A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Chad Beckerman, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

Get ready for our Picture Book Crossover Webinars coming in March! These webinars are for writers interested in illustrating and illustrators interested in writing. For our illustrator-based webinar, “Finding Your Story as an Illustrator,” we’ll host literary agent Chad Beckerman from the CAT agency. In preparation for the webinar, our illustrator coordinator, Berrie Torgan-Randall invited Chad to have a virtual chat here at EasternPennPoints. Here’s what they had to say!

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Chad Beckerman, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

Berrie: Hi, Chad. Would you like a beverage from our virtual café? I see in your profile picture from your website that you are holding a mug—What is typically in that mug? 

Chad: Well, that depends on the season. Right now you will find some hot coffee, which then turns into iced coffee around May and then will shift back and forth to seltzer until fall, then back to coffee. 

Berrie: What does the CAT agency do? How are you and the CAT agency different from other literary agents and agencies?

Chad: The CAT agency is primarily an illustration agency, but we are expanding to include more author-only representations. Just last year we brought on Jyoti Chand and sold her debut graphic novel, Fitting Indian, to Harper Alley. What I believe sets us apart is the ability to communicate with illustrators from an illustrator perspective and help them create their own work from that perspective. We are a very close group inside of the CAT agency. We love the boutique quality about our team that gives us the time to be available equally for all our illustrators.

Berrie: What are the most important illustrations to have on an illustrator’s website? And what information should illustrators include? 

Chad: Over the course of a year I may review a few hundred portfolios. Some illustrators are looking to start working in the children’s book field, some into editorial. No matter what area you may want to go into, I am looking for illustrations that highlight the subject matter that the illustrators are interested in. If you love illustrating mushrooms, I want to see that in your work and how you would explore that subject matter with unique compositions that show us how you solve visual problems. “Enjoyment equals better drawings,” to quote the illustrator John Hendrix.

Berrie: What illustration styles are you attracted to—painterly, cartoony, abstract, etc?

Chad: I am interested in all styles or looks. But I am mainly interested in illustrators that have found a comfortable process to create images that communicate the illustrator’s intentions clearly and most importantly highlight the illustrator’s poetic response to the story, or in other words, their voice.

Berrie: How do art agents discover new talent? Instagram contests? Twitter challenges? Meeting illustrators at conferences? Do illustrators still send you postcards?

Chad: I can’t speak for all agents. I personally like Instagram. I am on it all the time, which may or may not be healthy. But I love diving down a rabbit hole of illustration. My suggestion to illustrators is to treat their Instagram pages and stories with the same consideration as they do with their websites. My guess is that folks will find you through Instagram before they get to your site, so might as well make a good impression.

I also teach a professional practices class with the MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art] grad program that allows me to be in touch with what is happening in the classrooms. I also keep an eye out for talent that comes from SCBWI programs and contests. 

I used to be a big fan of the postcard, but now with everyone out of the office, I am not sure it has the same punch.

Berrie: I see on your website that you work with illustrators on a one-to-one basis. Can you describe what illustrators should expect when working with you?

Chad: Yes, This is something I do that is completely separate from my agency or art direction work. I love helping illustrators discover their work. At first we have a 30- to 40-minute chat where we discuss their picture book dummies or figure out what their work is communicating to art directors and editors and better help them highlight their work to put them in the best position for getting more work or the work they want. This is all meant to be able to help highlight a consistent look to their work as well as highlighting subject matter and compositions that highlight the illustrator’s voice. It’s my belief if you can tap into both of these areas you can set yourself up for a longer career.

Berrie: What advice do you have for illustrators who are just starting out?

Chad: Give a project everything you have. Put forth yourself to make the books a fully thought-out package. Don’t wait for someone to tell you there should be an endpaper design or a title page image. Think of all the images of a book as part of how you are telling the story. All these elements add up to the reader’s experience of the work and your work. Be sure to lead your story. A great example of an illustrator that does this is Dan Santat or Jon Klassen. Another piece of advice is to always be working on a personal project! I know so many stories of successful works that started with this path. You are doing a project that is about something you are passionate about. This could be anything! Your passion will be what intrigues someone else to be interested.

Berrie: What is the best part about your job?

Chad: The best part, of course, is getting folks and helping them set up their path to a long career in books. To represent someone is to stand up for them and vouch for them. You are a team. 

Lightning Round!

Berrie: You have worked with Jeff Kinney on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Chad: Fregley. I think he is a hilarious oddball. Do I relate to him? Not really, but I do admire that he is a character that is okay with who he is no matter how weird others think he is.

Berrie: You work for the CAT Agency. Do you have a cat or some other four-legged creature living with you?

Chad: I will let you in on a funny secret. The CAT agency is 50/50 Cats and dogs. I did have a cat, Kentucky. He was found 16 years ago under a dumpster at a KFC in Brooklyn. He was a good pal, but we lost him last year. Now I have a new buddy—an Irish doodle named Arlo.

Berrie: If you could name a crayon color, what would it be called and why?

Chad: This is, by far, the hardest-hitting question you have asked me. I am partial to the blue in the sky just at sunset. When all the colors in the sky seem to be the extreme of themselves. Coucher de soleil Bleu. In French, of course, since it sounds fancy.

Chad W. Beckerman brings over 20 years of illustration and design experience to the CAT Agency. He was the Creative Director at ABRAMS Kids, where he spent 13 years overseeing the design of 250 books a year – from picture books, to novels, and graphic novels. He executed the design architecture for countless series and is behind the aesthetic for over forty NY Times bestselling and award-winning books including the blockbuster Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney and The Questioneers (Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist). As an Agent, Chad is seeking illustrators who know how to use their voice and solve problems on their own terms.

Illustration Credits

Cat Agency logo: Matt Schumacher (he/him) https://catagencyinc.com/#/matt-schu/

Girl drawing cat: Maithili Joshi (she/her) https://catagencyinc.com/#/maithili-joshi/

Dog on bike with cats: Nik Henderson (he/him) https://catagencyinc.com/#/nik-henderson/

Cat with fish: Violeta Encarnacion (she/her) https://catagencyinc.com/#/violeta-encarnacion/

Cat on laptop: Bethany Crandall (she/her) https://catagencyinc.com/#/bethany-crandall/

Cat chasing treat: Chris Danger (he/him) http://www.catugeau.com/#/new-artist-chrisdanger/

Black cat with candle: Mira Miroslavova (she/her) http://www.catugeau.com/#/mira-miroslavova/

Cats in car: Audra Winslow (they/them) https://catagencyinc.com/#/audra-winslow/

Webinar Information

Finding Your Story as an Illustrator with literary agent Chad Beckerman

March 16, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time

A picture may indeed be worth a thousand words, but one illustration in an artist’s portfolio may be the start of an amazing new story. Even if you don’t currently have any story drafts or ideas, this session will challenge you to find the story in your art. 

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/picture-book-crossover-webinars/

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An Interview with Upcoming Webinar Presenter: Agent Maria Vicente, by Heather Stigall

Today on the EasternPennPoints blog we are featuring an interview by Heather Stigall with literary agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency. Maria will be presenting at the upcoming webinar “Visual Thinking for Picture Book Writers.” To learn more about the webinar and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/picture-book-crossover-webinars/

Heather: Maria, thank you so much for agreeing to present “Visual Thinking for Picture Book Writers” to our Eastern PA SCBWI members on March 6, 2023, as part of our Picture Book Crossover series. I’m looking forward to your webinar!

I read in your bio that you have a background in teaching and you use it to offer informative workshops to aspiring authors (like you’ll be doing for our Chapter). How does your teaching experience help you in your role as an agent?

Maria: Teachers need to present information in a clear and concise manner to a group of students with a range of experience levels on the topic. That’s probably the most transferable day-to-day skill to my role as a literary agent. This skill does help me prepare and present workshops, but it also allows me to break down complicated publishing industry topics for my clients—like explaining what everything means in a publishing contract.

My experience teaching also allowed me to explore the best ways to provide constructive criticism, which is so helpful when reviewing my clients’ new manuscripts and discussing the best ways to move forward with potential revisions.

Heather: I’m sure your clients appreciate your background and experience! In your webinar, you will be talking about how to master the art of visual thinking as a picture book author. Can you give our readers an example or two of published picture book authors who, in your opinion, have mastered the art of visual thinking?

Maria: I believe most published picture book authors—especially in recent years—have mastered the art of visual thinking in one way or another. I mention Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson (Chronicle Books, 2015) a lot when talking about picture books because it’s a clear example of the reader seeing things in the art that are not explained in the text of the story. Barnett left so much room for art to be a part of the reading experience in that book.

These picture book authors always impress me with the way they use the combination of text and art to tell a story:

Heather: Ooh—you’ve mentioned some of my favorites! I see what you mean about Barnett leaving plenty of room for Robinson’s illustrations in Leo. Picture book authors often hear the advice to leave room for the illustrator but to also avoid art notes. Can you share a few tips on the appropriate use of art notes?

Maria: I would revise that advice to avoid unnecessary art notes. Sometimes art notes are crucial to understanding the story—and often, those are the picture book manuscripts that stand out to me because they seem to consider how the illustrations will enhance and work together with the manuscript.

If something occurs in your picture book story that the text on the page does not explain (something that you need the art to reveal), then that should be included in an art note…as long as it’s an important storytelling element. The whole point of art notes is to make sure the reader understands the full story.

Let’s use an example from Lily’s Cat Mask by Julie Fortenberry (Viking Books, 2017) as an example. On one of the pages in this picture book, a child (Lily) wearing a mask is standing outside on a patch of grass. The text on this page tells us that Lily “liked to hide her face.” This text is missing an important piece of information: Lily is wearing a mask. We can see this visually in the final book, but without an art note in the manuscript document to explain that Lily is wearing a mask, the reader wouldn’t know how Lily is hiding her face. 

There are also elements in this page’s illustration that you would not need to include in an art note, even though the text of the manuscript does not call attention to them. The reader doesn’t need to know Lily is standing outside on a patch of grass on the left page; the location isn’t important to understanding the story. Extra details like this are how an illustrator can put their own spin on a picture book, and so they don’t need to be addressed (or directed) by the writer at the manuscript stage.

Heather: Great examples, thank you! Your website says you prefer “literary” picture books, and you name your client, Cat Min’s, Shy Willow as the “perfect example” of your taste in picture books. Shy Willow is beautifully written and illustrated! Can you share a bit about what you mean by literary picture books and why you love them?

Maria: In my opinion, “literary” picture books include more sophisticated text. For younger readers, these books are often read aloud to them rather than used as a tool in their own learning-to-read journey, because the text might use words or sentence structure common for a more advanced reading level. “Literary” picture books are also quieter in tone. For example, rather than laugh-out-loud humour, they might explore difficult topics and concepts, or take readers on a whimsical journey. Celebrating the written word can make a book more “literary”—beautifully formed sentences always catch my attention! Many picture books written like poems also fall into this category. Black Gold (HarperCollins Children’s, 2022), written by my client Laura Obuobi and illustrated by London Ladd, is a perfect example of the poetic prose I love to read in picture books.

Art definitely comes into play here, too. I gravitate towards illustrations that utilize/mimic “traditional” art styles (watercolour, pastels, etc.), and book spreads that could be framed as individual pieces of art, rather than more “commercial” and “cartoon”-influenced styles. You’ll notice all the quotation marks in my answer—defining genres, categories, and styles is such a subjective thing. The next person you ask this question to will likely have a completely different answer!

Heather: So true! Can you give us a sense of your tastes by telling us some other recently published books that you love and why?

Maria: Absolutely. Here’s a handful of recommendations to get a sense of those “literary” picture books I love so much (and the art styles that appeal to me as well):

  • The Little Toymaker by Cat Min (Levine Querido, 2022)
  • This Story is Not About a Kitten by Randall de Sève and Carson Ellis (Random House Studio, 2022)
  • Namaste is a Greeting by Suma Subramaniam and Sandhya Prabhat (Candlewick, 2022)
  • The Perfect Rock by Sarah Noble (Flying Eye Books, 2022)
  • Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho (HarperCollins Children’s, 2021)
  • Little Witch Hazel by Phoebe Wahl (Tundra Books, 2021)
  • Birdsong by Julie Flett (Greystone Kids, 2019)
  • Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus (Dial Books, 2019)

Heather: Again, you’ve named some of my favorites here, but I haven’t read them all—yet! Thank you for the recommendations. Now for some fun! What is your superpower? Your kryptonite?

Maria:  My superpower is redlining publishing contracts. My kryptonite is vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Heather: Mmmm. Now I have a craving for mint chip ice cream. I think I’ll have a bowl while I read some of your recommended picture books. Thank you so much for your time, Maria. We’re all looking forward to your webinar on March 6th. See you then!

Maria Vicente is a Senior Literary Agent and Advisor at P.S. Literary representing bold and innovative books for kids, teens, and curious adults. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada, reading and selling books from the Atlantic Ocean shore. Maria is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents (PACLA).

Webinar Information

Picture Book Crossover: Visual Thinking for Picture Book Writers

March 6th, 2023 at 7pm Eastern

The best picture books make equal use of words and art to tell a story. Even if you’re not an illustrator, it’s important to master the art of visual thinking if you want to be a successful picture book author. This session will challenge us to think critically about the role of art in picture book manuscripts.

For more information and to register, go to: https://epa.scbwi.org/events/picture-book-crossover-webinars/

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Member News—January 2023

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org or fill out our “Good News Survey” before the 20th of the month.

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Cover Reveal and Preorder Information

A Book for Bear by Ellen Ramsey

Author Ellen Ramsey recently revealed the cover for her upcoming debut picture book, A Book for Bear (Flamingo Books/Penguin Young Readers, July 2023). The book is illustrated by MacKenzie Haley. A Book for Bear tells the story of a book-loving bear and a book-loving girl who hatch a plan to find the perfect book for them to read together. But sneaking a bear into school, a library, and a bookstore proves harder than they thought. Will Bear ever find the perfect book, a book the color of ripe, red raspberries and delicious to read? Preorder information is available on Ellen’s website at https://www.ellenlramsey.com/.

Upcoming Publication and Book Launch Event

Finley: A Moose on the Caboose by Candace Spizzirri

Author Candace Spizzirri’s second picture book, Finley: A Moose on the Caboose, will release with Gnome Road on April 18, 2023 and is available for preorder now. Finley, a friendly moose with a toothy grin wants nothing more than to ride the rails across Alaska and beyond but “Rules are rules” and wild animals aren’t allowed on trains . . . or so says Conductor Jones. Finley finds a costume shop and tries to pass for anything but wild, and in the end, Finley has something Conductor Jones doesn’t see coming—heart and determination—showing us all that there are some rules in life that are meant to be changed. A book launch is scheduled for April 22, 2023 at 1:00 at the Barnes & Noble in Exton, PA, and she’d love to see you there! You can find out more about her on her website at www.candacespizzirri.com and connect with her on Twitter @CCSpizzirri1, on Instagram @CCSpizzirri, and on Facebook @CandaceSpizzirri.

Upcoming Publication

The Secret Life of the Flying Squirrel illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

Illustrator Kate Garchinsky’s latest book in the Secret Life series, The Secret Life of the Flying Squirrel, is due to release in April 2023 from Astra Young Readers. Written by Laurence Pringle, the book follows a year in the life of Volans, a flying squirrel, as she glides in the night air to hunt for food, deftly avoids danger from a raccoon, and gives birth to three tiny pups before preparing once again for the coming winter. Filled with intriguing facts and Kate’s gorgeous illustrations, readers will be fascinated by the story of these remarkable rodents. This latest title in the Secret Life series has been vetted by a flying squirrel expert and includes back matter with more in-depth information, a glossary, and further resources.

Deal Announcements

Author Nicole M. Wolverton’s YA debut, A Misfortune of Lake Monsters was acquired by Sue Arroyo at CamCat Books with Elena Gibson editing. A Misfortune of Lake Monsters tells the story of a high school senior whose college plans are disrupted when she is tapped to take over the family business of impersonating her town’s infamous lake monster—only to discover a very real lake monster eating its way through the populace. Publication is set for summer 2024.

Ann Kelley at RH Studio has acquired Together We Are Sunshine by author Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow, which will be illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. Together We Are Sunshine is a picture book that celebrates sisterhood in which three girls navigate the natural world and their own relationships. Publication is slated for summer 2025.

Allyn Johnson at S&S/Beach Lane Books has bought world rights to Where the Deer Slip Through by author Katey Howes, which will be illustrated by Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes. Where the Deer Slip Through is a cumulative picture book about the wide range of wildlife that slips in and out of a quiet, protected meadow near a country house. Publication is planned for summer 2025.

Award Announcement

Miosotis Flores Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice Burgos

Hilda Eunice Burgos has received a Gold Standard Selection award from Junior Library Guild for her middle grade novel Miosotis Flores Never Forgets (Tu Books, 2021). Miosotis Flores is excited about three things: fostering rescue dogs, goofy horror movies, and her sister Amarilis’ upcoming wedding. But her papi wants her to care about school more than anything else, so they strike a deal—if Miosotis improves her grades in two classes, she can adopt a dog of her own in the summer. Miosotis dives into her schoolwork, and into nurturing a fearful little pup called Freckles. Could he become her forever dog? At the same time, she notices Amarilis behaving strangely—wearing thick clothes in springtime, dropping her friends in favor of her fiancé, even avoiding Miosotis and the rest of their family. When Miosotis finally discovers her sister’s secret, she faces some difficult choices. What do you do if someone is in danger, but doesn’t want your help? When should you ask for support, and when should you try to handle things on your own? What ultimately matters most—what Miosotis wants, or what’s right for the ones she loves?

Recent Publication

Izmelda the Fairest Dragon of Them All! by Joan Marr

Author Joan Marr’s debut picture book, Izmelda the Fairest Dragon of Them All!, recently released on January 10. The book is illustrated by Lala Watkins and is published by Union Square Kids. It tells the story of a fairy-tale loving dragon who longs to befriend a princess, but the princess she meets, Penelope, isn’t quite as into fairy-tale tropes. No matter—with a little understanding, a prompt from some witches, and some creative fun with cupcakes, they figure out how to make their friendship work! Find out more about Joan on her website at www.JoanMarrBooks.com and follow her on Twitter @joanmarrbooks.

If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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A Cafe Chat with Senior Executive Editor Wendy Loggia, by Lindsay Bandy

As February approaches, we are excited to host the webinar “Tips, Tropes, and Trends: Romance” on February 6 with editor Wendy Loggia of Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books. Wendy will give advice on how to approach the topic of romance in MG and YA novels. In preparation for the event, Lindsay Bandy had a virtual chat with Wendy for EasternPennPoints. Here’s what they had to say.

A Café Chat with Senior Executive Editor Wendy Loggia, by Lindsay Bandy

Lindsay: Hi there, Wendy, and welcome to the EasternPennPoints Café! As you settle in to our cozy booth, can we get you something to drink? How about a little something to munch on? A leftover holiday treat, perhaps? 

Wendy: How nice of you to offer! Let’s go with a hot mug of Earl Grey tea with a little honey on the side and some shortbread. 

An overhead shot of cookies and paper snowflakes on a golden tray. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Lindsay: Super choices. I’ll have a vanilla chai latte and some of my mom’s oatmeal raisin cookies. (Thanks, Mom!) Okay, so you’ve got me feeling all the nostalgic warm and fuzzies already, between holiday treats and your recent picture book biography of Lucille Ball! I Love Lucy was a staple of my childhood on Nick at Nite, and I love seeing her introduced to a new generation. But what’s it like to switch hats between author and editor?  

Wendy: It’s energizing—my day as an editor is spent as a liaison between departments, attending meetings, making sure the bookmaking is moving along, and, of course, being there for my authors—and in truth, a lot of writing. I write editorial letters, cover copy, and plenty of emails but having the chance to tell a story and to think creatively in the way a writer does is something I love to do. And the projects I’ve written are not always in line with the projects I edit—I’ve never edited a biography, for example, which made the Little Golden Book on Lucille Ball such a fun story to take on—so having the chance to write outside my day job expertise is a thrill. 

Lindsay: Our upcoming webinar will be focused on romance, so who are some of your all-time favorite couples?  

Wendy: Ahh, great question! George and Mary Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life), Cathy and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Rose and Jack (Titanic), Mallory and Jake (28 Summers), Belle and the Beast, Lucy and Ricky! And so many of the couples in the books I’ve worked on. 

Lindsay: Let’s talk chemistry. Whether it’s a middle school crush or a love story that spans decades, there’s that elusive spark that makes a couple compelling. But when I think back to chemistry class in high school, it was all formulas and numbers! How do writers balance the formulas of romance while keeping the spark alive? 

Wendy: There are so many tropes, right? Friends to lovers, grumpy sunshine, enemies to lovers, fake dating, the list goes on. It’s those writers who can take a trope and make it their own, through the worlds they build, the characters they create, and the situations said characters find themselves in—that’s what keeps the spark of reading alive and in turn, the romance. I’ve read hundreds (thousands?) of romance proposals and manuscripts and it’s those writers who are able to create something new and different that I’m continually drawn to. Ali Hazelwood, Stephanie Garber, and Jesse Q. Sutanto are writers that keep me on my toes. I always know I’m in for something fresh—something swoony—when I pick up one of their books. 

Lindsay: Some of our readers might be writing under the romance genre, while others might be incorporating romance into a comedy, mystery, thriller, or historical novel. When it comes to YA, what sets romance apart as a genre? 

Wendy: It’s a happy escape and so needed right now. What I’m looking for in a romance is, firstly, romance (you’d be surprised at how many “romance” manuscripts have come my way that have, um, no romance) great dialogue, a plot that pulls me in, characters that are relatable to our teen audience, and always, always, always, a happy ending.  

Lindsay: Um, Wendy, I think it’s time we had THE TALK. Wait! No! Please don’t run away! I just need to know . . . what about sex in YA fiction? As a librarian, I’ve seen YA trending “older” in recent years, with more mature themes and content. As an editor, do you see that trend continuing, and do you have any “rules” about dealing with sex both responsibly and realistically while writing for teens?  

Wendy: Responsibly and realistically are what’s important to me. I’m continually thinking of our readers ages 11 to 16, knowing that we have adult readers as well, and knowing that not every 15-year-old is the same or looking for the same type of book. Although many of the books we publish fall into the “crossover” territory, the tween/teen reader is always who I have in mind when acquiring and when editing. Open-door romance, closed-door romance, sweet romance—I’m open to all kinds of romance for YA, though if you’re in the spicy romance category I’d say you’re probably writing for adults or teens who gravitate toward adult romance and, therefore, not for us.  

Teens are reading Colleen Hoover, and I love that she has a graphic on her website with her books identified into three categories: YA, which she classifies as 14+ instead of the typical 12 and up; Mature, 17+; and Whoa, Very Mature/Dark. Our readers are learning about relationships—what’s healthy and positive, and what isn’t.  

Books provide a safe space—seeing a character navigate the ups and downs of crushes, first love, first relationship, first heartbreaks can inform how they approach relationships in real time. Our Underlined paperback romances tend to be of the sweet variety, books that you could hand to an 11-year-old that wants a little romantic plotline; when it comes to more mature themes/content, if it’s right for the story, I have no qualms about a writer going there—I trust the instincts of the authors I work with. 

Lindsay: Okay, Wendy, we’ve lured you in with treats and asked you the hard questions. Now it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Take a deep breath and think fast! What’s your favorite . . . 

Type of weather: Sunny autumn day in the Northeast, the leaves in full array 

Footwear: #BirkenstocksForever 

Musical artist: Luke Bryan, Harry Styles, Roxy Music, and anything dance/pop 

Comfort food: My homemade mac & cheese 

Vacation spot: The beach—nothing beats watching the tide at golden hour 

Place to read: In transit (bus, plane, train)—a book makes the time go so much faster 

Lindsay: Whew! You did it! It has been a delight having you as our guest today! We can’t wait to hear all of your tips and ask you even MORE questions in February!  

Wendy: Thank you! Can’t wait. 

Wendy Loggia is VP/Senior Executive Editor at Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books, where she edits MG/YA fiction, oversees Underlined, a line of YA genre paperbacks, and Joy Revolution, an imprint focusing on YA romance by and about POC. Recent titles she’s edited at Delacorte include, in middle grade, Dear Student by Elly Swartz, Mine by Delilah S. Dawson, the SInister Summer series by Kiersten White and the Sisters Ever After seriesby Leah Cypess; in YA, French Kissing in New York by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau; The Island by Natasha Preston, Small Favors by Erin A. Craig, Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon, and The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart; and for Underlined, Killer Content by Kiley Roache and Salaam, With Love by Sara Sharaf Beg. She is also an author of books for tweens and teens, and her books have been published in multiple languages. All I Want for Christmas is her latest novel and for young readers, A Little Golden Book: Taylor Swift will be out this May. Follow her on Instagram at @authorwendyloggia and @wendyloggia on Twitter.

Webinar Information

Tips, Tropes and Trends: Romance

February 6, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.

Love is in the manuscript this Valentine’s season! Whether you’re writing a MG crush, a romantic subplot, or a full-on genre YA romance, join us for some practical advice, a look at some common tropes (a.k.a. frequently appearing situations or plots in romance manuscripts), and a discussion on the general direction of market trends. Don’t forget to bring your questions for a time of Q & A at the end of the evening.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-tips-tropes-trends-romance/

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Lunch with Friends, by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington

Isn’t it fun catching up with old friends for lunch? Sometimes the conversations can take an interesting turn! Look for comics by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington on the third Friday of each month here on the EasternPennPoints blog.

Lunch with Friends

Christopher-James Bolognese-Warrington is an illustrator/graphic designer who, along with his wife, owns Kelsey and C.J. Creative Studio. Prior to starting their own studio, C.J. graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as an in-house graphic designer and illustrator. C.J. creates whimsical illustrations with bright colors and quirky characters, which offer a glimpse of his view of the world. When not at his drawing desk, C.J. can be found on long walks with his wife and dog, debating whether pasta or pizza is best.

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Rachel Orr, by Kristen Strocchia

Next month we’ve got a fun webinar for all those animal lovers out there! “Yakkity Yak: Animal Protagonists in Picture Books” will be led by literary agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency on February 7 at 7:00 p.m. To gear up for this event, our webinar coordinator and assistant regional advisor of Eastern PA SCBWI, Kristen Strocchia, invited Rachel to a very special variation of our virtual café. Check it out!

Kristen: Hi, Rachel! Welcome to our virtual WILDLIFE café. Let’s grab our snacks and go find some cool animals to hang out with. I think I’d like an iced horchata and a bag of these dark chocolate roasted almonds. What’s your pleasure?

Rachel: I’ll take a large Americano with cream and sugar, please. And I’m not a huge snacker, but could I try some of those dark chocolate roasted almonds? I love anything chocolate. 

Kristen: Absolutely!

Rachel: Yum! These are great. Thanks for sharing!

Kristen: Oooh, check out those goats climbing the picture book tree house. Let’s go!

So, it seems like animal protagonists have been a staple in children’s literature since the beginning of storytelling. What makes an anthropomorphic character so appealing to storytellers and audiences?

Rachel: One strength of an anthropomorphic character is that it allows much more freedom for a writer. Think about classics such as Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Are Friends and James Marshall’s George and Martha One Fine Day. Since these characters pretty much function as independent adults, it means that there are no parents around. Let the fun begin! Also, it can be easier to stomach a lesson if the protagonist is an animal (though, of course, no lesson should be heavy handed, whether the protagonist is an animal, a human, or a fire hydrant).

Kristen: Okay then, let the animal fun begin! I totally can’t resist—let’s take the slide down to the petting area.

I’m glad that in your webinar you’ll be talking about animal protagonists that are overdone. Two pop to mind immediately, so, I’m curious to see what your research shows. But why do you think certain animals get cast more than others?

Rachel: Well, I think there’s a difference between animals that are done often, and those that are overdone. Dogs and cats typically appear in picture books—probably because they’re popular pets and, thus, familiar to most readers. They also aren’t limited by their environments the way fish, birds, and reptiles might be. For these reasons, they frequently appear in books on the lists of most publishers—and there is usually room for more. But sometimes there are more unusual animal protagonists that pop up in the marketplace—and become overdone. For example, after the popularity of the young chapter book series Narwhal and Jelly, there were suddenly several picture books starring narwhals. Publishers may have room on their list for one narwhal book, but definitely no more than that.

Kristen: Speaking of unusual animals, I can’t believe we’re actually holding Madagascar finger monkeys! But I might have to trade mine for a chance to hold that pink fairy armadillo over there.

I’ve heard there are several factors for determining when to and when not to cast an anthropomorphic character. Who ultimately gets to make that decision?

Rachel: Well, there are some instances in which the text dictates that the protagonist needs to be an animal. For example, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s Chicks Rule! clearly needed to star, well, chicks. But often illustrators will play an important role in making that decision, either based on their own visions for the story, or what animals they’re good at drawing. Editors will also offer their opinions based on what they feel will be strongest for the work—and most marketable, too.  

Kristen: It’s nice to know that’s a decision that can be made in the editorial process and that it’s not necessarily a deal breaker when submitting. 

Oh cool! A machine that lets us imitate animal sounds. It’d be fun to hear myself as a spring peeper. Want to try?

Rachel: Sure! Sign me up for the hyena machine. I love a good laugh!

Kristen: That sounds awesome!

Are there any cliché animal voices in picture books?

Rachel: I’m not sure about voices, per se, but there are some subjects that I see more often than others—such as barnyard stories, or stories that focus on the names of baby animals, or collective nouns of animals. Those stories certainly have an important place in the market, but they’re just not for me.

Kristen: And for our illustrator friends, what’s the number one piece of advice you have for illustrating anthropomorphic characters?

Rachel: One important decision that an illustrator needs to make is whether or not to dress anthropomorphic characters—and, if they are dressed, then how much clothing are they wearing? My tip is to make a decision and stick with it, being consistent throughout the story. If one animal is clothed and another is not, that gets a little uncomfortable.

Kristen: That’s super helpful, and something I wouldn’t have thought of as a writer.

Umm, don’t look now, but there’s a prairie dog stampede headed our way.

We better speed this up. Answer in a sentence or less:

Which animal would you like to . . .

  • Run with? A tortoise, because then I have a chance of winning the race.
  • Dance with? An okapi, obviously. They already look like they’re wearing leg warmers!
  • Bring to story time? Geeko, my pet leopard gecko. He would be very well behaved, since he’s nocturnal.

Kristen: What’s your favorite MG book with an animal?

Rachel: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. (The audio book—read by Danny DaVito—is hilarious!)

Kristen: Your favorite animal from childhood?

Rachel: My huge stuffed whale that I would hold while rocking myself to sleep.

Kristen: Prairie dog crisis averted—nice job! Thank you so much for joining me here today, Rachel. I’m really looking forward to diving deeper into the world of animals in picture books with you on February 7.  

Rachel: Thanks so much for having me! Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from that event. I can’t wait!

Rachel Orr is celebrating her sixteenth year at Prospect Agency, where she represents both authors and illustrators in projects ranging from picture books through YA. She previously worked for eight rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books and uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Leeza Hernandez (ROXIE LOVES ADVENTURE), Mike Ciccotello (TWINS), Cori Doerrfeld (THE RABBIT LISTENED), Susie Lee Jin (NOT AN EGG!), Yuko Katakawa (LET’S SCARE BEAR), Molly Ruttan (THE STRAY) and Todd Tarpley (LIBRARY BOOKS ARE NOT FOR EATING). In addition to frequently speaking at SCBWI events (which she loves!), Rachel has served on the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature for over a decade. A native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Kenyon College, she currently lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two children, where she enjoys dancing, running and reading, of course. 

Webinar Information

Yakkity Yak: Animal Protagonists in Picture Books

February 7, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time

For picture book authors and illustrators!

In this webinar, Rachel Orr from Prospect Agency will look at the wide range of animals in picture books—both anthropomorphic and in the wild. She’ll discuss the benefits of casting an animal as your protagonist (and when it’s best to use humans), the appearance of animals as minor characters, and animal subjects that tend to be overdone. Rachel will also talk about animal books that she has recently sold, as well as the role of animal stories—both classic and current—in today’s marketplace.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/yakkity-yak-animal-protagonists-in-pbs/

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Member News—December 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org before January 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Recent Publication

The October 2022 issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk, features a poem by Elizabeth Fletcher

A children’s poem by author and poet Elizabeth Fletcher entitled “I Am the Dragon” appeared in the October issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk (Hiraeth Publishing, October 9, 2022). The poem is a fantastical tale of the flying adventures of a dragon and a young girl as they journey toward friendship. The print magazine features short stories, poems, art and more in science fiction, fantasy, and “shadow stories” for ages 9 to 99. You can purchase issues and find out more at https://www.hiraethsffh.com/spaceports-spidersilk-1.

Recent Publication

Rosa the Little Ant and the Great Big Elephant by Dainty Nix

Author Dainty Nix has recently released the picture book Rosa the Little Ant and the Great Big Elephant, published by LifeRich Publisher on November 16, 2022. Rosa is a little red ant whose home was destroyed by elephants. Rosa and the rest of the ant colony ran far, far away from all elephants. They built Ant Village way up high in a beautiful Acacia tree. One day while lying on a branch in her beloved tree, Rosa suddenly falls to the ground as an elephant munches away on the branch. It is then that Rosa vows to protect her home from all harmful creatures. Will Rosa find the courage and strength to protect her home from future attacks? The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart and LifeRich websites. Dainty has several picture book manuscripts in progress and is currently working on a middle grade book entitled Growing Up Peaches. She will be receiving her Certificate in Children’s Book Writing from the University of California San Diego Extension.

Deal Announcements

Author Melissa Trempe has announced that her book Ladybug Launch: Inspired by a True Story of Chinitas in Space, co-authored by Natalia Ojeda, has been acquired by McElderry Books and is scheduled for publication in spring 2024. This picture book, which will be illustrated by Manu Montoya, tells a story of persistence as a ladybug, who dreams of becoming an astronaut, teams up with a girl who aspires to be a scientist. Their tale is based on Dr. Ojeda’s real-life experience as part of an all-girls class in Chile who convinced NASA to send the first ladybugs, or chinitas, into space.

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow has announced that her picture book When You See Me, has been acquired by Erica Finkel at Abrams. The book tells the story of a girl who feels invisible in her all-white class and finds friendship and community with a new Muslim student. When You See Me will be illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani and will be released in spring 2024.

Cover Reveal

The Do More Club by Dana Kramaroff

Author Dana Kramaroff has revealed the cover for her debut middle grade novel, The Do More Club. The cover was illustrated by Chelen Ecija. Ever since twelve-year-old Josh Kline found an antisemitic note in his family’s mailbox in third grade, he has felt uncomfortable about his Jewish identity. At a new school where he’s pretty sure he’s the only Jew, he’s hoping to just keep religion out of everything . . . until the morning someone sprays swastikas all over the building. That’s when everything changes. In one of the school counseling groups set up in response to the attack, Josh finally reveals that he is Jewish, and quickly finds out there’s more to the other kids in his grade too: All of them have their own struggles. Maybe Josh can do something to help—to “repair the world” as his rabbi teaches, by starting a Do More club to spread kindness. But making a difference is never simple, even when you have new friends by your side. The book will be published by Rocky Pond Books and is set to release August 29, 2023.

If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

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Snow, by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington

Who’s ready for winter? Eastern PA SCBWI is! We’re wishing you lots of creative ideas in the new season. Look for comics by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington on the third Friday of each month here on the EasternPennPoints blog.


Christopher-James Bolognese-Warrington is an illustrator/graphic designer who, along with his wife, owns Kelsey and C.J. Creative Studio. Prior to starting their own studio, C.J. graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as an in-house graphic designer and illustrator. C.J. creates whimsical illustrations with bright colors and quirky characters, which offer a glimpse of his view of the world. When not at his drawing desk, C.J. can be found on long walks with his wife and dog, debating whether pasta or pizza is best.

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A Cafe Chat with Goodjelly Founder Christine Carron, by Rona Shirdan

Need help boosting your creative output? Managing time for your writing or illustrating? Taking charge of your own creative journey? Check out our first webinar of the new year, “Take Charge of Your Creative Adventure,” led by process improvement maven Christine Carron. This webinar will be sure to turn your New Year’s Resolutions for writing and illustrating into results. Then, as conference season approaches, be sure to check out our second webinar with Christine Carron in April, “Power Up Your Conference Experience.” In preparation for these webinars, our Co-Regional Advisor Rona Shirdan had a chat with Christine at our virtual EasternPennPoints café. Check it out!

A Café Chat with Goodjelly Founder Christine Carron, by Rona Shirdan

Rona: Hi, Christine! Thanks for joining me in our EasternPennPoints virtual café. I love this place! I’m going to try a caramel latte and an almond croissant. Let me know what you would like to eat and drink as we chat.

Christine: I’ll take the chocolate vegan cupcake and a cinnamon tea, please. Though once you get that in front of me, I may need a moment to refocus. That level of yum is going to be distracting. 

Rona: Can you tell us a little about Goodjelly and what brought you to create it?

Christine: Absolutely. It all got started at my first SCBWI conference in New York many years ago. A group of writers sitting nearby on a break were discussing challenges they were experiencing on the writing adventure. I’ve been a process improvement consultant and project manager for over twenty-five years, so whenever I hear anyone experiencing frustration about how something is working (or not), my ears perk up.

What struck me was that none of their struggles had anything to do with their writing or their craft. Instead, they were experiencing what I would call project management issues: managing work, managing mindset, managing time, etc. The thought that popped into my head was: the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. That with a little process- and project-management know-how, writers could make their writing adventures so much easier. 

That notion eventually became the driving premise behind Goodjelly, and this month marks our two-year anniversary of helping writers create more ease, confidence, and consistent progress, i.e., get their writing done, using project management fabulosity. 

Rona: Congratulations on the anniversary! What are the Goodjelly principles, and what results can we expect when we apply them?

Christine: Thank you! I would say at the highest level that Goodjelly is about helping writers take charge of their Process, their Power, and their Perspective. Those are big concepts, but at the simplest level, I think of them like this: When a writer, or any creative, has a set of practices (Process) that aligns with how they like to work (Power) and is in charge of the tone (Perspective) of their creative adventure, everything gets easier

Will you still experience challenges, disappointments, and frustrations? Sure, but any challenge is more easily met when you are rocking your perfect mix of Process, Power, and Perspective. 

Rona: Ah, so that’s why both of your upcoming webinars have a thread related to POWER. 

Christine: Yes. In everything Goodjelly does, the goal is to return writers to themselves, to their inherent power and trust in themselves. It’s a powerful thing to stand in the clarity of This is right for me. This isn’t. Yet that can be challenging (and scary at times) for many writers, including me, to do. 

But when we don’t do that—when we don’t trust what is right for us (which will be completely different than what is right for another writer)—that makes the adventure harder. We end up doing things that we don’t want to do, such as staying in a critique group that is no longer serving us, and not doing things that we want to do, like a writer who doesn’t write the vampire book that they’ve wanted to write since forever because an article in Publisher’s Weekly said that vampire stories are so yesterday. 

From a Goodjelly perspective, Power is both the inner knowing that you actually matter on your writing adventure, and the inner oomph to take the actions needed to align with that truth. That’s when writers really start creating adventures that they love being on no matter what.

Oh my. Did I get too carried away there? I’m a bit passionate about all this stuff. 

Rona: I like it. It’s good stuff. Do your concepts apply to illustrators too?

Christine: Absolutely. They work for anyone on any kind of creative adventure. 

Rona: Your April webinar focuses on the conference experience. We now know that Goodjelly originated at an SCBWI conference, which is a fun note, but how do the Goodjelly concepts play into attending a conference?

Christine: Yes, regarding the fun SCBWI connection with Goodjelly’s origin story, which also makes this interview a lovely full circle moment as well. 

As to conferences, those are actually a hotbed of possibilities for applying Goodjelly principles. We make big financial and time commitments to attend, we want to get our money’s worth, to learn everything we can, to have fun, to make important connections, to network, to pitch, and . . . oh my, it’s a lot. And that’s without even diving into all the emotional components of a conference experience like nerves, imposter syndrome, the extra stress those types of social contexts pile on introverts, etc.  

That all means that the Goodjelly principles can be applied in a myriad of ways. Process, for example, will help you to digest all the new information and inspiration you’re taking in. Power will help you navigate the experience in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. Perspective will help you balance the hope that something magical will happen, like getting a publishing deal on the spot, and the differently positive reality that “all” that might happen is that you grow as a writer or as an illustrator, make new connections, and are inspired to keep going. 

The conference presentation I’ll be delivering in April is actually one of my favorite ones to teach. The framework is really easy to apply and totally empowers folks to take charge of their learning experience. 

Rona: Are there any books that are currently helping you on your writing adventure? 

Christine: I am all over John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story and have been for a while now. Shoutout to Chris Tebbetts for recommending it to me. It took me a year to warm up to the process Truby outlines for crafting a story, but now that I have, I’m finding his approach extremely grounding and helpful. 

Rona: Thanks so much for spending time with us today. Before we close, what’s one fun thing you would like to share about yourself?

Christine: I once spent a month in Argentina dancing tango every day and every night until the wee hours of the morning. Fantabulous!

Rona: Excellent! Where can our readers learn more about you and Goodjelly?

Christine: Stop by at goodjelly.com. On Instagram @leagueofgoodjelly. If anyone wants a free audio lesson and worksheet on how to handle any block, get that here. Thanks so much!

Process improvement maven Christine Carron has helped individuals and teams function more effectively for over twenty-five years. Her clients call her The Wolf meets Mary Poppins due to the rigor, focus, and fun she brings to whatever she does. Christine writes middle grade and young adult fiction and is the founder of Goodjelly, where she helps creatives use process, power, and kindness to unleash their creative progress.

Webinar Information

January 17, 2023 at 7:00pm Eastern time:

Take Charge of Your Creative Adventure with Christine Carron

Session Description

Much of the creative adventure is out of a writer’s or illustrator’s control, which can often make the process feel daunting, overwhelming, and even demoralizing. Hello, fifty gazillionth rejection. There are, however, ways to move forward with more ease and confidence no matter the twists and turns your journey takes. 

In this webinar, you will learn the important difference between taking charge of your creative adventure and trying to control it. You will also discover how to stay centered in your creative power, rather than inadvertently giving it away. This webinar includes a presentation along with interactive and reflective activities. You will leave with a renewed sense of confidence and possibility for the adventure ahead. 

Who will get value from this webinar?

Writers and illustrators at any level will benefit from this webinar. Research has shown “that when people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves.”* This webinar focuses on helping writers and illustrators maintain a positive mindset by staying centered in their creative power.

* Shawn Achor, Positive Intelligence, Harvard Business Review Magazine, Jan-Feb, 2012.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/take-charge-of-your-creative-adventure/.

April 20, 2023 at 7:00pm Eastern time:

Power-up Your Conference Experience with Christine Carron

Session Description

Do you have a tendency to go into overwhelm at conferences? Or perhaps you take reams of notes that you never refer to again? Or maybe you have the best intentions to integrate all the new ideas and techniques you learn but end up putting hardly any of them into practice? Maybe even none at all? Do you then feel guilty and frustrated, knowing you could have gotten more value and growth from your investment?

Enough with that. Let’s conference differently. In this webinar, you will learn Goodjelly’s Ground, Gather, Grow™ framework that you can use forevermore to power-up your conference learning experiences.

Who will get value from this webinar?

Writers and illustrators at any level will benefit from this webinar. The Ground, Gather, Grow™ framework will show you how to set yourself up for success before, during, and after a conference so that you get measurable and lasting value out of your conference investments. 

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-power-up-your-conference-experience/

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2022 Banner Challenge Winners Announced

We recently held our third annual illustration challenge for new banners to grace the top of our website, blog, and our social media profile backgrounds. Our banner changes every six months on November 30 and May 31. Eastern PA illustrators were encouraged to submit banner entries for either Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer. We had many beautiful and creative submissions and we thank all who participated.

And now for the winners!

The banner chosen for the current Fall/Winter season was illustrated by Rebecca Hoenig!

A little about Rebecca:

Rebecca is a lifelong book lover and artist. Growing up in a family of English professors, surrounded by mountains and mountains of books and oodles of paper and pencils, it was inevitable that she would want to make her own books.

Rebecca has a BA in Art History and an MFA in Bookarts/Printmaking. After working in the commercial printing industry and museum publishing, she became an art teacher. She recently retired after over two decades as a Museum Educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where she had the opportunity to write many educational materials for children. She also illustrated a coloring book that has been reprinted several times and given to thousands of preschool students before their visit to the museum. 

Rebecca joined SCBWI in 2016 on the recommendation of acclaimed author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli who was her teacher at a class that she took at the University of the Arts. 

After actively participating in Eastern PA SCBWI events and working and reworking her portfolio and first manuscript, she is finally ready to take a leap of faith and begin looking for an agent who can help her realize her dreams.

The banner chosen for the upcoming Spring/Summer season was illustrated by Kaela Parkhouse!

A little about Kaela:

Kaela Parkhouse is an illustrator, painter, and enamel pin designer. Gesture and expression through line quality is her favorite way to convey thoughts and feelings in art. Her ultimate goal is to write and illustrate picture books and graphic novels that explore relationships and connections between people (or animals!).

Her largest achievement to date is not in illustration, but in science: She worked at the University of Pennsylvania and studied the mRNA vaccine platform before it was approved to be used in humans. She hopes her stories might help young people the way her contributions to science have helped people.

Kaela and her family live in Philadelphia with three cats and a blue-tongued skink named Kevin.

A big thank you to all who submitted artwork for our banner contest! We plan to change our banner every six months, so stay tuned for next year’s banner contest if youd like to participate.

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