Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Critique Groups & Free Monthly Shop Talk Sessions

Participating as a member of an active critique group is almost essential to success as a writer or illustrator.

SCBWI encourages every member to solicit constructive, supportive feedback. Critique groups can meet in person, or online, regularly, or less so, have several members or only two. There’s a lot of flexibility here!

If you are a writer or illustrator looking for a critique group, you have options. First, join SCBWI! Then, 

* Post a request to the MichKids listserv. Include the following information: genre, experience level (if appropriate), meeting area (Lansing, Detroit, Marquette, etc.), and meeting frequency.

* Navigate to the Blueboards on the main SCBWI website, search on “critique groups” and submit an inquiry.

To learn more about the critique process and how to start a group, see Articles and Advice.


*Laugh! Learn! Elevate your level of craft! Attend community-wide Shop Talk Sessions!

Michigan’s Shop Talks meet regularly every one or two months in several locations around the lower peninsula. All SCBWI-MI members are welcome to attend. Prospective members are able to enjoy their first meeting for free.

Keep your eye on the Event Calendar for a Shop Talk near YOU! For more information on these meetups, or Shop Talks in general, please contact Tom Keller at Tom is our Shop Talk Liaison. If you’d like to start a Shop Talk, please contact Tom. 

Contacts for the various Shop Talks are listed below. Reach out to one in your area. Become an active member of our vibrant and enthusiastic creative community! Join a Shop Talk! 


“I think I tell you this after all of our SCBWI meetups, but they are invaluable!  The people are great and the critiques are what I need.  So thank you for introducing me to the group!  You rock!”  — Lori


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Check with your Shop Talk coordinators for ongoing plans and/or check the Event Calendar for links to join live Zoom events and view recordings.

Please remember, SCBWI has a zero-tolerance policy against harassment of any kind online or in-person. Any violation of this policy is actionable.

LAST – Lansing Area Shop Talk

Coordinator: Charlie Barshaw

Location: Haslett Branch of the Capital Area Public Library, 1590 Franklin Street, Haslett MI or the Biochemistry Building at MSU Free campus parking is available on weekends in Lot 46. Please check the website calendar for the location of specific meetings.

Mission: To reach out to the Kid Lit talent in our area and create a community.

Goal: To educate, congregate and celebrate.

~ Charlie Barshaw joined SCBWI in 2009 and became an Advisory Committee member in 2012. He has written and published mid-grade short stories for Amazon Rapids, written numerous articles for The Mitten blog, and is currently an editor for them. He’s got four YA and MG manuscript drafts in his drawer and still hopes to release them to the world. He is very fortunate to be married to the talented and vivacious Ruth McNally Barshaw.


Metro Detroit Shop Talk


Kris Munroe ( and Katy Klimczuk (

Location: TBD

Mission: To encourage and inspire fellow SCBWI members in Southeastern Michigan.

Goal: To meet regularly and share ideas and insights about the creative process, craft, and current trends and marketing in kidlit that we have learned on our own.

~ Kris has been a member of SCBWI since 2003 and is a co-coordinator of the Metro Detroit Shop Talk. After a long career in human resources, she retired in 2018 and is working on a fantasy MG novel.  She’s married and loves to garden.

~ Katy is an author from Grosse Pointe Farms. She lives there with her husband, two children, and two mischievous kittens. Formerly a teacher and reading specialist, Katy now homeschools her children and tries to get her creative juices flowing in tiny pockets of quiet. Katy looks forward to learning more about the art and business of writing and publishing with you this year.


GR-West Shop Talk – Grand Rapids

Co-Coordinators: Sue Thoms ( and Kristin Wolden Nitz (

Location: TBD

Mission: To pull together the SCBWI writing talent in the Grand Rapids area.

Goal: By tapping into the strengths of each member, we will all grow as writers.

~ Sue Thoms is the Grand Rapids-based author of multiple children’s books including Cesar Takes a Break, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, May the Faith Be With You, My First Communion, Jonah and the Big Fish, and Noah’s Ark. She previously wrote for The Grand Rapids Press for more than 30 years. Learn more at

~ Kristin Wolden Nitz is the author of Suspect, Saving the Griffin, and Defending Irene. A self-described compulsive tourist, she has special weaknesses for mountains and museums, but she’ll happily explore tombs, temples, caves, cathedrals, palaces and pagodas. After moving fifteen times since graduating from Michigan Tech, Kristin and her husband have settled in Rockford, Michigan. Long-time friends and family members—most notably her children—laugh when she says she’s never going to move again.  No, really. Stop laughing.


Ann Arbor Area Shop Talk – Ann Arbor

Co-Coordinators: Betsy McKee Williams – and Alexia Andoni  –

Location: The Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S 5th Ave – Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Mission: To create and nurture a supportive community of writers and illustrators.

Goal: To meet regularly, tap into the strengths of each member, and support one another toward our individual goals.

~ Betsy McKee Williams lives in Ann Arbor, supports college writing by day, and does her own writing after hours. A member of SCBWI since 2012, she is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Young Readers through the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Betsy is completing her first middle-grade novel, Falling Out of Time.

~ Alexia Andoni, Ann Arbor Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. She is a Child Development Specialist and educator by day and a picture book writer by night. When not writing or teaching, Alexia enjoys spending time with her three children, gardening, practicing yoga, and turning to nature for inspiration and rejuvenation.


Up North Shop Talk – Traverse City

Coordinator: Heather Shumaker

Location: Traverse Area District Library, Thirlby Room, 610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City, MI

Mission: To create a supportive community for northern Kid Lit creators.

Goal: Exchange knowledge, inspiration, and resources among fellow SCBWI members.

 ~ Heather is the author of three books for adults and a debut middle-grade novel THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2013, blogs at and loves all things kid lit.


KAST Kalamazoo Area Shop Talk

Co-Coordinators: Isabel O’Hagin ( and Melanie Bryce (

Location: Comstock Public Schools Administration Bldg. 3010 Gull Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49048

Mission: To learn, serve, and inspire as we create a community.

Goal: The Kalamazoo Area Shop Talk will meet on a regular basis to better serve the membership by providing opportunities to network, develop skills, share resources, and celebrate the creative process.

~ Storyteller Isabel O’Hagin (Ph.D.), writing as Ysabel Estrada, has been a member of SCBWI since 2013. As a pre-published author, she writes stories steeped in Latino culture based in the southwest where she lived most of her life. She has written two middle-grade novels, several picture books and is currently working on a YA novel. In 2018 she was recognized as a runner-up in the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship Contest. Her publication credits include teacher education articles, book chapters in early childhood music, and serving as the editor for a state education journal.

~ Melanie Bryce is a non-PAL writer and illustrator and a member of SCBWI since 2018. She studied creative writing, watercolor, and life drawing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She is involved in the Kalamazoo arts community, including providing illustrations for KAST’s recent event “Kast a Spell,” participating in Art Hop, gaining acceptance in the West Michigan Area Show with her “To the Moon” submission, gaining acceptance in the 2018 KVCC student art show, and winning first place in the 2016 KVCC New Media Showcase.