I love speaking to students, educators, and writers of all stages in their careers about writing, children’s book publishing, and the social issues that my books address. Email me to discuss rates and availability. I hope to present at your school, library, camp, book festival, or writers conference.

Presentations for writers

As the editor of dozens of bestselling and award-winning books for children and teens of all ages, as well as the author of many critically acclaimed novels, I enjoy speaking about the art and business of writing to authors at all stages of their careers. I am happy to work with your organization to design a class just for you, or you can select from one of my existing presentations.

Business-focused presentations for children’s book writers

What Authors Need to Know About the Business of Publishing

An insider explanation of how major publishing companies actually work, based on my eleven years as a full-time employee at Penguin Random House, as well as my experiences being published by Abrams, Chronicle, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the University of Chicago Press. This talk goes through what you can expect from the editorial process, what role your agent is going to play, how to read your book contract, what you can expect from marketing and publicity, how it’s decided whether your books are in B&N or not, how you can leverage subsidiary rights sales, and more. Previously presented at the Writers League of Texas.

Understanding Your Book Contract

This presentation goes through a book contract section by section. It covers how all the different parts work, even when they’re phrased in a very legalistic way: what exactly is an advance against royalties, how does that differ from a flat fee, how are subsidiary rights divided between author and illustrator, what sort of option does your publisher have over your future work, how much of your book can you legally put on your website, do you get a say over the cover and title, etc. Primarily recommended for both newly published and established authors who may not know what all the clauses mean (even if they have agreed to them many times). Secondarily recommended for agent-less writers who are considering self-representation. Previously presented at Austin SCBWI’s PAL Career Day.

What Editors Wish Writers Knew

Using my Publishers Weekly essay “What Authors and Editors Wish They Could Say to One Another” as a jumping-off point, this essay takes you inside the editors’ mind when it comes to submissions, acquisitions, editing, positioning, marketing, and more. I cover what an editor’s obligations are, how they actually spend their time in the office (hint: it’s not reading submissions), and how writers can use things that editors have to think about—in terms of comp titles, positioning, and more—to make their own work stronger and more salable. Previously presented at the Writing Barn.

Publishing 101: An Introduction to the Publishing Business

A presentation for writers just beginning to dip their toes into the publishing process, answering common questions including: Why do I need an agent? How do I find one? What goes in a query letter? What do editors look for in submissions? What are the metrics of success for a published book? Previously presented at the Westbank Library and the Victoria Public Library.

Craft-focused presentations for children’s book writers

What Makes a Great Nonfiction Picture Book?

Truly great nonfiction picture books have the potential to win literary awards and become children’s classics. Teachers love them, as do those kids who give more weight to a story that’s true than a story that’s made-up. But the not-great nonfiction picture books out there often feel like magazine articles or textbooks (i.e. something a grown-up would assign to you). In this workshop, we’ll use examples of nonfiction picture books that I’ve edited to discuss how to write a book that, while factual, still has an appealing topic, an emotionally affecting narrative, and a kid-friendly voice. We’ll also discuss the market for nonfiction picture books: who buys them, who reads them, and where they are shelved. Previously presented at the Falling Leaves SCBWI conference.

Good Romance Writing Is Good Character Development

Romance of some sort is part of every YA novel, even if it’s just a small part. In this presentation we’ll cover 15 dos and don’ts for writing romantic relationships of all sorts into your YA. This presentation is not about how to write a novel that is specifically intended as a romance. It’s about how to naturally, realistically, and successfully include romance aspects in whatever it is you’re writing. Previously presented at the New England SCBWI annual conference, the San Francisco North and East Bay SCBWI Region fall conference, and at SCBWI New York’s Valentine’s Day workshop.

Humor Writing for Kids and Teens

What makes a book funny, and how can you use humor to the best effect in your own writing? We will look at examples of successful humor writing—picture books through YA—and take them apart to figure out how they work. We’ll also go over many “tricks of the trade”; humor writing techniques that are useful across a variety of structures and media. Previously presented at the Oregon SCBWI annual conference.

The Logic of Storytelling

How do you build a story that keeps readers engaged from start to finish? How do you create a character whose goals and motivations are so compelling that readers will follow her anywhere she goes? How do you give readers a conclusion that makes the journey worth it? In this workshop, we’ll consider these questions and more by breaking down the storytelling process into manageable pieces. We’ll tease apart successful published books to see the framework underneath, and discuss how that framework can be applied to your own works in progress. Previously presented at SCBWI CenCal’s Writers’ Day, SCBWI MD/DE/WV annual conference, Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Retreat, and the Writing Barn.

Multi-week Intensive: Revising Your MG or YA Novel

This is designed as a six-session course for writers who have a draft of a middle grade or young adult novel. I use editorial letters that I’ve written and editorial strategies that I’ve developed to give writers tools to use in any novel revision process. The sessions focus, in turn, on character arcs; story structure and pacing; scene work; secondary characters and relationships; laguage, style, and voice; and the purpose and responsibilities of YA and MG fiction. Students will leave with a concrete revision plan. Previously presented at the Writing Barn.

What other writers have said about my teaching

“Remember that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Toto jumps out of Dorothy’s basket and grabs the green curtain in his teeth and pulls it back to reveal the ‘Great Oz’? The Great Oz is the publisher and Leila is Toto.”
—Meredith Davis, author of Her Own Two Feet

“Leila is a polished speaker with a detailed presentation. One attendee said about the class, ‘I feel like I got an insider’s view of the mysterious process of publishing, information I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.’ Another said, ‘Leila directly addressed so many concerns I had with my publishing experience without me even having to ask specific questions.’ Easily one of the best-received classes we’ve ever held.”
—Michael Noll, Program Director, Writers’ League of Texas

“Leila is a fabulous teacher. She was prepared for the class and was willing to go a bit off script if someone had a question that was not in her presentation. Leila knows her stuff so well that she is comfortable being fluid with her material.”

“Leila knows her stuff: publishing, marketing, editing. Take this class if you want a peek behind the publishing curtain. Excellent content. Outstanding teacher.”