Society of
Children's Book Writers
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Digital Workshops 3.0 Faculty Bios

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K. Ali (Sajidah Ali) holds a degree in creative writing from York University and has written about Muslim life for various outlets, including the Toronto Star and NBC News. She is the author of Saints and Misfits (Simon & Schuster, 2017)a finalist for the American Library Association’s 2018 William C. Morris award. Her second novel, Love From A to Z(Simon & Schuster, 2019), a story about finding love in the time of Islamophobia, was a Today Show pick, a Goodreads Readers’ Choice Nominee and on several best 2019 YA lists. Her picture book, The Proudest Blue(Little Brown, 2019), co-authored with Ibtihaj Muhammad, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Along with We Need Diverse Books co-founder, Aisha Saeed, Sajidah is the co-editor of an upcoming Middle Grade anthology called, Once Upon an Eid (Amulet, May 5, 2020). 
Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist and Golden Kite Award Winner What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud Selection A Boy Called Bat. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets. 
Emily Balistrieri (he/him) is an American translator based in Tokyo. Emily translated the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award-winning middle grade fantasy novel Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono. (Kadono’s novel inspired the beloved Studio Ghibli animated feature). Emily’s translations also include the high-concept, sci-fi YA/crossover The Refugees’ Daughter by Takuji Ichikawa, as well as two ongoing light novel series: Kugane Maruyama’s Overlord and Carlo Zen’s The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Follow Emily on Twitter: @tiger
David Bowles is a Mexican American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. He has written several award-winning titles, most notably The Smoking Mirror and They Call Me Güero. His work has also been published in multiple anthologies, plus venues such as The New York Times School Library Journal, Strange Horizons, English Journal, Rattle, Translation Review, and the Journal of Children’s Literature. In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
Brandy Colbert is the author of the Stonewall Award–winning novel Little & Lion, the critically acclaimed novels Pointe and Finding Yvonne, and the newly released The Revolution of Birdie Randolph.  Brandy graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in print journalism. She also minored in English Literature, where she was exposed to a diverse slate of writers whose work would change her reading (and writing) life forever—most notably Toni Morrison’s Sula. Brandy has worked as an editor for numerous national magazines focused on health and fitness, food, and entertainment. She currently works as a copy editor for magazines and books, and is a faculty member in the MFAC program at Hamline University
Eric Gansworth (S?ha-weñ na-sae?) is Lowery Writer-in-Residence and Professor of English at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and was recently NEH Distinguished Visiting Professor at Colgate University. An enrolled Onondaga, he was born and raised at the Tuscarora Indian Nation, just outside Niagara Falls, NY.  His debut novel for young readers, If I Ever Get Out of Here, was a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick and an American Indian Library Association Young Adult Honor selection. His second young adult novel, Give Me Some Truth, was named a Best Book of the year by NPR and School Library Journal.  This third book for young people, Apple (Skin to the Core), will be published by Levine Querido on October 6. Eric is also a visual artist, generally incorporating paintings as integral elements into his written work. His work has been widely shown and anthologized and has appeared in Iroquois Art: Power and History, The Kenyan Review, and Shenandoah.
  Cathy Hirano (she/hers) is a Canadian translator based in Shikoku, Japan. Her translations include Hannah’s Night by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai; Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake; The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto; Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara; and The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi, who won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Cathy’s translations have earned multiple Batchelder Awards and Honors, and The Beast Player received a 2020 Printz Honor.
   Kendra Levin is the editorial director of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where she has the pleasure of supervising a team of seven editors. Before joining Simon & Schuster in 2019, she spent fourteen years at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, where she edited a wide range of children’s literature including the National Book Award longlisted New York Times bestseller SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson, New York Times bestsellers Lovely War by Julie Berry, Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani, Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, and many others. Her books have received such awards as the Printz Honor, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal, New York Times/NYPL Best Illustrated, and more. A regular contributor to Psychology Today, Kendra has been working with writers as a certified life coach for over a decade and is the author of the self-help book The Hero Is You. Visit her at and follow her @kendralevin
   Lesléa Newman has created 75 books for readers of all ages including the children’s classic, Heather Has Two Mommies, the picture books, Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, Remembering Ethan, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail, and Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed;  the middle grade novel, Hachiko Waits; and the teen novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Her literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the National Jewish Book Award, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Body of Work Award, and two American Library Association Stonewall Honors. From 2008 – 2010, she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA. Currently she teaches at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.
  Linda Sue Park has spent her whole life hunting for tools and tactics to trick herself into writing and revising stories—a quest that has resulted in more than two dozen books, including the 2002 Newbery Medal winner, A Single Shard, the New York Times best seller A Long Walk to Water and her latest novel, Prairie Lotus.  She now shares those strategies at schools and conferences to help others delude themselves into becoming better writers. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she lives in western New York and is honored to serve on the advisory boards of SCBWI and We Need Diverse Books. Find Linda Sue on Twitter @LindaSuePark and at her website,
  James Ransome is an award-winning illustrator of over seventy books. He received the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrations for The Creation and he has received several Coretta Scott Honors for many of his other books. James is also the recipient of The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance award, the NAACP Image Award for Illustration, and an ALA Notable Book recipient. His body of work received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeast New York in 2001 and The Children’s Book Council named him one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know.
  Avery Fischer Udagawa (she/hers) is an American translator based near Bangkok. Her translations from Japanese to English include J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba in Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, and “Firstclaw” by Sachiko Kashiwaba in Words Without Borders April 2020. Avery serves as International and Japan Translator Coordinator in SCBWI. Follow her on Twitter: @AveryUdagawa
  Helen Wang (she/hers) is a British translator based in London. She translates contemporary Chinese literature, including novels, picture books and graphic novels for children and teens. Her translations include the middle grade historical novel Bronze and Sunflower by the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, Cao Wenxuan.  Helen works collaboratively with the China Fiction Book Club, Paper Republic, and the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and she co-founded Chinese Books for Young Readers.