Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. Now she writes, draws, and makes books for kids. Her books include Something Great;, No Voice Too Small; No World Too Big; Love, Mama; and When the Babies Came to Stay. Jeanette lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. jeanettebradley.com
As an author/illustrator, I know that it can be hard to find critique partners who can speak to both the writing and the visual storytelling in a work in progress. I'd love to work with a writer/illustrator or an illustrator contemplating writing on polishing a book dummy and getting their query package ready. I'm also happy to share my experience with researching and querying agents, and cheer you on through that anxiety-producing process.
Nicole Neidhardt is a Diné (Navajo) artist of Kiiyaa'áanii Clan, currently residing in Santa Fe, NM. She received her MFA from OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario, and a BFA with a business minor from the University of Victoria. Nicole’s Diné identity is the heart of her practice which encompasses illustration, installation, murals, and Indigenous Futurisms. Her multi-disciplinary practice centers and uplifts Indigenous worldviews and voices in order to contribute to strong and vibrant Indigenous futures. She has illustrated When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith and the young adult adaptation of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Lala Watkins is the illustrator of I Love You More Than Ice Cream by Becky Davies, Bus Stop by Angela H. Dale, and the author-illustrator of her first board book series with Scholastic Little Santa’s Workshop. With a degree from Ringling College of Art and Design, Lala has also worked as a product designer, product developer, illustrator, and graphic designer at Sanrio, Paper Culture, and Cartoon Network. She lives in sunny Florida, is a good vibes connoisseur, and enjoys making fun illustrations and lovely stories that make her heart (and yours) emote the heart-eyed emoji. Her favorite things to enjoy outside of work are ice cream (she has a list), binge-watching tv, friends, and whatever life brings.
Working together, I hope to help bring out what makes your heart emote, the heart-eyed emoji. Let’s discuss the type of stories and illustrations you’d like to add to the world of children’s books, suggestions, critiques on illustration pieces, and ideas for new pieces to create. Any questions about the industry, having an agent, what it’s like being a children’s book illustrator, pitching, and anything that comes to mind. My goal is to help you plant the seeds into what you want to be in this industry that can be hard but not impossible to thrive in.
PICTURE BOOK MENTORS
Anika Aldamuy Denise is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction picture books. She enjoys celebrating the lives of influential Latinas in her powerful picture book biographies. Anika’s books have been featured in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Today.com, Kids Indie Next List, Book Riot, Junior Library Guild, and Bank Street College of Education's Best Books editions. In 2020, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, won a Pura Belpré Author Honor, an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor, and the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award. Anika’s next picture book biography, A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was chosen for the 2022 RISE Feminist Book Project. This fall, Anika's newest picture book, Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be published by HarperCollins. In addition to writing, she is a Madrina for Las Musas Latinx Kidlit Collective and a proud supporter of We Need Diverse Books.
Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author and sometimes illustrator of nineteen new and upcoming books for kids, including Layla and the Bots, Invent-a-Pet, I Can Code, Friendbots, and the forthcoming Ava Lin, Sniff and Scratch, AlphaBot, and The Boo Crew Needs You. Find out more about Vicky by following her on Twitter at @fangmous or on her website at www.vickyfang.com.
I’m good at strengthening concepts with craft to make books appealing to agents and editors, especially for fiction and interactive books. I write and illustrate across board books, picture books, early readers, and chapter books. I’m open to sharing what I’ve learned along the way about both the art and the business of writing/illustrating children’s books!
Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer. She is the author of the memoirs The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet, and Somewhere in the Unknown World. Yang wrote the children’s books A Map Into the World, The Shared Room, The Most Beautiful Thing, Yang Warriors, and From the Tops of the Trees. She co-edited the ground-breaking collection What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Native Women and Women of Color. Yang’s work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA literary awards, the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize, as Notable Books by the American Library Association, Kirkus Best Books of the Year, the Heartland Bookseller’s Award, Bank Street College of Education, the Midland Authors Award, and garnered four Minnesota Book Awards. Kao Kalia Yang lives in Minnesota.
MIDDLE GRADE MENTORS
Terry Catasús Jennings is a Cuban-American writer who emigrated to the United States after her father was jailed in Cuba by Fidel Castro’s government. She was twelve at the time and knew no English. Terry’s Definitely Dominguita chapter book series received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. It was named Best Books of 2021 by Kirkus, SLJ, Nerdy, and Parents Latina. Her newest picture book, The Little House of Hope/La casita de esperanza released in June, 2022, is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Released in February, 2022, her biography in verse—Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist chronicles the life of the person who was a pivotal force behind both the civil rights and the women’s rights movements. Terry’s goal in life is to lead us to embrace our common humanity, as well as sing the praises of Cuban food. Terry is represented by Natalie Lakosil of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
I am the author of humorous middle grade, including chapter books, as well as non-fiction and narrative non-fiction and picture books. As a mentor I would want to develop a friendship and collaborative relationship with my mentee. I would hope to guide my mentee to bring out the best in a manuscript while respecting that writer’s vision for the project, following the mentee’s lead on what areas of the manuscript he/she would like to work. I will both mentor and be a cheerleader. I will provide a virtual or actual hanky if the need arises. I will share the tools that have served me well and the pitfalls into which I have fallen. I am more of the blue-collar work hard and stick-to-it kind of writer. It would my goal to see the project through to completion and I am really looking forward to this new mentorship opportunity.
Writing can be a lonely experience, and it always helps to have someone in your corner--especially someone who understands what it's like. My goal with mentoring is to provide that understanding, while also continuing to help edit and develop and support my mentee's work. As a writer of queer middle grade books, I also would love to mentor a marginalized writer; in a world with book bans and soft censorship, sometimes it just makes it all easier to have someone to navigate those waters with.
A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author whose narrative interests lie at the intersection of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship. His debut novel, Ana on the Edge, was a 2020 Booklist Editors’ Choice, an ALA 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Title for Young Readers, and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection. He is also the author of Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown, 2022), which has received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal and is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection, the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG (Algonquin, 2023), and a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow (Knopf, 2021) and Allies (DK/PRH, 2021) anthologies. When he’s not writing, A. J. figure skates and travels as much as possible. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his partner and two cats who act like dogs. Find him online @matokah on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, as well as at sassinsf.com.
Growing up, I rarely saw aspects of my identity represented in the books I read, and I’ve since heard other marginalized authors express similar sentiments. As an adult, reading books that centered queer, Jewish, and neurodivergent characters changed my life for the better. Some of these stories offered me a mirror to my own experiences; others, a window that expanded my understanding and empathy for what others may experience. Especially in light of recent efforts to ban books that center these narratives, I hope to work with someone as committed as I am to getting more stories like these out into the world, whether the representation is a big part of the storyline or more incidental.
My strength is in editorial. In the decade prior to becoming an author, I first worked as a tech journalist, then managed a team of writers who created nonfiction content for online spaces, helping them craft accounts of events and people in factually correct, engaging, and nuanced ways. I have since mentored fiction writers in various programs like Pitch Wars, Author Mentor Match, and #WriteMentor, across a variety of genres such as contemporary, fantasy, and sci-fi. I’m interested in both nonfiction and fiction, and have experience across the children’s literature space, from picture books to middle grade to YA (so if you’re a middle grade writer interested in writing for other age categories, I may be a good fit for you!).
Writing can often feel like a solitary activity, so my aim is not only to offer editorial feedback but also lend a friendly ear and be a resource for an industry that might initially seem opaque and confusing. We’ll work to revise your manuscript to align with your vision, discuss the process of querying agents, and more. I hope to tailor this mentorship to the needs of my mentee while making it a positive experience that allows them to hone their craft and equip themself with industry knowledge.
YOUNG ADULT MENTORS
H.E. Edgmon (he/they) is an author of kidlit that is angry, messy, hopeful, and fantastical. Raised in the rural south, H.E. spent his formative years hiding from reality while reading and writing fanfic. It was there that he learned how necessary it was to see people like himself as main characters. Today, he’s passionate about presenting decolonial ways of thinking in his work and creating worlds where all children can feel wanted and powerful.
He has an eclectic little family of his own design, led by a ferocious toddler. The queer collective has lived, together and separately, all over the country, from Florida to Alaska, from NYC to Texas. Their latest adventure finds them in the Pacific Northwest, where they hope to put down roots.
H.E.’s debut, THE WITCH KING, was released on June 1st 2021 from Inkyard Press. A contemporary YA fantasy about witches and fae, The Witch King was an Indie Next May/June 2021 selection and named one of the best YA books of 2021 by Publishers Weekly and the New York Public Library. The sequel, THE FAE KEEPER, closed the duology on May 31st, 2022. His forthcoming works include: GODLY HEATHENS, the first book in his next YA fantasy series, coming from Wednesday Books, FLICKER, his MG debut from Feiwel & Friends, and several anthology appearances. He is represented by Victoria Marini and Lee O’Brien at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
The publishing industry is full of gatekeepers -- my priority is to pry the gate open as wide as I can. As an editor, my style includes highlighting what you're best at, letting you know all the parts of your manuscript I loved, but being blunt about what I think needs to change to see it succeed in traditional publishing. As a mentor, I'll be forthcoming about the good and bad experiences I've had behind the scenes at this job, walk you through what to expect at different stages in your career, and help you tap into a network of other industry professionals. I am incredibly business-minded, and will push you to think more about that side of things so you are best able to advocate for yourself. That said, craft is still my top concern, and I believe my own strengths lie in narrative voice, ensemble casts, and blending humor with horror. While currently published in YA contemporary fantasy, I have experience across age ranges and genres. My schedule tends to be quite busy, so I would do best with casual but frequent texting and a video call once a month.
Bethany C Morrow is an Indie Bestselling author who writes for adult and young adult audiences, in genres ranging from speculative literary to contemporary fantasy to historical. She is author of the novels MEM and A SONG BELOW WATER, which is an Audie, Ignyte and Locus finalist. She is editor/contributor to the young adult anthology TAKE THE MIC, the 2020 ILA Social Justice in Literature award winner. Her work has been chosen as Indies Introduce and Indie Next picks, and featured in The LA Times, Forbes, Bustle, Buzzfeed, and more. She is included on USA TODAY's list of 100 Black novelists and fiction writers you should read.
Aminah Mae Safi is the author of four novels, including Tell Me How You Really Feel (Feiwel & Friends) and Travelers Along the Way: a Robin Hood Remix (Feiwel & Friends). She loves Sofia Coppola movies, Bollywood endings, and the Fast and Furious franchise.