Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

L.A. Writers Day 2020

Date(s) - 03/28/2020
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 North Sepulveda Blvd. - Los Angeles, CA 90049

PURE GOLD! Discover the Words Worth Keeping

Unfortunately, we have had to postpone this event due to the Coronavirus. We are hoping to reschedule for later in the year. If you are signed up to attend the event, check your email for a notice about refunds, contests, and manuscript reviews. Any questions, email

When: Saturday, March 28th, 2020
Where: Herscher Hall, Skirball Center
Please note this year’s location in Herscher Hall on the Skirball map

Experience your own ‘Eureka!’ moment with tricks and techniques to make those manuscripts shine. A dazzling morning of inspirational keynotes is followed by an afternoon of informational breakouts. Countless opportunities for those seeking to dig deeper or simply polish to perfection. 

Opportunities include:

Special Feature: Friday, March 27th, 2020: Pre-event Masterclass with Harold Underdown: only 25 spaces available. Includes a free social hour with renowned master craftsman, Harold.  Separate registration and fee required for the Masterclass. You do NOT need to register for Writers Day in order to register for the Masterclass. Click here for more information.
Agent pitch session (Sold Out)
Written faculty review of your first 10 pages (deadline January 31st, 2020)
Writing contest (deadline January 24th, 2020)
Illustration contest 
Instagram contest
Door prizes
Free parking
Lunch included
Click for information about:

Agent pitch session ($55 fee)
Manuscript reviews ($50 fee)
The free writing contest
The free illustration contest
C. Harrington Scholarship

Please note: Two different volunteers are tracking the writing contest and the fee-based manuscript reviews. Therefore, your manuscript must be submitted to BOTH (at the appropriate email addresses) if you wish to participate in both.

– Member Early Bird Special (members only, before January 24th 11:59 p.m.): $120
– Non-Member Early Bird Special (before January 24th 11:59 p.m.): $150
– Regular Member (after January 24th): $135
– Regular Non-Member (after January 24th): $165
– 10% discount will automatically apply for Student SCBWI members at check out.

Keynote Speakers:

Harold Underdown
The Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Children’s Publishing Today

Maria Barbo
It’s TOTALLY Personal: Character Motivation is Everything

Jessica Brody
The Transformative Power of Story

Breakout Sessions: (While registering for Writers Day, choose 2 of the following sessions to attend)

Harold Underdown
An Editors Guide to the Revision Process
Wouldn’t it be great if all our words were worth keeping? Sadly, they are not–but through revision we can find the ones that are. In this presentation, drawing from 30 years of experience as a children’s book editor, I’ll give you guidance in ways to get better feedback from others, ways to find problems with plot or character (and thus begin to solve them), and ways to clean up a manuscript on your own. Bring a sample from a manuscript for a hands-on exercise.

Maria Barbo
Master the Middle of Your Novel
Feeling stuck in the middle of your manuscript? In this hands-on workshop, we’ll develop strategies to help you raise the stakes, hook readers, and use character development to drive your novel forward.

Jessica Brody
Save the Cat! Writes A Novel
Jessica Brody, author of SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, will walk writers through the “secret storytelling code” that lies at the heart of all great fiction and will demonstrate how the 15 “beats” of the Save the Cat! method can be used to plot, write, outline, or revise your novel, or simply jumpstart you out of writing slumps. This fun and informative presentation is sure to inspire you and leave you itching to get home and start writing!

Mary Ann Fraser
Ready, Aim, Write: Creating On-Target Nonfiction
Writing children’s non-fiction has never been more exciting or offered more creative options for engaging readers than it does today. From idea to research to writing, in this workshop we will take an in-depth look at new and innovative ways of carving a gripping informational story out of facts. You’ll learn how to form an irresistible hook to tempt agent and editor alike. Then guided by mentor texts, we will examine structure, voice, and fresh perspectives to create non-fiction that not only connects children to their world but also begs them to ask the tough questions. 

Jorjeana Marie
You are an Idea Machine!
Harness the creative power of improvisation exercises that are guaranteed to ignite any writer’s idea machine! Learn tips and tricks on how to come up with ideas in a brand new way. Jorjeana will go over the laws of improv and offer prompts and games to bypass blocks. Get ready to come up with ideas, characters, setting, dialogue, etc. Learn secrets to help bypass writer’s block and generate infinite ideas. Leave feeling renewed and equipped with a new writer’s toolbox.

NOTE: This is not a performance class. We’ll be writing throughout, please bring pen/notebook or laptop.

Jennifer Chen Tran
How to get an Agent or Editor’s Attention by Writing a Stellar Query Letter
Learn how to write query letters that will capture an agent or editor’s attention. Using real-life examples, you will view actual query letters which have intrigued agents and editors alike. Jennifer will break down all the elements of a great query letter and will also answer your questions regarding the querying process.

Meet the Faculty!

Harold Underdown

Harold Underdown is an independent editor and publishing consultant; he does critiques, helps to develop manuscripts, does strategic consulting, and provides other services for individuals and publishers.

Harold enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs “The Purple Crayon,” a respected web site with information about the children’s publishing world at He speaks and gives workshops through the Highlights Foundation, SCBWI’s national and regional conferences, and Kid’s Book Revisions (offering online and on-site tutorials, webinars, retreats, and workshops in partnership with Eileen Robinson:

As an in-house editor, he has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing.

Maria Barbo

Maria Barbo (Senior Editor at HarperCollins) acquires high-concept series and standalones for young readers of all ages—focusing mostly on middle grade and select picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels. She is particularly interested in projects with authentic voices, strong hooks, and fresh perspectives that use humor, magic, or illustrations to help young readers learn to navigate their world. She works with award-winning and bestselling authors such as Natalie Lloyd, Jim Benton, and Lisa Greenwald. Prior to joining Harper, Maria worked at Scholastic Inc, earned an MFA in painting, and lived in Spain via the Fulbright Program. When she’s not working, you can find her playing soccer or practicing her handstands.

Jessica Brody

Since discovering the Save the Cat! plotting methodology, Jessica Brody has sold more than 19 novels to major publishers. Her credits include 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, A Week of Mondays, The Chaos of Standing Still, Better You than Me, the Unremembered trilogy and Sky Without Stars (a sci-fi re-imagining of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables). She is now the author of the bestselling plotting guide, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (based on the original screenwriting guides) and is frequently hired by Disney Press to plot and write books based on popular Disney franchises like Disney Princess Lego and the Descendants. Her books have been translated in over 23 countries and several have been optioned for film and television.

Visit her online at:

Mary Ann Fraser

Author and illustrator Mary Ann Fraser makes books about the things she finds interesting—things like kid inventors, bizarre animals, shy yeti’s, paintings on walls, ice-fishing otters, and other neat stuff to do with nature, history, and the stuff that goes bump in her head at night. Sometimes people even give her awards for having all that fun. Who knew? She used to live in California where she could explore the redwoods and poke around tidepools. Now she lives in Idaho beside the Boise River with her husband and four box turtles. She also has three grown boys, collects marbles, books, and old ink bottles. To learn more visit

Jorjeana Marie

Jorjeana Marie is a writer at Disney for Mickey and the Roadsters Racers and Mickey Mouse-Mixed Up Adventures. She is the author of Improv for Writers (Penguin Random House) and an Audie Award winning voice actress. 

As a stand-up comedian she has opened for Richard Lewis, Kathleen Madigan and Louis Anderson. 

She has shared her wildly successful workshops and talks in creativity at Google, Disney and Writers Digest.

Publisher Weekly Calls her: “Pitch Perfect” and Paste Magazine named her one of their favorite narrators. She is also an award winning playwright and currently in the throes of creativity for her first comedy special.

Jennifer Chen Tran

Jennifer Chen Tran is an agent at Bradford Literary, joining in September 2017. She represents both fiction and non-fiction. Originally from New York, Jennifer is a lifelong reader and experienced member of the publishing industry. Prior to joining Bradford Literary, she was an Associate Agent at Fuse Literary and served as Counsel at The New Press. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.

Jennifer is very interested in diverse writers and #ownvoices from underrepresented/ marginalized communities, strong and conflicted characters who are not afraid to take emotional risks, stories about multi-generational conflict, war and post-war fiction, and writing with a developed sense of place. In non-fiction, she loves books that broaden her world view or shed new light on ‘big ideas.’

Mabel Hsu

Mabel Hsu is an Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint at HarperCollins Publishers. She acquires picture books through young adult, including chapter books and graphic novels. Her list of authors and illustrators includes Jessica Love, Lorraine Nam, Marc Majewski, Charles G. Esperanza, Ken Lamug, Katrina Moore, Janae Marks, Corey Ann Haydu, and Lyla Lee. Mabel is drawn to poignant or humorous picture books with surprising messages, as well as novels with voice-driven narratives that explore character drama, feature intersectional representation, and transform genre tropes. You can find her on Twitter @helloomabel.

Mabel Hsu is one of the faculty members helping with manuscript reviews. She will not be on-site the day of Writers Day.

Pitch Session Agents
(Our agent list is still growing. More information coming soon!)
While registering, tell us the age group and genre of the project you plan to pitch
so we can match you with a corresponding agent.

Natalie Lakosil

Natalie is an agent at Bradford Literary Agency. She has been an agent since 2009. Her specialties are all ages of children’s literature (PB, chapter book, MG, YA), both fiction and nonfiction, adult cozy mystery/crime, female-driven thrillers, and upmarket women’s/general fiction. She also represents illustrators and select adult nonfiction. She is passionate about books featuring under-represented voices and marginalized perspectives and drawn to Victorian and early 20’s historical, multi-cultural, own voice representation, magical realism, LGBTQ+, strong female leads, fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, and horror. In picture books, she likes short-texted (500 words or less), emotionally-resonant, quirky or character-driven. She likes softer, lyrical bedtime books that are beautifully written, humor, and texts with fun, clever and unexpected twists at the end. In children’s nonfiction, she likes fresh and innovative ideas, STEAM topics, and texts exploring feminist and social issues.
Twitter: @Natalie_Lakosil

Jennifer Rofé

Jennifer represents projects ranging from picture books to YA. Middle grade is her soft spot and she’s open to all genres in this category – literary, commercial, magical, fantastical, historical, contemporary, and everything in between. As for YA, Jennifer is drawn to stories that shed a unique light on the adolescent experience; funny, wistful, or cringe-worthy romance; and fantasy and urban fantasy with exceptionally developed worlds. In picture books, she likes funny, character-driven projects; beautifully imagined and written stories; and milestone moments with a twist. Overall, she seeks rich characters, masterful writing, distinct voices and perspectives, and stories that transport the reader. 

Jennifer especially enjoys representing illustrators and author-illustrators, and is always seeking new illustrators with strong, artistic voices.

Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel

Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel is co-founder of Full Circle Literary, representing children’s books from toddler to teen. Children’s books Stefanie represents have been awarded a Caldecott Honor, Sibert Medal, Schneider Family Book Award, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, Charlotte Zolotow Award for Best Picture Book of the Year, The Christopher Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, Pura Belpré Awards and Honors, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor for Best Nonfiction. Some of Stefanie’s clients include authors Monica Brown, Rene Colato-Lainez, Jennifer Ward, Toni Buzzeo, Celia C. Perez, and Adrianna Cuevas. Stefanie also represents award-winning illustrators including Juana Martinez-Neal, Susie Ghahremani, Lisa Congdon, Christine Almeda, Rafael López, John Parra, Alexander Vidal, and others.

Stefanie works with both award-winning veteran and debut writers and artists, and Full Circle has a knack for discovering and developing new and diverse talent. She’d love to bring more middle grade writers to her list and is open to all areas. She has a strong history and commitment to successfully building POC authors and illustrators in children’s books. Visit her online at and @fullcirclelit

Dara Hyde

Dara Hyde is a senior agent at the Hill Nadell Literary Agency in Los Angeles and represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including literary and genre fiction, graphic novels, narrative non-fiction, memoir, and young adult.

Dara has taught or spoken at a number of writers’ conferences and events, including Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, BinderCon, New Orleans Writers’ Conference, UC Riverside, UCR Palm Desert MFA, Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference, Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, and the Literary Editing and Publishing (LEAP) program at USC. You can follow her on Twitter @dzhyde and Instagram @dzhyde.

Nephele Tempest

Nephele Tempest joined The Knight Agency in January, 2005, opening the Los Angeles-area office. As an agent, she works with a number of talented writers, assisting them to hone their skills and build their careers. Nephele comes from a diverse publishing and finance background, having previously worked on the editorial side of the business, as well as for several major New York investment firms as a financial advisor and later a financial marketing and communications writer. Her previous experience provided her with insight into multiple aspects of the publishing industry.

Nephele continues to actively build her client list and looks for work with both strong, well-developed characters and a story that pulls her in and won’t let go. She is seeking women’s fiction, historical fiction, single-title romance, fantasy and science fiction, and both young adult and middle grade fiction of any sub-genre.

Melanie Castillo

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. She lives in Long Beach with a pack of animals currently comprised of two cats, one dog, and a geriatric turtle. You can find her on Twitter at @wellmelsbells.

Oliver Latsch

Oliver Latsch is the founder and co-owner of LatschLit Literary Agency and Translation. Oliver grew up in Africa and Germany and had but one ambition: to become a wildlife biologist. After completing his PhD in Biology in the U.K., he agreed to help a successful German author named Cornelia Funke get published in English. He was promised it’d be a one-off assignment, but it promptly sucked him into the highly addictive life of agenting and translating, and twenty years later he and his wife (whom he ‘headhunted’ from a London literary agency) now balance running their agency and their equally multilingual family of five from Los Angeles, California. Working with authors from Europe, America, and Australia, and with a Finnish agent and German agent and translator, LatschLit is an agency with a global perspective, a broad range of tastes, and experience in getting stories to readers all over the world.

Faculty is subject to change

Refunds on the ticket price will be available until January 31, 2020 and are subject to a $35 administration fee.
There will be no refunds after January 31, 2020.
Refunds are available for the main ticket price only. No refunds for the manuscript reviews or agent pitch session.
Email to request a refund.