Maggie Tokuda-Hall has an MFA in creative writing from USF. She is the author of the 2017 Parent's Choice Gold Medal winning picture book, Also an Octopus, illustrated by Benji Davies. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is her debut young adult novel, which was an NPR, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Book Page Best Book of 2020. Its sequel, The Siren, The Song and The Spy comes out September 2023. Her graphic novel, Squad, is an Ignyte and Locus Award nominated comic book, and her newest picture book, Love in the Library, has been named a Best Picture Book of 2022 by Book Page, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband, children, and objectively perfect dog.
Laurie is a founding partner at Fuse Literary representing New York Times and international bestselling authors, as well as indie published authors who want to also publish traditionally, and debut authors with promise. She spent 20 years as the CEO of a publicity and marketing agency, and 8 years as an agent and senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco before co-founding Fuse Literary in 2013 with Gordon Warnock. Laurie was well known in the early days of the Apple Macintosh phenomenon as the CEO of the successful Silicon Valley public relations agency bearing her name. After 20 years there, she switched gears to immerse herself in her personal writing. Laurie had been writing professionally since high school–first as a journalist, then as a public relations agent–but now she could finally spread her wings as a novelist. She penned three manuscripts before deciding that she missed using the shark part of her brain and that the life of a literary agent was her perfect match. Prior to all this, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the State University of New York and a Master’s Degree at Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School of Journalism. Learn more about the books she represents by visiting her website and manuscript wishlist.
Stefanie Molina joined Ladderbird Literary Agency in April 2021 after spending her early career advocating for marginalized folks in publishing as a technical editor at a national laboratory, senior editor at the literary journal F(r)iction, and book coach and editor for women of color. She is one-half Mexican, one-quarter Japanese, and one-quarter Irish. Stefanie holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, both from the University of California at Davis. Aside from reading, she enjoys hiking, swimming, baking strange new things, and playing the piano. Her favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park. Stefanie can be found on Twitter @fiction_tech or Instagram @bake.by.the.book.
Andy Ross opened his literary agency in 2008. Prior to that, he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years. During that time, he sold more than 10 million books and hosted over 5000 events for some of the world’s greatest authors. Andy’s agency represents authors who write books in a wide range of subjects including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, current affairs, contemporary culture, religion, children's books and commercial and literary fiction. He is eager to work with projects in most genres as long as the subject or its treatment is smart, original, and will appeal to a wide readership. In narrative non-fiction, he looks for writing with a strong voice and robust narrative arc. He likes books that tell a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject. For literary, commercial, and children's fiction, Andy has only one requirement--a simple one--that the writing reveal the terrain of that vast and unexplored country, the human heart.
Jennifer March Soloway is a senior agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Agenting is her dream job. She loves working with writers and illustrators, and nothing gives her greater joy than to help an author elevate their story. She enjoys all genres and kidlit categories, from laugh-out-loud picture books to young adult. A suspense junkie, she adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! But as much as she loves a good thriller, her favorite novels focus on family, relationships, sexuality, mental health, or addiction. Regardless of genre, she is most drawn to emotionally compelling voices and fresh perspectives underrepresented in literature. To learn more about Jennifer, follow her on Twitter, @marchsoloway, and find her full wish list at
Donna Janell Bowman is an award-winning central Texas author, speaker, and writing coach. She’s especially drawn to nonfiction because true stories are often like lightning bugs—too irresistible not to follow. Her books for young readers include Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, illustrated by Daniel Minter; Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, illustrated by S.D. Schindler; King of the Tightrope: When The Great Blondin Ruled Niagara, illustrated by Adam Gustavson; and the forthcoming Wings of an Eagle: The Gold Medal Dreams of Billy Mills, co-authored with Billy Mills, and illustrated by S.D. Nelson. Donna’s books have garnered such accolades as starred reviews, Junior Library Guild selection, NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommendation, a Carter G. Woodson Award Honor from NCSS, ALA/ALSC Notable lists, NCSS Notable lists, multiple best-of-the-year lists, and nominations to a dozen state book awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award. Donna has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
With more than 2 and a half million books sold, Choldenko’s best known Tales from Alcatraz series, has been called “A cornerstone series in contemporary children’s literature.” Al Capone Does My Shirts—the first book in the series—was a Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of twenty other awards. All four books in the series were Junior Library Guild selections and garnered many starred reviews. Gennifer’s newest novel: Orphan Eleven will be out May 26. Publisher’s Weekly has said this about Orphan Eleven: “This uplifting tale of hope, survival and belonging has all the ingredients to become a beloved middle grade book.” Gennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her loyal husband and naughty dog.
Marcus Ewert is a writer, actor, and director living in San Francisco. His acclaimed book, 10,000 Dresses, was recognized on the American Library Association Rainbow Book List, as a Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Honor Book, and as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. 10,000 Dresses has been used in schools, churches, and youth groups around the world, as the first children’s book featuring a transgender character. His other books include Mummy Cat and She Wanted to Be Haunted.
Alexis E. Fajardo is an Eisner award-winning editor and cartoonist. Lex has created a unique blend of comedy, literature, and high-adventure in his graphic novel series, Kid Beowulf. Lex is a member of the National Cartoonist’s Society; Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators; and has been a National Writing Juror for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.When he’s not drawing comics, Lex works for them as Editorial Director at the Charles M. Schulz Studio in Santa Rosa, California, where he edits Peanuts books, written exhibition material for the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy Museum Tokyo, and won the 2018 Eisner Award for editing the Best Archival Project, “Celebrating Snoopy” published by Andrews McMeel.
Remember the old commercial when the chocolate and the peanut butter collide, and accidentally invent the peanut butter cup? Well, long ago, Sarah was writing for adults—for newspapers, magazines, and radio—about raising their gender-nonconforming son, Sam. At the same time, Ian—an architect by day—was writing and illustrating picture books for kids. One day, it dawned on them to work together, and write picture books about gender. That’s how the Jacob series was born. Just like a peanut butter cup. Sarah’s pronouns are she/her and Ian’s pronouns are he/him.
Traci Huahn writes to delight and inspire young readers with both fiction and nonfiction stories, many of them rooted in Asian American culture, history, and identity. Her debut picture book Mamie Tape Fights to go to School will be published by Crown Books for Young Readers in 2024. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Traci was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she still makes her home. Most days you can find here there, along with her husband, two kids, their pup who loves raw Brussels sprouts, and a blue Betta fish named Walter. Traci is a co-coordinator of the SCBWI SF North/East Bay diversity initiative Tapestry of Voices – if you see her around the conference, please ask her to tell you more!
Ann Jacobus graduated from Dartmouth College, and earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She's the author of YA novel The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent (Carolrhoda lab), and Romancing the Dark in the City of Light (St. Martin’s Press), has published short fiction, essays, and poetry, and blogs regularly about writing and mental health. Jacobus divdes her time between San Francisco and Massachusetts with her family.
Mackenzie Guinon is a lot of things. A lifelong bookworm, a prolific doodler, a proud wallflower, and an excellent listener. Growing up in the East Bay Area in Northern California, Mackenzie spent her time drawing, reading, playing sports, and being outdoors. Her mission in life is to bring people together and to show that you can be enough simply by being yourself. She now lives on a little hill near Berkeley, where she loves to laugh, read stories aloud at bedtime, and type her smiley faces backwards (: She is the creator of Wallflowers(Clarion Books), an ode to quiet and introverted children, and cocreator of One Tiny Treefrog: A Countdown to Survival (Candlewick Press), the first of three non-fiction pictures books with her best friend and adventure buddy for life, Tony Piedra. She cannot wait to keep listening to and telling stories.
Isabella is the author and illustrator of NO FUZZBALL! (Scholastic, 2020), a picture book about a fuzzy feline despot who rules the house with an iron paw. Continuing her feline obsession, she also illustrated over 120 cats for the board books 123 CATS and ABC CATS by Lesléa Newman (Candlewick, 2021). Growing up in Hong Kong, she would create her own narrative and draw over all her textbooks – anything to make the dull concrete world more colorful! She is delighted she still does both! Her illustrations have received accolades from institutions such as the Society of Illustrators, Spectrum Fantasy Art, 3x3, Creative Quarterly, and SCBWI and her original artwork has been exhibited at galleries in California, Spain, and Singapore. Outside the world of publishing, Isabella teaches illustration and watercolor classes at Storyteller Academy and Etchr Lab. She is also the current Illustrator coordinator of the SCBWI SF/South region. Isabella currently resides in San Francisco with her husband and two adorable – you guessed it – cats! She enjoys a good book, dancing, trying all the foods, snorkeling, scuba diving, and traveling!
Patrick Lugo’s first professional comic art was printed by independent publisher Double Edge Comics while still a student at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Teacher and comics artist Carmine Infantino would let him bring pages in as class assignments for critique. He’s worked as Senior Designer/Art Director for Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine and its parent company Tiger Claw Inc. proving numerous illustrations, product designs, advertisements, and layouts as head of their in-house art department. It was there he created the long running comic series TIGER’S TALE. His first Children’s Picture Book LITTLE MONK AND THE MANTIS was awarded both the Book of the Year Honor from the Gellett Burgess Center for Children’s Literature and the Preferred Choice Award from CREATIVE CHILD MAGAZINE. In 2021 his short comic CONTRABAND was published by the Ohio State University Press in the anthology SPECULATIVE FICTION FOR DREAMERS. It was called a knock-out in a Publisher's Weekly starred review. His cover art & comics have appeared in over publication and album covers. He has since been self-publishing the graphic novel series A TIGER's TALE (vol. 1, 2022 & vol. 2, 2023) exclusively via crowdfunding. He's also illustrated the middle-grade kindle chapter book LUCY VELOZ: HIGH-FLYING PRINCESS wich will be publish as both a paperback and hardcover this year and can be found at LucyVeloz.PLUGOarts.com
Shirley Ng-Benitez is an award-winning author/illustrator who has illustrated over 30 books for children. Her creative journey includes graphic design: GabbyandCo.com, and hand-letttering for American Greetings, Inc. A love for all things handmade, she’s continually experimenting in traditional media including watercolor, gouache, and painted & cut-paper collage. Earth, its creatures, and a deep wish for more compassion and connection in the world, are inspiration for her art and stories. In ’20, she founded the art auction @AWEtober on Instagram which has raised tens of thousands to support victims of the California wildfires, and coral reef restoration efforts around the globe. She lives in the Bay Area with her family and two black cats, and is thrilled to be working on her debut picture book, DOWN, THROUGH, UP by Quill Tree Books releasing Winter ‘25. Visit shirleyngbenitez.com for more.
Mitali Perkins has written many books for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for a National Book Award) and Rickshaw Girl (adapted into a film by Sleeperwave Productions), all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. Her goal is to make readers laugh or cry, preferably both, as long as their hearts are widening. She lives and writes in the East Bay.
Tony Piedra grew up in Houston, Texas, chasing lizards in the backyard and capturing great adventures in his sketchbook. Eventually, he relocated to California, where he worked for many years at Pixar Animation Studios, building environments for some of the studio's most popular movies, including Up and Coco. He is the creator of The Greatest Adventure, his debut picture book published by Scholastic. He is also the cocreator of One Tiny Treefrog: A Countdown to Survival, the first of three non-fiction pictures books published by Candlewick Press with his best friend and life partner, Mackenzie Joy. Together they have crafted a dazzling spin on the life of one of nature's darlings, the red-eyed treefrog. This is the first of many more books to come from their partnership.
Victoria first fell in love with books when she discovered a battered set of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia in the family barn. By the time she finished the series, she believed real magic was found behind the cover of a book. Her debut novel, The Spirit of Cattail County, was selected as a Bank Street College Best Book of the year and earned a spot on the coveted Oklahoma Library Association Children’s Sequoyah Masterlist. She is also the author of short stories in Wyvern Publications and Vine Leaves Literary Magazine. Prior to her current roles in publishing, Victoria was an English teacher, first as a Teach for America Corps Member for middle school students in New York City, then at Pace University. Victoria continues to work with middle grade students, both as a school volunteer and as a Girl Scout leader, helping kids to find their voice and passion. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, hiking the Bay Area, or wrangling her three children and a big fluffy dog.
Raised by a Pakistani father and American mother in the small town of Half Moon Bay, California, L. Michelle Quraishi grew up searching for identity, belonging, and connection in books. Her experiences with straddling multiple cultures drive her commitment to exploring cultural edges and understanding. An SCBWI member since 2013, she’s written numerous picture books, a middle-grade novel in verse, and is currently working on a YA contemporary urban folktale about real witches. She lives with her husband, two children and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at www.lmquraishi.com.
Lisa Moore Ramée still calls Los Angeles home even though she now lives in the Bay Area. She counts coffee as one of her best friends and is a devout believer in dreams coming true. Her debut novel, A Good Kind of Trouble, is a Walter Dean Meyers Honor book and an Indie bestseller. She is also the author of Something to Say and MapMaker.
Mae Respicio writes middle grade novels full of heart and hope including THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT, which won the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association Honor Award, was an NPR Best Book, and has been on many “best books” and state reading lists. Her forthcoming novel-in-verse is called ISABEL IN BLOOM, coming April 9, 2024 (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House). She lives with her family in the suburban wild of Northern California.
Annie is an author and illustrator, living in Mendocino county. Her work is inspired by personal experiences, often incited by travel, and usually magical in some way. When she's not working on books, she illustrates for tech companies, writes music, and plays peekaboo with her 1 year old son.
Rob Sayegh Jr. is a former toy designer turned author-illustrator of Love Tails and the illustrator of Arlo Draws an Octopus, Cupig: The Valentine’s Day Pig, and Seth Meyers’s New York Times bestseller I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared! When he is not doodling or writing, he enjoys collecting vintage toys, being an official snack taste-tester, and falling in love with every dog he meets. He currently lives in San Francisco, California with his family.
As an Indian American, Meera Sriram has lived equal parts of her life in both countries. Previously an electrical engineer, she now writes for children and advocates for diversifying bookshelves. Meera is the author of several picture books including A GIFT FOR AMMA, winner of the South Asia Book Award, BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, an American Library Association’s RISE: A Feminist Book Project selection, and DUMPLING DAY that was featured in The New York Times. She believes in the transformative power of stories and likes to write about people, places, and experiences less visible in children’s literature. Meera’s most recent titles include A GARDEN IN MY HANDS that garnered starred trade reviews, and OUR WORLD: INDIA, her first ever board book. Her forthcoming picture book THE SPICE BOX releases in Spring ’24 from Penguin Random House. Meera is the Equity & Inclusion Awards Co-coordinator at her regional SCBWI chapter and will be serving as a 2024 picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books. She loves yoga, chai, woodsy hikes and urban murals, and lives with her husband and two teens in Berkeley, California.
Jasmine A. Stirling (she/her) is the award-winning author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice (Bloomsbury, 2021), winner of the IPNE Book Award and a Book Riot and Mighty Girl Best Book of the Year. It is currently being translated to Mandarin. Her new book: Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote (Union Square & Co, 2023, Booklist starred review), tells the story of the queer power couple who ignited the suffrage movement and won the vote for women. Her third book, about Jeanne Barret, the botanist who became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe—while disguised as a man—comes out in 2025. Prior to becoming an author, Jasmine was an education technology executive, and served on boards for education nonprofits serving low-income students of color. Jasmine lives in an old house in San Francisco with her spouse, two daughters, and an absurdly adorable dog.
Anne-Marie Strohman writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult short stories and novels. She is a teacher, an editor, and a scholar. She is an active member of SCBWI and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Anne-Marie serves as co-lead of Middle Grade Lunch Break, a middle grade book club for writers. She is founder, co-editor, and contributing writer of KidLit Craft, a blog focused on novels for middle grade readers and for young adults, as well as picture books, with an eye to craft.
Nadine Takvorian is a first-generation Armenian-American author and illustrator of children’s books and graphic novels. From within the Armenian diaspora, Nadine’s family is *Bolsahye* — from Istanbul, Turkey. She is passionate about exploring identity and history, and battling cultural erasure. She also nourishes a soft spot for fantasy and alternate worlds. Nadine lives with her husband and two children in the Bay Area where they dig holes in their garden and dream of diving into waves at sea. Nadine is currently working on her debut YA graphic novel ARMAVENI with Levine Querido, Spring 2025.
Natasha, a Jewish-Jamaican American author, lives in Northern California where she writes from a treehouse perched in a sycamore tree. As a baby, Natasha was adopted into a Dutch, Christian family. Growing up on Vancouver Island in Canada, Natasha was acutely aware that she was different from her family; this did not keep her from integrating all the pieces of her identity. Natasha’s multicultural background has allowed her to flow seamlessly through different cultures while bridging gaps that typically divide people. Natasha has been published in various online magazines. Natasha is represented by Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency and has forthcoming picture books with HarperCollins, Chronicle and WaterBrook. Natasha bubbles with excitement over antiques, chocolate, coffee on the front porch, and cozy movie nights in front of the fireplace with her husband and four children.