Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

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 about 525 members and is led by Michigan Regional Advisors, Carrie Pearson and Jodi McKay, and Illustrator Coordinators, Kirbi Fagan and Deb Pilutti, 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 in 2021, and a nonfiction #strongwomen anthology about real princesses launching winter 2022. 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 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 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 with her husband, son, a not very bright, but adorable doodle named Ralph, and a feisty feline named Albi.

Kirbi Fagan, Co-Illustrator Coordinator is a Metro Detroit based illustrator who specializes in creating art for book covers and comics. Her illustrations are known for their magical themes, nostalgic mood and feminine heroines. She received her bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design. Kirbi is passionate about participating in the illustration community both online and at large. Currently, she teaches illustration at College for Creative Studies in Downtown Detroit. When not painting, Kirbi enjoys writing stories, spending time with her family and rollerblading with her dogs, Sophie and Maisey. Her recent clients are Marvel Comics, Disney, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Books, Orbit Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Dark Horse Comics. Recently, she’s been recognized with the Jack Gaughan Award: Best Emerging Artist 2017, Muddy Color Rising Star 2017, and International Illustrator of the Future.

Deb Pilutti, Co-Illustrator Coordinator has been pursuing childish endeavors for most of her life. She has designed theme park graphics, children’s toys and clothing, and now is writing and illustrating for children. Her newest book, THE SECRETS OF NINJA SCHOOL (Holt/Ottaviano) comes out later this month. Other books she’s illustrated or author/illustrated include TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO, (Ottaviano/Macmillan), BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS, and THE IDEA JAR (Simon & Schuster). Deb lives in Ann Arbor, MI.


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.


Dave Stricklen, Indie/Self Publishing Coordinator, Shop Talks Administrator & Shop Talks Coordinator for the Grand Rapids region: In a former life, David was an airport police chief with 30 years of 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 new release is a contemporary MG fiction entitled Ripley Robinson and the Worm Charmer, which is gaining momentum. His books and school visits are filled with magic and creativity. David’s reverse perspective painting was an ArtPrize 3D 2018 popular vote finalist & a Colors of Community 3D & 2D popular vote first place – in the ArtPrize category. David is an active SCBWI event planner and volunteer. For more about Dave and his books, go to

Many of our volunteers are leading free Shop Talks that meet regularly in many locations across the lower peninsula. All are welcome to attend. Keep your eye on the Event Calendar for a Shop Talk near YOU! For more information on these meetups, or Shop Talks in general, please contact Dave Stricklen at stricklen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Lauren Nyquist, Published Members Coordinator, writer for The Mitten’s Book Birthday Blog, and acting Communications Coordinator has been an SCBWI member since 2018. Lauren was born and raised in Michigan and is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies. She is an illustrator and writer, creating children’s book illustrations and stories, gift and greeting card designs, and copywriting. Learn more about Lauren and see her work at

Ann Finkelstein, Mentorship Coordinator and Co-Coordinator of the Lansing Area Shop Talk (LAST) has been an SCBWI member since 1999. During that time she’s served as a Co-RA, planned many conferences, and convinced her husband to join SCBWI. Her published works include science and math articles in Highlights, Cricket and Spider magazines. She currently writes novels for teens. She lives in Haslett and tutors high school students in reading, writing, math, and science.

Isabel O’Hagin (Ph.D.), Equity and Inclusion Team 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

Kristin Lenz, The Mitten Blog Co-Founder, and Co-Editor, is a writer and social worker who has lived in Michigan, Georgia, and California. Her debut young adult novel, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, was the 2016 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize winner, a 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection, and an honor book for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books Award statewide literature program. Learn more at 

Nina Goebel, 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.

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.

Kara Marsee, Communications Co-Coordinatoris a writer/illustrator who has worked in graphic design, children’s storybook multimedia, and has shown artwork in galleries and art fairs. As a member of a creative household, she must guard creations and books from a hungry house rabbit with a taste for paper. When she’s not drawing, writing, or reading, Kara can be found puzzling over sudoku, hiking in the woods, practicing yoga, or enjoying a cup of tea. You can learn more about Kara at her website

Alexia Andoni, Communications Co-Coordinator and 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.


In addition to the Shop Talk Coordinators 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).

Patti Richards, SE-Mitten Shop Talk – Farmington Hills Co-Coordinator, 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.

Kris Monroe, SE-Mitten Shop Talk – Farmington Hills Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2003. After a long career in human resources, she retired in 2018 and is working on a fantasy MG novel.  She’s married and loves to garden.

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 non-PAL writer and illustrator and 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, Co-Communications Coordinator and 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.