2020 Virtual Fall Conference Faculty Bios
Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning children’s book author, illustrator, and Senior Critic and Internship Advisor for the Illustration Department at Rhode Island School of Design. She is also a Visiting Associate Professor and the Chair of Illustration in the M.F.A for Children’s Literature at Hollins University. Mary Jane lectures, creates workshops and exhibits her artwork around the globe and teaches online courses for LinkedInLearning.com and CreativeLive.com. She’s worked with Celestial Seasonings, Mead Johnson and Disney, and has received awards from the Society of Illustrators, multiple Awards of Excellence from Communications Arts, the Irma Simonton Black Award, and the Critici Erba Prize at the Bologna Book Fair. Mary Jane won the prestigious Bing Xin Children’s Literature Award. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout the country with one-woman shows at Books of Wonder Gallery in New York and Beverly Hills, at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, and the RISD Museum, Society of Illustrators (NY).
Danielle Burby got her start at a New York agency in 2013 where she handled foreign rights and built her client list. She then joined Nelson Literary Agency as an agent in 2017. She primarily represents young adult, middle grade, graphic novel, and women’s fiction with select picture books. She looks for a strong narrative voice and a cast of characters she wants to spend time with.
Dhonielle Clayton is a New York Times Bestselling author of The Belles series, the coauthor of the Tiny Pretty Things duology which debuts as a Netflix original series soon, and the author of the forthcoming MG fantasy series The Marvellers. She hails from the Washington, D.C., suburbs on the Maryland side. She taught secondary school for several years, and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books, and owner of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent—and decidedly diverse—literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers. She’s an avid traveler, and always on the hunt for magic and mischief. A few CAKE titles include, Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, the Love Sugar Magic series by Anna Meriano, Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra, and more.
Erin Clyburn is an Associate Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. She has worked in the book and publishing industries for nearly 15 years, as copy editor and recipe editor for Meredith and general manager and director of collection development for Turtleback Books. She received her BA in English Literature from Mississippi State University and her MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University.
Karen Chandler teaches American literature and culture at the University of Louisville. Her essays on American and African American autobiography, poetry, and fiction have appeared in various journals and books, including African American Review, Arizona Quarterly, and CLAQ. She is currently completing a book about representations of black creativity and history in African American children’s books and film.
Multi-award winning-author Anika Aldamuy Denise writes stories that tickle her funny bone, tug her heartstrings, feed her curiosity, and celebrate her bicultural Puerto Rican-American heritage. Her picture book biography Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a Pura Belpré Honor Book. Her next book, A Girl Named Rosita: Rita Moreno, Actress, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! hits shelves this November. A native of Queens, New York, Anika now lives in Rhode Island with her family. Visit her online at anikadenise.com.
John Steven Gurney is the author and illustrator of the picture books Dinosaur Train and The Bossy Pirate, and the Fuzzy Baseball graphic novel series. He has illustrated over 130 chapter books, including the A to Z Mysteries, the Bailey School Kids, and The Calendar Mysteries series. John lives in Brattleboro, Vermont and teaches illustration at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and at Hollins University in Virginia.
Fernando González is the Digital Director for Make Way for Books. He directs the development and distribution of the Make Way for Books App with the goal of using technology to create equitable access to books and education for families everywhere. A key part of this work is working with authors and illustrators to create engaging, bilingual, and free digital books that can be made available to families at their fingertips.
Hillary Homzie is the author of many books for children, including the Ellie May chapter books, a SLJ Webcast featured selection, and Queen of Likes, which was optioned by Priority Pictures and is a PJ Our Way selection. After performing sketch comedy professionally in NYC, Homzie was inspired to teach students how to add levity to their writing. In a profile piece, The New York Times called her teaching: “very attentive and appreciative and encouraging.” Homzie is on faculty at Sonoma State University as well as at Hollins University, where she teaches in their Summer Graduate Program in Children’s Writing, Literature & Illustration. Visit her at www.hillaryhomzie.com
Aneeka Kalia joined Viking Children’s Books in 2017 and is now an Assistant Editor. She edits picture books, and Middle Grade and Young Adult novels (and graphic novels) with a focus on contemporary, realistic fiction. She particularly enjoys funny, family/intergenerational, and food-related stories. In her free time, Aneeka drinks coffee, tries her hand at cooking, hikes, and plays soccer and tennis.
Maryann Jacob Macias is the author of the forthcoming picture book, Téo’s Tutu, from Dial Books for Young Readers with a second picture book to follow. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College. She lives in New York.
Meg Medina is a Newbery award-winning and New York Times best-selling author who writes picture books, as well as middle grade and young adult fiction. Her works have been called “heartbreaking,” “lyrical” and “must haves for every collection.” Her titles include: Merci Suárez Changes Gears, 2019 John Newbery Medal winner, and 2019 Charlotte Huck Honor Book; Burn Baby Burn, long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award, short-listed for the Kirkus Prize, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award; The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, a 2012 Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year; Mango, Abuela, and Me, a 2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book; and Tía Isa Wants a Car, winner of the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award. When she’s not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latinx youth, and/or literacy. She serves on the National Board of Advisors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is a faculty member of Hamline University’s Masters of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
Claudia Mills is the author of 60 books for young readers, including the middle-grade novels Zero Tolerance and Write This Down, and several chapter book series, most recently Franklin School Friends and After-School Superstars. Her books have been chosen as Junior Library Guild selections, named Notable Books of the Year by the American Library Association, translated into half a dozen languages, and nominated for dozens of state readers’ choice awards. When not writing her books, she has worked as a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently is a faculty member in the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins University. She has written all her books between 5 and 7 in the morning, while drinking Swiss Miss hot chocolate.
Quressa Robinson joined the Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working as an editor for five years. She is originally from San Francisco, but has been living in New York City for over a decade. As a New York based agent, she is eager to build her MG, YA, and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV–mostly Sailor Moon and Avatar: The Last Airbender (Fire Nation!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever partner, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. Quressa is also a member of the 2017-2020 WNDB Walter Grant Committee and holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction from Columbia University.
Courtney Stevenson, Associate Editor, Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books. For the past four years, Courtney has worked with Rosemary Brosnan on her rich list of authors, including Elizabeth Acevedo, Gail Carson Levine, Patrick Ness, and Rita Williams-Garcia. In building her list, Courtney is most excited by young adult and middle grade manuscripts that have a literary bent, clever voice, diverse cast of characters, and perhaps some vibrant historical details.
Ashley Wolff has been a visual artist since she declared herself one at the age of 5. She grew up in Middlebury, Vermont and holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Ashley is the author and/or illustrator of over 70 children’s picture books including Baby Bear Sees Blue, Stella and Roy Go Camping, Compost Stew, Baby Beluga, and the beloved Miss Bindergarten Series. Every summer Ashley teaches writing and illustration in the Children’s Picture Book Writing & Illustration MFA and certificate programs at Hollins University. For 30 years one of Ashley’s favorite pastimes has been traveling to schools all over the US, speaking to children about writing, drawing and using their imagination to help them find their paths to the future. She lives and works on Lake Dunmore in Leicester, VT.
Professor Sharon Dennis Wyeth is an African American children’s author, poet and memoirist. Since 1994, she has deliberately committed her work toward the truthful inclusion and celebration of the African American childhood story in American children’s literature. Her work for young readers of all ages includes both contemporary and historical fiction, picture books, middle grade and young adult novels: Something Beautiful, The Granddaughter Necklace, Corey’s Underground Railroad Diaries, Once on This River, Orphea Proud, and The World of Daughter McGuire (ebook), to name a few. Akin to the tradition of “family literature,” Sharon’s books are meant to be shared and discussed. Her protagonists are ordinary children meeting challenges she can identify and empathize with through her own lived experiences: a phantom dad, a mom stressed by bills, the hidden and painful past of enslaved ancestors, a yearning for adventure and the call to activism. Her writing also affirms the thirst for beauty and the requirement of quiet and interiority within threatening and assaultive environments. Sharon’s work has received awards and citations from the Children’s Book Council, Parents Magazine, New York Public Library, Reading Rainbow and LAMDA (Literary Award Finalist). Her picture book Always My Dad was the focus of a long running Reading Rainbow episode starring Levar Burton. Her essay “I’m A Dancer” is featured in The Talk, the recently published, critically acclaimed anthology edited by Wade and Cheryl Hudson. Sharon is a recipient of the Stephen Crane Literary Award, the NAACP Education Award and the Cave Canem Fellowship for African American poets. A graduate of Harvard University, with an MFA in Creative Writing/Memoir from Hunter College, she is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the Children’s Literature Department at Hollins University. www.sharondenniswyeth.com