Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Calm Before the Storm Critique and Wellness Event

The Calm Before the Storm Critique and Wellness Event is a day long event where attendees can receive critiques, inspire their imaginations from guided meditation with writing prompts, and experience refreshing, stress relief through chair yoga. There will also be plenty of writing and illustrating craft activities to instruct, encourage and inspire. This will all take place in the Wyckoff Public Library, where there is opportunity for quiet time to work on ideas sparked by the day’s activities. Light refreshments will be provided.


You can select one of two tracks: 

The Critique Track – $120 (non-members: $240) includes a critique with the editor/agent of your choice (based on availability), faculty post-conference submission opportunities and all of the other day’s activities.


The Wellness Track – $25 (non-members $50) includes everything listed above for the Critique Track, except for an editor/agent critique.

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Getting Started

♦   Continue reading for more information about the event. At the bottom of this page, you’ll find the registration form.

♦   To begin registering now, scroll to the bottom of the page and begin filling out the registration form.


One-on-One Critiques

Ensure your story captivates editors and agents from the start – by gaining insights from key editors and agents in the children’s publishing industry

 You can submit a picture book, or middle-grade or YA novel.
 Picture book: Submit the full manuscript.
 Middle-grade or YA novel: Submit the first 15 pages + a 1-2 page synopsis of the novel.
 One-on-One meeting for 15 minutes.
 There are only 66 spaces available.
 First come, first served for the choice of editor/agent.

Note: You will have the opportunity to upload your manuscript once your registration is complete. You also have the option to upload your manuscript later via the upload page.

The deadline to submit your manuscript is Nov. 7, 2019.



(Included with All Registrations)

Chair Yoga – Lyn Lilavati Sirota 

Chair yoga, with instructor Lyn Lilavati, is a form of traditional Hatha Yoga. Adapted to the chair, it is a gentle, therapeutic, and versatile form of yoga appropriate for all bodies and skill levels. It is especially beneficial for those who sit for their jobs writing or drawing for long periods of time as well as for those with physical challenges. Participants will enjoy a restorative experience that is breath, body, and spiritually focused. In addition to movement, there is a guided relaxation, breathwork, and a mindfulness/meditation.


Using Meditation to Dig Deep Into Character – Laurie Calkhoven

Using meditation and guided visualizations, writers and illustrators can find a richer, deeper connection to their characters. Meditations will be followed by free writing periods. Arrive with a character in mind and be ready to explore new territory with your characters and your stories. No meditation experience necessary — you just need to know how to breathe!


$10 Ten-Minute Critiques/ Portfolio Reviews


We’re pleased to offer a new feature: $10 Ten-Minute author/illustrator critique/portfolio review by SCBWI PAL members. The 10-minute critiques and portfolio reviews are available to all attendees, regardless of track. Pre-registration is required, and you must designate the work you plan to bring: picture book, novel, rhyme, or portfolio.


Here’s how it works: On the day of the event, bring the first 5-10 pages of your novel or a complete picture book. The available PAL member in your time slot will spend about 5 minutes reading and 5 minutes on feedback.

See the complete list of $10-10 Minute Faculty below. 

Fact: Many of our current PAL members attribute their success to the feedback of fellow writers.


The $10 Ten-Minute Critiques/ Portfolio Reviews require pre-registration and cannot be purchased on the day of the event. 


Editor/Agent Faculty Bios

Molly Cusick

Molly Cusick is an Editor at Sourcebooks, where she acquires picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects. Authors she edits include NYT bestselling author Pat Zietlow Miller, Printz Honor Award winner Julie Berry, Zoraida Cordova, and Jen Calonita. Previously an agent for eight years, Molly represented Julie Murphy, author of DUMPLIN’ (now a movie on Netflix).


Melissa Edwards
Literary Agent

Melissa Edwards represents children’s books for all ages and adult commercial fiction, as well as select pop-culture nonfiction. Melissa joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a forty-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa also acts as a contract consultant for authors and agents under the business MLE Consulting. She can be found on Twitter @MelissaLaurenE, where she often tweets her active Manuscript Wishlist requests under #MSWL.

Melissa is looking for children’s literature with heart, especially in picture book and middle grade. She enjoys children’s books that kids will self-select and return to time after time. For young adults, she is interested in seeing commercial fiction in all genres, particularly romance and thriller. Melissa is currently highly interested in developing her adult commercial fiction list. She has a particular eye out for vibrant and fun young women’s fiction.


Aneeka Kalia
Assistant Editor
Viking Children’s Books/Penguin Random House

Aneeka Kalia is an Assistant Editor at Viking Children’s Books, acquiring picture books, middle grade, and young adult titles, as well as graphic novels for all ages. She enjoys funny and character-driven stories at every age level and contemporary/realistic fiction particularly in middle grade and young adult. Prior to working at Viking, Aneeka was an Editorial Intern at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. In her spare time, she likes to play soccer, watch comedy specials on Netflix, and drink lots of coffee in Brooklyn cafes.


Elizabeth Law
Elizabeth Law Reads 

Elizabeth Law is special projects editor at Holiday House. She specializes in mining Holiday House’s rich backlist and acquiring middle-grade fiction. Elizabeth has worked in children’s and young adult publishing for 30 years, including most recently as publisher of Egmont USA and as a freelance book doctor and editor at ElawReads. Elizabeth was previously Associate Publisher at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Viking Children’s Books and has edited and published every genre from picture book through nonfiction and YA and New Adult. Some of the many authors and artists Elizabeth has worked with are Dan Gutman, Andrew Clements, Michael Grant, Tony diTerlizzi, G. Brian Karas, Holly Black and the estates of Ludwig Bemelmans and Don Freeman. Check out Elizabeth’s blog at and follow her on Twitter @Elawreads.


Alyza Liu
Assistant Editor
Simon & Schuster

Alyza Liu joined the Simon & Schuster team in August 2017. As assistant to Justin Chanda, she’s excited to be working with incredible talents like Aaron Reynolds, Jessie Sima, Morgan Matson, and many, many more. Prior to Simon & Schuster, Alyza has interned across publishing and graduated magna cum laude from NYU, where she majored in East Asian Studies and minored in English and Studio Art.

She’s looking to acquire atmospheric, character-driven books with strong voices, distinct sensibilities, and tender hearts across a wide range of genres, age ranges, and formats. She’s also a fan of translated genre fiction, postcolonial SFF, and slice-of-life graphic novels. Talk to Alyza about Asian dramas, murder podcasts, ghosts as trauma, and wuxia as praxis @alyzaliu.


Tim Travaglini
Transatlantic Agency

Timothy Travaglini has been at Transatlantic Agency since 2018. Before that, he has worked in trade marketing for Scholastic, Inc.; been a bookseller for Books of Wonder, an all children’s bookstore in New York City; and has edited for Henry Holt and Company, Walker & Company, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, and Open Road Integrated Media where he was the director of children’s acquisitions.

He has edited and published artists and authors who either previously won, or have gone on to win, nearly every award and honor under the sun. He has edited an American Library Association’s 10 Most Frequently Challenged book as well as a Christianity Today Book Award for Fiction winner.

Tim is looking for fiction and nonfiction for adults, as well as for young readers of all ages. Tim wants a book that makes him laugh out loud. He wants a book that makes him cry. He wants a book that makes him fall in love. He wants a book that breaks his heart.


$10-10 minute Critique/Portfolio Review Faculty


Until Hollywood calls, Charlotte Bennardo lives in NJ with her family, two needy cats and sometimes a deranged squirrel. The award-winning Evolution Revolution trilogy: Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons are her first solo novels. She is the co-author of Blonde Ops, the Sirenz series: Sirenz, Sirenz Back In Fashion, and contributed to two anthologies, Beware the Little White Rabbit in celebration of 150th anniversary of Alice In Wonderland, and Scare Me To Sleep, a collection of horror stories used to raise funds to buy books for kids. She’s written for magazines and newspapers and has given presentations and workshops at NJ SCBWI conferences, schools, libraries, and other venues. Currently, she’s working on sci-fi, historical, fantasy, and time travel novels for middle grade, young and new adult readers. Connect with her on Twitter (charbennardo), Author Charlotte Bennardo on FB, on Pinterest and Instagram as Charlotte Bennardo, and through her blog, Author on the Loose.


Barbara DiLorenzo graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration and studied painting at the Arts Students League of New York. She is the author-illustrator of RENATO THE LION (Viking/Penguin Random House), which was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection, and QUINCY (Little Bee). When she isn’t working on books, Barbara teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton. She is an illustrator member of the Society of Illustrators, the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI New Jersey, and the co-president of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group of New York (CBIG). Barbara lives with her family in central New Jersey. You can find her portfolio online at Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency


Tisha Hamilton worked as an editor at Random House and Knopf, Puffin Books, and Troll Associates, and during her editorial career worked on picture books as well as middle grade and ya novels. She is the author of several original works of fiction for young readers, many books and adaptations featuring licensed characters and/or properties and a number of nonfiction books for the educational market.


Patricia Keeler has written and/or illustrated over a dozen books including SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (Sky Pony Press 2018), LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL (Sky Pony Press 2017) and DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET (Lee and Low Books 2014). She received the Christopher Medal and won the New York Book Festival in 2011 for her illustrations in WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF, written by Wendy LaGuardia. Over the years Patricia’s books have been cited by the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, along with the Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist and Horn Book. Her work has been a selection of the Junior Library Guild and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club. Original paintings for DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET are part of the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota. Patricia lives and makes picture books in Hoboken, New Jersey. You can find her latest work on Instagram at patricia.keeler.books. Her website is


Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D. has been an educator for over 20 years. She’s been an elementary school teacher, staff developer, administrator, adjunct professor, literacy coach, curriculum writer, and most importantly an advocate for children and teachers. She is a co-author of Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000) and author of the 100+ Growth Mindset Comments series (Newmark Learning, 2019) for grades K-6. Rosanne is so excited about the launch of her new picture book KARATE KID (Running Press Kids) and another, soon to be announced, picture book project. Rosanne is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.


Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of five picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award, LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) and LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2020). In addition to books, she’s published over 100 poems, stories, crafts and articles in various children’s publications. Find out more at


Yvonne Ventresca is the award-winning author of Black Flowers, White Lies (IPPY Gold Medal for YA fiction) and Pandemic (Crystal Kite Award). In addition to her young adult novels, Yvonne’s other work includes two nonfiction books and several short stories selected for anthologies. She teaches writing at her local adult school and often gives workshops about craft-related techniques. You can learn more about her books at, where she features resources to help other writers.



Registration Instructions

1. If you are an SCBWI member, enter your username and password, and login.

2. Fill in the fields in the Event Registration section.

3. In the Ticket Information section, select either the Wellness Track or the Critique Track.

4. Critiques Section

Wellness Track: Click the ‘No Editor/Agent Critique’

Critique Track: Select an editor or agent. If you want to change your selection, you must first uncheck your current selection before selecting a new one. (Note: If an editor’s or agent’s name is grayed out or doesn’t appear, all slots for that person are taken.)

5. Ten Minute PAL Critiques / Portfolio Reviews: Click to select either 1, 2 or 3 critiques/portfolio reviews, then indicate the category: MG/YA novel, picture book, rhyme or portfolio.

6. The SCBWI Anti-Harassment Policy: Scroll to the bottom to read the policy. Click the checkbox to indicate acceptance.

7. Payment: Click the “Continue” button. You will be prompted to enter payment information.


Cancellation policy

♦ 50% if canceled by 11/7/19

♦ Cancellations after 11/7/19 cannot be refunded.

♦ If you need to cancel, please contact and put CANCELLATION in your subject line.



For more information, visit the Calm Before the Storm Critique and Wellness Event Information Page