Co-RA, and previously the PAL coordinator since 2016, stepped into the co-RA position in 2019. She is the PAL author of WHERE ARE THE WORDS? and PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE both published by Albert Whitman & Co. Her fabulous agent, who understands Jodi’s quirky humor, is Linda Epstein of the Emerald City Literary Agency. Jodi lives in Grosse Pointe Farms with her husband, son, a not very bright, but adorable doodle named Ralph, and a feisty feline named Albi.
Anita Pazner, Co-RA has been an active member of SCBWI for over two decades. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and a Master Gardening degree from Michigan State University. Her debut picture book, The Topsy-Turvy Bus, released in March of 2023 and introduces kids to alternative energy sources like used veggie oil. Her second book tackles the topic of non-violent protests for an older audience as a novel in verse. It releases in 2025. Anita has presented at The Michigan Reading Association, The Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and local SCBWI-MI Area Shop Talks. In a publishing world full of constant rejections, Anita is a testament to never giving up.
Katie Eberts, Co-Illustrator Coordinator, is a freelance painter/illustrator based in Cedarville, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design with a concentration in watercolor. She is represented by the Stimola Literary Studio.
Jen Boehler is an illustrator / graphic designer / author working on a hobby farm in Saginaw, Michigan. Jen has worked as a freelance editorial illustrator, graphic designer, interior/event designer and owned her own line of Michigan travel apparel. She has degrees in both art/graphic design and interior design. She is inspired by travel, gardening, antiques, cooking and the great outdoors.
Michigan’s first regional advisor was Carol Farley of Mt. Pleasant, who took this leadership role in 1982 and served 22 Michigan members. Our SCBWI chapter currently has about 500 members and is led by Michigan Regional Advisors, Jodi McKay and Anita Pazner, and Illustrator Coordinators, Katie Eberts and Jen Boehler, as well as a talented and diverse group of volunteers:
Our Leadership Team is comprised of the Regional Team (RAs and ICs) plus several additional volunteers who devote their time and expertise to our chapter.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO VOLUNTEER? HAVE AN IDEA HOW YOU COULD USE YOUR SPECIAL TALENTS AND EXPERIENCE TO HELP OUR REGION? CLICK HERE FOR A FORM TO COMPLETE. WE’LL BE IN TOUCH!
Naomi Dunsen-White, Equity & Inclusion Team Chair, is an award-winning children’s book author who loves to inspire and encourage children to use their imagination and interests to discover their potential. She writes books that promote diversity and encourage self-determination and discovery of one’s purpose. She has a passion for closing the diversity gap in the children’s literature industry and believes all children deserve to have books with characters who look like them and stories that positively represent a world they can relate to. Naomi is a former educator and foster care specialist, and uses her experience to write books that are inspirational, uplifting and inclusive. She writes from her belief that all children have a gift within, just waiting to be discovered. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives, to help them discover it. Naomi serves as Vice President of Literacy Nation, Inc., a nonprofit literacy organization that supports independent authors and promotes diversity and equity in literacy. She is a member of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Editorial Freelancer’s Association. She is also a book editor, writing development coach, and public speaker who takes great pleasure in amplifying diverse voices and helping others fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors.
Jay Whistler, Mentorship Coordinator, is a young adult and middle grade author, a freelance editor helping authors make their manuscripts submission-ready, a submissions editor for an online zine, a judge for several high-profile writing contests, a mentor for a an online pitch contest, a former acquisitions reader for three different literary agencies, a former submissions editor for a literary anthology, and a former RA in Switzerland. When Jay is not writing or editing, she is busy arranging all her paperclips by size, alphabetizing her world-famous collection of commemorative presidential sugar packets, or scouring Petfinder.com for the dog she will be getting as soon as her husband retires in 2023. She asks that you keep this last one secret so we don’t spoil the surprise. You can find out more about her at https://jaywhistler.com/about-me/
Isabel O’Hagin (Ph.D.), Outreach Coordinator and Kalamazoo Shop Talk (KAST) Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2013. As a pre-published author, she writes stories steeped in Latino culture from the southwest where she lived most of her life. She has written two middle-grade novels, several picture books and is currently working on a YA novel. In 2018 she was recognized as a runner-up in the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship Contest. Her publication credits include teacher education articles, book chapters in early childhood music, and serving as the editor for a state education journal.
Deb Gonzales, SCBWI Liaison for the Michigan Reading Association, is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator, and adjunct professor, a podcaster (The Debcast), and past SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. Deb currently devotes her time to writing middle-grade novels, crafting teacher guides, and various other freelance projects. She’s the author of six transitional readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb serves as a member of the Michigan Reading Association board and earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more about Deb and her many projects by accessing her websites at www.debbiegonzales.com and www.guidesbydeb.com.
Sarah Prusoff LoCascio, The Mitten Blog Co-Editor, writes picture books and is the managing editor of the Asian Journal for Public Opinion Research. She lives in White Lake, Michigan with her wife, three kids, a dog, and two fish. Her website is: https://www.sarahlocascio.com/ Her Twitter handle is: @sarahlocascio
Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw, Event Coordinator, is a nonfiction/informational fiction children’s book author and former elementary special education teacher who is passionate about growing young minds. Suzanne’s first nonfiction picture book, I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks, debuted in April 2019 from Warren Publishing. Her next book Mighty Mahi is forthcoming from Doodle and Peck Publishing spring 2022. Suzanne enjoys speaking at schools about writing, leadership, and how kids can make a difference in our world. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion Ziggy. When she’s not dreaming up new writing projects, you can find her kayaking, hiking, practicing yoga, or working on her latest interior design project.
Tammy Layman, Registrar, lives on the shores of Lake Michigan in St. Joseph with her husband, two aspiring middle-grade writers and an increasing number of pets who believe they are people. Growing up in a family of storytellers, the only way she’s able to get a word in is if she’s on a stage telling stories with a microphone. Or when she finally gets one published for them to read! Tammy joined SCBWI early in her writing career. She let her membership lapse. She joined again. She took another break. She joined again. This time, Tammy decided she’d better get involved. When the call for the registrar position opened, she thought she’d give it a whirl. Tammy’s stories have supported museum exhibits and classroom activities. She has presented at the National Storytelling Network (NSA) National Summit. She has been published by The American Society of Training and Development (ATD) and A Pass Education.
Jamie Bills, Website Coordinator, is a picture book writer who lives in Okemos with her husband, three daughters and dog named Pattie Cake (who can actually play Patty-Cake). You can often find her sharing books on Instagram (@jmebills), running, re-watching Survivor, or planning her next vacation. She would love to connect with you at https://jamiebills.com/.
Angie Laginess, Co-communications Coordinator, is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves reading, writing, and being out in nature. When she’s not chasing after her two naughty hounds (Mortimer and Riley) she can be found camping, canoeing, hiking, staring at the night sky, and dreaming of moving Up North. She’s a pre-published author who writes picture books, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and has even been known to dabble in poetry from time to time. Although she’s lived all over the world, from Las Vegas to Hungary, she currently resides in the Downriver Detroit area where she teaches high school English and yearbook. Instagram: alaginesswrites
Molly David, Co-communications Coordinator, is a retired teacher from Farmington Hills. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. Her first picture book, My Mischievous Wheelchair, debuted in October 2023. She founded Semper Grata (sempergrata.com) in 2022 to help families and educate communities on disability issues. She also writes and presents on this important topic. You can usually find her pretending to work but secretly watching dog videos online. She thinks her husband is catching on, so this may end soon. She would love to connect with you at mollydavidauthor.com or IG: @mollydavidauthor, especially if you have dog videos.
Arjun Yetukuri, Scholarship Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2017 and has learned a lot about the craft of writing for kids from other successful members of SCBWI. He enjoys the learning, but is eager to see that learning bear fruit in the form of a PB…if only, he can steal himself away from enjoying eating ice cream, his favorite pastime, and spending time writing. He is a graduate from The University of Iowa, a Hawkeye without interest in the football rivalry, an engineer by profession, a recurve archery enthusiast and gold medalist at MI Indoor Championships, a creative thinker with several patents, and in the process of transferring all that creativity into writing PBs. He can be found on IG and Twitter @RevseLoop and at ReviseLoop.com
Christy Matthes, Promotions Coordinator, is a picture book writer residing in Grand Rapids with her family, three mischievous cats named PJ, Bruce, and Ginny, and a shy dachshund named Jimmy. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent several years in various human resource leadership positions. Her love for animals and nature serves as inspiration for many of her stories. When Christy isn’t writing, she is spending time with family, enjoying nature, and volunteering for a pet loss grief support organization.
Tom Keller, Shop Talk Liaison, studied journalism at Michigan State and worked as a sportswriter in Florida and North Carolina before returning home to Michigan. He now works in communications for a law firm in Detroit. He has a 3-year-old daughter and a newborn son, which means he is usually found near coffee. Instagram: @heytomkeller
Amanda Esch-Cormier, Conference Coordinator, is a children’s author, singer, and educator. When she isn’t writing stories for children and their families, Amanda enjoys going out with friends and family, traveling, gardening, singing, and exercising in nature. Amanda is almost always the first person on the dance floor. Instagram: @amandaeschcormier
Mary Rudzinski, MichKids Listserv moderator, recently moved to Plymouth, Michigan with her husband. When she is not writing, traveling, or enjoying a bike ride, Mary is busy gardening and learning how to rehab her house. She hopes to grow her writing community in Michigan and adopt a rescue dog.
Alison Hodgson, Hugs and Hurrahs Coordinator, is a speaker and humorist, and the author of The Pug List: A Ridiculous Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything, and How They All Found Their Way Home (2016, Zondervan). Her writing has been featured in Woman’s Day, Forbes, Houzz.com, and her essays have been published in a variety of anthologies. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.
Lynn Baldwin, Critique Group Coordinator, is a picture book writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and their teenage son, who thinks everything she writes is “not bad.” Before focusing on writing for children, Lynn spent decades writing marketing and communication materials for adults. Lynn is passionate about speaking/studying foreign languages, travel and outdoor adventures.
In addition to the Shop Talk Liaison shown in the Leadership Team above, many of our volunteers lead no-charge Shop Talks that meet regularly in many locations across the lower peninsula. Members and Not-Yet members are welcome to attend with the expectation that Not-Yet members will want to join the community. Keep your eye on the Events Page for a Shop Talk near YOU!
**PS. Need to perfect a new presentation? Have a topic to share? Shop Talks are the perfect opportunity. Reach out to your Shop Talk coordinator to discuss or complete this Presentation Form to be considered for a shoptalk presentation.***
Heather Shumaker, Up North Shop Talk – Traverse City Coordinator, is the author of three books for adults and a debut middle-grade novel THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2013, blogs at www.heathershumaker.com, and loves all things kid-lit.
Melanie Bryce is a writer and illustrator and has been a member of SCBWI since 2018. She studied creative writing, watercolor, and life drawing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She is involved in the Kalamazoo arts community, including providing illustrations for KAST’s recent event “Kast a Spell,” participating in Art Hop, gaining acceptance in the West Michigan Area Show with her “To the Moon” submission, gaining acceptance in the 2018 KVCC student art show, and winning first place in the 2016 KVCC New Media Showcase. www.melaniebryce.com Access this link from The Mitten to learn more about Melanie.
Betsy McKee Williams, Ann Arbor Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2012. In a former academic life, she studied and published short pieces on early American history and the history of childhood. Today she supports college student writing by day, writes fiction after hours, and is completing an MFA in Writing for Young Readers through the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Betsy writes middle-grade fiction and believes in the importance of precise historical accuracy for novels involving time travel.
Pria Dee, Metro Detroit Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, is an Indian-American author who has written several children’s books based on her experiences and observations. She loves animals and children and writes to combine both her passions. When she is not writing, Pria likes to garden, draw and paint. She loves music and also spends a lot of time reading.
Susan Collins Thoms is the Coordinator for GR-West Shop Talks representing the greater Grand Rapids area. Sue is a longtime member of the SCBWI and very grateful for all the encouragement, education, and support she has received from the organization. She is the author of six picture books, (plus a drawer full of unpublished picture books and a couple of middle-grade novels.) She also has a gig writing medical features for Spectrum Health. She looks forward to talking craft and publishing with other children’s book creators at Shop Talks. You can check out her books at SusanCollinsThoms.com. Thomssue@gmail.com Learn more at http://susancollinsthoms.blogspot.com.
Kristin Wolden Nitz is the author of Suspect, Saving the Griffin, and Defending Irene. A self-described compulsive tourist, she has special weaknesses for mountains and museums, but she’ll happily explore tombs, temples, caves, cathedrals, palaces and pagodas. After moving fifteen times since graduating from Michigan Tech, Kristin and her husband have settled in Rockford, Michigan. Long-time friends and family members—most notably her children—laugh when she says she’s never going to move again. No, really. Stop laughing.
Katy Klimczuk, Metro Detroit Shop Talk Co-Coordinator, is an author from Grosse Pointe Farms. She lives there with her husband, two children, and two mischievous kittens. Formerly a teacher and reading specialist, Katy now homeschools her children and tries to get her creative juices flowing in tiny pockets of quiet. Katy looks forward to learning more about the art and business of writing and publishing with you this year.
Kathleen Clark, Lansing Area Shop Talk (LAST) Co-Coordinator, is a farm girl at heart who adores kids and the books that go with them. Finding herself living on a sesquicentennial farm and working at the local library, she is thus a firm believer in dreams come true. When she isn’t writing down the latest animal antic, you can find her spending time with her family or tucked away in the hammock enjoying a great book with a kitten or two. For the latest humor from the homestead, feel free to stop on in at her blog— lovefromthefarm.com
Heather Clark, Lansing Area Shop Talk (LAST) Co-Coordinator- After receiving a Communications degree from Spring Arbor University (and spending her spare time collecting a wealth of stories by writing for the student newspaper and patrolling the campus as a safety officer), Heather found one of the best jobs an aspiring author could ask for — working for a local library. She now divides her time among promoting the library and its multitude of books (as well as 3D printer, telescope, and cake pans), pursuing an ASL interpreting degree at Oakland Community College, and writing Young Adult and New Adult urban fantasy/horror novels. You can find her online at thethistlegirlwrites.wordpress.com (if she hasn't vanished into a fairy ring she found somewhere along the way).