Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Houston SCBWI Virtual Conference Faculty

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Independent Showcase






Megan Abbate
Assistant Editor, Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan

Megan Abbate is an Assistant Editor at Roaring Brook Press, where she acquires across all categories for children. She is most drawn to classic, timeless voices in stories grounded by fresh contemporary hooks, as well as books that build empathy. As a former teacher, she is always interested in books that can connect to school curriculum in interesting ways and books that could make for great classroom read-alouds. Books she’s edited include How Not to Ask a Boy to the Prom, The Prettiest, the Ben Braver series, Baseball’s Leading Lady, and I’m Not a Girl, among others. Originally from Pittsburgh, she is a huge sports fan and also a theater lover.

Critique Categories:  PB, PB Dummies, MG, GN, NF, Contemporary

Photo by Melissa Wharten



Crystal Allen

Crystal Allen is the author of middle grade novels, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy (Balzer and Bray 2011), The Laura Line (Balzer and Bray 2013), The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series (Balzer and Bray 2016, 2017, 2018), and Between Two Brothers ( Balzer and Bray 2022). Crystal lives in Sugar Land, Texas with her husband, Reggie, and two sons, Phillip and Joshua.


Critique Categories: MG, Contemporary








Varsha Bajaj


Varsha Bajaj is the award-winning author of picture books and middle grade novels. 

Her middle grade novel Count Me In (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, August 2019) was a Global Read Aloud selection. 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 (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019) and This is Our Baby, Born today, (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016), a Bank street Best Book. 

Her upcoming title Come On in is an anthology of 15 stories about Immigration and Finding Home (Inkyard Press, October 2020).

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.


Critique categories: MG, PB




KL Going

Author and freelance editor

K.L. Going is the award-winning author of numerous books for children and teens. Her first novel, Fat Kid Rules the World was named a Michael Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association, and was included on YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults list and their list of Best Books for the Past Decade. Her books have been Booksense picks, Scholastic Book Club choices, Junior Library Guild selections, NY Public Library Best Books for the Teenage, and winners of state book awards. They’ve been featured by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Children’s Book Council as Best Books of the year. Her work has also been published in Korea, Italy, Japan, Germany, Spain, China, Romania, and the UK. Her novel Fat Kid Rules the World is an independent film that premiered at the SXSW film festival and won an Audience Award. It is also currently being workshopped for Broadway! Her novel King of the Screwups has been optioned for television.

K.L. began her career working at Curtis Brown, Ltd., one of the oldest literary agencies in New York City. She has written short stories for several anthologies and currently has published multiple picture books in addition to her novels. She also leads professional workshops at the Highlights Foundation and teaches Language Arts at the Homestead Montessori School in Glen Spey, NY. Finally, KL Going is a mom to a truly awesome kid!

To visit KL on-line go to,,, and

Critique Categories:  MG, YA, Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal, Sci-Fi






Elizabeth Law
Senior Editor and Backlist Editor


Elizabeth Law has nearly 30 years experience in children’s book publishing. She began her career at Viking Children’s Books and Puffin Books, and held positions as Associate Publisher at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and as Publisher of Egmont USA. She is currently senior editor at Holiday House Publishing, and has worked with many authors and artist including Andrew Clements, Dan Gutman, Tony diTerlizzi, and Lane Smith. Elizabeth has a soft spot for contemporary middle grade and YA fiction, and also likes books about sports, anything funny or scary, and picture books on unusual or interesting topics. She LOVES #)wnvoices writing and recently edited debut author Polly Farquehar’s #ownvoices novel Itch. @Elawreads


Critique Categories: PB, PB Dummies, MG,YA, GN, NF, Chapter Books, Contemporary, Paranormal




Kevin Lewis
Author, Editor, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Kevin Lewis is the author of many children’s picture books for toddler and early elementary grades including the classics Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo and My Truck is Stuck (both illustrated by Daniel Kirk), and the Halloween favorite The Runaway Pumpkin.

For over two decades, Kevin has been one of the most highly regarded children’s book editors in the industry. At Scholastic Inc., he worked with Dav Pilkey on the original Captain Underpants. At Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where he served as an Editorial Director, Kevin worked with a veritable who’s who of authors and illustrators including Laurie Halse Anderson (Fever 1793, Chains), Spike and Tonya Lee (Please Baby Please), Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Derek Anderson and Lauren Thompson (Little Quack), Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys), Jim Benton (Franny K. Stein) Angela Johnson, Kadir Nelson, Cynthia Rylant, and Loren Long. As an Executive Editor at Disney Press, Kevin developed and produced the Vampirina Ballerina series and edited books by Matthew Cordell, Barney Saltzberg, and Chris Barton.

Since 2018, Kevin has been an agent for the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, primarily focusing on writer-illustrators and diverse voices.






Jacqui Lipton
Literary Agent and Attorney, Raven Quill Literary Agency


Jacqui is the founder of Raven Quill Literary Agency, having previously worked as an Associate Agent and intern at several leading kid lit agencies. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A law professor and attorney with American and international experience in commercial and intellectual property law, she is the author of Law & Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (University of California Press, 2020). She also writes columns on legal issues for writers for the SCBWI Bulletin, Luna Station Quarterly, Catapult Community Page, the Authors Alliance, and Savvy Authors and is a frequent presenter on these issues around the country. Jacqui represents kidlit authors, from picture books to young adult (and sometimes beyond), both fiction and nonfiction.


Critique Categories:  PB, MG, YA, NF,  Contemporary, Light Horror, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Sci-Fi




Pat Zietlow Miller

Pat Zietlow Miller knew she wanted to be a writer ever since her seventh-grade English teacher read her paper about square-dancing skirts out loud in class and said: “This is the first time anything a student has written has given me chills.”

Pat started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night. She has 11 picture books currently available and nine coming out in the next few years.

Pat’s picture book BE KIND (illustrated by Jen Hill) spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. SOPHIE’S SQUASH (illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf) won a Golden Kite Award, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. Pat lives in Madison, Wisconsin.




Ann Whitford Paul


Ann Whitford Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University School of Social Work. She was inspired to write picture books after years of bedtime reading to her four children. Now she gets story ideas from her six grandchildren. She’s published over twenty award-winning picture books, poetry, early readers and the craft book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication. When she isn’t writing, she loves listening to her cat purr, watching spiders spin their webs and following snails’ trails.

Critique categories: PB





Zeke Peña
llustrator and Art Director, Cinco Puntos Press

Zeke Peña makes comics and illustrations as an accessible way to reclaim stories and remix history. He is from El Paso, TX and has a degree in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin. He received the 2020 Ezra Jack Keats and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Awards for his first children’s book My Papi Has a Motorcycle, written by Isabel Quintero and published by Kokila, a Penguin Young Readers imprint. He also received the 2018 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide (Getty Publishing, 2017), a graphic biography he illustrated. Zeke is also the Art Director for Cinco Puntos Press, an independent publisher in El Paso, TX. @zpvisual |

Critique Categories: PB Dummies,
Portfolio Reviews







Tanusri Prasanna
Agent, Foundry Literary + Media


Tanusri Prasanna is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media. On the children’s side, she represents both fiction and non-fiction, across picture books, middle-grade, and YA. On her wish list right now are well-plotted MG and YA fiction (both contemporary and fantasy) written with heart and humor, as well as accessible non-fiction. Tanusri is passionate about championing diverse voices, protagonists, and settings, and she gravitates towards books that recognize and reward children for being the intelligent, curious, and discerning readers they are.  

Critique categories:  PB, Chapter Books, MG, YA, NF, Contemporary, Fantasy





Sara Sargent
Senior Executive Editor, Random House Books for Young Readers

Sara Sargent is a Senior Executive Editor at Random House Books for Young Readers, where she publishes cutting-edge platform-driven fiction and nonfiction. She is the only editor in the publishing industry who specializes in pop culture projects for young people. Her focus is crafting ideas from scratch and then building those concepts from the ground up. She has previously held positions at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Simon & Schuster, New York Magazine, and Meet the Press. Sara has worked with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USAToday bestselling authors such as #1 New York Times bestselling authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, plus Olympians Laurie Hernandez and Karen Chen, YouTube star StacyPlays, and traditional fiction writers Abbi Glines, Ainsley Earhardt, Rosamund Hodge, and Lisa Maxwell. Sara has also worked with internationally bestselling author and actress Lily Collins; National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti; and social media influencers Laci Green, Matthew Espinosa, Baby Ariel, and Arden Rose. Sara received her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University. She lives in Brooklyn.








Don Tate

Don Tate is an award-winning illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children, including Carter Reads the Newspaper (Peachtree, 2019); No Small Potatoes (2018); WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaker Stream of Inventions (Charlesbridge, 2016); many others. He is also the author of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree,2015); It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low Books, 2102), both books are Ezra Jack Keats award winners, and most recently, and the forthcoming William Still and His Freedom Stories: Father of the Underground Railroad (Peachtree, 2020). Don is a founding host of the The Brown Bookshelf –a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers; and a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

Critique categories: Portfolio and PB Dummies






E-Critique Faculty



Jemiscoe Chambers-Black
Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Jemiscoe Chambers-Black is an associate literary agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Before joining the ABLA family, Jemiscoe worked for over a decade in film and television as an Assistant Director. She has a BA and MFA in creative writing in fiction, working with mentors Wiley Cash, Jo Knowles, Marcus Burke, and Richard Adams Carey. She has also been a freelance editor and writing tutor for over five years, and contributed to the online literary magazine ​The Assignment. Jemiscoe lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, three kids, and two cats.

Jemiscoe is currently building her client list in the middle grade, YA, and adult categories. In middle grade, Jemiscoe is most interested in contemporary manuscripts. They can focus on hard themes, but she enjoys those that also weave in humor, whimsy, adventure, and wonder. She’s also open to fantasy, which can include paranormal, low fantasy, and magical realism. Horror, mystery, and graphic novels are also of interest. In YA, Jemiscoe would love to see romance, especially rom-coms. Give her all the love stories in whatever form they come! She loves contemporary fiction that deals with friendship – its joys and struggles. She would also like to see fantasy (except high fantasy), mystery and horror. Jemiscoe is especially open to BIPOC and LGBTQ voices and stories in all the above categories. Follow her on Twitter @jemiscoe.

Critique categories: MG, YA, graphic novel,  contemporary, light fantasy, horror, mystery, YA romance and rom-coms 









Dana Chidiac
Editor, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House

Dana Chidiac is an editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. She is interested in acquiring chapter books, middle grade, and YA novels that feature unforgettable voices, and picture books with strong and innovative visual storytelling. Dana has worked on books by Tone Almhjell, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Adib Khorram, Marilyn Nelson, Richard Peck, Jenn Marie Thorne, and Deborah Underwood. Originally from Michigan, Dana was an indie bookseller in Washington, DC and a children’s literature graduate student in Boston before coming to Dial in 2013. Follow her on Twitter @chidiaqian.











Sasha Henriques
Associate Editor, Random House Books for Young Readers


Sasha Henriques is an associate editor at Random House Books for Young Readers. She has worked at Hachette Book Group on the James Patterson team, as well as at Simon & Schuster, Berkley, and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Sasha acquires picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects, both fiction and nonfiction. She’s constantly on the lookout for YA stories with lush, literary writing and a commercial hook that will instantly appeal to young readers. For YA, she loves mysteries and thrillers with adult crossover appeal, historical fiction with fresh takes on stories we think we know, retellings and modernizations of classic tales, contemporary rom-coms, and horror with a psychological, suspenseful bent. She lives for high-concept, genre-crossing speculative reads that turn our understanding of the world on its head. For middle grade, she prefers witty female protagonists and stories that are funny and voice-driven. She enjoys developing projects from the ground up with debut writers. Above all, she’s looking for diverse voices, sassy narrators, and sharp writing! She particularly hopes to find projects that represent the LGBTQ+ community, stories that star otherly-abled characters (especially those dealing with chronic illness), and highly commercial immigrant and first generation stories.


Critique categories: PB, MG, YA




Megan Lacera

Writer ​Megan Lacera grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with a book always in her hands. She became a writer and creator of characters and worlds for entertainment companies like American Greetings, Hasbro, and Goldieblox and later formed her own creative company where she creates original content and consults on marketing, social media, and strategic direction for start-ups and large corporations.

After reading many stories to their son, Megan realized that very few books reflected a family like theirs–multicultural, bilingual, funny, and imperfect. She decided to change that by writing her own stories. Learn more about Megan and Jorge Lacera and their picture book Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies at

Critique categories: PB









Jorge Lacera

Artist Jorge Lacera was born in Colombia, and grew up in Miami, Florida drawing in sketchbooks, on napkins, on walls, and anywhere his parents would let him.

After graduating with honors from Ringling College of Art and Design, Jorge worked as a visual development and concept artist for major gaming studios and entertainment companies. As a big fan of pop culture, comics, and zombie movies, Jorge rarely saw Latinx kids as the heroes or leads. He is committed to changing that, especially now that he has a son. 

Jorge is currently helping to create the next chapter in the Bioshock franchise as the Associate Art Director at Cloud Chamber Studios in Montreal, Quebec. Learn more about Megan and Jorge Lacera and their picture book Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies at


Critique categories: PB dummies, portfolios




Melissa Warten
Associate Editor, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers


Melissa Warten is an associate editor at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, working on picture books, middle grade, young adult novels, graphic novels, and select nonfiction projects. She most enjoys working on contemporary stories, though open to hints of magic or fantasy, and is on the hunt for a strong sports story or a good thriller. Outside of publishing, she’s a pop culture addict, Ultimate Frisbee player, and of course, a reader. Find her on Twitter at @melissa_warten Critique categories: PB, MG, YA, graphic novels, NF