Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illinois Networks

NETWORKS offer easy, handy access to programs, writing groups, networking opportunities and other interested (and interesting!) writers and illustrators. Check below for your particular NETWORK’s time, location and Shop Talk.


Networks are free and open to all. You many attend any Network at any time, not just the one in your area.  All Network participants agree to abide by our SCBWI Anti-harrassment Policy.


Interested in starting a NETWORKS group in your area?
Coordinator, Alice McGinty 

Summer 2018

(Updated 06/2018)


Illustrators’ Networks

Chicago-area Illustrators’ Network


Janet McDonnell 847-632-1918 
Rich Green 815-341-0925

Monthly Meeting: The Illustrators’ Network takes a summer hiatus from June through August, but stayed tuned for information about potential field trips!  The Illustrators Network meets once a month at the Des Plaines Library, 1501 Ellinwood, Des Plaines, IL, from 9:30 until noon.  If time permits, we reserve the last part of the meeting to critique members’ current works-in-progress or portfolio reviews.

SCBWI member illustrators, make sure you are on the illustrator yahoogroups listserv for updates….or contact Janet McDonnell at the email address shown here to be added.


Downstate Illustrators’ Network

Louann Brown 217-839-3264 
Jerry Barrett 217-621-1369

Shop Talk & Critiques. Optional lunch afterward at a nearby location:

QUARTERLY MEETINGS:   This Network meets at various locations throughout the mid-central area.  We maintain a Facebook page (Downstate Illinois SCBWI Illustrators) for critiques and information sharing between meetings. If you’d like to join us, send us a request via Facebook or email one of the network reps. At our meetings we typically discuss markets, critique work and share our journey. Everyone is welcome.

Stay tuned for upcoming programming!


Diversity Network

Diversity Network

Susanne Fairfax    312-543-3056 
Urania Smith 

June Diversity Network Meeting – Feedback for We Need Diverse Books Walter Grant submissions

June 6, 7:00-9:00 pm

Treasure Island Hyde Park Meeting Room
1526 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615

Manuscript and illustration feedback session. We Need Diverse Books Walter Grant submissions are due June 15. Let’s give each other feedback on our manuscripts, illustrations, and any supporting essays, cover letters and other materials. Urania has set up a dropbox for materials. Or just print a few copies and bring them.

You might have noticed that our venue has changed again. Hopefully this will be the last change. We changed to first Wednesday nights based on a poll of participants. We’ll be meeting the first Wednesday of each month at the Treasure Island in Hyde Park. They have meeting rooms that they were able to reserve for us far out into the future and during a time that works. We can bring in our own food to share with each other here. And, if you need to pick up something there is a grocery store conveniently upstairs. 😉 (No wine allowed at our meeting, though.)

Walter Grant Submission guidelines.

 Join us!

NO July Diversity Network Meeting due to holiday.

August Diversity Network Meeting – Panel in the works – check back for details.

August 1, 7:00-9:00 pm

About our Diversity Network…

Every month, FREE, non-members welcome. If anyone needs additional ADA support such as sign language interpreter or other resources, please email  Susanne Fairfax in advance.

Diversity Network Meetings create a space where writers and illustrators who’ve traditionally been left at the margins in children’s publishing can get together.

At these meetings we’ll build community, share stories of hurdles and successes, work to dismantle barriers, improve diversity and inclusion in children’s literature and SCBWI-IL, work on our craft and further our writing and/or illustrating careers. And there will often be snacks. Feel free to bring a tasty treat to share.

Our focus on diversity springs from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Because of the breadth of this focus, we will be particularly conscious of the intersectionality of oppressions and identities. Allies are welcome. (An ally is a person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people.) 

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

– Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

Writers’ Networks

Chicago Network


Jane Hertenstein (773) 303-4089
Savy Leiser 

The Chicago Network will be taking a break for the Summer and Fall.  Check back for exciting upcoming Winter Programming!


Hyde Park Network

Kate Hannigan  


Summer-Reading Spectacular: 5 Middle-Grade Authors Unlock the Secrets to How They Wrote Their New Books!

Join SCBWI’s Hyde Park/South Side Network for a panel discussion as we kick off summer reading with these celebrated middle-grade authors, who will reveal the secrets to writing for this coveted audience, how they tackle plotting a series, how they make their characters so memorable, how they nailed down “voice,” what it took to catch an editor’s eye, and how they’re getting their books into readers’ hands.

When: 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, June 28th
Where: 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th Street, Chicago 60637
Lisa Jenn Bigelow: DRUM ROLL, PLEASE (HarperCollins)
Brianna DuMont: THRILLING THIEVES: Liars, Cheats, and Cons Who Changed History (The Changed History Series); FANTASTIC FUGITIVES; FAMOUS PHONIES (Sky Pony Press)
Mary Winn Heider:  THE MORTIFICATION OF FOVEA MUNSON (Disney-Hyperion)
J.S. Puller: CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE (Disney-Hyperion)
Liesl Shurtliff: GRUMP: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; RUMP; JACK; RED (Knopf)

Please RSVP to Kate Hannigan  so we can get a proper headcount.

Come for the wisdom, stay for the brownies!

Chicago’s Southland Network


Jim Danielson 708-596-4479 
Linda Dryfhout 

For more information and current shop talk topics, visit the Chicago Southland blog at

Shop Talks: 
Second Thursday of every month.  Evening Talk Only: 7 P.M., Barnes and Noble, 105 Orland Park Place, LaGrange Rd. (Rte. 45) & 153rd St. in Orland Park.

Northern Suburbs

Cook County (North Suburban Network)


Carolyn Crimi 
Anny Rusk 

Shop Talk:
Second Wednesday of each month, from 7-8:30 p.m.


Wed. June 13th
Nuts and Bolts Panel

The Book Market
2651 Navy Blvd
Glenview, IL

Merriment at the Yard House afterwards for those who want to join us

Each format in the kitlid world is unique. Writing a picture book is vastly different from writing a graphic novel. Writing a YA book is different from writing an MG series. And the way each is submitted to agents and editors differs too. Come join us for a discussion on how to work with each of these formats and shepherd them into the world.

Picture Books, Carolyn Crimi

Carolyn Crimi is a diehard Project Runway fan who loves eating chocolate and snuggling with her pug Bo. She also sometimes writes books for kids. She has 15 books published and three more on the way, which she finds pretty miraculous. (Her latest is I Am the Boss of This Chair, Sterling Children’s Books)

YA and MG Series, Sarah Aronson

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three stand alone novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Her most recent books are part of a new young MG series about the worst fairy godmother ever, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017-2018) as well as a forthcoming picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Robert Neubecker.

When Sarah is not writing or reading (or cooking or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, social action, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at  the amazing Highlights Foundationor Writers on the Net ( She is also the cofounder of the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at VCFA. She has served as an SCBWI mentor in both Illinois and Michigan. She loves sports. She overuses exclamation points. When she’s excited, she talks with her hands.

Graphic Novels: Ilana Ostrar and Anny Rusk

Ilana Ostrar: When I was a kid my mom brought home the picture book Dinotopia by James Gurney. From that point on I wanted to be an author and illustrator. I never imagined that I’d ever write a graphic novel. I also never imagined I’d meet Anny. I did meet Anny at an SCBWI holiday party and almost the first thing she asked me is if I’d co-write a story with her. I said ‘sure’ and the rest as they say is history.


 When my 9-yr-old stepdaughter needed The Puberty Talk, I looked for a book I could use to supplement our discussion and answer her questions. There weren’t any that were appropriate for her age. So I had to wing it. That chat became the basis for my graphic novel with Ilana Ostrar: Hidden Heroes. Luckily when we started out, we had no idea how hard it was to write, let alone shop, a graphic novel or we might’ve abandoned the project.

Since then, I’ve begun to immerse myself in the community around graphic novels. I was on a Comics as Flint for tough topics panel at C2E2 (Chicago’s Comic Con) in 2017, and just moderated a C2E2 panel about STEM comics and their use in the classroom. I helped raise books/$ for the Comics Education Outreach’s National Graphic Novel Lending Library. And find that when I attend a kidlit graphic novel event, I often seem to be the one who ends up answering a lot of the questions.

There’s still a lack of info in the kidlit world about this format. Thus, we thought we’d share our hard-earned knowledge with you guys, so your journey will be easier.


Wed, July 11th

The Book Market
2651 Navy Blvd
Glenview, IL

Merriment at the Yard House afterwards for those who want to join us

What makes particular picture books a storytime sensation? Lisa Jenn Bigelow, a youth services librarian with thirteen years of storytime experience, will share her observations, with plenty of examples for you to study further. Q and A to follow, including discussing her new MG book, DRUM ROLL, PLEASE, which will be available for purchase.


Sun, July 22nd
Writing For Young Adults: An All-Star Panel Discussion

The Book Stall
811 Elm St, Winnetka, IL 60093

Writing For Young Adults: An All-Star Panel Discussion

The Book Stall is delighted to partner with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to present Writing For Young Adults: An All-Star Panel Discussion. Our special guests include Chicago-area authors Amelia Brunskill (The WindowMichelle Falkoff (Questions I Want to Ask YouJessie Ann Foley (Neighborhood GirlsCaleb Roehrig (White Rabbit) and Stephanie Kate Strohm (Prince in Disguise.) These accomplished panelists will be ready to answer questions about getting started and keeping your writing energy going. We’ll chat about agents, cover letters, submissions, publication, and more.

Get inspiration, information, and creative energy from The Book Stall, SCBWI, and these talented authors! Refreshments will be served, door prizes will be awesome and abundant, each attendee will receive a $5.00 off coupon good for any one purchase in the store, and our guest authors will be happy to sign copies of their work. 

This event is recommended for ages 14 and up, and is free and open to the public. For more information about this event, or to reserve a signed copies of any of our guests’ work, please contact Robert McDonald at The Book Stall, 847-446-8880,

Meet our panelists:

Amelia Brunskill lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog. She is a librarian who drinks excessive amounts of tea and does not always return her books on time. The Window is her first novel. You can visit Amelia at and on Twitter at @ameliab.

Michelle Falkoff is the author of Playlist for the Dead, Pushing Perfect, and Questions I Want to Ask You. Her fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently serves as director of communication and legal reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law. Visit her at

 Jessie Ann Foley is a teacher who writes fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, The Carnival at Bray, was a Printz Honor winner, a William C. Morris Debut Award finalist, a YALSA Top Ten Fiction for Young Adults title, and a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book. Neighborhood Girls is her second novel. To learn more about Jessie, visit

Caleb Roehrig‘s debut YA thriller, Last Seen Leaving, was called one of the Best YA Novels of 2016 by Booklist says of his new book, White Rabbit, “Roehrig’s narrative is deliciously sensational on the surface but sensitive and heartfelt at its core.” Caleb is a recent immigrant to Chicago from L.A. Learn more at

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of Pilgrims Don’t Wear PinkConfederates Don’t Wear CoutureThe Taming of the Drew, It’s Not Me, It’s You, and her latest: Prince in Disguise. She works as an actress and teacher in Chicago. You can find her at and on Twitter @stephkatestrohm.


Wed. Aug. 8th
Location TBD


Far Northern Suburbs

Far North Suburban Network

Erica Weisz 
Kim Oclon 


Join us on the 1st Wednesday of every month from 7-9pm; Since July 4th falls on a Wednesday, we will be meeting July 11th instead.

Hamsa Coffee Roasters 
 755 N Milwaukee, Libertyville.

The Far Northern Suburbs will be doing critiques during the summer months.  Those who would like to share their work should bring no more than five double-spaced pages.

Far Northwest Suburbs

Far Northwest Suburban Network


Veronica Rundell
Katie Sparks 

Open Critique- NEW DAY AND TIME!
Third Thursday of each month, 6:30 – 9 p.m. in the cafe of Barnes & Noble, 590 W. Golf Road, Schaumburg. All meetings are open critiques with the last half hour dedicated to answering any new writer questions.

Dundee Area Network


Jennifer Wagh 
Jennifer Kaap  

Shop Talk/Critique Session
Second Wednesday of the month 7-9 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
Barnes and Noble (at Spring Hill Mall), 1444 Springhill Mall Blvd. West Dundee, 60118

Western Suburbs

Oak Park and Near West Suburban Network


Sarah Hammond 
Karen Walker Ward 
Sallie Wolf 

Shop Talk: Second Thursday of the month, 7 – 9 pm Our meetings are free and open to all. 

Programs: Oak Park Dole or Main Library – See dates for which branch.

Dole Library, 255 Augusta Blvd., Oak Park (708-386-9032)

Main OP Library, 834 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60301, 708-383-8200

The Oak Park/Near West Suburban Network will take a vacation during the summer. Be sure to join us September 13 to write your essay, What I did on my Summer Vacation, and to reconnect with our network!

LaGrange – Naperville Network


Fran Sammis 
Cathy Velasco

Quarterly Meeting: Stay tuned for exciting upcoming programming!


Geneva Network


Janet Riehecky 847-695-9781 
Cheryl App 

Shop Talks:
First Wednesday & fourth Tuesday of each month, 7:00 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, 102 Commons Drive, near Randall Road, Geneva

Northern Illinois

Freeport/Rockford Area Network


Leone Anderson 815-947-2780 
Debbie Deutsch 815-235-8899 

Critique Session/Shop Talks:

Fourth Saturday of each month
Freeport Public Library 10-12 p.m.

Please contact Lee or Debbie to verify dates/locations.

DeKalb Area Network


Larry Vint 

Shop Talk & Critique Session:

Last Wednesday of the month, January through October, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Children’s Storytime and Craft Room of the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak Street, DeKalb, IL 60115

Central Illinois

Central Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) Network

Elaine Bearden  
Deb Aronson 

Programs and Shop Talks:

Thursday, July 19, 7 p.m.

The conference room of the Urbana Free Library

210 W. Green St. Urbana


Finding An Agent:

So you’ve worked hard, hard, hard on your manuscript: you’ve spent countless hours crafting and editing; you’ve joined a critique group and gotten lots of great suggestions; you’ve gone to countless conferences and webinars on craft. But now you wonder, what is next? Do you need an agent? What can an agent do for you? How do you find one? Once you find one, how do you know if they are a good agent? What do you look for? What matters?

Your head swirls with questions, so you can hardly concentrate on writing and editing. What to do?!

Join the Urbana-Champaign-and-environs SCBWI’ers at 7 pm on Thursday, July 19, for a Skype date with Jenny Meyerhoff who will de-mystify the world of agents. In her presentation, Make Your Agent Search Work For You, she will reveal that an agent search can be about a lot more than finding an agent!

Jenny is the author of tons of kids’ books, including the Friendship Garden series as well as The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger, and several YA novels, including The Queen of Secrets and Playing Cupid. You can learn lots more about Jenny at her website:

Please RSVP to Deb Aronson at or 217-344-8508.

Bloomington/Normal Network (Near-Normal Writer’s Group)


Dawn Malone (

The Bloomington/Normal Network meets regularly on the first Thursday evening of the month, at 6:30 p.m. at The Coffeehouse & Deli, Beaufort Street, Normal. Contact Reps for more information.

Programs: Stay tuned for exciting upcoming programming!


Springfield Area Network

The Scribes

Debra Daugherty 

Upcoming Programs:


Monday, June 4, 2018

Meeting at Chatham Library, 200 E. Spruce, Chatham, IL 62629

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM (5:30 – 6:00 is social time. Meeting starts at 6:00.)

Program by Pam Miller on picture books – what goes on what page. Also, writing prompts and critiques on pages and/or Query letters by members.

All are welcome to join us.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Meeting at Chatham Library, 200 E. Spruce, Chatham, IL 62629

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM (5:30 – 6:00 is social time. Meeting starts at 6:00.)

Discussion on ways to market your book. Members are asked to bring their business cards to share.

Writing prompts and critiques on pages and/or Query letters by members.

All are welcome to join us.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Meeting at Chatham Library, 200 E. Spruce, Chatham, IL 62629

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM (5:30 – 6:00 is social time. Meeting starts at 6:00.)

Program on how to format picture books and novels by Debra Daugherty. Also, critiques on pages and/or Query letters by members.

All are welcome to join us!

Questions or for directions, contact Debra Daugherty, above.


Southern Illinois

Edwardsville Network

Paul (Geoff) Rutledge 
Chris Cannon  

Monthly Critique Meeting:
Usually 3rd Wednesday of the month. Contact reps for meeting place and time.

Fairview Heights Network

Leia Johnson 
Katie Otey 

Monthly Critique Meeting:
Usually 3rd Wednesday of the month. Contact reps for meeting place and time.