Guest Faculty

Spring Spirit 2024 Guest Faculty

Featured Faculty

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, memoirs, and picture books, including The Surrender Tree, Enchanted Air,Drum Dream Girl, and Dancing Hands. Awards include a Newbery Honor,Pura Belpré, Golden Kite, Walter, Jane Addams, PEN U.S.A., and NSK Neustadt, among others. Margarita served as the national 2017-2019 Young People’s Poet Laureate. She is a three-time U.S. nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Book Award. Her most recent books are Wings in the Wild andDestiny Finds Her Way. Her next young adult verse novel is Wild Dreamers, and her next picture book is Water Day.

Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives on the island. She studied agronomy and botany along with creative writing, and nowlives in central California with her husband. | Twitter: @margaritapoet | Instagram: @engle.margarita

David Miles

David is an award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator. He grew up on the East Coast as one of seven kids. He started early in publishing, producing his first book at age eighteen through a contest by Landmark Editions. Since then, he has worked as a graphic designer, instructor, author, illustrator, and creative director. Most recently, he was the publishing director for Familius where he helped the company become one of Publishers Weekly's 2018 Fastest Growing Independent Publishers. David was the General Management Outstanding Graduate of his BYU Marriott School class and was named a 2018 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Nominee. His favorite thing in life is being a husband and dad, because really, that's even better than donuts.

Merry Miller-Gass

Merry is a picture book writer, illustrator, freelance artist, and art instructor who enjoys mentoring her fellow creatives. Merry volunteers as the SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator for the California: North/Central region, and is an active member of SVS Learn, and the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. She was a 2023 PB Party Finalist and has been featured in several SCBWI portfolio showcases and in various art & illustration contests over the years. Her work has been published in magazines such as Spider and Ladybug (Cricket Media) and she is currently working on illustrating her debut picture book, DUCK DUCK GROOVE (The Little Press, 2026). 

PAL Faculty

Angelica Shirley Carpenter

Angelica Shirley Carpenter, curator emerita of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature at California State University, Fresno, published four middle-grade biographies, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. Frank Baum, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lewis Carroll; In the Garden: Essays in Honor of Frances Hodgson Burnett; a biography, Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist; and a picture book, The Voice of Liberty, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. A past president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, she is a contributor to the 2023 anthology The Characters of Oz. Her picture book The Secret Gardens of Frances Hodgson Burnett will be published in June 2024 and she is under contract for a 2025 young adult biography of the Grimké sisters, early leaders in the fight for abolition and women’s rights. Angelica is a member of the American Library Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Authors Guild, and Biographers International Organization. Her website is

Jessica Kulekjian

Jessica Kulekjian is a writer and teacher for children (and sometimes adults). She is the author of several picture books, including Hiders Seekers Finders Keepers, First Notes of Spring, and Before We Stood Tall: a NCTE notable book in poetry. You can connect with her at, IG: @jessicakulekjian and Twitter: @jesskulekjian

Ana Ot

Ana Ot is a children's book author with her debut picture book, The Heart Never Forgets, releasing in Spring 2024. Ana has a passion for diverse storytelling and believes that all children should be able to see themselves within the pages of cherished books. Ana serves on the steering committee of an organization that increases access to quality children’s books, and promotes equity and inclusion of marginalized voices. 

Joan Schoettler

Joan Schoettler earned a Masters in Arts in Reading and Language at Fresno Pacific University. At Education Department at the CSU, Fresno, she taught children’s literature, storytelling, and reading and writing. The Honey Jar: An Armenian’s Escape to Freedom is her first middle grade novel. Joan began working on this project at the time of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in 2015. Her interest in the roots of Fresno Armenians led her to this story. Her picture books include Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life, A Home for George, and Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth  which received the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. She also received the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award. She lives with her husband in Central California.

Visit her at