Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

A Night of Round Tables: Industry Critique Event

Date(s) - 01/29/2021
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


If you’re in quarantine/hibernation mode this winter, you might be missing some highlights of conferences in the “before-times”:

– Chatting about your work and making new friends

– Networking with dynamic, fun industry professionals

– Receiving valuable feedback from experts

– Meeting up and enjoying the beverage of your choice

Well, believe it or not, you CAN still enjoy those writerly pleasures this winter! And you can even wear yoga pants and slippers if you want.

“A Night of Round Tables,” hosted by SCBWI PA West on January 29, 2021, will connect writers with industry professionals in a one-night-only critiquing event. Via the power of Zoom, your work-in-progress and query letter will be anonymously read aloud by a moderator and receive real-time feedback from a panel of experts: published authors, literary agents, and editors. Cozy up in your comfy clothes, fix yourself a hot tea or hot toddy, and warm up your creative muscles in a friendly, constructive, social space!

Here’s how “A Night of Round Tables” will work:

1. Writers can register below ($25 per participant). Registrations will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, January 18, 2021. If you would like to gift a registration to someone, please select the “gift” option.

2. Participants must submit their materials to NO LATER THAN 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, January 25, 2021. Materials include a brief query letter (<250 words, identifying info removed) and the first 500 words of a manuscript. Refunds will not be issued after January 25, 2021.

3. Writers will be grouped by genre/category and placed in virtual “round table” breakout rooms of up to 10 writers. Each room’s panel will include at least one published author and at least one agent or editor.

4. At 7 p.m. on January 29, 2021, the Zoom session will open, and after brief introductions, the breakout sessions will begin! Moderators will read materials aloud, and panelists will discuss the strengths and areas for improvement of each work. Each submission will be allotted 12 minutes for reading and feedback. The session will not be recorded; it’s one night only!

Please note that we cannot accommodate requests to be placed with specific panelists, due to the size and complexity of this event. Panelists for “A Night of Round Tables” include literary agents, editors, and published authors, and each participant will be matched to a panel based on their work’s genre and category (Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Contemporary, SciFi/Fantasy, etc.).


Event Faculty (listed alphabetically):

Ariel Bernstein, Author

Ariel Bernstein is the author of numerous children’s books, including the WARREN & DRAGON chapter book series, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking/Penguin Random House) and picture books such as I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster). Her upcoming picture book, WE LOVE FISHING!, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster), just earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can find her online on Twitter @ArielBBooks and her website:


Lauren Bieker, Literary Agent (FinePrint Literary)

After a brief career in the fashion industry, Lauren made her move to publishing as an intern for agent Paige Wheeler. She moved to FinePrint to assist with day-to-day administrative tasks, but is now developing her client list and is open to queries.

Lauren is looking for commercial and upmarket women’s fiction and some well-crafted and differentiated YA novels. She is also open to select science fiction, as well as high concept and literary fiction works. She appreciates great storytelling and is a “sucker” for outstanding writing and convincing characters. While primarily interested in fiction, she will consider nonfiction proposals. She is looking for #ownvoices stories, Feminist lit/#MeToo stories, and LGBTQIA+ authors in both fiction and nonfiction. Her goal is to “hold the mic” for authors to tell their stories and be a helpful support system.
Lauren writes during her free time and has been published on various online platforms. She has attended many writing workshops and intensives, including the National Academy of Writing’s intensive at Cambridge University in the UK.

My message to querying authors: Have fun with your pitch–if you’re passionate about your story, I will be too!
Twitter: @lauren_bieker


Caroline Carlson, Author

Caroline Carlson is the author of funny and fantastical books for young readers, including The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy, The World’s Greatest Detective, and The Door at the End of the World. Her novels have won accolades from the New York Times, the American Booksellers Association, Bank Street College of Education, the American Library Association, and Junior Library Guild, among others. Caroline holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her family.


Danielle Chiotti, Literary Agent (Upstart Crow Literary)

Danielle Chiotti has worked in publishing for eighteen years. Formerly an editor, she joined Upstart Crow when it was founded in 2009, specializing in young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as cookbooks and select nonfiction. Thanks to her extensive editorial background, she enjoys working closely with authors to develop projects. She welcomes first-time authors with a unique voice and point of view.


Kandace Coston, Editor (Lee and Low Books)

Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher in New York City. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, where she spent weekends at the library reading stories and writing her own. After graduating from Barnard College, Columbia University, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and illustrators and helping their projects grow into published picture books. In both fiction and nonfiction, Kandace loves strong female protagonists as well as any story that can make her laugh.


Nick Courage, Author

Nick Courage is a New Orleans-born writer and publishing professional who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife and cat. His latest book, Storm Blown, is available at your local bookstore and online — and his next book, Snow Struck, is coming soon! Nick’s writing has also appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Story, and Writer’s Digest… and Western PA SCBWI members may recognize Nick as one of the co-founders of For more information, visit:


Abigail Drake, Author

Abigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world, collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing.
She is the award-winning author of eleven novels, two novellas, and three short stories. In her free time, she teaches writing classes for children at local libraries, and she also blogs about her dog, a Labrador named Capone.
Abigail is represented by Lauren Bieker of FinePrint Literary Management. For more information about Abigail, please visit her website:


Mary Cronk Farrell, Author

Mary is the author of six nonfiction books for teens, all feature little-known women who struggled against almost impossible odds to accomplish incredible deeds, only now gaining the honor they deserve. Her upcoming book Close Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam will be out next year. Other books include a bio of Pittsburgh’s own heroine, Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights, and the critically acclaimed Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. Check out Mary’s award-winning work here:
Erin Frankel, Author
Erin Frankel is the author of several picture books including forthcoming Plate of Hope (Random House Studio, 2023) Remembering Barkley (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020) and The Weird Series and Nobody! (Free Spirit Publishing, 2012/15).  She has an MA in English Education and is passionate about teaching and writing. Erin was a longtime resident of Spain before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters, and doggie Bella. A more in-depth look at her work can be found on and


Allison Hunter Hill, Editor (Starry Forest Books)


Kaitlyn Johnson, Literary Agent (Belcastro Agency)

After receiving a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, Kaitlyn refused to leave the concept of nightly homework behind. A literary agent for Belcastro Literary Agency, she is also a freelance editor at her own company, K. Johnson Editorial. Kaitlyn started her literary journey as a copyeditor for academic publisher codeMantra, a YA editor for Accent Press, a Conference Assistant for GrubStreet, Boston, and has been agenting since 2016. She has written various articles for Writer’s Digest and has had a flash fiction story published in the anthology A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed.


Stephanie Kim, Literary Agent (New Leaf Literary)

Stephanie Kim is a literary agent with more than a decade of experience in publicity and marketing across the publishing, tech, and media industries. She began her career as an assistant publicist at William Morrow/HarperCollins where she cut her teeth on high-profile campaigns for Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, Wiley Cash, and many others. At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Stephanie led publicity for three consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers: What If? and Thing Explainer by xkcd creator Randall Munroe, and Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Some additional highlights include working on Gabourey Sidibe’s memoir This Is Just My Face, Chinelo Okparanta’s Lambda Literary award-winning debut novel Under the Udala Trees, and comic artist Ariel Shrag’s quirky, irreverent coming-of-age love story, Adam.

As an agent, Stephanie is focused on representing authors from diverse backgrounds with compelling stories to tell. She’s interested in narrative non-fiction (memoir, pop culture, self-help) as well as select voice-driven fiction. Some of her favorite books include Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, The Color of Water by James McBride, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Exhalation by Ted Chiang, and anything by John Green.

Stephanie is based in the Los Angeles area. In her free time, she co-hosts rePEAK — a podcast exploring remakes, reboots, and revivals — where she rants about celebrity gossip, book-to-film adaptations, and all things pop culture.



Kelly Starling Lyons, Author



Carla Mooney, Author

Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of nonfiction in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.


Alexa Pastor, Editor (Atheneum, Simon & Schuster)

Alexa Pastor joined Simon & Schuster in August of 2014. Since that time, Alexa has edited rewarding stories across all age ranges, including #1 New York Times bestseller Five Feet ApartHerStory  (a PW 2018 Best of the Year pick), and projects from incredible authors including Ben Clanton, Kathleen Krull, Nikki Grimes, and Naomi Klein. She is acquiring picture books, middle grade, and YA that hug that literary/commercial line with fresh, honest voices that demand to be heard and a unique approach to structure or theme. When she’s not reading and editing, she’s voraciously consuming true crime podcasts, watching old musicals and Nancy Myers movies, or playing Italian cards. You can follow Alexa on Twitter @Alexa_Pastor926.


Sara Schonfeld, Editor (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins)

Sara Schonfeld joined Katherine Tegen Books in 2019 after starting her publishing career at Penguin Random House. Her list encompasses picture book, middle grade, and teen novels from authors including Alice Walker, Ally Malinenko, and Cristina Fernandez. Her favorite stories are uplifting and affirming for young readers and show the power of relationships, identity, and self. When she’s not reading (which is what she does most of the time!) she loves watching anything Marvel, kickboxing, or baking. (She will remain open to materials from conference attendees for three months.) Twitter: @SaraSchon


Eric Smith, Literary Agent (P.S. Literary Agency)

Eric Smith is a literary agent and author living in Philadelphia. An agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. As an author, his latest novel, Don’t Read the Comments, published last January with Inkyard Press. His next book, You Can Go Your Own Way, will be out this November. You can learn more about what he’s looking for, and what he’s writing, over on his website,


Annie Sullivan, Author



Kate Sullivan, Editor (in-house at New Leaf Literary)

Kate Sullivan is currently Senior Content Development Manager at New Leaf Literary & Media– which is a fancy way of saying she’s the agency’s editor. She works with the agency’s clients to develop a vast array of projects; from getting a manuscript ready for submission to brainstorming a podcast concept, she helps nurture any idea. Previously, she spent 13 years at Big Five Publishers: she was Senior Editor at Delacorte Press of Random House Children’s Books and before that she worked at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.


Kayla Tostevin, Editor (Page Street Kids)

Kayla Tostevin is a children’s editor at Page Street Kids. When not poring over books (and sometimes while poring over books), she likes to be outside: hiking, biking, on a boat, or wandering aimlessly and smiling at animals. She hails from one end of longest US freeway I-90 (Seattle, WA) and now lives at the other in Boston, MA.


This event is fully booked.