Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Faculty Biographies

James Ransome Portrait

Opening Keynote – James Ransome is the illustrator of almost sixty picture books including Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, This is the Rope, and Before She Was Harriet. He is also the author and illustrator of three titles, New Red Bike, Gunner and My Teacher. James received his BFA from Pratt Institute and is the winner of numerous awards for his illustrations including the Coretta Scott King, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor and NAACP Image awards. James works in many different mediums from oils, acrylics, watercolors, drawings, printmaking, collages and photographs. He is host Kid Lit TV show Young at Art and has created an art card for the NYC subway and the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati. James is the MFA illustration coordinator at Syracuse University and lives in New York with his wife and frequent collaborator, author Lesa Cline-Ransome and their family.  Presentations: Opening Keynote (Saturday), First Looks Panel (Saturday)


Closing Keynote – Like so many other writers, Hena Khan grew up with her nose in a book. She still thinks of the characters and stories she absorbed years ago. That’s why she loves writing for kids—in the hopes that something she wrote will help shape them. Hena explores her Pakistani American culture in her writing, along with space, spies, and adventures. Amina’s Voice is her most recent middle grade novel. She also wrote the forthcoming chapter book series, Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream, and several picture books including Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Night of the Moon, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George. Presentation: Closing Keynote: Writing with Love (Sunday)


Raúl Colón was born in New York City, and lived in Puerto Rico through his High School years, where he studied Commercial Art. After a ten year stay in Florida working at the art department of an Instructional Television Center, doing everything from puppetry to animated films, he returned to New York in 1988 to begin his career as a freelance illustrator. There he worked for clients such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Sony Records, and The MTA. Raul worked on his first picture book when an editor at Simon and Schuster saw his work in The New York Times Book Review and made an offer. Since then, Raul has illustrated dozens of picture books and won gold and silver medals from The Society of Illustrators. His book Draw! was named one of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books in 2014, the second time he’s received said award. He’s also illustrated books for various authors such as Frank McCourt and Dr. Jill Biden. The industry has awarded Raul with a Pura Belpré Award, a Golden Kite Award among others. Raul lives with his family in New York. Presentations: The Art of Daydeaming (Saturday), First Looks Panel (Saturday), A Rhapsody of Color (Sunday)


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of theYale Law Journal. Pintip’s novel, Forget Tomorrow, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. It is also a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society IT list. In addition, The Darkest Lie was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include Remember Yesterday, Seize Today, and Girl on the Verge. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. Pintip was a Pitch Wars mentor in 2016, and she was also the co-captain of a Pitch Madness team in 2017. Presentation: The Online Pitch Contest Phenomenon (Saturday)


Meg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, RHINO and Gargoyle. She teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland. She has five poetry chapbooks, and her novel Post-High School Reality Quest is published with California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal. Presentation: The Online Pitch Contest Phenomenon (Saturday)



Laura Gehl is the author of ten published picture books from houses including Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House, with many more picture books to come out over the next few years. When Laura reads adult fiction, she skims over all the descriptive passages, which makes writing picture books—where the art replaces any wordy description—a perfect fit. Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband, four kids, and large stash of dark chocolate. Presentations: And Still We R(ev)ise (Saturday), Picture (Book) Perfect (Sunday)


Maria Gianferrari holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English from SUNY Stony Brook. She is the author of the nonfiction picture books Coyote Moon and the forthcoming Hawk Rising, both from Roaring Brook Press, as well as Terrific Tongues, a concept book coming from Boyds Mills Press in April. Maria’s future nonfiction titles include Whooo-Ku (GP Putnam’s Sons) and A Home For Bobcat (Roaring Brook Press). She is also the author of the Penny & Jelly Books, Officer Katz & Houndini and Hello Goodbye Dog. Maria lives in Leesburg, Virginia with her family. Presentations: In the Trenches: From the Query to the Call (Saturday), Picture (Book) Perfect (Sunday)


Dr. Tamara Girardi is an Assistant Professor of English at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. She writes young adult fantasy and contemporary novels, her most recent of which, Gridiron Girl, about a girl who competes against her boyfriend to be the starting quarterback of the football team, is currently on submission with publishers. The novel was selected for the 2016 Pitch Wars class. She lives in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh with her husband and three children and is the creator of #KindWriters and #BookRave on Twitter, where you can find her as @TamaraGirardi. Presentation: The Online Pitch Contest Phenomenon (Saturday)


Leah Henderson has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures, she is off on her own, exploring new spaces and places around the world. She received her MFA at Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home. One Shadow on the Wall (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum) is her debut middle grade novel. You can find Leah on Twitter @LeahsMark or at her website: Presentations: Their Voice, Their Perspective: Writing Cross-Cultural Stories We All Deserve (Saturday), In the Trenches: From the Query to the Call (Saturday)


Carollyne Hutter writes on the environment, science, the arts, and international topics for children and adults. Carollyne has written more than 30 articles for award-winning children’s magazines and 5 books. She loves talking with leading scientists, researchers, and artists about their work. Originally from Wisconsin, she lives in the Washington, DC area and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Presentations: And Still We R(ev)ise (Saturday)


Celia Lee is an editor at Scholastic where she acquires for the Cartwheel, Orchard, and Little Shepherd imprints, which includes anything from board and novelty books to early illustrated chapter books. She studied English Literature and Art History at Virginia Tech and earned a MS in Publishing from NYU. She previously worked for Scholastic’s Book Clubs division, where she scrutinized every Honeybee and Firefly catalog to make sure every book looked great. Recent and soon-to-be released titles Celia has edited includes Good Night, Sweetie by Mills-Tannenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy winner Joyce Wan, the Press Start! Branches series by Children’s Book Award winner Thomas Flintham, the Littlest series by New York Times bestseller Brandi Dougherty, and Jack B. Ninja by Tim McCanna and Geisel Honor recipient Stephen Savage. She also assisted on Peter H. Reynold’s Happy Dreamer, Society of Illustrators Original Art Show selection Monster’s New Undies by Sam Berger and Tad Carpenter, and the first two books in New York Times bestselling creators Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld’s Groovy Joe picture book series. A lifelong learner and traveler (i.e.: military brat), Celia enjoys expanding her worldview on anything and everything—most recently she’s taken classes on tree identification, meeting strangers, and memorization techniques! She can’t wait to learn about something else to learn about. Presentations: The Market of Picture Books (Saturday), Agents and Editors Panel


Laurent Linn began his career as a puppet designer/builder in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop, creating characters for productions including A Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island films. Later, as Creative Director, he worked primarily on Sesame Street, winning an Emmy Award. Currently, as Art Director at Simon & Schuster, Laurent collaborates with illustrators/authors such as Tomie dePaola, Patricia Polacco, Bryan Collier, James Ransome, Raúl Colón, and Debbie Ohi. He is also the author and illustrator of the illustrated YA novel, Draw the Line. Laurent is on the Board of the SCBWI. You can follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook and at Presentations: Writing Like an Illustrator & Illustrating Like a Writer (Saturday), First Looks Panel (Saturday), Exploring Your Illustration Style (Sunday)


Megan Wagner Lloyd is the author of Finding Wild and Fort-Building Time, as well as the upcoming picture books Building Books, Paper Mice, and The ABCs of Catching Zs. She lives with her family in the Washington D.C. area. Presentations: And Still We R(ev)ise (Saturday), Picture (Book) Perfect (Sunday)


Sue Macy is the author of 16 books for kids, including nonfiction picture books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult social histories. She was trained as a journalist and cut my teeth as an editor of Scholastic’s classroom magazines. She does all her own research and photo research, and the process of unearthing facts and artifacts in an integral part of her writing process.  Her YA book, Wheels of Change, was a finalist for the 2012 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. Presentations: Research Tips Every Nonfiction Writer Needs To Know (Saturday), And Still We R(ev)ise (Saturday)





John Micklos, Jr. is the author of 35 titles ranging from poetry and picture books for primary students to history and social studies books for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students. Titles include the bestseller 125 True Stories of Amazing Pets (National Geographic Kids, contributor), One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me (Penguin), and more than a dozen books for Capstone, Enslow, and Cavendish Square. He is also an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing and editing materials in the field of reading education. Presentations: Facts Can Be Fun: Writing and Selling Nonfiction (Saturday),  In the Trenches: From the Query to the Call (Saturday)


Penny Moore has always had a love of books, especially young adult and middle grade. While completing degrees in Linguistics and Japanese Language & Literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle school TESOL teacher, which is where she solidified her passion for publishing and kids lit in particular. Penny joined Empire in 2016 as an agent after working at FinePrint Literary and while she’s interested in all genres, she’s specifically seeking inventive works featuring breakout voices and compelling plot lines. She represents Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish (Simon Pulse), hit Instagram illustrator Beth Evans, author of I Really Didn’t Think This Through (William Morrow), and Nicki Pau Preto, author of Crown of Feathers (Simon Pulse), Drawings for My Grandchildren (Putnam Children’s), and Caroline Kaufman, author of Light Filters In (HarperTeen). Presentations: Query Letters (Saturday), Agents and Editors Panel (Saturday), First Pages Plus (Sunday)


Courtney Pippin Mathur is the author and illustrator of Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool and Maya was Grumpy. She grew up in East Texas but now lives in a suburb of Washington D.C with a knight, a princess and two dragons. This leads to many exciting adventures with lots of breaks for reading. Presentations: In the Trenches: From the Query to the Call (Saturday), Picture (Book) Perfect (Sunday)



Quressa Robinson joined the Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working at a previous agency and 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 YA and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV–mostly Sailor Moon and Harry Potter (Slytherin!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever husband, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. So, give her stories that will make her geek out. If you can make her have an epic fangirl squee–have stories featuring fairies and warrior princesses with afros and rainbow dreads or envision winter elves inspired by an Asian or Latinx culture–then you are definitely a match. She’s also looking for stories with best friends like Molly and Issa on Insecure, enemies to lovers, coming-of-age stories, The Breakfast Club with a twist, family drama and witches (!), and alpha heroes paired with witty heroines. If you have bold, fresh, or quirky stories they will be right up her alley. She’s also looking for stories that feel timeless and timely despite the current climate or when they were originally written. Or give her something she didn’t know she desperately needed. Above all, give her stories she can become deeply passionate about. Presentations: Q and A with an Agent (Saturday), Agents and Editors Panel (Saturday), Developmental Editing: Being Your Own Editor (Sunday)


Laura Shovan is an award-winning poet, children’s author, editor, and educator. Her debut middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, as well a Nerdy Book Club award. She is a longtime poet-in-the-schools and the author and editor of three books of poetry for adults. Her second middle grade novel, Takedown, publishes in June, 2018 from Random House Children’s Books. Presentation: The Online Pitch Contest Phenomenon (Saturday)


Meera Trehan is a writer represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt. As a child, she read as much as she could, memorized poems, and ate enough cookies to earn the nickname “Monster” after the Cookie Monster. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School, she practiced public interest law for over a decade before turning to creative writing. Her work for children has been published in various magazines. Meera lives in Maryland with her husband, two children, and as of this writing, four fish. Presentations: In the Trenches: From the Query to the Call (Saturday)


Alex Ulyett is an Associate Editor at Viking Children’s Books, where he acquires and edits fiction and nonfiction for kids and teens. Some of his current authors include David Arnold, Deborah Noyes, Lisa Bunker, Cristina Moracho, and Arvin Ahmadi. Before coming to Viking, Alex studied English at Princeton University and worked at Basic Books and Writers House. Presentations: The Character Iceberg (Saturday), Agents and Editors Panel (Saturday), First Pages Plus (Sunday)


Lakita Wilson, M.Ed is a college professor of Teacher Education at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland. She is currently working on a middle grades series that has gained the attention of other authors, agents, and editors from two of the “Top 5” publishing houses. She currently runs an Instagram page featuring diverse books ( @thesweetpeagirls) , currently at 24K followers. Presentations: Social Media’s Role in Your Book Journey (Saturday), And Still We R(ev)ise (Saturday)



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