Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2016 Houston SCBWI Conference – Faculty & Speakers

Conference Home | Faculty & Speakers | Hotel | Logistics & Social Events | J. L. Nixon Award | First Look Panels  
Portfolios & Illustrator Breakout  





MAria Middleton_lo_full

Maria T. Middleton 
Art Director, Random House Children's Books

MARIA T. MIDDLETON began her career at HarperCollins and spent nearly a decade designing award-winning books for ABRAMS Kids. In that time, she has worked on a wide range of projects, from board books to non-fiction to young adult novels, most notably: Shine and The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle; the Splintered series by A. G. Howard; the Inspector Flytrap series by Tom Angleberger & Cece Bell; the Hi! series by Ethan Long; and Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh. 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.


Ginger Clark
Literary Agent, Curtis Brown, Ltd

GINGER CLARK has been a literary agent with Curtis Brown LTD (New York) since 2005.  On the adult side of her list she represents science fiction, fantasy and horror. On the children’s side she represents middle grade and young adult fiction and non-fiction.  In addition to representing her own clients, she also handles British Commonwealth rights for the agency’s children’s list.  She attends the Bologna and Frankfurt Book Fairs every year on behalf of her agency, and visits London annually as well.  She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Authors Representative, the chair of its Contracts Committee, and a member of its International Committee. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter here:




Brianne Johnson 
Literary Agent, Writers House
PB through YA

BRIANNE JOHNSON started at Writers House at 2007 as an intern, and is now a Senior Agent.  Prior to moving to NYC to work in publishing, she worked at independent bookstores across New York State.

Brianne represents everything — picture books, middle grade, YA, and select adult fiction.  Across all genres, she looks for humor in unconventional settings and a bigger theme that the reader will walk away with.  You can find more about her specific tastes for each genre at


Kelly Sonnack 
Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
PB through YA

KELLY SONNACK represents all types of children's literature. In picture books, Kelly looks for a good sense of humor, stories that stretch a young reader's imagination, and an authentic voice. In YA and MG fiction, she is drawn to light science fiction, and well-crafted fantasy but also appreciates literary voices and character-driven stories with heart. Kelly also represents nonfiction and juvenile graphic novels.  Some of the titles Kelly has represented include SCBWI Sue Alexander winner Sharon Cameron’s ROOK and her upcoming THE FORGETTING (Scholastic); Courtney C. Stevens’ debut YA FAKING NORMAL and her recent THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH (HarperTeen); Gordon McAlpine’s middle grade series THE MISADVENTURES OF EDGAR AND ALLAN POE, illustrated by Sam Zuppardi (Viking); Bridget Heos’ and Joy Ang’s picture book MUSTACHE BABY (HMH/Clarion); Ashlyn Anstee’s ARE WE THERE YETI? and NO, NO, GNOME! (S&S); and James Burks’ graphic novel series BIRD AND SQUIRREL (Scholastic/Graphix). She has a strong list of illustrator clients including Simone Shin, Kim Smith, and Kimberly Gee. Kelly Sonnack also teaches and is on the Advisory Board for UC San Diego’s certificate in Writing and Illustrating for Children.


Katherine Jacobs

Katherine Jacobs 
Senior Editor, Roaring Brook Press
PB through YA

KATHERINE JACOBS works on everything from picture books through YA, fiction and nonfiction. She edited When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carick Hill and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, which won the John Steptoe Award for New Talent, and The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, which won the Children’s Choice Book Awards Teen Debut Author Award. She has Americanized books by Printz Award winner Marcus Sedgwick (Revolver, White Crow, and Midwinterblood) and is the editor of Rhythm Ride by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Katherine is a graduate of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston, MA.


Susan Dobinick 
Associate Editor, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
PB through YA

SUSAN DOBINICK enjoys working on picture books with quirky, dry humor and underlying heart, and  novels with lyrical and literary writing in stories with a big hook. She especially enjoys small-town settings, kids-and-their-pet stories, strong girl voice, mysteries, and anything that is a little bit magical or a little bit creepy. In nonfiction she is interested in projects that have feminist, civil rights, or social justice themes. Susan’s Recent acquisitions include Dear Yeti by James Kwan, a picture book about two little boys who run into trouble while searching for the mythical creature, and Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn, a novel about a twelve year old girl psychic who, along with the ghost of her pet dog, solves a mystery on a small Southern island.



Nikki Garcia
Assistant Editor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
PB through YA
All genres except sci-fi

NIKKI GARCIA works on everything from picture books through YA. While open to projects for all ages, she is particularly interested in voice-driven literary or commercial middle grade and YA, and is not the best match for science fiction or space opera. The Lola Levine series is her first acquisition, and with her passion for increasing diversity in children’s books, she is thrilled to bring a spunky biracial bicultural character to young readers. Born and raised in New York City, Nikki graduated from St. John’s University and Harvard University, and thankfully didn’t have to travel very far to make her dreams come true. 


Sean McCarthy
Literary Agent at Sean McCarthy Literary Agency
PB through YA

SEAN McCARTHY founded his own full-service literary agency in 2013. He began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press and then worked at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. He works on children's books for all ages, and is actively looking to build his client list. His clients include Zachariah OHora, Hyewon Yum, Mark Fearing, Jamie A. Swenson, Andrea Offermann, Kurt Cyrus, and Judith Robbins Rose, among others. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota. 


mccarthy small headshot


Christa Heschke 
Literary Agent, McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency
PB through YA. No paranormal or dystopian

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s.

For YA, she is especially interested in contemporary, thriller/mystery, and horror. She looks for a compelling voice and a strong hook that will set a YA novel apart in the flooded market. She is open to all types of middle grade and especially enjoys adventure, mystery, and magical realism. For both YA and MG, she is interested in unique settings and cultural influences, interesting structure, complicated romances, diverse characters, sister or friendship-centric stories, and stories that feature artists of any kind. In picture books she is drawn to cute, funny stories (as opposed to sweet and quiet) that will grab kids as well as the occasional nonfiction biography on a subject whose story has yet to be told.


Houston's Very Own…



Crystal Allen
Middle Grade

CRYSTAL ALLEN is the author of middle grade novels, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy (Balzar and Bray, 2011) and The Laura Line (Balzar and Bray, 2013), and The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown (Balzar and Bray, 2016). Crystal lives in Sugar Land, Texas with her husband, Reggie, two sons, Phillip and Joshua, and dog Angel.


Kimberly Morris 
Picture Books / Middle Grade

KIMBERLY MORRIS has authored more than 60 books for children and young adults, many of them under a pen name, for popular series including Disney Fairies, Animorphs, Freshman Dorm and Sweet Valley. She has also written short stories for the Muppets, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock characters, and animated television scripts for ThunderCats, SilverHawks, TigerSharks and MiniMonsters. As a custom publishing director, she has produced small and large-scale custom publishing projects for HISD and Child Advocates, Inc. involving as many as 300 adult and student participants. Kimberly is an active speaker at schools and conferences for educators, writers, business groups, and general audiences. For more information, please visit 




Sherry Garland
PB through YA

SHERRY GARLAND is the critically acclaimed author of more than thirty books for children, teenagers and adults. In addition to winning over forty national and international awards and honors, three of her titles were on the best seller list. Her picture book, THE LOTUS SEED, was a featured book on the Reading Rainbow TV program; her Dear America book, A LINE IN THE SAND, was made into an HBO TV show. She especially enjoys writing historical books and fiction about other cultures. 


Joy Preble

JOY PREBLE is a Texas girl who was born and raised in Chicago and a former high school teacher who now writes full time, which means she gets paid for making up stuff. She earned an English degree from Northwestern University and speaks and teaches widely on writing and literacy at libraries and schools, as well as SCBWI, NCTE, AWP, and other conferences.
Joy is the author of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and its sequel, THE A WORD (May 2014), both from Soho Press. She is also the author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks) and  the contemporary mystery/romance FINDING PARIS, which was released April 2015 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins. Another paranormal mystery/romance, IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, arrived from Soho Press in May 2016. 




Sandra Howatt

SANDRA J. HOWATT is the author of SLEEPYHEADS (Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster), illustrated by Joyce Wan. This debut picture book received great reviews and was nominated for the 2014 Kirkus Prize.  It was a finalist in the 2014 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards, chosen for The Scholastic Book Club, and has recently been translated into Chinese.  It will come out as a Little Simon Classic Board Book this summer.  Sandra is a past nominee for the Joan Lowery Nixon Memorial Award. A former dance educator, she has transitioned from telling stories on the stage to telling stories on the page.