Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Faculty Bios: A Golden Gate Year


Meet our Faculty

Our deep dive into the craft and business of publishing is guided by top-notch experts in the children’s writing and illustrating industry. Read more about them below!


Uma Krishnaswami, Keynote Author

Uma Krishnaswami’s novel, Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (Tu Books/Lee and Low), won an Asian Pacific American Award for Literature and the FOCAL award from LA Public Library. A nonfiction middle grade, Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum) is due out in 2021. Uma teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Recommended Books: Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh  by Uma Krishnaswami, Bright Sky Starry City by Uma Krishnaswami, Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami


Charles Santoso, Keynote Illustrator

Charles Santoso loves drawing little things in his little journal and dreaming about funny, wondrous stories. He gathers inspiration from his childhood memories and curiosities he discovers in his everyday travels. He is the creator of Happy Hippo picture book and has illustrated books for publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Disney Hyperion, Abrams, Bloomsbury, Little Brown, and MacMillan. One of the picture books, Ida, Always – written by Caron Levis has received several awards and was mentioned in the New York Times as “an example of children’s books at their best”. He also illustrated the New York Times bestseller Wishtree book by Katherine Applegate. Charles moves around between different countries to live and work. You can visit him at
Recommended Books: The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell, The Bookstore Cat by Cylin Busby, Ida, Always by Caron Levis, This Way, Charlie by Caron Levis, Dandy by Ame Dyckman



Jenn Bailey, Freelance Editor

Jenn Bailey’s debut picture book, A Friend for Henry, won ALA’s 2020 Schneider Family Honor Book award, was named a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, was chosen as a 2021-2022 Virginia Reads selection, and is currently featured in the Boundless exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Jenn is thrilled to welcome the following books onto the shelves soon: Meowsterpiece (2022); The 12 Hours of Christmas (2023); Henry, Like Always (2023); and Henry TBD (2024).

Jenn works as a freelance editor at Angelella Editorial and Reedsy. She is a technical editor for a civil engineering/environmental consulting firm, and she is the acquiring editor for a small educational publisher.

When Jenn isn’t writing, editing, baking pies, or tending to her assortment of cats and dogs, she is traveling with her husband, Kevin, searching for the perfect donut.

Lionel Bender, Editorial Director 

Lionel is the founder and Editorial Director of book packager Bender Richardson White (BRW), which creates and produces illustrated nonfiction books for publishers in North America. Lionel has edited more than 1,300 books for 30 different publishers; commissioned 120+ authors; written 72 children’s nonfiction books; and  self-published 8 nonfiction books. He was the founder and co-organizer of the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, held in the USA from 2013 to 2016. Lionel has spoken at SCBWI Regional Conferences in the USA, Canada, and the UK, and has been on Faculty at the Highlights Foundation. He has been a regular visitor to U.S., Bologna, and other international book fairs for more than 30 years. For examples of BRW books, see

For Conference Roundtables, Lionel will be accepting nonfiction submissions only.


Recommended Books: EyeWitness: Inventions by Lionel Bender, 1,001 Facts About the White House by Sarah Wassner Flynn, Uncovering the Past: Analyzing Primary Source—Gold Rushes by Natalie Hyde


Kandace Coston,  Assistant Editor, Lee and Low Books

Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher in New York City. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, where she spent weekends at the library reading stories and writing her own. After graduating from Barnard College, Columbia University, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and illustrators and helping their projects grow into published picture books. In both fiction and nonfiction, Kandace loves strong, female protagonists as well as any story that can make her laugh. 

For Conference Manuscript Critiques and Roundtables, Kandace will be accepting picture books, middle grade, and young adult submissions.

Recommended Books: The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan by Joan DiCicco, Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of The People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus


Grace Kendall, Senior Editor at MacMillan

Grace Kendall works on a wide range of material from picture books to YA novels, fiction and nonfiction. She publishes exciting projects from debut authors, seasoned veterans, and award-winners, including Mama Africa! by NBA Winner Kathryn Erskine, illustrated by CSK John Steptoe Winner Charly Palmer; You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, which was a Walter Honor, South Asia Book Award Winner, and a NBA Nominee; Kirkus Prize finalist The Other Side by JP Villalobos; and All the Boys Aren’t Blue, a memoir-manifesto by newcomer George M. Johnson. Grace also publishes ongoing series, like the Jasmine Toguchi chapter books by Debbi Michiko Florence.

For Conference Manuscript Critiques and Roundtables, Grace will be accepting picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction submissions.


Matthew Ringler, Executive Editor at Scholastic

Matthew Ringler is an executive editor at Scholastic specializing in chapter book and middle grade. He works on the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, The Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles, the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat series by Julie Falatko and the Caster series by Elsie Chapman. Standalone middle grade titles include Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson and Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon.

For Conference Manuscript Critiques and Roundtables, Matthew will be accepting middle grade and young adult submissions only.

Recommended Books:  Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School by Julie Falatko, Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon, Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson




Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Agent at Red Fox Literary

Stephanie Fretwell-Hill is a literary agent with a sales and editorial background. After starting her career in foreign rights at Walker Books in the UK, Stephanie moved home to the US as an acquiring editor at Peachtree Publishers. In 2016, she joined Red Fox Literary where she represents authors and illustrators of fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, and YA. Some of her clients include Beth Anderson, Michael Belanger, Carolyn Crimi, Christina Soontornvat, and Archana Sreenivasan. Stephanie lives in North Carolina with her English husband, two very small daughters, and a rescued border collie.

For Conference Manuscript Critiques and Roundtables, Stephanie will be accepting picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction submissions.


Jennifer March Soloway, Associate Agent at Andrea Brown Literary

Jennifer March Soloway is an associate agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult. She adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. To learn more about Jennifer, follow her on Twitter, @marchsoloway, and find her full wish list at

For Conference Manuscript Critiques and Roundtables, Jennifer will be accepting picture books, middle grade, and young adult submissions.

Recomended Books:  Private Lessons, by Cynthia Salaysay, This Is My America by Kim Johnson, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, How to Build A Story…Or the Big What If by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Stacy Ebert



Lindsay Lackey, Author

Lindsay Lackey is the author of the bestselling middle grade novel, All the Impossible Things (Roaring Brook Press), which was named a Best Book of 2019 by the New York Public Library, Denver Public Library, and Children’s Book Review, and was a 2020 WILLA Literary Award Finalist in Children’s Fiction and Nonfiction. Before she became an author, Lindsay trained as an opera singer, worked in children’s and teen services at a public library, and as a marketing and publicity coordinator for a major publishing house. Born and raised in Colorado, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their spoiled dogs.

Recommended Books:  All the Impossible Things  by Lindsay Lackey, Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido, The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy, Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Picture Us In the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee



Emma Bland Smith, Author

Emma Bland Smith is a librarian and the author of 13 books for children. Her first picture book, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, won Bank Street College’s Cook Prize. Her most recent nonfiction picture books include Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires, Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator (a Kirkus Best Book of 2020), and The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share, which has earned two starred reviews and a Junior Library Guild honor. Coming up, she has nonfiction books about Alcatraz, the Eiffel Tower, and Robert McCloskey’s famous ducks. Emma lives in San Francisco with her husband, two kids, dog, and cat (but no wolves, alligators, pigs, or ducks—so far). She finds inspiration in the beautiful world around her, and believes that one of the best things about being an author is getting to visit wonderful places –and then craft stories about them. Visit her online at

Recommended Books: The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share by Emma Bland Smith, Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith, Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires by Emma Bland Smith, To Live on an Island by Emma Bland Smith, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7 the Most Famous Wolf in the West by Emma Bland Smith



Diana Toledano, Illustrator, Teacher, Author

Diana Toledano is a Pisces with curly hair and glasses. She makes children’s books, loves patterns and speaks English with an accent. She has illustrated books in languages that she can’t even speak. Diana (Dee-Anna) grew up in Spain, where she studied Art History and Illustration. Now she lives in Sacramento with her husband, baby and two fluffy cats. When she is not writing and illustrating, Diana teaches workshops for kids and adults. She loves doing school visits and speaking at conferences.

Recommended Books: Rocking Bed of Dreams by Cari Meister, Polly Diamond and The Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair by Alice Kuipers, One Snowy Day by Diana Murray




Abigail Hing Wen, Author

Abigail Hing Wen is the New York Times Best Selling Author of Loveboat, Taipei, a romantic comedy following the journey of Ever Wong in her summer in Taipei. Loveboat, Taipei has been optioned for film by ACE Entertainment.  Abigail holds a BA from Harvard, a JD from Columbia Law School, and an MFA from the Vermont School of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing stories or listening to her favorite scores, she is busy working in artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley, where she lives with her husband and two sons. For more information: Follow IG/Twi: @abigailhingwen.

Recommended Books: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen




Sonia Antaki, Author

Award-winning author Sonia Antaki was born in Egypt. Of Swiss, British and Syro-Lebanese ancestry, she came to the U.S. as a child. Before discovering her passion for middle grade and young adult fiction, she had several careers–as a professional singer, a financial analyst, a Tony-nominated Broadway producer and an advocate for arts and Native traditions. Red Dove, Listen to the Wind, her middle-grade historical novel, has won multiple awards. The next book in the trilogy–Red Dove, Tell Truth to Darkness–comes out in Spring, 2021. Sonia and her amazing dog Ziggy live in California.

Recommended Books:Red Dove, Listen to the Wind by Sonia Antaki (published by Red Chair Press/One Elm Books), Red Dove, Tell Truth to Darkness (to be published spring 2021)


Lynne Ann Biscay, Critique Connection Coordinator

Lynne Ann Biscay loves her critique partners more than chocolate. They’ve become friends along the writing way, and in hopes of helping other creators find their own gems, Lynne Ann serves as the Critique Connection Coordinator for our region. She’s organized the Critique Swap at the Golden Gate conference for several years, and she serves as the region’s liaison to Linden Tree Bookstore. Lynne Ann is a member of the Peninsula MG Lunchbreak group and enjoys deep dives into craft. She lives in Los Altos with her husband, kiddos, dog, and chickens that lay green eggs. She is currently completing her first middle grade contemporary fantasy.


Diana Farid, Author

Diana Farid is a writer, filmmaker and Stanford University physician and clinical assistant professor of medicine. Her poetry has been presented in journals, gallery exhibits and live storytelling events. When you Breathe (2020, Abrams) is her debut picture book about the poetic science of breathing. When not writing or doctoring, you can find her in a grove of towering redwood trees, making music with her husband and four children.

Recommended Books: When you Breathe by Diana Farid


Faith Kazmi, Author

Faith has been a member of SCBWI since 2016, and has participated in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge, as well as numerous KidLit conferences and courses. She is actively involved in a strong critique group with amazing PAL authors and is currently writing picture books and middle grade novels. Social justice and collective liberation are incredibly important efforts to strive for, and Faith is excited to be working with the regional SCBWI chapter (SF/South) on their first Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion team. In her day job she works with college students on issues of gender, equity, identity, and justice. Faith lives in the Bay Area with her partner, an amazing, energetic child, and a fun-loving/loyal mini-goldendoodle.




Faith Pray, Author/Illustrator

Faith Pray (yes, that’s her name by marriage) is the author-illustrator of The Starkeeper (Random House, June 2020) and Perfectly Imperfect Mira (Little Brown, 2022). She regularly wrangles four kids (twins plus two) and two cats in the Pacific Northwest. Faith has been making up stories since she was small, but when a stroke left Faith struggling to find herself as a writer again, she turned to art as a way back to stories. She is passionate about rainstorms, coffee, literacy, finding silver linings, and growing kindness everywhere. Faith works in pencils and watercolor with a sprinkling of digital magic on top. Twitter: @faithpray7 Instagram: @faith.pray Facebook:

Recommended Books:  The Starkeeper, by Faith Pray, Once Upon a Timely by Lynn Parrish Sutton, illustrated by Faith Pray, Kane Miller/Usborne




Darcey Rosenblatt, Author

Darcey Rosenblatt writes for middle grade and teenage people because she believes for them stories can be life changing – they were for her.  Her debut novel Lost Boys (Henry Holt for Young Readers) was released in August 2017. Darcey is a cofounder of the annual Better Books Workshop for middle grade and young adult writers. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and the best dog in the world.


Recommended Books: Lost Boys by Darcey Rosenblatt