Meet the Team

Michigan's first regional advisor was Carol Farley of Mt. Pleasant, who took this leadership role in 1982 and served 22 Michigan members. Our SCBWI chapter currently has just over 500 members and is led by Michigan Regional Advisors, Leslie Helakoski and Carrie Pearson, as well as a talented and diverse group of volunteers:

Leslie headshotLeslie Helakoski, Co-RA, has been a Regional Advisor for Michigan since 2008 and a member of SCBWI since 1998. She is the author and sometimes illustrator of eight picture books including The Michigan Reads books, Big Chickens and Woolbur, and the newly released Doggone Feet! She lives with her family in Kalamazoooooo!

headshot profile photo by WendyCarrie Pearson, Co-RA, lives on the shore of Lake Superior in Marquette. She has been an SCBWI member since 2005 when she decided she'd better learn more about writing for children if she was going to spend so much time doing it. Carrie is the PAL author of two nonfiction picture books, winner of the SCBWI-MI Picture Book Mentorship Award (2008), and received an SCBWI Works of Outstanding Promise (WOOP) award in 2013 for a nonfiction picture book. She loves helping people in the children's book community learn about the business and improve their craft.

RuthMcNallyBarshaw headshotRuth McNally Barshaw, Illustrator Coordinator, lives in Lansing with her creative family (including writer husband Charlie). She finally joined SCBWI in 2003 and wishes she'd joined much earlier because it ultimately put her on the direct path toward publication. Ruth writes and illustrates The Ellie McDoodle Diaries (Bloomsbury, 2007 – 2014) and has lots of other projects in the works. See her art and books at

Charlie Barshaw, Networks Day/Mid-Michigan Meet Up Coordinator, and Go To Guy, has been an SCBWI member since 2009, when he lost his job but found his profession. Charlie is best known as the husband of author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw, of "The Ellie McDoodle Diaries" fame.  Charlie wrote for newspapers and magazines in his younger days, and is now working on some middle grade novel ideas. He was co-chair of the 2013 Fall Revision Retreat and the 2014 Mackinac Island Conference.

Catherine Bieberich, Mentorship Program Coordinator, lives in Battle Creek, MI where she teaches Middle School Language Arts and facilitates a Middle School Gifted Program. During her thirty years of teaching, she has written several young adult and middle grade novels. A member of SCBWI since 1997, Catherine was the 2002 winner of the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship Award. She has had two articles published in Educational journals.

Lisa Healy, Volunteer, Travel and Merchandise Coordinator, lives on the calming shores of Pine Lake in West Bloomfield.  She has been an SCBWI member since 2006 when she thought she could carry all her self-syndicated newspaper family column ideas over to children's book writing.  Lisa's work was published in the anthology, A Century of Voices.  Her stories and articles have also appeared in the Detroit News & Free Press, Blue Magazine, Strut, Families First Monthly and Metro Parent Magazine.

Anita Pazner, Public Relations Coordinator, spends her time in West Bloomfield and Boyne Mountain. Her publishing background is in newspapers, magazines and corporate video scripts. Being in love with everything kid related, she currently writes picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels and is pursuing an MFA in writing for children. She especially enjoys meeting other book people, learning from them and hopefully passing on any knowledge she may have.

Jennifer Rumberger, Meet Ups Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2010. She began writing professionally in the magazine markets and is published in Keys for Kids, SCBWI-MI News, Nature Friend and Stories for Children magazines. She is also busy working on picture book manuscripts and has finished a middle grade novel.  Her first picture book, DUCKLINGS ON THE MOVE, is available from MeeGenius, an e-book publisher.  She works full-time as an administrative assistant and lives in the metro-Detroit area with her husband and two sons. Learn more about Jennifer at

Pat Trattles, Critiques and First Pages Coordinator, lives in Holland, Michigan. She started thinking about writing for children when her daughter was 6 months old. Pat joined SCBWI three years later when pregnant with second daughter. Pat is the PAL author of two early readers, one fiction, one non-fiction. She currently spends most of her writing time writing for state assessments in conjunction with the Common Core. In her spare time she works full time at a senior care center, attends her daughter’s collegiate soccer games and plays with her grandson.

Deb Gonzales, Webmistress and Social Media Maven, served as RA for the Austin SCBWI Chapter, was an adjunct professor, a Montessori teacher for ages 3 to 12, a school administrator, an educational consultant, a curriculum designer, and a writing workshop instructor. One of her most interesting adventures in teaching was with PBS’s Barney Kids. She earned her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Art in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is a contributor of ReaderKidZ, a website committed to fostering a love of reading for kids ages K-5. She has published a series of early readers and, when she’s not working away on her middle grade novels, Deb creates activity-based teacher guides for all genres. Deb is represented by Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC. Check out her work at Should you have any needs regarding the website and social media – event announcements, registration issues, or just want to stop by and say, "Hi!" -  contact Deb at debbadee5 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Nina Goebel, Brochure Coordinator and The Mitten Blog Co-Editor (Illustrative Design), is a native of Bavaria and lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. She has been an SCBWI member since 2011. Nina is primarily a graphic designer and illustrator, who started writing in 2012 as well. She is also an active member of the Grosse Pointe Art Center and volunteers for an art therapy program for inner city kids in Detroit. Both of these activities have given her the opportunity to teach workshops and facilitate art shows with disadvantaged youth and adults. Access to find out more about Nina.

Deborah Diesen, ListServ Administrator/Old and New Member Liaison, has been a member of SCBWI since 2001.  She loves to write in rhyme and is the author of several children’s picture books, including the New York Times bestseller, The Pout-Pout Fish.  Debbie lives with her family in Grand Ledge, MI.

Kristin Lenz, The Mitten Blog Co-Founder and Co-Editor, is a social worker who lived in Georgia and California before returning to her home state of Michigan. Currently, she lives with her husband and daughter in metro-Detroit.  Her short story, The Power of Butterflies, was published by Hunger Mountain online and was a finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at the Prospect Agency.

Patti Richards, The Mitten Blog Co-Editor, of Farmington Hills and is a full-time freelance writer, editor and blogger. Her articles on parenting and education have been featured in print and on the web for over 25 years. Patti is currently a regular parenting and relationship contributor for and Demand Media Studios. Her children's stories have been published in Boy's Quest Magazine, Bumples Magazine and MeeGenius. Patti was a recent finalist in the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing at Hunger Mountain for her picture book, DANCING GRANNIES. You can learn more about Patti at her blog, Sensibility and Sense, A Perfect Blog for Imperfect Writers.