Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Volunteer Bios



The Oregon Regional Team

Co-Regional Advisor 
Laura Byrd wrote her first picture book in high school, “My Tummy Grumble,” but never considered writing professionally. Based on her first attempt, she believes that was a good thing. That all changed in 2005 when she joined the SCBWI. She now writes picture books and young adult novels and has sold her work to Highlights and The Friend magazines. She has 5 children, 2 cats, 1 husband, and no room left on her bookshelves. Find her on Twitter, @TheWriteByrd.
Co-Regional Advisor
Kim Kasch has been married for 30 years, she’s a mother of three, and was a foster parent for disabled children for 5 years. She’s written articles for Pockets, Skipping Stones, Romantic Homes, Birds & Blooms, Today’s Christian Woman, Woman’s Touch, Guide, Winner, Wee Ones, Our Family, The Writer, IRT, Good Old Days, Writer’s Digest, The Black Lily, Outer Darkness, and Herb Quarterly. Read some of her articles at and stop by her blog at


Illustrator Coordinator
Robin Chilstrom is a multi-disciplinary artist-educator. She has worked for diverse commercial and theatrical clients to illustrate, design and build sculptural costumes, theater sets, museum and trade exhibits, and also worked as a guest artist in K-12 public and private schools. In 2003 she co-founded Earth Arts NW, guiding thousands of kids (and families) through the process of creating original stories, plays and songs. And of course, to share our work we made puppets, masks, costumes, sets, props, murals and comics. She is a published author and illustrator and now supports the work of other artists through Dreaming Earth Press. More about Robin at



Advisory Committee (AdCom)

Critique Group Coordinator: Leslie Barnard Booth
photo by Kristal Passy
Leslie Barnard Booth grew up in Woodinville, Washington. Her nonfiction picture book debut, A Stone is a Story, releases with Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books in 2023, and will be followed by the nonfiction picture book One Day This Tree Will Fall. She has contributed fiction, nonfiction and poetry to Highlights, Highlights High Five and Ladybug Magazine, and holds an MS in education and an MFA in creative writing, both from the University of Oregon. When she’s not writing, Leslie can be found hiking, biking or foraging for mushrooms with her family.

Event Coordinator: NA

Great Critique Coordinator: Lisa Gerlits
Lisa Gerlits is a writer, muralist, and children’s art teacher. She spent ten years traveling and volunteering before settling down with her Dutch husband and three kids in Silverton, Oregon. She enjoys gorging on berries, walking behind waterfalls, and wholeheartedly following new ideas that cross her path. Her recent fascinations include: haiku, fledgling scrub jays, and the French Revolution. Her debut middle-grade novel A MANY FEATHERED THING will release from Capstone in March of 2020. Yay!

Visit her online at

Library/Bookstore Liaison & The Write Direction Coordinator: Deb Bartsch
Deb Bartsch is creatively inspired by little ones, life, love and nature, plus a sweet pastry, or two.

“I write and draw both fiction and nonfiction from a kid’s eye view of the world. My debut picture book, Crow Spirit, was published in 2019 by Clear Fork Publishing!

“I love SCBWI and learn so much from all of you. Truly blessed and very grateful to be in this tribe of beautifully creative people.”

Website:  You can also find her here:

New Member Liaison: Nina Nolan
As New Member Liaison, Nina Nolan plans to gush gratitude for SCBWI (she’s been a member for over 20 years). At, there’s information about her picture book, Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens (HarperCollins, 2015), including a 4-minute video of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s former speechwriter confirming that during the, “I Have a Dream,” speech, Mahalia Jackson called out, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin,” that he heard her, and that it changed the course of the historic speech.

The Next Level Coordinator: Judi Gardiner
Judi Gardiner is a retired elementary school librarian where she lived in her kingdom of books for 26 years. She fell in love with words and books as soon as she discovered that they could transport her to new and exciting worlds. She loved to share that “secret” for many years by putting books into the hands of children at her school. Her goal was to teach kiddos to love books as she did. Nothing made her happier than a child coming back with book in hand asking for another.

She writes YA Historical fiction and her fondest wish is that someday a librarian somewhere will place her book into the hands of a child.

Judi is also a Regional Advisor Emerita.

Nonfiction Liaison: Diane Kress Hower
  Author/illustrator, Diane Kress Hower joined SCBWI in 2006. Her love of nonfiction began as a child raised in a home where nonfiction fiction was a staple. Diane has always loved the outdoors and science. From 2011-2015, Diane was the Local Area Event coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI for the Western Slope of Colorado. Diane has received merit- based awards/scholarships for her writing and photography from organizations including Oregon SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her photography has been published with the National Park Service. Diane participates in two critique groups. A retired school counselor and art/yearbook teacher, Diane’s skills support helping others grow their creative skills. Diane Kress Hower

PAL Publicity Coordinator: Sheila Bailey

Raised by Scandinavian post-war immigrants, Sheila Bailey loved drawing. Against her parent’s advice, she pursued an art degree at San Jose State. After a few years of lovingly creating greeting cards and such at Hallmark in Kansas City, Missouri, her native Pacific Coast beckoned her return. She took an exciting position at Will Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon where she immersed herself in the chaos of animation production. Here, she met her future husband, and decided to strike out on her own. She has subsequently illustrated a number of picture books and magazine articles, become a mother, constructed four koi ponds, and designed and built her own home on beautiful Sauvie Island, where she and her family now live with two emus. Sheila Bailey’s books have been published by Golden Books, Zonderkids (HarperCollins), Flashlight Press, and more. Her newest book, Rag Man, is forthcoming from  Pelican Publishing.   Website:

Publicity: Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart is the author of the Oregon Battle of the Books 2018-19 middle-grade selection Avenging the Owl, and the forthcoming middle-grade novel Daisy Woodworm Changes the World (Jolly Fish, 2022) as well as The Media Adventurer’s Handbook: Decoding Persuasion in Everyday News, Ads, and More (Citizen Comics, 2023). She’s contributing editor at The Writer Magazine, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Real Simple, National Geographic Kids, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, and numerous other publications. Website/Social Media at Linktree .

SW Washington Liaison: Kristin Burchell
Kristin Burchell has been a member of SCBWI for over twenty years. Vancouver, Washington, is full of both ghost stories and history, so that’s the perfect place for her to write and live with her husband, two children, and husky. She also loves her job as a teacher in Portland. Kristin is the author of The Witches of Proposal Rock, available on Amazon, and Enter Elisabeth, available at the Multnomah County Library.

Webmaster: Robin Chilstrom
Robin Chilstrom is a Portland native. She joined SCBWI in 2005 as a multi-disciplinary professional artist and arts educator.  After three decades working in regional theaters and as a museum and event designer, she refocused her talents.  At the time, arts curriculum in Portland schools was almost non-existent. So, in 2003 she co-founded Earth Arts NW, a residency program for kids focused on eco-learning through the arts. For over a decade she facilitated the creation of “Earth Stories” with hundreds of grade school students – joyously challenging work!  Children then created puppets, props and masks to use when acting-out their stories – natch! She co-authored Columbia River Stories, has illustrated several picture books, and writes and illustrates her own stories too. Website:




SCBWI oregon connections

treeConnections Representatives


Doreen Grace Kester is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and has a Bachelor’s degree of Fine and Applied Art from the University of Oregon. Her professional background includes teaching art, copy writing, illustration and graphic design. You can find Doreen’s Young Adult novel, Seven Weeks, on Amazon, and she is currently working on illustrations for a series of picture books. Doreen lives in Eugene with her husband, daughter, and a ferocious papillon. Doreen Grace Kester Bio Portrait

Kristin J. Ammerman loves chocolate, Pinterest, and reading middle grade and YA fiction at 2 a.m., with a proper English romance movie playing in the background. She wirtes epic middle grade (she claims it’s going to be “a thing”), sometimes dabbles in YA and HA sci-fi/fantasy novels, and enjoys writing short sories. When she’s not driving her three kids to school or sports practices, you can find her on the board of Deep Magic E-zine, project managing Picture Book Summit, harassing her writing colleagues at Eugene Writer’s Anonymous about their plots, writing literary blog posts for or trying to train her chicken to stop pooping on the porch. Ammerman Profile Pic