Mentorship Awards

all yall.png

Although the ALL Y’ALL conference is jointly presented by all five Texas SCBWI chapters, the Austin chapter is pleased to offer once again the following mentorship awards.

Any person attending this year’s ALL Y’ALL conference is eligible for these awards, no matter their home chapter.

Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award

Cynthia Leitich Smith is an inspiration not only as an award-winning and best-selling author, but also as a champion of children’s book writers.

She hosts the informative and popular Cynsations blog, which is a must-read for anyone in the children’s book industry. Cynthia also is an extremely generous member of the Austin kidlit community, offering up her time and knowledge to help fellow writers whenever she can. She embodies the kind of writer we all try to be.

The award bearing Cynthia’s name follows her example and gives guidance to up-and-coming writers. Inspired by the Houston SCBWI chapter‘s Joan Lowery Nixon Award, the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award starts with the critiques at the annual Austin SCBWI conference. Critiquers nominate one of the manuscripts submitted to them for the award, if they feel the manuscript is of a high enough level. The nominated writers will make up the finalists, who will be announced after the Saturday sessions of the conference. The finalists’ work will then be submitted to the mentor, who will choose the winner, announced on our website after the conference.

This award is open to anyone doing a critique during the ALL Y’ALL conference. This includes people attending in-person or online no matter the style of critique.

This year we will be offering 2 mentorships, one for picture book authors and one for novelists. Our picture book mentor will be Jessica Lee Anderson and our novelist mentor will be Madeline Smoot. Both are excited to share their publishing experience.

Emerging Voice Illustrator Mentorship

The Austin SCBWI chapter is proud to offer the Emerging Voice Illustrator Mentorship. The winner will receive a year's mentorship with a local published illustrator to help bring their work to the next level. Illustrators attending in-person and entering the Portfolio Showcase at the ALL Y'ALL Conference are eligible to apply. The mentor will choose an illustrator based on the portfolios in the Showcase.

This year’s illustrator mentor is CS Jennings.

More About Our Mentors



Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of the Naomi Nash series an novels like Uncertain Summer, Trudy (winner of the 2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature), Border Crossing, and Calli. She’s published multiple chapter books and early readers for Rourke Educational Media to include such titles as Brownies with Benjamin Franklin, Case of Foul Play on a School Day, and Time to Move, Peacock. She’s published fiction and nonfiction with Capstone, Heinemann, Pearson, Seedling Publications, Six Red Marbles, and a variety of magazines including Highlights for Children. Jessica graduated from Hollins University with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature, and previously instructed at the Institute of Children’s Literature and St. Edward’s University. She lives near Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter, and toothless rat terrier.



Madeline Smoot is the former publisher of CBAY Books and, before that, the Editorial Director for Children’s Books at Blooming Tree Press. In other words, Madeline knows a lot about publishing and the process of bringing a book to market. Like Jessica, she also graduated from Hollins University with an MA in Children's Literature and then taught Writing Children's Books in the MLA program at St. Edwards University. She now works with authors directly through mentorships and freelance editing, which is just a fancy way of saying she now teaches one-on-one.



CS Jennings is the illustrator of over two-dozen books for kids; working with publishers like Penguin Group Books, Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin, and Sterling Publishing. His specialties are middle-grade, character design, humor in storytelling, and art direction. He illustrated the TLA Bluebonnet 2020-2021 Master List book, From an Idea to Disney. He’s the author of Animal Band; Hello, Texas!; and Too Close Panda (Penguin, 2023). A Texas native, he makes his home in Austin where he bikes and hikes, wandering the hill country looking for inspiration.