News & Events

Kidlit Community

Faculty and Committee members on the eve of the conference.

This month, I was proud to be part of the organizing committee for the SCBWI Illinois conference, Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day.

This was the first time we’d had an in-person conference since the pandemic and I am still feeling the happy after effects.

The key takeaways?

  • Plenty of story craft advice.
  • Inspiring keynotes by Michael Leali and Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom about mastering the ups and downs of the artist’s journey.
  • The opportunity to chat to publishing industry professionals including art directors (Maryn Arreguin from Sourcebooks and Brian LaRossa from Scholastic), editors (Hannah Hill from Delacorte Press and Kelly Delaney from Crown Books for Young Readers), and agents (Sartiza Hernández from Andrea Brown Literary Agency and D. Ann Williams from Emerald City Literary Agency).
  • Individual feedback and a selection of panels and workshops to choose from.
  • Best of all, connecting with my supportive, creative, lively kidlit community. A huge thanks to the team on my organizing committee, especially Committee Chair, Jenny Wagh.  Roll on next year.
Preparing to moderate the publishing industry panel.

Research & Imagination in Writing for Young Adults

As network rep for the SCBWI Near West Suburban Network, I’m thrilled to be co-hosting  this online event, RESEARCH & IMAGINATION IN WRITING FOR YOUNG ADULTS, with the Chicago Southland’s Network on Thursday October 12 at 7pm. Our presenter, Rachel DeWoskin, is the award-winning author of five novels, including the Gold Medal recipient of the YA Sydney Taylor Book Award and the National Jewish Book Award for SOMEDAY WE WILL FLY (Penguin Random House). She is also a poet, essayist, and Associate Professor of Practice in the Arts and UChicago. See Rachel’s website to find out more. To join the event on 10/12, click here.

Writing Residency and Summer Camp at Write On, Door County


With Jerod Santek, Founding and Creative Director

Until this summer, I had never been on a writing residency, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. In July, Write On, Door County welcomed me to its 59 acre rural sanctuary on the Wisconsin peninsula, opening the doors of its residency house with an invitation to devote my time exclusively to writing.

Who wouldn’t love to spark their creativity by walking the trails behind the Writing Center? Or, unbothered by chores and errands and everyday busyness, luxuriate in story-dreaming at the beach at the end of the road? Or visit the Coop (that’s the chicken-coop-converted-to-tiny-writing-studio of celebrated author Norb Blei, no less) for inspiration?

However lovely the surroundings, what meant more to me was something less tangible. Writers often struggle to keep going, to balance their creative endeavors with the other obligations of life. Here, my work was valued and prioritized. What’s most important, I was being told, is  your creativity, your storytelling, your writing. Don’t worry about anything else.  That external validation, for me, was priceless.

The second part of my stay was much more raucous. Take an enthusiastic bunch of third – fifth graders, give them story prompts and games, plenty of encouragement, plus time to write and wonderful things happen!

These youngsters told stories about baby avocados, family curses, hidden secrets, missing siblings, families torn apart by war, dogs on the hunt for bacon, and ghosts plus much more. They each gathered their week’s creativity into a Big Book of Stories and presented them, fearlessly and with humor, to their family and friends on the final day.

Now back in Illinois, I am home feeling refreshed with a stronger connection to my writerly self, a completed first draft of my manuscript, and many happy memories. Thank you Write On, Door County.

Writing Center at Write On, Door County

Ask Anything About Nonfiction Q&A Panel

Want to know more about writing trade non-fiction children’s books or work-for-hire series? Then join me as I host this SCBWI-IL free online network nonfiction panel with award-winning authors Alice McGinty and Suzanne Slade, where you can get answers to all your questions (we mean ALL!).From picture book biographies to narrative nonfiction to expository nonfiction books, the authors are happy to discuss any and all topics such as tips for submitting, working with editors, revising, research, generating great story ideas, interviewing experts, and much more. Click here for panelists’ bios and information about joining the event.

Kids Wow! Grades 3 – 5 Summer Camp, July 2023

Are you an enthusiastic, budding writer in grades 3 – 5? Could you be the next Jason Reynolds or J.K. Rowling? Come along to flex your creativity with author Sarah Hammond and create your own Big Book of Stories! We will learn how to create gripping plots and discover memorable characters by playing games, reading excerpts, and experimenting with a variety of storytelling exercises. As well as learning effective writing tips, there will be the opportunity to express yourself through illustration and crafts and, most importantly, have lots of fun along the way! To find out more, click here.

Writing for the Children’s Magazine Market

As one of the SCBWI-IL network co-reps, I’m delighted to host this free online event in November. The pandemic has affected most aspects of our lives, and that includes writing for children. Happily, the world of children’s magazines is still robust. Long-term editor Paula Morrow, of both the Cricket group and the Highlights group (not simultaneously, of course!), will share her observations and insights about how the market is changing and why it’s still a great place to submit your work. To find out more about Paula, please check out her website.  To join in our event, please see link on the SCBWI IL Networks page.

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