Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Fall Advanced Non-Fiction Craft Retreat

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Date(s) - 09/13/2019 - 09/15/2019
12:00 am

Conception Abbey
37174 State Highway VV - Conception, Missouri 64433


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Advanced Non-Fiction Craft Retreat


James Solheim

September 13-15, 2019

Back for a second year, SCBWI KS-MO will be offering a retreat with an intense focus on craft. We will be workshopping and critiquing with author James Solheim. Featured by PBS and The Wall Street Journal as a best book for getting boys to read, James Solheim’s book It’s Disgusting—and We Ate It! was a selection of the Scholastic Book Club, Scholastic Book Fair, and the Junior Library Guild.  He has worked with top editors across a range of publishers from Simon & Schuster to Philomel (Penguin Random House) and has two forthcoming non-fiction titles with Harper Collins. He has taught writing at Southern Illinois University, Northwest Missouri State, and Washington University in Saint Louis.


Working Retreat

The working retreat will run simultaneously with the Advanced Non-Fiction Craft Retreat, however the 10 participants in the working retreat will NOT participate in any of the workshops or critique groups. This is a working retreat ONLY. 



The retreat will be held at Conception Abbey–37174 State Highway VV, Conception, MO 64433–a Benedictine monastery in Northwest Missouri.

Established in 1873 by monks from Engelberg, Switzerland, the Abbey is situated in a rural setting and provides simple accommodations in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere–perfect for writing, revising, and editing! It is a beautiful site with ample space for quiet walks to get the creative juices flowing. We have reserved rooms with private baths and showers in the St. Gabriel House.


NOTE: Bring your own soaps and toiletries however, towels and linens are provided.

COST**: Full participation in the Advanced Retreat: $275.00 (non-SCBWI members $300). Please note refunds may not be possible once you register.

While we would prefer you pay via PayPal when you register, if you would prefer to pay by check, please send within one week of registering to:


11709 Roe Ave.

STE D, #200

Leawood, KS 66211

Working retreat only: (does NOT include any workshops or critique groups) $195.00 (non-SCBWI members $220)

Cost includes private room and the following meals:

Friday: lunch, dinner

Saturday: breakfast, lunch, DINNER will be a pizza party mixer for both working and advanced  retreat attendees.

Sunday: breakfast, lunch

Unfortunately, since meals are served buffet style, the Abbey cannot accommodate any special dietary needs. There are also no cooking facilities for guest groups. There are a limited number of refrigerators to keep food cold, so if you have a lot of your own items to keep cold, the Abbey suggests bringing a cooler and ice. Hospitality areas provide coffee and hot water service.  A donation jar is provided to help offset the cost of this service. The nearest town (complete with Walmart, fast food, etc.) is just minutes away.

Registration will open SUNDAY, JULY 7.  Attendance is limited to 10 for both the working and the Advanced Craft retreat, sign-up early!


Friday, September 13, 2019

11:00-1:00 Arrival

12:20 Lunch

1:00-4:30 Individual critiques with James Solheim

4:45-5:45 Presentation by James Solheim

5:45 Dinner

7-10 Critique group meetings (NO faculty participation)

Saturday, September 15, 2019

7:45 a.m. Breakfast

9:00 a.m. – 10 a.m. Craft lecture by James Solheim

10 a.m – noon individual revision time

12:00 p.m. Lunch

(*adjustments in red)

1:00-5:30 individual revision and reading time

5:30-7:30 Critique group with James Solheim

7:30 p.m. Pizza party Dinner with James Solheim and SCBWI group

Sunday, September 17, 2018

8:15 a.m.                     Breakfast

9:00-10:00 a.m.        Q&A with James Solheim

11:30 a.m.                   Lunch

2:00 p.m.                     Check out


*Schedule is tentative and may still change

**as a non-profit, refunds are difficult for us to provide. Please pay on-time and plan accordingly


Topics covered by James Solheim


Nonfiction: Wrestling the Truth into a Compelling Book

When it’s nonfiction, every word takes on an added level of difficulty.  It has to be as engaging as any other type of writing, and yet you’re limited to the tiny fraction of possible sentences called True Statements.  How do you wrestle the facts into just the right shape to excite kids while relaxing enough to be creative?

I’ll discuss subject choices, organization, research, and the publishing process from proposal to marketing while helping you focus on the goal of engaging readers.  Topics include:

  • Deciding whether to move ahead with an idea
  • Organization
  • Research and documentation
  • Using your time productively
  • The importance of collaboration, and rethinking using your editor’s ideas
  • The publishing process: What can go wrong?
  • Number One Rule in marketing: write a book that agents, editors, reviewers, librarians, teachers, parents (and yes, kids!) will want to read.  Then be selective in choosing effective marketing approaches so you have time to write more books.


Nonfiction Is Art!

Just because it’s nonfiction doesn’t mean it’s as straightforward as the facts.

Whether you’re writing picture books or books for more advanced readers, the nonfiction most likely to succeed in the children’s market is writing that looks as fun as any of the arts from dance to music to painting to fiction.  A book has to present itself in a way that uses imagination and creativity to express the spark in the factual material.

Get a new outlook on factual writing by thinking of it consciously as art, using elements including (but not limited to)

  • voice
  • music of language
  • variety, pace, and balance
  • perspective/point of view
  • innovative approaches


Critique groups:

Critique groups are MANDATORY!


They are an integral part of this retreat and participants are expected to actively participate in critiques. More information to come via e-mail.


Submission guidelines:

-Submit the first 10 pages or one complete picture book in standard manuscript format, as an email attachment to


Here is a link to an example of what standard manuscript format looks like:


Send all materials & manuscript pages as ONE document.

of your email and Doc title should read: First & Last name, Manuscript Title (Ex. Subject: Nicki Jacobsmeyer, Surviving the Iditarod)


Please use .doc NOT PDF.


All Materials due by midnight on Saturday, August 10th, 2019. This is to give James maximum time to complete his critiques.


*** Please email any retreat questions or concerns to Nicki Jacobsmeyer at