Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Meet the Volunteer 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 about 555 members and is led by Michigan Regional Advisors, Carrie Pearson and Jodi McKay, and Illustrator Coordinator, Katie Eberts, as well as a talented and diverse group of volunteers:

Carrie Pearson, Co-RA, has been a Regional Advisor since 2013 and lives on the shore of Lake Superior in Marquette. She became an SCBWI member in 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 informational fiction picture books, a STEM nonfiction picture book, a STEM bio launching August 1, 2023, and a nonfiction #strongwomen anthology about real princesses launching April 11, 2023. She is the Michigan Reading Association’s 2019 Gwen Frostic Award recipient, received an SCBWI Works of Outstanding Promise (WOOP) award, and won the SCBWI-MI Picture Book Mentorship Award to work with Newbery Award author/illustrator and Michigander Lynne Rae Perkins. She loves helping people in the children’s book community learn about the business, improve their craft, and connect.

Jodi McKay, Co-RA, and previously the PAL coordinator since 2016, stepped into the co-RA position in 2019.  She is the PAL author of WHERE ARE THE WORDS? and PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE both published by Albert Whitman & Co. Her fabulous agent, who understands Jodi’s quirky humor, is Linda Epstein of the Emerald City Literary Agency. Jodi lives in Grosse Pointe Farms with her husband, son, a not very bright, but adorable doodle named Ralph, and a feisty feline named Albi.


Katie Eberts, Co-Illustrator Coordinator, is a freelance painter/illustrator based in Cedarville, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design with a concentration in watercolor. She is represented by the Stimola Literary Studio.



Jen Boehler is an illustrator / graphic designer / author working on a hobby farm in Saginaw, Michigan. Before pursuing her dream in the field of children’s literature, Jen worked as a freelance editorial illustrator, graphic designer, interior/event designer and owned her own line of Michigan travel apparel. She has degrees in both art/graphic design and interior design.

Her non-creating moments are spent traveling, gardening, cooking and on outdoor adventures with her husband Dan and their two teens, Violet and Henry. The brood also includes a cat, two goats and 21 chickens (yes, they all have names!). She looks forward to her new role as the SCBWI-MI Illustrator Coordinator co-chair, and to being a positive resource for all the marvelous creators on this children’s literature journey.


Our Leadership Team is comprised of the Regional Team (RAs and ICs) plus several additional volunteers who devote their time and expertise to our chapter.


Many of our volunteers lead no-charge Shop Talks that meet regularly in many locations across the lower peninsula. Members and Not-Yet members are welcome to attend with the expectation that Not-Yet members will want to join the community. Keep your eye on the Event Calendar for a Shop Talk near YOU!

Tara Michener, Equity & Inclusion Team Chair, is an author specializing in children’s lit and has six books that include picture books, middle grade and YA. She is a national speaker and two time TEDx Speaker and the owner and operator of Michener Associates Counseling Center in Novi Michigan. Tara has presented for audiences such as the Library of Michigan, Princeton University and more. Tara has been awarded the CORP! Diversity Champion Award twice, Keeper of The Dream Award, and has been featured in Essence Magazine, Prevention and Freep. Tara is actively involved in many projects that bring value, kindness, and humanity to the forefront and her mission is to make the world better for her child, Cannon who is seven years old and energetic, and to bring that same energy to kids around the world so that when they open up a children’s book, step into a school assembly or their public library they feel represented.

Jay Whistler, Mentorship Coordinator, is a young adult and middle grade author, a freelance editor helping authors make their manuscripts submission-ready, a submissions editor for an online zine, a judge for several high-profile writing contests, a mentor for a an online pitch contest, a former acquisitions reader for three different literary agencies, a former submissions editor for a literary anthology, and a former RA in Switzerland. When Jay is not writing or editing, she is busy arranging all her paperclips by size, alphabetizing her world-famous collection of commemorative presidential sugar packets, or scouring for the dog she will be getting as soon as her husband retires in 2023. She asks that you keep this last one secret so we don’t spoil the surprise. You can find out more about her at

Isabel O’Hagin (Ph.D.), Outreach Coordinator and Kalamazoo Shop Talk (KAST) Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2013. As a pre-published author, she writes stories steeped in Latino culture from the southwest where she lived most of her life. She has written two middle-grade novels, several picture books and is currently working on a YA novel. In 2018 she was recognized as a runner-up in the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship Contest. Her publication credits include teacher education articles, book chapters in early childhood music, and serving as the editor for a state education journal.

Deb Gonzales, author and SCBWI Liaison for the Michigan Reading Association, is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator, and adjunct professor, a podcaster (The Debcast), and past SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. Deb currently devotes her time to writing middle-grade novels, crafting teacher guides, and various other freelance projects. She’s the author of six transitional readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb serves as a member of the Michigan Reading Association board and earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more about Deb and her many projects by accessing her websites at and

Janel Caverly, Website Coordinator, wrote her first story (about squirrels) when she was seven. She thought she was a real author, because she used quotation marks. When she was in 4th grade, her teacher asked the class to write a diary entry about the Oregon Trail. She wrote a short novella. When she volunteered to read it in front of the class, the teacher finally asked her to sit down. It was time for lunch. She also pursued a career in elementary teaching and a master’s degree in English. Along the way she has continued to write, hoping she might someday create something for the world to read.

Sarah Prusoff LoCascio, The Mitten Blog Co-Editor, writes picture books and is the managing editor of the Asian Journal for Public Opinion Research. She lives in White Lake, Michigan with her wife, three kids, a dog, and two fish. Her website is: Her Twitter handle is: @sarahlocascio

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw, Event Coordinator, is a nonfiction/informational fiction children’s book author and former elementary special education teacher who is passionate about growing young minds. Suzanne’s first nonfiction picture book, I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks, debuted in April 2019 from Warren Publishing. Her next book Mighty Mahi is forthcoming from Doodle and Peck Publishing spring 2022. Suzanne enjoys speaking at schools about writing, leadership, and how kids can make a difference in our world. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion Ziggy. When she’s not dreaming up new writing projects, you can find her kayaking, hiking, practicing yoga, or working on her latest interior design project.

Tammy Layman, Registrar, lives on the shores of Lake Michigan in St. Joseph with her husband, two aspiring middle-grade writers and an increasing number of pets who believe they are people. Growing up in a family of storytellers, the only way she’s able to get a word in is if she’s on a stage telling stories with a microphone. Or when she finally gets one published for them to read! Tammy joined SCBWI early in her writing career. She let her membership lapse. She joined again. She took another break. She joined again. This time, Tammy decided she’d better get involved. When the call for the registrar position opened, she thought she’d give it a whirl. Tammy’s stories have supported museum exhibits and classroom activities. She has presented at the National Storytelling Network (NSA) National Summit. She has been published by The American Society of Training and Development (ATD) and A Pass Education.

Mary Rudzinski, MichKids Listserv moderator, recently moved to Plymouth, Michigan with her husband. When she is not writing, traveling, or enjoying a bike ride, Mary is busy gardening and learning how to rehab her house. She hopes to grow her writing community in Michigan and adopt a rescue dog.

Angie Laginess, Co-communications Coordinatoris a self-proclaimed nerd who loves reading, writing, and being out in nature. When she’s not chasing after her two naughty hounds (Mortimer and Riley) she can be found camping, canoeing, hiking, staring at the night sky, and dreaming of moving Up North. She’s a pre-published author who writes picture books, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and has even been known to dabble in poetry from time to time. Although she’s lived all over the world, from Las Vegas to Hungary, she currently resides in the Downriver Detroit area where she teaches high school English and yearbook. Instagram: alaginesswrites

Patti Smith, Communications Co-Coordinator, is a current special education teacher and former legal aid lawyer Patti F. Smith is the author of four books: Images of America–Downtown Ann Arbor (The History Press), A History of the People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor, Head Over Feet in Love (Soul Mate Publishing), and Vanishing Ann Arbor (The History Press). She has been a contributor to, West Suburban Living magazine, Concentrate, Mittenbrew, The Ann, AADL’s Pulp blog, and the Ann Arbor Observer. Additionally, she is a frequent public speaker around town, curating HERsay (an all-woman variety show), GROWN FOLKS READING (storytime for grownups), DESSERTS BY THE DECADE (food history), and has told stories at Ignite, Nerd Nite, Tellabration and Telling Tales Out of School. She is currently working on several non-fiction picture books and a chapter book that will teach kids how to avoid fallacies.

Arjun Yetukuri, Scholarship Coordinator,  has been a member of SCBWI since 2017 and has learned a lot about the craft of writing for kids from other successful members of SCBWI. He enjoys the learning, but is eager to see that learning bear fruit in the form of a PB…if only, he can steal himself away from enjoying eating ice cream, his favorite pastime, and spending time writing. He is a graduate from The University of Iowa, a Hawkeye without interest in the football rivalry, an engineer by profession, a recurve archery enthusiast and gold medalist at MI Indoor Championships, a creative thinker with several patents, and in the process of transferring all that creativity into writing PBs. He can be found on IG and Twitter @RevseLoop and at

Christy Matthes, Promotions Coordinator, is a picture book writer residing in Grand Rapids with her family, three mischievous cats named PJ, Bruce, and Ginny, and a shy dachshund named Jimmy. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent several years in various human resource leadership positions. Her love for animals and nature serves as inspiration for many of her stories. When Christy isn’t writing, she is spending time with family, enjoying nature, and volunteering for a pet loss grief support organization.

Tom Keller, Shop Talk Liaison, studied journalism at Michigan State and worked as a sportswriter in Florida and North Carolina before returning home to Michigan. He now works in communications for a law firm in Detroit. He has a 3-year-old daughter and a newborn son, which means he is usually found near coffee. Instagram: @heytomkeller

Alison Hodgson, Hugs and Hurrahs Coordinator, is a speaker and humorist, and the author of The Pug List: A Ridiculous Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything, and How They All Found Their Way Home (2016, Zondervan). Her writing has been featured in Woman’s Day, Forbes,, and her essays have been published in a variety of anthologies. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.  

Amanda Esch-Cormier, Conference Coordinator, is a children’s author, singer, and educator. When she isn’t writing stories for children and their families, Amanda enjoys going out with friends and family, traveling, gardening, singing, and exercising in nature. Amanda is almost always the first person on the dance floor. Instagram: @amandaeschcormier



In addition to the Shop Talk Liaison shown in the Leadership Team above, several other members volunteer in this role:

Charlie Barshaw, Mid-Michigan Shop Talk Co-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. Charlie is also the Co-Coordinator of the Lansing Area Shop Talk (LAST).

Heather Shumaker, Up North Shop Talk – Traverse City Coordinator, is the author of three books for adults and a debut middle-grade novel THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2013, blogs at, and loves all things kid-lit.

Melanie Bryce is a writer and illustrator and has been a member of SCBWI since 2018. She studied creative writing, watercolor, and life drawing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She is involved in the Kalamazoo arts community, including providing illustrations for KAST’s recent event “Kast a Spell,” participating in Art Hop, gaining acceptance in the West Michigan Area Show with her “To the Moon” submission, gaining acceptance in the 2018 KVCC student art show, and winning first place in the 2016 KVCC New Media Showcase.  Access this link from The Mitten to learn more about Melanie.

Betsy McKee WilliamsAnn Arbor Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2012. In a former academic life, she studied and published short pieces on early American history and the history of childhood. Today she supports college student writing by day, writes fiction after hours, and is completing an MFA in Writing for Young Readers through the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Betsy writes middle-grade fiction and believes in the importance of precise historical accuracy for novels involving time travel.

Alexia Andoni, Ann Arbor Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2014. She is a Child Development Specialist and educator by day and a picture book writer by night. When not writing or teaching, Alexia enjoys spending time with her three children, gardening, practicing yoga, and turning to nature for inspiration and rejuvenation.

Susan Collins Thoms is the Coordinator for GR-West Shop Talks representing the greater Grand Rapids area. Sue is a longtime member of the SCBWI and very grateful for all the encouragement, education, and support she has received from the organization. She is the author of six picture books, (plus a drawer full of unpublished picture books and a couple of middle-grade novels.) She also has a gig writing medical features for Spectrum Health. She looks forward to talking craft and publishing with other children’s book creators at Shop Talks. You can check out her books at Learn more at

Kristin Wolden Nitz is the author of Suspect, Saving the Griffin, and Defending Irene. A self-described compulsive tourist, she has special weaknesses for mountains and museums, but she’ll happily explore tombs, temples, caves, cathedrals, palaces and pagodas. After moving fifteen times since graduating from Michigan Tech, Kristin and her husband have settled in Rockford, Michigan. Long-time friends and family members—most notably her children—laugh when she says she’s never going to move again. No, really. Stop laughing.

Kris Munroe, Metro Detroit Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2003.  She’s writing a fantasy chapter book. Kris is married and loves to garden.

Katy Klimczuk, Metro Detroit Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, is an author from Grosse Pointe Farms. She lives there with her husband, two children, and two mischievous kittens. Formerly a teacher and reading specialist, Katy now homeschools her children and tries to get her creative juices flowing in tiny pockets of quiet. Katy looks forward to learning more about the art and business of writing and publishing with you this year.