SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 Virtual Fall Conference Faculty Bios

 


KEYNOTE SPEAKER
LINDA SUE PARK is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2002 Newbery Medal winner A SINGLE SHARD and the NYTimes bestseller A LONG WALK TO WATER. Her most recent title is THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE, a collection of linked poems. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Linda Sue serves on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books and the Rabbit hole children’s literature museum project. She also created the website kiBooka.com, a listing of kids’ books by Korean Americans & Korean diaspora. Linda Sue knows very well that she will never be able to read every great book ever written, but she keeps trying anyway. Visit her website at www.lindasuepark.com; follow her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.

CRYSTAL ALLEN is the author of five middle-grade books, all published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Her accolades include the 2018 SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award for THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS: THE WALL OF FAME GAME; starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal; inclusion on Kirkus Best Books and has had books on multiple summer reading and state book award lists, including the Texas Bluebonnet. She is a committee member of The Brown Bookshelf, Co-Director of Kindling Words East, and teaches for Highlight’s for Children. Her forthcoming book, BETWEEN TWO BROTHERS, will release in the Fall of 2022. Crystal lives in Sugar Land, Texas with her husband, Reggie, and two sons, Phillip and Joshua.

VICTORIA WELLS ARMS is a literary agent with eight years as owner of her own agency, Wells Arms Literary, which works in association with HG Literary. Before that she was founding editorial director of Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA, and had editorial positions at Putnam and Dial Children’s Books. She has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and lives and works in New York City.

ASHLEY BELOTE is the illustrator of FRANKENSLIME and VALENSLIME (11/16/21), and the author-illustrator of her solo debut early reader, THE ME TREE (PRH, 11/2/21) and her solo debut picture book, LISTEN UP, LOUELLA (Feiwel & Friends, 2022). Ashley earned her BA from Alderson Broaddus University and her MA in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky. Her graduate study included a children’s literature and illustration course, The Whole Book Approach, offered through Simmons College at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. She then studied traditional animation under the direction of Don Bluth. Ashley lives and works in North Carolina where she creates artwork that she hopes brings lots of laughs to others. Visit her at AshleyBelote.com.


VALERIE BOLLING is the author of LET’S DANCE! (March 3, 2020; SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, 2021) and has been an educator for 28 years. She is a member of SCBWI (and former co-chair of the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Team), the Authors Guild, and NCTE. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a member of Kid Lit in Color, Black Creators in Kid Lit, Soaring 20s PBs, PB Crew 22, 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and three picture book critique groups. She has two books scheduled for release in 2022 (TOGETHER WE RIDE and CITY FUN), five more slated for 2023, and one for 2024. Valerie Bolling’s website: valeriebolling.com


LINDA CAMACHO is an agent at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, founded in 2000 and home to talents like Rick Riordan and Sophie Blackall. Linda graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Communication and has held various positions at Penguin Random House, Dorchester, Simon & Schuster, Writers House, and Prospect Agency. She’s done everything from foreign rights to editorial, to marketing, to operations and received her MFA in children’s writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Linda represents bestselling and award-winning creatives such as Yamile Saied Méndez, K. O’Neill, and Wendy Xu. She also has a short story in the 2021 young adult anthology EVERY BODY SHINES by Cassandra Newbould.


JOE CEPEDA received his BFA in Illustration from California State University, Long Beach. He is the illustrator of award-winning picture books such as WHAT A TRULY COOL WORLD (Scholastic), NAPPY HAIR (Knopf), MICE AND BEANS (Scholastic) including THE SWING (Arthur A. Levine Books), which he wrote as well as illustrated. Mr. Cepeda has illustrated books written by numerous notable authors including Gary Soto, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Arnold Adoff, Monica Brown, Julius Lester and Toni Morrison. He’s also illustrated book jackets for several titles, including ESPERANZA RISING and Newberry Medal winner, MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS. Mr. Cepeda received an ALA 2002 Pura Belpre’ Honor Award and the Recognition of Merit Award for 2000 from the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books. Joe was awarded a Capstone Fellowship for 2016. In addition to his illustrative work, Mr. Cepeda is sought after as a public speaker to schools and other groups. He is the president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. He lives in Southern California.

MEG EDEN is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee, and winner of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature. Her work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST (2017), and the poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020). Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.


FRANCES GILBERT started her career in children’s books when she was still a child, working in the children’s department of her town library throughout high school. After graduating from university with an M.A. in English, Frances’s first job in publishing was as a Book Club Editor at Scholastic Canada in Toronto. She moved to New York in 2000 to set up a children’s editorial division at Sterling Publishing, where she stayed till 2012. Frances then moved to Random House Children’s Books, where she is VP, Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers. Titles she has acquired and edited include the New York Times bestseller THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE by Mark Twain, Philip Stead, and Erin Stead; I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt; the HELLO, WORLD! board book series by Jill McDonald; BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB by Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss; and WORDY BIRDY by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram. In addition to editing children’s books, Frances also writes them: She is the author of the picture books GO, GIRLS, GO!; TOO MUCH SLIME!; and I WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR BUNNY; the Step Into Reading titles I LOVE PINK!, I LOVE MY TUTU!, I LOVE MY GRANDMA! and I LOVE CAKE!; and an abridgment of THE SECRET GARDEN (Little Golden Books). You can follow Frances on Twitter at @GoGirlsGoBooks, where she posts about children’s writing and editing.

PERSEPHONE JAYNE has been writing childrens books for seven years now. During that time she started to combine her love of books (reading and writing them), and meditation. These might not seem like they would go together but Persephone takes the inherent emotions we feel for our favorite books and uses them to connect us all. That old saying, “someone reading a book I love is like a book recommending a person” or however it goes. That’s how Persephone sees her craft. As something intertwined with the divine and thus an obvious choice for focusing her spiritual practice. Now, she brings this practice to SCBWI.

TERRY CATASÚS JENNINGS landed in the United States on September 11, 1961 after a short flight from Cuba. On September 12th, she was enrolled in seventh grade in an American school. Her family, including her father who had been jailed during the Bay of Pigs invasion, was now in a free country. The only catch for twelve-year-old Terry was that she could count in English and recite the days of the week and the months of the year, but not much more. Often being the only Cuban in her school—even through college—Terry knows what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. She is delighted to have the opportunity, with DEFINITELY DOMINGUITA, to portray a typical child of immigrants—no different than her peers—other than she loves the classics (like Jennings did as a child) and thinks Cuban food rules.


CORDELIA JENSEN graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. Cordelia has three verse novels: SKYSCRAPING (Philomel/Penguin Random House) THE WAY THE LIGHT BENDS (Philomel/Penguin Random House) and EVERY SHINY THING (Amulet/Abrams), which she co-authored with VCFA classmate Laurie Morrison. SKYSCRAPING was named an American Library Association’s 2016 Best Book for Young Adults, A Los Angeles Public Library’s Best Book for Teens and a 2016 NCTE Children’s Notable Verse Novel. EVERY SHINY THING was nominated for the South Carolina Junior Book Award. Cordelia has taught creative writing in a variety of settings: Bryn Mawr College, Germantown Friends School and The Writing Barn. She currently teaches for The Kelly Yang Project and The Highlights Foundation. She also runs a local kids’ literary journal called the Mt. Airy Musers. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin. 


RAJANI LAROCCA was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning novels and picture books in prose and poetry. RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE, her first verse novel, was an Indie Next Top Ten and Junior Library Guild Selection. It received multiple starred reviews and is a finalist for the New England Book Award. To connect with Rajani and learn more about her and her books visit her at RajaniLaRocca.com.


DEBBIE LEVY is the award-winning author of many nonfiction books, including New York Times bestseller I DISSENT: RUTH BADER GINSBURG MAKES HER MARK and WE SHALL OVERCOME: THE STORY OF A SONG, and the family-based THE YEAR OF GOODBYES, set in pre-war Nazi Germany. Her most recent release is PHOTO ARK ABC: AN ANIMAL ALPHABET IN POETRY AND PICTURES, featuring photographs by acclaimed National Geographic Explorer Joel Sartore. She lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Washington, DC, with her husband. debbielevybooks.com


J. ALBERT MANN is a disability activist, an award-winning poet, and the author of eight published novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is the Partner Liaison for the WNDB Internship Grant Committee. She lives on a little fishing boat in the Boston Harbor with her first mate, Marcella, a ginger tabby.


GINGER PARK is an award-winning author of many books for children and adults. Her forthcoming historical middle grade novel THE HUNDRED CHOICES DEPARTMENT STORE will be published on March 25, 2022. Awards include: International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award, Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Joan G. Sugarman Children’s Book Award, Outstanding Merit, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College, Parents’ Choice Award, A Junior Library Guild Selection, IRA-CBC Teachers’ Choice Award, and NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book For Young People Children’s Book Award. When she’s not writing or spending treasured time with her human and fur baby family, she’s usually at her chocolate shop, behind the counter ‘breaking chocolate’ with her beloved customers. Her shop motto: There’s a chocolate for every mood. But for me it’s always something dark and earthy that lingers on the tongue long after the chocolate has melted.


MARY QUATTLEBAUM is the author of many award-winning nonfiction picture books and chapter books featuring the natural world, most recently BROTHER, SISTER, ME AND YOU and HERO DOGS as well as novels, books of poetry, and picture books, including PIRATE VS. PIRATE and THE HUNGRY GHOST OF RUE ORLEANS. She teaches in the MFA program in writing for children and young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and writes frequently for Washington Post/KidsPost and Washington Parent. She and her family tend a small backyard wildlife habitat in Washington, DC. maryquattlebaum.com


CANDICE RANSOM is the author of 165 books for children and young adults, including picture books, easy readers, nonfiction for all ages, middle grade and YA fiction. She has an MFA from VCFA, an MA in children’s literature from Hollins University, where she is on the faculty in the children’s literature graduate program.


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. Quressa is also a member of the 2017-2020 WNDB Walter Grant Committee and holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction from Columbia University. In 2020, she was named one of five PW Star Watch finalists.


CINDY L. RODRIGUEZ is the author of the YA novel WHEN REASON BREAKS, (2015) and the essay “I’m a Survivor” from the anthology LIFE INSIDE MY MIND: 31 AUTHORS SHARE THEIR PERSONAL STRUGGLES (2018). She has also written the text for VOLLEYBALL ACE (2020), DRILL TEAM DETERMINATION (2021), and GYMNASTICS PAYBACK (2021), which are all part of the Jake Maddox series. She is also a founder of Latinxs in Kid Lit, which has been celebrating children’s literature by/for/about Latinxs since 2013. Before becoming a teacher in 2000, she was an award-winning reporter for The Hartford Courant and researcher for The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team. She is currently a middle school reading specialist in Connecticut, where she lives with her family.


MADELYN ROSENBERG is the author of a dozen picture books and novels for kids of all ages. Middle-grade titles include THIS IS JUST A TEST and NOT YOUR ALL-AMERICAN GIRL, both written with Wendy Wan-Long Shang, and ONE SMALL HOP, a cli-fi book about five kids and a frog. Picture books include CYCLOPS OF CENTRAL PARK and HOW TO BEHAVE AT A TEA PARTY. She lives with her family in Arlington, Va., where she also writes for an affordable housing nonprofit.


WENDY SHANG is the author of several children’s books, including THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU, winner of the Asian-Pacific American Librarians Association Children’s Literature Award, and NOT YOUR ALL-AMERICAN GIRL, written with Madelyn Rosenberg. Her latest book, THE RICE IN THE POT GOES ROUND AND ROUND, is her debut picture book. Kirkus gave the book a starred review, calling it “An utterly charming Asian twist to a familiar tune.” When she is not working, Wendy enjoys reading, solving the New York Times Spelling Bee, and taking her energetic puppy to the dog park. She lives in Falls Church with her family.


BECKY SCHARNHORST grew up in Northeast Wisconsin and spent most of her childhood playing in lakes and reading books. Shortly after receiving a BA from Luther College, Becky spent a year working as a children’s bookseller at Barnes & Noble and soon discovered she enjoyed reading picture books more than anything else. Much, much more. Now Becky spends her days writing children’s books and volunteering at her local library. Her debut picture book MY SCHOOL STINKS will be published by Philomel Books in 2021, followed by THIS FIELD TRIP STINKS (2022) and HOW TO GET YOUR OCTOPUS TO SCHOOL (2023). She currently lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband, two kids, and a few too many pets.


LAURA SHOVAN’S debut middle grade novel, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, won several awards, including NCTE 2017 Notable Verse. Her novel TAKEDOWN was selected by Junior Library Guild, PJ Our Way, and the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist books. Her most recent book, A PLACE AT THE TABLE, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, is a Sydney Taylor Notable. Laura is a longtime poet-in-the-schools in Maryland. She likes to knit, bake, and doodle robots.


​LISA STRINGFELLOW writes middle grade fiction. Her debut fantasy A COMB OF WISHES will be published on February 8, 2022 by HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books. She received the inaugural Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Manuscript Award in 2019 for the novel manuscript. Her professional work has appeared in Edutopia, Education Week, and Independent Teacher Magazine. Lisa is a middle-school teacher and lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her children and two bossy cats.


KAYLA TOSTEVIN is a children’s editor at Page Street Kids. When not poring over books (and sometimes while poring over books), she likes to be outside: hiking, biking, on a boat, or wandering aimlessly and smiling at animals. She hails from one end of the longest US freeway I-90 (Seattle, WA) and now lives at the other in Boston, MA.


JULIA TYLER is a Designer at Page Street Kids, an imprint of Page Street Publishing. Her main role is to design and art direct picture books, but she also oversees illustrator direction for the YA list. She received her BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design and still loves to make paintings (mostly of her fluffy black cat). Julia believes that kids deserve rich stories that reflect their realities and inspire their imaginations. She loves working with artists who think outside of the box and bring their own unique perspective to the project.


DR. PADMA VENKATRAMAN has explored coral reefs and rain forests, served as chief scientist on oceanographic vessels where she was the only female and only BIPOC person, and worked as a diversity director. Her latest novel, BORN BEHIND BARS, is a Junior Library Guild selection and just received a starred review from Kirkus. Padma is also the author of four other acclaimed novels for young readers: THE BRIDGE HOME, A TIME TO DANCE, ISLAND’S END, and CLIMBING THE STAIRS. THE BRIDGE HOME was a Global Read Aloud and ALA Notable book and secured eight starred reviews and won eight awards including the Walter Dean Myers Award. Her previous novels have also received multiple starred reviews, and won several honors and awards. Her poetry has, most recently, appeared in Poetry magazine.


JOAN WAITES is an award-winning illustrator of numerous trade and educational titles. She is the author-illustrator of three picture books, with forthcoming picture book and board book titles releasing in 2022 and 2023. A former adjunct faculty member of the Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design’s aspiring artists programs, she continues to teach art for children and adults. She served as the Mid-Atlantic region’s Illustrator Coordinator from 2000-2020, and is a member of The Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C., and the National Art Educators Association.


DEEBA ZARGARPUR enthusiastically joined the Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Salaam Reads editorial team in March 2020. Her aim is to acquire commercial books that empower young people from diverse backgrounds. As a self-taught polyglot, Deeba’s love of literature across various languages stemmed from the tales spun throughout her childhood. She is always on the hunt for stories that inspire a sense of magic and wonder, plot lines that challenge traditional assumptions about morality, and strong character arcs that redefine what it means to be the hero of your own story. Follow Deeba on Twitter and Instagram at @deebazargarpur.