Mar Sabrina (mentored by Jeanette Bradley)
Mar Sabrina is an illustrator and child psychologist from Argentina. She aims to give her art a unique touch from her experiences as a Latina and considers it very important to work from a human rights and mental health perspective, promoting the creation of worlds that are respectful of all identities and cultural backgrounds. She has worked with clients for personal commissions and also in conjunction with Real Change News to create the cover of the Nov. 24-30, 2021 issue, with a focus on representing diverse families and their daily challenges. Her experiences working with children inspired her to experiment with textures and colors, their hidden meanings and the different feelings that they can produce. In her own childhood, she spent her time exploring nature and reading countless fairy tales which is why she now loves slow walks in the park and cozy mornings. You can find her online at @marsabrinart on Instagram and Twitter. Her website is https://marsabrinart.wixsite.com/site.
Shanelle Serrato (mentored by Nicole Neidhardt)
Shanelle Serrato (she/her/they/them) is a 1st generation Mexican American illustrator, aspiring to work in the children’s books industry. She graduated with a BFA in Illustration from California State University, Long Beach. While originally pursuing a career in animation, she eventually found more joy in creating colorful children’s illustrations and made the switch to pursue a new career.
Shanelle believes in inclusive and diverse picture books for kids where they see themselves in narratives and learn from different cultures and communities. She, as a result, loves to represent and share her Mexican culture in her vibrant illustrations. Furthermore, in her work, Shanelle enjoys exploring children’s narratives with lively, imaginative colors, and textures that have appeal and whimsy. When she is not illustrating she loves to spend time with her pup, friends, and family, especially her twin sister, Shayla. You can find her work at https://shanelleserrato.squarespace.com. Her Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter handles are shanellescribbles.
Zuzu (mentored by Lala Watkins)
Zuzu is an illustrator, teacher, and SCBWI illustrator coordinator living in California. Her love for reading and drawing from childhood as well as her time spent with her students lead her to picture book making. Through a variety of mixed media, Zuzu enjoys creating joyful and warm-colored artistic explorations that take shape as storytelling illustrations. In her spare time, Zuzu gets her inspiration by wandering around botanical gardens, chatting with talented fellow artists through her discord community, and petting her fluffy chickens. She is currently working on her first picture book and seeking representation. You can find her online at @zuzu.draws.creates on Instagram. Her website is www.zugong.art.
PICTURE BOOK MENTEES
Norma Cárdenas (mentored by Kao Kalia Yang)
Norma Cárdenas was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She’s an aspiring author of bilingual nonfiction, historical and humorous fiction, and biography picture books. Norma’s stories are about Latine families, finding joy in daily life struggles, and action for social change. A scholar-activist, she teaches anti-racist courses at Portland State University. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and two children. She enjoys watching them play soccer and volleyball and loves breakfast tacos.
Trenise Ferreira (mentored by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow)
Trenise Ferreira has been a storyteller for her entire professional career. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast & Digital Journalism from the University of Southern California and a master's degree in Multimedia Journalism from UC Berkeley. Her career has spanned being a sports journalist, a publicist at Walt Disney World Resort and a DEI corporate communication manager. She's always had story ideas dancing in her head and finally poured those ideas out of her imagination and into writing journals in 2020. Since then, Trenise has focused primarily on writing picture books, though she has a couple of chapter book and middle-grade ideas waiting in the wings. Since her first love was sports journalism, Trenise enjoys writing about the magic of truth and the thrill of “this really happened!” She strives to center black excellence and community in her stories, particularly for black children who, like her, grew up in predominately white spaces. When not writing about culture, Trenise loves telling stories about animal science, history and general silliness. Having the opportunity to work with her mentor, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, is a dream come true, and she is so grateful to WNDB for the opportunity.
Christine Kornylak (mentored by Vicky Fang)
Christine Kornylak grew up in a tiny town in Ohio with two older brothers and a rotating cast of imaginary animals. As a daughter of a Korean immigrant, she writes stories that help young people find and celebrate their own unique voices. In her writing, Christine gravitates towards mavericks, misfits and rule breakers, and she enjoys imagining the world from their point of view. Christine graduated with a degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a law degree from New York University. She lives in Venice, California with her family of four. When not writing, revising, or eating chocolate, she enjoys rock climbing and exploring the mountains and deserts of Southern California.
Wendy Maldonado (mentored by Anika Aldamuy Denise)
Wendy Maldonado arrived in the US as an undocumented child from Mexico and reclaimed her lost Spanish language and Mexican heritage as a young adult. As a picture book writer, she explores history, biography, folklore, and myth, as well as stories that have been erased or overlooked by the mainstream. She is a member of SCBWI, and founded the Providence, RI picture book critique group in 2014, which she still runs today. She is also a nonprofit consultant, amateur painter, foodie, art lover, and mother to a cat-crazy 12-year-old daughter. She holds a BA in English from Yale, an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and an MBA from MIT Sloan.
MIDDLE GRADE MENTEES
Yesica Hurd (mentored by Terry Catasús Jennings)
Yesica Hurd is a Mexican-American children’s author. She was born and raised in Ft. Bragg, California. She earned a BA in English from Reed College and an MLIS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Currently, she is a Children’s Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library. Yesica writes children’s book reviews for Horn Book and, in 2021 was elected to the 2023 Newbery committee. Her poetry and fiction has been published in Highlights High Five and Highlights Hello Magazines. She is working on her first middle-grade book, and is excited for this opportunity to improve her writing through the WNDB Mentorship program. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three sons.
Dina Mousa (mentored by Christine Day)
Dina Mousa was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, and is now a naturalized American citizen settled in San Diego, California. Before coming to the US, Dina lived in South Korea and traveled throughout Asia, where she indulged her love of food and culture. Dina holds a degree in screenwriting and cinema production, and she enjoys studying and discussing the art of story.
Dina has won several awards and placements including being long-listed in The Golden Baobab Prize for African authors for early chapter book, and was also the Artist-in-Residence at Château d’Orquevaux, a fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar Young Culture Innovators, and a finalist at The Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Dina is a peace lover, and believes in the power of art in bringing people together. Dina has a deep love for historical fiction and strong female characters. She finds herself often inspired by her country, the women in her family, and both Egyptian and African mythologies. Dina’s passion is to bring stories of the Ancient Middle East to receptive wider audiences.
Monica Nawrocki (mentored by A.J. Sass)
Monica Nawrocki lives with her wife on a remote island off the west coast of Canada where Art is embraced as an essential and joyful part of daily life. She earns her living as a substitute teacher—often reading under-construction manuscripts to captive classroom audiences and happily impersonating someone different every day. You can visit her at monicanawrocki.com.
Benjamin Orion (mentored by Nicole Melleby)
Benjamin Orion is a kidlit and LGBTQIA+ writer, #RevPit 2021 winner, and #FiltheShelves member born and based in the Philippines. His stories, whether picture book, middle grade, or young adult, aim to put the spotlight on marginalized characters’ experiences and the four Fs: the fun, the funny, the family, and the feels. He’s also an avid traveler, a proud entrepreneur, a pastillas de leche and yema confectioner, and the #1 stan of his hometown’s world-famous kneeling carabaos. The amazing Regina Bernard-Carreno at Ladderbird Literary Agency represents him and all his projects. See more of Ben’s thoughts, ramblings, and badly filtered photos on Twitter (@orion_benjamin), Instagram (@benjaminorion01), and Hive Social (@benjaminorion01).
YOUNG ADULT MENTEES
Gia R. Davis (mentored by Bethany C. Morrow)
Gia R. Davis is an aspiring author born and raised in Houston, where she also attended university and earned her BA in Business. However, she’s known since childhood what her true passion and calling is—writing.
Gia discovered her passion for writing at eleven years old when she hopped on a computer and began using Microsoft Word and its Clip Art function to write fictional stories about fairies, princesses, and mermaids. She unearthed her desire to become an author at the age of fourteen. Now, as an adult, she continues to strive towards that goal.
When not writing about Black girls taking on the world, doing magical things, falling in love, and solving mysteries, Gia can also be found reading, playing mother to a German Shepherd, wandering off into la-la land, binge-watching anime, and battling a life-long addiction to sweets and French fries.
Stephan Nance (mentored by H.E. Edgmon)
Stephan Nance (they/them) is a writer and musician whose performing credits as Sparkbird include multiple tours in Japan and Europe. They are a 2021 Lambda Literary Fellow, a 2022 Tin House YA Workshop alum, and their writing has been published in The Gay & Lesbian Review. Stephan lives in Portland, Oregon, with their partner Adam, along with a 15-year-old Senegal parrot named Georgie and a 44-year-old Yellow-naped parrot named Fred. Stephan is currently working on their next album and a very birdy young adult novel set in Eastern Oregon.
Yania Padilla Sierra (mentored by Aminah Mae Safi)
Yania Padilla Sierra is a poet, writer, and mental health advocate. She was an elementary teacher for several years before transitioning to suicide and violence prevention work, where she focuses on advancing health equity for traditionally excluded/ marginalized communities and applying anti-racist principles to improve access and outcomes. She is a CantoMundo fellow and served as an Associate Editor fellow for Frontier Poetry in 2021. She was also named a 2021 National Hispanic and Latino Executive Leadership fellow for her prevention and health equity work. Yania is currently revising a young adult novel which re-visions events of the Middle Passage. She is eager and grateful to work with her mentor, Aminah Mae Safi, and deeply appreciative of WNDB’s vision and initiatives. She feels a profound respect for the mentor-mentee relationship, and looks forward to mentoring other emerging writers. Born in Puerto Rico, she lives in Connecticut, where she enjoys gardening, singing off-key, thrifting, hiking, long walks on the beach, and spoiling her chihuahua and cats. You might find her on social media via @bqbangs.
Jade Wilburn (mentored by Victoria Lee)
Jade Wilburn is a UX Designer and award-nominated writer born in Rochester, New York. Her work can be found in Fiyah Magazine,The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror #3 edited by Paula Guran and more. When she’s procrastinating on writing, she can be found playing Sims or trying to coax her tomato plant to grow. You can connect with her on Twitter @JadeWrites.
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.