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Field Trip! 45th Annual RUCCL Conference

This year, on October 17th, KidLit TV attended the 45th annual ​Rutgers University Council on Children’s LiteratureOne-on-One ​Plus Conference ​ at the Cook Campus Center in New Brunswick, NJ. Author and RUCCL council member Tara Lazar was kind enough to tell us about the conference, and she gave us a warm, exciting welcome.

When you join the hundreds of established and aspiring authors attending One-on-One Plus, you instantly sense the overwhelming creativity saturating the area. You can also see how hard Vivian Grey, the conference founder, worked to make it possible.

We met and spoke with several talented authors at this year’s conference. We asked them all to respond to our three main questions:

What does this conference mean to you?
What is your advice to new authors?
What are you working on now?

Field Trip!  45th Annual RUCCL Conference

About RUCCL’s One-on-One Plus

The RUCCL was founded by author Vivian Grey, and the first conference was held in 1970.  Today, it is one of the most well-respected conferences in the Northeast. It is Vivian’s dedication to helping aspiring authors show their true, creative colors that made it happen.

“I think children always need to feel safe, protected and loved. And it’s our job as authors to help them understand the very complex world we live in and [to help] them to feel comfortable in it.” —Vivian Grey

A committee of council members and current mentors propose, select, and invite new conference mentors. ​Each mentor is an industry professional with extensive publishing experience. Editors are chosen from major publishing houses and literary agents are chosen from respected agencies. ​Vivian and Tara emphasized that mentors “donate their time to share their personal experience, wisdom, and professional expertise.”​

“Authors tend to rush, but they have to take their time. They shouldn’t feel rushed. There’s plenty of time. Write what you really, really want to write and what’s important to you.”—Mentor and Council member, Tara Lazar.

​Selection of mentee participants for the conference, those who are receiving the professional critiques, is competitive. RUCCL council members review each application carefully and choose only those applicants who demonstrate promise. ​

Many mentees have been published. Examples include Sudipta ​Bardhan-Quallen and Tara Lazar. Some former mentees return as mentors! It’s this unique arrangement that gives the Rutgers conference its stellar reputation.

Mentees must:

·         have a​  professional attitude

·         demonstrate dedication to honing ​the craft

·         have a body of work (published or unpublished) that ​shows​  progress

·         be willing to ​accept and use constructive criticism

·         be knowledgeable about children’s book​s

Mentees experience two major critiquing formats during the conference. The first is the one-on-one portion. The second, the “plus” in One-on-One Plus, is five-on-five.


Mentees are paired with a highly experienced author, illustrator, editor, or agent for private mentoring. Mentees may focus on a work-in-progress or any subject of their choosing.

Five on Five

​During the five-on-five portion, five mentee/mentor pairs meet together for a small group session. During this session, the five pairs engage in lively discussion. Topics can range from literature in general to difficulties in breaking into the market to how to edit a manuscript. Some groups may use the time simply to get to know one another.

KidLit TV and RUCCL’s One-on-One Plus

When we walked through the halls on the campus, we received smiles from every direction and heard people whispering, “Is that KidLit TV?” The atmosphere was kind, generous and mutually supportive.

We met scores of great, aspiring authors and other industry professionals, one of whom was Katie Capella. Katie is Scholastic’s senior editor. During a particularly funny moment, Tara Lazar thought we were interviewing Katie in the ladies’ room!

We started our day hearing Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s ​success story. Throughout the conference, we met with faculty including more than 80 agents, editors, art directors, authors and illustrators who were there to serve as mentors to eager, up-and-coming kidlit pros.

We learned how the council and conference played a role in launching many standout careers. Examples include Laurie Halse Andersen, Gayle Carson Levine, and​  Kay Winters, who continue to support the conference.

The day was filled with interviews with some of the best in the field. We interviewed the brilliant Vivian Grey, the perky and talented Tara Lazar, the magnificent Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, the amazing husband and wife duo James and Lesa Ransome and the intelligent RUCCL Council Member Brian Schatell!

​”I think RUCCL is a wonderful conference. The whole premise of the conference is great. The idea that people are interested in writing come here to meet editors and agents and art directors who will mentor you — it’s a great idea.”—Keynote speaker James Ransome

​​Very special thanks go out to Tara Lazar for inviting us and to Vivian Grey for founding such an amazing conference. We certainly learned something new about the wondrous world of writing!



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