Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

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

What? A one-day 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? Early bird SCBWI Members: $150 Early bird Not-Yet Members: $180 (become a member today and enjoy reduced pricing on all SCBWI events!) Fee includes a pre-conference nonfiction webinar

* Seating is limited to 100 people *

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 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!

Lindsay will give us a glimpse into how she uses notebooks to build nonfiction stories in her presentation,  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.

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.
  • 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, we’ll have a free pre-conference webinar so we all come to the building site on common ground.
  • 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 for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators.

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

Registration opens on January 31. Mark your calendars and join us for this amazing day!

Link to register will be available on January 31.


Tentative 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

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.

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

10:25-10:30: Break

10:30- 11:25: Plenary Session 2- “From Idea to Story: Taking Your Nonfiction Nugget and Creating a Story that Sells”- Heather

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 Grub Hub, etc.

12:40-1:40- Plenary Session 3- A &B- Carol Hinz, Heather Montgomery, Lindsay Moore- “The Nuts and Bolts of Nonfiction Writing”- A broad focus talk on what it takes to pull a nonfiction project together from the editor, author and illustrator perspective.

1:40-1:50- Break

1:50- 2:20- Plenary Session Part 3- C.

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 (nonfiction writers from Michigan) will guide discussions on the following topics (one topic per table with groups rotating):

  1. Writing Backmatter- The importance of tone, voice and the types of information to include.
  2. The rules of using dialogue, and choosing the right POV and tense for your nonfiction story.
  3. Building your bibliography/source list/formatting.
  4. The importance of primary vs. secondary sources. Uses keywords. Best search options.

*Illustrators split for TBD determined drawing session.

* 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.