Saturday Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Conference participants will have the ability to attend four breakouts over the course of Saturday. Specific breakout schedule coming soon!

Breakout Session Descriptions


A1 - Unwrapping Picture Book Basics with Aneeka Kalia, Associate Editor, Viking Children's Books

Aneeka will cover the life of a picture book, some evergreen trends, and some tips to help your manuscript stand out.


B1 - Make Your Query Letter Pop with Lisa Amstutz, Associate Agent, Storm Literary

Want to grab an agent’s attention? Write a query letter that pops! In this session we will discuss what agents are looking for and look at ways to make your query stand out in a crowded inbox. Attendees may submit queries ahead of time to be reviewed anonymously in the session.


C1 - Writing an Engaging Mystery: Atmosphere, Tension, Pacing and Premise with Christa Heschke, Agent, McIntosh & Otis

An engaging mystery successfully melds together a creepy or foreboding atmosphere, swift pacing, mounting tension to an exciting conclusion, and a killer premise. Christa will provide tips on making sure your premise stands out, how to add surprising twists and keep your reader in suspense as they eagerly turn pages, and create a captivating cast of characters. **Many of the tips here apply to any genre!**


D1 - Picture Book Covers! How? What?! with Jim Hoover, Art Director, Viking Children's Books

What makes a good picture book cover? I have no idea! (Well, maybe a few ideas…) Listen to Jim opine for thirty-five minutes with time for questions. We will figure it out together!


A2 - Stick the Landing: Pacing and Narrative Structure in Picture Books with author Emma Otheguy

What keeps a child (with a short attention span) excited and engaged throughout the length of a picture book? It turns out even so-called “quiet” picture books use a tight plot structure to keep kids reading. Once you learn to dissect a picture book and find the skeleton on which the body of the story rests, you’ll have the skills to add excitement, tension, and a satisfying ending to every one of your book ideas. In this session, you’ll learn: 1) Length, pagination, and word counts requested by most picture book publishers; 2) A modified version of Freytag’s Pyramid that can help you structure the plot of your picture book (this is beneficial even and especially if you aren’t writing action); and 3) How to select comp titles and analyze their structure.


B2 - Nuts and Bolts: Writing Nonfiction from Proposal to Finished Manuscript with author Jean Daigneau

Jean will cover information on general nonfiction writing, including creating a proposal, as well as ways to make your project stand out. Topics covered will highlight typical requirements for a nonfiction proposal, such as comp titles, sample sidebars or activities, if applicable, as well as finding and reaching out to experts. Since many nonfiction projects involve author-secured photographs, information will include sources for finding photographs, researching copyright issues, finding copyright free photos, and specific information on how to address and document photo use permissions. Specific samples or templates of some topics covered will be included and available following the conference.


C2 - A Certain Type: Developing Complex Characters Using the Enneagram with Ashley Hearn, Editor, Peachtree Teen

This workshop introduces MG/YA writers to the Enneagram personality typing system which maps out nine different patterns of behavior based on how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. By delving deeper into their characters’ psychology writers can more effectively understand their characters’ core motivations and fears to develop more compelling characters.


D2 - Is it a Book? Or is it a Toy? Interacting with Board Books with Picture Book Creator and Paper Toy Maker Merrill Rainey

In this session, Merrill will cover how to make board books engaging enough to find a place in the hands and hearts of today’s little ones. Registered participants will receive an upload link prior to the conference if they would like to share their work for a chance to have Merrill review their book. He will then present his review and feedback of 2-3 submitted book dummies to spur discussion on creating successful board books.


A3 - Standing Out in the Crowded Picture Book Market with Christa Heschke, Agent, McIntosh & Otis

From coming up with a unique idea to utilizing style elements for read-aloud-potential, to knowing your hook and the current state of the market, this presentation will discuss how to determine if your picture book has what it takes to stand out and grab editor/agent interest in a competitive marketplace.


B3 - Get Your Book Out There: The Process of Self-Publishing with author-illustrator Wendy Fedan

Why self-publish? What are the pros and cons? How do you get started? What is the cost? What is the process, and how do I promote myself once I get my book out? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this session, which I hope will make you warm up to the option of self publishing, and realize it doesn’t have to be as hard or expensive as you might assume!


C3 - Four Act Structure Plotting: How to Avoid the “Saggy Middle” with Ashley Hearn, Editor, Peachtree Teen

This workshop introduces novel writers to a narrative modeling method which emphasizes the midpoint turning point. By dividing the traditional Three-Act structure into four acts, writers can more effectively avoid a second-act slump and craft more consistently paced stories.


D3 - Making Your Portfolio POP: Advice from Both Sides of the Query with author-illustrator Katie Mazeika and agent Lillian Mazeika

Author-illustrator Katie Mazeika and agent Lillian Mazeika (Tugeau 2) will discuss the twelve things an illustrator needs in their portfolio and the three things they need to know before they submit it. They will go over what elements make a stand out portfolio, from irresistible characters to atmospheric settings. After speaking on why those elements are essential, they will then discuss the job of illustration and how to know when you are ready to take the leap!


A4 - Authenticity Readers in Children’s Books with Aneeka Kalia, Associate Editor, Viking Children's Books

Aneeka will talk about the role of authenticity readers in children’s books from the standpoint of someone who’s been one for a variety of projects and has employed them as an editor.


B4 - The Mystery Behind School Visits, Workshops, and Book Festivals! with author-illustrator Merrill Rainey

Based on his own experiences, Merrill will cover tips on what makes a successful school visit and the importance of knowing your worth. He will also cover book festivals, workshops, and lead an open discussion to share about participants’ experiences.


C4 - Plan Your Middle-Grade (or YA) Book Journey with author Emma Otheguy

If writing a novel is feeling like a leap into the unknown, this workshop serves to demystify the process and set guideposts along what often seems like an unlit road. While every novelist is unique and every book takes unexpected creative turns, there are effective methods that novelists can learn. You don’t have to invent every step of the process on your own. In this workshop you’ll learn: 1) The steps involved in writing a novel, from conception to publication, with examples from my own process; 2) Workflow recommendations based on my experience writing at different stages of life and work (with another job, while working on a degree, as a full time freelancer, with young kids–I’ll share the approaches that have worked best for me at different times); and 3) The non-negotiable foundations of character development and narrative structure that should be top of mind as you draft and revise your novel. Plus, plenty of time for Q&A based on the specifics of your project and questions you might have for a multi-published author!


D4 - Stuck in the Middle with Middle Grade (Illustrations) with Jim Hoover, Art Director, Viking Children's Books

Do you like books with pictures? Do you want to be the person that does those pictures in those sorts of books? Let’s talk about that! Jim will take you through a schedule and go over some contract points, and we will discuss overall process, procedures, and pitfalls through the lens of #1 NYT-selling series, the Last Kids On Earth.