Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Faculty at the 2018 Conference


Meet the Faculty


Vanessa Brantley Newton
Twitter: na
Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

Martha Brockenbrough
Twitter: @mbrockenbrough

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of The Game of Love and Death; Love, Santa; Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary and many other books for young readers. She founded National Grammar Day and is on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Kheryn Callender
Associate Editor – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Twitter: @kheryncasey

Kheryn Callender is an Associate Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where they have acquired and edited titles such as the picture book Princess Hair by Sharee Miller, the MG novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, and the YA novel Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles. Kheryn’s debut MG novel, Hurricane Child, is available in March 2018, and their debut YA, This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, is available in Fall 2018.

Lauren Castillo
Twitter: @studiocastillo
Lauren Castillo is the creator of many books for young children, including the Caldecott Honor-winning Nana in the City and The Troublemaker, as well as the illustrator of Twenty Yawns, written by Jane Smiley, and Yard Sale, written by Eve Bunting. She currently draws and dreams in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Gennifer Choldenko
Twitter: @choldenko
Gennifer Choldenko is best known for her Tales from Alcatraz series, which has sold more than 2 million copies. Book #1: Al Capone Does My Shirts was a Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of twenty other awards. Book #4: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is due out in 2018. BookPage said of her most recent novel, Chasing Secrets: “Choldenko’s ability to research obscure yet intriguing topics is uncanny, and as she did with the popular Al Capone trilogy she turns a tough topic into a high interest read … a compelling work of historical fiction.” Gennifer lives with her loyal husband and naughty dog in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tiffany Liao
Editor – Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Twitter: @Tiff_Liao
Tiff Liao is an Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She acquires middle grade, young adult, and select nonfiction. She’s had the pleasure of editing books such as Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien, The Story Collector by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, The Valiant by Lesley Livingston, and Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, among others. Previously she was an Editor at Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. A Bay Area native, Tiffany now resides in Brooklyn, where she continues to pine for a good avocado. She (mostly) tweets about bookish things at @tiff_liao.

Maria T. Middleton
Art Director – Random House Children’s Books
Twitter: @MariaTMiddleton
Maria T. Middleton is the middle-grade Art Director for Random House Children’s Books. She began her career at HarperCollins and spent nearly a decade designing award-winning books for Abrams Books. Maria has worked on a wide range of projects, from picture books to non-fiction to young adult novels, most notably: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore; the New York Times bestselling Splintered series by A. G. Howard; and the new Babymouse middle-grade series, Tales from the Locker by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm. Maria is drawn to out-of-the-box thinking, hand-lettered typography, and quirky but lovable characters. She’s a southerner at heart, a New Yorker by choice; a fan of serial commas, strong coffee, and the color red. You can find her at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mariatmiddleton.

Natascha Morris
Agent – BookEnds Literary
Twitter: @SoCalledYALife
Natascha Morris spent most of her childhood in a leather chair with her nose in a book. Formerly an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster, her passion for books across genres and her desire to finding amazing talent drove her to make the transition from editorial to literary agent. Her editorial philosophy stems from the idea that all books should be well written and entertaining. You can follow her on Twitter at

Natascha is primarily looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is also looking for artists that speak to her creatively.

Lin Oliver
Author and Executive Director, SCBWI
Twitter: @LinOliver
Lin Oliver is a prolific children’s book author.  With Henry Winkler, she writes the New York Times best-selling book series, Hank Zipzer: World’s Best Underachiever, which has sold over 4 million copies. Their chapter book series, Here’s Hank, is also a New York Times best-seller. Her two collections of poetry, both illustrated by Tomie de Paola, are the highly praised Little Poems for Tiny Ears, and Steppin’Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times.  Her newest work is a chapter book series, The Fantastic Frame, five illustrated adventures set in the world’s great paintings.  Lin is the co-founder and Executive Director of SCBWI. She is a recipient of the prestigious Christopher Award and the Eric Carle Mentor Award.  Learn more at or follow Lin on Twitter @linoliver or on Instagram @linoliver22.

Molly O’Neill
Agent – Root Literary
Twitter: @molly_oneill
Molly O’Neill is a literary agent with Root Literary. For the past fifteen years, she has held various roles inside the publishing industry. Previously, she was an Agent at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency; an Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she acquired Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, among many other fantastic projects; the Head of Editorial at Storybird, a publishing/tech start-up; and a member of the School and Library Marketing departments at both HarperCollins and Clarion Books. Molly is especially passionate about the people behind books, and takes pride in discovering and evangelizing talented authors and illustrators, expanding the global reach of their work, and finding new ways to build connections and community among creators, readers, stories, and their champions. Her client list includes Temre Beltz, Emily Dove, Lynne Kelly, Adib Khorram, K. J. Reilly, Colby Sharp, John Schu (AKA Mr. Schu) and many debut and established creators.

Nicholas Thomas
Editor – Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic
Twitter: na
Nick Thomas is an editor with Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where he started as an editorial assistant, and has edited books such as The Apprentice Witch, by James Nicol, The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson, Give Me Some Truth, by Eric Gansworth, and Front Desk, by Kelly Yang. He also held positions with Bloomsbury, Chicken House, and David Fickling Books before returning to his AALB roots. He edits middle grade and young adult books, and looks for stories that change something about you by the time you’re finished.

Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel
Agent – Full Circle Literary
Twitter: @FullCircleLit
Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel is literary agent and co-founder of Full Circle Literary with more than 20 years of experience in trade books publishing. Prior to agenting, she worked in editorial, publicity and trade marketing with Penguin and Harcourt Children’s Books.

Stefanie represents Monica Brown and John Parra, creators of The Christopher Award winning picture book Waiting for the Biblioburro and Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2017; Rafael López illustrator of Pura Belpré Award winning Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, and 2017 Tomás Rivera Book Award winner Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell; poet Carmen Tafolla, author of Pura Belpré Honor and Charlotte Zolotow Award picture book What Can You Do With A Paleta?, Jennifer Ward author of NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book Feathers and Hair What Animals Wear; Susie Ghahremani author-illustrator of Stack the Cats, a Kirkus and Amazon Best Book of the Year; and debut picture book debut Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal.

Middle grade clients include Celia C. Pérez, author of The First Rule of Punk, Diana López, author of Confetti Girl and Lucky Luna, and Monica Brown author of LOLA LEVINE chapter book series. Stefanie also represents a growing list of award-winning illustrators.

 Meet the Local PAL Faculty Offering Additional Consultations

Laurel Gale
Twitter: @lauregale
Laurel Gale is the author of Dead Boy and Monster, Human, Other. Always working on a new project, she has also taught writing workshops and enjoys helping new writers. School Library Journal said of Dead Boy, her debut novel, “Gale takes readers on a dark and surprisingly funny journey…. A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor.” She lives with her husband in Vancouver, Washington.

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan
Twitter: @gmclellan5
Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a picture book author and former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools. She is currently working with four editors at four publishing houses. Her books include Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, illustrated by Grace Zong, Peachtree 2107, I’m Done!, illustrated by Catherine Odell, Holiday House, September 2018, Button and Bundle, illustrated by Gillian Flint, Knopf, Spring 2019 and When Your Daddy’s a Soldier, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, Beach Lane, Spring 2019. When Gretchen isn’t writing picture books, she’s writing chapter books and middle grade fiction, hiking in the woods, playing word games and going to plays. Please visit Gretchen at for more information about her books, events and author visits.

Ruth A. Musgrave
Twitter: na
Ruth A. Musgrave talks with turtles, has sea stars in her eyes, and counts sharks among her most trusted friends. (But not that ninja lanternshark who still owes her twenty bucks!) Ruth is the author of 17 books, three of those coming out in 2018. Most of her books are with National Geographic Children’s
Books including Big Cats, In My Garden, Birds, and Mission Shark Rescue: All About Sharks and How To Save Them. Because Ruth can’t get enough of Nat Geo (who can?), she’s also the contributing writer for National Geographic Little Kids Magazine. When pressed, Ruth will admit to researching and writing about more than 500 animals for 200+ published articles, many of them have been translated into multiple languages for kids around the world.

Sheryl Scarborough
Twitter: @scarbo_author
Sheryl Scarborough, an award-winning writer for children’s television, is the author of To Catch A Killer and To Right The Wrongs, a YA mystery series with Tor Teen. The appearance of a habitual Peeping Tom at her home when she was twelve, sparked an obsession with forensics. After each visit, Sheryl diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives with her husband and two writer-cats in Washington state, across the river from Portland, OR.


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