SCBWI-IL Summer Series

Apr 29, 2024 - Jul 09, 2024

Online event

Our Summer Series + Critique offers 10 weekly programs from industry insiders and practicing professionals to take your dummy, manuscript or graphic novel script to the next level. A written critique from our senior editor or agent is included in the $190 fee! Limited to (40) attendees for maximum feedback at live events. Attendees are encouraged to voice their own questions in online events. Add an optional written critique from a practicing professional for $55. Register anytime through May 24 and watch recordings of missed programs.

Summer Series is SOLD OUT! Join the wait list.

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UPCOMING MONDAY: Memorial Day | No Programming

We take a break to observe the sacrifice of our armed service personnel. Use this time to review the guidelines to prepare and upload your work-in-progress to our industry insiders due May 25th, catch up on previous recordings, and prepare for the WEEK 8 First Look for registered illustrators.

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LAST MONDAY: Crafting Convincing Villains

Orlando Dos Reis shines a light on the dark side--VILLIANS! Bring your writing and illustrating materials to work on your antagonists during our program. Ask Orlando YOUR questions directly in our conversation to follow! (Photo credit: Shelly Romero) (See description in SERIES, below.) LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes with Q&A

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Attendees can add an additional written critique!

Our practicing professionals are offering feedback that complements their weekly presentations! Add a written critique with any or all for $55 anytime through the end of our event. Submit your work-in-progress by July 20 to receive your SCBWI Gold Form written feedback via email by August 31. Log in and go to REGISTER FOR EVENT to add a written critique to your existing registration.


$190 includes agent | editor critique! Registering after our first paid program? No sweat—it's Summer Series! To join the wait list, request at

Receive recordings of all programs and catch up when you can. Limited to 40 attendees for maximum feedback! Attendees are encouraged to voice their own questions in online events to create a conversational atmosphere. Attend LIVE to enter into our faculty book raffle! JOIN THE WAIT LIST:

Summer Series Schedule

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WEEK 1: FREE Welcome Celebration

Your SUMMER SERIES Team describes all the opportunities of our 10-program series + written critique. Your questions, answered. Open to anyone wanting to know more about this online event. Celebrate our Masthead Contest winner, Darcy Day Zoells and Becky Mabry Scholarship winner, Tracie Amirante Padal . LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes with Q&A

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WEEK 2: Breaking the Rules to Create Humor

Over 70% of readers choose funny books. But how do we write humor? We break the rules! In this session, author Alice B. McGinty will go over the academics of humor - from incongruity theory to higher level thinking, analyze many examples of humorous picture books, including her recent award-winning book, Bathe the Cat (Chronicle, illustrated by David Roberts), and then dive deep into how to break rules to create humor ourselves. LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes with Q&A

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WEEK 3: Industry Insider Chat

Join our chat with Industry Insiders Laurel Symonds (agent, KT LITERARY) and Orlando Dos Reis (senior editor, SCHOLASTIC). Attendees will be asked to pose questions directly to our faculty for a conversational event. This is YOUR chance to ask questions in advance of submitting your work-in-progress to our industry insiders for written critique. LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes ALL Q&A

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WEEK 4: Crafting Convincing Villains

In this hybrid talk and intensive, we will look closely at the motivations of iconic villains in popular media and draw conclusions that creators can apply to their own work when developing antagonists in their own works. This session may include writing exercises that will help creators pinpoint the motivations of their antagonists to create memorable villains that will resonate with readers. (Photo credit: Shelly Romero) LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes with Q&A


WEEK 5: Recognize MEMORIAL DAY | NO Monday Programming

We take the night off to recognize the sacrifices of our armed service personnel. Use this week to catch up on recorded programs or preparing your work-in-progress for our industry insiders!

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WEEK 6: Turn Your Manuscript Into a Baby Board Book for Fun, Profit & Revision

Ready to play? Join Denise and Cathy as we help you take your picture book or middle grade/young adult manuscripts and turn it into a 17 word playful baby board book. Why? To help in the revision process. If you can describe your book in 20 words or less, you can do anything! Denise will start by discussing the baby board book market and share why these sweet little books hold a special place in her heart. Cathy and Denise will give examples of stripping your story down to something simple and playful - just for the joy of it! Editing your story to 17 words by creating an entertaining board book can help you get unstuck, brainstorm new ideas, or give you a new perspective on your story. We will spend 30 minutes turning our words into 6-page spreads and show you how to create characters using simple shapes. In the last 15 minutes, we will spend time sharing our creations! LIVE | RECORDED | 60 minutes with Q&A

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WEEK 7: Picture Books as Physical Objects

The youngest of readers interact with picture books in very physical ways—and we’re not just talking about chewing the cardboard or ripping out pages! We’ll consider how interactive elements, line breaks, page turns, and other techniques enhance the reading experience, focusing on picture books for ages 4+. LIVE | RECORDED | 60 minutes with Q&A

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WEEK 8: First Look Feedback for Illustrators

Join NaShantá Fletcher, PAL Illustrator and Design Director, COTTAGE DOOR PRESS & Jessica Saint Jean, Literary Agent, JILL GRINBERG LITERARY MANAGEMENT for a first look for illustrators. Up to (5) illustrators will present an image for immediate feedback from our industry professionals, with time for a follow up question from the illustrator. Illustrators may sign up for this opportunity during registration at no additional cost. Register early to get your 10-minutes for presentation and feedback. LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes

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WEEK 9: Responsible Representations of Trauma

As a writer, portraying trauma in your work allows for the opportunity to reach a large audience with a story that can provide a reader with an important sense of representation and connection. Trauma-driven narratives help survivors of trauma make sense of their experiences. Responsible depiction of trauma is crucial, ensuring ethical and accurate storytelling. In the session, attendees will learn how to depict the emotional and behavioral responses to traumatic stress across the developmental stages—from infancy to early adulthood-—avoiding exploitative language and stereotypes in mental health portrayal. Important topics such as content warnings, systemic and disenfranchised trauma, and author self-care will also be addressed. LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes includes Q&A

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WEEK 10: Pacing and Page Turns to Hook Your Reader

Pull out your scissors and glue as we paginate and create the perfect page turns. Together we will take a look at popular picture books, chapter books, and novels to discover what compels the reader to turn the page. What devices can we use as writers to draw readers into the world we are creating? We will explore call and response, alternating points of view, and the rise & fall of action. We will also look at the role art plays in helping the reader become immersed. Feel free to print out your own picture book to paginate or join the group paginating a classic (CUSTARD THE DRAGON.) Recommended Reading List to Come LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes with Q&A

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WEEK 11 | MONDAY: Novelty Board Books-What have You Been Missing?

You don’t have to be a paper engineer to submit a proposal. There are several types of novelty books for children. This presentation will show the basic formats of several novelty books. Participants will be given a 5- page handout with: A. Would your book idea suit a novelty book format? B. Tackling the moving parts/designing a novelty book dummy. C. A list of publishers who print novelty books. D. A list of “classic” novelty books. LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes includes Q&A

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WEEK 11 | TUESDAY: Making Your Writing Personal and Universal—Inviting Readers In

We each come to this creative journey with unique stories to tell. The goal is to write and illustrate in our own one-of-a-kind way so that our stories invite others in. In this session, Rob will share some of the stories he’s told and what led him to those stories. Then, using his own books as examples, he’ll share the three things he thinks invites readers into a story—entry point, structure, and presentation. Once a reader has felt welcomed in, the story becomes their story. One reader at a time, a story can grow a community. We’ll leave ample time for questions and answers at the end of the session. Rob believes that almost every creative has that one question that they feel they must have answered in order to move forward. So, your questions may be about Rob’s presentation, or be a “burning-issues” question. NOTE: TUESDAY, July 9 LIVE | Recorded | 60 minutes includes Q&A

Summer Series Includes

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Industry Insider Written Critique | Included

Request yours with Laurel Symonds, AGENT | KT LITERARY or Orlando Dos Reis, SENIOR EDITOR | SCHOLASTIC

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Industry Insider Information + Guaranteed Response | Included

Your pass to submit your work to a closed house or agency!

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Add a Critique from Practicing Professionals | $55

Trauma | Portfolio | Page Turn | PB Critiques Offered

Series Specifics

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Series Faculty

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Submission Guidelines for Manuscripts | Dummys | GN | Portfolios | Illio Website Critiques

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Professional Policies


If you register after our first paid program on May 6, you'll receive the recordings to any past programs. No sweatit's SUMMER SERIES.

26 APRIL: Registration opens. Premium Member fee $190.

29 APRIL: SUMMER SERIES begins with FREE program.

05 MAY: Deadline to request a refund, minus a $65 cancellation fee. After this date there will be no refunds. Fees for optional critiques with Practicing Professionals are non-refundable.

24 MAY: Registration closes.

25 MAY: Deadline to upload dummy | manuscript | graphic novel for Industry Insider written critique from agent or editor. Please see the GUIDELINES page for details.

22 JUNE: Industry Insider Written Critiques (SCBWI Gold Form) emailed to attendees.

20 JULY: Deadline to submit WIP for optional critiques with Practicing Professionals. See OPTIONAL CRITIQUES

31 AUGUST: Optional, additional critique SCBWI Gold Forms returned via email to attendees.

QUESTIONS?: Email Deborah Topolski, Co-RA