SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Critique Fest Faculty

 

Keynote Speaker, Carmen Agra Deedy

Carmen Agra Deedy is the author of twelve books for children, including The Library DragonThe Cheshire Cheese CatMartina the Beautiful Cockroach, and 14 Cows for America, a New York Times Bestseller. The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! (Scholastic Press) was released in 2017 and Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day was published in March 2020. Her personal stories first appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered. Funny, insightful, and frequently irreverent, Deedy’s narratives are culled from her childhood as a Cuban refugee in Decatur, Georgia. She is host of the four-time Emmy-winning children’s program, Love That Book!

 

Seminars:

 

Key Revision Tools and Approaches, Harold Underdown

Harold Underdown is an independent editor; he does critiques, helps to develop manuscripts, and provides other editorial and consulting services for individuals and publishers. Harold enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs “The Purple Crayon,” a respected web site with information for writers and illustrators about the children’s publishing world at http://www.underdown.org/. He speaks and gives workshop through the Highlights Foundation, SCBWI’s national and regional conferences, and Kid’s Book Revisions (offering online and on-site tutorials and workshops in partnership with Eileen Robinson). As an in-house editor, he worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing.

 

Nonfiction 101: Answers to Your Burning Questions, Melissa Stewart

Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 science books for children. She has always been fascinated by the natural world and is passionate about sharing its beauty and wonder with readers of all ages.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Union College in Schenectady, NY, and a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University, Melissa worked as a children’s book editor for nine years before becoming a full time writer in 2000. She has written everything from board books for preschoolers to resources guides for educators.

Melissa believes that nothing brings nonfiction writing to life like first hand research. While gathering information for her books, she has explored tropical rainforests in Costa Rica, gone on safari in East Africa, and swum with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands.

When Melissa isn’t writing or exploring the natural world, she spends time speaking at schools, libraries, and conferences for educators. She can’t imagine any job she’d rather have.

 

Pitch Party Panelists:

 

Minju Chang

Minju Chang joined BookStop in 2006. She represents both fiction and nonfiction in all children’s book categories: picture books, chapter books, middle-grade, graphic novels and YA. She also represents illustrators and is on the hunt for author-illustrators.

Across all genres and formats, Minju looks for emotional resonance and distinctive voices. She is always on the lookout for an unusual and authentic “insider” point of view, stories that shift her perspective of the world, and vivid settings that make her want to linger and explore. On her current wish list: evocative magical realism; heartwarming MG with clever and gutsy characters; realistic and fantastical graphic novels for ages 5 and up; strong female characters in all genres; picture books that range from charming and quirky to irreverent and subversive; narrative non-fiction with a timely hook; voice-driven historical fiction; re-tellings of fairy tales, myths and legends; re-imagination of the literary canon (esp. Austen, Brontë sisters, Dickens, and Collins); “light” fantasy; YA romance with tons of humor; and stories about finding family and friends in unexpected places and ways. She is also eager to find projects from diverse creators, both writers and artists, and underrepresented voices. (Diversity including but also going beyond race and gender)

 

Emily Forney

Emily Forney is an associate agent for BookEnds Literary, a digital media and rhetoric teacher, cultural critic, and a writer for what feels like an eternity.

After earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University, Emily worked in editorial roles for literary magazines, journals, and digital prints before finding her home at BookEnds. She was a 2020 Publishing Fellow with the LA Review of Books and actively writes about identity, Blackness, and pop culture. She has writing with Bitch Media discussing YA romances, “Sex Re-Education: Netflix Offers a New Spin on Teen Virginity,” and a bunch of other places that really are only brought up as ice breakers in query letters Emily cringes at. But, you know, it’s fine. She likes to laugh at herself.

When she isn’t reading submissions, working with her authors, or procrastinating her own writing, she’s usually binge watching an unhealthy amount of television and stress baking when deadlines are near. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona at the mercy of two cats and a dream of owning a goat farm one day.

 

Ameerah Holliday

Ameerah Holliday is a dancer and self-proclaimed poetess from San Diego, California. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from San Diego State University. Holliday is a former editorial assistant intern for Poetry International and currently serves as editorial director for the San Diego Poetry Annual and assistant editor for Kids! San Diego Poetry Annual.

As an agent with Serendipity Literary Agency, Ameerah is primarily interested in young adult fiction, new adult fiction, fantasy/paranormal romance and novels in verse. She looks for writing that explores diverse experiences with elements of intersectionality. Stories that take you on a journey through growth and she loves a good friendship story. For non-fiction she’s interested in writing derived from performing arts or passion projects and discussions of mental health in minority communities.

 

Kaitlyn Sanchez

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez is an agent with Red Fox Literary. She’s also a mom, wife, junior high school math teacher, and picture book author of humorous stories. She’s the proud co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest, creator of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest, and co-creator of Kidlit Zombie Week.

In her free time, Kaitlyn loves to play soccer, binge-watch shows on Hulu, and, of course, read. Her favorites are historical fiction, short stories, dramas, fantasies, mysteries, and of course picture books! She especially loves it when her husband, daughter, and her all cozy up and read together.