFOLIO BUILDING AND SELF PROMOTION In this session we’ll discuss common elements of an illustrator’s portfolio. Topics that we’ll cover include: personal work vs. professional work, the printed portfolio, organizing and designing a website, social media, reaching out to art directors, and networking. There will be opportunities for questions both during and after the session.


Greg Hunter is Editorial Director of Lerner Publishing Group’s Graphic Universe imprint. He has served as editor on graphic novels including Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle (starred review, Kirkus), the North American edition of My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun (starred review, Booklist), and the Life on Earth series by acclaimed cartoonist MariNaomi. He has also edited prose middle-grade novels such as The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi (starred review, Kirkus) and the Quinnie Boyd Mysteries series by C.M. Surrisi, including the Agatha Award-nominated A Side of Sabotage. He values storytelling that balances the irreverent, the surprising, and the sincere. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he is kind to animals and serious about breakfast.

Greg will participate in the First Pages Session 

Intensive: WHEN WRITING IS BUILDING; How to Structure Your Story (and Actually Enjoy Doing It).  The structure of a story doesn’t have to constrict an author. Rather, a story’s scaffolding is the place from which voice and character can bloom. Learn more about building a story to support what counts—and the missteps that can shake a story’s foundation.

Breakout: EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: Graphic Novels and the Art of Visual Narratives.  For more than a decade, graphic novels have steadily grown in popularity throughout the world of children’s literature–but putting one together can still trip up a first-time graphic novel creator. Not just longer picture books or illustrated versions of prose novels, these works have traits all their own. This breakout session will talk the logic of comics and how to transform ideas into visuals.


Molly Jonesfirst published books were an MG historical novel and a picture book. Since then she has written 13 non-fiction books for educational publishers. Included are a pair of books about writing non-fiction for use in classrooms. She has also been interviewed on video-tape by SCETV  for classroom use on fiction-writing skills. Along with a “write-for-hire” non-fiction book, she’s currently working on an MG historical novel about the creation of Lake Murray where she lives.

BreakoutWRITING FOR EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHERS: Firing up young minds AND your writing career.  Kids’ lives get changed when non-fiction brings new ideas, new possibilities, and new worlds into their thinking. In this loaded hour we’ll tour the wide range of educational writing opportunities including “write-for-hire” contracts. We’ll hone a strategy for discovering where YOU might fit in, and find out how to get your foot in the door. Also we’ll look closely at a crucial skill in non-fiction writing: understanding and thinking the way your editor thinks.  Participants will leave with handouts listing open educational markets, URLs to learn specifically what each market needs from them in a query, and tips from Molly’s experience and that of others about navigating the process.  Also they’ll have her website access for updated information about opportunities in the field.


Robin Kirk is the author of The Bond, the first in a fantasy series by Blue Crow Publishing. Her short story, Love is a Wild Creature, is featured in Wicked South: Secrets and Lies: Stories for Young Adults, also by Blue Crow. She is an award-winning poet. Kirk is a human rights advocate and serves as Faculty Co-Chair of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and is a founding member of the Pauli Murray Project, an initiative of the center that seeks to use the legacy of this Durham daughter to examine the region’s past of slavery, segregation and continuing economic inequality. As a senior researcher, Kirk authored, co-authored and edited over twelve reports for Human Rights Watch, all available on-line.

Breakout: SMALL WITH BIG DREAMS  Have you ever considered publishing with a small press? How would it be different from a major publisher? Would you get personal attention from your editor? Be consulted about your cover? How much marketing would you need to do? What about reviews and bookstore gigs? Or eligibility for awards? Blue Crow authors Robin Kirk (The Bond) and Lisa Williams Kline (One Week of You) have experiences with large and small publishers. They’ll share what it’s been like for them to work with small publisher Blue Crow Publishing (Chapel Hill, NC). Katie Rose Guest Pryal, co-publisher of Blue Crow Publishing, will answer questions about the Blue Crow mission and process. Blue Crow is a traditional small press publishing fiction and nonfiction since 2016; its young adult imprint is Goldenjay Books.


Lisa Williams Kline is the author of ten books for young people, most recently One Week of You, from Goldenjay Books, the YA imprint of Blue Crow Publishing. She is also the author of Eleanor Hill (Carus), Princesses of Atlantis (Carus) Write Before Your Eyes (Delacorte), and the 5-book Sisters in All Seasons series (Zondervan). Lisa is a mentor in the SCBWI Mentor Program. She lives in Davidson with her veterinarian husband, Jeff, an old dog, and an attack cat. Their two daughters visit frequently with their dogs and as can be imagined they have a howling good time.

Breakout: SMALL WITH BIG DREAMS Have you ever considered publishing with a small press? How would it be different from a major publisher? Would you get personal attention from your editor? Be consulted about your cover? How much marketing would you need to do? What about reviews and bookstore gigs? Or eligibility for awards? Blue Crow authors Robin Kirk (The Bond) and Lisa Williams Kline (One Week of You) have experiences with large and small publishers. They’ll share what it’s been like for them to work with small publisher Blue Crow Publishing (Chapel Hill, NC). Katie Rose Guest Pryal, co-publisher of Blue Crow Publishing, will answer questions about the Blue Crow mission and process. Blue Crow is a traditional small press publishing fiction and nonfiction since 2016; its young adult imprint is Goldenjay Books.


Tara Luebbe is a former specialty toy and bookstore owner turned picture book author. Tara co-writes with her sister, Becky Cattie, and they are the authors of I AM FAMOUS and I USED TO BE FAMOUS, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; SHARK NATE-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan; OPERATION PHOTOBOMB, illustrated by Matthew Rivera; and the forthcoming RONAN THE LIBRARIAN (Macmillan 2020). Tara loves both reading and writing picture books, especially those that sparkle with humor. She lives with her husband and three boys in Fort Mill, SC.

Breakout: MINING NONFICTION VEINS TO PRODUCE DAZZLING FICTION PICTURE BOOKS  Potential ideas for picture books can hit at any time, and are a dime a dozen. But GREAT ideas for picture books are rare, precious jewels that are one of a writer’s most valuable commodities. An often-overlooked area for finding these gems lies in the world of nonfiction. While nonfiction picture books garner plenty of deserved attention, true stories and fascinating facts can also provide adventurous prospectors with a treasure trove of inspiration for tales of fiction.


Maya Marlette, Assistant Editor, Scholastic. Maya works on both middle grade and YA, though smart, fun, socially conscious YA is really her passion. Anything with a heavy dose of humor is bound to get a careful look. She’s also particularly interested in graphic novels. She does not gravitate towards sci-fi or high fantasy. She will accept submissions for the next six months. Please email her at mmarlette@scholastic.com @termayanated

Maya will participate in the First Pages Session

BREAKOUT: THAT’S FUNNY!  Writing Humor that Doesn’t Fall Flat: This session is for writers of picture books, middle grade, and YA, though there is a particular emphasis on novels. Discover what makes humor work, and learn to find your character’s unique (and hilarious!) voice. There will be practical advice on writing comedy for children.


Lina Maslo is the author and illustrator of Free As a Bird, a picture book biography of Malala Yousafzai, which is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her second picture book, Through the Wardrobe: The Story of C.S. Lewis, also being published by Balzer+Bray of HarperCollins, is slated to be released in Spring 2020. She received a degree in Art from New College of Florida, and now resides in South Carolina with her husband and children.

Breakout: BRINGING YOUR VOICE TO NONFICTION: Writing and illustrating the Picture Book BiographyA picture book biography doesn’t have to be boring! Of course, you need to stay true to the facts, but how do you make it your own? Lina and Alice will discuss their research tips and techniques for nonfiction text and artwork, their work in building character and developing narrative, and how they each strived to maintain a unique artistic vision throughout the process. Each brings to the table two different perspectives in storybook making: As a writer/illustrator, Lina crafts words and pictures simultaneously, and as an illustrator, Alice brings to life another author’s text.


Gillian McDunn is a writer, reader, and beach-goer who grew up in California, spent six years in Missouri, and currently lives in North Carolina. When she isn’t writing, Gillian can be found spending time with her husband, kids, and excessively cute dog named Friday. Her debut middle grade novel CATERPILLAR SUMMER (Bloomsbury) is set on a fictional island off the North Carolina coast. Since her father’s death, Cat has taken care of her brother, Chicken, for their hardworking mother but on an unexpected trip to visit grandparents they never knew, Cat has the chance to be a child again.

Breakout: CRAFTING CHARACTERS: From Rough to Revision to Final Polish ttendees will learn why characters are important, how to create memorable characters, how to use the revision process to deepen characters


Linda Vigen Phillips has a passion for realistic fiction that offers hope and encouragement to young adults and families facing mental or physical health crises.  Her debut book, Crazy, depicts the struggles of a teenage girl in the 1960’s coming to terms with her mother’s bipolar disorder. It was short listed for the SCBWI Crystal Kite award 2015, named an IndieFab Book of the Year Finalist, and an Honor Book for the Paterson Prize for Books among other accolades. Like Crazy, Behind These Hands is a Young Adult verse novel. In its starred review Kirkus said, Free verse evokes the myriad emotions brought up by the story’s numerous well-balanced themes. The result is a richly woven, unforgettable symphony of feelings and words.

Breakout: SKYPING AROUND THE WORLD.  Would you love to have your books dropped into classrooms all over the world?  Do you wish you could share your author-wisdom with students from cultures other than your own? Would you welcome a writer’s life that includes more writing time, more classroom visits, and less time and money spent on travel? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you will want to know more about “Skype in the Classroom.” In less than four months, I visited over a dozen classrooms from Dubai to the remote Canadian Rockies. I sometimes had odd hours, but always from the comfort of my office and without spending a dime.


Katie Rose Guest Pryal, co-publisher and acquisitions editor of Blue Crow Publishing, earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, her law degree from UNC School of Law, and her PhD in English from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is the author of three novels, two nonfiction books, and many books on writing. She is a former professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers.

Breakout: SMALL WITH BIG DREAMS Have you ever considered publishing with a small press? How would it be different from a major publisher? Would you get personal attention from your editor? Be consulted about your cover? How much marketing would you need to do? What about reviews and bookstore gigs? Or eligibility for awards? Blue Crow authors Robin Kirk (The Bond) and Lisa Williams Kline (One Week of You) have experiences with large and small publishers. They’ll share what it’s been like for them to work with small publisher Blue Crow Publishing (Chapel Hill, NC). Katie Rose Guest Pryal, co-publisher of Blue Crow Publishing, will answer questions about the Blue Crow mission and process. Blue Crow is a traditional small press publishing fiction and nonfiction since 2016; its young adult imprint is Goldenjay Books.


Alice Ratterree enjoys a career illustrating stories for children of all ages. Her picture book biography, Dangerous Jane (Suzanne Slade, Peachtree Publishers), was selected for the 2019 Illinois Reads program. She is also the illustrator of two middle-grade novels, The Wolf Keepers (Elise Broach, Christy Ottaviano Books) and Lilliput (Sam Gayton, Peachtree Publishers), both of which are Junior Library Guild Selections. Lilliput is also a recipient of the Parents Choice Gold Award. Alice began her career in music, receiving degrees in Voice Performance from Florida State University (BM) and Boston University (MM). She finds inspiration in Greenville, SC with her unflappable husband, two children, and a cat that thinks he’s a dog.

Breakout: BRINGING YOUR VOICE TO NONFICTION: Writing and illustrating the Picture Book BiographyA picture book biography doesn’t have to be boring! Of course, you need to stay true to the facts, but how do you make it your own? Lina and Alice will discuss their research tips and techniques for nonfiction text and artwork, their work in building character and developing narrative, and how they each strived to maintain a unique artistic vision throughout the process. Each brings to the table two different perspectives in storybook making: As a writer/illustrator, Lina crafts words and pictures simultaneously, and as an illustrator, Alice brings to life another author’s text.


 Kate Sederstrom, Editorial Assistant, is just starting to build her own list at Bloomsbury Children’s while assisting Editorial Director Annette Pollert-Morgan on her projects. She is looking for books for all age categories. She loves reading for insightful picture books with sophisticated art; fast-paced, commercial middle grade for reluctant readers with thoughtful themes about moral decision-making and life’s transitions; and voice-driven YA novels with enticing hooks, inventive narrative structures, and stories that touch upon social, cultural, and emotional issues with tact, charm, and a dash of quirk. She’s particularly interested in stories which explore the effect of toxic masculinity on smart boy characters, protagonists who experience a tug-of-war between good and evil, and high concepts that allude a cultural moment. With experience on the publicity and agenting sides of the industry, Kate keeps a keen eye out for stories with promotional hooks she can sink her teeth into.

Kate will participate in the First Pages Session.

BreakoutFROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION: Sell that Book.  The rising prominence of self and small publishing had made it easier for authors to get their work out in to the world, but it has also stacked the competition for actual book sales even higher. How do you get your book noticed in a vast sea of others? Editorial Assistant and freelance publicist Kate Sederstrom, formally of the Random House Publicity department, explains why it’s important to consider your book’s potential pitch angles as early as the first draft. She’ll discuss current trends in the market, how to spot and capitalize on them, and methods for pitching your book – whether it’s to agents for representation or local media outlets for a self-published title.


Victoria A. Selvaggio joins Storm Literary Agency as a Literary Agent and Partner. Previously with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, she was drawn to the publishing scene first as an author. As a prior Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio, Victoria’s desire to help writers and illustrators reach their publications goals inspired her to become an agent.

With over twenty-five years as a business owner, Victoria is excited to help grow the agency’s client base with talented writers and illustrators, while also helping build the agency from within with motivated agents who possess the same ideals, literary interests, goals, and approaches to the industry.

As a frequent presenter at conferences, library events, contests, etc., Victoria is always interested in meeting writers and illustrators, and hearing about unique projects!

Vicki will participate in the Meet The Agent session.

Intensive: ANALYZING THE SUCCESSES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT FOR CREATING UNIQUE STORIES OF THE FUTURE.  In our evolving world, stories are evolving too and with never-ending ideas, today’s writers must delve deeper when creating stories that stand out in a crowded marketplace. Researching the success of the past and presentprovides writers with instrumental tools, equipping them for shaping stories of the future. From wordless picture books to mature and real-life content in middle grade and YA—publications have come a long way! And as writers continue to use the elements of a story in ways that the story demands, the possibilities of executing ideas in unique ways are endless. Like our world and stories, the standards in publishing are constantly evolving too.

With an accompanying handout and writing exercises, this intensive will highlight how publications have evolved, what we can learn from the success (and failure) of others, and how each element of a story depends on other elements.

Breakout: EDITING TIPS FOR THE EYE, THE EAR AND THE HAND.  After what seems like the most work, putting fingers to keyboard, the REAL work begins! With a completed manuscript, it’s time to delve deeper into the elements of a story, while considering editing in the written stage, the visual stage, and the audible stage.  While some editing tips are effortless, some require more butt in chair and sweat and tears and work.

For today’s market and the demand for well-written submissions, writers who take the time to prepare, proofread, and polish their stories have the possibility of outshining other submissions that are comparable in theme, topic, and/or premise. Editing/self-editing can seem challenging, but writing is rewriting and writing and rewriting equals editing. Adding a word, rephrasing a sentence, it’s editing in its simplest form.

With an accompanying handout (and writing exercises, if time allows), this breakout session will highlight different editing tips, while providing tips on how elements of a story can fall short.


C. M. Surrisi is the author of the award winning middle grade series The Quinnie Boyd Mysteries, which includes THE MAYPOP KIDNAPPING, VAMPIRES ON THE RUN, and Agatha nominated A SIDE OF SABOTAGE, published by Carolrhoda/Lerner Books. She is also the author of the Junior Library Guild selection picture book, THE BEST MOTHER, published by Abrams. She practiced law for many years before pursing an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She has taught writing at UNC in the Great Smokies Writing Program and for SCBWI Regional and National Programs. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Author’s Guild, and The National League of American Pen Women. She has been a member of SCBWI for fifteen years (in three regions) and been an SCBWI ARA, RA, and Mentor. Visit her at https://cmsurrisi.com; @csurrisi on twitter; C. M. Surrisi on Facebook; and csurrisi on Instagram. Listen to my interview on the mystery podcast “It Was a Dark and Stormy Bookclub.”   https://www.spreaker.com/episode/17436782

Cynthia will present the opening keynote:  The Abstraction of Curiosity:  In other words, How the Heck Do I get Published?

Breakout: WRITING THE MIDDLE GRADE MYSTERY. Do you want to write a middle grade mystery but don’t know how to get started? This session will explain how the middle grade sleuth is uniquely different from all others, and how to fashion a setting and framework in which she or he can navigate successfully to solve a crime. While each mystery is different, they are all built upon a structure that is well known in the mystery writers’ world. Learn these essential elements that include: sleuth character development, compact setting, things you must know before you start, fleshing out backstory, choosing victims, selecting the crime, defining the suspects, lining up the clues and red herrings, and plotting the four acts. In addition—remembering to add the heart and humor! Also, learn the considerations for multi-book series, and much, much, more!


Jaime Zollars is an award-winning illustrator who has created imagery for galleries, apparel, magazines, books and advertising campaigns while waiting way too many years to write her first picture book (because she was scared that no one would like it). Jaime was also a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, helping talented students to visually tell their stories before they inspired her to slay her dragons and finally tell  one all her own. Jaime’s first authored picture book, The Truth about Dragons (hint: they aren’t as scary as you think!) will be published by Little Brown in fall 2020.

Breakout: ILLUSTRATING MIDDLE GRADE BOOK COVERS: All you need to know about the best job in the business.  We are told not to judge a book by its cover, and yet most of us do. Creating book cover art is a great honor and responsibility. These jobs are often high profile and can increase your visibility as an illustrator while getting paid. Book covers needs to capture both the story and feeling of a book in a single image, making every title an exciting puzzle to solve.