Who We Are
We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry. Our aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
Our Mission Statement
Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.
A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.
Our Definition of Diversity
We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.
*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.
We Need Diverse Books™
We Need Diverse Books™
Campaign Video with John Green
The Real Reason We Need Diverse Books
Ellen Oh , CEO & President
Ellen Oh is co-founder, President, and CEO of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. She is also a former adjunct college instructor and corporate/entertainment attorney. She is the author of the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series and the MG novel Spirit Hunters: Book 1. Spirit Hunters: Book 2 will be published Summer 2018.
Dhonielle Clayton , Chief Operating Officer
Dhonielle Clayton is COO of We Need Diverse Books. She is the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series and The Belles series. She grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs on the Maryland side and spent most of her time under her grandmother’s table with a stack of books. A former teacher and middle school librarian, Dhonielle is co-founder of CAKE Literary, a creative development company whipping up decidedly diverse books for a wide array of readers. She’s got a serious travel bug and loves spending time outside of the USA, but makes her home in New York City, where she can most likely be found hunting for the best slice of pizza.
Judy Schricker , Chief Financial Officer
Judy Schricker has over twenty years of experience in corporate finance and accounting. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Business Economics. She worked in Silicon Valley for over ten years and gained invaluable experience under amazing mentors on teams that took two start-up companies public. She later started her consulting business setting up finance operations for businesses and non-profits.
Judy immigrated to the United States with her parents and sister when the girls were preschool and elementary school age. They are first-generation Taiwanese-Americans. Growing up in New Jersey, right outside NYC, Judy loved the melting pot atmosphere the city offered and was a die-hard New York Yankees fan. Dad would drive his blue Buick station wagon with family in tow to the games in the Bronx. She resides in sunny Reno, Nevada with her husband and two teen boys. In her free time when she is not walking/training their new addition to the family, Bella, a playful Shih Tzu, she volunteers on school and athletic committees. She is honored to be a part of WNDB for her kids and all kids.
Nithya Ramcharan is a high school senior from New Orleans. She loves reading and writing fantasy and science-fiction stories. When she isn’t busy with schoolwork, she also loves art, music, playing with her dogs, and dreaming of all the places she would love to visit. Diversity in literature is something she is passionate about, as it was relatively scarce when she was young and its lack impacted her writing and outlook negatively.
Nicole A. Johnson , Executive Director
Nicole A. Johnson has over twenty years of experience in nonprofit leadership, program development, and resource development. Prior to joining WNDB, she launched Extraordinary Changes, an organizational development consulting firm, and she also served as Senior Director for Elev8 Baltimore, a full-service community schools initiative. In that role, she successfully planned a strategy to integrate learning, health, and family support services into the operations of four schools in East Baltimore. Over a seven-year period, she transitioned the initiative from start-up to sustainability, drawing upon her skills as a facilitator, strategic planner, grant writer, and youth worker.
Nicole has also worked as a director of after-school and summer programs across the country, including the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. These programs became a platform for her to promote diverse books and literacy to children of color in cities like Oakland, San Francisco, and Baltimore. She is also the founder of Baltimore Read Aloud, a local campaign to introduce diverse books to Baltimore City children and youth.
Caroline Tung Richmond , Program Director
Caroline Tung Richmond has worked with WNDB since 2014, starting as a volunteer and then joining the staff in 2017. She’s also an award-winning YA author; and her novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, Live In Infamy, and more. She lives in Virginia with her family.
JoAnn Yao , Social Media Manager
JoAnn Yao is the Social Media Manager for We Need Diverse Books. Among other things, she has conducted research for the American Film Institute, provided book and script coverage for a Hollywood agency, designed an online narrative game, and written a comic for a New Frontiers anthology. She lives in New York City with her dragon’s hoard of books. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
Alaina Lavoie , Communications Manager
Alaina Lavoie is the Communications Manager for We Need Diverse Books. She has worked with WNDB since 2015, beginning as a volunteer before joining the staff. She’s also a reviewer for Booklist and teaches in the department of publishing and writing at Emerson College. In 2017, she was awarded a Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices in publishing. Alaina lives in Boston with her wife and their two literary cats. She is almost always covered in glitter.
Chelsea Villareal , Program Manager
Chelsea Villareal is a Children’s Media Strategist and Brand Marketing Manager from Portland, Oregon—hey Cascadians! She holds a BUPA in Political Science & Media Studies from Portland State University, attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, and is currently enrolled in her Master’s at Columbia University. She works on the Brand Marketing team at Penguin Young Readers and lives in Brooklyn with her partner and two crazy, lazy feline beasts.
Elissa Petruzzi , Program Manager
Elissa Petruzzi is a lifelong book lover and journalist who has been published in USA Weekend, the Baltimore Sun, In Touch Weekly, DCist, and more. As editor of Romantic Times, she interviewed bestselling authors like Suzanne Collins, Beverly Jenkins, and Francine Pascal. Elissa has also written numerous nonfiction titles on topics like state history, job skills, and stem cells. As Program Manager at WNDB, Elissa handles the Creative Writing Awards and other projects.
Breanna J. McDaniel , Program Manager
Breanna J. McDaniel is the author of the picture book Hands Up!, a book reviewer, education consultant and researcher. She holds an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons University and is currently pursuing her PhD in Education at the University of Cambridge with research focused on representations of black children in contemporary picture books. She’s the co-founder of Researchers Exploring Inclusive Youth Literature (REIYL) and though she’s originally from Atlanta, GA, she now splits her time between the US and UK.
BrocheAroe Fabian , Contributing Writer
BrocheAroe Fabian (/bruh-kuh/ for short) is an Anthropologist, a writer, and a world traveler, who grew up abroad and in the US in a trilingual household. She is the proud owner of River Dog Book Co., an independent bookstore with a nontraditional model focused on highlighting diverse, global, inclusive, and representative books for all ages and a mission to foster cross-cultural communication and understanding via access to literature. She, her wife, and their two dogs call Portland, OR home.
Rebecca Wei Hsieh , Contributing Writer
Rebecca Wei Hsieh (she/her) is a Taiwanese American actor, writer, translator, and authenticity reader based in NYC. Having grown up across several continents, her writing focuses on the interplay between Asia and the Asian diaspora, gender, queerness, and mental illness, and has been featured in outlets like Book Riot, The Dot and Line, Off Colour Inc (formerly Nerdy POC), and OC87 Recovery Diaries. She has a BA in theatre and Italian studies from Wesleyan University, and you can find her attempts to use her liberal arts degree at rwhsieh.wix.com/home.
Samantha Puc , Contributing Writer
Samantha Puc (she/her) is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on the representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat folx who are into being active but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Montana with her partner and cats. (Author photo by Lauren Zaknoun.)
Andrea Ruggirello , Contributing Writer
Andrea Ruggirello’s stories, essays, and poetry appear or are forthcoming in Gay Magazine, Zora, Hobart, The Baltimore Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Literature, Catapult, Third Coast, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University, and her novel manuscript was a semi-finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Andrea was born in Korea, adopted as a baby, and raised on Staten Island, NY. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Maya Sungold , Contributing Writer
Maya Sungold (they/them) is a queer facilitator, fiber artist, and future librarian. They have led relational storytelling and community-engaged programming for young adults through the Ethics and the Common Good Project, including workshops at the Intergroup Dialogue Conference, Five College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference, and Transforming Education for Social Justice Conference. They are currently pursuing a master’s degree focused on young adult librarianship, and are excited to connect young people to diverse stories that feature real, complex characters in charge of their own beautiful and messy experiences.
Arriel Vinson , Contributing Writer
Arriel Vinson is a Tin House Winter Workshop alumna and Hoosier who writes about being young, black, and in search of freedom. She earned her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and received a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Catapult, Shondaland, BOOTH, Cosmonauts Avenue, Waxwing, Lunch Ticket, Electric Literature, and others. She is a 2019 Kimbilio Fellow.
Amna Ahmad is a teacher and book blogger who enjoys volunteering for various literacy based organizations. When she isn’t busy stocking her libraries (personal and classroom) full of diverse books, you can find her blogging about her recent reads at YA Book Corner and popping up at local book festivals to volunteer. She also volunteers with the social media team at Writespace, a local literary arts organization dedicated to helping writers of all genres improve their craft. Amna lives in Texas with her family. Find her online at https://yabookcorner.wordpress.com.
Evelyn N. Alfred
Evelyn N. Alfred is an information professional, poet, social media content curator, and prose reader at Linden Avenue Literary Journal. She lives in the D.C. area with her wife.
Kibkabe Araya is a multimedia journalist specializing in legal, business and health care news. A graduate of Spelman College and Columbia University, her current title is in-house desk editor at Law.com. Outside the newsroom, she is the content creator behind SHE LIT, a literary blog focusing on women writers in Los Angeles and beyond. She explores literary LA through Mocha Girls Read, The Free Black Women’s Library, Well-Read Black Girl and The Table. She is also a former vice president of Women’s National Book Association LA chapter. She’s working on a young adult novel.
Jim Averbeck works, plays, and evades the law in San Francisco, California. His first book, In a Blue Room, was a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book. His popular books Except If and Oh No, Little Dragon! feature charming protagonists with pointy teeth. His book The Market Bowl and his middle grade novel A Hitch at the Fairmont were Junior Library Guild Selections. His most recent book, One Word From Sophia, was an IndyNext Top 10 for Summer 2015. Look for his upcoming picture books: Trevor, from Neal Porter Books and Two Problems for Sophia and Sophia 3-D (Margaret K. McElderry Books). Spy agencies can find Jim online at jimaverbeck.com
Tracey Baptiste is a Trinidadian-American writer who has wanted to be an author since the age of three when she was given a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In her life, she has been a ballerina, an elementary school teacher, and an amateur librarian who hoped everyone would bring back their books late so she could be rich! Currently, Tracey is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel Rise of the Jumbies, a sequel to The Jumbies, a creepy middle grade fairy tale set in the Caribbean which was a Junior Library Guild selection, a We Need Diverse Books “Must Read,” a New York Public Libraries Staff Pick, and a Bank Street Books Best of 2016. Her other 12 books include Angel’s Grace and The Totally Gross History of Ancient Egypt. She volunteers with We Need Diverse Books, The Brown Bookshelf, and I Too Arts Collective. She is a faculty member in Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program teaching Writing for Young People, and runs the editorial company Fairy Godauthor. Find her online at www.traceybaptiste.com.
Lucia Brown (she/her/hers) is the external relations manager for the Feminist Press, a nonprofit dedicated to publishing books that ignite movements and social transformation. She oversees digital marketing, special event planning, the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize for debut authors, and the internship program. Originally from Maine, Lucia currently lives in Queens.
Meg Cannistra , Mentorship Program Co-Chair
Meg Cannistra writes both middle grade and young adult books. She’s the author of THE TROUBLE WITH SHOOTING STARS, a middle grade novel coming out in Summer 2019. After living in New York City and North Jersey for a few years, Meg now resides with her two cats, Gloom and Doom, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has a BA in English Literature from Flagler College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University. When she’s not taking pictures of her cats or wandering around grocery stores, she writes magical, mysterious, and sometimes scary stories. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MegCannistra, and learn more about her books at www.megcannistra.com.
Elsie Chapman is the author of the YA science fiction duology Dualed and Divided (RHCB). Upcoming books are YA historical fiction Along The Indigo (Abrams, 2018), YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (retellings of Asian and South Asian mythology, co-editor and contributor, HarperCollins, 2018), her MG debut All The Ways Home (Macmillan, 2019), and YA anthology Hungry Hearts (interconnected stories about food, family, and culture, co-editor and contributor, Simon & Schuster, 2019). A CBC (Canadian-born-Chinese), she currently lives in Tokyo with her family.
A journalist published by the New York Times, People, ABC News, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, Sona Charaipotra (Sr. VP Content Management) curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she’s not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Pretty Little Liars.” Call it research: a strong believer that three-act structure can work in fiction, Sona puts her outline-obsession to good use as the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut novel, Tiny Pretty Things (with CAKE co-founder Dhonielle Clayton), came out Summer 2015 from HarperTeen.
Sandie Chen is a feature writer, film critic, and book reviewer. She’s been writing about movies, books, and pop culture her entire professional career career, contributing to outlets such as Kirkus Books, Common Sense Media, Entertainment Weekly, Moviefone, the Washington Post, Variety, and Huffington Post. When she’s not running around the DC area with her husband and three kids, reading YA books, or screening movies and TV shows, she runs Teen Lit Rocks, a book blog and The DC Moms, a parenting lifestyle site.
Kandace Coston , Internship Grants Team
Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher in New York City. She grew up in the Bronx, NY, where she spent weekends reading stories and writing her own. After graduating from Barnard College, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and helping their manuscripts grow into published picture books. Professionally and personally, Kandace enjoys reading about strong female protagonists, complex villains, and any story that can make her laugh. You can find her on Twitter @WhatSticks.
Mayra Cuevas is an accomplished t.v. and digital journalist whose work has been featured in CNN, HLN, truTV, EFE International News Agency. A native of Puerto Rico, Mayra has a bachelor’s in communications and master’s in investigative journalism. She has taught workshops on research for writers at the Romance Writers of America national conference. When she is not working on a story, Mayra volunteers at her local Buddhist meditation center, where she serves on the board of directors. She is also an avid traveler and cook. Mayra lives in Atlanta with her husband, also a journalist, two teenage step-sons and their cat. In her blog, MayraCuevas.com, she writes about matters of craft and publishing.
Sayantani DasGupta is a writer of novels, stories, essays and articles. Originally trained in pediatrics and public health, she teaches race and ethnicity studies, social justice and health studies, and narrative medicine at Columbia University. She’s the author of a book of Bengali folktales The Demon Slayers and Other Stories: Bengali Folktales, as well as a memoir about race and gender in medical training. She is the co-editor of a book of women’s illness narratives and another academic collection on transnational surrogacy in India. Her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Z. Magazine, Feminist Studies, The Feminist Wire, Adios, Barbie, Salon, Racialicious, as well as many other venues. She lives in the New York area and is represented by Brent Taylor of Triada Literary Agency.
Steven Dos Santos
Alexandra Duncan is an author and public librarian. Her books include the award-winning YA sci-fi novel Salvage, its companion Sound, and the eco-thriller Blight. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of North Carolina. You can visit her online at www.alexandra-duncan.com.
Whitney Etchison taught middle school English for three years and is heading into her eleventh year as a school librarian for grades 6-12. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her dog Pippa, her roommate, and her roommate’s cat, who still can’t believe she brought home a dog. She blogs for both The Hub and YALSA Blog.
Alex Gino loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. They would take a quiet coffee date with a friend over a loud and crowded party any day. Born and raised on Staten Island, NY, Alex has lived in Philadelphia, PA; Brooklyn, NY; Astoria (Queens), NY; Northampton, MA; and Oakland, CA. In April 2016, they put their books and furniture in storage to explore the United States in a motorhome.
Alex has been an activist and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities since 1997 and believes young people need tools to talk about and reflect on real issues in our world. The main character in their debut novel, George (Scholastic), is Melissa, a fourth grade transgender girl who wants to be Charlotte in her school’s play of Charlotte’s Web. GEORGE is a tale of friendship and being who you are. Their second middle grade novel, (Scholastic, TBD) will be a tale of baby sisters, Deafness, racist police violence, and learning about your own privilege.
Maurene Goo is the author of Since You Asked and I Believe In A Thing Called Love. She has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants. You can find her in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats–one weird, one even more weird.
I.W. Gregorio , Bookseller Liaison
I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins), which was finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award, a Spring 2015 Publishers Weekly Flying Start, an ALA Booklist Top Ten Sports Book for Youth, and a 2015 ABC Children’s Group Best Book for Young Readers. It was also named to the 2016 American Library Association Rainbow List and is under development as a TV series by Davis Entertainment and Stephen Chbosky, with Liz Maccie as screenwriter. Ilene is proud to be a board member of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth. She also is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and served as its VP of Development. Find her online at www.iwgregorio.com, and on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram at @iwgregorio.
Shannon is a wife and mother of three boys. She has been working in education for over 10 years and currently serves as a fourth grade reading and writing teacher, and the K-12 District Diversity Chair for Olentangy Local Schools (located in central Ohio). She is extremely passionate about diversity, inclusion and anti-bias education. She hopes to transform student, teacher, and community relationships by providing resources and support for teaching tolerance, encouraging conversations around tough topics. and engaging in social activism. She is currently working on her first book and is also the founder of literallycultured.com, a website focused on the power of representation and diversity in literature.
Abbie Hagen is a queer book blogger and current student at Westminster College pursuing a degree in theatre design with an emphasis in costume design. Her favorite ways to pass the time are reading (mostly young adult books with LGBTQ+ characters), crocheting, and playing the cello. Queer characters in books helped her to find herself, something which she hopes to spread to other people in the world. You can find her online at @rampant_reading on Instagram, where she shares photos and reviews of the books she loves!
Sarah Hamburg received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and served as children’s writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library. Her humor writing has appeared in The Horn Book and The Toast.
Kelly Higgins was born and raised on the Canadian Prairies and still makes her home there today working as a programs coordinator at the Camrose Public Library. A graduate of the MacEwan University Library and Information Technology program, much of her work focuses on researching and developing the children’s and YA collections to reflect the diverse needs of the community. Along with collection development, she spends her days at the library running programs, receiving hugs from kids, and letting them beat her at Uno (sometimes).
Terry Hong , Walter Award Co-Director
Terry Hong created and maintains Smithsonian BookDragon, an extensive multi-culti book review blog for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, where she was media arts consultant for eight years. She’s an Advisor for Girl Rising, a global action campaign highlighting girls’ education; she was the Writer Wrangler for the film of the same name. She taught for Duke University’s Leadership in the Arts, a New York City-based performance and public policy program. She co-authored two books, Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture from Astro Boy to Zen Buddhism and What Do I Read Next? Multicultural Literature; other publication credits include Booklist, Christian Science Monitor, Library Journal/School Library Journal, NYT, San Francisco Chronicle, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and many others. She served for three years on USBBY’s Outstanding International Books Committee. @SIBookDragon
Amitha Jagannath Knight
Amitha Jagannath Knight is a graduate of MIT and Tufts University, where she earned her medical degree. In 2012, she received the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award. While her parents were originally from South India, Dr. Knight was born and raised in the United States. She has lived in Texas and Arkansas and now lives in the Boston area with her one husband, two children, and two cats.
Kaley Kiermayr is a Boston-based editor, social media manager, and marketer. She is currently Marketing Director for Brink Literacy Project and a Senior Editor for the literary journal F(r)iction. She received her Publishing MA at Emerson College. In her downtime, she enjoys weekend trips and getting involved with LGBTQ+ literature and writing projects.
Rebecca Kohn earned a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and a Master of Arts in Library Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has worked as an academic librarian at three universities and is now a librarian for a city library. She is a supporter of peer learning and teaching, diverse reading, and open access to information.
E. Katherine Kottaras
E. Katherine Kottaras is the author of the critically-acclaimed YA contemporary novels, HOW TO BE BRAVE and THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, both from St. Martin’s Press/Griffin Teen. Katherine holds a B.A. in English Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine. She has worked as a middle, high school, and community college teacher for two decades, and she currently teaches creative writing, composition, and literature full-time at Pasadena City College. In 2004, she was the recipient of the Music Center’s Bravo Award in Los Angeles for creativity and innovation in teaching. Katherine is interested in the stories we tell, the stories we are given, and the ways we can redefine our worlds by discovering which stories are true. She believes in working towards a future that is inclusive, empathetic, and full of love. Connect with Katherine on IG or Twitter at ekatwrites or at www.katherinekottaras.com
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has published thirty books for young readers. Since he was a kid himself, Jarrett was writing and drawing his own comics and books, and he shares those early works in lectures given at schools nationwide. Jarrett has delivered two TED Talks and can be heard weekly on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, offering book recommendations to listeners
Stacey H. Lee , Legal Contact
Stacey H. Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction. Her novels include Under a Painted Sky, Outrun the Moon, and The Secret of a Heart Note.
Kristen Lippert-Martin is a mom of four, a practicing geek, a holder of many opinions (which she is more than happy to share with you). She earned her MFA from Columbia University. Kristen’s debut YA thriller, Tabula Rasa (EgmontUSA), is about a girl whose memory is forcibly stripped from her and so naturally she must kick everyone’s butt in retaliation. She lives with her husband and merry band of misfits in Arlington, VA.
J. Albert Mann
Mann is the author of five published novels for children. Her stories and poetry have appeared in Highlights for Children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, where she also earned a Picture Book Intensive certificate. Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum Books for Young Readers is set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger.
Ki-Wing Merlin was born in Hong Kong, grew up in New York and New Jersey, and resides now in Florida with her husband and two sons. Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray is publishing her debut middle grade novel, Weaving A Net Is Better Than Praying For Fish.
Rebecca Moody is a writer, blogger, and public librarian. She is the founder of The Moody Blog and a contributor to Writers’ Rumpus, a blog dedicated to kidlit. Rebecca also writes fantasy for all ages and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. An alum of Simmons College in Boston, she lives in Leominster, Massachusetts.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Miriam Moore-Keish has worn the hats of a creative writing teacher, an editor, and a poet in Minneapolis and St. Paul for the past few years. Now she lives in the United Kingdom pursuing a graduate degree in Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge. She has a cactus named Gladius Puddleman.
Rosa Nam is a former high school English teacher and current advocate for bringing diverse books to classrooms. She is working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston and writing a collection of humorous personal essays. She lives in a tiny house behind her main house with her partner and two pups.
Nicole Overton wears many hats! She is a marketing copywriter for several universities and colleges across the country including University of West Florida, Eastern Michigan University, University of Texas, University of North Carolina Pembroke, Mississippi College, and Arkansas State, just to name a few. She ghostwrites books, speeches and website content for several high-profile individuals. She is also an established sensitivity reader, having worked for various publishers including Katherine Tegen Books and Simon & Schuster. Nicole holds a BA degree in Media Communications from Webster University and is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. When she isn’t busy writing or reading, you can find her blogging at www.OneMoreThanSix.com, or rooting for her home team, the Dallas Cowboys with her husband and five children.
Miranda Paul , Mentorship Program Co-Chair
Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s author of eight picture books, including the nonfiction titles One Plastic Bag and Water Is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her books have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and select awards include a 2017 ILA Teacher’s Choice for Whose Hands Are These?, 2016 Green Earth Book Award Honor, 2016 Children’s Africana Book Award Notable for One Plastic Bag, Maryland Blue Crab Award winner and Charlotte Zolotow Notable title for Water Is Water. Miranda makes lively appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. Her 2018-2019 works include Adventures to School and I Am Farmer, both co-authored with her husband Baptiste Paul. She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Though her work as Mentorship chair of We Need Diverse Books is mostly serious and professional, she also has a silly side—which, she claims, only comes out on days that end in y. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.
Karis Rogerson is an American, Canadian, pseudo-Italian who loudly (but only sometimes fluently) speaks 2.5 languages and is proud to be of the auburn-haired club. As a reader and writer, her childhood heroes included Anne of Green Gables and Jo March (classic), and these days she admires authors like Angie Thomas, Sandhya Menon, and Heidi Heilig, who are changing the world one brilliant story at a time. Find more of her writing on her website, and follow her on Twitter or Instagram for writing updates and pictures of Italy and New York City.
Madelyn Rosenberg is the author of 10 books for children including The Schmutzy Family, How to Behave at a Tea Party, Take Care and more. Her middle-grade novel This Is Just a Test, cowritten with her friend Wendy Wan-Long Shang, was a Sydney Taylor honor book and a finalist for the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Award.
Maria Salvadore has worked with young people and books for most of her professional life. Before working as a book buyer for an independent bookstore and a consultant in children’s literature for various organizations, Maria was a librarian in Washington, D.C., and in Cambridge, MA. She has served on or chaired book award committees including the Newbery, Caldecott, Boston Globe/ Horn Book, USBBY Outstanding International Books, and Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award. She has taught children’s literature in graduate and undergraduate programs and contributed to several books about children’s literature.
Karen Sandler earned her MS in computer science from UCLA and worked as a software engineer for more than a dozen years, including work on communications satellites and the Space Shuttle program. In the late 1990s, she wrote numerous romance novels for adults, then switched to science fiction with the diverse young adult trilogy Tankborn, Awakening, and Rebellion from multi-cultural publisher Lee & Low. She’s thrilled to be part of the We Need Diverse Books team promoting diversity in children’s literature. She lives in California’s Gold Country with her husband of 30+ years and is represented by Matt Bialer and Lindsay Ribar of SJGA.
S.E. Sinkhorn is a blogger, content director, and social media manager. She writes MG and YA books. Her first YA, published under a pseudonym, was one of five YA finalists in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She’s also the winner of the 2010 Katherine Patterson Prize in the YA category for her short story “Chasing Shadows.” As sole moderator of the YA!Flash tumblr, she’s been a vocal advocate of diverse works by diverse creators for years and is one of the founding members of WNDB.
Jessica Shub graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Writing. Jessica was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where as a young girl, she fell in love with reading. Growing up in Puerto Rico, she saw firsthand the need for diversity in children’s books. Jessica interned with Kweli Literary Journal and felt empowered by working with the diverse authors and works showcased there. Jessica will continue to channel her passion for literature into her work, so that she might instill in a new generation of multicultural readers the same love of literature that she felt at an early age.
Anya Steiner is a lifelong book lover, and has been dreaming up stories since before she could hold a pencil. A recent transplant to NYC, she can often be found strolling the park people-watching, or making some kind of delicious mess in her tiny kitchen. As an aspiring author, WNDB has inspired Anya to explore diversity even more in her writing.
Robin Stevenson is a queer Canadian writer who was born in England, grew up mostly in Ontario, and now lives on Vancouver Island with her partner and their teenage son. She has been involved in LGBTQ+ activism since the early 90s, and spent ten years working as a sexual assault counsellor before she began writing while on maternity leave in 2005. She has since published over twenty books for kids and teens, including the Stonewall Honor book Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, and the Governor General’s Award finalist, A Thousand Shades of Blue. Her YA nonfiction book, My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights,
comes out in early 2019, and her next YA novel, Meet Me Halfway (co-written with Tom Ryan) comes out in spring of 2020. Robin facilitates creative writing classes and workshops, visits schools and libraries to talk to kids and teens, and sometimes edits other people’s books. She is also involved as a volunteer in refugee sponsorship groups which support refugees to resettle in Canada. Robin will serve as a 2019 Young Adult mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Nic Stone , Panels Committee
Nic Stone 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. Her YA novels Odd One Out and the New York Times Bestseller Dear Martin.
Suma Subramaniam is the contributing author of The Hero Next Door (Penguin Random House, July 2019). She is also the author of She Sang For India: How MS Subbulakshmi Used Her Voice For Change (Macmillan FSG, Winter 2022) and Namaste Is A Greeting (Candlewick, Fall 2022). She is the Mentorship Program Coordinator at SCBWI Western Washington. She hires tech professionals for a leading software company during the day and is a writer by night. Suma has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and degrees in computer science and management. Visit her website at https://sumasubramaniam.com.
Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. Some of the books he’s illustrated include The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans); The Cart That Carried Martin (Charlesbridge); Hope’s Gift (Penguin); Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Charlesbridge); She Loved Baseball (HarperCollins). He is also the author of It Jes’ Happened (Lee & Low Books), an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner, and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton of Chapel Hill (Peachtree). Don is one of the founding hosts of the blog The Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to raising the awareness of African American youth literature creators. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.
Laurie Ann Thompson
Laurie Ann Thompson is a former software engineer who now writes for children and young adults. She hopes to help her readers make better sense of the world we live in so they can contribute to making it a better place for all, and she strives to do that by writing nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. Her award-winning books include Be A Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, an inspiring how-to guide for teens; Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a picture book biography of a young man from Ghana who changed perceptions about disabilities; My Dog Is The Best, a fiction picture book about the special bond between a child and the family pet; and Two Truths And A Lie (co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette), a nonfiction/fiction hybrid series for middle-grade readers, in which the reader must discern the facts from the fake. Learn more at lauriethompson.com and on Twitter at @lauriethompson.
Kathie Weinberg , Walter Award Co-Director
Kathie Weinberg is a library consultant with the Library of Congress Young Readers Center, and a Program Coordinator with An Open Book Foundation. Formerly she was head of Teen Service at the Bethesda Library in Montgomery County Maryland. She has a Masters in Science from Simmons College, and a BA Degree from the University of Wisconsin. An active member of the American Library Association, YALSA Division, she has presented at annual meetings on programming and space planning for teens in public libraries. She is on the board of Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens.
Award winning author J.C. Welker has been, among other things, a fashion designer, a graphic designer, a filmmaker, and occasionally a kickboxer (seriously). Her debut novel THE WISHING HEART won the YARWA Rosemary Awards, Athena Awards, and was a finalist for Best First Book. She continues to work towards giving a voice to diverse stories while facing magic and monsters along the way.
Rachel Werner is the Content Marketing Specialist at Taliesin Preservation; guest faculty at The Highlights Foundation and Hugo House; and a 2017 World Food Championship judge. Formerly the digital editor for BRAVA, she has contributed content to BLK+GRN, Madison Magazine and Entrepreneurial Chef. When she’s not working, Rachel is involved in many other organizations and local events like Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Arts and Literature Laboratory, FairShare CSA Coalition and Madison Reading Project. Her passionate commitment to fostering community over competition, holistic wellness and sustainable agriculture keep her a Midwestern girl at heart. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter— as well as running, developing vegan recipes and cycling. Follow her adventures around the country on Instagram @therealscript.
Jessica Vitalis is a middle grade author and active member of the literary community. In addition to coordinating Letters for Kids, she volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor and contributes to The Winged Pen. When she’s not pursuing her literary interests, Jessica can be found chasing her two precocious daughters around Ontario or eating copious amounts of chocolate. Represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch.
Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. Her award-winning novels include Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star, both #1 NY Times Bestsellers.
Marietta Zacker , Walter Grant Co-Chair
Marietta Zacker has experience children’s books from every angle – teaching, marketing, publishing, and bookselling. She thrives on working with authors who make their readers feel their characters’ emotions and illustrators who add a different dimension to the story. She is also Book Curator at an independent toy store and bookstore.
Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. Grace’s 2010 Newbery Honor book Where The Mountain Meets The Moon was chosen for Al Roker’s Today Show Kid’s Book Club and was a NY Times Bestseller. Ling & Ting, Grace’s first early reader, was honored with the Theodor Geisel Honor in 2011. An Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee for the US, most of Grace’s books are about the Asian-American experience because she believes, “Books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal.”
Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She is the 2014 recipient of the Pura Belpre medal and the 2013 CYBILS Fiction winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tia Isa Wants a Car, among others. Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect through the eyes of young people, and she brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls. In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park writes both novels and picture books for young readers, including A Single Shard, the 2002 Newbery Medal winner, and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water (Clarion). Her most recent titles are the Wing & Claw series (HarperCollins), and Yaks Yak (Clarion). She serves on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI, WNDB, and the Rabbit hOle. 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 and follow her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.
Cindy Pon is the author of Fury of the Phoenix and Silver Phoenix, named one of the top ten fantasy novels for youth by Booklist. Serpentine, the first book of her second Xia duology, is now available, too. Alongside Malinda Lo, Cindy founded Diversity in YA, a website that celebrates young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.
Honorary Advisory Board
Lamar "L.R." Giles
Lamar Giles writes for teens and adults across multiple genres, with work appearing on numerous Best Of lists each and every year. He is the author of the acclaimed novels Fake ID, Endangered, Overturned, Spin, The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, Not So Pure and Simple, and The Last Mirror on the Left as well as numerous pieces of short fiction. He resides in Virginia.
Matt de la Peña
Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of six young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and The Living) and four picture books (including Love and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.
Tim Federle is “a prolific scribe whose breezy wit isn’t bound to a single genre” (Huffington Post). Tim’s award-winning novels include the New York Times Notable Books The Great American Whatever and Better Nate Than Ever — which Lin-Manuel Miranda called “a wonderful evocation of what it’s like to be a theater kid” (New York Times). Tim’s cocktail recipe books, including the worldwide bestseller Tequila Mockingbird, have sold over half a million copies. Recently, Tim co-wrote the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Tuck Everlasting, and the Golden Globe nominated Best Animated Feature Ferdinand, starring John Cena and Kate McKinnon. A native of San Francisco who grew up in Pittsburgh, Tim now divides his time between New York and the internet. Find Tim at TimFederle.com.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of the award-winning Feral series and Tantalize series. These adventure-fantasies were published by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe. Cynthia also is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including: Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name; and Indian Shoes, all published by HarperCollins. She serves on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adult.
The son of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers, award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers began his children’s book career doing research to help his father, and went on to illustrate the elder Myers’ Shadow of the Red Moon. In 1998, the two collaborated on Harlem, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Myers’ solo effort Black Cat was also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. In addition to his fine art and illustrative work, Christopher Myers is a clothing designer. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York.
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award and the NAACP Image Award, and was named a Newbery Honor Book and a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children. Among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang currently serving as the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. Gene currently writes Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender series and DC Comics’ Superman. Secret Coders, his middle-grade graphic novel series with cartoonist Mike Holmes, teaches kids the basics of computer programming.