Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Building Your Nonfiction Toolbox, Michigan SCBWI Spring One-Day Event

What? A one-day, jam-packed nonfiction writing conference

Where? VistaTech Center at Schoolcraft College, 18600 Haggerty Rd. Livonia, Mi. (Maximum of 100 participants)

When? March 7, 2020, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Cost? SCBWI Members: $160, Not-Yet Members: $190 (become a member today and enjoy reduced pricing on all SCBWI events!) Fee includes a pre-conference nonfiction webinar (see below for description), light breakfast, bookstore, and 8 hours of specialty programming for writers and illustrators!

* Seating is limited to 100 people *

Register NOW and reserve your spot! Click I WANT TO BUILD MY NONFICTION TOOLBOX

Have you tinkered with the idea of writing or illustrating nonfiction, but don’t know where to begin? Do you have a nonfiction WIP that needs a tune-up? Do you long to write narrative nonfiction that reads like fiction? Are you eager to learn more about the current “buzz” in nonfiction book creation? Join SCBWI Michigan for a day of tool gathering, project planning, and practice building. Bring your laptops, nonfiction works-in-progress, nonfiction ideas, and palettes and leave with a toolbox full of things you need to craft compelling nonfiction that sells in today’s competitive marketplace. Our featured speakers are:

Carol Hinz: Carol is the Editorial Director of Lerner Books and was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s 2018 Star Watch Honorees. Carol joined Lerner in 2003 as editor and was promoted to Editorial Director of its Millbrook Press imprint in 2007. Ten years later, she took on overseeing picture books and nonfiction at its Carolrhoda Books imprint as well. Carol’s list includes National Book Award Longlist selection Sachiko, Sibert Honoree Sea Otter Heroes, and Orbis Pictus Honoree Dazzle Ships. Carol will guide attendees to find the nonfiction nugget that becomes the heart of their stories in her presentation, “Finding Your Nonfiction Nugget: Uncovering the Heart of Your Story.”


Heather Montgomery: Heather writes for kids who are wild about animals. Her subjects range from snake lungs to snail tongues. Heather will be filling attendees’ toolboxes with ideas on how to make nonfiction exciting in her presentation, “Don’t Do Boring: Turning a Nugget Into a Story That Sells!”

Some of Heather’s nonfiction books include:

  • Bugs Don’t Hug: Six-Legged Parents and Their Kids (Charlesbridge)
  • Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis Under the Waves (Millbrook)
  • Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill (Bloomsbury), an NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and a VOYA Nonfiction Honor Award Winner.
  • You can find out more about Heather here:


Lindsay Moore: Lindsay is an artist and writer with roots in Northern Michigan. She studied Marine Biology and Fine Art at Southampton College on Long Island and figure drawing at the Art Students League in New York City. Lindsay earned her Master of Science in Medical and Scientific Illustration from Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University) and has received recognition for her work from both the Association of Medical Illustrators and the Australian Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration. Sea Bear, published by Greenwillow Books, is her picture book debut. Sea Bear received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Shelf Awareness!


Emmy Kastner an author/illustrator of children’s books. As a former classroom teacher, Emmy taught high school English Language Arts, Biology, and Integrated Science. She is the co-founder and former executive director of Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) — a literacy-focused nonprofit modeled after 826 National. RAWK is devoted to celebrating and amplifying youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills, via joy, creativity, equity, and access.

Kastner’s debut series, Nerdy Babies, launched in 2019 with two titles (Ocean and Space) and continues to grow: Weather and Rocks (2020) and Dinosaurs and Transportation (2021).



Other highlights of the day include: 

  • Morning and afternoon workshop time focused on finding your nonfiction nugget, writing backmatter, building a bibliography, using dialogue and primary vs. secondary sources and illustration-related topics designed to move your work forward.
  • An afternoon conversation/panel discussion, “The Importance of Authenticity in Nonfiction Writing,” which will help answer the question, “Can I write my nonfiction idea?”
  • For those who’d like a nonfiction refresher or are new to nonfiction, nonfiction author, Carrie A. Pearson will offer a complimentary pre-conference webinar so we all come to the building site on common ground. (further described below)
  • Detroit’s Pages Bookshop will be on hand with books on craft mentioned in the presentations, some mentor texts, as well as titles from our guests and Michigan writers and illustrators available for purchase throughout the day.
  • Opportunities for in-person paid critiques and portfolio reviews for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators ($50 each). The SCBWI Gold Form will be used for critiques and portfolio reviews.
  • To see the Gold Forms, click these links:
  • Post-event submissions offered by our editor, Carol Hinz.

No matter where you are on your creative journey, “Building Your Nonfiction Toolbox” will help you create compelling and beautiful nonfiction for children.

Pre-Conference Webinar: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Shades of Grey In Between
Nonfiction as a genre in children’s literature is on the rise. Why is this –from a reader and industry perspective? How can you tap into this world of creative possibilities in a way that meets industry expectations? Learn how new nonfiction is categorized and see clues in your own work that will help you determine what you’ve created. This webinar will be delivered as a Zoom meeting. Link and information will be emailed to registered attendees on the day of the webinar. Playback will be available until March 6, 2020. The webinar is available to members and not-yet members who are registered for this conference only and may not be shared.

Schedule (Subject to Change)

8:00 to 8:35: Registration, breakfast, and mingling. Find your table for the morning.


8:35: Welcome and Announcements


8:35-9:25:- Plenary Session 1- Finding Your Nonfiction Nugget: Uncovering the Heart of Your Nonfiction Story- Carol Hinz

It’s an exciting time to be creating nonfiction for children, with an incredibly wide range of possibilities for topics and approaches. But with all those possibilities, where do you start? And once you have a topic in mind, how do you figure out the best way to approach that topic? We’ll look at recent books, curriculum standards, and other essential resources to help answer these questions.


9:25- 9:35: Break


9:35-10:25*: Group Work- Filling Your Toolbox Part 1

During this table discussion, attendees will take their top five nonfiction ideas and brainstorm for the heart of the story. The thing that has yet to be told about their topic. 4 Critiques for Emmy

*In-person critiques will take place during this time.


9:35-10:25: DIY Paper Construction Lab

Online reference of historical structures or landmarks can be limiting. Using simple tools, learn how to build paper models to inform your perspective drawing of real life structures that you can’t visit. Bring your sketchbook and favorite tools to practice drawing from different vantage points.


10:25-10:30: Break


10:30- 11:25: Plenary Session 2- Don’t Do Boring! Turning a Nugget Into a Story That Sells – Heather Montgomery

From outrageous illustrations to irreverent voices to new narrative — the image of humdrum nonfiction is being chipped away one published book at a time. In this session, participants will examine innovative approaches and stretch their voice, sequencing, and/or approach to their nonfiction nuggets.

Illustrators- Lindsay Moore- The Illustrators’ Notebook: Drawing from Life, Research and (Yes) Imagination.

This will be a practical talk about chasing good ideas, gathering information and creating interesting nonfiction art to tell a story.


11:25- 12:40: Lunch on your own at area restaurants/bring your own lunch/order in from GrubHub


12:40-2:10: Plenary Session 3- Carol Hinz, Heather Montgomery, Lindsay Moore- The Nuts and Bolts of Nonfiction Writing.

A broad-focus conversation on what it takes to pull a nonfiction project together from the editor, author and illustrator perspective.


2:10-2:20- Break


2:20- 3:40*: Group Work at Tables- Four 20-minute segments. Groups will move through 4 different stations.

Table topics for Picture Books/Chapter Books/Middle Grade/YA- Table hosts will guide discussions on the following topics:

  1. Writing Backmatter that Sings!- What to include in story vs. what to include in backmatter.
  2. Organizing Your Information Using Notebooks
  3. Choosing the Right POV for Your Nonfiction Story
  4. The Power of Keywords- How the Right Keywords Can Unlock Better Information

*Illustrators session with Emmy Kastner- Audience, Style and Color Lead the Way: Crafting your Nonfiction book

Emmy Kastner, author and illustrator of the Nerdy Babies series, will explore developing a nonfiction series, focusing on how your audience informs style, format, and palette. Emmy will share her process, from research to development, the differences and similarities from fictional storytelling, and will lead a hands-on drawing workshop for participants to explore the elements discussed.

* Remaining in-person critiques.


3:40-4:00: Break/bookstore/snack/mingle/author signings


4:00- 4:50: Panel Discussion- The Importance of Authenticity in Nonfiction/Can You Write Your Nonfiction Topic?

  1. Carol Hinz- Editor
  2. Buffy Silverman- Michigan nonfiction picture book author
  3. Jean Alicia Elster- Michigan historical fiction middle-grade author
  4. Lisa Rose- Michigan nonfiction picture book author and founder of The Missing Voice Facebook discussion group
  5. Heather Montgomery- Author
  6. Lindsay Moore- Author/Illustrator


4:50- 5:00: Final thoughts, announcements, author signings.