Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Your Work Deserves It: Conferences to Consider


by Fran Hodgkins

Writing can be a lonely business. Does this story work? Is this idea a picture book or a novel? Am I even any good at this? Questions like these pester us daily, like blackflies in May in my beloved Maine. 


You don’t need bug repellent, though; going to a conference can make all the difference. Even for the most introverted among us, conferences can make a huge impacts. Inspiring keynote speeches, targeted workshops, and the chance to meet kindred spirits can change your life.


Many conferences and workshops are held virtually, which allows you to attend conferences around the world. Travel and hotel costs are no barrier to attending, and if your health presents a problem or you are still leery of crowds, virtual conferences are an excellent choice. 


Not only can you attend sessions that will help you improve your writing, but conference attendees often get the chance to submit their work (for a given period of time, such as three months), to editors whose publishing houses are normally closed to non-agented submissions.


Here’s a roundup of some of the conferences GROG Blog members have found especially valuable.



Big Sur Writers Workshop

California, USA

February, 2025

Founded by Andrea Brown, Executive Director and President of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc., this workshop gives you access to noted writers, editors, and agents. Writers get the chance to work one on one with industry professionals and get personalized feedback.


By attending this workshop, you’ll meet some of the leading editors and writers working in children’s books today. You’ll also meet agents from the ABLA and get the chance to share your work with them.

The ABLA team has also hosted “Big Sur on Cape Cod” in the past, but that won’t be offered again until after 2025.


To learn more, visit



Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Annual Conferences

New York, NY  – Winter

Los Angeles, CA -- Summer

SCBWI brings together top professionals in the children’s publishing world twice each year at the annual Summer and Winter Conferences. These annual events feature renowned authors and illustrators as well as top editors, art directors, and agents in the field of children’s publishing. The Summer and Winter Conferences are excellent networking opportunities for those already established in and just starting to enter the world of children’s book writing and illustrating. There are several tracks available to choose from; illustrators have their own track, as do PAL (published and listed) members, beginners, and intermediate writers. Writers can choose from workshops in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, picture books, marketing, and more. 


As of today, the Summer conference will be held remotely, and there will be a remote option for the in-person New York Winter conference. To find out more, visit


SCBWI Regional workshops

SCBWI has regions around the country and around the world, and they offer a rainbow of learning opportunities—literally something for everyone! A few upcoming sessions include Strengthening Voice in Narration and Illustration (SCBWI New Mexico); Creative Approaches to Revision (SCBWI Rocky Mountain); and Harnessing the Marketing Power of Pinterest (SCBWI Indiana). Fees apply, and most sessions are remote and open to people around the country. 

Generally, you’ll get limited-time access to recordings of the sessions, and you may also be able to submit to editors and agents who attend for a certain period of time. You can find current listings at, or visit the individual regions’ sites. 

 For a personal take on attending a conference, visit Tina Cho's GROG Blog entry from April 24!


Rutgers One-on-One Conference

 Rutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ

From the website: “The unique one-on-one format gives writers and illustrators a rare opportunity to share their work with an assigned mentor from the children's publishing world, whether it be an editor, agent, art director, or published author or illustrator. These professionals generously volunteer their time to not only critique the work of new and talented writers and illustrators, but also to share constructive information about the overall business of publishing. Every attendee is guaranteed a forty-five minute one-on-one manuscript or portfolio review session, and there are additional opportunities to network with our faculty members.” 


Are you convinced yet? If not, let me add that this conference is hosted by the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature at the university's Cook Student Center. You won't stay on campus, but there are plenty of hotels nearby.


And did I mention the faculty? Past mentors include


  •   Linda Pratt, Agent, Wernick & Pratt Agency
  •  Orlando Dos Reis, Editor, Scholastic Press
  •  Maria Russo, Minerva/Astra Books for Young Readers
  • Jamie Ryu, Editor, HarperCollins
  •  Sara Sproull, Assistant Editor, Abrams Books for Young Readers
  •  Gaby Taboas-Zayas, Assistant Editor, Penguin Young Readers
  •  Beth Terrill, Editor, NorthSouth Books
  •  Marietta Zacker, Agent, Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency
  •  Andrea Cascardi, Agent, Transatlantic Media
  •  Rachel Orr, Agent, Prospect Agency  Diana Pho, Editor, Tor Teen/Starscape/Macmillan

This one-day conference includes breakfast, lunch, and guest speakers. In addition to a one-on-one session, attendees will take part in five-on-five sessions with like-minded authors, illustrators, editors, and/or agents. Please note: you must apply and be accepted to this conference. 


Visit the website for more information.



Highlights Foundation

Boyds Mills, PA

I admit it: I’m crazy about the Highlights folks. I attended my first conference at Chatauqua and have attended several more both in-person and online. Today, in-person workshops are held at the founders’ home in Boyds Mills, PA. The Foundation offers working retreats across all genres, as well as Summer Camps, one for writers and one for illustrators. If you want to kickstart your work, the summer camp provides one-on-one mentoring (sorry, this year’s camps are already full, but there’s always next year!).


The in-person workshops include not only learning programs, but also food and lodging, either in the cabins on the property or in the “Barn” – the conference center. You are free to wander the grounds, a great way to relax and give your subconscious a dose of peace and inspiration.


Online workshops are scheduled all year, and range from one- or two-night minis to six-week programs. Upcoming virtual workshops include:


  • Shape Your Story: A 6-Week Novel Intensive with Author & Agent Linda Epstein
  •  From Idea & Sketch to Dummy & Submission: An Author/Illustrator Online Course
  • Picture Book Plotting from A-Z: A Five-Week Course for Writers


Highlights offers scholarships to support and encourage creators of all kinds and levels of experience, in addition to having a general scholarship fund. 


To find out more, visit; you can also talk to an ambassador who can help you decide what suits your needs.



This list isn’t exhaustive – if it was, I could probably fill an entire website. I hope I’ve gotten you thinking. If you want to improve your writing, make friends, and have some fun along the way, a conference is a great place to start. Maybe I'll see you there!





  1. These are great suggestions, Fran! Interesting that SCBWI LA is still all-remote. I'm trying to get back into the swing of in-person gatherings, post-pandemic ... it takes work! Thanks for the nudge.

  2. Thanks for this list, Fran. Will have to check out more conferences.

  3. I love the variety of SCBWI regional webinars that are being offered. I've taken advantage of a couple already this year.