Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 SCBWI SoCal Writers and Illustrators Day ONLINE

Date(s) - 10/02/2021
8:00 am - 6:00 pm

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2021 SCBWI SoCal

Writers and Illustrators Day ONLINE

Fiction/Nonfiction Picture Book & Middle Grade & Young Adult

Online via the magic of ZOOM

October 2nd, 2021


Fiction/Nonfiction Picture Book & Middle Grade & Young Adult

Want to improve your craft as a children’s book writer and/or illustrator? Please join us as industry experts share tips for deepening your characters, perking up your plot, snazzing up your use of voice, and/or taking your artwork to the next level. Learn about craft, agents, editors, and self-publishing in today’s world.

Join us for a fun, inspiring day of 

  • Written Critiques
  • Portfolio Showcase
  • Portfolio Critiques
  • First Pages Panel
  • Pages Contest by category: Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult
  • Plus … a possible lunch hour with one of our faculty members (members chosen randomly per lunch breakout room)
  •  virtual happy hour with faculty and attendees to wrap up conference!

Meet the Conference Faculty


New addition: Meeg Pincus, nonfiction author

Meeg Pincus writes nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet—including Kirkus starred-reviewed Winged Wonders (Golden Kite and Eureka! Honor Award Winner) and Miep and the Most Famous Diary, plus new and forthcoming books Cougar CrossingOcean SoupMake Way for Animals!So Much More to Helen!, and Door by Door. Meeg is a long-time nonfiction writer/editor (from newspapers/magazines to books), educator (from university/elementary classrooms to SCBWI/Writing Barn workshops), and diverse books advocate ( She lives with her multicultural family in Southern California and can be found online at



Ellice Lee, Philomel Books 


Ellice Lee, Senior Art Director of Philomel Books, joined the team in 2017. She holds a BA in Sociology from UCLA and a BFA from Art Center College of Design. Ellice has worked with award-winning talent including Alexandra Boiger, Rafael Lopez, Loren Long, Le Uyen Pham, Christian Robinson, Kadir Nelson, Ed Young, and Floyd Cooper. Titles she has worked on have appeared on the New York Times best-seller lists (most recently, Just Ask!by Sonia Sotomayor and She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton), featured in New York magazine, TIME magazine and have won Caldecott honors, Coretta Scott King awards, as well as being a finalist for the National Book Award. Ellice loves working with talent who have a compelling story to share—from the political to the social to the inane.

Presentation Title: Toolkit for Crafting Your World

Description: How to determine a workflow and mindset so that building your world won’t hinder your creativity or crush your spirit and seeks inclusivity from the start. We’ll go through specific projects and discuss what worked best for each.


Stuart Gibbs, NYT best-selling author

Stuart Gibbs is the author of four New York Times bestselling series: Spy School, FunJungle, Moon Base Alpha and Charlie Thorne — as well as the upcoming Once Upon A Tim series.  He has also written for movies and television.  He lives with his family in Los Angeles.



Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary Agency


Jennifer Mattson has been with Andrea Brown Literary Agency for more than a decade, and began working in children’s publishing immediately out of college—including five years as an editor at Dutton and five years as a Books for Youth reviewer with Booklist magazine.  She represents all audiences and genres, from picture book through young adult, and looks for authors or author-illustrators who bring a deep professionalism, an open mind, and a fresh point of view to their work.


She represents authors of YA and middle grade fiction (such as Katy Loutzenhiser and Kate Hannigan), authors of picture books (such as Kim Norman and Linda Ashman), illustrators (such as Katy Wu), and author-illustrators (such as J. R. Krause, Brandon Reese, and Liz Starin). Her list primarily focuses on fiction, but she’s also open to occasional, impeccably researched nonfiction projects. She’s currently especially looking to add more novelists to her roster, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, and she has soft spots for mindbending fantasy and gripping survival stories of all kinds. But she’ll always give more than a passing glance to a slam-dunk of a picture book!


Jennifer is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys running for fun and exercise and dance as both audience member and participant; she also spent two years exclusively reading works by Anthony Trollope. You can occasionally find her at writers’ conferences in Chicagoland and farther afield.

Presentation Title: Always Dress in Layers: Strategies for Adding Substance to Your PB or Novel

As an agent of more than a decade, Jennifer has seen her share of constructive feedback on clients’ work from editors. “It’s a bit too slight” is a frequent note.  In this presentation Jennifer will explore what that back-of-the-envelope comment probably means, and will aim to make #MSWL-type remarks like “I’m looking for something layered” feel more concrete by incorporating examples from clients’ and others’ published books.  Creators will come away with a better understanding of why layers are important to editors and agents, and ideas to apply to elevate their own work.


Krista Vitola, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


Krista Vitola is a Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. A few of the incredible authors she is lucky to work with are Cassie Gustafson, Amy Herman, Shanna Miles, Donna Gephart, Stuart Gibbs, Supriya Kelkar, and Kelly Yang. She gravitates toward middle-grade and young adult novels with tons of heart, strong relationships, and a unique setting. If she learns something new in the process, she is even happier. Krista would love to find more novels that shed light on marginalized experiences and stories that will make her laugh.


Carter Hasegawa, Candlewick Press


Carter Hasegawa has been an editor at Candlewick Press for over 11 years. He also works part-time as a photographer with Long River Photo. Some of his favorite, non-Candlewick books include: The Notorious Benedict Arnold; Jellicoe Road; Clementine; Ender’s Game; Three Times Lucky; Imogene’s Antlers; the Elephant & Piggie books; George and Martha; Good Night, Gorilla; and many, MANY others. Basically he loves anything that has a great voice, is a good story, and is “unputdownable.” He lives in Boston with his wife and their toddler son. 

Presentation Title: How to Establish Your Voice

Using examples from published works, we will look at how authors establish “voice” in varying yet successful ways. This will be hands-on and interactive, so please come a with a current work-in-progress and be prepared to talk.


Jennifer Herrington, Harvey Klinger Agency


Jennifer Herrington started her career on the editorial side of publishing with Kensington Books Publishing’s Lyrical Press imprint. She’s also worked as a freelance editor for independent authors. After an internship at a New York agency, she joined the Harvey Klinger Agency in 2020. Jennifer is currently building her list and is interested in representing picture books, chapter books, middle grade, graphic novels, YA, and adult fiction with an emphasis on romance and cozy mystery. She is also open to representing author/illustrators and illustrators in any age group from picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA. She’s especially open to marginalized voices in the mentioned categories. Jennifer lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, three sons, and two dogs.

Presentation Title:  Creating Characters

How to create characters that agents, editors, and readers will connect with.


Scott Sussman, author Self-Published Panel


Scott Sussman is an award-winning author of eight children’s books. His picture book FRED AND THE MONSTER won an Independent Publisher Award in 2015, and SILLY THE SEED was featured on the hit TV show “Total Bellas.” In 2021, his novel for 8-12-year-olds THE SHINING ADVENTURES OF SHELPA MCSTORM was picked as one of Ten Favorite Adventure Novels for Boys: ( He has published stories in Highlights Magazine, and has done thousands of presentations at schools, libraries, and bookstores from Los Angeles to New York and also internationally.




Russ Thompson, author Self-Published Panel


Russ Thompson is a retired reading teacher and high school principal. He spent most of his career in Los Angeles and has a doctorate in education from UCLA. He has published five short novels for reluctant teen readers. He and his wife live in Long Beach. His books may be found at



Ivy Verdin, author Self-Published Panel


Ivy Verdin is a self-published Filipino-American author. Her book, Creepy Mr. Snake, A Jungle Tale received “The Most Creative Children’s Book Award” at the 2021 Coast-to-Coast Expo in Las Vegas NV. She is passionate about writing children stories on important social issues in a manner that is fun and memorable. Her stories provide a platform for parents, educators, and social workers to start a conversation with children about important but sensitive topics in a way that is engaging and age-appropriate. Ivy is a proud mom who enjoys traveling, practicing yoga, and spending quality time with the people she loves. Her book can be purchased on her website at


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Additional Instructions for Attendees Participating in a Written Critique, Portfolio Showcase, Portfolio Critique, First Pages Panel, Pages Contest:


Written Critiques: 

If you sign up for a written critique, please email 10 pages of your manuscript and one-page synopsis to 

Your manuscript must be saved as a Word document (NOT pdf or Pages, etc.), double-spaced, Times New Roman, one-inch margins, and must have a header with your name and page numbers. In the email SUBJECT box, write GENRE (PB,MG, OR YA) CRITIQUER NAME YOU SIGNED UP FOR,  your FIRST LAST NAME.   The synopsis may be single-spaced, one-page, one-inch margins. In the case of Picture Book Submissions, if you wish to give the faculty member the option of viewing your dummy, along with your manuscript, please include a dropbox link along with the text. We cannot guarantee that all faculty members will be open to viewing the dummies. TAKE NOTE: The critiquers are hoping to have the critiques back by Oct 3rd, but it is possible some of you will not receive the critique until up to a week AFTER the conference. This is to ensure you get quality feedback that is not rushed. If this is an issue, do NOT choose a written critique option. Deadline: Saturday, August 28th, midnight.

Portfolio Showcase: 

Anyone signed up for the conference is eligible to participate in the portfolio showcase. Your portfolio must be ready to go by Monday, September 13th, midnight. If you are an SCBWI member, you can use your SCBWI member profile portfolio. Or, you can create a Tumblr page. To create a Tumblr page, watch the tutorial we created showing you step by step instructions, which include the theme we want you to use. Follow the links to the YouTube videos. How to use Tumblr to build your portfolio – & How to Create the Thumbnail Image – If participating in the showcase, please click here and fill out the form. Deadline: Monday, September 13th, midnight.

First Pages:

If you wish to participate in our first pages panel in which we read aloud your anonymous first page and the panel gives their off-the-cuff feedback, please submit to  with the same formatting as for the written critiques listed above. In the email SUBJECT box, write FIRST PAGES, GENRE (PB,MG, OR YA), your FIRST LAST NAME . Deadline : Sunday September 19th, midnight.

Portfolio Critique:

For those who signed up for Ellice Lee’s portfolio critique, send an email to Cynthia at  

with the link to your online portfolio. In the email SUBJECT box, write PORTFOLIO, your FIRST LAST NAME. Deadline: Saturday August 28th, midnight.

Pages Contest:

To be judged by genre: one winner for Picture Book, one for Middle Grade, and one for Young Adult. Submit 5 pages max  if MG or YA, or the entire story if PB to    In the email SUBJECT box, write GENRE (PB,MG, OR YA), PAGES CONTEST, your FIRST LAST NAME. Follow the format guidelines listed in Written Critiques box above. For the document header for the actual pages, do NOT put your name. Only STORY TITLE, PAGE NUMBER. The judges need the pages to be anonymous. Saturday, August 28th, midnight.