Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Summer Tahquitz Writer’s Retreat

Date(s) - 06/12/2020 - 06/14/2020
12:00 am


We recommend adding your name to the waiting list. In the past, names from the waiting list have ALWAYS made it into the conference when attendees dropped out. So keep the faith and do NOT make plans for the weekend of June 12-14. To add your name to the waiting list, send an email to


2020 Summer Writer’s Retreat

Middle Grade & Young Adult

Online via the magic of ZOOM

June 12-14, 2020

Cancellation Policy:

in light of the uncertainty due to the Coronavirus, you can cancel up to Thursday June 11th noon, in which case we will refund you the entire basic conference fee (members $150/nonmembers $200). If you cancel after Thursday June 11th noon, we will NOT refund the conference fee unless we can find a replacement. Also, if you paid for a written critique, we will NOT refund that fee no matter what the date of cancellation since, regardless of whether or not you participate in the conference, we will email you the written critique.

As you write your novel, do you feel lost in the woods? Are you in need of a compass to guide you? Does your story need more adventure? Well, join us for an online weekend retreat with guidance from professionals and fellow writers. Our “camp leaders” include:

Heather Buchta, author

Ernesto Cisneros, author

Courtney Stevenson, Assistant Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books

Jennie Kendrick, Agent at Red Fox Literary

Melanie Castillo, Associate Agent at Root Literary


To spruce up our manuscripts, attendees will participate in four critique-group sessions lead by an editor or agent, hear speaker presentations on manuscripts that caught their attention, and mingle with the editor, agent, authors during meals and a happy hour.

Because we want to keep the critique groups cozy, we are restricting the number of attendees to 28. Attendees can also get a professional written critique of up to 10 pages of their manuscript before the conference.
Written Critiques:

You may get a written critique of your work prior to the weekend so you can revise before the retreat. If you sign up for a written critique, please email 10 pages of your manuscript and one-page synopsis to by Monday, May 4, at 10:00 am. Your manuscript must be saved as a Word document, double-spaced, Times New Roman, one-inch margins, and must have a header with your name and page numbers. The synopsis may be single-spaced, one-page, one-inch margins. We will email the critique back to you one week prior to the weekend retreat.

Faculty Bios

Heather Buchta, Author

Heather Buchta graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in communications, but she’ll tell you the real B.A. in college is learning how to pay bills. After receiving her National Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, she directed youth ministry programs and confirmation classes for both Catholic and Protestant churches. In addition, she taught high school English for a decade in South Central LA. Today, she is a part-time youth pastor for The Rock Covenant Church and a private tutor for ACT and SAT prep. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, obstacle-course racing, rock climbing, and snowboarding. She lives in the beach cities of Los Angeles, where she dotes on her dog and writes stories from her indoor porch. Beyond the Break is her first novel.



Ernesto Cisneros, Author

Ernesto Cisneros is a 20-year veteran teacher currently serving the city of Santa Ana: the colorful but mostly dismissed section of Orange County, California. He teaches reading and writing to local students at an inner-city intermediate school.

Ernesto holds an English degree from the University of California, Irvine; a teaching credential from California State University, Long Beach; as well as a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from National University. Efrén Divided is his first novel.



Courtney Stevenson, Assistant Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books

Courtney Stevenson joined HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2016 after starting her career on the agency side at Pippin Properties. In her time assisting Rosemary Brosnan, Courtney has been lucky to work on such amazing books as The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day, and Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, as well as many new editions of titles on the team’s rich backlist. She is proud to have on her own list That’s What Friends Do by debut author Cathleen Barnhart and Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan. Courtney is most excited by young adult and middle grade manuscripts that have a literary bent, clever voice, diverse cast of characters, and perhaps some vibrant historical details. You can find her on twitter at @courtney_ps.



Jennie Kendrick, Agent at Red Fox Literary

Jennie Kendrick is a former criminal defense attorney and history major, and continues to be a lifelong reader. She began writing for Forever Young Adult, a popular review site for YA fans who are “a little less Y and a little more A” in 2013, and became an editor in early 2014. Her work with Forever Young Adult has included a review partnership with Kirkus books, travel to Book Expo of America, YALLFest and YALLWest, social media management, a podcast, and close work with many publicists and YA authors. She was a judge for the 2017 Elephant Rock Books Helen Sheehan YA publishing competition, is a part-time bookseller at The Booksmith in San Francisco, and leads the San Francisco chapter of the international Forever Young Adult book club. Jennie became a literary agent in early 2018.

Jennie’s passions include history, the criminal justice system, art, rock music, teen TV and movies, and cooking. She loves well-researched, diverse, character-driven YA and MG fiction, and is particularly looking for Own Voices works.




Melanie Castillo, Associate Agent at Root Literary

Melanie Castillo is an associate agent at Root Literary. After graduating with an MS in writing and book publishing from Portland State University, she worked as an editorial project manager at Quarto and then as a freelance editor for several years before joining Root Literary in 2018. What she loves most about the job is the balance of the creative with the entrepreneurial. Melanie began building her list in 2019 and is actively looking for fiction and narrative nonfiction. She’s especially excited to find young adult novels with a strong voice and propulsive pacing and heartfelt and humorous middle grade novels across genres—from contemporary and realistic to historical and fantasy and everything in between. When it comes to fantasy, she tends to gravitate toward worlds that feel grounded in our own reality. No matter the genre, her favorite books often have a strong emotional undercurrent that carries the reader to the last chapter. Melanie was born and raised in Southern California in a multi-cultural, blended family, so she has a soft spot for books that shine a spotlight on the nuances of family relationships and identity. You can find her on Twitter at @wellmelsbells.

This event is fully booked.