Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Event: 2020 Big Thaw Retreat Online


Come join us for a weekend of diving deep!

We will use ZOOM, an online platform, to hold these interactive sessions

If unfamiliar with this technology, you will have plenty of time to learn

We promise!

So don’t let the tech or the virus get you down

Sign up by scrolling down! 


From only $20 for 3 hours of instruction

Full Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Scholarships STILL Available
Please scroll down for more information

Online “Retreat” Schedule:

Saturday, May 2nd

9:00-10:30 AM ——Standing Out in a Sea of Slush: Tips for crafting a dynamite pitch & Opening pages that deliver the pitch’s promise, plus QnA

10:30-10:45AM ——Break

10:45-11:45 AM ——Three Stages of Revision and Tips to Sharpen Prose, plus QnA

12:15-2:30 PM ——-One-on-One Manuscript/Illustration critique or a Story Doctor sessions


Sunday, May 3rd

9:00-11:00 AM ——-Illustrator Intensive: Showcase your work-Tips for polishing online portfolios, social media, picture book dummies, and more! With time to share art and QnA

11:30-12:30 PM ——-One-on-One Manuscript/Illustration critique or a Story Doctor sessions

Our special Faculty Guest is


Associate Agent Andrea Brown Literary Agency


  • Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 1: Tips for crafting a dynamite pitch, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway. So you’ve finally finished your novel or picture book, and you’re ready to query agents. Or maybe you’ve been querying, but you’ve only received rejections­­ or worse, not heard back at all. Now is the time to revisit your pitch to make sure it’s enticing and succinct. In this session, I’ll give you insight about what it’s like to read submissions and how I manage my query box, including the types of projects I find most compelling. We will discuss what it takes to stand out in a sea of slush and do several exercises to help you identify which elements of your story to pitch, as well as what not to include, to best hook your reader (or an agent or editor).
  • Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 2: Opening pages that deliver the pitch’s promise, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway. Now you’ve got a dynamite pitch. But do your pages deliver the promise you’ve given the reader? In this session, we’ll talk about how to craft a terrific first line (hint: it might be buried on the front page) and give the reader a story roadmap by introducing the main character (who), the main conflict (what), their motivation (why), the setting (where and when), and a promise of change that will happen over the course of the story (how). But most importantly, we’ll talk about how to pace the beginning in order to pull the reader in, so they can’t help but turn the page to find out what happens next.
  • Three Stages of Revision and Tips to Sharpen Prose, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway. Every writer’s process is different, but I believe there are three stages of revision: (1) writing for story; (2) revising for structure, plot, character, and clarity; and (3) polishing language at the line level for voice. Using those stages as a guideline, we will discuss how and when to revise which pieces of the story to maximize effort and avoid creative blocks, as well as tips for streamlining and polishing language at the line level.
  • Illustrator Intensive: Showcase your work-Tips for polishing online portfolios, social media, picture book dummies, and more! With Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway Tips for polishing online portfolios, social media, picture book dummies, and more! Whether your goal is to illustrate other people’s texts or create art for your own work, the key to self-promotion is a vibrant online portfolio and a fresh social media presence. In this session, we’ll talk about the types of illustrations to include, ways to use social media to self-promote and network with agents and art directors, and tips to ready a picture book dummy for submission. Plus, we’ll discuss other illustration opportunities like covers and more!

Our special Faculty Guest is JENNIFER MARCH SOLOWAY Associate Agent Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

Jennifer represents authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and YA stories, and is actively building her list. Although she specializes in children’s literature, she also represents adult fiction, both literary and commercial, particularly crime and psychological suspense projects.

For picture books, she is drawn to a wide range of stories from silly to sweet, but she always appreciates a strong dose of humor and some kind of surprise at the end. When it comes to middle grade, she likes all kinds of genres, including adventures, mysteries, spooky-but-not-too-scary ghost stories, humor, realistic contemporary, and fantasy.

YA is Jennifer’s sweet spot. She is a suspense junkie. She adores action-packed thrillers full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance and she’s hooked! She’s a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined. But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or recovery. In such stories, she is particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative. Regardless of genre, she is actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature.

That’s her wish list, but the truth is an author might have something she has never considered before, and it might be absolutely perfect for her. She is open to any good story that is well written with a strong, authentic voice. Surprise her!

Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries, including financial services, health care, and toys. She has an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College and was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two sons, and an English bulldog.

Jennifer regularly presents at writing conferences all over the country, including the San Francisco Writers Conference, the Atlanta Writers Conference, and regional SCBWI conferences.

For her latest conference schedule, craft tips and more, follow Jennifer on Twitter (@marchsoloway).

Fabulous Published Authors and Illustrators
who are offering written critiques

Ann Dixon

Ann is the author of eight picture books for children and one nonfiction title for young adults, as well as poems, essays, and nonfiction for adults. Her children’s books have garnered numerous awards, including the National Outdoor Book Award, Ben Franklin Award, and Patricia Gallagher Award. Her Alaska books include Blueberry Shoe, The Sleeping Lady, Winter Is, and two co-authored with Pam Flowers: Alone Across the Arctic and Big-Enough Anna. After many years as a librarian, she now writes, reads, and gardens in Homer, Alaska. Visit her online at and

Brooke Hartman

Brooke Hartman is an Alaskan mom and author of silly, serious, and sometimes strange stories for children and young adults. Her writing has garnered national awards, and her 2019 debut Dream Flights on Arctic Nights received a starred review from Kirkus. Forthcoming titles include Klyde the Kraken Wants a Friend (2020, Innovation Press), Lotte’s Magical Puppet Pictures (2020, Page Street Kids), and The Littlest Airplane (2022, WestMargin Press). When she isn’t writing, you can find her fishing, flying, and having fun with her family, enjoying all the magic Alaska life has to offer. Follow her writing adventures at or on Facebook at @BrookesBooksAK.

Dan Walker 

Local author, Dan L. Walker, was raised on the Kenai Peninsula and graduated from East Anchorage high School, where he was sports editor for the school newspaper and wrote sport stories for the Anchorage Times newspaper. Dan has more than thirty years in Alaska education and was named Teacher of the  Year for Alaska in 1999. A son of homesteaders, Walker has published in Last Frontier Magazine, Alaska Magazine, and the Journal of Geography. His debut novel, Secondhand Summer, was published in 2016 by Alaska Northwest Books and recounts the adventures of a boy who moves to Anchorage from the bush after his father dies. His latest book, Letters form Happy Valley,Memories of a Homesteader’s Son, uses family letters to tell the story of the Walkers’ journey to homestead in the last frontier. Walker lives and writes in Seward, Alaska. The sequel to Secondhand Summer be out in Spring 2021.

Jen Funk Weber

Jen Funk Weber is the author of many puzzle and activity books for young readers, from tie-in books for Hollywood movies (NANCY DREW and the SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES) to educational (VOCABULARY FUNDAMENTALS) to just plain fun (ASTOUNDING ACTIVITIES FOR MINECRAFTERS, ALASKA’S PUZZLE BEARS, and more). In addition, Jen is the storyline developer for the comic book series SHEEBA AND THE PRIVATE DETECTIVES and the author of seven books in the series. Her picture book BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: READING ANIMAL SIGNS is based on her favorite thing in the world to do: search for and watch animals in the wild.
     Jen has hundreds of credits in kids’ magazines, and she writes for adults in craft and travel industries, including a monthly column on the Mr. X Stitch website. She shares pictures and stories of her travels and life in Alaska on her blog at

Lynn Lovegreen

Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for over fifty years. After twenty years in the classroom, she retired to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult historical fiction is set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Colleen Oefelein
Author or Eerie, a YA sci-fi romance novel
Associate Agent
The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Facebook: Colleen Oefelein
Twitter: @eerie_o


Full and Partial Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity Scholarships Available

The scholarship was established to promote inclusion and bring the conference experience to
applicants of any underrepresented group in children’s publishing including, but not limited to
those marginalized due to race/ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender
identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship, and religion.


1) Must be at least 18 years old and an Alaska resident.

2) Need not be a member of SCBWI, but MUST be an author or illustrator for children’s or teen literature.


Please email the following material to no later than midnight, March 1st.

2) Why me?
Explain in 250 words or less of what getting the scholarship would mean to you. Topics could include what  what you hope to learn or experience, how you would use the money saved, etc.

3) Please :

  • E-mail your application
  • Deadline April 25th, 2020
  • Subject line of e-mail:  Retreat Scholarship – (Your name)
  • In the body of the e-mail:  Name, E-mail address, Telephone number
  • In the body of your email, your “why me” statement

How to Format and Submit your Manuscript/Art 

for reviews with published authors and illustrators

DUE April 15th — no exceptions!

Send as an attachment to in a DOC or DOCX, or PDF if illustrator, labeled with your last name and title of work, or key first words of the manuscript. Ex: Tatalias_BestSeller


Please use standard “submission” format:

10 pages (or 20 if you chose this option)

Additionally, you may include a 1-page synopsis (will not be critiqued)

12 pt font, new times roman

double spaced

1 inch margins

Header looks like this: title/last name/page number

Upper left of first page:
Your Name
Your Address
Telephone, or email

1/2 way down first page, centered, TITLE OF BOOK
by Your Name

2/3 down start manuscript
Each new chapter begins 1/3 way down page


Submit a PDF of up to 4 low-res images (72 dpi each) in a folder labeled Art_Your Name.


Author/illustrators with a dummy should submit the text as one doc, and the dummy as a PDF in a folder labeled with your name. No extra charge for reviewing your dummy.