Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: San Francisco North & East Bay Region and Around.
As the former Co-Regional Advisor and Assistant Regional Advisor for twelve years for this region of the outstanding worldwide organization, check out my tips, suggestions and organization links!


SCBWI LA Conference Tips!

This has to be one of the biggest gatherings of children’s writers, authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, interested friends and more.

Given it’s size, here are a few tips from my frequent attendance:

Bring your water and coffee mug – save on trash.

Pick your sessions carefully based on topic for your work needs, or who is a likely that you will want to submit to afterwards.

Have business cards, ready to exchange. No one really uses them but it refreshes your memory on who you met. Make notes on the back of the card if you need follow-up or make notes on your phone with date and time.

Bring snacks. You might get caught up chatting with a new friend, old friend, or industry luminary, and miss a meal or break.

Bring battery backup for your phone in case your phone chews up a lot of juice or you don’t get back to your room or an outlet all day.

Put a star by the most important points you hear during the sessions. At the end, make a list of the stars and speakers.

Prioritize your stars and to-do’s at the end of the conference or THE FIRST DAY you get back.

Make subject files when you get home and slot your notes/computer print outs into subject files, i.e. queries, writing a series, plot, bookstore signing, school visits, reference books. When you need to have reference material to perk up your brain and writing on a key issue, you will have it ready to go, verses rifling through the folder tonnage from conferences, trying to remember where you saw some crucial bit of advice.

Keep a smile and an open, positive attitude. Don’t talk about how depressed you are about how long you’ve been writing on a draft or how many rejections. Stay upbeat. No one wants to be with a downer. Don’t be depressed by the writer who wrote one draft and was picked up by an agent through a chat. Or by the writer who submitted to five agents over one month and had four offers. It happens rarely.

Regional Writer Conferences Verses National Conferences

When examining the needs to improve your craft, the investment in conferences, intensives, retreats, and local workshops become important tools in career development. What stage are you in your work? Beginner (know nothing about the industry) Pre-published (been writing and need to deepen your knowledge of craft in characters, plot, dialogue, querying, submitting, etc.) Advanced Pre-published (had professional critiques, attended seminars and conferences, and are submitting manuscripts to agents and editors) or Published. Each stage requires different support and direction. A writer’s budget only has so much for education and you need to be very clear about your goals and writing education objectives.

Regional Conferences
These are typically smaller conferences (200 people and under) within a commute distance of where you live, perhaps put on by a nonprofit such as a university or SCBWI and done by volunteers, or another writing organization or group, or perhaps a for profit entity of professional writers, or literary agency. Pay close attention to the speakers, the topics, the ability to get a personal critique on your work, and the accessibility of speakers in casual events. Often at regional events, you have the ability to interact more closely with the conference organizers, the speakers, your colleagues and others that can provide guidance. Being one writer among two hundred writers for community and conversation can be better than one writer among twelve hundred writers.

National Conferences
These conferences are large, over a few days, and can be overwhelming, but the selection of speakers and topics are far greater than a regional conference. National conferences are also 5 – 15 times more costly as you may incur travel, food, hotel, and other expenses. At these conferences you have the opportunity to participate in focused topic sessions with a smaller group (25-50) for an additional fee, which provides you with an in-depth study of a specific craft topic for a half day or full day. Additionally, a critique at these conferences potentially exposes you to a broader range of editors, agents, published authors, and publishers. It’s best to come with a community such as members of your critique group or your local SCBWI chapter colleagues or associate with a community event held at the conference so you don’t walk the conference halls alone (unless you prefer that). Associating with others gives you the chance to share notes from workshops you were unable to attend (as no workshop recordings are sold or shared). Large conferences provide you with an overall market and trends update, plus you can observe the writing and author styles that appeal to you to follow.

Both types of conferences are helpful in your growth as a writer. Remember to plan your conference objectives, stick to them, and be sure to identify at least three take-aways from the conference that you will act on immediately in your work. Otherwise you’ll just end up with a stack of conference folders and an empty wallet.

Change at SCBWI and More Time to Write

After 12 years of running the San Francisco North and East Bay Region, first as Assistant Regional Advisor and then as Co-Regional Advisor, I stepped down on 9/1/18.  Our region is a tremendous success, with over 30 programs a year, and twenty enthusiastic dedicated regional team members. I look back and I’ve done over 200 programs, Intensives and Conferences, hosted over 225 speakers, managed geographical and membership growth, and survived some crazy bumps in the road. I structured the region so there are meetings touching nearly every county in our area. So, it is a joy to turn a thriving region over to two new people.

The friends I have made and the knowledge I have gained by developing programs and attending many other SCBWI programs are invaluable. I look forward to the time now to continue to improve my craft and relax at meetings to absorb even more.  I thank everyone I have worked with for their time, creative ideas and gracious help.

Mentoring is a gift

I just finished the 2018 Nevada Mentor program for children writers. My mentor was author Terri Farley. She was amazing. Two complete reviews of my middle grade novel, The Big Bad Book Club, with sensitive, serious direction and revision guidance. This is an incredible program. I recommend every children’s writer apply to a mentor program. The outstanding feedback and advice from not only your mentor, but all those you meet in the program, will boost your writing competency and knowledge, and provide a huge support team as you go through your next steps to publishing, if that is your goal. Thank you to Regional Advisor Cynthia Mun and the entire Nevada SCBWI team! Plus a shout out to author Heather Petty for her insightful, creative critiquing of queries and synopsis. She is another gift that keeps on giving.

Middle Grade Craft Program, The Corte Madera Inn, June 16, 2018

Digging deeper into your craft is a critical keystone for SCBWI. So since I write middle grade, what better event than to organize a Middle Grade Masterclass! With 4 outstanding authors, 45 people will hunker down and go deeper into their work and be guided on ways to improve their craft.

Not to be missed!

Middle Grade Masterclass, June 16, 2018

Mentoring – a gift to writing and writers

It is a gift to have someone help you along a journey to improve, such as a coach or a counselor. But in writing, a published author who takes you under their wing, gives you critical, helpful commentary on your manuscript and provides guidance on revision is invaluable. The SCBWI Nevada Mentorship

Mentor, author Terri Farley (seated) and mentees l-r, me, Teri Stevens, Kay Inglis

program does exactly that. 12 published writers and illustrators select 2-3 mentees from the many applicants. For 6 months, after an initial meeting reviewing your entire work, the mentor gives you direction and advice to make your work stronger. This is an incredible gift and I am grateful to be in the program. There will be hard work in revising and redrafts, but what a special opportunity to have someone looking over to point me in the write direction!

Getting Away to Write

I’m a big proponent of getting away to write. I think I do some of my best work IMG_4213when I can solely focus on writing and take uninterrupted time to work out snarls and inconsistencies. Perhaps you are the same way.  For several years, our SCBWI region has done a creative retreat at the Green RoseGardenGulch Farm  Zen Center in Muir Beach near the Pelican Inn. The wonderful location and kind Green Gulch hosts help make the retreat stress free and productive.  So many writers and illustrators love the break from their schedule, kids, parents, duties, jobs, and work the whole weekend on their love – a new piece of literary work for children. The next retreat is in September. See you there!

Invest in Your Writing – Treat it like you are an athlete

I find the investment in writing is like developing an athlete. You need to find experts, lay out a training plan, run with others, get advice and help from others, and continue to pace and develop your skills. Writing is  like running.


Brett Wright, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Publishing SCBWI Oktoberfest 2015 Conference

The SCBWI conferences, intensives, meetings. and critique groups are my writing marathon training plan. There is an event for every level of need in your development plan.

For my running, I’m a member of San Francisco Road Runners Club. And it’s only with commitment to both writing and running that I will see improvement.

Why should writing be any different than any other athletic sport?

There is nothing more powerful than a kind, positive word

I attended the SCBWI Los Angeles Conference July 31 – August 3rd. I’ve attended many, many children’s writers conferences, intensives and programs. Perhaps the most outstanding program I’ve attended to date was done by Stephen Fraser, agent with De Chiara Literary Agency — He conducted a middle grade intensive.

He laid out his plan for us – we each were to come out of the session with a salable title, an elevator pitch that was strong, and a first page review for impact. We ran out of time for a synopsis review.

He worked with our group of 25 developed writers, taking time with each person, and asking for suggestions from our colleagues. Each person presented in front of the group. Each person received insight, inspiration, positive incentive and observation. Stephen was not overwhelmed by our questions, but gracious, helpful and directional.

He led by example. May each of us be the same way to one another in our peer critiques and observations. Let us help and inspire one another to exceptional writing, always with a smile and light heartedness.

May 16th Oakland Intensives Spot On


Novel Attendees at Connexion Conference Center, Oakland

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Faculty and Intensive team.

Our Oakland Intensives for Picture Book and Novel writers were spot on and sold out. The attendees were terrific and the faculty of authors Bill Konigsberg and Katheryn Otoshi, and associate editors Taylor Norman (Chonicle Books) and Susan Dobinick (FSG), complimented us on the fine work they read in the critiques. We billed the Intensives for developed writers — and we got them. They were attentive, inquisitive, experienced, thoughtful and probing. The faculty was outstanding. A hard day of craft, work and inspiration for all.

May 16 Intensives for Picture Book and Novel

Our SCBWI programs are blessed with many devoted volunteers and more join every day to help us put on terrific programs. Our May 16 Intensives sold out in a little over 3 weeks. There might still be room on the waiting lists. Intensives are small group workshops that help writers and writer/illustrators dig deeper into their craft and help diagnose changes or adjustments that might need to be made on their manuscripts.

Check them out. And check out our other local and regional events coming up!

MayEvent_NovelFinal_rd3 MayEvent_PbFinal_rd1

Great Ending to 2014 and Blast Off for 2015

Our SCBWI Region ended the year with a terrific Faire and Holiday Mixer on Dec. 6th! Over 85 members and non-members joined us to learn all about our region and the opportunities, plus we had the greatest food brought by all! The Oakland Library was a wonderful midpoint location for our celebration. Everyone loved the time to ask questions, meet members and the advisory board (leadership volunteers) for our region, and chat it up with all their colleagues and friends. What a terrific celebration.

Without missing a beat, we launched into 2015 with a YA Bootcamp Intensive to be held on 1/10, which is sold out, and a Creative Retreat in Muir Beach on 2/27 (also sold out), plus our Napa County meeting on 1/31 on “Building Character” with YA Author Katherine Longshore (registration now open). Be sure to check all our programs regularly at

See you thereSCBWIann013115!

Our First FREE SCBWI FAIRE on Dec. 6th!

I have gone to many trade shows and managed many in my professional career, along with board meetings, seminars, conferences and more. It dawned on mesnowflkAdScbwi3 that there is no way for SCBWI members to get answers to their questions about the organization — so how about a trade show – where there is a person for each topic area at a table for all the major areas like:

New Members

Critique Groups

PAL (Published & Listed) Members

Member Services


Each County: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa & Alameda

So we are having our first SCBWI FAIRE and Mixer on Dec. 6th, that will do just that! Get answers to all your questions for members and non members. Don’t miss it. It will be a lot of fun! It’s Free.

Register here so we have a head count to plan on food and beverages.


When SCBWI Gets in the Way of Writing


Conference illustration by Jeslyn Cantrell,

It’s true. This can happen. We ran an exhausting Fall Conference and 3 Intensives in October, followed by preparation for our new year’s schedule, training of 2 wonderful new volunteers, looking for a new conference site, preparing for our first ever SCBWI Faire scheduled for Dec. 6th, and preparing for our January and May Intensives. The result, between work and SCBWI, no writing for the past nearly 3 months. It just gets disheartening. But when all seems dark, new inspiration sneaks in. And that new inspiration comes from the wonderful energy of other SCBWI members that offer to happily help. That’s right, happily help. Our new Illustrator Coordinator, Julie Bayless, offered to do an ad for Dec. 6th. Our assistant regional advisor, Keely Parrack, offered to help with even more, and other volunteers came forward to run county programs, welcome new members, and more. The lesson learned. Kindly ask for help. (That’s something that’s a bit hard for me to do.) Graciously accept it. And START WRITING. My sweet Della, in my new chapter book MS, Della Hates Dirt,  is nearly done (I hope.)

Our Fall Intensives and Conference 10/17 & 10/18

We have been in a huge whirl of the many, many preparations for this tremendous event. We expanded the conference and added a day of Intensives. So many of our attendees are registered for both days. We didn’t know what to expect. Our speaker lineup is really a blockbuster.  I find these events exhausting and stimulating at the same time. I have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful members that volunteer to help at the conference, and learn from so many terrific speakers (in between running around managing the event.) Join us if you can. I guarantee you will enjoy the content, camraderie and inspiration.

Learn more at

Karen Grencik, Co-founder, Agent, Red Fox Literary
Nicole Geiger, Editor, Beyond Words Publishing
Lauren Rille, Art Director, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schulster)
Natalie Lakosil, Agent, Bradbury LIterary
Leila Sales, Associate Editor, Viking Children’s Books, Young Adult Author
Gianna Marino, Picture Book Author/illustrator
Eric Elfman, Middle Grade Author, Writing Coach
Dana Reinhardt, Middle Grade/Young Adult Author
New Markets/New Readers Author Panel
Marissa Moss, Award-winning Author/illustrator/niche publisher
Malinda Lo, Award-winning Young Adult Author
Mitali Perkins, Award-winning Middle Grade Author

Jeslyn_Cantrell-3 Jeslyn Cantrell, illustrator, is the winner of 2014 Conference Masthead Contest! Congrats Jeslyn.


Tons of Action in SF North & East Bay Region

SCBWI SF NorthEast logoWe have been bubbling over with new SCBWI events, new speakers and lots of new volunteers helping out. Children’s writers and illustrators are the most kind and welcoming crowd. How could we not be? We write for the best audience in the world – CHILDREN.

We have some great meetings coming up with top local speakers on craft and taking your work to the next level. Check out our events calendar, and pick out a meeting that is right for you. Coming up: The JOY of Revision, with Summer Dawn Laurie on June 28th at Corte Madera Town Center Community Room, and July 19th with award-winning author/illustrator/publisher Marissa Moss at Laurel Bookstore, Oakland.

Plus, we are launching our illustrator contest for the 2014 Fall Conference Masthead. Don’t miss out on participating!


Gennifer Choldenko Will Speak on 9/12 at Mill Valley’s Depot Bookstore

I saw Gennifer speak at one of my first local SCBWI meetings many years ago at Redwood High School. She was lovely, helpful and encouraging to all. She went on to publish several books, including the bk_spilldelightful Al Capone series. So it is really wonderful that she is able to come back to our local Marin meeting to speak once again, after so many award-winning books. She is just now, on a book tour, for her newest book, Al Capone Does My Homework, a wonderful middle grade book about a boy who grows up on Alcatraz Island during the time of Al Capone. I couldn’t put down her first two Al Capone books, and I doubt I will be able to put this one down, too. Join us at The Depot Bookstore and Cafe on Thursday evening, September 12, 7 – 9 pm to hear her speak on “Tricks of the Trade – Fiction Writing for Tweens.” To learn more, go to

SCBWI L.A. Conference – Wow!

The Los Angeles SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) Conference was packed with over 1200 people. SCBWI Los Angeles 13 Like a conference in any industry, you need to have a plan to tackle getting the information you need. I introduced Melissa Manlove, editor with Chronicle Books, as one of my regional advisor  (RA) duties. She was terrific. Check out Chronicle’s site for submission guidelines. They take un-agented work, although 80% of their publications are agented.

My other  RA duty was to be the official PAL (Published and Listed) reception schmooze. This was a great job. I visited all the authors and chatted with them when they didn’t have someone around them ready to buy their book. I definitely stopped in to chat with member Corina Vacco, as she sold out her debut book, My Chemical

I also attended Steve Sheinkin‘s (wrote the The Bomb) workshop on Research Techniques for Writers. Outstanding. Then on to Peter Lerangis about writing a series. He had super tips on how to approach publishers and get your thinking straight!

Brodi Ashton, the delightful YA author of Everneath, held a workshop on World Building. Her 10 questions to ask yourself were great to help you build a world for a young reader or a teenage reader. The amazing woman, speaker, best-selling author and Scholastic editor, Andrea Pinkney, stole the show. She could laser in on how to improve your writing and find your “twinkle”.

Now to get writing!!!!

Doing Queries for Children’s Magazines

At the SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles 4 years ago, I attended a wonderful workshop by SCBWI regional advisor Sue Ford. (She writes under Sue Uhlig. She was RA in Kansas at the time and is now RA in Oregon!) While I’m published in other industries like health care, I did not have published work in children’s literature. (And it looked like it would be awhile with my chapter books.) Sue taught the basics and how to get started. (She has hundreds of articles published!)  Then when I attended a Writer’s Retreat three years ago, I roomed next to SCBWI member and author Natasha Carter Yim.  She was working on a magazine query and reminded me of the magazine websites and their submission guidelines.

That got me hooked. It was those connections that helped me get started. I’ve done many queries and have had 3 articles published to date. Magazine publishers receive hundreds of queries for a single issue. When it’s time to prepare the issue, they look at all the queries and create their focus to select the articles that fit with their direction.

My latest set of queries is for an issue on SNAKES. I was totally clueless on snakes. Like all my queries, I totally immerse in research, and am always amazed how totally ignorant I am on these topics. I love the immersion to come up with compelling topics for children. My latest was discovering Twinkie,

Twinkie, World's Largest Albino Python

Twinkie, World’s Largest Albino Python

the largest Albino python in the world! My next query drew me into the horrifying python slaughterhouses and the black market for snake skins supplying the billion dollar skin industry for European fashions.

Hope the queries are selected. But whether they are or not, it was an enjoyable writer’s journey!


Fall Conference “Spin A Magical Story” – Registration Now Open

Whew! The conference team has been working on the preparations for months and we are so excited about this workshop-based conference. Be prepared to work, be inspired, and meet new colleagues on October 19th, 8 – 5, Preservation Park, Oakland.

The masthead illustration is perfect!

SCBWI Masthead final

Alice Feagan is the winner of our masthead contest. I am an autumn girl and I totally love these colors and characters. Truth be known, my favorite colors are purple, orange and lime green! So how could we go wrong!

The speaker lineup is terrific and their topics are right on target. Get to right away and register to get the workshops you want! They are going fast. Plus if you register online by August 15th, the conference fee for members is only $119! See you there.

Pumpkin Head