First Pages with Agents Jacqui Lipton and Kelly Dyksterhouse and Author Kathryn Erskine

Aug 02, 2024

The Front Porch, Charlottesville, VA

Join the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI for two hours of fun in Charlottesville, VA

Front Porch Fun-Filled Friday: First-Pages Reading

August 2, 2024, 2-4 pm

$50 premium/$65 non premium


The Front Porch*

221 East Water Street

Charlottesville, VA 22902


Join the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI for two hours of fun in Charlottesville, VA where kidlit pros across genres will share what keeps them reading past the first pages, why they might pause, and what we writers can do to improve our chances of achieving that perfect first-page-turn.

Whether you submit a 100-word sample to be read aloud anonymously or not, you are sure to learn the ins and outs of what makes for a great start to a book for young readers, ages 0-17. There will be a short break where you can meet the panelists and enjoy light snacks. Q & A to follow.

Panelists include: Literary Agents Jacqui Lipton and Kelly Dyksterhouse, and Award-Winning Children’s Book Author Kathryn Erskine. 

Jacqui and Kelly will be open to submissions from participants following the event. Submission guidelines will be shared with participants in our final details email closer to the event.


After registering, paste the first 100 words of your unpublished work for children 0-17 in an email to Dionna Mann at by July 24, 2024. Late entries not accepted. Submissions will be read aloud anonymously in order of receipt. Panelists will hear the sample for the first time during the event for an authentic “first-page” experience.

Faculty is offering consultations to participants in the form of written-only critiques of sample pages for an extra fee of $55. If you are interested in receiving honest feedback on your work from a panelist, read more HERE.

* The Front Porch is a recently renovated, two story building located on the corner of Water and 3rd Streets in the heart of Downtown Charlottesville, right across the street from the Water Street parking garage, which is free for the first hour. Street parking is also free whenever it is available.


Kelly Dyksterhouse

Kelly Dyksterhouse is a literary agent with the Tobias Literary Agency. She has a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and specializes in building the careers of authors and illustrators who work on a broad range of projects from picture books to young adult novels, graphic novels, and fascinating nonfiction for the youth market. In picture books she is drawn to stories that are subversively funny and accessible to the child reader; in MG she is on the hunt for books with series potential, ghost stories, and grounded fantasy from a unique perspective; in YA, she loves lush prose, contained settings, historical novels that feel relevant, and fantasy featuring a diverse perspective; she looks for NF projects with a strong hook that expand her understanding in surprising ways. She loves working with her clients, helping them develop ideas into books, and then seeing those books in the hands of readers.


Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine spent fifteen years as a lawyer before turning to her first love: writing. She was lucky to work with Patricia Gauch and her debut novel, Quaking, which was one of YALSA’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Her novel Mockingbird won the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Kathryn has lived all over the world, from The Netherlands—where she was born—to Israel, South Africa, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. Her life has been filled with rich experiences, from a Hogwarts-like boarding school (minus the magic) to the African bush (complete with lions) to an ice-filled harbor. Kathryn has been a keynote speaker at SCBWI conferences, taught writing workshops and classes on a wide array of subjects, and has been a faculty member at Highlights Foundation. Her other novels for young readers include: The Absolute Value of Mike, a Crystal Kite winner, Seeing Red, a Jane Addams Award honor book, The Badger Knight, and Lily’s Promise. Her picture books include: Mama Africa!, All Of Us, and My Dad’s a DJ.

Slater (3).png

Jacqui Lipton

Jacqui Lipton is a senior literary agent and head of the adult department at Tobias Literary Agency. She loves all things books and publishing and has been an avid reader since elementary school. Her tastes were always broad and eclectic. She loved (and still does) everything from a good murder mystery to space opera to contemporary romance and everything in between. She also loves nonfiction projects with a compelling narrative voice. Jacqui represents fiction and nonfiction across most genres and age groups from children’s books through adult fiction and nonfiction. She also represents illustrators selectively. She is not currently seeking high fantasy, and considers science-fiction selectively. Children’s stories with animal protagonists are not the best fit for her. As a lawyer and the author of Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers, Jacqui helps book creators navigate the legal landscape.

Slater (2).png

Dionna Mann

Dionna L. Mann is a children’s book author, freelance journalist, and independent researcher who holds an MFA—a Mighty Fine Attitude—in Rewriting. Her kidlit work—fiction, nonfiction and poetry—has appeared on the pages of Cricket, Spider, and Ladybug. As a work-for-hire author, she’s published 16 books with educational publishers, including Scholastic, Lerner, Capstone, Sports Illustrated Kids, and Little, Brown. Her debut middle-grade, Mama’s Chicken & Dumplings, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection, will be out this summer from Margaret Ferguson Books, an imprint of Holiday House Books—and this, after being in the manuscript oven for 12 years! Dionna is a longtime Mid-Atlantic SCBWI member, and a Children's Book Guild newbie member. Check out Dionna’s website and kidlit blog where she hosts interviews, blog parties, and sometimes posts reviews.