Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Marvelous Midwest Faculty


Silvia Acevedo, author

Silvia Acevedo is a journalist, children’s book author, and the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI-
Wisconsin. She was also the first Indie/Self-Publishing Coordinator for Wisconsin and the organization.
In her 20-plus years in news, Silvia interviewed presidential candidates, covered national and
international stories, and gave breaking news reports for CNN and local TV and radio stations around the
country. She’s guest hosted a TV morning talk show featuring the lighter side of news on Milwaukee’s
NBC station. She currently freelances at various news publications and performs voice-over work.
Silvia writes funny, adventurous mythology for teens on up, starting with her debut novel, GOD AWFUL
LOSER, its sequel, GOD AWFUL THIEF, and the final book in the trilogy, GOD AWFUL REBEL, released
in April 2019.
Visit Silvia at

Jacqueline Alcántara, illustrator

Jacqueline Alcántara is the inaugural winner the We Need Diverse Books® Illustration
Mentorship Award. Her first published picture book, THE FIELD, written by Baptiste Paul
and published by North South Books, received multiple starred reviews and was named a
Best Book of 2018 by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness and The Horn Book.
Her upcoming illustration projects include FREEDOM SOUP, written by Tami Charles
(Candlewick, Fall 2019) and JUMP AT DE SUN written by Alicia D. Williams (Caitlyn
Dlouhy Books/Atheneum, Spring 2021). She is on the board of the SCBWI Illinois Diversity
Committee and excited to work towards promoting diversity across the illustration field
while making fabulous books for everyone.

Keith Allen, Senior Designer, Illustrator, and Paper-Engineer, American Greetings

Keith Allen is a Senior Designer, Illustrator, and Paper-Engineer at American Greetings in
Cleveland Ohio where he creates greeting cards and social expression product. After work Keith
manages his own independent publishing company specializing in children’s pop-up books. His
latest book, “What a Mess! A Pop-Up Misadventure” was successfully funded on KickStarter
and won Silver at the MoonBeam Children’s Book Awards.

Julie Berry, author

Julie Berry is the author of the 2017 Printz Honor and Los Angeles Times Book Prize shortlisted novel The Passion of Dolssa, the Carnegie and Edgar shortlisted All the Truth That’s in Me (2013, Viking), the Odyssey Honor title The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (2014, Roaring Brook), and many others. Her latest middle grade novel, The Emperor’s Ostrich, released in 2017 from Roaring Brook. Her forthcoming young adult novel, Lovely War, releases from Viking Children’s Books in March 2019, and her first picture books will release in fall 2019. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. She lives in Southern California with her family.

Valerie Biel, author

Valerie Biel is the author of the young adult Circle of Nine series, a coming-of-age story
combining Celtic myth, Irish Legend, and pagan magic. Books in the series have been finalists
for the Gotham Writers’ Young Adult Novel Discovery Award, the Kindle Book Award, the
Readers’ Favorite Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Award grand prize, and recipient of the Indie
Brag Medallion. She also writes middle grade fiction and nonfiction.
Biel is a native of Wisconsin and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with degrees in
Journalism and Political Science and has spent more than 25 years working the public relations
field. She assists other authors with their publishing journeys through her business Lost Lake
Press, and often teaches about writing and publishing topics at conferences, libraries, and
schools. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2009 when she began her professional writing

Betsy Bird, librarian and author

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library and the former Youth Materials Specialist of New York Public Library. She reviews for Kirkus and is the creator of the School Library Journal blog A Fuse #8 Production. Betsy is the author of the picture book GIANT DANCE PARTY (Greenwillow, 2013) and editor of the middle grade anthology of hilarious women, FUNNY GIRL (Viking, 2017) as well as a co-author on the very adult WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE. Her picture book with Dan Santat THE GREAT  SANTA STAKEOUT is slated for publication in Fall 2019. Betsy runs a children’s literature podcast with her sister called Fuse 8 n’ Kate where they determine which picture books deserve to be classics. You can follow Betsy on Twitter @FuseEight.

Jack Cheng, author

Jack Cheng is a Shanghai-born, Michigan-bred author. His debut middle grade novel,
SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS, is a Top 10 IndieNext Pick and winner of the Golden Kite
and Great Lakes Great Reads awards. He lives in Detroit.

Shutta Crum, author

Shutta Crum is the author of several middle-grade novels, more than a dozen picture books, and many poems and magazine articles. THUNDER-BOMER! was an ALA and a Smithsonian “Notable Book.” MINE! was reviewed by the N.Y. Times Book Review as “a delightful example of the drama and emotion that a nearly wordless book can convey.” Her books have made Bank Street College lists as well as state award lists. She received the Mich. Library Assoc. Award of Merit as youth librarian of the year in 2002. In 2005 she was invited to read at the White House Easter Egg Roll. And in 2010 she presented to children at the Dept. of Defense schools throughout Japan. She adores speaking about children’s books and is an oft-requested presenter, guest lecturer, panel moderator and keynote speaker. MOUSELING’S WORDS (Clarion, 2017) and a reprint of the Kentucky-based SPITTING IMAGE are her latest books. Her website is at

Dandi Daley Mackall, author

Dandi won her first writing contest as a 10-year-old tomboy. Her 50 words on “Why I Want to Be Batboy for the Kansas City A’s” won first place, but the team wouldn’t let a girl be batboy. It was her first taste of rejection. Since then, Dandi has become an award-winning author of about 500 books for all ages and in every genre, with sales of 4 million copies in 22 countries. Over her 37-year writing career, she’s published with nearly every publishing house. When her kids were young, she wrote board books. They got older, and she added picture books, but still wrote board books. Then came early readers, chapter books, middle-grade novels, young adult novels—and now she gets to write for every age, including grown-ups. Dandi’s awards include: the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature; Distinguished Alum from University of Missouri; induction into the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame; KS and KY Children’s Choice; 2 Mom’s Choice; ALA Best Book; Top Teen Read by New York Public Library; Romantic Times’ Top Pick; Gold Medallion Award; 2015 & 2017 Best Children’s Christian Book Award; Finalist in KY Bluegrass Award, the William Allan White, and the Delaware Diamond list. The Silence of Murder (Knopf/Random House) won the Edgar Award for Best YA and ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Legend of Ohio and Rudy Rides the Rails: A Depression Era Story won Notable Book awards from National Council of Social Studies; a Children’s Book Council award, the Angel Award, the  “Award of Excellence” from Chicago Book Show. A Girl Named Dan (her own “batboy” story, and a lesson on Title IX) won a Mom’s Choice & an Amelia Bloom Award. The Harcourt novel, Eva Underground, based on the author’s experiences behind the Iron Curtain, was nominated Best Book. My Boyfriends’ Dogs (now a Hallmark movie, “most watched” 2014), gained her national attention. Dandi is a national speaker, keynoting at conferences and Young Author events, and making dozens of appearances on TV, including ABC, NBC, and CBS. Newly released With Love, Wherever You Are, Dandi’s novel about her parents, Army Dr. and Nurse in WW2, won the Reader’s Choice Award for historical fiction and earned PW and Booklist starred reviews. Dandi writes from rural Ohio, where she lives with her family, including horses, dogs, cats, and an occasional squirrel, deer, or raccoon. Follow her on Facebook:

Sharon Darrow, author

Sharon Darrow was on the faculty of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, from 1997 to 2018, serving as Chair from 2006-09. She taught at Columbia College Chicago in the English Department from 1996 to 2003. She has been a founding member of two SCBWI chapters, North Texas and Illinois, and served as the Illinois Regional Advisor for several years. She continues to offer workshops, classes, and school visits in the U.S. and internationally. She is the award-winning author of Picture Books (Old Thunder and Miss Raney, Dorling Kindersley; Yafi’s Family, co-author Linda Pettit, Amharic Kids; Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, and Young Adult novels, The Painters of Lexieville, and TRASH, all from Candlewick). Her poetry for young people has been included in Home to Me: Poems Across America edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, and her poems, short stories, interviews, and personal essays for adults have appeared in literary journals Rhino, Folio, Whetstone, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Columbia Poetry Review, Great River Review, Other Voices, The Writer’s Chronicle, and in the anthology, In the Middle of the Middle West, Indiana University. Her most recent books are Worlds within Words: Writing and the Writing Life, and new paperback and ebook editions of The Painters of Lexieville, Pudding Hill Press. The Darrow Lecture Series, named in her honor, is held annually in Montpelier, Vermont, with lectures delivered by distinguished authors who are graduates of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Nicole de las Heras, Art Director, Random House Children’s Books

Nicole de las Heras is an Art Director at Random House Children’s Books, where she oversees board books, picture books, and early chapter books. She loves pairing the right artist with the right manuscript and collaborating with artist and editor to bring books to life.
Over the course of her career, Nicole has designed and art directed many different types of books that include New York Times bestsellers, and her work has been recognized at the New York Book Show.
Some of the many books she is proud to have worked on are The Wonderful Things You Will Be and Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin; Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, written by Kirsten Gillibrand and illustrated by Maira Kalman; Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton; the Hello World original board book series by Jill McDonald; Littles and How They Grow, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by AG Ford; My Journey to the Stars, written by Scott Kelly and illustrated by André Ceolin; Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno; and Wordy Birdy, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Dave Mottram.

Stephen Fraser, Senior Literary Agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Stephen Fraser is a literary agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City, a full-service agency which handles both juvenile and adult books. Stephen has been voted top agent for both picture books and middle grade fiction. One of his clients, Margi Preus, won the Newbery Honor Medal for her novel, Heart of a Samurai (Abrams/Amulet, 2010 ); another client, Carol Lynch Williams, won the
prestigious PEN International Award for her young adult novel Glimpse (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, 2010); and former client Matthew J. Kirby, won both the Edgar award for best juvenile mystery and the PEN USA award for children’s literature for his middle grade novel, Icefall (Scholastic, 2011). Stephen has been an agent for 14 years. With more than twenty-five years’ editorial experience at major publishers including Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic, Stephen edited such creative talents as Mary Engelbreit, Gail Gibbons, Michael Hague, Ann Rinaldi, Kathryn Lasky, Brent Hartinger, Stephen Mitchell, Dan Gutman, Gregory Maguire, and Daniel Pinkwater. He is graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in English Literatureand has a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston. Stephen is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences throughout the country.

photo credit Carter Hasegawa
Josh Funk, author

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books – such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stenchand the upcoming Mission Defrostable), How to Code a Sandcastle (and the upcoming sequel How to Code a Rollercoaster),  It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon, Albie Newton,  Pirasaurs! , and the forthcoming Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in conjunction with the New York Public Library), It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and more coming soon!
Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 300 schools, classrooms, and libraries. Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.
Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys
_______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played
____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a
For more information about Josh Funk, visit him
at and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Clelia Gore, Agent, Martin Literary & Media Management

Clelia Gore leads the children’s and young adult division of the Seattle-based agency,
Martin Literary & Media Management. A former attorney originally from the suburbs of
New York City, she represents picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and
nonfiction. One of her most recent client successes is the New York Times-bestselling
picture book, RESCUE & JESSICA by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. You can
find Clelia on Twitter at @MadmoiselleClel and read more about her and the agency

Wendi Gu, Literary Agent, Janklow and Nesbit Associates

Wendi started her career in publishing as an intern at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates and began
working as a literary assistant after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in
Creative Writing. She soon began representing her own fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle-
grade, and young adult titles with a special interest in girl power, family relationships, and the
immigrant experience. She likes stories that root for the underdog. Her favorite books have voices
that range from warm and lyrical, to witty and deadpan. For illustration, she enjoys elegant and
eclectic color palettes, and looks for nuanced character expression and dynamic composition. She is
very interested in unconventional illustration mediums like cut paper and photo illustration. Wendi is
always on the lookout for nonfiction picture book biographies on little-known heroes in history. Wendi
also represents adult titles in adult literary fiction and nonfiction that speaks to cultural identity
negotiation, displacement, and race relations. She has a hands-on, editorial approach to agenting.
On the weekends, she works at Dou Yoga in Brooklyn. You can find her tweets at @wendilulugu.

Esther Hershenhorn, author

Chicagoan Esther Hershenhorn writes picture books, poetry and middle-grade fiction, teaches adult Writing for Children workshops at the Newberry Library and the University of Chicago’s Graham School’s Writers Studio and coaches writers of all ages to help them tell their stories. Her latest books include S IS FOR STORY and the baby board book TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY. Esther proudly advocates for children’s book creators via her past service on the Board of Advisors of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and current service as the Illinois Chapter’s Regional Advisor Emeritus. Visit her website to learn more about her books, classes and coaching. She blogs at

Allison Hunter Hill, Associate Editor, Page Street Kids

Allison Hunter Hill is an Associate Editor at Page Street Kids, where she is currently acquiring children’s picture books. She was previously an Assistant Editor at Candlewick Press, where she was privileged to work closely on picture books, middle grade, poetry, and young adult books with a wide range of best-selling authors and illustrators, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the Jenny Bent Literary Agency. She has an M.A. in Children’s Literature and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and spent the first decade of her career working in libraries and youth services.  Allison is a second-generation librarian— a fact her father says she is legally obligated to mention.

Linda Howard, Associate Publisher, Tynedale House

Linda Howard is Associate Publisher for Children, Youth, and Family at Tyndale House Publishers. She brings an extensive background working with children and children’s products to her role, including eight years of working with Focus on the Family’s beloved and best-selling Adventures in Odyssey brand, overseeing the successful rebranding and relaunch of the Faith That Sticks product line, 14 years of teaching preschool, and eight years at Wheaton College, serving as Assistant Director for the Community School of the Arts.  Linda has had the honor of working with top-selling authors Ann Voskamp, John Ortberg, and more. She also acquired and currently oversees the Compassion International Publishing partnership.
Linda currently leads the Kids’ Team, developing overall strategy for Tyndale Children, Youth, and family, acquiring projects and overseeing product development of books within her division. She has also worked in the marketing arena and built strong relationships with several of Tyndale’s publishing partners

Sarah Hunter, Editor, Booklist

Sarah Hunter (Editor, Books for Youth) has been working at Booklist magazine for the past eight years, first as an editorial assistant opening the mail and now (with a few steps in between) as the editor of the Books for Youth section, where she reviews children’s and YA books, writes and edits features, and curates the content of the magazine. She came to Booklist after a volunteer stint with Open Books, a literacy nonprofit in Chicago, and she’s pleased to finally make very good use of her MA in English from the University of Chicago. When she’s not reading (which is rare), she’s baking something tasty to share or planning trips to the Pacific Northwest.

Travis Jonker, librarian & author

Travis Jonker is a school librarian and writer from Michigan. He blogs about children’s
books at 100 Scope Notes and his debut picture book, The Very Last Castle, was
published by Abrams in 2018.

Angie Karcher, author

Angie, a former Kindergarten teacher, is the author of three books for children. Her first title, WHERE THE RIVER GRINS (2012 MT Publishing) is a history book used to teach local history in Evansville, Indiana schools.
Her second title, THE LEGENDARY R.A. COWBOY JONES (2014 M.T.Publishing) is a middle grade biography about a 71 year old jockey in Henderson, KY, who was still racing at the time of publication.
Her most recent book, SANTA’S GIFT, is a true story about a community who came together to save an historic Santa Claus statue. (2017 M.T.Publishing)
Angie has published children’s poetry in various publications including INDIANA BICENTENNIAL POEMS AND SONGS ANTHOLOGY. (2016 Byron Buckley)
Her upcoming titles, SIDELINE SLUGGER and A CLEAN SWEEP come out in 2019. She is the IN SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor and takes over the RA position in June. She hosts the RHYME REVOLUTION writer’s event each April and the RHYME REVOLUTION CONFERENCE. Angie is the founder and host of THE BEST IN RHYME AWARD held in New York City annually in February. She also host Ms. Angie’s Craft Time on KidLitTV.
She presents at schools, conferences and other kid-lit events.

Cheryl Klein, Editorial Director, Lee & Low Books

Cheryl Klein is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books, where she edits everything from picture books (e.g. Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel) to MG and YA novels (e.g. Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos). She is also the author of The Magic Words:
Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults (W. W. Norton, 2016) and two picture books: Wings, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (Atheneum/S&S, March 2019) and Thunder Trucks (Disney-Hyperion, Fall 2019). She can be found online at and as  @chavelaque .

A. LaFaye, author

A. LaFaye is probably best known for her Scott O’Dell Award winning novel Worth, but she’s written many other books, including the IRA Teacher’s Choice picture book Walking Home to Rosie Lee, and the critically well-received novels The Year of the Sawdust Man, Nissa’s Place, The Keening, Water Steps, and Stella Stands Alone. She’s also a writing mentor and an associate professor at Greenville University and in the low residency MFA in writing and illustrating children’s and young adult literature at Hollins University.  You can find her online @artlafaye on Twitter and Instagram or @alafayeauthor on FB.

Christine Mapondera-Talley, author

Christine Mapondera-Talley is the author of Makanaka’s World, a picture book series designed to teach young children about our world culture, geography, and language in a fun and engaging way. Christine was born in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, and now resides in Chicago with her husband and two children. Growing up bilingual and gives Christine a unique perspective to help children learn about the globe. She is also co-founder of KidLit Nation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help educate and provide  opportunities for children’s writers and illustrators of color. Since its inception in July of 2017, KidLit Nation has sponsored fifteen scholarships to a SCBWI regional conference and now hosts a monthly webinar series. Connect with her online at Twitter: @mapo_talley Instagram: @mapondera.christine

Sarvinder Naberhaus, author

Sarvinder Naberhaus is an award winning, critically acclaimed and bestselling
author. Her book LINES garnered a star review, with BLUE SKY WHITE STARS earning four
more. BLUE SKY WHITE STARS is a blue ribbon book for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
and is currently being printed in a Spanish bilingual paperback edition. It won the
Crystal Kite, SCIBA and CA award, and was Time Magazine’s Top 10 Children’s Books
of the Year. It was also World Magazine’s runner-up picture book of the year and an
ALA and NCTE Poetry notable. It was recognized by Kirkus, NPR, CCBC, Indie,
Bankstreet, SLJ, PW, Booklist and HuffPost’s as a best, choice, or notable book of the
year, and has been nominated for several state awards, and much more. Sarvinder has
a Masters of Education degree and enjoys teaching at Iowa State University. She loves
being an author, and lives with her husband, dog, cats, and chickens in Iowa. Her
children however, have flown the coop. You can find her at and
follow her on Twitter @SarvinderN.

Kathleen Ortiz, Literary Agent, New Leaf Literary

Kathleen Ortiz is a Literary Agent who has nearly a decade of experience in the
industry, both as an agent and licensing expert. She focuses on a diverse list of picture
books, young adult books, and heavily-illustrated non-fiction titles, especially titles that
can make her laugh out loud (bonus points if to the point of tears or snorting!). Her
passion for travel (visited 17 countries and counting) strongly connects her with a book
that exposes the reader to a lifestyle or world outside of their own every day life.
Before New Leaf, Kathleen worked in newspaper journalism, earned her Masters of
Publishing, and was a veterinary nurse for almost a decade. While she’s based in the
West Coast, her skymiles argue that she lives in NYC half the year.

John Parra, illustrator

John Parra is an award winning illustrator of many books for young readers, including Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, and Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, which won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration. His other awards include the ALA Pura Belpré Honors, and the Christopher’s Award. Additionally his books have appeared on Bank Street’s and Smithsonian Magazine’s: Best Children’s Books of the Year lists. In 2015 John was invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to present a special event about his work and career in art and illustration. Today his work can be seen at the U.S. Post Office on six new Forever Stamps titled: Delicioso, with art images celebrating Latino food cuisine. John’s most recent book, Hey Wall: A Story of Art and Community, with author Susan Verde, was released this past Fall 2018. To learn more visit:

Carrie Pearson, author and consultant

Carrie Pearson feels that being a children’s book author represents the best merger of her education,
occupations, and passion. She holds a BA in early childhood education from the University of Michigan,
taught at the University’s preschool and then moved into the business world for 15+ years. She is now a
full-time children’s book author and owner of a consulting business in the children’s book industry
focusing on preparing writers to connect with the right agent and/or editors. She is a Regional Advisor
for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Michigan chapter and a member of
the Michigan Reading Association and the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. She is
the author of two nature nonfiction picture books, A Warm Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail with
Arbordale Publishing (2012 and 2014) and Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on
Earth with Charlesbridge (2018). A picture book biography about Dr. Virginia Apgar launches fall 2020
with Norton Young Readers. Carrie would love to connect with you on Twitter @carrieapearson,
Pinterest carrieapearson, and through her websites or

Allison Remcheck, Agent, Stimola Literary Studio

Allison has known what she wanted to be when she grew up—ever since the age of eight when she read in the back of a Baby-Sitters’ Club book that the author, Ann M. Martin, was an editor before she became a writer. She had no idea what the word “editor” meant—but she knew it had to be a person who read a lot, and she knew she wanted to work in publishing. She’s so lucky to say that she has only ever worked with books—a journey that has taken her from a library, to a bookstore, to a publishing house, and finally to the Studio—and books, particularly those for children, have been her lifelong passion. She believes there is simply nothing better in the world than putting the perfect book in a child’s hand. But there is something extraordinary in nurturing a book from the start, and seeing it find its place in the world. To Allison, being an agent is a bit like a treasure hunt to find the books that speak to her most easily. She finds herself drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child—especially the ones told least often.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, author/illustrator

Debbie Ridpath Ohi received many rejections before getting her first big break (and a book contract!) at the 2010 SCBWI-LA conference, where her art was discovered in the portfolio showcase by Simon &
Schuster publisher and editor, Justin Chanda. Debbie is the author and illustrator of Sam & Eva and Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster). Her illustrations and/or writing have appeared in two
dozen books including titles by Michael Ian Black, Aaron Reynolds and Judy Blume. Upcoming book: I’m Worried, a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie, published by
Simon & Schuster). Other upcoming projects include illustrations for a picture book by Linda Sue Park and a yet-uncontracted middle grade novel. You can find out more about Debbie and her work at as well as on Twitter at @inkyelbows and Instagram at @inkygirl. Debbie is represented by Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown Ltd.

 Sharismar Rodriguez, Art Director, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books 

Sharismar Rodriguez is an Associate Art Director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books
for Young Readers where she designs and art directs children’s books for all ages, from
Picture Books, Middle Grade and YA novels to Non-Fiction volumes. She started her
career in children’s publishing right after obtaining her BFA in Visual Communications
from Parsons School of Design. 

Some of her work includes award winning and noteworthy titles such as New York
Times bestseller Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars; Bridget
Heos’s Mustache Baby series, illustrated by Joy Ang; Maybe Something Beautiful, an
ALA Notable Children’s Book recipient, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell,
illustrated by Rafael Lopez; among many others.

Kashmira Sheth, author

Kashmira Sheth writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult fiction. Her books
have received many awards and honors, such as the Asian/Pacific American Librarian
Association Honor Award, the International Reading Association’s Notable Book for a Global
Society, the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults, Friends of American
Writers Award,Parent’s Choice Award Gold Winner and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum
Award. Her novels have been translated in more than half a dozen languages including,
Hebrew, Korean and French. Kashmira was born and raised in India and comes from a family of
storytellers. She studied science in college but her enjoyment of reading and sharing stories
nudged her into writing. Her first book in the Nina Soni series (chapter books for age 7-10) will
be published in fall of 2019 by Peachtree Publishers. 
Please visit Kashmira Sheth at

Linda Skeers, author

Linda Skeers is the author of critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books for children. She loves digging through newspaper archives, museum exhibits, old books — anywhere she can find a fascinating tidbit to research and write about! Her latest book, WOMEN WHO DARED: 52 stories of fearless daredevils, adventurers and rebels shines the spotlight on amazing women who haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve — until now. Linda co-teaches a PB writing workshop every summer and frequently speaks at writer’s conferences.

Ruth Spiro, author

Ruth Spiro is the author of the popular Baby Loves Science board book series published by Charlesbridge. Titles include Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!, Baby Loves Coding!, Baby Loves Structural Engineering! and more. The series has received praise from The Los Angeles Times, Popular Science, The Planetary Society, Working Mother and NPR. Baby Loves Science is illustrated by Irene Chan. Her new picture book series, Made by Maxine, is about an inspiring young “maker” who knows that with enough effort,  imagination, and recyclables, it’s possible to invent anything. Made by Maxine is illustrated by Holly Hatam.
Ruth’s debut picture book, Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist won awards from Writer’s Digest and Willamette Writers, and was a Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Her articles and essays have appeared in FamilyFun, CHILD, and The Writer, and also in many anthologies, notably The Right Words at the Right Time (Vol. II), edited by Marlo Thomas, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. Ruth hopes her books inspire kids to observe the world, ask questions, and when it comes to their futures, DREAM BIG. A frequent speaker at schools and conferences, Ruth’s recent presentations include Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, Sheboygan Children’s Literature Festival, MakerFaire Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. She lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters. Learn more at

David Stricklen, author

In a former life, David was an airport police chief with 30 years experience in law enforcement.
After retiring, David went all in on his creative side. He has written a series of three sought after
MG fantasy adventure books: Beneath and Beyond, Through the Eyes of the Beast and The Heart
of the Swarm. His books and school visits are filled with magic and creativity. David’s reverse
perspective painting was a 2018 top five 3D finalist in the largest attended art competition in the
world (Grand Rapids ArtPrize) as well as a first place finish in the 2018 colors of community art
David is an active SCBWI advisory committee member, Shop Talk Coordinator and the Indie
Coordinator for Michigan.

Jamie Swenson, author

Jamie A. Swenson received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in
MN. Jamie is an early literacy storyteller/library associate at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville,
Wisconsin sharing her love of books and reading with children and their families. She also teaches
writing craft through The Writing Barn in Texas. Jamie lives with her husband, two daughters, two crazy
Labradors, two rabbits, five birds, one leopard gecko, one axolotl, too many fish to count, and one
annoyed cat. Look for her books: BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! (FSG/Macmillan); BIG RIG(Disney-Hyperion);
(HMH); A FALL BALL FOR ALL (Lerner), and the forthcoming WE WANT SNOW: A WINTRY CHANT
(Sleeping Bear Press, TBA). Connect with Jamie A. Swenson, author on Facebook.

Eliza Swift, Senior Editor, Sourcebooks

Eliza Swift is a Senior Editor at Sourcebooks for the Jabberwocky and Fire lines, and
acquires across the children’s and teen spectrum, from board books through young
adult. Previously, she was an Editor at Albert Whitman and Company, where she
oversaw the repositioning of their young adult program. Prior to this, she was at the
Warner Brothers-owned packager Alloy Entertainment and worked with New York
Times bestselling authors like Kass Morgan and Anna Godbersen. She started her
career working in the TV industry in LA, which was slightly more glamorous but
decidedly less fun than publishing.

Natasha Tarpley, author

Natasha Tarpley is the author of several acclaimed books for children and adults including the bestselling picture book, I Love My Hair!, which is celebrating 20 years in print in 2018, and the middle grade mystery, The Harlem Charade. She is a former reporter for Fortune magazine, with a law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Ms. Tarpley also worked for many years in nonprofit sector helping to improve the lives of youth and communities of color in Chicago. She is the Co-Founder, along with her mother, Marlene Tarpley, of Voonderbar! Media, a multicultural children’s media project with a mission to diversify and expand depictions of children of color in literature and other media. Natasha is a very slow marathon runner, and resides on the South Side of Chicago with her husband.

Francis Vallejo, illustrator

Francis Vallejo is an award-winning, Detroit native, American artist whose works have been exhibited in major national publications, art galleries, and museums. Vallejo earned his Bachelor’s degree from Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Florida, and has since created artwork for a host of notable clients including Candlewick Press, The Folio Society, Snapple, VIBE, and Camelbak. He has shown in The Anchorage Museum, The Society of Illustrator’s Museum of American Illustration, Gallery Nucleus, and Pixar studios. Vallejo’s “Jazz Day,” written by Roxane Orgill and published by Candlewick Press, was the recipient of the 2016 Boston Globe Horn Book award for best Picture Book. His newest illustrated book is “Anansi Boys” written by Neil Gaiman, releasing February 2019. He is an Assistant Professor of Illustration at the College for  Creative Studies. Vallejo’s work can be characterized by traditional media experimentation with a heavy foot in classical picture making and draftsmanship.

Tracy Vonder Brink, author and Contributing Editor, Cricket Media

Tracy Vonder Brink has an insatiable curiosity for facts and true stories, and she’s thrilled to
indulge that passion as a Contributing Editor for Click, ASK, and Muse magazines. Outside of
her editorial duties, Tracy is also a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Highlights,
Click, ASK, Spider, Cricket, and Muse. In October 2017, she was named Highlights’ Author of
the Month. Prior to her work in magazines, she was a longtime contributor to the Uncle John’s
Bathroom Reader series of humorous nonfiction.Tracy lives in southern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and a crazy-but-happy rescue dog.
Most days, she can be found looking up intriguing facts for her next article. Visit her at and connect with her on Twitter at @trvonderbrink.