The Color of Children's Literature
Conference Presenters

Saturday, April 7, 2018



Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois,
in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices & potpourri. She’s lived in Chicago, New York City and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Samira taught high school English, worked in education non-profits and for political campaigns. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Jaggery Lit, Entropy, the Fem, Claudius Speaks, This is What a Librarian Looks Like, and the Spine Out novelists series. Her debut novel LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS was an instant New York Times Best Seller. Her next two novels, INTERNMENT and MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW will be out in 2019.

author pic.jpg

Fred Aceves, autHor of THE CLOSEST I'VE COME

Fred Aceves was born in New York but spent most of his youth in Southern California and Tampa, Florida, where he lived in a poor, working class neighborhood like the one described in The Closest I’ve Come. At the age of 21 he started traveling, living in Chicago, New York, The Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, his father’s native land. Among other jobs, he has worked as a delivery driver, server, cook, car salesman, freelance editor, translator and teacher of English as a second language. The Closest I’ve Come is his first novel.
Twitter @FredAceves, Instagram @fred.aceves


KURESTIN ARMADA, Associate Agent, P.S. Literary

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary in 2015. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction. Right now she has giant sci-fi novels and fun, joyful MG/YA at the top of her wishlist. 


Tracey Baptiste, Author of RISE OF The Jumbies & The Totally Gross History of Ancient Egypt

Tracey Baptiste, M. Ed. is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel RISE OF THE JUMBIES, a sequel to THE JUMBIES. She is also a contributor to the adult horror anthology SYCORAX’S DAUGHTERS out this spring. Baptiste’s other children’s books include ANGEL’S GRACE and THE TOTALLY GROSS HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. Baptiste volunteers with We Need Diverse Books, and The Brown Bookshelf. She teaches in Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program, and runs the editorial company Fairy Godauthor where she works with publishers and individual authors.


Stacey barney, Executive Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR

Stacey Barney is an Executive Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR. She has edited the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh as well as Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award-winning Firebird by American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor-winning Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter. She has also edited award-winning authors Kristin Levine (The Lions of Little Rock), Tara Sullivan (The Bitter Side of Sweet) as well as New York Times bestsellers The Reader by Traci Chee and Happy by Pharrell Williams.


rhoda belleza, author of BLOOD OF A THOUSAND STARS

Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing X-Files fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. When she's not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung fu movies, and sews together crooked things that pass for clothes. She's a children's editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed with far too many bikes and far too many shoes. Empress of a Thousand Skies is her debut novel  and Blood of a Thousand Stars, its exhilarating sequel. 

Cropped Photo.jpg


Tonya Bolden, author, editor, and co-author of more than forty books is a recipient of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC.’s Nonfiction Award for her body of work. Tonya’s books include Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner. Tonya’s novel, Crossing Ebenezer Creek, has also received high praise. In its starred review of this story set during the Civil War Kirkus Reviews said this: “Informative, engrossing, and unflinching . . . . A poetic, raw, and extraordinary imagining of a little-known, shameful chapter in American history.”  Tonya’s latest book is Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man.



Joseph Bruchac lives in the same house where he was raised in Greenfield Center, New York in the Adirondack Mountain region. Much of his work is inspired by his Native (Abenaki) ancestry. Author of over 130 books in many genres and winner of numerous awards, his experiences include running a college program in a prison, teaching in Ghana, and doing wildlife rehabilitation with his wife Nicola Marae Allain.




Cozbi A. Cabrera illustrates children’s books, quilts, and designs clothing. This Parsons School of Design grad left her dream job creating music packaging in NY to make handmade collectible cloth dolls (Muñecas) in honor of her Honduran heritage which have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Martha Stewart Living, and many US networks. Land of Nod features Cozbi’s dolls in their catalog.  Cozbi’s illustrated titles include: Beauty Her Basket/Sandra Belton, and Thanks A Million/Nikki Grimes, Greenwillow Books; Stitchin’ and Pullin’ A Gees Bend Quilt/Patricia McKissack, Random House; Most Loved in All the World/Tonya Cherie Hegamin, Houghton Mifflin, which won the Christopher Award, given to outstanding works that represent the best of the human spirit. Her newest title, authored and illustrated: My Hair Is A Garden/Albert Whitman 2018. Next: Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, written by Suzanne Slade/Abrams Books 2019.

Social media: cozbi, cozbihandmade

KC author photo copy.jpeg


Kheryn Callender is the author of Hurricane Child (available March 27, 2018) and This is Kind of An Epic Love Story (available September 18, 2018). They're an Associate Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and are committed to expanding diversity in children's books.



Before Linda Camacho moved to Gallt & Zacker Literary, she was with Prospect Agency and held various roles on the publishing side. After graduating from Cornell in 2005, she interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin and Random House. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

She's seeking middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction across all genres (especially upmarket and women’s fiction/romance); also seeking select picture book and graphic novel writer-illustrators. Diversity of all types welcome!



Joanna Cardenas, Editor at Kokila, a new imprint of Penguin Random House

JOANNA CÁRDENAS is an editor at Kokila, a new imprint of Penguin Random House dedicated to centering stories from the margins. She acquires picture books, chapter books, and middle grade (including graphic novels). Among other projects, Joanna edited Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller; The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya; and The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez. She serves on the steering committee for Latinx in Publishing and works with the Representation Matters Mentor Program to diversify hiring within the book publishing industry. Follow Joanna @joannananamc and learn more about her list at 


Sona Charaipotra, Co-author of Shiny Broken Pieces & Co-Founder of Cake Literary

Sona Charaipotra spends much of her time poking plot holes in shows like Riverdale – for work, of course. As the co-founder of the boutique book packager CAKE Literary, Sona’s mission is to get more diverse and deliciously high concept books for kids and teens onto shelves. She’s the co-author of the YA dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, and the author of the upcoming Prognosis: Love & Death. Sona is also a proud We Need Diverse Books team member. As a journalist, she has written for everyone from The New York Times to TeenVogue. Find her on Twitter @sona_c, or on the web at

Twitter: @sona_c

Author Pic, Tami Charles.jpg

tami charles, author of like vanessa

Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, nonfiction, and enjoys the occasional work-for-hire project. Her middle grade novel, LIKE VANESSA, debuts with Charlesbridge in spring, 2018. Her picture book, FREEDOM SOUP, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019.  She also has two more books forthcoming with Candlewick and Charlesbridge.



PREETI CHHIBBER, Assistant Director of Young Adult and Special Projects for Scholastic Book Clubs

Preeti Chhibber is currently the Assistant Director of Young Adult and Special Projects for Scholastic Book Clubs. She is currently sitting on the Scholastic Diversity Committee and the CBC Diversity Committee. She earned her B.A. in English at the University of Florida and her M.S. in Publishing at New York University. Hailing from West Palm Beach, Fl, she is a contributing writer for Book Riot and Book Riot Comics.




Bryan Collier graduated from Pratt Institute with honors in 1989. After 7 years of pursuit, he published Uptown, a book he both wrote and illustrated. Uptown  won the Ezra jack Keats Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. Over the years, Collier has illustrated Martin's Big Words, Dave the Potter, Rosa, and Trombone Shorty, for which he won the Caldecott honor and the Coretta Scott King Award.


jalissa corrie, marketing associate at lee & low books

Jalissa Corrie is a Marketing Associate at Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. She previously worked at Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and at different companies within the apparel and home furnishings industry. When she isn’t working, you can find her at bookish events across New York City.
Twitter: @jmarcellecorrie

KC Head Shot 1.jpg


Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher. She grew up in the Bronx, New York where she spent weekends devouring books and scribbling in journals. After graduating from Barnard College, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit organization that advocates change in the publishing industry, and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and helping their manuscripts evolve into picture books. Professionally and personally, Kandace loves books about strong female protagonists as well as any story that can make her laugh.

Twitter @whatsticks


SAYANTANI DASGUPTA, AUTHOR OF Kiranmala and the Kingdom of Serpents

Sayantani DasGupta grew up hearing stories about brave princesses, bloodthirsty rakkhosh and flying pakkhiraj horses. She is a pediatrician by training, but now teaches at Columbia University. When she’s not writing or reading, Sayantani spends time watching cooking shows with her trilingual children and protecting her black Labrador Retriever Khushi from the many things that scare him, including plastic bags. She is a team member of We Need Diverse books, and can be found online at and on Twitter at @sayantani16.


Jessica Echeverria, SENIOR Editor at Lee & Low Books

Jessica Echeverria is an editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent children’s book publisher focusing on diversity. For the past ten years, she has worked on a variety of different formats including early readers, bilingual books, Middle grade fiction, and picture books to name a few. Some of the projects she has edited include the Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Winner JUNA'S JAR, the Social Justice Literature Award Nonfiction winner TWENTY-TWO CENTS: MUHAMMAD YUNUS AND THE VILLAGE BANK, and the NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literary Work for Children TINY STITCHES: THE LIFE OF MEDICAL PIONEER VIVIEN THOMAS.

Seeking: English or bilingual fiction picture books with a touch of whimsy, unique girl characters, magical realism, and nonfiction for children ages five to twelve.
Not Seeking: YA, animal stories, or stories without diversity.
Our website is


Zetta elliott, author of dragons in a bag

Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of over twenty-five books for young readers, including the award-winning picture books Bird and Melena's Jubilee. Her middle grade fantasy novel, Dragons in a Bag, will be published by Random House in 2018. Her own imprint, Rosetta Press, generates culturally relevant stories that center children who have been marginalized, misrepresented, and/or rendered invisible in traditional children’s literature. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. She currently lives in Brooklyn.




Kait Feldmann is an Associate Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books. She joined Scholastic in May of 2014 and gained editorial experience under Executive Editors Andrea Davis Pinkney, Cheryl Klein, Michael di Capua, and Tracy Mack, assisting on such titles as Newbery Honor-winner Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan and New York Times bestseller The Marvels by Brian Selznick. Kait is a strong advocate for diverse representation and is building a list of meaningful, character-driven picture books and graphic novels with humor and heart. Kait resides in a hoarder’s paradise in Brooklyn, surrounded by books.


kelly fernandez, cartoonist/illustrator 

Kelly Fernandez is a cartoonist/illustrator from Queens, New York. She was the recipient of  the CAKE’s annual Cupcake Award in 2017 and a winner of Scholastic’s “Get Published by Graphix” competition. Her work has appeared in various comic anthologies such as Mine! and Dates: Volume 2, as well as the teen literature/comics magazine CICADA.
Her work often stars Latino women, and usually has something to do with folklore, monsters, or video games. When she’s not at her desk, you might find her wandering around the city looking for new places to eat. You view her work online at 

Julie Flett_ Courtney Molyneaux photo .jpg


Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist. She has received many awards including the 2017 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, the 2016 American Indian Library Association Award for Best Picture Book for Little You by Richard Van Camp (Orca Books), and the 2015 Canadian Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Award for Dolphin SOS, by Roy Miki (Tradewind Books), and My Heart Fills with Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Books).

Her own Wild Berries (Simply Read Books) was featured in The New York Times and included among Kirkus’s Best Children’s Books of 2013.


serene hakim, Junior Agent, Ayesha Pande Literary

Prior to joining Ayesha Pande Literary, Serene Hakim worked at Laura Gross Literary Agency in Boston. She has also interned at David Godine Publisher and Chase Literary Agency. Serene holds an M.A. in French to English translation from NYU and a B.A. in French and Women’s Studies from the University of Kansas. She is particularly drawn to fiction with strong female voices, both YA and adult fiction and non-fiction with international themes, and LGBTQ and feminist issues. She is always on the lookout for great YA sci-fi and fantasy, realistic YA, and anything that gives voice to those whose voices are underrepresented and/or marginalized. As a child of Lebanese immigrants, she is especially interested in stories dealing with the Middle East and the variety of immigrant experiences out there.
Twitter: @serenemaria

Vashti Harrison Photo.jpg

VASHTI HARRISON, ILLUSTRATOR OF Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Vashti Harrison earned her MFA in Film/Video from CalArts and BA from the University of Virginia. Her experimental films and documentaries have shown around the world at film festivals. After a brief stint in television as a production coordinator, she is now a freelance graphic designer and a picture-book illustrator (books forthcoming from S&S and HarperCollins). She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Twitter: @VashtiHarrison Instagram: @vashtiharrison Facebook: Vashti Harrison Illustration



Heidi Heilig is the author of THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE series, as well as a new YA fantasy series beginning with FOR A MUSE OF FIRE. Her novels have been listed on Indies Next , NPR's Best Books, and YALSA's Best Fiction, as well as Locus Magazine Finalists and Andre Norton Recommended Reading. Find her at

@heidiheilig on twitter, @heidi.heilig on insta

Leah Henderson.jpg

leah henderson, author of ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL

Leah 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. Her middle grade novel One Shadow on the Wall (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster) was sparked by one of those trips. Leah received her MFA at Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home. You can find her on Twitter @LeahsMark or at her website:



Veera Hiranandani earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Delacorte Press), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist. She is also the author of the chapter book series, Phoebe G. Green (Grosset & Dunlap), and The Night Diary, forthcoming in 2018 (Dial). A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College's Writing Institute, Writopia Lab, and The Writer's Rock. 

Twitter @veerahira and Instagram @veerawrites


CONNIE HSU, executive editor at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing

Connie Hsu is an executive editor at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing, and a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival Children's Planning Committee. Her authors include Vera Brosgol, Angela Dominguez, Shannon Hale, Kathryn Otoshi, Dan Santat, Steve Sheinkin, Mariko Tamaki, and Tillie Walden. She grew up in Huntsville, Alabama and graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Cheryl Willis Hudson, publisher & editorial director of Just Us Books, Inc. 

Cheryl Willis Hudson is editorial director of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company that focuses on Black interest books for children and young adults. She and her husband Wade Hudson, founded Just Us Books in 1988 to address the need for more African American children’s books in the market place. The Hudsons are also partners, with their children Katura and Stephan, in Hudson Publishing LLC, which recently founded Marimba Books, a new multicultural children's book imprint dedicated to publishing titles that reflect our country’s diversity. Ms. Hudson is also a children's book author. In 2003, she was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of diversity in literature and has served as an parenting expert for ClubMom. She is also a member of PEN America’s Children Book Committee. 

For more information, visit and

Wade Hudson - Head Shot (Author) 07-23-17_0007-M_LOV.jpg

wade hudson, president of Just us books

WADE HUDSON is president of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publisher of books for children and young adults.  His 30 published books for children and young adults  include Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, Jamal's Busy Day, Pass It On: African American Poetry for Children, Powerful Words: More Than Two Hundred Years of Extraordinary Writing by African Americans and It’s Church Going Time. He has received a New Jersey Stephen Crane Literary Award,  Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award presented by the Center for Black Literature (2008) and the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award given by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation (2012).  He has also been induced into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.



Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio.  


sheba karim, author of Mariam Sharma Hits the Road

Sheba Karim is the author of the YA novels Skunk Girl, That Thing We Call a Heart and the forthcoming Mariam Sharma Hits the RoadThat Thing We Call a Heart, was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ ten Best Contemporary Teen Reads of 2017 as well as one of the Best Teen Books of 2017 with a Touch of Humor.  It features complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and is set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry. Mariam Sharma Hits the Road follows the misadventures of three South Asian American best friends as they embark upon a road trip through the South, is out June 2018 from Harper Collins.

twitter/instagram: shebakarim , facebook: shebakarimwriter


GRACE KENDALL, SENIOR EDITOR at fsg books for young readers / Macmillan

Grace Elizabeth Kendall is a Senior Editor at FSG Books for Young Readers/Macmillan. She publishes stories for all ages and genres including MAMA AFRICA! by National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine and Charly Palmer; YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR by National Book Award Nominee and Walter Award Honoree Mitali Perkins and her first picture book, GIFTS FOR ABUELA, to be illustrated by Pura Belpré Honoree Sara Palacios; BETTY BEFORE X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson; and the Jasmine Toguchi series by Debbi Michiko Florence and Elizabet Vukovic, among many others.
Websites: &
@GraceKendallLit (twitter) @GraceKendallBooks (instagram)



Kazu Kibuishi is the writer and artist of the New York Times Bestselling AMULET graphic novel series, published by Scholastic. He is also the editor/art director/cover artist of the EXPLORER and FLIGHT Comic Anthologies. His debut graphic novel, Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, won a YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kazu moved to the U.S. with his mother and brother when he was a child. He graduated from Film Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2000, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He currently works as a full-time graphic novelist. He also speaks at schools, and works as a book designer/editor. Kazu lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife Amy, and their two children.

Please visit his website at and follow him on Twitter at @boltcity.



Aram Kim is a New York-based children’s book author/illustrator and picture book designer. She was born in Ohio, spent her childhood in South Korea, and now lives in Queens, New York. She likes bringing in distinctive South Korean flair to works she creates. Aram is a huge advocate for diversity in children’s literature, and a creator of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 poster. Her debut picture book, Cat on the Bus (2016), was included in Children’s Choice Reading List by ILA. Her second picture book, No Kimchi for Me! (2017), is a Junior Library Guild selection. Visit

Cheryl Klein headshot 2016.jpg

cheryl klein, editorial director at lee & low books

Cheryl Klein is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books. She previously worked at Scholastic, where her titles included the New York Times bestselling Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older; Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork; Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson; The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda; and The Snow Day by Komako Sakai. Cheryl is the author of The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults, and its earlier self-published incarnation, Second Sight. Her first picture book, Wings, will be published in 2019. Please visit her website at and follow her online at @chavelaque.



Peter Knapp is a literary agent with Park Literary & Media, where he represents middle grade and young adult fiction.Fueled by the thrill of reading a new story for the first time, Peter works creatively with his clients and the Park Literary team on marketing, branding initiatives and promotions to get great books into the hands of readers. Before joining PLM, he was a story editor at a book-scouting agency working with film clients, and he continues to look for new ways to partner with Hollywood on adaptations and multimedia properties. His clients include Soman Chainani, Lindsay Cummings, Brenda Drake and Will Walton, among others. Find him online at


me 2.jpg

london ladd, illustrator of Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School

London started his career painting murals. His big break came when he illustrated March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, written by Christine King Farris, the older sister of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Since then London has illustrated numerous critically acclaimed titles including Lend a Hand, Waiting for Pumpsie and Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass, an ALA Notable Children’s Book for Middle Readers.

minh le headshot.jpg

MINH LE, AUTHOR OF Drawn Together

Minh Lê is the author of Let Me Finish! (an NPR Best Book of 2016) illustrated by Isabel Roxas and the upcoming Drawn Together illustrated by Caldecott medalist Dan Santat, both published by Disney-Hyperion. He is also writing Green Lantern: Legacy, a graphic novel for the new DC Comics middle grade imprint, DC Zoom. A member of the kidlit consortium The Niblings, Minh has written for a number of national publications, including the New York Times, HuffPost, and the Horn Book. He is currently serving as a judge for the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Outside of spending time with his beautiful wife and sons, his favorite place to be is in the middle of a good book. 


KEVIN LEWIS, AUTHOR OF my truck is stuck & CHUGGA-CHUGGA CHOO-CHOO & Former editor at simon & schuster

Kevin Lewis has been a publishing professional for more than 25 years and has held positions at Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Disney. He's edited such best-selling writers and illustrators as Cynthia Rylant, Mark Teague, Dav Pilkey, Angela Johnson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Matt Cordell, Derek Anderson, Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black, Loren Long, and Kadir Nelson, to name but a few.  In addition, he has written close to a dozen picture books, including CHUGGA CHUGGA CHOO CHOO and MY TRUCK IS STUCK. He is currently working with Erin Murphy Literary and  lives with his husband and dog in a 200-year-old farm house in the Hudson Valley.


tiFF liao, EDITOR at HENRY HOLT BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing 

Tiff Liao is an Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where she works on a diverse list of YA and middle grade fiction and some nonfiction. She's had the pleasure of working with authors like Tomi Adeyemi, Lesley Livingston, Rhoda Belleza, Tochi Onyebuchi, Henry Lien, Erin Chack, and Simon Van Booy. Previously, she was at Penguin Young Readers.

Seeking: She's always looking for high-concept MG/YA with strong, immersive world-building and an unforgettable voice
She (mostly) tweets about bookish things @Tiff_Liao.


ALVINA LING, VP and Editor-in-Chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Alvina Ling is VP and Editor-in-Chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she’s worked since 1999. She edits children's books for all ages, from picture books to young adult, and has worked with such authors and illustrators as Peter Brown, Bryan Collier, Ed Young, Grace Lin, Wendy Mass, Chris Colfer, Laini Taylor, Libba Bray, Barry Lyga, Holly Black, and Sherman Alexie. She is the co-founder and former chair of the CBC Diversity Committee. She is on Twitter as @planetalvina and lives in Brooklyn.


kelsey marrujo, publicist, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

Kelsey Marrujo is a publicist for Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, where she plans and executes national book tours and author appearances and secures top national and local media for titles ranging from picture book to YA age levels. Previously, she worked as Marketing & Events manager at Los Angeles Confidential magazine. She received her BA in English Literature at the University of California, San Diego.



Nancy Mercado has worked in children’s publishing for over 18 years. As Editorial Director at Scholastic, Nancy manages a team of editors and oversees a range of titles including chapter books, middle grade and YA novels, as well as select picture books, non-fiction, and graphic novel titles. Nancy’s had the good fortune of editing books by Paul Acampora, Cecil Castellucci, Veronica Chambers, Tommy Greenwald, Paul Griffin, Diana Lopez, Jennifer Mathieu, Caragh O’Brien, Peter Raymundo, Isabel Quintero, Lauren Tarshis and many others. Nancy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and can be found on Twitter @nanmercado.
Social media handle: @nanmercado 


Debbi Michiko Florence, author of Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl

Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of the chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi, about a spunky 8-year-old Japanese American girl: Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen (a Junior Library Guild 2017 selection), Jasmine Toguchi Super Sleuth, Jasmine Toguchi Drummer Girl (a Junior Library Guild 2018 selection), and Jasmine Toguchi Flamingo Keeper (FSG). A third generation Japanese American and a native Californian, Debbi has also lived in Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Mexico, and China. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband, a dog, a bunny, and two ducks. A former zoo educator, she loves to travel with her husband and daughter. 
@DebbiMichiko (Twitter), @jasminetoguchi (IG)



Emma Otheguy attended Swarthmore College, where she studied children’s literature with Donna Jo Napoli. Her first job after college was as an instructor at a farm-based education program. Later, she worked at a children’s bookstore for a few months (where it turned out that she was better at reading books than shelving them). Emma then taught elementary school Spanish, which made her think about the historical events that led to a world made up of so many diverse Spanish speakers, so she decided to study history. She is now a Ph.D. candidate in History at New York University, focusing on Spain and colonial Latin America. Emma is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and lives in New York City, where she was born. Martí's Song for Freedom is a bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to poetry, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual freedom. Written in verse with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos. 

John Parra Photo Portrait 1.jpg

john parra, illustrator of Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos

John Parra is an award winning illustrator, designer, and educator, best known for his art illustrated, Latino themed, children’s books such as Waiting for the Biblioburro, Green is a Chile Pepper, and Gracias/Thanks. His awards include: The SCBWI Golden Kite Award for illustration, ALA’s Pura Belpré Honor’s Award, The International Latino Book Award, and The Christopher’s Award. In 2015 John was invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to present a special event about his work and career in art and illustration. John’s work can also be seen at the U.S. Post Office on new six Forever Stamps titled: Delicioso, with art images celebrating Latino food cuisine. John’s recently released children’s book, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, was selected as one of the winners of the NY Times/NYPL: Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2017.
FACEBOOK: @johnparraart       
TWITTER: @johnparraart

Cassandra Pelham Fulton Headshot.jpg

cassandra pelham fulton, Senior Editor, Graphix and Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc.

Cassandra Pelham Fulton grew up in Delaware and graduated from Spelman College. She has been in the children’s publishing industry for eleven years, and is currently a senior editor for the Graphix and Scholastic Press imprints at Scholastic, where she has edited award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling, and USA Today bestselling graphic novels. When she’s not reading books or writing editorial notes, she spends her time enjoying the arts and hanging out in Brooklyn.
Twitter: @seaeileen / @graphixbooks

Beth Phelan headshot.jpg

Beth Phelan, Literary Agent at Bent Agency

Beth Phelan joined Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency in 2017, but has been agenting since 2010. A lifelong reader, Beth represents middle grade and YA, gravitating toward stories and characters that inspire, and anything with a touch of humor and the bittersweet. She is very interested in powerful and unique storytelling, offbeat contemporary fiction, immersive fantasy, and profoundly resonant voices. Beth is also the creator of #DVpit, a Twitter pitch event for marginalized creators, which she launched in April 2016. Most of her time is spent reading, editing, and trying new recipes that end in either disaster or total bliss.

Chandra Prasad - author photo.jpg

chandra prasad, AUTHOR OF DAMSELFLY

Chandra Prasad’s first young adult novel, Damselfly, was published this year.  The author previously wrote novels for adults, including On Borrowed Wings, a historical drama set in early 20th century New Haven, and Death of a Circus, which Booklist called “Richly textured [and] packed with glamour and grit.”  Prasad is the originator and editor of Mixed, an anthology of short stories on the multiracial experience, which was published to international acclaim by W.W. Norton.  Prasad’s shorter works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. A graduate of Yale and a Fellow at one of Yale’s residential colleges, she is presently working on additional YA novels. You can learn more about her at



Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of 8th Grade Superzero, which was named a Notable Book for A Global Society, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She is the co-author of the middle-grade novels Two Naomis, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and the forthcoming Naomis Too. She is the editor of The Hero Next Door, the forthcoming We Need Diverse Books anthology, and  has contributed to several anthologies, including We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, Imagine It Better: Visions of What School Might Be, and The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them.

She is a member of The Brown Bookshelf and on the Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books. Olugbemisola holds an MA in education, and writes frequently on education and parenting topics. She lives with her family in NYC, where she writes, makes things, and needs to get more sleep. Visit her online at


rebecca roanhorse, author, race to the sun

Rebecca Roanhorse is an Ohkay Owingeh/Black writer living in Northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pug. Her debut novel Trail of Lightning (Book One of the Sixth World series) is available June 2018 from Saga Press, and her middle grade novel Race to the Sun is coming in 2019 from Rick Riordan Presents. Her short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)” is on the 2017 Nebula Recommended Reading List.

Her nonfiction can be found in "Invisible 3: Essays and Poems on Representation in SF/F" and "How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation" (Macmillan).
Twitter: @roanhorsebex

Nisha Sharma March. headshot.jpg

nisha sharma, author of my so-called bollywood life

Nisha Sharma grew up immersed in Bollywood movies, eighties pop culture, and romance novels, so it comes as no surprise that her first YA, My So-Called Bollywood Life (May 15, 2018) features all three. Nisha credits her father for her multiple graduate degrees, and her mother for her love of Shah Rukh Khan and Jane Austen. She lives in New Jersey with her cat Lizzie Bennett, and her dog Nancey Drew. You can find her online at or on Twitter and Instagram @nishawrites.

Traci Sorell Photo.jpg


Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction picture books and middle grade novels featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies. Her work usually focuses on indigenous peoples, including her own tribe. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and grew up in northeastern Oklahoma where her tribe is located. Charlesbridge will release her debut picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, on September 4, 2018. The nonfiction work centers on the universal value of gratitude as experienced by Cherokee people across the four seasons. Her first fiction picture book, At the Mountain's Base, with illustrator Weshoyot Alvitre, will be published by Penguin's new imprint, Kokila, in fall 2019.
Social media: @tracisorell


Kelly Starling Lyons, author of jada jones: rock star

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children's book author and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf (, a team of authors and illustrators dedicated to raising awareness of black children's book creators. Her books include CCBC Choices-honored picture book, One Million Men and Me; Ellen's Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection, Tea Cakes for Tosh and Hope's Gift, Notable Social Studies Trade Books and One More Dino on the Floor, a Scholastic Reading Club pick. Her Jada Jones chapter book series debuted in September. Visit Kelly at



Javaka Steptoe is an award-winning artist, author, designer, and illustrator. His latest book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat won the 2017 Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. His debut picture book, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, won the Coretta Scott King Award, and Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow (written by Gary Golio) received a Coretta Scott King Honor. Steptoe has also illustrated Do You Know What I'll Do? by Charlotte Zolotow, A Pocketful of Poems by Nikki Grimes, Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers, Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, and Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English, which received the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. He is also the author and illustrator of The Jones Family Express.   


Stone Author Photo.jpeg


Nic Stone, author of New York Times Bestselling DEAR MARTIN, was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
Twitter: @getnicced



Kate Sullivan grew up in Belgium in the science fiction and fantasy section of her local military library. As an editor at Little, Brown she worked with Malinda Lo, Kody Keplinger, and Gail Carriger. At Delacorte, her authors include Jennifer E. Smith, Ashley Woodfolk, and Hillary Monahan. 

Nick Thomas headshot.jpg

nick thomas, editor, arthur a. levine books, scholastic

Nick Thomas is an editor with Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where he started as an editorial assistant. He also held positions with Bloomsbury, Chicken House, and David Fickling Books before returning to his AALB roots. He edits middle grade and young adult books, and looks for stories that change something about you by the time you're finished. 


Namrata Tripathi headshot.jpg

namrata tripathi, Publisher of Kokila (Penguin Random House)

Namrata Tripathi is the Publisher of Kokila (Penguin Random House), an inclusive imprint dedicated to centering stories from the margins. Kokila publishes picture books, middle grade, YA, and graphic novels. The Kokila list will debut in Summer 2019.


WESLIE TURNER, Assistant Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc.

Weslie works on children's books for all ages, including Mike Jung’s Unidentified Suburban Object, Sundee Frazier’s Cleo Edison Oliver books, and Emma Donoghue’s The Lotterys Plus One. She is most interested in well-written YA and middle-grade fiction with diverse characters, as well as those with original fantasy and/or science fiction elements. Weslie grew up reading the Addy series (from The American Girl Collection); The Chronicles of Narnia; The Dark Is Rising; and the Harry Potter series. Today, her favorite authors include Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Daniel José Older, Francisco Stork, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Díaz and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


alexandra villasante, author of the grief keeper

Alex Villasante didn't always want to be a writer. She has a BFA and MA in Art to prove it. But whatever the medium, Alex has always wanted to tell stories. During the day, Alex works with non-profits to produce events and conferences. And at night she adds words to other words and make pictures. Her debut YA novel, THE GRIEF KEEPER comes out Spring 2019, from GP Putnam/Penguin. You can find Alex on Twitter: @magpiewrites or at her website:

Watson Headshot.jpg


“Renée Watson is an author, educator, activist, and recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor for her Young Adult title, Piecing Me Together. Her children's picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The New York Times calls Renée’s writing, “charming and evocative.” Her poetry and fiction often centers around the lived experiences of black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.

Her books include young adult novels, Piecing Me Together and This Side of Home, which were both nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists.

In the summer of 2016 Renée launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers.

Rita Williams-Garcia_LOV_2015 rwg.jpg


Rita Williams-Garcia is the celebrated author of a dozen acclaimed books for children and teens. Her most known title, One Crazy Summer received the Coretta Scott King Author Award, the Newbery Honor, the Scott O’Dell Historical Prize for Fiction, the Parents’ Choice Award, and the Junior Literary GuildAward.  One Crazy Summer and Jumped were named National Book Award finalists while P.S. Be Eleven also received the Coretta Scott King Author Award. Her other notable titles, including Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, Every Time A Rainbow Dies, Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee, No Laughter Here, Like Sisters on the Homefront, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, Blue Tights and Gone Crazy in Alabama have received numerous citations. Bottle Cap Boys Dancing on Royal Street is her second picture book. Rita served on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program for writing for children and young adults.  She resides in Queens, New York with her husband, and has two adult daughters. When Rita isn’t writing, she is knitting, daydreaming, and boxing. Learn more about Rita at



Ashley Woodfolk has loved reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and works in children’s book publishing. She writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment, where she lives with her cute husband and her cuter dog. THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS is her debut novel.


Phoebe Yeh, VP, Publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers

Phoebe Yeh joined Random House Children’s Books as VP, Publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers where she is publishing children’s books for all ages with a focus on commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. Prior to joining HC in 1996, Yeh was a senior editor at Scholastic Press, where she edited the Magic School Bus books and was an editor of the SeeSaw Book Club. As Editorial Director at Harper Collins she acquired the New York Times best sellers BIG NATE by Lincoln Peirce and THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani.  Recent Crown titles include A DRAGON’S GUIDE TO THE CARE & FEEDING OF HUMANS by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder; FROSTBORN by Lou Anders and UP FROM THE SEA by Leza Lowitz.  Crown acquisitions include LUCY & ANDY NEADERTHAL by Jeffrey Brown; STORIES FOR YOU, ME & THE KID OVER THERE with WeNeedDiverseBooks; WIZARD’S DOG by Eric Kahn Gale; DEAR MARTIN by debut novelist Nic Stone and the teen thriller, MISSING by Kelley Armstrong.

Seeking: humorous illustrated fiction; fantasy, realistic, sci-fi, lite thriller, coming-of-age



Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana and raised in Rochester, New York, Leslie C. Youngblood received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A former assistant professor of creative writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, she has lectured at Mississippi State University, UNC-Greensboro, and the University of Ghana at Legon, as well as served as a columnist for Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine.
She’s been awarded a host of writing honors including a 2014 Yaddo's Elizabeth Ames Residency, the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize, a Hurston Wright Fellowship, 2010 Go On Girl! Book Club Aspiring Writer Award, the Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2009 Orlando Short Story Prize, and funding for Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony in 2011. In March of 2017, she signed a two-book deal with Disney-Hyperion for her debut, middle-grade novel LOVE LIKE SKY, November 2018.
FB: Leslie C. Youngblood Twitter: LesCYoungblood Instagram: LesCYoungblood



Ibi Zoboi holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing has been published in The New York Times Book Review, the Horn Book Magazine, and The Rumpus, among others. Her debut novel, AMERICAN STREET, was published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and has received five starred reviews. Her next YA novel, PRIDE, is due out in the Fall of 2018. Her middle grade debut, MY LIFE AS AN ICE-CREAM SANDWICH is forthcoming from Dutton/Penguin Books. You can find her online at


Click here for the conference program