with Pat Cummings, Cecilia Yung, Laurent Linn, & Patti Ann Harris
Rahele Jomepour Bell is from Mashhad, Iran. She was born during the climax of the 1979 revolution, and her early childhood memories were heavily influenced by the confusing and devastating war that followed. Her visual style is also a convergence of ancient and modern, mingling bright colors of old Persian miniatures with surreal geometry and dimension. Her repertoire demonstrates her ability to relate to any audience, including biological sciences and civil rights activism, but her first love is children’s books. Rahele is not content to illustrate a world that is always happy and easy, because as any child knows, that is not real life. Instead, as a fellow connoisseur of the absurd, she is a companion through life's difficulties, and generous with the rewards of hard work. Her message is supportive without being patronizing, funny without being cliché, accessible yet unpredictable. Her work is both an epic visual journey and a treasure hunt for little jokes hidden in the details.
Jenn Kocsmiersky is a watercolor artist and picture book illustrator based in upstate New York. She was adopted from Seoul, South Korea and grew up in rural New Hampshire. In trying to understand and reconcile an American upbringing with Korean origins, Jenn found comforting validation from picture books and stories about relatable moments and childhood experiences that just so happened to feature diverse main characters. Now, as a mom and artist, she hopes to promote this kind of subtle yet powerful form of representation. Jenn received a 2016-2017 Walter Grant from We Need Diverse Books and just completed her debut picture book, Paul, to be published by Ripple Grove Press and released September 2018.
Picture Book Category
with Jim Averbeck and Gwendolyn Hooks
Chrystal Giles was an avid reader as a young child, and became passionate about writing for children after her son was born. She is devoted to shining a light on issues impacting children in her community, and creating stories that encourage them to show up just as they are. She is a member of SCBWI Carolinas and an awesome critique group. Chrystal has a B.S. in Accounting from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and has worked as an accounting / finance professional for over ten years. She loves to travel and is a self-proclaimed foodie. She was born, raised and currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband and son. You can find her on Twitter: @creativelychrys
Dane Liu-Wimmer was eleven years old when she and her parents moved from northern China to the southern United States. Though she did not speak any English, she soon learned that language isn’t the only obstacle that renders a person voiceless. This temporary but indelible experience informs her storytelling. “Writing is an expression and a privilege,” she states. She hopes to create picture books that nurture, inform, and entertain, as well as offer a voice to kids without one. More children should see themselves in the books they read. She is honored to work with Jim Averbeck as a 2018 mentee.
Middle Grade Category
with Angela Cervantes and Alex Gino
Galina Espinoza is a veteran journalist who has been the Editorial Director of Latina magazine and a Senior Editor at People. Her personal essays have appeared in the “Modern Love” column of The New York Times, as well as Marie Claire, and she has written about topics ranging from the juvenile justice system to summering on the Jersey shore for publications including Newsday and Coastal Living. Currently the Senior Director of Strategic Content for NBC News, Galina is an experienced public speaker (with the SAG-AFTRA card to prove it!) who has appeared on virtually every major entertainment and morning news show, in addition to panels at SXSW and the New York International Latino Film Festival. A passionate champion of girls and women, Galina is a former Board Director for Girls Write Now, which mentors underserved New York City high school girls through the power of writing. She holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is a past recipient of the Jon Davidoff Scholarship to attend the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Galina lives with her longtime partner, creative director Brian Kelly, and their two dogs in Jersey City, NJ, where the spare bedroom is often claimed by one of her seven nieces and nephews.
Judy Bicep grew up in the Caribbean, enthralled by her grandmother’s stories about ghosts, especially the ghosts rumored to share their house. She wanted to be a writer, but after immigrating to Canada, she became a math teacher instead. She is grateful for the opportunity to grow as a writer and person through the WNDB Mentorship program.
Young Adult Category
with Sara Ryan and An Na
Tai Farnsworth is a mixed-race, queer writer based in Los Angeles. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in 2015. Since then she’s been toiling away in education while shopping around her YA manuscript about a girl discovering her bisexuality in the wake of her boyfriend’s death. When she’s not writing or poisoning young minds with her liberal agenda, she is reading, practicing yoga, and cooking. Her work, which focuses heavily on themes of self-acceptance and queerness, can be found in Lunch Ticket, The Quotable, CutBank Literary, and forthcoming in the Evansville Review.
Sabina Seldon is an African woman dedicated to writing fiction that colors outside the lines. She lives in Zimbabwe with her South African husband, three children and lots of books. She likes to collage, paint and travel to real and imaginary places. Sabina seeks to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar in her writing. She is passionate about exploring and capturing the diversity of the human experience across gender, class, tribe and region. She is a recent graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
with Yolanda Scott and Jason Chin
Karen Su’s favorite thing to do as a kid was read and she was always drawing, painting, or making something, so writing and illustrating children’s books brings her two big loves together: books and art. Her goal is to create more children’s picture books about Asian Americans. Having grown up with very few books that reflected her identity, she was disappointed to find that when her own children were little, there were still not very many picture books representing Asian American people and other underrepresented communities. She is currently working on a series of picture books based on oral history interviews of Asian American women and women of color artists who have a gift of creative determination and a passion for making positive change in the world. She wants to inspire readers with life stories affirming a multiplicity of life experiences and aspirations. She teaches in the Global Asian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is mom to two teens.
Lolly Ward grew up in Bethesda, MD, before moving west to attend Stanford University, where she received her Bachelor's and Master's in English and creative writing. She was raised by writers: her mother is an author and poet, and her father was a photojournalist and an accredited member of the White House press corps for fifty-three years. Her plays include The Ethel Party (published by Silk Road Review), Black Press in the White House (published by Smith & Kraus), Gone, 72 Objects, Theory of Nothing, and Mate. She has won short story awards and toured as an actress and improviser. Lolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, where she co-founded LineStorm Playwrights and Bookies, a critique group for children’s books.
Pat Cummings is an author and/or illustrator of over 35 books. She also compiled and edited Talking with Artists, a series featuring notable children's book illustrators. Her Pratt and Parsons classes list a growing number of award-winning children’s books creators. A frequent lecturer at schools, libraries and conventions she also conducts an annual Children’s Book Boot Camp that connects writers and illustrators with agents and publishers. Pat serves on the boards of The Authors Guild, The Authors League Foundation and SCBWI. She is a member of The Writers Guild of America-East and Chair of the Society of Illustrators’ Founders Award committee for the annual Original Art Show. Her latest picture book, Beauty and the Beast, was translated from the original French version and retold by her husband Chuku Lee. Her debut middle grade novel, Trace, is due in 2019 from the same publisher, HarperCollins. Pat will serve as a 2018 Illustrator mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Cecilia Yung has spent her entire career in children's trade publishing. She started as a book designer for Four Winds Press and has since served as art director for Four Winds Press, Macmillan Children's Books, and Viking Children's Books. She is currently executive art director and vice president at Penguin Books for Young Readers, where she oversees illustration and design for two imprints, G. P. Putnam's Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books. She is fortunate to have worked with some of the major names in picture books— from industry legends Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Maira Kalman, and Wendell Minor, to Caldecott medal and honor winners Simms Taback, Peggy Rathmann, Lane Smith, Ed Young, David Small, E. B. Lewis, and Christian Robinson. The highlight of her work is to discover and develop new talent. She is proud to have worked on the debut books from a new generation of talent such as Ana Aranda, Ben & Sean Hilts, Andrew Kolb, Juana Martinez Neal, and Eliza Wheeler. As an extension of her passion for illustrators and picture book art, Cecilia is very involved in the children’s publishing community. She serves on the Board of Advisors of SCBWI and is a member of its Illustrators Committee where she helps plan conference programs for illustrators and started the SCBWI Mentorship Program. She founded READING PICTURES, a program at the Original Art Show that features an art-director-led gallery talk and presentations by illustrators, all specifically planned for librarians. Cecilia will serve as a 2018 Illustration (team) mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
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 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. Spy agencies can find Jim online at jimaverbeck.com
Patti Ann Harris is a creative director at Scholastic Inc., where she oversees the art and design of the novelty imprint Cartwheel Books and the picture book imprint Orchard Books. With over twenty years’ experience in children’s publishing, she has had the pleasure of working with many esteemed illustrators on a variety of award-winning picture books. She enjoys mentoring young artists as they develop in their careers and exploring new book formats. In her role at Scholastic, she is focusing on developing new content for the preschool market in both novelty formats and traditional picture books. Patti Ann will serve as a 2018 Illustration team mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
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 and have been driving around the country in a motorhome. Alex has been an activist and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities since 1997, when they became co-chair of what was then called the LGBA at the University of Pennsylvania. It was renamed the QSA the year after they left. Coincidence? Unlikely. Alex believes young people need tools to talk about and reflect on real issues in our world. Their work-in-progress is a middle grade novel about Deafness, racist police violence, baby sisters, and learning about your own privilege. Alex will serve as a 2018 Middle Grade fiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Angela Cervantes is the author of the middle grade novel Gaby, Lost and Found, which was named Best Youth Chapter book by the International Latino Book Awards and a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Angela was named by Latinostories.com as one of the top ten new authors to watch. Angela’s second middle grade novel, Allie, First At Last, was published by Scholastic Press in 2016 and received a starred-review from Kirkus, calling it a “sweet middle-grade read” that “beautifully depicts the loving intergenerational bond between Bisabuelo and his young great-grandkids.” Publisher’s Weekly called Allie, First At Last an “earnest story…laced with Mexican-American language and filled with gentle humor, big lessons, and even bigger heart.” Angela’s next middle-grade novel, Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring, tells the story of an eleven-year old girl who accompanies her professor mom on a research fellowship to her father’s birth country of Mexico, only to become entangled in a mystery involving an artifact once owned by the artist Frida Kahlo (Scholastic Press; 2018). Angela is also the author of the junior novelization of Disney Pixar’s animated film, Coco, to be released in November 2017. Presently, she is working on her fifth middle-grade novel. Angela divides her time between Kansas and Florida. When she is not writing, Angela enjoys reading, running, and taking advantage of Taco Tuesdays everywhere she goes. Angela will serve as a 2018 Middle Grade fiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Sara Ryan is the author of the graphic novel Bad Houses with art by Carla Speed McNeil, young adult novels The Rules for Hearts and Empress of the World, and various comics, short stories, and essays. Sara has spoken and taught in numerous venues: high schools and universities; public and school libraries; comic conventions including Comicon International and Wondercon; and at conferences, including the Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging LGBTQ Voices Retreat, the American Library Association, Public Library Association, Sirens, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Additionally, Sara has served as master class instructor for Writing the Other and as a guest instructor at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Sara will serve as a 2018 Young Adult fiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
An Na was born in South Korea and grew up in San Diego, California. She is the author of three novels: A Step from Heaven, Wait for Me, and The Fold. The Place Between Breaths, a forthcoming young adult spring 2018 novel, will be published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. Her awards and honors include the Michael L. Printz Award, International Reading Association Award, National Book Award Finalist, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, New York Times Book Review Notable, and Junior Library Guild Selection. She lives in Vermont and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adult’s MFA program. Her website may be found at www.AnWriting.com. An will serve as a 2018 Young Adult fiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Gwendolyn Hooks was born a Georgia peach, thanks to her Air Force dad, but now spends her days writing on the Oklahoma plains. She began her literary career with an eight-page, 34-word early reader published in two languages and now has 22 published books. Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas is a 2017 NAACP Outstanding Literary Work, Children’s winner and an SCBWI Crystal Kite winner. Her early reader, Block Party, is a 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection. Gwendolyn leads a Monday morning memoir writing class for senior citizens, presents at reading festivals and library conferences, served as a mentor for a Highlights Workshop, and is a proud member of the group blog, The Brown Bookshelf. Gwendolyn will serve as a 2018 Picture book/Early Reader fiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Jason Chin is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed books Gravity, Island: A Story of the Galapagos, Redwoods, Coral Reefs, and Grand Canyon, and the illustrator of Water is Water, written by Miranda Paul. Jason grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and studied illustration at Syracuse University. In 2001 he moved to New York City and found a job at a children’s bookstore in Manhattan. It was through co-workers at the store that Jason found his way to his current publisher, Roaring Brook Press. Jason’s latest book, Grand Canyon, received five starred reviews, and his recent title Water is Water earned multiple starred reviews and is a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title. Jason’s picture book Gravity was a 2014 Gryphon Honor Book (from the Center for Children’s Books) and Island: A Story of the Galapagos, won the 2013 Gryphon Award. His earlier books, Redwoods and Coral Reefs, also received critical acclaim such as the 2010 FOCAL Award, Washington Post Best of 2009 list, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Jason lives in Vermont with his wife, Deirdre Gill, and their children. Jason will serve as a 2018 Nonfiction mentor for an author or author/illustrator for We Need Diverse Books.
Yolanda Scott is the associate publisher and editorial director at Charlesbridge, where she has edited more than 200 titles since 1995. She has worked with authors and illustrators such as Eve Bunting, Tony Johnston, Kathryn Lasky, Rafael López, David McPhail, Wendell Minor, Linda Sue Park, Duncan Tonatiuh, and Jane Yolen. She is a co-founder of Children’s Books Boston and the board vice-chair of the Children’s Book Council, where she has also served on the CBC Diversity Committee. Learn more at www.charlesbridge.com or connect on Twitter: @yoscottbooks. Yolanda will serve as a 2018 Nonfiction mentor for We Need Diverse Books.
Kevin Lewis (Picture Book Text Mentor) is the author of multiple picture books for the very young including My Truck Is Stuck!, The Lot at the End of My Block, and Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo. He is also a children’s book editor and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Read more about his work in an interview with The Brown Bookshelf here.
Kevin Lewis (Picture Book Text Mentor) is the author of multiple picture books for the very young including My Truck Is Stuck!, The Lot at the End of My Block, and Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo. He is also a children’s book editor and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Read more about his work in an interview with The Brown Bookshelf here.
Kevin Lewis (2017 PICTURE BOOK TEXT MENTOR)
Kevin Lewis is the author of multiple picture books for the very young including My Truck Is Stuck!, The Lot at the End of My Block, and Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo. He is also a children’s book editor and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Read more about his work in an interview with The Brown Bookshelf here.
TARA LAZAR (2017 PICTURE BOOK TEXT MENTOR)
Tara Lazar knew she wanted to be a children’s book author in 2nd grade, but she didn’t get published until 34th grade. Her newest picture book, NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, 2016), celebrates the differences that make us all special. She has three other picture books with Big Five publishers and two more will be released in 2017. Tara founded Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), an annual writing challenge for kidlit writers, which she has run on her popular blog, “Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)” for the past eight years. She’s a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature (RUCCL) and the NJ-SCBWI Committee. In 2010, just prior to accepting her first book offer, Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and far too many stuffed animals.
ELLEN OH (2017 MIDDLE GRADE MENTOR)
We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh is a middle grade and young adult author of the Prophecy series, The Spirit Hunters, and editor of Flying Lessons & Other Stories, a short story collection from some of the industry’s most distinguished writers. She thinks that regular bios are boring (“Do you really care that I used to be a lawyer and teach college courses…?”) and therefore invites you to visit ellenoh.com for a fun list of 22 biographical facts.
WILLIAM ALEXANDER (2017 MIDDLE GRADE MENTOR)
William Alexander is a National Book Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of middle grade fantasy and science fiction. Additional honors include an Eleanor Cameron Award, an Earphones Award, a Junior Library Guild Selection, a finalist for the International Latino Book Award, two Minnesota Book Award finalists, and two CBC Best Children’s Book of the Year Awards. Will is second generation Cuban-American. He studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at Clarion. He now teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
PADMA VENTRAKAMAN (2017 YOUNG ADULT MENTOR)
Award-winning American author Padma Venkatraman has worked as chief scientist on oceanographic ships and spent time under the sea, directed a school, and lived in five countries. Her three novels, A TIME TO DANCE, ISLAND’S END and CLIMBING THE STAIRS, were released to multiple starred reviews (12 altogether), and won numerous honors and awards including an IRA Notable distinction, Yalsa BBYA, IBBY outstanding book, CCBC choice, and recognition from the American Library Association, Booklist, Kirkus, and New York Public Library among others. She provides keynote addresses and commencement speeches, travels to international author festivals, serves on panels, does author visits, conducts workshops, and enjoys teaching and mentoring. Visit her at http://padmasbooks.blogspot.com or contact her via www.padmavenkatraman.com.
ALEX SANCHEZ (2017 YOUNG ADULT MENTOR)
Alex Sanchez is best known for his debut novel, RAINBOW BOYS, an American Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults,” praised by School Library Journal as a book that can “open eyes and change lives.” His other groundbreaking books include the middle-grade novel, SO HARD TO SAY, which won the Lambda Literary Award; BAIT, winner of the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award; and THE GOD BOX, about teens exploring spirituality and sexuality. Born in Mexico, Alex immigrated to the U.S. with his family. For many years he worked as a youth and family counselor. Now when not writing, he speaks around the country on topics of diversity and youth. www.alexsanchez.com
KIERSTEN WHITE (2017 YA MENTOR)
Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken, Now I Rise, the Paranormalcy trilogy, the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect Lies, The Chaos of Stars, and Illusions of Fate. Her first middle grade, Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales, is forthcoming. Her books have won several awards, including the Utah Book Award, the Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, and the Whitney Award, and have been named an ALA-YALSA Teen Top Ten Best Book, a Florida Teens Read list selection, a Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection and Tayshas Reading List Selection, among other accolades. She lives with her family in San Diego. Visit her online at www.kierstenwhite.com.
JODI MEADOWS (2017 YA MENTOR)
Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com
JANE YOLEN (2017 NONFICTION MENTOR)
Jane Yolen is a distinguished author of more than 170 books who has served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for over 25 years and as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988. Yolen’s awards include the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children’s Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society’s Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into over a dozen languages. During the WNDB mentorship year, Yolen hopes to work with an upcoming writer of science/nature-related nonfiction or folklore (also shelved in the NF category).
CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD (2017 NONFICTION MENTOR)
Baltimore-born and -raised, Carole composed her first poem in first grade and dictated the verse to her mother on the ride home from school. Since her literary debut with Juneteenth Jamboree in 1995, Carole has published more than a dozen books, for which she has received literary honors including the Ragan-Rubin Award from North Carolina English Teachers Association and the North Carolina Literature Award, among the state’s highest civilian honors. She holds an M.A. in publications design from University of Baltimore and an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is a Professor of English at Fayetteville State University.
JUANA MARTINEZ-NEAL (2017 ILLUSTRATOR MENTOR)
JESSIXA BAGLEY (2017 ILLUSTRATION MENTOR)
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2017 WNDB mentorship program. The selected individuals have been given the opportunity to work for one year with a multi-published author in their genre or age category.
Mentors: Juana Martinez-Neal and Jessixa Bagley
Olivia Aserr is an illustrator currently living in Los Angeles. She works as a background painter on The Powerpuff Girls at Cartoon Network and creates children’s books. Her passion for storytelling is greatly influenced by her own upbringing and adventures. She developed her skills at both Art Center School of Design and Rhode Island School of Design and continues to try to learn as much as she can with her pup, Bonnibel, by her side.
Joanne Wong spent her childhood drawing and doodling characters in worlds that she had created. Not much has changed today, as she still loves to draw and paint quirky characters mainly using gouache and colored pencils. Joanne is inspired by cultures around the world, vintage books, humor and cute animals! She’s interested in creating meaningful illustrations and stories that both children and adults can relate to, also perhaps using a little humor along the way. Joanne also teaches art part-time to children and adults. She was born in Hertfordshire, England, and currently lives in her ancestral home of Hong Kong since 2010 with her husband and blue-eyed rabbit. www.joannewong.co.uk
Picture Book Category
Mentors: Kevin Lewis and Tara Lazar
Kim MacPherson, the only child of a Korean mother and Scottish-American father, spent a good portion of her childhood with her nose in a book. She also wrote and drew her own books—mostly about horses and (unoriginally) characters from Archie comics. Now that she’s (ahem, decades) older, she still loves to make books… except now her characters are haughty cats, naughty birds, spell-casting ballerinas, and rebellious girls with impossibly long hair. (Move on, Archie.) Kim wants to create stories that ALL kids can identify with and believes the best picture books are simply told… in a brilliant, unexpected way. Learn more at @KimmyMacBooks or KimMacPherson.com.
Urania Smith started writing at a young age, and as a kid, thought she was a literary genius. As an adult, she can barely comprehend her childhood writings. She has a B.A. in English and has been writing for children for 13 years. Urania enjoys writing stories that are quirky, funny, and sometimes subversive. She’s especially drawn to characters who have a good and bad side, because she believes they are true to who we are as people. Urania is the New Membership Chairperson for SCBWI-Illinois and is on SCBWI-Illinois’ diversity committee. She’s from Chicago and currently lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. Besides writing, Urania loves decorating and do-it-yourself projects, and she’s an amazing cook. She often brags about her cooking and is willing to bake for anyone who doubts her culinary prowess. Challenges to cook-offs are welcome.
Middle Grade Category
Mentors: Ellen Oh and William Alexander
Patricia J. Miranda teaches high school English from August to May. From May to August, she grows too many tomato plants in her zone 6A garden. Her poems have been featured in several literary journals, and one of her short stories was a finalist in the 2016 Fairy Tale Review prose contest. With her manuscript—about a lonely girl whose “truest, bestest” friend is a goblin—she has received scholarships to the Midwest Writers Workshop and the Highlights Foundations Whole Novel Workshop. Patricia lives in the middle of Ohio with her husband and two daughters, and if she could, she would vacation in Middle Earth.
Young Adult Category
Mentors: Padma Venkatraman, Alex Sanchez, Kiersten White, and Jodi Meadows
Maya Prasad was born in India and raised in Texas. After graduating from Caltech, she spent nine years working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. But the longing to see South Asians like herself reflected in literature was strong enough to get her writing. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she spends dreary gray days writing in coffee shops and raising a bookworm of a toddler. Her young adult novels feature unwieldy technologies, Indian culture, and subversive STEM girls. She can be found online on twitter @mayaprasadwrite or at www.mayaprasad.com.
A M Dassu was born and raised in the heart of England. She wrote her first set of poems and a short story aged eight years old. Three years ago, whilst writing some copy for a friend’s website, she rediscovered her love of writing for an audience. Since then she has become a featured writer for The Huffington Post and written for the Times Education Supplement. Her first piece on The Huffington Post was featured on the front -page, alongside Barack Obama and Lenny Henry. She is the Events Editor for the British Isles Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators magazine entitled Words & Pictures. She has a BA in Economics and Management and firmly believes in giving back to society. Her previous work experience includes project management, marketing and some editorial work at Reader’s Digest. In 2015, A M Dassu wrote a picture book inspired by her son’s school friend; she started looking into publishing it and the rest is history. She has since written a contemporary teen novel and is now in the process of editing it. She loves planning school workshops and as a lover of hats, she spends a lot of her time choosing which hat to wear. You can find her on Twitter: @a_reflective
Mentors: Carole Boston Weatherford and Jane Yolen
Pamela Courtney loves two things . . . children’s literature and music. In 2004, she combined these passions creating MyLMNOP, a valuable literacy and music program for early learners. With a B.S. in Early Childhood Education, and over two decades as an early childhood practitioner, the importance of sharing quality books in areas with poor literacy programming grew. As Pamela brought her musical brand of literacy engagement to early learners, she dreamed of having her words, her stories affect young readers in creative, positive ways.
With each narrative she crafts, Pamela explores the history, folklore, magic and mysticism of her rural Louisiana culture. Her goal is for children to immerse themselves in the mysteries of exotic legends, animals, and people. Pamela lives in Atlanta, GA., where she works as an elementary school teacher. She is overjoyed to have the opportunity to grow as a writer and teacher as she works with her WNDB mentor, Carole Boston Weatherford.
Teresa Robeson, as a child in Hong Kong, first read North American classics like Arnold Lobel’s “Small Pig” in Chinese before reading them again for the first time in English after immigrating to Canada at the age of eight. Straddling Eastern and Western cultures, she infuses aspects of both into her writing. Her first published story in Ladybug magazine was based on her Hong Kong kindergarten experience, and one of her short stories, loosely based on her life, in a science fiction anthology received many good reviews on Amazon. She currently lives with her scientist husband and two sons in the Midwest, where she does art and writes stories and poetry about science/scientists, nature, and self-sufficiency.
Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many young adult verse novels about the island, including THE SURRENDER TREE, Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino author, and THE LIGHTNING DREAMER, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, recipient of the 2014 PEN USA Award. Her books have also received multiple Pura Belpré Awards and Honors, four Américas Awards, an International Reading Association Award, Jane Addams Peace Award, and many others. Her most recent verse novel is SILVER PEOPLE, Voices From the Panama Canal. Margarita grew up in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during summers with her extended family in Cuba. ENCHANTED AIR, Two Cultures, Two Wings is her new verse memoir about those childhood visits.
Picture books for younger children include DRUM DREAM GIRL and THE SKY PAINTER, Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. Margarita was trained as a botanist and agronomist before becoming a full-time poet and novelist. She lives in central California, where she enjoys hiding in the wilderness to help train her husband’s search and rescue dogs. www.margaritaengle.com.
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.
Malinda Lo is the critically acclaimed author of several young adult novels, most recently the duology Adaptation, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2013, and Inheritance, winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA, a project that celebrates diversity in young adult books. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog, and her website is www.malindalo.com.
PATRICIA HRUBY POWELL
Patricia Hruby Powell danced throughout the Americas and Europe with her dance company, One Plus One, before becoming a writer of children’s books. She has marveled at the spirit, courage, and beauty of Josephine Baker for a long time. While visiting schools as a storyteller/ author and working as a librarian, she realized what a great role model Josephine Baker could be to young people. Her picture book Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker has garnered various Honors including the Sibert, Coretta Scott King for illustration, Boston Globe Horn Book for Nonfiction, Bologna Ragazzi; and Parent’s Choice Gold for Poetry. Her other picture books are Blossom Tales, Zinnia, and Frog Brings Rain. Her documentary novel Loving vs Virginia (Chronicle 2016) for young adults and middle grade nonfiction Struttin’ With Some Barbecue (Charlesbridge 2017) are forthcoming. You can visit Patricia online at talesforallages.com.
CAROLYN DEE FLORES – ILLUSTRATOR MENTOR
Carolyn Dee Flores was a rock musician first. Then, a computer analyst. Then, a children’s illustrator. She has illustrated five books for children including Daughters of Two Nations and Canta, Rana, Canta / Sing, Froggie, Sing. Carolyn received the 2014 Skipping Stones Award for Excellence in Multicultural Literature, had her books included on the Tejas Star Reading List (2014-2016), and was a finalist for the 2014 Tomas Rivera Award. Read more at www.carolynflores.com.
FROM THE PRESS RELEASE – January 6, 2016 – The We Need Diverse Books™ Mentorship Committee and mentors have confirmed selections for the inaugural Mentorship program. Of the nearly 300 applications received, five applicants have been chosen to work with award-winning authors and illustrators.
The winners are: Lisa Brathwaite, nonfiction mentee with Patricia Hruby-Powell; Deirdre D Havrelock, picture book mentee with Nikki Grimes; Sun Jones, young adult mentee with Malinda Lo; Charlene Willing-McManis, middle grade mentee with Margarita Engle, and Jacqueline Alcántara, illustration mentee with Carolyn Dee Flores.
LISA BRATHWAITE (2016 NONFICTION MENTEE WINNER)
Lisa Brathwaite is a literary citizen who finds her happy place when reading to and writing for children. Lisa enjoys writing about real people and real events. Feisty females and themes around family, freedom, felicity and philanthropy particularly strike her fancy. Her debut book, a biography about Eunice W. Johnson and the Ebony Fashion Fair, will be published by Lee and Low. She is a proud member of SCBWI and belongs to arguably the best children’s writers group of all time, Decatur Chill. Lisa earned her B.S. in Community Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park. She has worked in a number of fundraising and marketing capacities for nonprofit organizations serving ethnically and economically diverse youth populations. Today she is the cultural engagement advisor at Welcoming America. Lisa lives in metro Atlanta, GA with her husband and their two children.
SUN JONES (2016 YOUNG ADULT MENTEE WINNER)
Sun Jones was once a half-Korean, book-loving tomboy living in the deep south who grew up into a lesbian and aspiring author in the MidWest (she is still half-Korean). Jones is currently an Assistant Editor at Moon City Review and is pursuing a BA in Creative Writing at Missouri State University.
CARLENE WILLING-MCMANIS (2016 MIDDLE GRADE MENTEE WINNER)
As an enrolled member of Grand Ronde Reservation in Oregon, Charlene Willing McManis writes about her culture. Her winning manuscript speaks about growing up without an identity. Charlene achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Native American Education late in life and currently lives in Vermont with her husband, children and grandchildren. Her personal motto, “Earn your place” came from a tribal elder. It means to always give your best.
DEIDRE D HAVRELOCK (2016 PICTURE BOOK TEXT MENTEE WINNER)
Deidre D Havrelock is a First Nations woman from Alberta, Canada (now living and working in the United States). She is the granddaughter of Nellie Makokis Carlson, a Canadian feminist who worked to pass Bill C-31, which reinstated treaty rights to Canadian First Nations women who lost their Indian status due to marrying non-Indian or non-status men. Deirdre enjoys writing picture books that encapsulate modern aboriginal people living modern lives. She believes it is important for people to see themselves as heroes of not only culturally significant stories but of life in general. Deidre enjoys working on varied projects, including screenwriting and memoir. She is excited to work with mentor Nikki Grimes to fully develop her picture book(s).
JACQUELINE ALCÁNTARA (2016 ILLUSTRATION MENTEE WINNER)
Illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara loves paper, scissors, Adobe and glue. She embraces the old world and the new, allowing her to create digital collages compelling to children and adults. She started her career as a high school art teacher but decided to pursue illustration full-time in 2011. She lives and works between Chicago and Michigan and is fueled by jazz and house music, carbs and coffee. She is happiest when she’s in her studio, dancing at Smartbar, laying on the beach with her dog and family or snowboarding and eating fresh chocolate chip cookies.
She aims to create fascinating worlds that kids and parents can lose hours of their lives reading and re-reading. Half-Honduran and half-Chicagoan, Jacqueline knows the value of being able to find kids that “look like you” in libraries and bookstores and aims to represent not only the skin tones, but the histories and cultures of today’s families.