Keynote Speakers

2021 SMIAH Writers Conference

Proud to present Jennifer A. Nielsen

For as far back as Jennifer can remember, she has shared her brain with imaginary characters. She figures it’s okay if she talks to them as she’s working on her stories, as long as they don’t start talking back.

Jennifer has always loved reading and for most of her childhood, kept a tall stack of books at the side of her bed. She loved the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown series’, but her favorite childhood book was The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. Her favorite book in junior high was The Outsiders. That book’s author, S.E. Hinton, published The Outsiders at the age of 17. Jennifer set a goal to be published sooner.

Jennifer didn’t make her goal, but she completed her first book in her early 20’s. She told a neighbor she planned to be published one day. The neighbor smiled back like Jennifer had a greater chance of landing on the moon one day. That was understandable. The first book was pretty bad.

So was her second. And third. The fourth wasn’t terrible, but by then Jennifer had decided she was writing in the wrong genre. The characters in her head had changed from adult romantic suspense to young adult and children’s fantasy characters. Jennifer had to change her writing too.

Jennifer’s debut book was ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR (Sourcebooks, Oct 2010). That series became known as The Underworld Chronicles. The next series she released was The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic, Apr 2012), followed by the MARK OF THE THIEF series (Scholastic Feb 2015). She also wrote the sixth book of the Infinity Ring series, BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Scholastic, Nov 2013), and the second book of the HORIZON series (Scholastic, Sept 2017), and a standalone fantasy adventure, THE SCOURGE (Scholastic, Aug 2016). She has released two historical novels, A NIGHT DIVIDED (Scholastic, Aug 2015) and RESISTANCE (Sept 2018). Her current series is THE TRAITOR’S GAME series (Scholastic, Feb 2018), and she will release her third historical, WORDS ON FIRE, in Oct 2019.

Jennifer has won multiple awards including the Sydney Taylor Notable Book Award (RESISTANCE, 2019), multiple Whitney Awards, and several state book awards. Also, she once won a garden rototiller, though that’s probably not relevant here.

First Chapter Contest
Polish up the first chapter of an unpublished book (up to 3000 words),
beat out the competition, and become an award winning author.
Easy Peasy. Or is it?
Prize -  A full critique of every chapter entered and prize money for the top three chapters
Rules Button - FCC.jpg

Want to know more? Check out the rules for both the First Chapter Contest and the Mini contests below and get ready to show off your winning skills.

We know you've got them!