MayFest Faculty

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Keynote Speaker: Matthew Cordell, Award-Winning Author/Illustrator

Matthew Cordell is the Caldecott Medal-winning author and illustrator of Wolf and the Snow, Evergreen, Cornbread and Poppy, Wish, Bear Island, and Hello Neighbor: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers. He is also the illustrator of numerous highly acclaimed children’s books including Every Dog in the Neighborhood (written by Philip C. Stead), Bob, Not Bob! (written by Audrey Vernick and Liz Garton Scanlon), and Leeva at Last (written by Sara Pennypacker). His books have been best-of-the-year selections by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, NPR, and, and have been translated into many languages. Matthew was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. While in Chicago, Matthew met and began dating an elementary school librarian named Julie Halpern. Julie was also a budding and talented writer, and together, they wrote, illustrated, and submitted a picture book proposal to twenty publishers. It would go on to receive nineteen rejection letters, but that twentieth response was the one that changed everything.In 2004, Houghton Mifflin published Toby and the Snowflakes, thus beginning Matthew’s career in and love for the crafting of books for young readers. Matthew lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife and sometime collaborator, author Julie Halpern, and their two children.

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Editor Panel and Critiques: Carolina Ortiz

Carolina Ortiz is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s. She has worked on a variety of projects, but focuses on middle-grade, young adult, and graphic novels. With a special place in her heart for Latinx and queer stories, Carolina’s list reflects the diverse world around us and that will allow readers to feel seen in the books they read—a feeling that she rarely experienced in her childhood. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: MG, YA, Graphic Novels Text, Graphic Novels Text and Art, Novels in Verse, Picture Book, Book Dummy, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Horror, Speculative, Contemporary, and Romance (for YA). Graphic novel art submissions must have text, and all graphic novel submissions must have a synopsis.

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Editor Panel and Critiques: Dainese Santos

Dainese Santos, associate editor at Simon & Schuster, is an alumna of NYU’s publishing program, Dainese (“day-niece”) joined the team as an editorial assistant in 2019. She cares about stories that center on historically underrepresented folks, particularly when those said stories are warm and joyful. Her sweet spot is contemporary romance; having been raised on romcoms and Asian dramas, she’s a sucker for meet-cutes, crush energy, and things that are fun and frothy. Generally, she loves kids who march to the beat of their own drum, misfits who band together, and friendships that feel a lot like being in love. Like an onion or a parfait, she’s got layers—she’s a fan of both sweet, fluffy romance as well as spine-tingling horror. Superstitious by blood, she especially loves folklore rooted in the traditions of underrepresented cultures; but, as with everything else regarding her taste, there must be joy and warmth at its center. CRITIQUE PREFERENCES MAYFEST: PB text and YA Fiction - Contemporary (prefers Romance). NO: Fantasy.

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Editor Panel and Critiques: Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas is the Executive Editor at Levine Querido in the U.S.A. He has previously held roles at Bloomsbury, Chicken House, David Fickling Books, and Arthur A. Levine Books. Nick works on books of all kinds, including picture books, novels, graphic novels, and nonfiction. Among the books he has edited are Newbery and Pura Belpré-winning The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera; Newbery Honor-winning A Snake Falls to Earth and Locus Award Winner Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger; Printz Honor-winning Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth; and Walter Award-winning Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers. He was a PW Star Watch finalist in 2019 and teaches a class on children’s publishing at CCNY’s Publishing Certificate Program. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: Chapter Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Biography, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Fantasy, Novels in Verse. NO Graphic Novels.

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Agent Panel and Critiques: Patrice Caldwell

Patrice Caldwell is the Literary Director and also a Literary Agent at New Leaf Literary & Media. She seeks commercial, character-driven fiction for middle-grade, young adult, and adult readers as well as narrative nonfiction. Across the board, she is especially looking for science fiction & fantasy, mythology retellings and reimaginings, romance novels (including romantic fantasy), and anything that can be categorized as horror and/or gothic literature. Patrice also loves to champion stories from writers & illustrators from marginalized backgrounds. She does not represent picture books. In 2021, Patrice was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 for her work founding People of Color in Publishing. She was also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree in 2018. Before becoming a literary agent, Patrice was an editor at Disney-Hyperion and, before that, Scholastic. She attended Wellesley College, where she studied Political Science and English, and lives in Dallas, Texas with her adorably mischievous cats, Quinn and Raven. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: MG, YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Novels in Verse, Graphic Novels. NO Picture Books.


Agent Panel and Critiques: Sarah Gerton

Sarah Gerton is an Associate Literary Agent and Subrights Associate at New Leaf Literary & Media. She is seeking fiction and select narrative nonfiction for middle grade, young adult, and crossover adult readers. She’s eager to read YA and MG fiction of all genres; on the adult side, she is primarily interested in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Across the board, she gravitates toward unforgettable characters and striking prose. Before joining New Leaf, she worked at Curtis Brown, Ltd., and graduated from Wesleyan University and the Columbia Publishing Course. Originally from small-town Minnesota, she’s now based in Queens and enjoys exploring the city’s restaurants and bookstores. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: MG, YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Fantasy, and Novels in Verse.

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Agent Panel and Critiques: Amy Thrall Flynn

Amy Thrall Flynn, Senior Agent, Aevitas Creative Management. Amy joined Rubin Pfeffer Content in 2019 and they have recently merged with Aevitas Creative Management. A former Editor with Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, she believes in the power of books to connect, inspire, and affirm the lives of young people. In addition to her experience acquiring and shepherding dozens of books to publication while an editor, Amy holds a BA in American Literature from Middlebury College in Vermont; an MA in English from Simmons University, Boston; and an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons University. Amy has two grown children and lives with her husband and a pair of lovable scruffy dogs on a farm in Connecticut. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: PB, CB, MG, NF, Novels in Verse, Graphic Novels Text, Graphic Novels Text and Art, and PB Dummy.

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Showcase Judge and Critiques: Mallory Grigg

Mallory Grigg is the Senior Art Director at Macmillan Children's Publishing Group where she's had the pleasure of working on Mike Curato's graphic novel, Flamer, Katy Rose Pool's Age of Darkness series, and Karamo Brown's I Am Perfectly Designed. She's also worked on a number of NYTimes bestsellers, including Natalie Portman's Fables and Emmanuel Acho's Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy. Previously, Mallory has worked at Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HMH, Alloy Entertainment, and Cider Mill Press, and has lectured at SCBWI, CBIG, the Highlights Foundation, and universities across the country. A sixth-generation Texan who's forsaken the motherland to live in Brooklyn, NY, she loves making art, cooking and baking, writing, and playing fetch with her rescue pup, Birdie. Mallory uses she/her/hers pronouns. Her photo is by Alberto Vasari. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: PB, PB Dummy, Book Cover Art, Portfolios.


Showcase Judge and Critiques: Martha Rago

Martha Rago, V.P. Executive Creative Director, Penguin Random House. I began my career at G P Putnam as the assistant to the art director, with the extraordinary good fortune of working with greats like Tomie de Paola, Eric Carle, Marc Simont, Tasha Tudor, Mistumasa Anno, Bruce Degan, Elise Primavera, Ed Young, and many more incredible artists, some at the very start of their careers. I expanded my experience over the following 34+ years at Dutton, FSG, Henry Holt, Harper Collins, and then back to Random House 10 years ago, coming full circle to the Mother Ship. I’m grateful to have learned from so much talent, been able to contribute as a designer and art director to some of the best books in the industry, and formed lasting relationships with my colleagues along with the artists behind every project. At Random House Children’s Books, I oversee a large team of art directors and designers for Licensed properties, Brands, and Trade books. The imprints under RHCB are Crown, RH Books for Young Readers, Little Tiger, Doubleday, Random House Studio, Ann Schwartz Books, Joy Revolution, Delacorte, Labyrinth Road and Make Me A World. I remain passionate about book-making and work hands-on as a designer and art director on select projects. And I keep my eye out for new talent to encourage and add their vision to the books we offer readers today. MAYFEST CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: PB, Dummy, Book Cover Art, Portfolios.


Critiques: Analía Cabello, Literary Agent Assistant

Analía Cabello works with Executive Agent Kelly Sonnack at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, championing a diverse list of authors and illustrators. Before that, she was an editorial assistant at Candlewick and before that, interned at several literary agencies. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Child Development and Ethnic Studies, which have informed her passion for the intersections of children’s literature, developmental psychology, and identity. Authors and illustrators were her childhood celebrities; now, she is thrilled to have the opportunity to cheer them on and support them in a professional capacity. As she looks to begin building her list in the next year, Analía is co-representing select creators with Kelly, including Ginnie Hsu, illustrator of A HOME NAMED WALTER. Kelly and Analía are on the lookout for joyful queer friendship stories and joyful queer romance; bicultural or biracial stories; stories that explore friendship or sibling relationships; and fiction unafraid to center queer, trans, and nonbinary identities authored by queer, trans, or nonbinary folx." CRITIQUE PREFERENCES: PB, MG, and YA


Critiques: Jenny Ly, Assistant Editor, Kokila and Nancy Paulsen Books at Penguin Randomhousee

Jenny Ly joined Kokila and Nancy Paulsen Books in September 2023 as assistant editor. She previously worked at HarperCollins, W.W. Norton, and was a former bookseller. At Harper, she assisted on books such as Wei Skates On by Olympian Nathan Chen and Lorraine Nam; the Batchelder Award-winner Just a Girl by Lia Levi, translated by Sylvia Notini; and the #1 NYT bestseller Strange Planet: the Sneaking, Hiding, Vibrating Creature by Nathan Pyle. Jenny is from the Bay Area and now lives in NY. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Columbia Publishing Course. Critique Preferences: PB, CB, MG, GN text and GN text and art.