2023 Conference Faculty (More Coming Soon!)

Meet Our 2023 Onsite Conference Faculty


Lisa Amstutz (she/her), Author and Associate Literary Agent, Storm Literary Agency

Lisa Amstutz is an associate literary agent with Storm Literary Agency, where she represents picture book and middle grade fiction as well as nonfiction for all ages. Before joining Storm in 2021, Lisa spent 16 years as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of more than 150 books for children and many newspaper and magazine articles. Lisa previously served as Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI: Ohio North and as a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story.


Jean Daigneau (she/her), Author

Jean Daigneau has been published in the adult and children’s markets, including Highlights and Fun for Kidz and has sold poetry, crafts, and greeting card text. Her work has appeared in The Guide to Literary Agents and The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market and she writes a quarterly column for Children’s Book Insider. Her book, Code Cracking for Kids, debuted in October 2020, and Ellis Island and Immigration for Kids was published in January 2022. She is represented by Vicki Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency. Jean is a founding partner of a children’s writers’ critique service, along with Gloria G. Adams, called Two-4-One Kid Critiques.


Wendy Fedan (she/her), Author-Illustrator

Wendy Fedan is a self-published author who has published nine of her own books and helped self-publish seven books for her fellow authors, calling herself a book shepherd. Wendy wrote her first book at age twelve and first attempted to be traditional published when she was fourteen. She’s taught self-publishing as a workshop for The Cleveland Institute of Art’s (CIA’s) Continuing Education and has recently worked as an adjunct Instructor for Illustration at CIA. She works full time as a freelance illustrator, caricature artist, and book designer, living in Amherst, Ohio.


Ashley Hearn (she/they), Editor, Peachtree Teen

Ashley Hearn (she/ they) is an acquisitions editor at Peachtree Publishing. She’s edited numerous award-winning and bestselling authors including New York Times bestseller Andrew Jospeh White (Hell Followed with Us), Sydney Taylor Notable Book honoree R.M. Romero (The Ghosts of Rose Hill), and TIME magazine “Best Fantasy Novels of All Time” nominee Isabel Ibañez (Woven in Moonlight). When she steps away from her desk, she can be found wandering the North Georgia mountains, swing longswords at her HEMA fencing club, or haunting a local coffee shop. Find her on Twitter @AshleyHearn or Instagram @_AshleyHearn.


Christa Heschke (she/her), Agent, McIntosh & Otis

Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s.


Jim Hoover (he/him), Art Director, Viking Children's Books/Penguin Young Readers

Jim Hoover is an Art Director at Viking Children’s Books. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design in Illustration, Jim has been in publishing now for over twenty years. He speaks regularly at SCBWI and has designed and art directed hundreds of books ranging from picture books, nonfiction, to middle grade including James Yang's Geisel Award Winning Stop! Bot, Max Brallier’s #1 New York Times best-selling series The Last Kids On Earth, and Amanda Gorman's #1 New York Times Change Sings. Jim lives in New York City with his wife and son.


Aneeka Kalia (she/her), Associate Editor, Viking Children’s Books/Penguin Young Readers

Aneeka Kalia is an associate editor at Viking Children’s Books, focusing primarily on picture books and select contemporary middle grade and young adult graphic novels. She gravitates toward character driven stories and stories that explore themes of home and community. When she’s note editing, Aneeka likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, do yoga, spend time outside, cook, and try new restaurants in New York City.


Katie Mazeika (she/her), Author-Illustrator

Katie Mazeika is an author and illustrator who can’t imagine a better job than making books. She loves creating characters that make an impression. Katie specializes in telling stories based on real people and events and likes to highlight disabled voices in her work. When she’s not drawing Katie likes to spend her time gardening or reading other people’s books. Katie currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.


Lillian Mazeika (she/they), Agent, Tugeau 2 Agency

Lillian Mazeika is an agent at the Tugeau 2 Agency. Coming from an art background herself, Lillian loves engaging with creators and seeing them bring stories to life. Lillian enjoys graphic novels and is always on the hunt for spooky stories and diverse voices. However, she really just adores all things kidlit. When she isn’t working, you can find her at a concert or flea market.


Emma Otheguy (she/her), Author

Emma Otheguy is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture books A Sled for Gabo, Martina Has Too Many Tías, and the award-winning bilingual picture book Martí’s Song for Freedom. She also authored the middle grade novels Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene, Silver Meadows Summer, and, with Adam Gidwitz, The Madre de Aguas of Cuba, part of the Unicorn Rescue Society series. Visit her at


Merrill Rainey (he/him), Author-Illustrator

Growing up, Merrill Rainey spent most of his Saturday afternoons drawing, watching monster movies, and going on imaginary adventures. Today, he is a cowboy-boot-wearing, picture-book-creator and paper-toy-maker. Merrill’s work focuses on exploring creativity and imaginative play. His current titles include Roar! I’m a Dinosaur (winner of the Good Housekeeping Best Kids' Board Book of 2022), Oink! I’m a Pig, and the Color, Cut, Create series. His newest illustrated title Giants Are Very Brave People, written by Florence Parry Heide, is a reimagined classic picture book about a little giant that learns to be brave with the help of a new friend. Merrill also works for many children’s magazines like Highlights, Ranger Rick, and Humpty Dumpty. You can see more of his work at or follow him on instagram @littlerainey.


Lindsay Ward (she/her), Author-Illustrator

Lindsay Ward is the author and illustrator of over two dozen picture books. Her most recent books include Pink Is Not A Color (Two Lions, 2022) and The Capitol: A Meet the Nation’s Capitol Book (HarperCollins, 2022). Lindsay is the founder of Critter Lit, a free picture book manuscript and illustration critique service for up-and-coming authors and illustrators. Lindsay lives in Peninsula, Ohio with her husband, author Frank Tupta, three sons, dog, Sally, and a flock of ducks. Visit her online at or follow her on twitter @lindsaymward.

Meet Our 2023 Offsite Critique Faculty


Foyinsi Adegbonmire (she/her), Editor, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan

Foyinsi Adegbonmire is an Editor at Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. She acquires Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, from contemporary to mystery to grounded science-fiction, and enjoys lighthearted stories with conversational narrative voices. She was named a 2021 PW Star Watch Honoree and her acquisitions include New York Times-bestseller Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. When not reading or thinking about her very large TBR pile, she can be found watching Black sitcoms from the 90s/early 2000s and fictional crime shows, or obsessing over bullet journaling. **Foyinsi will critique middle grade and young adult fiction. She prefers contemporary, romance, (lighthearted) fantasy, or grounded sci-fi (like our world in the future/with advanced tech).**


Alyson Heller (she/her), Executive Editor, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

Aly Heller is an Executive Editor with the Aladdin imprint, where she is lucky enough to acquire and edit a range of titles, focusing on chapter books and middle-grade. She is drawn to stand-alone stories and young series from underrepresented voices that focuses on joy and everyday life, complicated friendship and sibling dynamics, tough stuff in the chapter book/ middle grade space, and books that will make a reader feel a little less alone in the world. Aly does non-fiction middle-grade books about historical and contemporary figures who have made an impact and continue to inspire. **Aly will critique picture books (fiction and nonfiction); middle grade (fiction and nonfiction); chapter books (fiction and nonfiction). She will also critique novels in verse.**


Caitlin Johnson (she/her), Associate Editor, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Caitlin Johnson is an Assistant Editor at Balzer + Bray. She’s had the pleasure of working on titles by Stacey Abrams, Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, Sonora Reyes, Maulik Pancholy, B.B. Alston, Jasmine Warga, and Julie Murphy, among others, and oversees the backlist publishing program for the bestselling Big Nate series. Her favorite stories are layered, voice-driven contemporary and fantasy narratives that authentically center diverse, intersectional perspectives. She is looking to acquire young adult, middle grade, and picture book fiction of all stripes, as well as selective nonfiction and graphic novels. **Caitlin will critique picture books, middle grade, and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. She's open to all genres except horror.**


Alex Robertson (she/her), Associate Editor, Candlewick Press

Alex Robertson is an Associate Editor at Candlewick Press. She is passionate about amplifying and creating space for new voices and perspectives. She received her BA in English Literature and Spanish Language from Northwestern University. She is proud of all the books she’s had a hand in working on, but she is very excited for Phoebe Sinclair’s Confessions of a Candy Snatcher set to publish August 2023.


2023 Conference Information