Illustration Mentee with Susie Ghahremani
Thuỳ cốm is a picture book author/Illustrator who recognizes both children’s need to be taken seriously and adults’ need to be enchanted. In the spirit of the beloved author C.S. Lewis who once said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest,” she does not see a necessary distinction between old and young readers when it comes to creating beautiful and imaginative work. Thuy had her first picture book published when she was a 3rd year art college student. Since then, she has written and illustrated a dozen of books. She is now living in Tokyo, Japan. You can find her on Instagram at @thuycom.studio, and learn more about her works at www.thuycom.studio.
Illustration Mentee with Floyd Cooper
Donald A.D. Sutton is an aspiring author-illustrator from Hazlehurst, Mississippi. He is a graduate of Jackson State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree: Graphic Design and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) achieving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree: Animation. It was at SCAD where he discovered his passion for children’s literature and illustration. Immediately after graduating from SCAD May 2019, Donald began studying at Hollins University where he is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature and Book Illustration.
Picture Book Mentee with Rob Sanders
Cynthia Harmony was born and raised in Mexico City. She holds a BA in Psychology and an M.A. in Education from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. She has published textbooks, Early Readers, and learning materials for non-profits and Children and Science museums. Recently, she’s focused on her main passion, sharing the wonder of diverse stories through the powerful art-form of picture books.
Picture Book Mentee with Kelly Starling Lyons
Valerie Bolling has been an educator for 27 years and a writer since age 4. When she taught elementary students, it was difficult to find diverse literature for them. Thus, she is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel valued and heard. Valerie is a graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College and currently works as an Instructional Coach with middle and high school teachers. In addition to writing picture books, Valerie writes a Monthly Memo for teachers that she publishes on Twitter, and she has been published in The National Writing Project’s Quarterly. Valerie is a member of SCBWI, the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Authors Guild, and a picture book critique group. She has sold a poem to Cricket Media, and her debut picture book, Let’s Dance!, will be released by Boyds Mills & Kane in 2020. Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing. For more information, visit her website: http://valeriebolling.com/index.html.
Picture Book Mentee with Silvia López
Eloise Freeman graduated from UCLA and taught elementary school for many years. While working as an educator, she adapted classic plays for her students to perform. Informed by her childhood experiences and Jewish heritage, her work strives to raise social awareness and share a world filled with diverse voices showing kindness and inclusion. Character, hope, and the human spirit striving to overcome adversity are reflected in her writing.
Middle Grade Mentee with Aisha Saeed
Lily Quan is a writer, editor and literary producer living on Vancouver Island. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College, she has worked in communications for over 20 years. She recently spent several years in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she was founder and director of the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference and the Yukon Nonfiction Festival. These enormously successful events drew national authors and publishing veterans to Canada’s Far North. Lily won the 2019 Writing for Children Competition by the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP). Her entry from her work-in-progress, THE ONE AND ONLY ROSIE CHEN, won in the Middle Grade category. Lily has attended residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, where her mentors included award-winning authors David Chariandy and Peter Behrens. She is delighted to take part in WNDB’s mentorship program and hopes her writing makes a positive, thoughtful contribution to the conversation about diversity.
Middle Grade Mentee with Kate Messner
Kesha Grant’s favorite pastimes as a child were reading books and playing school with her neighborhood friends, so it only seems fitting that she became a writer and a teacher. When she was in the sixth grade, Kesha wrote her first book and entered it into a school wide contest. Though she didn’t win, Kesha got her first taste of authorship and has been in love with writing ever since. During her ten years as an educator, she struggled to find books that were representative of the largely African American and Latinx students in her classrooms. Frustrated, Kesha decided to channel her energy into helping to change the face of children’s publishing by pursuing a writing career. She recently received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. During her time there, she discovered her talent and love for editorial work and honed her writing skills. She now works as an editorial assistant and writes true stories about unsung heroes whose narratives never made it into her children’s history books but definitely deserve to be there. She also enjoys writing made up stories that feature African-American folklore and West African myths. Kesha also holds a master’s degree in education. When not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family. She resides in Atlanta, GA.
Young Adult Mentee with Robin Talley
Sarah Loch (she/her) has been making up stories since childhood, first for her own amusement and then to entertain her younger siblings and cousins. She is a young adult librarian and an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Sarah has authored and self-published several queer romances under a pseudonym while working to write and revise her first YA novel. She lives in Northwest Arkansas with her family and their two rabbits.
Young Adult Mentee with Steven Dos Santos
Mary Stewart Lyda grew up in rural western Pennsylvania and although she read most of the books in her town’s small library, she never found a book with a girl like her. After college she enlisted in the U.S. Army, learning Korean at the Defense Language School and serving as a psy-ops specialist and paratrooper. She then earned her master’s degree and worked in North Carolina public high schools as a teacher and librarian. Now retired, she is an #OwnVoices, LGBTQ writer currently revising her YA novel, The Glimpse. She is a member of SCBWI, the Secret Gardeners critique group, and has completed several advanced writing courses. She is honored to work with Steven dos Santos as a 2020 mentee and grateful to WNDB for all they do to make sure kids are able to find books with characters like themselves. Mary lives in Asheville, NC with her wife, dog, and cat.
Young Adult Mentee with Stacey Lee
Nadine Pinede loves bringing stories from the margins to the center. She’s the author of An Invisible Geography, poems of place and displacement, and Women in Film and Sexism & Race, both selected by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for their Recommended Reading List. Her career has focused on social justice in higher education and nonprofits. As a speechwriter, she wrote for the first African American president of a Big Ten university, and as a grantwriter, she helped fund programs for minorities in STEM and in international exchange, and mentorships for artists with disabilities. Nadine’s poetry and prose have been published in Haiti Noir (edited by Edwidge Danticat), Spoon River Poetry Review, Young Adult Review Network, and On Being. She earned degrees from Harvard and Oxford (where she was the first Haitian-American Rhodes Scholar), a PhD from Indiana University and an MFA from Whidbey Writers Workshop. She enjoys discovering diverse voices as editor-at-large for Enchanted Lion Books, an award-winning publisher of illustrated books for young people, just as she enjoys discovering new paths in her first YA verse novel.
Floyd Cooper has illustrated nearly 100 books for children, including Ruth and the Green Book, These Hands, A Beach Tail, and A Dance Like Starlight, which received a Kirkus Starred Review. He is a three-time Coretta Scott King Honoree and an NAACP Image Award winner. On being a children’s author, Floyd says, “Giving kids a positive alternative to counteract the negative impact of what is conveyed in today’s media is a huge opportunity.” Floyd hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma and currently resides in Easton, PA. https://www.floydcooper.com/
Susie Ghahremani is an award-winning illustrator, an internationally exhibiting artist, entrepreneur, designer and advocate for the illustration community. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where she also has taught. Her latest creation is LITTLE MUIR’S SONG — written by environmental icon John Muir and published by Yosemite Conservancy — released in August 2019. She has been awarded and recognized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators New York, and the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, and was profiled in several magazines including The New York Times. She served on the board of ICON the Illustration Conference and won a 2016 Mentorship Award at SCBWI’s annual Portfolio Show. Ghahremani lives and creates art in San Diego. You can find Susie online at boygirlparty.com and on Instagram and Twitter @boygirlparty.
Picture Book Mentors
Kelly Starling Lyons is a teaching artist and award-winning children's book author whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. Her more than a dozen titles span picture books, easy readers and chapter books, fiction and nonfiction, standalone and series. She counts starred reviews, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selections, National Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies and Scholastic Reading Club picks among the accolades her books have received. Titles include Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice & Sing Inspired Generations, Going Down Home with Daddy, the Jada Jones chapter book series, One More Dino on the Floor, Hope's Gift, Ellen's Broom, Tea Cakes for Tosh and One Million Men and Me. http://www.kellystarlinglyons.com/
Rob Sanders is a writer who teaches, and a teacher who writes. A native of Springfield, Missouri, he has lived in Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee. Working daily with children inspired Rob to pursue his own writing career. He is the author of COWBOY CHRISTMAS, OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE, RUBY ROSE—OFF TO SCHOOL SHE GOES, RUBY ROSE—BIG BRAVOS, and RODZILLA, illustrated by Dan Santat. Rob’s nonfiction writing includes: PRIDE: THE STORY OF HARVEY MILK AND THE RAINBOW FLAG, PEACEFUL FIGHTS FOR EQUAL RIGHTS, and STONEWALL: A BUILDING. AN UPRISING. A REVOLUTION. Rob is the co-RA for SCBWI Florida and coaches and critiques other picture book writers. https://www.robsanderswrites.com/
Middle Grade Mentors
Aisha Saeed is the New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). Her debut, Written in the Stars (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015), won the 2019 California Medal for young readers and her picture book Bilal Cooks Daal (Simon and Schuster, 2019) received a Kirkus star and was named a best book of the month by Amazon. Aisha is also a founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC, and the BBC, and her writings have appeared in publications including the journal ALAN and the Orlando Sentinel. Aisha is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three sons. http://aishasaeed.com/
Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, and How to Read a Story; novels like Capture the Flag, All the Answers, The Seventh Wish, and Breakout; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series with Candlewick, and Scholastic’s popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines.
Young Adult Mentors
Stacey Lee is an award-winning author of historical and contemporary young adult fiction, including Outrun the Moon, which won the 2017 Pen Center Award for Young Adult Fiction. A native of southern California and fourth-generation Chinese American, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in Silicon Valley 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. https://www.staceyhlee.com/
Robin Talley is a queer author who grew up in southwest Virginia and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife and their daughter. She worked in digital communications for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, educational equity, and other progressive causes for fifteen years before she turned to writing full-time, and is now the New York Times bestselling author of five novels for teen readers: Pulp, Our Own Private Universe, As I Descended, What We Left Behind, and Lies We Tell Ourselves. Her first book was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards, winner of the inaugural Amnesty CILIP Honour, and short-listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. Her short stories have appeared in the young adult collections Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft, All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages, and A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers and Other Badass Girls, and Feral Youth. You can find her at www.robintalley.com.
Steven dos Santos is author of The Torch Keeper novels, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic series featuring LGBTQ+ characters. Book One, The Culling, was named an American Library Association 2014 Rainbow List Top Ten Selection. Steven’s other series, Dagger: The Dust Ops, is a Young Adult Paranormal Espionage Adventure, also featuring LGBTQ+ characters. Steven graduated from Florida International University with a B.S. Degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications Television Broadcasting program and also has an MFA in Writing from Spalding University. He is an adjunct English Professor and a passionate advocate of LGBTQ+ rights.
You can find past mentor and mentee bios prior to 2020 by clicking the button below: