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WRITING ON THE DOOR: Children’s Literature Conference

April 6, 2018 @ 9:00 am - April 8, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

The Children’s Literature Conference brings together some of the region’s best writers of picture books, chapter books, and young adult literature for two-and-a-half days of presentations and workshops. We are proud to offer this conference in conjunction with the Wisconsin chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual luncheon. Please visit their website for more details and registration information for the luncheon. (Please note that conference and luncheon are two separate registrations! You must register for the conference with Write On and for the luncheon with SCBWI.)

All conference events will take place in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

Registration for the conference is $120 before March 16. After March 16, registration is $150. To register for the conference, please click here. Saturday only registration is $60, for this option click here. Sunday’s SCBWI luncheon with keynote speaker Catherine Laudone, assistant editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, is $50 for SCBWI members, $80 for non-members. To register for the SCBWI Annual Luncheon, please click here.




8:30 am – 10:00 am

Check in and on-site registration 
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center

10:00 am

Welcoming Remarks
Jerod Santek, Director, Write On, Door County
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center

10:30 – 11:30 am

The Craft and Art of Historical Fiction
Kathleen Ernst
Stone Harbor Resort
Anyone writing historical fiction must blend and balance good storytelling with solid research.  This presentation will explore the genre’s inherent challenges, and provide specific techniques for creating compelling and authentic stories.

The Perks and Perils of Starting a Small Press
Ann Heyse
Stone Harbor Resort
What’s a small press? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with one when looking for a publisher? Sand Beach Press owner Ann Heyse will discuss some lessons she’s learned and some pitfalls to avoid when considering either starting your own press or working with this type of publishing company.

Writing and Illustrating
Jill Harding
Margaret Lockwood Gallery
Jill Harding will share her journey of moving from a 20-year teaching career to becoming the Sign Fairy. She has written and illustrated two children’s books – The Sign Fairy in 2015, and Dragonfly Magic in 2017. Her presentation will contain thoughts on writing and making images for a wide range of readers. She will share some stories and strategies for staying inspired and getting the work done, along with tips on publishing and marketing.

11:30 am – 1:00 pm
LUNCH On your own; please consult listing of nearby restaurants

1:00 – 2:15

Author Panel Discussion: John Coy, Kathleen Ernst, Lora Hyler, Mary Losure, James Mihaley
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center

2:30 – 3:30
Illustrator: Visual Catalyst of the Written Word
Michael Kress-Russick
Margaret Lockwood Gallery
It’s the Illustrator’s job to illuminate, expand and extend narrative. At the same time, without a clear course of action, the illustrator risks lashing the writer’s story to a visualization so concrete it stifles the story with the narrow scope of its interpretation, perhaps limiting its audience. Through practical demonstration and examples from his own work and others, Michael discusses his process for approaching the author’s words through the lens of a cinematographer, the dogged attention to detail of a researcher, an anatomist’s grasp of pose and dynamics, and a child’s sense of awe.

Real Stories for Real Kids: Tips on Writing Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction
Mary Losure
Stone Harbor Resort
What is a STORY? (Hint: not a textbook.)  And how can you make sure your non-fiction project is the former, not the latter? The pleasures and pitfalls of nonfiction writing from the author (most recently) of Isaac the Alchemist:Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d.

Get Published: Traditional Book Publishing 
Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center
The author of Arrows (Delacorte Press), will cover how to get a literary agent, the differences between self and traditional publishing, and dos and don’ts of being a successful writer.

The Right Write Path: Market Your Way Through Any Publishing Approach 
Reji Laberje
Stone Harbor Resort
Publishing consultant and 8-time Bestselling Author, Reji Laberje, will explain the differences between the many publishing approaches available to authors, as well as the pros and cons of each, In addition, she will reveal the three marketing necessities, regardless of which publishing approach you choose and spend some time helping you develop these pieces for yourself.

3:45 – 5:00 pm
Publishers Panel Discussion: Carol Hinz, Andrew Karre, Reji Laberje
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center


9:00 – 10:15 am

Author Panel Discussion: Swati Avasthi, M. Molly Backes, Melissa Gorzelancyk, Michael Kress-Russick
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center

10:30 – 11:30 am

Picture Book Possibilities! An Overview of Formats and Styles
Miranda Paul
Margaret Lockwood Gallery
From simple concept books and bedtime stories to cultural folktales to a new wave of dynamic nonfiction, well-crafted picture books have the power to captivate an audience of readers young and old. Attendees looking to publish their work will gain insights on pairing their ideas with the right format to more effectively capture an editor’s attention.

Using Your Superpower: The Audacity of Writing Children’s Books & Reflecting All Children
Lora Hyler
Stone Harbor Resort
Children’s books have not kept pace with the nation’s changing demographics. Statistics reveal less than 15% of all children’s books depict characters from diverse backgrounds. Initiatives are underway within publishing and through non-traditional methods to change this. Children of all colors, disabilities, and sexual preferences need to see their faces reflected within the pages of a book. It is our highest calling as publishers, authors, librarians, educators, parents and grandparents to embrace and prioritize all children to reflect our playgrounds, classrooms, and homes of this country and the rest of the world. We’ll take a look at progress within middle grade/young adult fiction.

Elements of Excellent Nonfiction
Carol Hinz
Stone Harbor Resort
Learn about plot, narrative structure, voice, character development in picture books, middle grade, and young adult non-fiction from award-winning editor Carol Hinz.

There’s No Place Like Home: The Importance of Setting in YA Lit
M. Molly Backes
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center
Setting is often overlooked as merely descriptions of pretty landscapes, but done well it can be so much more than that. Not only can a strong setting establish the world through which your characters move, but it can also push the story’s action and reveal character complexity, emotion, and psychology. In this session, we will look at examples of excellent settings and discuss strategies to develop and improve setting in your own work.

11:30 am – 1:00 pm

LUNCH On your own; please consult listing of nearby restaurants

1:15 – 2:30 pm

Panel: What We Want to Read with Nalani Bicoy, Abby Jarosh, Anna Jarosh, Cameron Rass, Holly Selle, Mark Smullen
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center
Join teens, middle grade readers, and parents of young children who share what they like – and what they don’t like – in young people’s literature

2:45 – 3:45

Picture Book Creation Step by Step
John Coy
Margaret Lockwood Gallery
John will explore the steps in picture book creation from first draft through revisions, editing, rejections, more revisions, publishing, to finished book. He will show examples and discuss how the writer, illustrator, editor, art director, editorial director, lawyer, publicist, and sales staff work together to make a book and get it into your hands. Questions are welcome and encouraged.

From Information to Intrigue: Ways to Think About the Job of Page One
Andrew Karre
Stone Harbor Resort
The award-winning editor and publisher will give examples of standout first pages in adult, young adult, and children’s literature and discuss why he thinks books often benefit when authors embrace intrigue over information.

Using Humor to Engage Children
James Mihaley
Stone Harbor Resort
Kids love to laugh, especially Middle Grade readers. Join the author of You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please for a fun filled presentation.  We will explore the differences between kid humor and adult humor, and demonstrate how humor can elevate fantasy and enrich even the most serious stories.

Revision: Scene by Scene
Swati Avasthi
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center
As writers, we spend most of our time on revision, wrestling our scenes into shape. This hands-on session will look at how to strengthen your scenes. So bring in 2 copies of a scene that has been getting the best of you and leave with strategies for how to best it.

4:00 – 5:15 pm

Panel Discussion: We Need Diverse Books with Swati Avasthi, Lora Hyler, Baptiste & Miranda Paul
Peninsula Room, Door County Government Center
Authors discuss the need for books at every age level to reflect the diversity of America’s readers.


Swati Avasthi’s debut young adult novel Split received the 2011 International Reading Award and has been translated into German, Dutch, Korean, and Hungarian. Her follow-up novel, Chasing Shadows, was a Junior Library Guild Selection. She teaches in the MFA in Children’s Literature program at Hamline University.

M. Molly Backes is the author of the young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa(Candlewick Press, 2012), which was named Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Fiction for Teens (2013), Forever Young Adult’s Best YA Books of 2012, and was a finalist on NPR.org’s Best-Ever Teen Novels list in 2012. Her work has appeared in The Prairie Wind, Human Parts, The Rumpus, and the anthology Good Dogs Doing Good. An accomplished teacher, she has run creative writing workshops for adults and teens across the Midwest and is a frequent guest at writing conferences and festivals across the country.

Nalani Bicoy is a sophomore at Sturgeon Bay High School. She enjoys reading all types of books, ranging from wizards and fantasy to international studies on the brain. Her favorite author always has been and probably always will be Sharon Creech.

John Coy is the author of young adult novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and fiction and nonfiction picture books. He has received numerous awards for his work including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award for best debut picture book, the Burr/Warzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children’s Literature and the the Kerlan Award in recognition of singular attainments in the creation of children’s literature. John lives in Minneapolis and visits schools around the world.

Kathleen Ernst is the award-winning, bestselling author of thirty-six published books, which together have now sold over 1.7 million audio, ebook, and printed copies. Her books include historical fiction for readers ages 8 and up, the American Girl mysteries, American Civil War books for young readers and adults, and the Chloe Ellefson mystery series. Kathleen’s work has earned numerous honors, including an Emmy for children’s educational programming, a LOVEY Best Traditional Mystery Award, and an Edgar and multiple Agatha national mystery award nominations.

Melissa Gorzelanczyk is a writer who loves owls, solitude, Shinrin-yoku, artists, lavender and the word “tamarack.” She is pursuing an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her young adult novel Arrows is out now from Delacorte Press. She lives with her husband in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

 Since graduating in Art From UW-Madison, Jill Harding has been interested in combining the written word with visual images. She received her Master Degree in Education and taught in the Green Bay Public Schools for 20 years as a classroom teacher and as a Gifted Student Advocate. Jill currently lives on the north end of the Door County peninsula. She has published two picture books: The Sign Fairy and Dragonfly Magic.

Ann Heyse is the founder of Sand Beach Press, a poet, novelist, blogger, and children’s picture book author. She is the author of Good Morning, Door County and her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She has worked for many years as an educator, helping children, teens, and adults hone their writing skills.

Carol Hinz is Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, divisions of Lerner Publishing Group. She oversees a range of picture books and photo-driven single titles. Recent books she’s edited include Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson; Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko; and Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman. In her spare time, Carol talking baseball, dinosaurs, and books with her 7-year-old and 4-year-old sons. Find her on Twitter: @CarolCHinz.

Lora Hyler’s debut middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes, will be published in March 2018. She founded her Wisconsin-based public relations and marketing company in 2001. She is a member of SCBWI and the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. She holds a 2016 Jade Ring award from the Wisconsin Writers Association for an adult short story, several screenwriting and news awards, and has published hundreds of corporate articles. She was the recipient of a 2017 artist residency at Marnay sur Seine, France and two previous residencies at Noepe Center for the Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

11 year-old twin sisters Abby & Anna Jarosh have been avid readers since their Goodnight, Gorilla days over a decade ago and now enjoy reading everything from Harry Potter to historical biographies about the past Presidents of the United States.  Instead of earning an allowance, they prefer credit toward their monthly school book orders and have amassed an impressive book collection during their elementary school years.  To share their love of books and reading, Abby & Anna have built a “Little Free Library” in front of their home in Jacksonport that they keep filled up with interesting children’s books and they also keep shoveled out all winter for year-round access for passing book lovers.

In 2005, Andrew Karre helped launch the young adult imprint Flux. He was an editorial director at Lerner Publishing Group from 2008 through 2014, overseeing Carolrhoda Books and founding Carolrhoda Lab. He has published first novels by such noted authors as Maggie Stiefvater, A.S. King, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Blythe Woolston, Carrie Mesrobian, and E.K. Johnston. In 2015, he joined Dutton Books for Young Readers as executive editor, focusing on young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction. He works from his home in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Michael Kress-Russick studied illustration at Northern Illinois University (BFA) and Medical Illustration at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MAMS). He won the bronze medal for children’s illustration in the 3X3 Show in 2007 and in 2008 won the SCBWI illustrator contest. He is working on art for various picture book projects as well as writing his own young adult novels.

Recently returning to independent work, Reji Laberje began Bucket List to Bookshelf, a creative writing services company focused on a better world through better words. She is a celebrity co-author, independent writing mentor and consultant, and serves as coach to the Christian women’s publisher, FEW International Publications. Reji has more than twenty years working in all aspects of the writing and publishing industries, including as founder of the successful publishing company she sold in 2017.

Mary Losure writes innovative nonfiction (and the occasional fantasy) for kids. Her books have been praised in The Wall Street Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and other publications and have been selected for several “best of” lists for children’s literature. Her most recent book, Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d (Candlewick, February 2017), has received three starred reviews. A former reporter for Minnesota Public Radio and a contributor to National Public Radio, she lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with her husband Don (who is currently at work on a book about dragons, etc.) She has no pets, dragon or otherwise.

Along with writing novels for children, James Mihaley is a poet & trained hip hop dancer & choreographer.  His first novel, You Can’t Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please, was published by Macmillan.  A native of Door County,he currently lives in Los Angeles and does volunteer work at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.  He is part of the Literally Healing program, which believes in the healing power of children’s literature.  His job is to load up a cart shaped like a cow called the ‘Book Moo-bile’.   James wheels it around the hospital, handing out free books to children with serious illnesses. As an author, James is committed to empowering children to make a difference in the world.

Baptiste Paul is a man of many talents—from woodworking to gardening to entertaining hordes of children for hours on end. Born and raised in the West Indies (St. Lucia), Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker and enjoys roasting his own coffee and chocolate as well as eating anything he can cook on a grill. Baptiste holds degrees in environmental studies and political science from Bucknell University and currently resides with his family near a wildlife sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His first picture book, The Field, is published by NorthSouth Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly in addition to being named to several recommended and “best of” reading lists. 10 Little Ninjas also was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month (August 2016). Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. Miranda also serves as Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™ (www.diversebooks.org), volunteers for Books for Africa, and is a regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (Wisconsin Chapter). She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more about her current and forthcoming titles at www.mirandapaul.com.

Cameron Rass is a junior at Southern Door High School. He chairs Write On, Door County’s Teen Council and serves on their board of directors.

Holly Selle is the Library Media Director for Sturgeon Bay Schools. She has an MS in Library Media and Information Technologies from the University of Central Arkansas and an MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She has two elementary-aged children which has taught her more about reading and writing children’s books than any college degree.

Mark Smullen is in his second year Principal at TJ Walker Middle School in Sturgeon Bay.  His career started teaching high school history at in in Texas for 10 years earning a Recognized Teacher Award in 1995 and State Coach of the Year in 2000.  He returned to Wisconsin working in the School District of Beloit as a Dean, Assistant Principal, Athletic Director and Middle School Principal.  Mark resides in Sturgeon Bay with his wife Katie and their two children, Abigail and Annabel.



April 6, 2018 @ 9:00 am
April 8, 2018 @ 2:00 pm
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