Olivia Aserr is an artist for animation and illustrator living in Los Angeles. She currently does background paint for animation, and writes and illustrates children's books. She developed her skills at both Art Center School of Design and Rhode Island School of Design (earning her BFA from the latter in 2014). Olivia is passionate about telling stories that are fantastical and diverse. In her free time, Olivia swing dances all over Los Angeles and the rest of the world, and loves to bake and hike with her dog, Bonnibel.
Olivia's Mentor Statement
Working with me will include critiques on illustrative pieces geared for a children's book portfolio, suggestions and ideas for additional pieces to be created, answering questions on the process and timeline of children's books, as well as discussing any other aspects of being a children's book illustrator.
Nick Bruel is the creator of the New York Times bestselling series Bad Kitty. He lives in Pleasantville, NY with his wife Carina, their daughter Izzy, and their sometimes-good-sometimes-bad cats Rose and Noodles.
Nick's Mentor Statement
I've been writing and illustrating books for kids since 2004 when my first picture book was published. I'm perhaps best known for a series called Bad Kitty which has appeared on the NY Times Bestseller list several times in three different categories. Currently, there are around 15 million Bad Kitty books in print.
Prior to doing what I do now, I was a freelance cartoonist and illustrator as well as a full-time bookseller. It was the combination of these two disciplines that brought me to this career. As a mentor to those of you who are just starting out, here is what we'd discuss:
• Story. Whether your target audience is a toddler or a teenager, creating a compelling story that will draw in your audience and communicate your intentions is key to a successful career as a writer.
• Illustration. I do not consider myself an illustrator as much as a writer who uses words and pictures to tell a story. Balancing these two tools is also critical to communicating your story.
• The Industry. As the children's book industry has grown over the years, so has the demand to be a part of it. Breaking into this competitive career is challenging, but clearly not impossible. I will help any mentee navigate past the ever-changing obstacles and pitfalls that can block anyone's pathway into this glorious profession.
Andy Passchier (also credited as Anne) is an illustrator originally from The Netherlands, currently based in the USA. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns. In their work Andy aims to focus on positivity, inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ advocacy. They have previously illustrated several children's books focusing on identity and the LGBTQIA+ community, including Rainbow: A First Book of Pride by Michael Genhart, Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen Rayne, PhD, and Katherine Gonzales, MBA, What Are Your Words? by Katherine Locke, and Being You: A First Conversation About Gender by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli. Honors include being featured on the ALA Rainbow List, and they have contributed to social media Pride campaigns for Disney+ and Warner Music UK. Andy also enjoys surface design, and loves working on children’s products and gift packaging. Outside of illustrating, they like hanging with their cats, videogames, Dungeons & Dragons, shows about aliens, and anything spooky or Halloween-related.
Andy's Mentor Statement
I've been working as a professional illustrator since 2015 and as a full-time freelancer since 2018. I started out in surface design (gift packaging, fabric, etc.), but decided I wanted my work to pertain a little closer to my identity and aimed at LGBTQIA+ young people. If you're interested in any or all of the below, I'm your person!
- Working in children's books
- Focusing on illustration and building a portfolio for children's publishing
- Creating a story pitch along with art
- Behind the scenes insights on working with book publishers
- Advice on transitioning to self-employment
- Seeking agency representation for art or writing for children
- Incorporating LGBTQIA+ advocacy and activism into your work
PICTURE BOOK MENTORS
Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning LET’S DANCE! (March 2020) and has been an educator for 28 years. Since her book was released a week before the pandemic shutdown, she has been engaged in virtual storytimes and author panels. Immersed in the writing community, Valerie is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop, is a member of SCBWI (and former co-chair of the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Team), the Authors Guild, NCTE, and ILA. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a member of Kid Lit in Color, Black Creators HeadQuarters, Soaring 20s PBs, PB Crew 22, 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and three picture book critique groups. Valerie has two books scheduled for release in 2022 (TOGETHER WE RIDE and CITY FUN), five more slated for 2023, and one for 2024.
Valerie's Mentor Statement
As an author and educator, I love connecting with both children and adults. Having benefited from the generosity of so many in the writing community—including my WNDB mentor, Kelly Starling Lyons—I want to “pay it forward” and be a sounding board, information provider, and, most of all, a cheerleader for another PB writer. In particular, I'd be happy to answer questions about the path to publication and querying, provide feedback on a manuscript, and share any and all news about conferences, organizations, and writing opportunities that may be of interest to my mentee.
Janet Costa Bates
Janet Costa Bates is the author of TIME FOR BED, OLD HOUSE which received starred reviews from the School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books. She drew inspiration from her Cape Verdean-American background to write her first picture book, SEASIDE DREAM, winner of a Lee and Low New Voices Honor Award. Her RICA BAPTISTA chapter book series, to be published by Candlewick Press, also features a Cape Verdean-American family. She has served as a judge for the NESCBWI Windows and Mirrors Scholarship, the NESCBWI Peg Davol Picture Book Scholarship, and the Boston Authors Club Discovery Award. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
Janet's Mentor Statement
My writing focus is on picture books and chapter books. With my strong background in career coaching for college students, I’m adept at helping people to create plans to bring them closer to reaching their goals.
Kyle Lukoff is the author of the middle grade novel "Too Bright To See," the Stonewall-award winning picture book “When Aidan Became A Brother,” "Explosion at the Poem Factory," and many more. While becoming a writer he worked as a bookseller for ten years, and then nine more years as a school librarian. He lives in New York City, and hopes you’re having a nice day.
Kyle's Mentor Statement
My strengths lie in editing texts, whether that's your manuscript or your query letter, and also affirming that publishing is really hard and can be really distressing and that it's okay to get frustrated. So I guess you say that I'm best equipped to offer editorial work and emotional labor.
Silvia López was born in Cuba and emigrated to Miami as a child. Her lifelong love of books led to a career as school librarian and later as a children’s author. López’ work reflects her interest in animals, history, folklore, and people who overcame obstacles to achieve great things. Her books include Just Right Family: An Adoption Story (2018 Florida Book Award) Handimals: Animals in Art and Nature (Illinois 2022 Bluestem Award nominee), Pacho Nacho, Queen of Tejano Music: Selena, (Junior Library Guild selection, 2020 Florida Book Award, and Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Books, 2013-2020), and My Little Golden Book about Frida Kahlo. Both picture book biographies are in English and Spanish. My Little Golden Book about Sonia Sotomayor, also in English and Spanish, is scheduled for release in 2022.
Silvia's Mentor Statement
I consider myself an eclectic writer. I love writing about anything that catches my interest and I think will spark the interest of a child. My published work consists of picture books on various genres, from nonfiction to biography, realistic fiction, and folktale retellings. I am bilingual and have an interest in Hispanic culture, but don’t feel limited by it because I consider myself a global citizen. I enjoy mentoring any writer who has a true belief in, and is excited about, what their manuscript has to say regardless of the topic.
MIDDLE GRADE MENTORS
Varsha Bajaj is the award-winning author of picture books and middle grade novels. Her latest middle grade novel Count Me In (Nancy Paulsen books, Penguin Group, 2019) was a finalist for the Global Read aloud program. Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood, (Albert Whitman and Co., 2014) was shortlisted for the Cybils Award and included in the Spirit of Texas Reading program. Her picture books include The Home Builders, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani (Paulsen/Penguin 2019) This is Our Baby, Born today, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Penguin/Paulsen, 2016) and How many Kisses Do You Want Tonight? illustrated by Ivan Bates (Little Brown,2004). The Home Builders is an Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection for 2021 and 2022. To find out more about Varsha’s upcoming books and other projects please visit www.varshabajaj.com. She grew up in Mumbai, India and when she came to the United States to obtain her master’s degree, her adjustment to the country was aided by her awareness of the culture through books.
Varsha's Mentor Statement
Writing is a solitary act and can therefore at times be lonely. As a mentor, I hope to be a friend and advisor who you can trust to read, listen, guide, and cheer for you on your writing and publishing journey. I will share things that I’ve learned from experiences and colleagues who helped me along the way.
Cindy Baldwin the author of the critically acclaimed novels Where the Watermelons Grow (an Oregon Spirit Book Award Honor, Indies Introduce title, and Indie Next selection), Beginners Welcome, and The Stars of Whistling Ridge. She lives just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.
Cindy's Mentor Statement
Throughout my career, I've benefited from the guidance and mentorship of many wonderful writers, and I love the chance to pay that gift forward. I have a rigorous, in-depth mentoring style; I love digging deep into a manuscript to find the emotional heart of the story and make that shine. I've written or mentored books across multiple formats, including graphic novels, verse, and epistolary, and I love working with unique styles and innovative formats. I consider mentorship an ongoing relationship, and still keep in touch with many writers who I've mentored in the past.
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” co-written with Laura Shovan (a Sydney Taylor Notable 2021), and “A Thousand Questions” (a South Asia Book Award Honor 2021). Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and children.
Saadia's Mentor Statement
I would like to mentor a middle grade writer on their journey towards publishing. My area of expertise is contemporary fiction full of rich, authentic representations of culture and faith. Mentorship to me means not only offering craft expertise, but also in-depth guidance and sharing of connections.
Author-illustrator Jarrett Lerner is the creator of the EngiNerds series of Middle Grade novels, the Geeger the Robot series of early chapter books, and the activity books Give This Book a Title and Give This Book a Cover. Jarrett is also the creator of the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series, the forthcoming illustrated novel in verse A Work in Progress, a forthcoming set of early readers, and more. All of Jarrett's books are published by Simon & Schuster. In addition to writing, drawing, and visiting schools and libraries across the country, Jarrett co-founded and co-organizes the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter and Instragram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives with his wife and daughters in Medford, Massachusetts.
Jarrett's Mentor Statement
I am an author-illustrator who writes and draws for a broad range of ages (for the youngest and all the way up through upper Middle Grade), creates a variety of kinds of books (early readers, chapter books, graphic novels, novels, novels in verse, and activity books), and has developed a sizable social media presence and active following. As a Mentor, I hope to help equip my Mentee with the tools, knowledge, and skills to both achieve their short-term goals and launch a long, successful career in the kid lit world.
YOUNG ADULT MENTORS
S. K. Ali
S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits, a finalist for the American Library Association's 2018 William C. Morris award, winner of the APALA Honor Award and Middle East Book Honor Award, and Love from A to Z, the first YA title chosen as an NBC Today Show’s “Read with Jenna” Book Club selection. Both novels were critically acclaimed and named top ten YA books of the year by various media including Entertainment Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Her newest novel, Misfit in Love, is a People magazine best book of summer 2021. She's also the co-editor of the MG anthology, Once Upon an Eid,and the co-author of the New York Times bestselling picture book, The Proudest Blue. She has a degree in Creative Writing and lives in Toronto with her family — which includes a very vocal cat named Yeti.
S. K.'s Mentor Statement
I would love to help guide mentees through the writing and publishing process and can offer monthly check-ins via audio or video zoom sessions. I've learned a lot since becoming a published author five years ago and will use my experience working on eleven books under contract (some TBA) to try to answer all your questions — to the best of my ability — as you embark on the amazing journey that is authordom. Please note: due to several deadlines, I will not be able to read and give input into any works in progress; however, through our monthly sessions, I can be a sounding board/detangler for your projects.
Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fate, Rent a Boyfriend, and the forthcoming When You Wish Upon a Lantern. After a brief detour as a dentist, she is now grateful to spend her days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths. Her award-winning books have been featured on the Indie Next List and the “Best of” lists of Seventeen, Bustle, Barnes & Noble, PopSugar, Paste Magazine, Chicago Public Library, and more. Her debut novel received four starred trade reviews and was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Teens’ Top 10 Pick, and an Amelia Bloomer list pick. Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at GloriaChao.wordpress.com, and find her on Twitter and Instagram @GloriacChao.
Gloria's Mentor Statement
I am looking to mentor a contemporary young adult writer who is pursuing traditional publication. I hope to help a passionate writer bring their manuscript to the next level and help them navigate the publishing industry. My expertise lies in character development, voice, balancing humor and heart, and writing complicated family dynamics and romance inspired by real-life experiences.
Sabina Khan is the author of ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE and THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and the best puppy in the world.
Sabina's Mentor Statement
I’m hoping to mentor a young adult writer who is passionate about sharing their culture and relevant experiences through their writing. I would also love to help them navigate the publishing industry and share what I’ve learned so far. I believe my strengths lie in voice, character development, and packing an emotional punch, as well as writing about sweet and sometimes sour family dynamics. Together, I hope to build a relationship based on honesty, trust, and hard work to bring their manuscript to the next level.
Francisco X. Stork
Francisco X. Stork emigrated from Mexico at the age of nine with his mother and his adoptive father. He is the author of nine novels including: Marcelo in the Real World, recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, which received the Elizabeth Walden Award, The Memory of Light, recipient of the Tomás Rivera Award, Disappeared, which received the Young Adult Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and was a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book and Illegal, recipient of the In the Margins Award and the Young Adult Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. On the Hook published in May of 2021 received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.
Francisco's Mentor Statement
My vision for the mentorship is to work with my mentee via e-mail and telephone conversation to conceive, draft, revise and complete a final manuscript for a novel that will be deemed publishable by an agent and a mainstream publisher. I also hope to provide the mentee with a realistic and heartfelt experience of the writing of fiction as a way of life.
Padma Venkatraman is the author of the ALA Notable book and 2019 Global Read Aloud, The Bridge Home (winner of a Walter Dean Myers Award from WNDB, as well as a Golden Kite, Crystal Kite, Nerdy, Audiophile, South Asia Book Award and more), and A Time to Dance, Island's End and Climbing the Stairs, all of which were also released to starred reviews and won multiple awards and numerous honors. In addition to writing, Padma has taught writing workshops and presented keynote addresses and participated on panels all over the world. Her poetry was most recently published in Poetry Magazine and she is the founder of Diverse Verse. Her next novel, Born Behind Bars, is a Junior Library Guild selection which is on preorder now (scheduled for September release by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin), and it has just received its first review—a star from Kirkus. Visit Padma at www.padmavenkatraman.com, @padmatv (twitter) and venkatraman.padma (ig, fb).
Padma's Mentor Statement
To me, mentorships are opportunities for friendship, the first step in a lifelong relationship based on mutual regard, an invitation to broaden one's writing community in an intensely meaningful way. As a mentor, compassion is my compass, just as it is to me as a writer; sincere and honest respect is essential, from both mentor and mentee. I believe in centering the mentee’s needs, listening to the mentee’s specific visions for and struggles with the manuscript, providing concrete suggestions as well as pep talks if the mentee feels free to share disappointments and fears, and giving tips on navigating the writing life, and general feedback on aspects of craft, which often include recommended book lists— became exposure to excellent storytelling is a vital part of every author’s growth. I like to enter into discussions and understand what the mentee wishes for their own work. I view my mentees as colleagues with whom I'm delighted to share my experiences and any wisdom I've gained in my journey; as for aspects of craft, ultimately, my desire is to find, celebrate and help mentees hone individual strengths to create unique stories that they will love and be proud of.