Online + Retreat Industry Professionals

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AGENT, KT Literary

Laurel began her publishing career in the editorial department of HarperCollins Children’s Books. She also worked in the marketing department at a small publishing house, in a library, and as a bookseller at one of the nation’s best independent bookstores. She began agenting in 2018 and joined kt literary in 2022, representing picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, graphic novels, and select nonfiction for children and teens. When Laurel is not reading, she enjoys baking, hiking, and spending time with her dog, Sherlock. Raised in rural New England and having spent a decade in New York City, London, and Chicago, she’s thrilled to have settled in the Pacific Northwest.

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Orlando Dos Reis is senior Editor at Scholastic, acquiring primarily middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as some graphic novels. His titles range from commercial to literary. He received his B.A. in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech and his M.A. in English with a concentration on children's and young adult literature from Kansas State University. He lives in New York City.

Online Industry Insiders + Practicing Professionals

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Louann Mattes Brown is a published author/pre-published illustrator who loves to solve problems, fiddle, doodle, and create new things. She taught elementary art, served as “story lady” at her local library, and is a member of three SCBWI -IL critique groups. Her poems and activities have been published in Lady Bug, Baby Bug and Family Fun magazines. She currently works for Heidi Roemer’s Steam Powered Poetry website (www.steampoweredpoetry.com) as an art and crafts designer. Her published books include How to Create Spectacular Halloween Costumes and Art Appreciation for the Popsicle Generation. Louann is fascinated by novelty books and hopes her diverse collection will inspire you to write one!


DESIGN DIRECTOR, Cottage Door Press

NaShantá Fletcher is a Chicago-area children’s book illustrator and Design Director at publisher Cottage Door Press. NaShantá has illustrated three titles for Scholastic, including two picture books written by author/musician Divinity Roxx. The books Happy & Healthy and Me + You are based on songs from Divinity’s Grammy-nominated children’s album, Ready, Set, Go! You can learn more about her at nashanta.com


Illustrator + IC IL

Denise Holmes is an award-winning illustrator and educator living in Chicago, IL with her husband, daughter, and their charming canine companion, Mochi. She loves to create playful and bright illustrations, drawing inspiration from her own childhood, the magic of everyday life, and her particular fondness for drawing cute characters. Denise’s illustrations can be found in over a dozen children’s picture books, magazines, greeting cards, and art prints. She teaches part-time at Columbia College Chicago, as well as creates drawing workshops for both children and adults. Denise is devoted to sharing her love for illustration and enjoys supporting emerging artists.

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Author + RAE IL

Alice B. McGinty (www.alicebmcginty.com) delights in igniting imaginations. As the award-winning author of over 50 children’s books, she makes fiction and non-fiction accessible, engaging, and fun. Her books include 2022 JLG Selection and Chicago and New York Public Libraries Best Book of 2022, Bathe the Cat; 2021 ALA Notable Book, JLG Selection and Norman A. Sugarman Honor Book, The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation; and 2019 JLG Selection, The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney. A frequent presenter and recipient of the Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children, Alice also serves as the Regional Advisor Emerita of the Illinois Chapter of SCBWI, runs Words on Fire Writing Camp for Teens, and is a book reviewer and writing coach.

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AGENT, Jill Grinberg Literary Management

Jessica Saint Jean joined Jill Grinberg Literary Management in 2020 to build a list of visual storytellers. Jessica came to JGLM from the art department at Candlewick Press, where she was in charge of illustrator searches and negotiating illustrator contracts for 6 years. She started her career as an editor at Barefoot Books, enabling her to bring experience from both an art and editorial perspective to her role as an agent. Jessica earned her B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, and still lives in Massachusetts – though now a few miles north of downtown. She loves any excuse to make a color-coded spreadsheet, walk instead of drive, and start a new book. Jessica is open to queries. Jessica is only representing illustrators at this time.

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Author + Teacher

Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is known for his funny and fierce fiction and nonfiction picture books and is recognized as one of the pioneers in the arena of LGBTQIA+ literary nonfiction picture books. Rob’s nonfiction books continue to break new ground, including the first picture books about the Pride Flag, the Stonewall Uprising, a transgender Civil War soldier, a gay presidential candidate, and the first gay marriage in America. His work also continues to introduce readers to heroes of the LGBTQIA+ community—from Harvey Milk to Gilbert Baker, from Cleve Jones to Bayard Rustin, and more. His fiction explores friendship, relationships, standing up for others, and being allies. Blood Brothers, his first middle grade novel, written in powerful, raw verse released in July 2022 and was named an NCTE 2023 Notable Novel in Verse. 2024 releases will include Rob’s first nonfiction poetry collection—Queer and Fearless: Poems Celebrating the Lives of LGBTQ Heroes (Penguin Workshop) and two fiction picture books—Between You and Me (HarperCollins) and We Are a Class! (Beaming Books). Rob believes in paying it forward. He serves on the SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund Steering Committee and is a frequent speaker, teacher, mentor, coach, and critiquer. Rob is represented by Rubin Pfeffer. Website: robsanderswrites.com Facebook: RobSandersWrites Instagram: RobSandersWrites


Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Laura Vecchiolla, PsyD, CT, is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in treating children and adults experiencing traumatic stress, complex trauma, grief, and loss. She completed her doctoral dissertation connecting the archetypal patterns of the Hero’s Journey to the shared experiences of trauma recovery. The storytelling nature of humankind and the constructive and enduring ways that myth and story can be integrated into one’s personal growth are invaluable to Dr. Vecchiolla’s therapeutic approach. She has also published several chapter contributions that highlight how modern myths—such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Daredevil, and Wonder Woman—can help individuals of all ages through difficult, yet transformative experiences. Dr. Vecchiolla currently works in private practice in the Chicagoland area, and when not working, she is adding to her already impossibly large TBR pile.


Author + ARA IL

Catherine Ann Velasco is a big fan of SCBWI, attending events locally, nationally and internationally via Zoom. She has served as a co-rep for Bolingbrook-Naperville Network for seven years. She is super excited to help the Illinois region continue its legacy of inspiring programs and content. She is humbled to follow in the footsteps of many enthusiastic leaders. Velasco is an author of BEHIND THE SCENES OF PRO BASEBALL and BEHIND THE SCENES OF PRO BASKETBALL, Capstone 2019. She loves volunteering at her local library, connecting children to books they can hug!

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Author + Co-RA IL

Jennifer Wagh is a Simon & Schuster debut author. She lives with her husband, three kids, and a leopard gecko named Bibi in Sleepy Hollow, IL. As a former preschool teacher, she loves to enthusiastically read picture books aloud. Jenny has been writing for 18+ years, and is Co-RA for SCBWI -IL. She is passionate about pagination.