Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Speaker Profile - Jacqueline Houtman


Region: Wisconsin
Age Levels: 5-10, 11-13, and 14-17
Will Travel: Anywhere in my country
Skype Visit: Yes
SCBWI Profile: Member Profile


I have studied rat noses, rabbit cholesterol, chicken immune systems, and a virus that paralyzes mice. That last one earned me a PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since leaving the lab in 1996, I have been a freelance writer, covering topics ranging from cancer to asthma to jackalopes.

I started writing fiction for young readers as part of an assignment with an educational publisher. I enjoyed it so much I decided to try my hand at novels. Because I love science, my debut novel, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, is full of real science. I call this genre “sciency fiction”.

I had thought of myself as a science writer and children's novelist, but when I was approached with an opportunity to collaborate on a biography for young readers, I jumped on it. Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist is my first published book-length nonfiction. It may not be the last.

Presentation Description:

How to write, revise, revise, revise, and publish a book

The emphasis is on .  . . you guessed it . . . revision. I show some of my techniques for brainstorming and organizing ideas, editing, copyediting, page proofs, and so on. 


Not in so many words: Make your manuscript lean and mean

Concise writing, where every word counts, is important for any kind of writing, and especially in writing for children. In this session, we’ll look at ways to tighten up a bloated manuscript, starting with the big picture and work down to the word level. We’ll work together on exercises to practice trimming the literary fat.


Sciency fiction: Not just the facts

Sciency Fiction is fiction in which accurate, non-speculative, current science is integral to the story. It can be a bridge to fictional narrative for those students who read primarily non-fiction and a bridge to science for those who prefer novels.


Bayard Rustin: The invisible activist

Bayard Rustin was a gay African-American Quaker whose work for peace, nonviolence, human rights and civil rights was significant, but largely unrecognized. I introduce students to the man, his influence on Martin Luther King,Jr., and a life spent fighting injustice.


Nonfiction: Finding the story in the facts

A story, whether fiction or nonfiction, is not just a series of events or facts strung together. Each element relates to the others in a cause-and-effect way to pull the reader along. We will work together on an exercise to choose facts and arrange them in a way that conveys the truth of our story.