Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2020 Writers’ Day Speaker Bios & Critiquer Preferences

Speakers & Critiquers are presented in alphabetical order by last name

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; and a YA biography, Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist. Her latest book is a picture book, The Voice of Liberty, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. A past president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, Angelica is an advisory board member for the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and a member of SCBWI and the Authors Guild. Her website is



Bruce Hale

Edgar-nominated author-illustrator Bruce Hale is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to open books (and actually read them).  He has written over 60 seriously funny books for children, including the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, Snoring Beauty (one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids), and the Clark the Shark books, one of which ended up in a McDonald’s Happy Meal (not the way you think). An actor and Fulbright Scholar in Storytelling, Bruce is in demand as a speaker, having presented at conferences, universities, and schools around the world, from New York to New Delhi.

Critique Preferences: Fiction only picture books, chapter books, & middle grade

Sharon Langley

Sharon Langley is a Baltimore native who became known as the first African American child to enjoy Gwynn Oak Amusement Park when it opened to the public without segregation on August 28, 1963.  A Ride to Remember, co-authored with Amy Nathan and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is her debut picture book. She is also a poet: her upcoming chapbook is a collection of poems written during the pandemic.  Her next book for children, Freedom Songs to Sing Along, features social justice songs for young allies and activists. Sharon is a former elementary school teacher and literacy/intervention coach. She lives and writes in Los Angeles, California. 


Rebecca Langston-George

Rebecca Langston-George is the author of thirteen nonfiction books ranging from picture books to young adult including For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story and The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame and the Death of President Lincoln, a Scholastic Book Club young adult selection. She’s the regional advisor for SCBWI CenCal and a 2016 recipient of the California Reading Association’s Armin Schulz award for children’s writing in social justice. Twitter @RebeGeorge 

Critique Preferences: Nonfiction only and will accept picture books, middle grade or young adult

Marissa Moss

Marissa Moss, Publisher at Creston Books, has written more than seventy children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade and young adult novels. Best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series, her books are popular with teachers and children alike. In 2013, Moss founded Creston Books, starting the small children’s press with a Kickstarter campaign. Dedicated to strong storytelling, the creator-centered house hopes to give debut and established authors a bigger role in their books, from design to marketing. Each list of four titles has a good balance of picture book and older readers, debut authors and well-known names, and strives to showcase the very best in children’s books. Of the nineteen titles published so far, a third have earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, three are Junior Library Guild selections, one was named a Notable Book for Social Studies, one an Outstanding Trade Science Book, Cook Honor Book, Eureka Gold Medal Winner, and Amelia Bloomer book, and three made the Kirkus Best Books lists.

Critique Preferences: Fiction or nonfiction picture books and middle grade.

Claire Annette Noland

Claire Annette Noland writes books for children from her home in central California where she lives with her husband Michael and her standard poodle mix, Mr. Ernie. In previous chapters, Claire has been a children’s librarian, reading specialist, and kindergarten teacher. She is passionate about connecting children with books through library collections she is developing in Nicaragua, her local women’s shelter, and her little free library.  She loves to travel but these days is visiting new places through books which she shares on her blog A Field Trip Life. Her debut picture book, Evie’s Field Day, released by Cardinal Rule Press in May, 2020.

Alexis O’Neill

Alexis O’Neill  is the author of fiction and nonfiction pictures books including The Recess Queen (Scholastic Press);  The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge (Calkins Creek); Jacob Riis’s Camera; Bringing Light to Tenement Children (Calkins Creek); and The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey (Calkins Creek). Alexis is the recipient of the California Reading Association’s Dr. Marcus Foster Memorial Award for making significant and outstanding contributions to reading throughout California. She served as Regional Advisor for Central-Coastal California and is an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Critique Preferences: fiction or nonfiction picture books only.

Terry Pierce

Terry Pierce is the author of twenty-four books for young children. Her most recent works include Love Can Come in Many Ways, Soccer Time!, Mother Earth’s Lullaby, and Mama Loves You So. She loves playing with words and creating books that will hook children into becoming lifelong readers. A former Montessori teacher of twenty-two years, she now writes full-time and teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Terry holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Please visit her at

Critique Preferences: fiction only picture books, easy readers, and boardbooks

Zeena M. Pliska

Zeena M. Pliska spends her days immersed in the joy of 5-year-olds.  She is a kindergarten teacher by day and a children’s book author by night in Los Angeles, California.  A progressive public school educator, she believes that the most important aspect of teaching is listening to children.   A lifetime storyteller, she has facilitated stories as a theater director, visual artist, photographer and journalist.   Her debut picture book, Hello Little One:  A Monarch Butterfly Story from Page Street Kids came out May 12, 2020.  Her second picture book Egyptian Lullaby from Roaring Brook Press is due out in 2021. 


Sherry Shahan

Sherry Shahan has nearly 40 children’s books to her credit, pre-school thru young adult, fiction and nonfiction. She’s also widely published in children’s magazines such as Highlights, Cricket, Boys Life and many more. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and taught a course in picture book writing for UCLA Extension for 10 years. 

Critique Preferences:  Fiction or nonfiction and will accept picture books, middle grade or young adult.

Erin Siu

Erin Siu is an Associate Editor at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, where she oversees MCPG’s paperback imprint, Square Fish, and acquires and edits picture books, middle-grade and young adult for Feiwel & Friends. She has a soft spot for stories about multicultural experiences, family relationships, and first love, and she’s worked on several children’s books including, You Are Enough by Jen Petro-Roy, The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen Bischer, and Finding Mr. Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff. Before joining MCPG, she studied Comparative Literature and Music at NYU. She grew up in California surrounded by redwood trees and constantly wonders why she doesn’t still live there. Check out her wish list or find her on Twitter: @erinssiu.

Critique Preferences: fiction only–picture books, middle grade or young adult.

Shari Swanson

Shari Swanson ( earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an appellate lawyer, with many published cases, and a former middle school language arts teacher. Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln is her debut picture book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and their dog, Honey.





Erik Talkin

Erik Talkin thought of himself as exclusively a YA and MG writer – urban fantasy, sci-fi, punk rock, and now he finds himself the author of a sensitive picture book on hungry kids. Funny old world. In a previous life, his short film, The Gallery, starring Helena Bonham Carter was selected for the London Film Festival. He has won an International Television Association Award for writing and directing educational drama and his theatrical work has been produced on the London Fringe. He holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.



Leslie Zampetti

After much experience as a librarian and writer, Leslie Zampetti became a literary agent. Her clients include Ann Clare LeZotte (SHOW ME A SIGN) and Lisa Rose (THE SINGER AND THE SCIENTIST, 2021). Leslie represents picture books through young adult, but middle grade is her sweet spot. At the moment, Leslie is seeking more humor (dry or sweet, not gross), mysteries for all ages, and friendship/sibling/found family stories. Inclusivity and stories by marginalized creators are a priority for her. @leslie_zampetti

Critique Preferences: fiction or nonfiction picture books; Fiction ONLY for middle grade (her sweet spot) or young adult.