Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Bloom! SCBWI Montana’s Virtual Spring Writing Conference

Date(s) - 04/17/2021 - 04/18/2021
9:00 am - 3:00 pm


SCBWI Montana is delighted to announce our spring virtual writing conference. Our theme for this year is “Bloom” in hopes that this event will inspire attendees and plant the seeds for many creative ideas to grow and bloom!

Event Dates: April 17 and 18, 2021, on Zoom. Recordings will be available for one month after the conference. All sessions are listed in Mountain Standard Time. Zoom links will be emailed to all registered participants on 4/16/2021.

Bloom Conference Schedule
Saturday, April 17, 2021
9am-10:15am MST Welcome and Opening Keynote Address with Constance Van Hoven on “Writing for Children and the Power of Perseverance & Community”

Constance Van Hoven worked for many years as a buyer and advertising copywriter for a group of specialty toy and book stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. She was also a teacher-naturalist at a local nature center and a tour guide/cook at several historic Minnesota homes. Constance left the toy business to pursue her dream of writing books for children. In 2004 she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She is the author of three picture books: The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota (Sterling 2009), Hello! Minnesota (Sterling 2011) and Rare and Blue: Finding Nature’s Treasures (Charlesbridge 2020). Constance currently lives in Bozeman, Montana, where she enjoys birding, hiking, and exploring ghost towns with her husband, seven grandkids, and one old Lab who thinks she’s still a puppy. You can find Constance online at

11am-12:30 MST  Illustrator Session with Maria Middleton of Candlewick Press on “Digital Portfolio Building.” What draws an Art Director to an artist’s style? What qualities in an artist’s style cause an Art Director to deem that illustrator “ready” to be hired? Can illustrators have more than one style? What can an artist do to make their style more appealing?

Maria Middleton began her career at HarperCollins, spent a decade creating award-winning books at Abrams, and then went on to lead the middle-grade team at Random House Children’s Books. As Art Director of Imprints at Candlewick Press, Maria currently works across a variety of children’s book genres. She’s a fan of quirky characters, hand lettered type, serial commas, strong coffee, and the color red. Maria lives with her partner and their rescue pup, Wyla. You can find her at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mariatmiddleton.

1:00pm-2:30pm MST  Session: “Ten Tips to Creating an Informational Book Editors Can’t Resist” with Sarah Albee. We’ll start with the basics—what’s the difference between an “informational book” and a nonfiction book? How do writers decide on a structure, a format, and a target age group? Where do you go to find the best sources? In this session, New York Times best-selling nonfiction author Sarah Albee will also discuss whether to tie your book to curriculum standards, what to consider including for back matter, and the fundamentals of tackling image research. Whether you’re just venturing into the realm of informational writing, or already have a project nearing completion, this discussion will help guide you toward making your project into a market-ready, professionally-presented, age-appropriate submission. We’ll allow plenty of time for questions.  (For those writing picture books through YA)

Sarah Albee has published more than two dozen nonfiction books ranging from picture books to upper middle grade, and has years of experience pitching new projects to agents and editors. Learn more about Sarah at

4:00-5:30pm MST Session: “Pitch Perfect: How to Craft a Spectacular NF Book Proposal” with Sarah Albee
Do you have an idea for a nonfiction book? Time to start thinking about that proposal. Or maybe you’ve got a finished NF manuscript all ready to submit? Do you still need to submit a proposal? (Answer: Yes!)

In this session, New York Times best-selling nonfiction author Sarah Albee will guide you through the steps for putting together a proposal that will grab the attention of agents and editors. From the project description, to the marketing overview, to comp title descriptions, to sample chapters, to how to frame a great author bio, this workshop will cover all the components you need to include in your proposal.

Sarah has published more than two dozen nonfiction books ranging from picture books to upper middle grade, and has years of experience pitching new projects to agents and editors. As a bonus, she’ll share insights from agents and editors about dazzling proposals that have caught their eye. There will be plenty of time for Q and A. (For writers of upper-elementary through YA.)


Sunday, April 18, 2021
8:00am-9:15am MST  Session with Tammi Sauer  and “Writing the Rollicking Read Aloud”
In this session, Tammi explores a variety of strategies (refrains, rhyme, direct address, and more!) that will help picture book writers to create fun read-alouds that capture the attention of little listeners and actively engage them in the book-sharing experience.

Tammi Sauer is an award-winning children’s book author who is passionate about creating fun and engaging read-alouds. Her more than 30 books include Mary Had a Little GlamNugget & FangWordy Birdy, and the newly released Not Now, Cow. Many more books are in the works. For additional information, please visit

10:00am-11:30am MST  Panel Discussion on “Writing YA: The Joys and Challenges” with young adult authors Beth Ann Bauman, Stacie Ramey, and Steven Dos Santos

Beth Ann Bauman is the author of a short story collection Beautiful Girls (MacAdam/Cage), and the young-adult novels Rosie and Skate (Penguin Random), which was selected for the New York Times Editors’ Choice list and Booklist’s Top Ten First Novels for Youth, and Jersey Angel (Penguin Random), selected by Publishers Weekly, Boston Globe, and The Horn Book as a best summer book.  Beth has received fellowships from the Jerome Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  She teaches fiction writing at NYU and is on the faculty of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing in the writing for children and young-adults program.  She lives in New York City. To learn more about Beth’s books, visit

Stacie Ramey is the author of The Sister Pact A YALSA 2016 Popular Paperback, PSLA 2015 Top Forty, The Homecoming – a Florida Book Award Winner, The Secrets We Bury, and Switching Fates (2021). Visit Stacie Ramey at

Steven Dos Santos is the author of The Torch Keepers Series (The Raising, The Sowing, and The Culling), and Dagger in the D.U.S.T. OPS Series. To learn more about Steven’s paranormal and dystopian books, visit

1:30-2:30 MST SCBWI Montana Closing Keynote Address with Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Montana, its history, landscape, and wildlife, have inspired Dorothy as an author ever since moving here in 1972, at the start of her writing career. Her first book, “Weasels, Otters, Skunks and Their Family,” began that trend.  A Ph.D. zoologist, she decided to devote her career to writing about Nature for young readers so she could spend time with her children rather than work as a university professor. Besides her main focus on books about nature and animals wild and domesticated, she’s written about how that world has interacted with people in the west, with three books on Lewis and Clark and books about the importance of horses and bison to Native Americans.  She’s also contributed many articles to magazines such as Spider, The Horn Book, and The Writer and received numerous awards.

Dorothy was an early joiner for SCBWI and has received one Honor Book Award and one Golden Kite.  She believes in the importance of the SCBWI to everyone who wants to write for young readers. Visit her website , Twitter #dogwriterdoro. She is also on LinkedIn and (Innovative Nonfiction for Kids).


Books by Conference Presenters

If you would like to purchase books written by Bloom Conference presenters, SCBWI Montana has partnered with the Montana Book Company, an independent bookstore based in Helena. The Montana Book Company has created a special page just for us! Visit .

Written Critique Opportunities
There are a limited number of written critiques available to conference participants. The cost per written critique is $40/no more than ten double spaced pages of a manuscript. You will email your manuscript to the critiquer by April 30 and she will use the SCBWI Critique Form to give you professional feedback on your manuscript by June 30, 2021.

Minju Chang is an agent with BookStop Literary. She will critique PB, MG, YA, and graphic novels. She is open to both fiction and nonfiction and is a fan of magical realism, light fantasy, contemporary, historical, mysteries, thrillers, adventure. No horror, hard sci-fi, or high fantasy. Learn more about Minju at

Tammi Sauer, award-winning picture book author, will critique picture book manuscripts.


Conference Registration
SCBWI Members $45
Non SCBWI Members $55
Registration closes on April 15, 2021, at 9pm MST.

*Written Critiques are an additional $40 per critique. To sign up for a written critique, email Only 15 spots available.

** All written critiques are SOLD OUT. Thank you!

Minju Chang

Dorothy Patent

Beth Ann Bauman

Steven Dos Santos

Constance Van Hoven

Maria Middleton


Stacie Ramey

Tammi Sauer

Sarah Albee