The Tri-Regional Roads to Publication Conference!

Get yourself a cup of coffee, folks, because this is gonna be a long one!

And deservedly so, because our first Tri-Regional Roads to Publication conference was absolutely fantastic!

It was held on November 11th – 13th at the Gettysburg Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that was just . . . wow, gorgeous, gorgeous, gor-ge-ous.

The festivities began with an optional battlefield tour on Friday. Since I’ve been on many Gettysburg field trips, I opted out, but if anyone has photos from the tour, please send them to me for a future post! Instead, I got some writing done at a quaint local coffeeshop, The Ragged Edge, with my new fellow As The Eraser Burns co-bloggers, Larissa Graham and Susan Mannix.

Afterwards, we headed over to Gettysburg Wyndham to register, get settled, and then attend the lovely dessert reception that was oh-so yummy! We were all too awestruck by the array of desserts to take a picture, so . . . 

[Imagine a photo that shows trays of cheesecakes, chocolate truffles, apple pie and other goodies, okay?]

After grabbing some coffee, we then settled in as the conference began with a welcome and introductions by  Marilyn Hershey, RA for SCBWI Eastern PA, and our own Edie Hemingway, Co-RA for MD/DE/WV SCBWI! (Woo-HOO, go Edie!)

Some major kudos and much-deserved applause was given to those who have worked so hard for the event, such as:

Lois Szymanski, Co-Regional Advisor of MD/DE/WV

Pat Easton, Regional Advisor of Western PA.  

Marcy Canterna, Assistant Regional Advisor of Western PA and Francesca Amendolia, Assistant Regional Advisor of Eastern PA, who coordinated the registration and the critiques.  

Susan Detwiler, Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI MD/DE/WV for putting together the First Looks slides.

 (My apologies if I’ve left anyone out – please include them in the comments!)

Afterwards, the brilliant Lin Oliver stepped up to the podium.

Lin is a leading children’s book author and writer-producer of family films, television series and movies for children. With her co-author Henry Winkler, she writes the New York Times best-selling book series, Hank Zipzer: World’s Best Underachiever, which has sold over three million copies. In television, Lin produced the long-running series, Harry And The Hendersons for Universal, for which she wrote over 30 episodes.  She’s also the Executive Director of the SCBWI that she co-founded when she was twenty-two.

Let me repeat. When she was twenty-two!

Wow, when I was twenty-two, I was co-founding bar-hopping schedules, not starting organizations that grow to international levels. So needless to say, it was awesome being able to see and hear Lin Oliver in person. She also had the honor of introducing our lovely keynote speaker, Patricia MacLachlan who gave a wonderful talk on The Family I Call Mine.

Patricia is the celebrated author of many beloved books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal, and her most recent novel, Word After Word After Word. Her picture books include Who Loves Me?, Three Names, What You Know First and All the Places to Love. She lives with her husband and two border terriers in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Her keynote speech was lovely, funny, inspiring, and made me want to be a better writer!

(I had to get my very own signed copy of Sarah, Plain and Tall! Wasn’t going home without it.)

Next up was the AGENTS’ PANEL, moderated by Lin Oliver: with agents Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich, and Marcia Wernick of Wernick & Pratt Agency.

Each agent spoke about their agencies and what kind of books they are interested in before answering questions regarding the market, the state of publishing today, and several others. Great panel!

Afterwards, it was off to bed for me. The rooms at the hotel were absolutely gorgeous and cozy, so falling asleep wasn’t a problem.

In the morning, registration was between 8:00 and 9:00, and there was also a great breakfast buffet of bagels, eggs, danish, coffee, tea, and juice. Again – none of us thought to take a photo because we were starving and in need of caffeine.

I did become conscious enough to take a photo of the three ladies who, two years ago, kicked around the idea of having a tri-regional conference–the lovely Patricia Easton, RA for SCBWI Western PA, Marilyn Hershey, RA for SCBWI Eastern PA, and our gal Edie Hemingway, Co-RA for SCBWI MD/DE/WV!

Many thanks to you three ladies for all your hard work. 🙂

Next up was our second keynote delight, Jim Murphy, who gave a fantastic talk on A Little Sugar, A Little Spice (Helps the Info Go Down Nice.)

(Just to give you a clue about how many awesome attendees there were . . .)

Jim is the award-winning author of more than 35 fiction and non-fiction books for children and young adults. His books have been awarded the Newbery Honor twice (2004 for An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 and in 1996 for The Great Fire).  His beard dying story had us all in stitches!

(For more on Jim, check out his pre-conference interview.)

Afterwards, it was time for the first workshop sessions. The options were:

SANDY ASHER, who spoke about Point of View: A Process of Discovery

Sandy has published 24 books for young readers, including the award-winning Too Many Frogs! and companion books What a Party! and Here Comes Gosling! She’s the editor of five anthologies, including Writing it Right, How Successful Authors Revise & Sell Their Stories. Sandy’s three dozen plays have been produced nationwide and abroad. Six are anthologized in Tell Your Story: The Plays and Playwriting of Sandra Fenichel Asher

(For more on Sandy, check out her pre-conference interview.)

ALEXIS O’NEILL who presented on Grabbing an Editor’s Attention with Vivid Language.

Alexis’s award-winning picture books include The Recess Queen, The Worst Best Friend, Loud Emily and Estela’s Swap. She’s also an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California, and the SCBWI Bulletin’s “The Truth About School Visits” columnist. The California Reading Association recently honored her with the Dr. Marcus Foster Memorial Award “for making significant and outstanding contributions to reading throughout California.”

(Check out her pre-conference interview as well!)

WENDY LOGGIA, who discussed Writing the YA Novel  

Wendy is Executive Editor at Delacorte Press/Random House. Recent novels Wendy has edited include the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy, Rumors from the Boys Room by Rose Cooper, and Modelland by Tyra Banks. Wendy responds to a strong authorial voice, exciting commercial premises and writers interested in collaborating. Romance, girl thriller, paranormal, and humor are favorites.

I stayed for Wendy’s and it was fantastic! She spoke about three ingredients for Strong YA:

1.  A compelling voice that grabs you from the beginning.

2.  An exciting and well-executed concept that is fresh, original, and unique.

3.  An enjoyable story that is fun and will make the reader a better person.

JOHN RUDOLPH, who spoke from An Agent’s Perspective

John joined Dystel & Goderich in 2010 after twelve years as an acquiring children’s book editor. John is always eager to discover fresh new voices and highly original stories regardless of category, though he’s probably known as a “boy book” kind of guy. He is keenly interested in middle-grade and young adult fiction, and would love to find the next great picture book author/illustrator.

and CHAD BECKERMAN, who spoke about Seeing What Matters (Part 1 of 2)  

If book designers are superhero alter-egos, then Chad W. Beckerman (art director and cover designer for Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books and Abrams ComicArts) would have to be Clark Kent. Friendly and hard-working by day, yet designing books that have been known to burst onto shelves, leaping tall buildings (or at least generating lots of interest) in a single bound. He has designed successful series books, like The Last Apprentice, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Library Mouse and NERDS, as well as picture books Crows of Pearblossom, Iggy Peck Architect and I Had a Favorite Dress.


Next up was our second Workshop Session for the day. Attendees got to choose between:

JACQUELINE ADAMS, who discussed how to Boost Your Career With Magazine Writing


Jacqueline has written more than 100 articles and stories for magazines, including Science World, SuperScience, Highlights for Children, Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Odyssey and Read. She has written three reference books for Lucent Books and 31 readers for SRA/McGraw-Hill and Macmillan/McGraw-Hill. She won the Highlights Fiction Contest in 2003 and 2005, an SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in 2004, and was selected as a 2011 Ocean Science Journalism Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

(Here’s her pre-conference interview.)

SARAH DAVIES, who spoke about taking stories From Ordinary to Extraordinary           


Sarah was a London children’s publisher for more than 25 years before moving to the U.S. in 2007 to launch the Greenhouse Literary Agency. Based in Washington DC and London, Greenhouse represents children’s/YA fiction and is highly international in outlook. Clients include NYT bestselling authors Brenna Yovanoff, Sarwat Chadda, Tricia Springstubb and Lindsey Leavitt. A member of AAR, Sarah has a wealth of editorial and management experience and says, ‘Everything I’d like to tell you about Greenhouse is in its name!’       

I attended Sarah’s session, who talked about the steps needed to turn an ordinary story into extraordinary. From my notes:

1.  A great idea and inspired concept.

2. A strong, emotional driving force.

3. A main character yearning for and acquiring something big.

4. A strong sense of place, (the setting.)

CAROLYN YODER, who talked about Delicately Balancing Research and Writing

Carolyn is senior editor at Calkins Creek, the U.S. history imprint of Boyds Mills Press, and the senior editor of history and world cultures at Highlights for Children. Carolyn has been an editor and writer for The New Jersey Historical Society and the executive director of The New Hampshire Antiquarian Society. She also served as editor, editor-in-chief, and assistant publisher of Cobblestone Publishing, Inc. She lives and works in Lawrenceville, NJ.

JORDAN BROWN, who discussed Coming Back a Short Distance Correctly: Revision

Jordan is a senior editor with Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins Children’s Books. He has been fortunate enough to work with such esteemed authors and illustrators as Jon Scieszka, E.L. Konigsburg, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Donna Jo Napoli, Gris Grimly, Anne Ursu, M. Sindy Felin, and Greg Ruth. Amongst their books are ALA Best Books for Young Adults, New York Times bestsellers, an Edgar Award nominee, and a National Book Award finalist.

and CHAD BECKERMAN, who presented on Sketch to Finish: A Personal Path (Part 2 of 2)  

After this workout session was lunch, and nope . . . I forgot to take a picture again of the wonderful spread because when there’s food involved, I tend to be forgetful. But you can see some of it in this photo that show our awesome keynotes signing their books.

Patricia MacLachlan signing a book for co-blogger Larrissa Graham.

Jim Murphy signing for Sue Poduska, who is on the SCBWI MD/DE/WV planning committee.

E.B. Lewis signing for a happy fan.

Next up was the FIRST PAGES AND FIRST LOOKS, moderated by Francesca Amendolia, with editors Wendy Loggia, Jordan Brown, Bonnie Bader, Grace Kendall, Carolyn Yoder, and art director Chad Beckerman.

I absolutely love first page critiques. And what was especially cool was they included illustrator’s pages as well, coordinated by Susan Detwiler.

Speaking of illustrators, it was awesome how they had displayed regional illustrator’s works on Saturday. Very awesome to see all of the talent in our area!

Next on the agenda – wow, you needed to take vitamins for this conference! – was our third workshop session for the day. Attendees were able to choose from:

MARCIA WERNICK, who discussed The ABCs of Children’s Book Publishing

Marcia is an agent and partner at Wernick & Pratt Agency. They represent established as well as emerging authors and illustrators, in all genres for children. She works with, among others, Bryan Collier, Jackie Urbanovic, Kathleen O’Dell, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Alexandra Boiger and Mo Willems, whom she introduced to the publishing world. She’s drawn to strong voices and age appropriate stories that engage, entertain and amuse. Compelling opening lines are key. Marcia is accepting new clients.

(And no, this isn’t a picture from the conference. I somehow had missed getting her photo!)

PATRICIA MACLACHLAN, who talked about The Journey of a Book from Beginning to End

SANDY ASHER, who presented on Whose story is this? And why? And are you sure? 

CHARLOTTE RINDERKNECHT of STUDIO KINATE, where the topic was From Book to Script to Scene

Charlotte has produced animation, web, print, and video for over 10 years. In 2009 she was executive producer of the award-winning animated short, Pete’s Odyssey. With award-winning animator/director/producer, Rusty Mills and Disney veteran, Pam Darley, she leads a dynamic team of storytellers and artists in Fairfax, Virginia. Studio Kinate has numerous projects in development including an animated drama set to premiere in 2015.

and E. B. LEWIS, who Talks to Illustrators             

E.B. has illustrated over 50 picture books. As a young boy he was inspired by two of his uncles who were artists. He studied at Temple University Tyler School of Art where he found his preference of medium was watercolor. He taught art in public schools for 12 years and currently teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Lewis’ long list of awards include the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Talkin’ About Bessie, two 2009 Coretta Scott King Honor Awards for The Bat Boy and His Violin and The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and a 2005 Caldecott Honor for Coming On Home Soon.


Afterwards, attendees got dinner on their own, and there was an optional ghost tour that night. Again, if anyone has any photos from that, please send them to me! (Especially if there are ghosts in them.)

After I had dinner with some great gals, Sue Poduska and Lona Queen, I headed to my room where I fully intended on getting some writing done for NaNoWriMo. Instead, I cozied up and re-read Sarah, Plain and Tall. Sigh. Love that book!

The next morning started early for me with a necessary coffee run, some writing time in the gorgeous lobby and chatting with other writers before the fourth workshop session of the conference.

Attendees were able to choose from:

GRACE KENDALL, who discussed The Checklist: 25 Questions to Ask Yourself…

Grace is an assistant editor for The Blue Sky Press and Scholastic Press. Grace works on a wide range of material from board books to middle-grade novels, both fiction and nonfiction. Recent projects she assisted on include George Washington’s Spy by Elvira Woodruff, LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation by Mark Teague, and The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by two-time Newbery Honor Book author Jim Murphy. Grace also co-edited Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Alix Delinois, which was published to national media acclaim, including a starred review in Kirkus Reviews and feature stories in The Huffington Post, Newsweek and Ebony.

BONNIE BADER and LIN OLIVER, who talked about Creating a Winning Series

Bonnie is the Editor-in-Chief of early and beginning readers at Grosset & Dunlap and also heads up the U.S. arm of Fredrick Warne, which publishes Beatrix Potter, Flower Fairies, and Spot. At Grosset, Bonnie is spearheading the rebranding of Penguin’s leveled readers (Penguin Young Readers) which will house readers from every imprint in the house. In addition, she is looking to start up an 8 x 8 picture book program, and a beginning/early chapter book program. She continues to edit and oversee several series including Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver,Katie Kazoo Switcheroo and George Brown, Class Clown by Nancy Krulik, and Frankly Frannie by Amanda Stern. New acquisitions include a series by Lin Oliver to debut in 2012. Bonnie is also proud to be a newly-elected member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors.

Because I’m working on a three-book series, this was the class for me! Lin discussed the writing side and the elements for a winning series:

1.  A likeable main character.

2.  A dynamic group of friends.

3. Many entries of story potential.

4.  A hook.

Bonnie then discussed how to sell your series. Great class!

JIM MURPHY, who presented On Nonfiction

ALEXIS O’NEILL, who discussed School Visits: Getting Gigs and Delivering the Goods

and LINDSAY BARRETT GEORGE, who presented on The Media are the Message

Lindsay is widely recognized for her striking illustrations of animals, birds, and fish in their habitats. She is the author-illustrator of Maggie’s Ball; Alfred Digs; The Secret; Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse; In the Garden: Who’s Been Here?; and four other Who’s Been Here? titles. She lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with her dog, two cats, and a very handsome duck. “For a little girl whose passion was drawing birds and fish and flowers and trees, to end up as an artist and book maker whose passion is drawing birds and fish and flowers and trees…it doesn’t get any better.”


Next up was a delicious brunch–yes, no photos, again–followed by one of my favorite parts of the entire conference.

After a hilarious introduction by Lin Oliver . . .

We then had our last keynote speaker, the amazing E.B. LEWIS, the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Talkin’ About Bessie, two 2009 Coretta Scott King Honor Awards for The Bat Boy and His Violin and The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and a 2005 Caldecott Honor for Coming On Home Soon.

His talk was funny, poignant, and moving. And wow, I wish I had photos of the gold-foil, lottery scratch-off inspired paintings he had created. They were breathtaking!

Listening to E.B. was the perfect way to end the conference, because he reminded me why I write for kids, and he left me with a giant shot of inspiration to tackle my own projects!

And so, after the final raffle winners were selected, the conference was sadly over. I hope everyone had a great time, learned a ton, and are excited about our future events, including:

Our next ABC (Author Book Club) event featuring debut author, Michelle Ray, who will be discussing her YA novel, Falling for Hamlet, a contemporary spin on an old tale on December 10, 2011 at the Wheaton Library, 11701 Georgia Ave., Wheaton, MD 20902, from 2 to 4 PM. To RSVP, please contact Naomi Milliner at

Also, mark your calendars for our “Rx For Children’s Book Creators: Getting Your Stories Right,” workshop on March 31, 2012 at the Bishop Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD from 9:00 to 5:00 PM 

There’s the story we tell, the story we write. But there’s also the Writer’s Story we live each day. Author, Writing Coach, and Writing Teacher Esther Hershenhorn shares resources, activities, exercises, and opportunities to insure both kinds of stories meaningfully intersect. Her aim is to KEEP YOU MOVING forward on your chosen plotline – able to dig deep, change, grow, triumph and thus keep alive your Writer’s Dream.

Your character is different for the journey, yes? He/she/it learns, grows, changes.

You should be different for this journey, too.

Also including Sarah Barley, Editor at Harper Collins and an agent that’s to be determined!

And finally, there’s also our Annual 2-day Conference that will be held July 14, 2012 – July 15, 2012 at the Bishop Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD.  Stay tuned for more details…

Happy writing, everyone! 🙂

Laura Bowers

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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8 Responses to The Tri-Regional Roads to Publication Conference!

  1. Great report, Laura. Thanks for sharing. I really wanted to be there, but a major family event created a conflict. Sounds like a fabulous time was had by all! Congrats to Edie and everyone involved in the planning!

  2. Thanks much, Laura. I felt like I was there–and we so sorry to have missed the conference.

  3. Sue Poduska says:

    Thanks, Laura. It was a great conference and I learned so much. I always enjoy spending time with my people. I see my hair is almost as white as Jim Murphy’s Santa Claus beard.

  4. ediehemingway says:

    Laura, thanks for your comprehensive overview of the entire conference! It was a resounding success, and I send thanks to everyone who presented and participated.

  5. Gail Johnson says:

    Thanks for a stirring conference report. I felt like I was there. You’ve definitely whet my appetite to make it to the next one.

  6. Susan Mannix says:

    Thanks, Laura! It was a terrific conference in a lovely venue. You captured it all perfectly in your summary. And many thanks to Edie et al. for their hard work putting this together and keeping the weekend running so smoothly for the attendees.

  7. I was unable to make this conference due to prior commitments, but thank you SO much, Laura, for the detailed report. I look forward to the conference in March! Thanks again for taking the time to share the experience.

  8. Harvey Asher says:

    Wonderful report on a terrific conference, Laura! I loved being part of this, from your preconference interview straight through to E.B. Lewis’s amazing talk. My thanks to all! Sandy (This is going to come through on my husband’s blog account, but it’s really me!)

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