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by Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

SLO County Mingle

San Luis Obispo County Mingle

The SCBWI Central-Coastal region offers regular, free meet-ups, known as LitMingles. All LitMingles are hosted by volunteers. Whether you want to connect with other writers, learn about craft, or build a community of support, your LitMingle hosts are ready to plan for your needs.

Our County Mingles were newly created in 2019, and our current LitMingle hosts are Allison Crotzer Kimmel, Kern County; Claire Noland, San Luis Obispo County; Mari Talkin, Santa Barbara County; and Lori Anaya, Ventura County. I wanted to check-in and see how the meet-ups are progressing. 

ANN ROUSSEAU SMITH: Welcome to the Kite Tales blog! What is the purpose or mission of a LitMingle, either in general or more specifically for your County Mingle?

ALLISON CROTZER KIMMEL (Kern): The purpose of our Kern LitMingles is to build fellowship and support among our small (but mighty!) community of children’s writers and illustrators.


Allison Crotzer Kimmel

CLAIRE NOLAND (San Luis Obispo): Our LitMingle is all about developing our local children’s writing community. We have averaged 10 writers at each gathering. We have a broad range of experiences from people who are beginning their writing journey to very successful, seasoned writers. Our meetings are encouraging and supportive for all.

MARI TALKIN (Santa Barbara): The purpose of the Santa Barbara LitMingles is to provide free events to our local members (and any CenCal member who is willing to make the drive to Santa Barbara!) in order to network with other kidlit writers and illustrators, identify potential critique partners if they so desire, socialize and support one another, and build their craft. We also have lots of fun!

LORI ANAYA (Ventura): As posted on the SCBWI website, LitMingles are places where writers and illustrators connect with other writers and illustrators to learn about craft, and build a community of support.

ARS: What events, topics, or speakers did you hold, cover, or host during 2019?

ACK (K): We focused heavily on setting goals for our writing and creating vision boards for the year ahead. And in the last year, we’ve talked about query letters and first pages, and all of the ways we can snag an editor or agent’s attention.

CN (SLO): Our first meeting was a critique session. Rebecca Langston George spoke at one LitMingle about SCBWI resources including The Book, the blue board, and much more. She encouraged us to update our profiles. Our August meeting, we critiqued manuscripts in preparation of CenCal Writers’ Day. Our final meeting of the year was December 14th. We shared our 2019 writing journeys and set our writing goals for 2020.

Claire Noland

Claire Noland

MT (SB): During our inaugural year, we met five times. We started with an introductory “icebreaker” and goal-setting session. Ensuing sessions included a craft talk about building and maintaining tension within scenes, two separate critique sessions, and a “write-in” (wherein we met at a local communal workspace, chatted a bit, then spent a chunk of time writing alongside one another).

LA (V): I am flexible to the needs of those attending and ask for their suggestions at the end of each meeting. This first year, our topics included 1. Goals, 2. Hooked? A discussion of first pages, 3. First pages revisited, 4. Punch-Up First Pages with Guest Speaker, Alexis O’Neill, 5. Critique, 6. Mingle-Mingle where we met at a private residence, enjoyed appetizers, and got to know each other a bit more. We also shared one page of our current work.

ARS: Where do you meet and how often?

ACK (K): We are lucky enough to have a locally, family-owned book store, Russo’s Books, in Bakersfield. They have generously opened up their doors to us one Saturday every other month.

CN (SLO): We meet in my home in Cayucos on Saturdays from 10-12. I’m open to meeting other places, but it seems Cayucos actually works well since people come from all parts of the county – Paso Robles to Arroyo Grande and everywhere in between. We all look forward to the cookies baked by Charlie!

MT (SB): We meet every other month. Last year, we started in February; this year we’ll likely start in January. We also may reduce the number of mingles from six to four in 2020, depending on an assessment of attendance, etc. We have been meeting both at my home in Santa Barbara—which I share with my husband Erik, who is also a kidlit writer and a member of SCBWI—and a local communal workspace, The Sandbox.


Mari Talkin

LA (V): We met on six Saturdays. (Ventura County covers quite a distance, so a centrally located space felt necessary.) Our first five meetings were at the Camarillo Public Library in the YA room by the windows from 2:30 pm—4:00 pm. That left a little time to sit outside and ‘mingle’ by the fountain, informal, but necessary chats. I encouraged writers to form Writers’ Groups for purposes of critique, and am proud to say that I know of one such group that formed because of our LitMingle.

ARS: Do you have any plans for County Mingles in 2020 that you would like to share?

ACK (K): In the year ahead, we want to continue exploring the craft of writing. The best thing we can do to take advantage of the opportunities SCBWI offers to meet agents and editors is to come prepared with beautifully written manuscripts, so this year, I’d like to focus on perfecting those visions we talked about last January.

CN (SLO): We will have LitMingles on writing pitches, queries, and first pages. We are also going to talk about how to support and promote each other through social media.

Lori Anaya

Lori Anaya

MT (SB): For 2020, stay tuned for times, locations, and topics! Information can be found on CenCal’s regional page of SCBWI’s website, on CenCal’s private FaceBook page, and on CenCal’s member listserv.

LA (V): For 2020, I’ve extended the meeting time by half an hour, 2:30 pm—4:30 pm. My topics are flexible. I have scheduled Saturdays: January 18, Goals; March 28, Generative Writing; May 23, Revision–What to Eliminate; June 27, TBA; August 22, Critique (to help prepare for CenCal Writers’ Day); and November, Mingle-Mingle. These dates and topics are tentative, so please check the website.

I have met only a portion of the hundred SCBWI members we have in Ventura County, but I feel honored to volunteer, to give back to my community, and help get beautiful stories out to the world of children’s literature. I would like to reach out to our youth, anyone over 18, and extend an invitation to all SCBWI members in our county to join our LitMingle and make our group more diverse, across cultures and languages. Hablo español. Bienvenido a mi comunidad de escritores. After all, our county is rich in diversity.

Ventura 1

Ventura County Mingle

Thank you, Allison, Claire, Mari, and Lori!

To learn more about SCBWI Central-Coastal County LitMingles, check out the County Mingles page on our website.

For information on SCBWI-CenCal events (open to all SCBWI members!), go to cencal.scbwi.org.


For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

Images provided by Lori Anaya, Claire Noland, and SCBWI Central-Coastal Region.