Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SM 19 Maria Middleton


MARIA MIDDLETON,  Candlewick Press

Maria Middleton is the Art Director for Imprints at Candlewick Press and Walker Books US. She began her career at HarperCollins and spent more than a decade designing award-winning books for Abrams Books and then for Random House Children’s Books. Maria works across a variety of formats and genres for kids of all ages, including board books and picture books, middle-grade and young adult fiction, graphic novels, and non-fiction. Most notable are Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty, and Inkling by Kenneth Oppel. Maria is drawn to out-of-the-box thinking, hand-lettered typography, and quirky but lovable characters. She’s a southerner at heart, a New Yorker by choice, a fan of serial commas, strong coffee, and the color red. You can find her at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mariatmiddleton.


Drawing on Discovery

This session will take a close look at the process of discovering the magical, terrible, wonderful, and shocking world of characters for your next story.  The art director will provide a live review of Picture Book spreads and Middle Grade covers created in the Illustration Mentorship.  This is a great session for any author-illustrator seeking to learn more about the art of storytelling. 

Hands-on workshop: Quick on the Draw!

Illustrators need to work fast in this ever-changing industry.  Bring your pens, pencils and sketch pads to gain valuable feedback from Art Director Maria Middleton as she takes you through a hands-on activity and brief review of your work.  



A Day in the Life of an Art Director

Ever wonder what an art director actually does?  In this workshop, you’ll get an inside look at how an art director finds, hires, and works with illustrators to ultimately create an entire book package from cover to cover.





Limited Registration Open to the first 10 Illustrators


Discovery is the act of finding something unknown. A discovery can evoke a multitude of reactions; it can be magical, terrible, wonderful, shocking, uninspiring—or anything in between.

Using a character of your own invention, draw them in the act of discovering something. Your final format will be either a picture book spread or a middle-grade cover.

Begin! Choose your adventure. For a picture book, you will create one spread measuring 16×10” (two consecutive pages that are 8×10 each). For a middle-grade novel, you will create a cover that measures 6×9”.

Explore! Who is your character? What are they discovering? Create an original story brief using no more than 100 words to describe your character’s moment of discovery. This exercise will help you hone in on your character and get to the heart of the moment you want to depict. If you’re creating a picture book spread, you can use your brief to create final text for the spread. For a middle-grade cover, use the text to title your book.

Sketch! Create loose one-color sketches of your character including character turns at various angles. Get to know your character then introduce the moment of discovery. Consider composition, format, perspective, and text placement. Do as many sketches as necessary before creating three tight sketch options. You may introduce color in one of the sketches.

Feedback! Your tight sketches and story brief are due by January 1, 2019. Schedule a phone call or Zoom meeting with your art director for critique the week of January 7.

Refine! Using your art director’s feedback, refine your idea by placing your character in a final composition at the correct trim size. Your work in progress is due on February 1 and your art director will email final notes by February 15.

Finalize! After receiving your art director’s final feedback, create your finished color spread or cover.

Share! For the Intensive, bring your story brief, initial black-and-white sketches, and finished color image. We will share and critique the work as a group. Come prepared to talk about your work!

Parting words: Make something you’ll be proud of. There is no right or wrong answer to creativity. If at any moment you feel stuck, give yourself some breathing room away from the project and begin again when you are ready. Remember your deadlines, and most importantly, have fun!