Gotham Children’s Book Conference

Yes, we have a Children’s Book Conference coming up, May 21 and 22. On Zoom.

This is a great event if you have a children’s book (picture book, middle grade, or YA) ready to go to market, or if you dream of publishing a children’s book. It goes like this:

Day 1: Panels and Presentations, featuring writers and agents, including two Newbery Medal-winning authors: Matt de la Peña and Erin Entrada Kelly.

Day 2: Pitching Roundtables, where you get the chance to present your book to a table of two top-shelf agents who rep the kind of book you’re pitching. (Most on Zoom, some in NYC.)

You can sign up for both days, or pick just one.

This follows the format of previous Gotham Conferences, but we have a beautiful new plan. Instead of one conference encompassing all kinds of books, we’re doing a rotating series of four conferences, each one specializing in a type of book:

Children’s Books
Genre Fiction

Literary/Commercial Fiction


You can view the full schedule here.

The mastermind of this whole thing is Gotham’s Director of Publishing Guidance, Josh Sippie. Here Josh explains the logic behind this plan:

I wanted writers to know they were in the right place. By being more specific with four separate conferences, we can dig deeper into important topics within each genre to allow for a more targeted experience. And having multiple conferences also allows more exploration for writers eager to write across genres.

You can see the full lineup of panelists, presenters, and agents for the Children’s Book Conference right now, and stay tuned for the lineup of the coming conferences.

We believe our conferences are better than most (if not all) other conferences for these reasons:

  • We offer truly interesting and informative Panels and Presentations.
  • Our Pitching Roundtables give you in-depth exposure to agents right for your work, where you spend four hours with two agents, as well as some fellow writers.
  • Our prices are reasonable, in contrast to the high expense of many conferences. 

And, wait, Gotham also offers other ways to get direct feedback from an agent:

Query Letter Coaching

Agent/Editor Evaluation

Agent Evaluation Quickie

The mission is personal to Josh, who says:

I moved to NYC on a whim in 2014 to get involved in publishing and existed solely on trial and error for years before finding my path. I would have loved these kinds of resources at the start of that journey. 

Josh and the rest of us at Gotham are dedicated to giving you the best shot at success in the publishing world. We’d be honored to have you join us.  

Alex Steele, Gotham President

2023 Josie Rubio Scholarship

I have a recording of Josie and me talking. It’s about a month before she died. There are parts where we talk about what we think happens after we die, but I’ll admit, in those parts, it’s mostly me talking. The parts I like best are where we are reading through a Seamless menu laughing about the garbage some people will put on a hotdog, especially in Brooklyn—like baked beans and Doritos—because a hot dog is what Josie felt like eating for lunch. “I already feel like crap,” she mused, “so I figure the hotdog isn’t going to hurt me.”

Josie was the kind of person who thought that dry January was dumb and that diets that deny you of pleasure were also dumb. Don’t hurt yourself, but also, don’t deny yourself was a conversation we had often.

At one point she started showing me all the weird things she wanted to order off Amazon for her birthday/Halloween party. Dry ice for the punch. Black lights. At one point we were laughing about these blood bags she planned to fill with vodka-cranberry. I suggested Bloody Mary. Then we just started going back and forth about whether it was too gross or morbid to put Bloody Mary into blood bags at the party of a woman planning to enter hospice right after the party.

At least, at the time, that’s what I thought we’d been talking about. But as I listened, I realized Josie hadn’t been worried about grossing anyone out or making anyone feel sad or weird. She’d been worried that the blood bag would get stopped up. They wouldn’t be able get the drink out of the blood bag. It was an issue of alcohol-conveyance.  

 She didn’t correct me. I never realized my mistake until four years later—four years and four months after Josie died at the age of 42.

Josie and I knew each other for a long time before we became good friends. I was closer with her former boyfriend, the guy who left her right when she got her terminal diagnosis, the one she wrote her brilliant, hilarious New York Times article about. But after he left her, Josie and I scheduled a daily “check in” phone call. We probably spoke more often than that. I invited her every time I went out, and she did the same.

Josie was a professional writer. At the end of her life, she was the editor for the Guggenheim’s website. She and I wrote a blog together for the company that produces Fiji Water. I got the job through her. In fact, Josie got me a lot of my first writing jobs. But it was Josie who enrolled as a student in my first ever writing class at Gotham. She wanted to write about dying from cancer, but mostly she wanted to shame her boyfriend publicly.

Josie’s class grew close in large part due to Josie’s energy and spirit. Now, I am not one of those people who deify the dead. Maybe it’s because I’m a memoir teacher. I spend a lot of time trying to convince writers that there are no villains in memoir and there are, likewise, no angels either.

But it’s hard not to think of Josie as practically perfect. She was generous as a writer and a person. She was funny and she was smart. But mostly, she was kind. She was the type of friend who didn’t correct you for misunderstanding that a conversation about the best way to drink booze at a Halloween party wasn’t a conversation about her impending death. Josie loved being alive. She wanted her life to matter.

I love that Josie’s class makes the Josie Rubio Scholarship available every year. It’s a wonderful tribute to Josie, but also a reminder that when you are alive, you should feel alive. Write because it’s important to tell stories, it reminds us that we are alive, it helps us delineate why and how our lives matter.

Even at the end of her life, Josie didn’t like to talk about dying. She liked to talk about living. She loved planning that Birthday/Halloween party. She had two costume changes that night because she couldn’t decide if she wanted to be Little Bo Peep or an insomniac. So she was both. She didn’t buy the blood bags to drink out of in the end. But she did put dry ice in the punch.

No one felt weird. No one felt sad. We all just felt more alive around her. 


To enter the Josie Rubio Scholarship Contest, please submit a one-paragraph story, in the style of the New York Times’ Tiny Love Stories, no more than 100 words long.

Deadline is midnight, EST, on Friday April 14th, 2023.

Winners will be announced in late May, and will receive a tuition-free class of their choice at Gotham Writers Workshop (subject to class availability).

Send submissions to the Josie Rubio Scholarship Committee at

You can read examples of entries by previous winners here.

Don’t Despair

In his excellent book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee at one point compares writing to being sequestered in jail by your own story: “You in a small dark room with no answers to any of your questions, and no one seems to hear your pleas, not for days, months, years. Indifferent the entire time to all requests for visits or freedom. Hard labor too.”

Or, as my student Christola puts it: “I’m writing at writing.”

They’re both describing a distressing place many writers end up in at one time or another. You’re not so much stuck as you’re lost. You type and type but you don’t get anywhere. You cannot see your way forward.

If you find yourself in that cell, don’t despair. Here’s a few steps you can try:

First, let your story rest. Put it away, and give your befuddled brain a break. Leave it alone as long as you can—a day or two if you’re on deadline; weeks if you’re not. As Stephen King says in On Writing, it should be “safely shut away, aging and (one hopes) mellowing [until] it looks like an alien relic bought at a junk shop where you can barely remember stopping.”

Next, write out—by hand, I’m not kidding, use pen and paper—a short list of things you want for this story. Avoid superlatives here, both grandiose (“Greatest screenplay about a meerkat ever,”) and self-flagellating, (“Nice plot, loser”).

Make this like a Saturday morning errands list, or if it works better for you, write it out as if it were an email to your best friend. Remember Grandma’s story about meeting Buffalo Bill, or Eat more eggs. 

Now that you have a guide with your hopes and goals clearly spelled out, go ahead and read your story. When something resonates with you, highlight it or underline it. Most likely, those moments are taking you closer to your hopes and goals. When you dive back in, build on them.

Keep an eye out for what’s missing, too. Where does your aim completely miss your target? Where have you missed ripe opportunities to introduce scenes or sentences that work in those hopes and goals in sooner?

Where is the first resonant line? And where is the first missed opportunity? How can you build a bridge between them? Start there.

Think of it as a rescue and recovery operation—decide what’s most important, look for the solid ground and the critical flaws. And get to work.

Kelly Caldwell, Dean of Faculty