Keynote & Spotlight Speakers


ANDREA WELCH'S Topic: "What I Look for in Picture Books"

Andrea Welch has been publishing books for young readers for twenty years, first at Harcourt Children’s Books and now here at Beach Lane Books, which she co-founded with Allyn Johnston in 2008. * Andrea has the pleasure of working with Liz Garton Scanlon, Meg Fleming, April Pulley Sayre, Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal, Sergio Ruzzier, Diana Sudyka, Robin Page, Steve Jenkins, Jennifer Ward, Felicita Sala, Lisa Congdon, and Chris Barton—just to name a few! * She publishes across all picture book genres, but she is most drawn to books that reveal the marvels of the natural world, books that take on social-emotional topics with a light and fresh touch, and books that illuminate culture and lesser-known people who accomplished big things. * Her mission is to publish picture books that inspire wonder and curiosity, and her hope is that opening one of her books is like turning over a rock in the forest and discovering something unexpected and intriguing and that sparks imagination. * Andrea loves hiking, camping, and combing the local beaches with her family, and she also enjoys stealing away to spend time with her horse, Kokonut.

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JENNIE KENDRICK'S Topic: "How to Get Weird (And Create a Book that Stands Out)"

Jennie Kendrick represents YA, MG and select picture books with Red Fox Literary. * A former criminal defense attorney and history major, she has worked in the publishing industry since 2013, including reviewing for publications such as Kirkus, and part-time bookselling at a local independent bookstore. * Jennie’s passions include history (especially medieval European history), the criminal justice system, art, tarot, rock music, and cooking. * She loves well-researched character-driven fiction, narrative non-fiction, and is particularly looking for Own Voices works and books from marginalized creators. * Jennie is always looking for a phenomenal ghost or vampire story, regardless of children’s age group.

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COURTNEY DONOVAN'S Topic: "Building My List as a Junior Agent"

Courtney Donovan is a junior agent at Writers House, building a list of children's book authors and illustrators. * She started at the agency as an intern in 2019, before joining in 2020 as an assistant to Steven Malk. * She has had the privilege of working with a range of authors and illustrators, including Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Kelly Barnhill, Amanda Gorman, and Tui Sutherland, among many others. * Courtney is looking for impactful narratives and distinctive voices in all genres, though she feels especially drawn to science fiction and fantasy. * Originally from the east coast, she now lives in Southern California.

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MICHELE ROBBINS' Topic: "Familius Beginnings and Efforts to Help Families Be Happy Through Publishing"

Michele Robbins loves rock climbing and hiking with her family. When she is not on the move, she enjoys settling down with a good read-aloud. Now that the kids are older, she is often the listener rather than the reader! She feels blessed to have a granddaughter who calls to play dress up and ABC games. * Michele holds a degree in education and founded Familius with her husband Christopher in 2012. * She works in acquisitions and editing focusing on picture books and nonfiction. * She lives in California with three of her nine children, an amazing hubby, the family dog, and two cats.

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LYNN BECKER'S Topic: "Rocketing towards Publication (On the World’s Slowest Spaceship)"

Lynn Becker enjoys writing picture books and children’s book reviews. * After growing up in New York, Lynn spent many years in the SoCal desert with her husband, children, cats, dog, and chickens. She now lives in Colorado. The chickens stayed behind, but a few mythical beasties may have followed her to her new home…! * Lynn is the author of JUNE MOON, illustrated by Nate Carvalho, recently published by Familius, and MONSTERS IN THE BRINY, illustrated by Scott Brundage, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2022 and one of Betsy Bird/SLJ's 2022 Picture Book Readalouds.

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PATRICIA TOHT'S Topic: "The Benefits of Taking a Break"

Patricia Toht once owned a children's bookstore before turning a love of selling books into a love of writing books for kids. * Her first book, the poetry collection All Aboard the London Bus, grew out of fondness for the city she and her family called home for years. * Her rhyming holiday books, Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin, received starred reviews and have been translated into multiple languages. * Pick a Pumpkin was an Illinois READS title and an Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Book. * Dress Like a Girl was praised as "empowering" and "uplifting" for young girls. * She also contributes poetry to magazines like Highlights and Ladybug. * Follow her on Twitter @ PatriciaToht

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ANA ELLICKSON'S Topic: "How to Survive the Long Publishing Journey: From Almost Giving Up to Selling at Auction"

Ana Ellickson writes about fierce girls, family curses, and everyday magic. * The Vanishing Station is her debut YA contemporary fantasy published by Amulet Books (ABRAMS) in April, 2024. It was inspired by daydreams about jumping portals in San Francisco’s subway. * Roman the Renegade—her graphic novel script about street art and Filipino monsters—was awarded the 2021 New Visions Honor by Lee & Low Books. She first joined SCBWI in 2012, and it was one of the best decisions she made as an aspiring writer. * She lives in sunny Santa Barbara.

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