2023 Florida Regional Conference Faculty
Editors & Art Directors:
Winsome Bingham, Editor—Reycraft Books
Winsome Bingham wears two hats in publishing – one, as an author; and two, as an Acquiring Editor at ReyCraft Books. As an author, her debut picture book, SOUL FOOD SUNDAY, was one of Publishers Weekly and New York Times Best Books of the Year; as well as The Connecticut Book Award Medal winner for picture books. As an editor, she acquires picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels at ReyCraft Books. She is a connoisseur of soul food and a master cook (at KidLit dinner parties, reunions, and get-togethers). She is a teacher by trade and a disabled military veteran by circumstance. She received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and an MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults. She loves mentoring writers and supporting writers on their journey to publication.
Carter Hasegawa, Editor—Candlewick Press
Carter Hasegawa’s favorite kinds of books to work on are picture books, but he’s open to all formats. Some of his favorite, non-Candlewick books include: Jellicoe Road; Clementine; Ender’s Game; Three Times Lucky; Imogene’s Antlers; the Elephant & Piggie books; George and Martha; Good Night, Gorilla; and many, MANY others. Basically anything that has a great voice, is a good story, and is “unputdownable.” Originally from Seattle, he now lives in Boston with his wife and two young sons, and he works as an editor at Candlewick Press.
Irene Vázquez, Assistant Editor & Publicist—Levine Querido
Irene Vázquez is an Assistant Editor and Publicist at Levine Querido. Irene graduated from Yale with a BA in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and English. Irene read the Percy Jackson series out of order in elementary school by accident and has been passionate about children’s books ever since. Outside of LQ, Irene is a poet and journalist who likes drinking coffee, watching the WNBA and reminding folks that the South has something to say.
Kathleen Merz, Editorial Director—Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Kathleen Merz is the Editorial Director at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. She has worked on a number of award-winning titles, including books that have won the Caldecott Honor, the Batchelder Award for translation, the Sibert Medal, and other honors. She studied English and linguistics, and especially enjoys working on translated books and nonfiction picture books. She is always looking for original picture books, narrative nonfiction, and middle grade stories—particularly books that tackle contemporary social issues and celebrate diversity or multiculturalism, and stories that have well-crafted voice and strong characters. Kathleen lives in Michigan, and when she’s not at work editing she can usually be found outdoors biking or kayaking.
Kristen Nobles, Art Director—Charlesbridge Publishing
Kristen Nobles has worked in children’s literature for over twenty years as a Publisher, Art Director, and Designer at well-respected, independent publishing houses including Candlewick Press / Walker Books Group, Chronicle Books, and Page Street Publishing. Currently, as an Art Director at Charlesbridge Publishing, she loves to collaborate with debut talent on strong characters, global narratives, or stories with humor and heart. She graduated from the University of Buffalo, New York, with degrees in Communication Design and Art History, and has pursued further studies at SVA, Harvard, and Mass Art. With 2 kids under 4 years old, Kristen spends her free time napping – whether in her historic home near Providence, Rhode Island or lakeside at her camp in rural Maine. Visit www.kristennobles.com.
Mark Podesta, Associate Editor—Holt Books for Young Readers
Mark Podesta is an Associate Editor at Holt BYR. He is building a list across formats with a keen interest in graphic novels for all ages; picture books that explore identity, culture, and social-emotional learning; and young adult and middle-grade novels with a literary tone, inventive structure, and/or a singular voice that explore socio-political issues, diverse cultural traditions and storytelling, and queer identity (he also has a soft spot for grounded fantasy). He was raised in New Jersey, but calls Brooklyn home.
Karen Grencik, Agent—Red Fox Literary, LLC
Karen Grencik became a literary agent because of a man she admired. She wanted the world to know his story, so she set out to make that happen. In 2001 she accomplished her goal when Double Luck, Memoirs of a Chinese Orphan, written by Lu Chi Fa with Becky White, was published by Holiday House. Double Luck received many awards, including The Parents’ Choice Gold Award for Best Nonfiction. Karen’s next sale, George Hogglesberry, Grade School Alien, written by Sarah Wilson, was acquired by a brand-new editor, Abigail Samoun, at Tricycle Press. George Hogglesberry went on to win the coveted Golden Kite Award for Best Picture Book Text. Many other award-winning titles followed. In June 2011 Karen joined forces with Abigail Samoun to open Red Fox Literary, LLC, a boutique agency that specializes in children’s book for all ages and genres. She focuses primarily on narrative nonfiction and substantive picture books, and she loves matchmaking authors and their manuscripts with just the right editors in order to create the magic that is at the heart of children’s books.
James Mustelier, Agent & Editorial Consultant— The Bent Agency
James Mustelier joined The Bent Agency after completing an MFA in creative writing at The City College of New York. In addition to representing my own list, he serve as The Bent Agency’s in-house editorial consultant. He’s looking for a range of commercial and literary fiction for both YA and MG. Across all genres, James is drawn to economical prose, surprising characters, steadily building tension, and all types of humor. In YA, he’s looking for literary projects that use genre elements as an engine to drive the story forward: anything from mystery to sci-fi, as long as the characters are distinct and the plot is propulsive. In MG he is focused on speculative fiction with big hooks and a strong voice. James is always on the lookout for irreverent retellings of fairy tales, classic myths, and historical events, and is specifically drawn to unique fantasy & sci-fi worlds that draw from underrepresented cultures or time periods.
Sera Rivers, Senior Literary Manager — Martin Literary & Media Management
Sera Rivers is a Senior Literary Manager at Martin Literary & Media Management. She represents picture books through young adult novels and graphic novels and is actively seeking stories by authors and illustrators who identify as BIPOC, LQBTQIA+, and other underrepresented and marginalized identities. She holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She worked in educational publishing for seven years and launched Avenue A Books, a children’s book imprint at Center for Responsive Schools. As Avenue A’s acquiring and managing editor, she worked with new and established children’s book writers and illustrators to create picture books and middle grade graphic novels. Now, as an agent, Sera provides editorial feedback to help clients get their manuscripts submission ready. Sera lives in Western Massachusetts with her partner Mike and her son Indigo (when he’s on break from college). When she’s not reading, writing, or story slamming, she can be found running all over New England training for her next ultramarathon. Check out her full MSWL and status updates at SeraRivers.com. She tweets at @writeloudly.
Marcie Colleen — Author
Marcie Colleen is a multi-published author of children’s picture books, chapter books, and comics. While her focus has mainly been on humor, her most recent picture book, SURVIVOR TREE, a lyrical tale about the real-life pear tree which withstood the attacks of 9/11 in New York City, illustrated by Caldecott Honor Winner Aaron Becker, was her first foray into non-fiction and garnered many accolades, including being named a 2022 ALA Notable Book. In addition to writing books of her own, Marcie is also the Senior Writer for Epic!–the world’s leading digital reading platform for kids–where she writes in many formats including comics within the highly popular CAT NINJA Universe. Additionally, Marcie is the Head Writer in the Epic Originals Writer’s Room collaborating with others to create various series for the Epic platform. Marcie is a frequent presenter at conferences for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as a faculty member for The Writing Barn and the University of California San Diego Extension. Visit www.thisismarciecolleen.com to learn more.
Matt de la Peña — Author
Matt de la Peña is the #1 New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here) and seven picture books (including Patchwork and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. In 2019 Matt was awarded an honorary doctorate from UOP.
Liz Garton Scanlon—Author
Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including picture books Frances in the Country; Kate, Who Tamed the Wind; One Dark Bird; the Caldecott honored All the World, and many others, illustrated by some of the very best artists in the business. She’s also co-authored several books with her pal Audrey Vernick, including the hilarious Bob, Not Bob, and the upcoming World’s Best Class Plant. Scanlon’s middle grade novels are The Great Good Summer and Lolo’s Light, and her chapter book series Bibsy Cross debuts in 2024. Liz has taught at Austin Community College, the Writing Barn, the Writers’ League of Texas, and at countless schools and conferences. She currently serves on the faculty and is faculty cochair of the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, but lives in Austin, Texas. Find more at www.LizGartonScanlon.com
Janice Hardy — Author
Janice Hardy is the award-winning author and founder of the popular writing site Fiction University, where she helps writers improve their craft and navigate the crazy world of publishing. Her blog has been recognized as a Top Writing Blog by both Writer’s Digest and The Write Life, and she teaches writing workshops across the country. She’s written multiple books on writing, including her bestselling Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series. When she’s not writing about writing, she spins tales of fantasy and adventure and does terrible things to her characters (which makes them much more interesting). Her novels include the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars (The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall) from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. For adults, she writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series under the name, J.T. Hardy, and is currently working on a science fiction detective series (also for adults). She loves talking with writers and readers, and encourages questions of all types—even the weird ones. Find out more about her and her books at www.Fiction-University.com or www.JaniceHardy.com.
Leah Henderson — Author
Leah Henderson is a writer, mentor and believer in all people seeing their possibilities and genius. She is the author of several critically acclaimed books for young readers including A Day for Rememberin’, Daddy Speaks Love, and SCBWI Golden Kite Finalists The Magic in Changing Your Stars and Together We March. Leah holds an MFA in Writing and is on faculty in Spalding University’s graduate writing program.
Robert Herrick — Author
Robert Herrick worked for 20 years as a software developer. He helped create over fifty commercially released games and educational titles: including the best-selling Cabela’s Big Game Hunter series. Since leaving the game industry, he has self-published two picture books, one grammar book, and three books that help authors on their self-publishing journey. He is an award-winning screenwriter and producer. Robert has been an SCBWI member since 2004. You can find out more about him at UWriteKidsBooks.com Robert lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his wife, pet snail, and lots of crested and gargoyle geckos.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi — Author & Illustrator
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the award-winning author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations appear in books by Judy Blume, Michael Ian Black, and Linda Sue Park, among others. Publishers she has worked with include Simon & Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins, and Little, Brown. Her most recent book is I’m Sorry, the newest in the I’m… picture book series about emotions, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie. Debbie is currently working on a middle grade novel as well as a new solo picture book. Debbie was an SCBWI success story; she received her first children’s book contract from Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster after Justin saw her portfolio at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Portfolio Showcase. You can find out more about Debbie at DebbieOhi.com, on Twitter at @inkyelbows, and on Instagram at @inkygirl (art) / @inkyelbows (Bookstagram).