Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 Tahquitz Online Writer’s Retreat

Date(s) - 03/26/2021 - 03/28/2021
12:00 am

SoCal SCBWI MG/YA Tahquitz Online Writer’s Retreat


March 26-28, 2021

Confirmed Faculty


Wendy Loggia, Senior Executive Editor at Penguin Random House (her insanely impressive bio to come soon!)

Sara Schonfeld, Editor at Harper Collins
Sara Schonfeld joined Katherine Tegen Books in 2019 after starting her publishing career at Penguin Random House. She assists Katherine with all her titles and has her own list, working with authors like Alice Walker, Ally Malinenko, and Cristina Fernandez. While she has a soft spot for YA, she acquires picture book up to teen. Her favorite stories are validating and affirming for young readers and show the power of relationships, identity, and self. When she’s not reading (which is what she does most of the time!) she loves watching anything Marvel, kickboxing, or baking. (She will remain open to materials from conference attendees for three months.)
  • PB: very selective, but interested in stories with humor, broad commercial appeal, marginalized voices, and heartfelt messages for young readers (NOT looking for rhyming picture books, board books, or early readers)
  • MG: more broadly searching for ownvoices stories from marginalized perspectives (such as neurodiverse authors; authors with disabilities; authors from the LGBTQ community; Latinx voices; Indigenous voices; Black voices; Jewish voices). Looking for light-hearted mysteries, adventures that get out of hand, spooky stories, friendship/crush drama. Dreaming of an updated, diverse, age-appropriate National Treasure! (NOT looking for issue books)
  • YA: also searching for ownvoices here (see above for some examples). Looking for rom-coms with teeth and/or a unique or speculative hook, mysteries with a dark edge (think Karen McManus, E. Lockhart, or Maureen Johnson), and special twists on genre stories (vampires, superheroes, time travelers, etc.). (NOT looking for dystopian, sci-fi, or sports)
  • Requested trigger warnings: please flag any submissions that deal with sexual assault, suicide, or other self-harm.

Michaela Whatnall, Agent at  Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Michaela Whatnall joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2019 as the assistant to Michael Bourret in the West Coast office. After graduating from Emory University with a degree in English and linguistics, Michaela completed the Columbia Publishing Course. Before joining the agency, Michaela worked in school & library marketing, which only amplified their great love of children’s literature. In their free time, Michaela co-directs a narrative fantasy podcast and spends an unreasonable amount of time listening to showtunes.
Michaela is eagerly seeking young adult and middle grade novels, graphic novels, and picture books. They gravitate towards voicey, character-driven stories with a lot of heart, and are a fan of strong character arcs and worlds that sweep the reader away. Michaela is equally excited about books that are a blast to read and ones that will break your heart (as long as the story still includes a dash of hope!). They are open to all genres, but are especially interested in seeing fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, contemporary fiction, and historical fiction. Some recent favorite books include CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas, DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY by Adib Khorram, THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen, and THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY by Katie O’Neill. Some favorite shows and movies include Derry Girls, Gentleman Jack, Knives Out, and Booksmart.

Gretchen McNeil is the author of the YA horror/suspense novels POSSESS, 3:59, RELIC, GET EVEN, GET DIRTY, and TEN (a YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth) all with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins. Gretchen’s first YA contemporary I’M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL, also with Balzer + Bray, hit shelves in 2016, and then she returned to her horror-comedy roots with #MURDERTRENDING (Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2018, ILA 2019 Young Adults’ Choices Reading list, YALSA’s 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers, and was voted the #1 choice on YALSA’s 2019 Teens’ Top Ten list) and the sequel #MURDERFUDNING for Disney/Freeform. The series will continue in 2020 with the companion novel NO ESCAPE.

Gretchen’s novels have been published internationally in Chinese, Spanish, Turkish, French, Thai, and Czech. Ten: Murder Island, the film adaptation of TEN starring China Anne McClain (Descendants 2Black Lightning), Rome Flynn (The Bold and the Beautiful), and Callan McAuliffe (The Walking Dead, Flipped, I am Number Four), premiered on Lifetime in 2017. GET EVEN and GET DIRTY have been adapted as the series Get Even for BBC/Netflix, premiering in 2020.

Gretchen is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Visit Gretchen online at