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This page has been archived, and as such may not be up to date.

an online conference for picture book authors 

beginning on Saturday, August 22, 2020

held virtually online and via Zoom

Loft Members: $150

Non-Members: $200

register for StoryQuest today!

What is StoryQuest?


StoryQuest is back, and more exciting than ever—and in 2020, we’re going virtual! StoryQuest is an online conference for picture book authors—and it's much more than a conference.


During our six-week adventure, you will attend three informative webinars from our esteemed author mentors: Mark Hoffmann, Don Tate, and Hayley Barrett. You will traverse great heights by working with a small critique group, helping each other to create the best possible story.


Also, the StoryQuest Adventure Guides will share secrets and insights along the way—with short mini-sode videos on topics ranging from tips on being a good critiquer to  researching agents. Our ultimate triumph for Questers will be hitting send to query an agent at our final StoryQuest Query Celebration! Come join our expedition and embark with us on the next epic StoryQuest!


We hope you will join us on our StoryQuest!

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The best and quickest way to success with a manuscript is to have all the tools you need by your side. The best tool? Community.

StoryQuest is YOUR community.

Peers and mentors will guide you from finished draft to polished submission package--a completed picture book and a completed query letter. You put in the hard work, and we provide the know-how, inspiration, accountability, and expertise.  

StoryQuest is a call to action:

  • You’ll work hard. For two months. And submit to an agent at the end. 

  • You’ll be inspired and learn from amazing mentors and presentations (All webinars will be recorded and available to be watched at a later time).

  • Join a critique group and work together with the one goal: to make everyone’s manuscript the best it can be. This group will be guided by Loft critique experts. 

  • Learn about writing and publishing from Adventure Guides like Erin Dionne and Heather Kelly! You’ll get small treats--web-isodes to watch on small topics. 

  • Get your query package ready, be brave TOGETHER, and hit send during our final celebration and query party!

StoryQuest 2020 Schedule

Important dates and information for you planners (you pantsers should probably make note of them too!)


Don’t worry—you’ll have private access to a landing page where the videos and information will be kept for the duration of StoryQuest. 


Saturday, August 22

Registration Closes and Manuscripts Due

Please send manuscripts to Sandy Budiansky at with the subject--StoryQuest: LastName  

Saturday, August 22, 2 pm via Zoom

Mark Hoffmann presents Revisions, Decisions, and the Art of the Edit


Week of August 24

Critique groups will be assigned and you’ll receive the manuscripts of your fellow StoryQuesters in your private critique group. You’ll be in a group of five, with a critique expert from the Loft over-seeing the group. Please read and make notes before your group meets! We’ll help you with web-isodes designed to support you in giving and receiving feedback! 


Week of August 31

You’ll jump into your critique group, led by a StoryQuest Adventurer. You’ll give awesome feedback and receive awesome feedback to make everyone’s story stronger. 


You’ll revise to the feedback that rings true for you, knowing that you’re submitting it back to your group--accountability works to get that hard work done!  


Saturday, September 5, 2pm via Zoom

Don Tate presents The Journey to Children’s Publishing is Not a One-Way Street


Week of September 7

Submit revised picture books to your critique group and receive revised picture books from your group! Read and comment on your fellow StoryQuestors’ new manuscripts. Your goal is to help them get their story as close to the story in their heads as possible.  


Sunday, September 13, 2pm via Zoom

Hayley Barrett presents That Squirrel Is Nuts! How To Craft ReMARKable Characters 


Week of September 14 

Critique groups meet again. This is where the magic happens! Give feedback, talk things out, see how that revision resonated with the group. Then polish up your manuscript from feedback. 


Week of September 21

Develop your query letter and submit to your group. We’ll have web-isodes for you to watch from querying experts to give you the knowledge you need to develop query letters that pop. Accountability works--you’ll be discussing your queries in a week at your next critique group. You’ll get the hard work done! If you already have an agent, you can submit a second PB manuscript instead of a query letter during the next round of critique groups!


Week of September 28

Critique groups meet to discuss queries/ manuscripts. We’ll dig in and get to the heart of what works and what doesn’t in query letters! 

Week of October 5

Research potential agents and revise query letters. We’ll guide you again with web-isodes from researching experts from the loft. We’ll show you the best querying tools and how to use them. Polish up your query letters and get them ready! 


Saturday, October 10, 7pm

Final StoryQuest Query Celebration! With special guest Moe Ferrara to answer all your querying questions. You’ll have special access to send your query to Moe, and we’ll do it together! We will celebrate the end of our adventure by hitting Send and cheering each other on! 


Don Tate


Don's Presentation: The Journey to Children’s Publishing is Not a One-Way Street


As the author and/or illustrator of more than 80 trade and educational picture books over a 30+ career, author-illustrator Don Tate has experienced the highs and lows of children's book publishing. In this inspiring show-and-tell presentation, Don will offer inspiring ideas, practical suggestions, and lessons learned along the way. A Q&A discussion will follow. 

Don Tate is the award-winning illustrator of numerous books for children, including SWISH! THE SLAM-DUNKING, ALLEY-OOPING, HIGH-FLYING HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, CARTER READS THE NEWSPAPER, NO SMALL POTATOES: JUNIUS G. GROVES AND HIS KINGDOM IN KANSAS, and others. He is the author and illustrator of STRONG AS SANDOW: HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH and POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON, for which he won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. He is also a co-contributor to the Brown Bookshelf, a blog designed to raise awareness of African Americans writing for young readers.

Mark Hoffmann

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Mark's Presentation: Revisions, Decisions, and the Art of the Edit


In this webinar, participants will go over the process of effectively making the tough choices without losing the heart of the story. Methodology of revisions will be discussed for all stages including: editing your ideas, manuscripts, and dummy books. Using his experience as both an author and illustrator, Mark will walk through a simple “6-C” method that he uses to refine his work. Additionally, you will be introduced to some visual aspects of production and how to set your work up for future illustrative interpretation. 


Mark Hoffmann is an award-winning author/illustrator, who's work primarily focuses on warmly off-kilter stories. His books FRUIT BOWL and DIRT CHEAP, along with many books he illustrated, focus on the combination of narrative and educational content. As an Associate professor of Illustration at Montserrat College of Art, Mark has taught illustration for the past 16 years including many courses focused on picture books and sequential structures. He was raised in Minnesota and earned his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and MFA from UMass-Dartmouth. When Mark is not creating or teaching, he spends his free time looking for old junk and wood boxes at antique fairs. 

instagram/twitter: @studiohoffmann

Hayley Barrett


Hayley's Presentation: That Squirrel Is Nuts! How To Craft ReMARKable Characters 


As picture book writers, how can we be sure our characters have character? 


If we aim to persuade the reader — whether agent, editor, or pajama-clad kid — to spend time with and care about our picture book character, we must do the impossible. We must bring our character to life. They should step off the page and walk around. They should think, feel, and want. When this happens, when a character becomes fully themselves, the reader will recognize it and respond. 


In this workshop, we’ll explore how the MARK framework can help us craft stronger, more convincing characters. We’ll also talk about why every fictional character needs some nonfiction, and the importance of both research and play in the picture book process. Together, we’ll make our characters remarkable!


Hayley Barrett is the author of BABYMOON (Candlewick), WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW (S&S/Beach Lane), GIRL VERSUS SQUIRREL (Margaret Ferguson/Holiday house), and THE TINY BAKER (Barefoot Books). She lives outside of Boston with her husband John. 

Loft StoryQuest Team

Sandy Budiansky (StoryQuest Master)

Sandy has an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She served as the NESCBWI Co-Registrar for many years. She is now the Faculty Travel Coordinator for NESCBWI. She is a member of the Writers’ Loft and helps run the Loftings blog.


Pam Vaughan (StoryQuest Coach)

Pam is the Director of Whispering Pines Writing Retreat and is on the board of directors at the Writers’ Loft. She writes middle grade and picture books. Pam actively volunteers in various capacities at the NESCBWI conferences. Pam is also a sports team consultant and presents workshops on mental toughness, leadership, and team building.


Heather Kelly (StoryQuest Coach)

Heather is the Founder of the Writers’ Loft and helped run the NESCBWI conference in Springfield for years. Heather explores the fabric of the universe through writing YA, MG, and everything in between. She is a fan of both self and traditional publishing.

register for StoryQuest today!

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