Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Event: 2020 Big Thaw Retreat

Due to public health concerns, we are changing the format of this event.

Instead of  a live, in-person event, we will hold a webinar-based one. The details are being worked out, and all currently registered attendees will be notified of the changes. A full refund is possible, though we hope you all will attend the webinar-based event.  All one-on-one critiques and story doctor sessions with Jennifer March Soloway will still occur, and hopefully the other critique groups as well. Please be patient as we  sort this out. 


Stefanie Tatalias

Regional Advisor SCBWI Alaska

Come join us for a weekend of diving deep!
Bring your work-in-progress
—whether it’s in the idea stage or your 50th revision—
and leave more prepared and polished
for publication!

(scroll to bottom to sign up)
—warning: as you scroll, you will get very excited to sign up—

Limited to 33 participants, so don’t delay.

Full and Partial Diversity and Inclusivity Scholarships Available
Please scroll down for more information

Signed up for a Manuscript Review with Jennifer March Soloway? 
Please scroll down for more information on how to submit. DUE DATE MARCH 15th

Signed up for a written Manuscript Review with one of our professional faculty.
Please scroll down for more information on how to submit. DUE DATE MARCH 15th

For only $175, you get:

  • Four workshops with Literary Agent, Jennifer March Soloway, of Andrea Brown Literary Agency
  • Workshops and Group Critiques led by published authors
  • Lodging at the remote and picturesque Susitna River Lodging in Talkeetna, AK
  • One professional manuscript or art review

Also available:

  • Manuscript Reviews with Jennifer Soloway One-on-one, 15-minute in-person reviews of the first 10 pages of a novel or picture book text or portfolio/art. (see below for specifics and how to submit work-deadline March 15).
  • Story Doctor with Jennifer Soloway 15-minutes to discuss your idea, story or dummy book with Jennifer Soloway! You could pitch your work, share a query letter, talk about an issue you’re having with craft, discuss a sticking point in a particular story, go over your submission process to date, or discuss how to find an agent. To make the session even more useful, come with questions or notes on the content you wish to discuss. Come ready to talk!
  • Illustrator Intensive: Showcase your work:
    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!

    From only $30 additional or available as a “standalone” event. 

The workshops:

  • Friday afternoonWhat’s Your Story? Kinesthetic and crafty, get to know your story and yourself.
  • Friday evening—Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 1: Tips for crafting a dynamite pitch, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway
  • Saturday morning—Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 2: Opening pages that deliver the pitch’s promise, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway
  • Saturday Afternoon—Three Stages of Revision and Tips to Sharpen Prose, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway
  • Saturday AfternoonTwo optional critique groups led by published authors
  • Sunday Morning—First Pages! Putting it all together: a chance to share and get live feedback from a pro, with Literary Agent, Jennifer Soloway
  • Sunday Late Morning—Illustrator Intensive: Showcase your work”

For more information and to register, please click here. 

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).

Full and Partial Diversity and Inclusivity Scholarships Available

Apply by March 1, but please know the conference may fill before this, so apply ASAP!

One full scholarship to the retreat and illustrator intensive for a POC (person of color) and/or an Alaskan Native, or person identifying with other under-represented or marginalized group.

Two partial scholarships of $50 each to a first-time SCBWI retreat or conference attendee or person(s) who would find it hard to attend without the scholarship.

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.
1) Sample of your writing or illustrating
Writers – A 250-word from the first page(s) of a work-in-progress. This must be for readers under 18-years-old.
Illustrators – One illustration. Anything goes as long as you drew it AND it is intended for viewers under 18-years old.

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

3) Please follow these directions:

  • E-mail your application
  • Deadline March 1, 2019
  • Subject line of e-mail:  Retreat Scholarship – (Your name)
  • In the body of the e-mail:  Name, E-mail address, Telephone number
  • Attach as a SINGLE (one) DOC or DOCX your “application” to include #1 and 2, and #3 if applicable to email
  • Attachment in manuscript format, double-spaced in Times New Roman 12-point font with 1-inch margins
  • If you have an illustration, it should be pasted into the application document
  • Do not put your name anywhere inside the attachment (your scholarship application)
  • File name: Scholarship + three non-sequential numbers of your choice, e.g., scholarship238.docx (avoid common number sequences like 1234).

To keep the price low, most meals will be potluck style and it will be delicious!

Please sign up for your potluck dish at:

All rooms have a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker. You can also plug in your own crockpot to cook or heat things up.

Of course you can bring your own food if you have allergies or special food needs, though there will always be special dishes like vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free free (though not guaranteed for severe allergies).

Saturday night you’ll have the option to eat in (bring your own or there will probably be leftovers…there was an over abundance last year) or dine out in funky, charming Talkeetna, the hopping off point for climbers of famed Denali. We will make a group reservation for those who’d like to join in.

SCBWI Health & Cancellation Policy

During this period of public health concerns, SCBWI has modified its cancellation/refund policy for all events as follows:

If you need to cancel for health related concerns and cannot attend an event, you will be able to receive a full tuition refund so that you can stay home, take care of yourself, and prevent the spread of illness.

This policy is in effect until September 1, 2020. Be well.

Retreat Schedule:

FRIDAY 5/01/20

2:00 PM Check-in opens

3:00—5:00 PM What’s Your Story? Kinesthetic and crafty, get to know your story and yourself, workshop.

5:15 – 6:00 PM Kind, Clear, and Qualitative Critiques: Prepping for the Weekend

6:15 – 6:30 PM Formal Welcome & Announcements

6:30 — 7:30 PM  Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 1:Tips for crafting a dynamite pitch

7:30 — 8:30 PM Dinner

8:30 PM   Open Mic


SATURDAY 5/02/20

8:00—8:45 AM  Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 AM  Standing Out in a Sea of Slush, Part 2:Opening pages that deliver the pitch’s promise

10:15 – 12:15 PM  Optional critique group session 1 guided by published author or free time

12:30 — 2:30 PM   Lunch  and free time

2:30 – 3:30 PM The Three Stages of Revision and Tips to Sharpen Prose

4:00 – 6:00 PM  Optional critique group session 2 guided by published author or free time

6:30 PM  Dinner on your own, option to join a group going into town

8:30 PM  Open mic, desserts and drinks, Fun, Fun and More Fun!


SUNDAY 5/03/20

8:00—8:45 AM  Breakfast

9:00 — 10:00 AM First Pages Feedback 

11:00 AM  Check out by this time. QnA with Stephen Barr & TBA

11:00 AM — 2 PM Optional (Additional registration fee)  Illustrators Intensive (with short break for lunch)

Rooming options:
  1. The option for “shared king bed” is for two friends who are planning to attend the together. You MUST email to get coupon code to sign up your friend.
  2. There are limited private rooms and these are in a cabin with another room, and pull out in the front room
  3. You will only be in a cabin with the same biological sex unless special arrangements are made.
  4. If you wish to share (be assigned) a cabin with someone(s), all parties desiring this must email and make the requests.

How to Format and Submit your Manuscript/Art 

for reviews with faculty
(published authors and J. Soloway)

DUE MARCH 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 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.