Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

JambaLAya KidLit – The Hybrid – with Zoom and In-Person Options

Date(s) - 07/16/2022
12:00 am

Room 305Q. Bicentennial Education Bldg., UNO Lakefront Campus
Waldo Drive/Founders Road - New Orleans, LA

JULY 14-16, 2022 – Scroll Down to Register

Welcome to the world of hybrid conferences. JambaLAya KidLit Conference 2022 now offers zoom workshops as well as in-person sessions. If you opt for the Saturday in-person sessions, the zoom workshops on Thursday and Friday are included in your registration!! Can’t attend in person? Try the zoom workshops separately. And be sure to check our our logo illustrator’s work at

View JambaLAya Portfolio Showcase > 

JambaLAya KidLit Ingredients:

7/14 (Zoom) Illustrator Webinar with Shirley Ng-Benitez  – included in full Conference or by separate registration (à la carte)

7/15 (Zoom) Back-to-Back Webinars with Naomi Kirsten, Senior Editor Chronicle Books – included in full Conference or by separate registration (à la carte)

7/16 (In-Person) Conference at the University of New Orleans (Bicentennial Education Building, Room 305Q) – registration for the conference is Full Conference which is ALL-INCLUSIVE – for all in-person sessions (details below) and both webinars (only meals on Saturday are extra).

Please Note: SCBWI Current Covid Policy is that for events with over 25 attendees proof of Covid vaccination or negative Covid test within three days is required. This, of course, applies only to the Saturday in-person sessions at UNO (University of New Orleans).

Book Sales. All registrants are welcome to sell their own books at the in-person conference on Saturday.  Sales will be handled by each author/illustrator via whatever means they prefer – cash, check or their own credit card readers. So that we know how many spots to set up, email Gary Alipio at by July 7 if you would like to sell your books.

So Here We Go … you have a children’s story and want to get it published? Or, you want to learn how others got their stories and/or illustrations published? Or, you like learning about the fascinating world of children’s books?

Scroll Down to Register


Full Conference: $100 Members / $145 Nonmembers – Click HERE to become a member and save on the conference. This fee includes any or all zoom portions of the conference, and in-person on Saturday. Also included (if you attend in person) are morning coffee and light bites; as well as snacks.

Zoom Illustrator Workshop by awarding winning author/illustrator Shirley Ng-Benitez, Thursday, July 14 at 6 pm CDT. $25 Members/$45 Nonmembers

Zoom Workshop Double Header by Naomi Kirsten, Senior Editor Chronicle Books, Friday, July 15 at 6 pm CDT. $45 Members/$65 Nonmembers.

Zoom Critiques/in-Person Consultations $52 – Limited Number Available – Submissions due by June 15, 2022. Should you miss the deadline, no refunds will be available. Zoom critiques with Naomi Kirsten (to be held after the conference); in-person conference critiques with Saba Sulaiman and Nina Kooij on July 16. Details on the right sidebar.

Zoom Critiques/in-Person Portfolio Reviews $52 – Limited Number Available – Zoom portfolio reviews with Shirley Ng-Benitez to be held after the conference. Details on the right sidebar.

Written Critiques $42 – Limited Number Available. Submissions due by June 15, 2022. Should you miss the deadline, no refunds will be available. Critiques with Leslie Staub. Details on the right sidebar.

Added May 25, 2022, a very limited number of written critiques from Naomi Kirsten. These will be emailed after the conference.

Conference Lunch $12 – Box lunches/salad. Optional (you can also bring your own brown-bag lunch and beverage).

Conference Dinner at the Blue Crab, The Crab Trap Room $45. Saturday, July 16, following the conference. Buffet style with cash bar. The Blue Crab’s iconic views of Lake Pontchartrain and the Basin Canal make this one of the city’s more unique venues.

– This conference will be in-person Saturday.
– The Thursday & Friday workshops are Zoom only.
– The Zoom sessions will be recorded and available to registered attendees for one month after the conference, but we highly recommend you attend as many sessions as you can during the conference to get the most out of the event.

*Closed captioning and/or Live Transcript will be available on live presentations and recordings.*

Looking forward to seeing you soon, if not in-person, then through the magic of Zoom!

Faculty/Presenters and/or Critiquers:

Naomi Kirsten, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books

Saba Sulaiman, Agent, Talcott Notch Literary Services

Scott Campbell, Publisher, Pelican Publishing

Nina Kooij, Editor-in-Chief, Pelican Publishing

Shirley Ng-Benitez, Author/Illustrator

Marti Dumas, Author

Leslie Staub, Author/Illustrator

Madaline Herlong, Author


• Shirley Ng-Benitez is an award-winning author/illustrator who has illustrated over 30 books for children and loves experimenting and creating with watercolors, gouache, dip pen & ink, pencil, and recently painted & cut-paper collage. Earth and its creatures inspire her. She created an art auction (@Awetober on Instagram) raising thousands for those affected and displaced by the recent wildfires. Compassion and connection are a big theme in her stories and she’s thrilled to be writing and illustrating her first picture book, coming in ’24. She lives in the Bay Area, California with her family and two black cats, Miso & Luna. Visit for more. Shirley Ng-Benitez, author/illustrator from the Bay Area, California, will present a Zoom workshop on Thursday, July 14, 2022, entitled:

Session: “Down, Through, Up the Path to Story”
A conversation with author/illustrator Shirley Ng-Benitez who shares how working from the heart, and continual learning & exploration help keep her on her path to storytelling. La/Ms Region’s Illustrator Coordinator Denise Gallagher will also delve into the ins and outs and ups and downs of illustrating with this illustrator of over 30 books for children.


•  Naomi Kirsten is a Senior Editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, California. She acquires approximately 20 titles each year, ranging from picture books to board books, games, stationery, and novelty formats with a focus on art-driven projects with broad consumer and international appeal. Naomi’s notable and award-winning titles include New York Times Notable Book THERE MUST BE MORE THAN THAT!; New York Time Notable Book and Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner THE BEAR’S SONG; New York Times Best Illustrated Book THE BORING BOOK; NEIGHBORS, winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award Opera Prima 2021; and I DIDN’T MY HOMEWORK BECAUSE…, which has 21 international editions to date. She also develops publishing programs with NASA, Marc Boutavant, Benjamin Chaud, Marianna Coppo, Taro Gomi, Richard McGuire, and Shinsuke Yoshitake, among others. On Instagram and Twitter @naomi_kirsten.  Naomi Kirsten will present back-to-back Zoom workshops on Friday, July 15, beginning at 5:45 pm CDT, entitled:

Session 1: “All About Board Books: How to Pitch and Position Your Project”

Board books are an increasingly popular format, the perfect baby shower gift, birthday gift, or anytime purchase for infants and toddlers. But what elements make a board book project appealing to a publisher, and a must-have for consumers and readers? And how might your project be presented to stand-out? In this content-rich webinar, Chronicle Books Senior Editor Naomi Kirsten will explore key themes that resonate in the board book space and glean lessons from what has been successfully published. Naomi will also walk attendees through select board books that she has developed with authors and illustrators, and share tips to inspire your pitch and project’s evolution.

Session 2: “Crafting the Truth: Tips for Effectively Pitching a Nonfiction Children’s Book”

Nonfiction children’s books have never been more popular as parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians increasingly look to this genre to inform and inspire young readers. What topics are publishers and consumers seeking? What are some emerging trends? And how extensive should backmatter be? In this webinar, Chronicle Books Senior Editor Naomi Kirsten will focus on these questions and more, sharing nonfiction projects that have resonated at Chronicle Books, and unpacking ways to effectively position and present your project to a publisher.


Saba Sulaiman is an agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT. She holds a BA in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. Being an immigrant who is constantly negotiating her own identity and sense of belonging in a place she now calls “home,” she is committed to championing books by writers from marginalized communities with compelling stories to tell; stories that demonstrate the true range of perspectives that exist in this world, and address urgent and often underexplored issues in both fiction and non-fiction with veracity and heart. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @agentsaba and learn more about her at Saba Sulaiman will participate in the First Look panel and present a topic on Saturday, July 16, from Rm. 305Q, Bicentennial Education Building, University of New Orleans, Waldo Drive, New Orleans, LA (UNO), entitled:

Tackling (and Surviving!) the Query Trenches

Seeking representation is a daunting process with all sorts of unspoken rules that can sometimes feel arbitrary and frustrating. This presentation will address how best to strategize querying literary agents: the dos, the don’ts, and the don’t worry abouts of composing and sending query letters, along with some suggestions for how to cope with the uncertainty of this phase of your writing career.


• Scott Campbell  is the Publisher of Pelican Publishing. He worked in the publishing industry for nine years before founding River Road Press in 2010, where he served as its publisher. In 2020, Mr. Campbell was named publisher of Pelican Publishing, which along with River Road Press was acquired by Arcadia Publishing.  As an imprint of Arcadia Publishing, Pelican Publishing continues to push the perceptions of Southern publishing while remaining focused on stories of interest to generations of readers of all ages, including its collection of popular Pelican Publishing Children’s Books. Scott Campbell will participate in the First Look Panel and will speak on Saturday, July 16 – conference day at UNO, in a session entitled:

Pelican – A Conversation with Publisher Scott Campbell

A conversation with Pelican Publisher Scott Campbell about the evolution of River Road and Pelican Publishing now that it has joined the Arcadia Books family. As an imprint of Arcadia Publishing, Pelican Publishing continues to push the perceptions of Southern publishing while remaining focused on stories of interest to generations of readers of all ages, including its collection of popular Pelican Publishing Children’s Books.

Nina Kooij, Editor-in-Chief at Pelican Publishing, will also participate Saturday, July 16, conference day at UNO, with critique consultations.


• Leslie Staub is an award-winning children’s picture book writer and illustrator. Her latest book, IF YOU WERE AN ELEPHANT illustrated by Richard Jones, got a starred review from Kirkus and was an Amazon pick of the month. Her publishers include, Houghton/Mifflin Harcourt, Harper Collins, Penguin/Dial, Penguin/Putnam, and Boyd’s Mill Press. She is the author of TIME FOR (EARTH) SCHOOL DEWEY DEW, Golden Kite Honor Book for Picture Book Text 2017. She was a Golden Kite judge in 2018. She illustrated Edwidge Danticat’s, MAMA’S NIGHTINGALE, a 2016 Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award honor book. She is the author and/or illustrator of several other books, HOW DO YOU SAY I LOVE YOU DEWEY DEW, BEDTIME FOR BEASTIES, SHINE, BABY, SHINE from Boyd’s Mill Press, and IF I WERE AN ELEPHANT with Penguin/Putnam. She illustrated Mem Fox’s, Harcourt bestseller, WHOEVER YOU ARE. Leslie Staub will present a topic on Saturday, July 16, conference day at UNO, entitled:

Arc and Refrains

Do your stories ever feel flat? Does your concept book lack structure? Building a story arc can make that flatness go away. Writing a refrain can lend structure and beauty to your concept book. Learning to use these essential tools will help you make a good story idea into a stronger, more marketable manuscript.


• Marti Dumas is a mom, teacher, and writer from New Orleans. For the last 15 years, Marti has worked with children and teachers across the country to promote an early love of reading both in and out of the classroom. Her latest book, WILDSEED WITCH, is a middle-grade fantasy that combines technology, family, and magic. She is also the author of the JADEN TOUSSAINT, THE GREATEST series, the SEEDS OF MAGIC series, and THE LITTLE HUMAN. Marti Dumas will present a keynote on Saturday, July 16, conference day at UNO, entitled:

Your Own Voice

The writer’s journey talk focusing on how creators can each reflect and build on their own lives and authentic experiences to enrich the kidlit catalog.


• Madaline Herlong, who writes as M.H. Herlong, is the author of  THE GREAT WIDE SEA, chosen by YALSA as one of the top ten best novels for young adults in 2010, and BUDDY, chosen by students in New Hampshire, Kansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina as a winner of their states’ middle-grade fiction award.  In addition to these published books, Herlong has written seven other novels that are either residing comfortably in hero desk drawer or out shopping for publishers.  In the course of developing her own process to get started and keep going, Herlong has also taught high school English, practiced and taught law, studied toward a Ph.D., taught essay writing and creative writing to undergraduates, and—her finest accomplishment—brought up four amazing sons. Madaline Herlong will present a topic on Saturday, July 16, conference day at UNO, entitled:

The Process of Writing a Novel:  How to Get Started and Keep Going

Everyone has a great idea for a novel—or several!  But just beginning may seem intimidating, the process mysterious, and that “keep going” part impossible.  Fortunately, writers have found ways to overcome the fear, comprehend the process, and keep writing.  In this session, this award-winning author will describe her process and share some of her most useful tips so you can bravely face your computer screen, armed and ready to go the distance in this writing marathon.


Thursday, July 14

6:30pm (CT) – Welcome & announcements followed by Shirley Ng-Benitez Session

Friday, July 15

5:45pm (CT) – Welcome & announcements followed by Naomi Kirsten back-to-back sessions

Saturday, July 16

8:30-9:00am (CT) – Morning & Coffee and Treats

9:00-10:00am – Keynote with Author Marti Dumas; “Your Own Voice”

10:15-11:00am – Author/Illustrator Leslie Staub; “Arc & Refrains”

11:15am-12:15pm – Agent Saba Sulaiman; “Tackling (and Surviving!) the Query Trenches”

12:15-1:15pm – LUNCH Bring your own or order with a ticket (below)

1:30-2:30pm – “First Look Impressions” with Agent Saba Sulaiman & Publisher Scott Campbell

2:45-3:45pm – Pelican Publishing; “A Conversation with Pelican: Publisher Scott Campbell”

4:00-4:45pm –Author Madaline Herlong; “The Process of Writing a Novel: How to Get Started & Keep Going”

4:45-5:30pm – Closing Announcements/Portfolio Award/Door Prizes/Book Sales

6:00pm – The Crab Trap Room at the Blue Crab. Cash bar. Followed by Buffet Dinner (Separate fee)

SCHOLARSHIP INFO (Update: The Scholarship Application Process is Now Closed)


To help address the need for more diverse representation in the children’s and YA book industry, we are offering two full scholarships, one including a critique with agent Saba Sulaiman (see Manuscript Critique Guidelines on the right sidebar), to the 2022 JambaLAya Kidlit Conference. These will be awarded to attendees who identify as a writer or illustrator from a group that has been traditionally marginalized by the publishing industry. Our scholarships are open to both SCBWI La/Ms members and non-members. Update: The Scholarship Application Process is Now Closed

To apply, email our region at with the subject line: JambaLAya Scholarship. The deadline to apply is Friday May 20. Please specify if you also want to be considered for the critique opportunity. In the body of your email, tell us about yourself. For example:

  • What’s your current job or life situation?
  • What drew you to KidLit?
  • Have you attended an SCBWI event before?
  • What do you hope to learn or do as a result of this scholarship?

There are no right or wrong answers; we just want to get to know you and your goals.

Also, if you know someone else who might benefit from a scholarship, email this information to them.

Registration is Online Only. TO REGISTER:

JOIN SCBWI or RENEW TODAY before registering for member pricing.

— Please review hybrid event  professional POLICIES at right, prior to registration.  By registering, you agree to comply with our policies.

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Registration Questions?: Email Cheryl Mathis


DO NOT SEPARATELY REGISTER FOR THOSE!!! Only meals or critiques are extra.