Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI-IL 2021 Spring Network Events

NETWORKS offer easy, handy access to programs, writing groups, networking opportunities and other interested (and interesting!) writers and illustrators. 

Interested in starting a NETWORKS group?
Contact NETWORKS Coordinator, Deb Aronson, Assistant Regional Advisor

SPRING 2021:
(Updated 04/2021)

All SCBWI-IL Networks will be hosted online until further notice.  We realize that this situation is changing and ongoing and appreciate your working with us in partnership to preserve the health and community of our Region.


All programs listed will be on Zoom. Please contact the Network Representative if a group’s Zoom meeting or registration link is not listed in the post.

Networks are free and open to all. You may attend any Network at any time, not just the one in your area.
Special Assistance for Persons with Disabilities: If you have a disability and need any special assistance to enjoy the event’s online programming, please email the Network Representative or Co-Regional Advisor to ask for assistance for your particular needs.
All Network participants, regardless of membership status, agree to abide by our SCBWI Anti-harrassment Policy.



SCBWI-IL Members: You can also join in the fun at our SCBWI Illinois Illustrators Network Group on Facebook – request to join here.
SCBWI member illustrators please make sure you are on the illustrator Google Group for updates….to be added please email Cedric Gliane.


Chicago-Area Illustrators’ Network


Rich Green – 815-341-0925
Pav Kovacic 773-490-5902

The Chicago-Area’s Illustrators Network meets monthly from September through May.  Meetings are free and open to the public and include a topic discussion, presentation or guest speaker.  We also leave time at the end of each meeting for peer review of works in progress, book dummies and portfolios.


DATE: Saturday May 8

TIME: 9:30 AM-11

TOPIC: Illustrators Roundtable

Join us on Zoom for a virtual roundtable conversation where we will be discussing anything and everything related to children’s book illustration. 2020 has been a unique year for the industry and 2021 will present its own unique challenges and opportunities. Everyone is invited to ask and answer questions, share recent experiences and information, as well as presenting digital or digitized artwork for feedback.

Contact Rich Green for Zoom link

Downstate Illustrators’ Network

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

QUARTERLY MEETINGS:   This Network maintains 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.


Diversity Network

Representative: Donna Beasley

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  Donna Beasley 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. 

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



Chicago Network


Mary Jo Gugliemo.

 Stay Tuned for upcoming programming!

Hyde Park Network

Kate Hannigan  

Natasha Tarpley

Stay Tuned for upcoming programming!


Chicago’s Southland Network


Jim Danielson 708-596-4479
Linda Dryfhout 

DATE: March 11

TIME: 7-8:30

TOPIC: Informal chat with PB author Kathy Doherty

Kathy is the author of DON’T FEED THE BEAR (2018 ) and THE THINGITY-JIG (April 1, 2021). She will be speaking briefly about her writing journey and art of PB creation. The talk will be somewhat informal, with plenty of time for Q and A. I should note that Kathy was a former regular at our Southlands meetings.

If you’d like the zoom link to the meeting, email Jim at

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

Shop Talks: 
Second Thursday of every month.


Cook County (North Suburban Network)


Carolyn Crimi 

Anny Rusk

Ilana Ostrar


DATE: Wednesday, March 10

TIME: 7-8:30 PM

TOPIC: The Ins and Outs of School Visits: In Person and Virtual with Carolyn Crimi, Keir Graff, and Carol Coven Grannick

Join us for an author panel on school visits with Carolyn Crimi, Keir Graff, and Carol Coven Grannik. Each of our wonderful panelists will give a short talk about who they are and a little about their experiences with school visits, in person and virtual. Then we will open it up to Q&A.

Carolyn Crimi, who has been doing school visits for over 25 years, will discuss everything you should know about them, including vomiting kindergartners, contracts, and head lice scares. “Carolyn Crimi is the author of Where’s My Mummy?, Boris and Bella, and many other picture books.” Her first middle grade novel Weird Little Robots came out in October of 2019.

Keir Graff is the author of funny and fantastical middle-grade adventure novels including The Tiny MansionThe Phantom Tower (a Chicago Tribune Best Children’s Book), and The Matchstick Castle (an official Illinois Reads selection). He also writes books for grown-ups—some of them under fake names! A longtime resident of Chicago, he lives near the shore of Lake Michigan with his wife Marya, sons Felix and Cosmo, and cats Toothless and Totoro. Follow him on Instagram at @matchstickcastles and find out more at

Carol Coven Grannick writes picture books, poetry for the very young, and at least one novel in verse. Her recent debut, REENI’S TURN, has enabled her to begin fulfilling her dream for the book—using it to talk with children about courage, body inclusivity, and finding our unique voices, as well as using the text to explore aspects of poetry and the writing craft. As a “beginner” in virtual visits, Carol has spent time gathering information from experts in visits and technology for which she’ll provide some resources. She’ll provide an overview of her planning, structure, handling “administrative” and tech issues, and the wonderful benefits (and fun!) of virtual visits.

To reach out and get the zoom link, contact Ilana Ostrar

DATE: Wednesday, April 21

TIME: 7-8:30 PM

TOPIC:The Truth About Self Publishing (It’s not as hard as you think!)

Bennett Dixon set out to simply make a single copy of his own picture book, so that he could read it to his own kiddo before that kiddo was too old to care.
Along the way, Bennett learned a lot about self-publishing: ISBNs, copyright, contracts, trim sizes, print production, pricing, wholesalers, sales channels, B2B marketing, bookkeeping, publicity and more.
The surprising part? It was actually way easier than it seemed at first. And on April 21, with help from Anny Rusk, Bennett’s going to share what he learned with you and the SCBWI Illinois North Suburban Network.

 Click the link below for the zoom link to the event:

DATE: Wednesday, June 9

TIME: 7-8:30 PM

TOPIC: Inside the Minds of Book Sellers as we hear from Sarah Jo Zaharako and Grace Menary-Winefield of Booked in Evanston, IL.

Sarah Jo Zaharako is the collection developer at Booked, an independent bookstore for youthful readers in Evanston. Sarah Jo holds a Masters of Library Science and has worked in school and public libraries as a youth services specialist. Before becoming a librarian, Sarah Jo was a professional violinist and music teacher. In all her work, Sarah Jo strives to serve her community through inclusivity, partnership, and an open mind.

Grace Menary-Winefield worked in publishing for nearly a decade in both London and Chicago before pursuing her Masters in Library Science for youth librarianship. She is now Manager of Booked, Chicagoland’s only children’s-focused bookstore, and a reader for JMH Literary Scouts. Follow her on instagram @gracelibraries.

With years of youth librarianship, bookselling, and publishing experience under their belts, Sarah Jo Zaharako and Grace Menary-Winefield share their thoughts on what they look for in buying and selling books for their community. The discussion provides an inside look at the subject matter, trends, and voices collection developers consider when adding to their inventory as well as how booksellers handsell books to their patrons.  Every bookstore is different, but this presentation helps authors generally understand what makes titles attractive to bookstores and hopefully find their way into the hands of readers.

Zoom link:




Far North Suburban Network

Nicole Hewitt
Kim Oclon 


DATE: Wednesday, March 3

TIME: 7-9 PM

TOPIC: Group Critique

If you would like to share your work and get feedback from the group, please prepare no more than five double spaced pages. An email will be sent out in advance of the meeting about how to submit pages.

DATE: Wednesday, April 7

TIME: 7-9 PM

TOPIC: Writing Resources Pot-luck

Come prepared to share your favorite writing resources: online classes, writing craft books, conferences, authors you’ve found that are helpful via social media, etc. Can’t think of anything to share? That’s okay; join us anyway to learn about the wealth of resources available to you!

DATE: Wednesday, May 5

TIME: 7-9 PM

TOPIC: End of Year Reading

It has been a tough year, but we’re still going to celebrate the great work we did this year, despite the challenges. Bring a draft of a picture book or 2-3 pages of your novel manuscript to read to the group. No critiques. No feedback. Just a celebration that we wrote some words!

Northwest Suburban Network


Veronica Rundell
Liz Searle

Stay Tuned for upcoming programming!

Dundee Area Network


Jennifer Wagh

Shop Talk/Critique Session
No Meeting in July 2021

Second Wednesday of the month 7-9 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
If you are a first time attendee please RSVP Jennifer Wagh 


Oak Park and Near West Suburban Network


Sarah Hammond 
Karen Walker Ward 
Sallie Wolf 


DATE: Thursday, March 11 

TIME: 7-9 pm

EVENT: Critique group

Preparing your materials for the SCBWI WIP Grants, due March 31. This is an opportunity to ask questions about the grants, the submission process, and to have any support materials reviewed before the deadline of March 31.

Contact Karen Walker Ward or Sallie Wolf for Zoom link or click here:

DATE: Thursday, May 13

TIME: 7-9 pm

EVENT: “The Ins, Outs and All About Writing With a Passion & Sustaining Your Career 

Jennifer Ward, author of such adorable picture books as “How to Find a Bird,” will share strategies for mining ideas, turning ideas into stories and the many ins and outs of making sure each “book baby” gets the attention it deserves. 

Join Zoom Meeting 

Bolingbrook/Naperville Network

Cathy Velasco
Mary and Rich Chamberlin 

Bolingbrook/Naperville Network meets three times a year from 10 a.m. – noon,  Saturday mornings.


DATE:  Saturday, April 17

TIME: 10 a.m. to Noon

EVENT: Kat Falls: Make the Impossible Possible; How to Create a Fresh and Vivid World

Science fiction and fantasy let us wonder what might be by creating alternate realities teeming with mythical creatures or fantastic technology – usually while examining a controversial issue of the day. But no matter the subject or sub-genre, successful speculative fiction writers get their readers to suspend disbelief.

In this workshop, we’ll discuss ways to come up with original ideas within these genres and how to transform the real into the fantastic in believable ways. In other words, we’ll be talking about world building — how to make it feel fresh and how to make it feel real. Any story’s setting should be approached as if it is another character, offering obstacles, commenting on the story’s theme. This is even more true for speculative fiction. Through writing exercises, participants will invent their own fantastical story premises and create alternative worlds that are ripe with possibility.

Click here to register for this free event by April 16.

Geneva Network


Janet Riehecky 847-695-9781
Cheryl App 

DATE: Wednesday, June 2

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: Why and How to build your Visibility on Social Media by Ellen Huxtable

These days publishers and agents all want authors to have a platform, a way to reach your target audience. This usually means developing a social media presence. But how can you do that effectively? Business and marketing consultant, Ellen Huxtable, will help. In this 30-minute presentation, she will offer tips on how to maximize your social media presence and gain followers. Huxtable is a business consultant who helps clients build visibility and connections, and find creative solutions to challenges. She has taught seminars on marketing and has been a speaker at regional and national business events. She has authored two books on networking skills and serves as an instructor and advisor for the Waubonsee Community College Small Business Development Center. Ellen holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, and is an aspiring young adult historic fiction writer.

Connect here for meeting:

Join Zoom Meeting


Network meetings generally held first Wednesday & fourth Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m.


Rockford Network


Karin Blaski
Jennifer Loescher

Spring 2021 Zoom Writing Craft Book Series, continued

DATE: April 6, May 4 and June 1

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron

As SCBWI moves onto Zoom for the near future, and writers struggle to focus during these unprecedented times, the Rockford Network has decided to work through a writing craft book together. All participants will need to obtain a copy of the book from their library or bookstore. Each month we will read a chapter and work through the writing exercises. The monthly Zoom meetings can be a place of accountability (if you want it). They will always be a place of community and support, with zero judgment if you weren’t able to complete the monthly goal.


If you’d like to participate, e-mail Karin ( We will limit participation to 15 people, including Karin and Jen, to provide an intimate discussion on Zoom. Karin will e-mail a Zoom link each month to those participants.

Contact: Karin Blaski,


Freeport/Rockford Area Network


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

Critique Session/Shop Talks:

Fourth Saturday of each month

Please contact Lee or Debbie to verify dates.

DeKalb Area Network


Sarah Tobias

Shop Talk & Critique Session:

The third Wednesday of the month, January through November, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

No meetings in December



Central Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) Network

Elaine Bearden  

Stay Tuned for upcoming programming!

Bloomington/Normal Network

Near-Normal Writer’s Group


Dawn Malone 

Looking for new leadership. Please contact Dawn if you’re interested in becoming Network Representative.

Springfield Area Network

The Springfield Scribes

Debra Daugherty 


DATE: Monday, March 1

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: Rhyming Picture Books Craft Session

We plan to discuss rhyming picture books. Deb Daugherty will send a YouTube link for Renee LaTulippe’s video on “Creating Cohesive Images through Word Choice/Writing Rhyming Picture Books/Peek & Critique” to attendees to watch and then discuss what they’ve learned during the meeting. Members are encouraged to write a rhyming poem or story for critique. Kimberly Hutmacher has generously offered to critique our poems. We will exchange pages via email prior to the meeting, they do not have to be rhyming, for online critiques. All are welcome

DATE: Monday, April 5

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: How to Promote Your Book

Tonight’s topic is: How to promote your book. Members will discuss ways to promote their book prior to its release date and after. We will exchange pages via email prior to the meeting for online critiques. All are welcome.

Join Zoom Meeting

DATE: Monday, May 3

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: Poetry Magic With Michelle Schaub

Poet Michelle Schaub (, author of “Kindness is a Kite String” (Cardinal Rule Press), will lead us on an exploration of the Children’s Poetry  Market- anthology & magazine opportunities, putting together a poetry picture book collection. Join us, won’t you?

Register for FREE HERE.

DATE: Monday, June 7

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: Backmatter and Sidebars

Youtube links for Kirstin W. Lawson and Mac Gorman’s videos on backmatter will be sent prior to the meeting for attendees to watch and then we’ll discuss what we’ve learned during the meeting. Suzy Leopold will lead the discussion and also do a presentation on backmatter and sidebars. Our group will exchange pages via email prior to the meeting for online critiques.

DATE: Monday, July 5

TIME: 6-8 pm

TOPIC: Evaluating Critical Feedback on Your Book

Before the meeting Debra will send some links to videos about finding and working with critique partners. During the meeting we will discuss what we’ve learned from these videos and talk about ways we can provide good, positive and honest feedback. Our group will exchange pages, via email prior to the meeting, for online critiques. All are welcome to join us.


Edwardsville Network

Juli Caveny
Bonnie Swanson 

Monthly Critique Meeting:
We meet at 6:30 on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. Contact reps if you have any questions!

Fairview Heights Network

Katie Otey 

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