Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators





Author of Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great, William M. Akers is a WGA Lifetime Member and has had three feature films produced from his screenplays. He has written for studios, independent producers, and network television. A script consultant for 20 years, Akers has given writing workshops in China, France, England, and all over the United States. His middle grade novel, Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way, was published in 2016 by ReganArts/Phaidon.




Dave Connis writes words you can sing and words you can read. He’s an ex-librarian living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, two kids (son and daughter), and a dog that barks at non-existent threats. When he’s not writing YA or MG, he interprets software developer speak as a UX/Technical Writer at Skuid, a startup based out of Chattanooga. He’s also a member of the Jedi Counsel and the facilities manager at the Sanctum Sanctorum. He has a propensity to daydream whenever he attempts to be an adult.



Alice Faye Duncan lives in Memphis. She is the author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King honor book. This picture book about economic justice and Dr. King’s assassination received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal. Kirkus and Booklist called it a “Best Picture Book” in 2018. Alice is also a collaborator with Midsouth illustrator coordinator Mary Uhles, and their picture book, 12 Days of Christmas in Tennessee, was published by Sterling Press in 2018. Currently Alice is writing about the Fayette County civil rights struggle of 1959. Her new book is tentatively titled Tent City and the Legend of Burton Dodson. You can contact the author at


Agent Cate Hart joined Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in 2019 after five years with a New York agency where she represented middle grade to adult fiction. She specializes in historical, whether in young adult, women’s fiction and romance, or narrative nonfiction. She is particularly drawn to oft forgotten stories of the past and underrepresented voices, and especially personal to her is unexplored Southern history and culture. She also loves high-concept fantasy in YA and adult fiction. She looks for character-driven stories, a knock-out voice, and fresh, intriguing plots or a fantastic twist on the familiar. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, studying theatre and history, Cate currently lives in Nashville with her children.


MacKenzie Clark Howard is an associate publisher for the Specialty Division at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. She has worked on children’s and gift books for nearly thirteen years and has had the privilege of working with numerous bestselling authors and brands, including the recent #1 New York Times bestselling book We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines.




Rita Lorraine Hubbard is a former educator of 15-plus years with an advanced degree in school psychology. She is currently a full-time children’s book writer and freelance editor. She is the author of Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story (Lee & Low, 2018) and The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read (Schwartz & Wade, 2020). She penned African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes (The History Press, 2007) and authored several educational titles for Rosen Publishing and Cavendish Books. She also founded Picture Book Depot and The Black History Channel, two book review websites.


New York Times bestselling author Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s novel Fish in a Tree is an ALA Schneider Family Book Award winner, an ALA Notable Book, a Global Read Aloud, a SLJ Best Book, a Nerdy Book, and a SCBWI Crystal Kite winner. Her first novel, One for the Murphys, is an ABA New Voices Pick, a Nerdy Book, and a Global Read Aloud. Combined, Lynda’s books have appeared on 58 state award lists and are published in 28 languages. Out in May of 2019, her new Cape Cod novel, Shouting at the Rain, is a Junior Library Guild selection.



Tiffany Liao is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She’s had the pleasure of editing authors such as Tomi Adeyemi, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Margaret Owen, Jess Rothenberg, K. D. Halbrook, Rhoda Belleza, Henry Lien, and Tochi Onyebuchi, among others. She acquires young adult and middle grade fiction with a particular love for fantasy. 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.



Lauren MacLeod joined the Strothman Agency in 2007 after graduating cum laude from Emerson College with a BFA in writing, literature, and publishing. Lauren’s primary interests are young adult fiction and nonfiction, middle grade novels, highly polished literary fiction, and narrative nonfiction. Clients include Jodi Meadows, Helene Dunbar, and Aminah Mae Safi. Lauren is an agent member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.



Tamar Mays is an executive editor at HarperCollins, her publishing home since 2005. She focuses on illustrated books: from board books to picture books and readers. Her past book-lives include running Scholastic’s Lucky Book Club for second and third graders, managing a bookstore, and working as a children’s book buyer for a chain. Tamar likes funny, character-driven works and stories that feel fresh yet universal and kid-appropriate. In picture books, Tamar is especially interested in illustrator-authors. Tamar is currently editing some great “own voices” projects and is looking to do more.


Molly O’Neill is a literary agent with Root Literary, where her client list includes award-winning creators of picture books, graphic novels, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, and more. She has worked from many industry vantage points during her 16 years in publishing, including as editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books (where she acquired Veronica Roth’s juggernaut Divergent series), head of editorial at a publishing/tech start-up, and school and library marketing roles at HarperCollins and Clarion Books. Molly loves the creative process and early-stage project development, is invigorated by business strategy and entrepreneurial thinking, and is fascinated by the intersections of art, commerce, creativity, and innovation. Molly is especially passionate about the people behind books and takes pride in discovering talented authors and illustrators, as well as expanding the global reach of their work. Learn more at


Eric Smith is a literary agent and young adult author. An agent with P.S. Literary, he focuses on a wide array of categories and genres. As an author, his latest novel, The Girl and the Grove, was released last year with Flux. His next novel, Reclaim the Sun, will be published by Harlequin’s YA imprint, Inkyard Press, in 2020. You can learn more about him and his list via his official website,




Stephani Stilwell is a designer at Abrams Kids by day and a freelance illustrator by night. At Abrams, she works on the Bright Young Readers picture book imprint. She has experience working on narrative nonfiction, fiction, and a handful of chapter book series—some of the titles she has contributed to include the Didi Dodo chapter book series, Soldier for Equality, and forthcoming picture books like Cactus and Flower and Lion Needs a Haircut. Her freelance illustration career has been mostly greeting card- and stationery-driven; some clients include American Greetings, Snapchat, and Ooly.


Allison Taylor started her career in publishing as a typesetter and is grateful to now be an art director. With a degree in graphic design, she currently oversees the art and design direction for Flyaway Books, a premier children’s imprint reflecting themes of diversity, inclusivity, kindness, compassion, self-esteem, and care for our world. As an artist herself, she loves the opportunity to develop children’s books in a collaborative environment and sees her work as a privilege, joy, and responsibility. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband.



Mekisha Telfer is an associate editor at Roaring Brook Press (MacKids), where she’s building a list of picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. She got her start in publishing as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Salaam Reads and also worked briefly at book packager Glasstown Entertainment. Mekisha is committed to supporting unrepresented voices and is always on the hunt for character-driven stories with a mix of humor and heart.



Patsi B. Trollinger is the author of Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became the World’s Greatest Jockey, which was honored as a Junior Library Guild selection and a CCBC best book of the year. She also has published a middle grade novel, Thrill in the ‘Ville. Trollinger holds an MFA in writing for children from Spalding University and frequently teaches at the Carnegie Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to becoming an author, she did extensive news and magazine writing, worked as a career counselor, and served as a legislative aide.



Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is the author of The Story Collector series, A Dog Like Daisy, John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy (written as E.F. Abbott), The 13th Sign, Selling Hope, and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. In 2020, watch for the companion book to A Dog Like Daisy, tentatively titled Zeus, Dog of Chaos. Kristin lives near Nashville, Tennessee, with her bouncy-loud family. Just like her two dogs, she can be bribed with cheese. Kristin can be found far too often online. Check out her website at



Jessica Young grew up in Ontario, Canada. The same things make her happy now as when she was a kid: dancing, painting, music, digging in the dirt, picnics, reading, and writing. Jessica is the author of the award-winning My Blue is Happy (Candlewick, 2013), the Haggis and Tank Unleashed early chapter book series (Scholastic Branches, 2016), the Finley Flowers chapter book series (Capstone Young Readers, 2015), Spy Guy the Not-So-Secret Agent (Harcourt Children’s, 2015), Play This Book and Pet This Book (Bloomsbury, 2018), and A Wish Is a Seed (The Creative Company, 2020). Find out more:



OFF-SITE FACULTY (Offsite faculty will conduct written-only critiques and judge contests)

Middle Grade and Young Adult Contest Judge Maya Marlette is an assistant editor at Scholastic. A Kentucky native and Wellesley College graduate, Maya has been at Scholastic since 2016. She works on both middle grade and young adult, though smart, fun, socially conscious YA is really her passion. Anything with a heavy dose of humor is bound to get a careful look. She’s also particularly interested in graphic novels. Her hobbies include being outdoors, tweeting about professional chess, and always packing a snack. You can find her on Twitter: @termayanated


Picture Book Contest Judge Jonah Heller is the assistant editor at Peachtree Publishing in Atlanta. He graduated with an MFA in writing for children and young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned his BFA in dramatic writing for film and television at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His editorial focus ranges from board book to young adult, and he is especially a fan of #ownvoices and LGBTQ+ content. Say hello on Twitter @jrheller87.








Regional Advisor (RA)—Susan Eaddy writes picture books and plays with clay in her attic studio in addition to volunteering as the Midsouth Regional Advisor. She’s been a judge for the Audies for 11 years, was an art director for 15, and has won 3D illustration awards and a Grammy nomination. Her books include Eenie Meenie Halloweenie (Harper Collins, 2020), Poppy’s Best Paper and Poppy’s Best Babies (Charlesbridge), My Love for You is the Sun, and Papa Fish’s Lullaby. Her clay artwork appears regularly in Babybug, Ladybug, Click, and Spider magazines. She’s on the SCBWI Bologna Team and has done school visits all over the world, including in Taiwan, Brazil, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the U.S.! Visit


Illustrator Coordinator (IC)—Mary Reaves Uhles has illustrated picture books including A Tuba Christmas, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee, and The Little Kids’ Table. She has also illustrated the Choose Your Own Adventure series Beyond the Grave and the poetry collection Kooky Crumbs by Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Mary has twice been awarded the grand prize for illustration from the SCBWI Midsouth conference, and her piece, Eat, was a finalist in the 2014 Bologna Book Fair Gallery. Mary volunteers as the illustrator coordinator for the Midsouth region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. See examples of her artwork at


Assistant Regional Advisors (ARA)—Erica Rodgers volunteers as the Midsouth co-ARA and conference chair. She writes MG and YA fantasy and loves photobombs, coffee, and the Oxford comma. You can follow her on Twitter: @ericaivy13  Kris Sexton volunteers as the Midsouth co-ARA and website guru. She is an illustrator, and created the design and illustrations for the conference website. She also is an aspiring gardener who probably takes too many photos of her cats.