Our Instructors

Our courses are taught by a magnificent gaggle of talented professionals from all facets of the children's book industry.

Instructor Directory

Jim Averbeck

Jim Averbeck recently moved to Colorado, after spending many years in San Francisco, California. His first book, In a Blue Room, was a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book. His popular books, Except if and Oh No, Little Dragon! feature charming protagonists with pointy teeth.

His picture book, The Market Bowl, and his middle-grade novel, A Hitch at the Fairmont, were Junior Library Guild Selections. One Word From Sophia, was an Indie Next Top 10 pick for Summer 2015.


Spy agencies can find Jim online at jimaverbeck.com.​



Arree Chung

Arree's Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award.

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle-grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.



Carter Higgins

Carter Higgins wrote A Rambler Steals Home, a middle-grade novel from HMH, and three picture books from Chronicle Books: This Is Not a Valentine (Lucy Ruth Cummins), Everything You Need For a Treehouse (Emily Hughes), and Bikes for Sale (Zachariah Ohora). Carter has spent over a decade as an elementary school librarian, reading thousands of books to children. Her experience has made Carter a picture book wordsmith. She looks forward to helping you develop your own wordsmithing toolkit so that you can create amazing read-aloud experiences.




instructor photo: Alex Leon

Alex Leon

Alex Leon is a painter and a designer with years of experience in the game and animation industry, working with companies such as Warner Bros. Studios, TitMouse Animation, Pixar Animation, BrainZoo Studios, Crowdstar Games, and Red Robot Labs. He has worked on Cars 2 and Scooby Doo. The mobile games he's worked on include: Life Is Magic and Life Is Crime. He has also worked on a series of fine art gallery paintings.

Alex earned his BA at Art Center College of Design and UC San Diego. His experience at Art Center, as well as his work in the animation and video game industry, has given him a broad perspective of what it takes to succeed in the art industry.


Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Vanessa Brantley-Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement and attended school in Newark, NJ. Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person's life. When she read The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children's book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today.

As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as young reader.



Vanessa Brantley Newton Books


Melissa Manlove

Melissa Manlove is a senior editor at Chronicle Books. She acquires both non-fiction and fiction. Melissa looks for fresh takes on familiar topics, as well as the new and unusual.



Ariel Richardson

Ariel Richardson is an Editor in Children's at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She primarily edits picture books and board books, working on titles like What Color Is Night?Like the Moon Loves the Sky and A to Z Menagerie. She loves books with a global perspective, books about religious literacy and intersectionality, books that celebrate the power of the imagination, and books that push the boundaries of traditional bookmaking. She’s a children’s bookseller in her spare time and has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College.



Jannie Ho

Jannie Ho has been an illustrator of children's books for more than ten years.  Her work has appeared in both trade and educational books, magazines, toys, crafts, and digital media.  Currently based out of Boston, MA, she's also known as Chicken Girl. Jannie (pronounced Jane-nee) received her BFA in illustration at Parsons The New School of Design in New York. After graduating, she worked as an in-house graphic designer at Nickelodeon, Scholastic, and an art director at TIME Magazine for Kids. She left to pursue illustrating full time and hasn't stopped drawing since.



Jannie Ho Books


Ken Lamug

Ken Lamug is an author/illustrator and web developer based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

During the day, Ken builds websites, and in his evenings, you can find him making picture book stories, comics, and graphic novels. Nevada’s Featured Title at the National Book Festival for 2020 is Ken's wordless graphic novel, Petro and the Flea King.

Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency represents Ken's creative work.



Ken Lamugs Books

Marcie Colleen

Marcie Colleen's books are The Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series (Macmillan), Love, Triangle, illustrated by Bob Shea (HarperCollins), and Penguinaut!, illustrated by Emma Yarlett (Scholastic).

Through the years her books have garnered accolades and awards. Love, Triangle was named a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children's Book of 2018. And Penguinaut! was voted One Book Colorado for 2019! Over 75,000 copies were distributed to every four-year-old in the state.

Her latest picture book, The Bear's Garden, illustrated by Alison Oliver (Macmillan) was called “a well-illustrated, beautifully written tale of encouragement” by Kirkus and given a starred review.

She is a frequent presenter at conferences for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as a faculty member for The Writing Barn, San Diego Writer's Ink, and the University of California San Diego Extension. Her educational work in children’s literature has been recognized by School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Children’s Book Council.



Marcie Colleen's Books


Ben Clanton

Ben Clanton is the bestselling author/illustrator (or “authorstrator” as he says) of the Narwhal and Jelly series. He's also written and illustrated many picture books, some of which are pictured to the right. He wrote Curious Encounters, illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. And he has also illustrated several picture books with different authors.  Ben and his characters are represented by Marietta Zacker of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.



Ben Clanton's Books


Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster is the Education Director for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter Editor for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent over a decade teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 


Tim McCanna

Tim McCanna has been an actor, musician, musical theatre writer, graphic designer, and dad. That last one led to an interest in picture books.

Tim debuted as a picture book author with Teeny Tiny Trucks in 2013. He's also the author of the following picture books: Bitty Bot, Watersong, So Many Sounds, Barnyard Boogie!, Jack B Ninja, Boing! A Very Noisy ABC, and Bitty Bot's Big Beach Getaway, which was an ALA/LITA 2019 Golden Duck Notable Picture Book. 

As a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), he also served as Assistant Regional Advisor for the San Francisco/South chapter for five years. 

Caryn Wiseman at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents Tim's work.



Tim McCanna's Books


Kathryn Otoshi

Kathryn Otoshi is a bit of a unicorn: she's an author, illustrator, graphic designer, and publisher – all wrapped into one. Her mission “is to introduce young readers to big issues through the power of reading and literature.” To this end, she founded KO Kid's Books and Blue Dot Press.

Kathryn is an award-winning author/illustrator. Her books include: One, Two, Zero, Draw the Line, Beautiful Hands, Simon and the Sock Monster, and What Emily Saw. 


Katheryn Otoshi's Books


Kenard Pak

Kenard Pak has worked on animation for Dreamworks, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Disney Television, PDI Dreamworks, Laika, Blue Sky, Hornet, and Oculus Story Studio. 

He wrote and illustrated the following picture books: Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter; Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring; and Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. He has also illustrated various books.

Kirsten Hall at the Catbird Agency represents Ken's work.



Kenard Pak's Books


Jessixa Bagley

Jessixa Bagley graduated with a BFA in painting and printmaking from Cornish Cornish College of Arts. She has worked in comics, fine arts, and illustration, with her work appearing in publications like the following: HighlightsNickelodeon MagazineThe Chicago ReaderThe Stranger, and The Seattle Weekly. Working on picture books has been a lifelong goal for her.

Jessixa's picture books have all received a lot of positive attention. Her debut picture book, Boats for Papa, won many awards, including: a Fall 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection, the SCBWI 2016 Golden Kite Award for Best Picture Book Text, and the 2016 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award. The following year, Laundry Day garnered a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2016 and a 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for Writing. She collaborated with her husband on Vincent Comes Home. And her latest book, Henry and Bea, launched October 29, 2019! 

Alexandra Penfold at Upstart Crow Literary represents Jessixa's picture books, and Neal Porter edits them.



Jessixa Bagley's Books


Laurie Keller

Laurie Keller is an award-winning author/illustrator of many children's books. She won the 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for We Are Growing, her first early reader. Many of her books have some kind of educational or nonfiction element. Some have even been turned into fun educational videos. 



Laurie Keller's Books


Diana Murray

Diana Murray writes poetry and books for children. Her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines including Spider, Ladybug, Highlights, and High Five, as well as several anthologies. Diana recently moved from the Bronx to a nearby suburb, where she lives with her husband, two children, and a motley crew of pets. She is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House literary agency. Diana currently has fifteen picture books in print, with more coming next year!



Diana Murray's Books


Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction picture books. Some of her titles include: Water Is Water, Nine Months, Speak Up, Little Libraries, Big Heroes, Mia Moves Out, Blobfish Throws a Party, Are We Pears Yet, One Plastic Bag, 10 Little Ninjas, The Great Pasta Escape, Adventures to School, Whose Hands Are These, I am Farmer, and Trainbots. She also works as a literary agent for Erin Murphy Literary Agency.



Miranda Paul's Books


Kristine Brogno

Kristine Brogno spent over 20 years as the Art Director at Chronicle Books. She is currently the Associate VP, Design at Callisto Media.

Kristine has spent many years teaching and presenting at conferences.


Isabella Kung

Isabella Kung is the author and illustrator of No Fuzzball! (Scholastic, 2020), a picture book about a fuzzy feline despot who rules the house with an iron paw. She also illustrated over 120 cats for the board books 123 Cats and ABC Cats by Lesléa Newman (Candlewick, 2021). Her illustrations have received accolades from institutions such as the Society of Illustrators, Spectrum Fantasy Art, 3×3, Creative Quarterly, and SCBWI. 

Outside the world of publishing, Isabella is an educator and has shown her original artwork at galleries in California, Spain, and Singapore. Isabella currently resides in San Francisco with her husband and two adorable cats. She represented by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary.



Isabella Kung's Books

Julie Downing

Julie Downing was born in Denver, Colorado, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives in San Francisco, CA, where she can see a corner of the Golden Gate Bridge from her studio window.

Noted for rich, jewel like watercolor illustrations, she has illustrated over 50 picture books. Titles include: Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming, Tessa Takes Wing by Richard Jackson, The Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park, and First Mothers, a biography of all the mothers of the presidents. On First Mothers, Publisher's Weekly said: “Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mothers on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities.”

Downing has also written and illustrated several books of her own, including: White Snow, Blue Feather, No Hugs ‘till Saturday and her newest book, Hello, Moon published in 2021.

Julie's work has been featured at The Society of Illustrator's Original Art Show in NYC and has been exhibited at galleries throughout the United States and England.

She has won numerous awards for her work, including a Parent's Choice Award, the New York Public Library Best Books Award, APAAL Best Illustrated Book, and the Irma Black Silver Medal. She was selected to appear in Talking with Artists Too, a book about 12 of the nation’s best Children’s Book Illustrators.

Julie teaches watercolor and children’s book illustration to both graduate and undergraduate students. 



Julie Downing Books


Sage Blackwood

Sage Blackwood was an ESL teacher for many years, mostly to Central Yup'ik-speakers on the Bering Sea Coast of Alaska. After that, she taught TESOL and linguistics in the graduate teacher education program at Salem College in North Carolina. She quit the day job after selling her second book, a course of action she very seriously does not recommend. After writing her way out of that mistake, she now lives in Upstate New York and writes full-time.

Her books include JinxJinx's MagicJinx's Fire, and Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, published by HarperCollins. President Obama once bought a copy of JINX on a visit to a DC bookstore with his daughters.



Sage Blackwood Books


Shannon Anderson

Shannon Anderson is an award-winning author, speaker, and educator. She's the former SCBWI Regional Advisor and has published over a dozen books in the traditional market. To learn more about her, you can go to www.shannonisteaching.com.

Shannon Anderson has taught for 25 years, from first grade through college level. The highlight of her career was being named one of the Top 10 Teachers who inspired the Today Show in 2019. Shannon is also an award-winning children's book author and speaker. She served as the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Indiana. Over the past 10 years, Shannon has traditionally published over a dozen books and has more on the way.

Shannon was named the JC Runyon Person of the Year for her work writing and speaking on social and emotional topics. Some of her recent titles include Y is for Yet: A Growth Mindset Alphabet and Too Shy to Say Hi. She's excited for her upcoming growth mindset release, Yay! You Failed! Now that Shannon is writing and speaking full-time, her favorite part of the book business is connecting with her readers through author visits.



Shannon Anderson's Books


Dashka Slater

Dashka Slater is the author of nine children’s books. Her wildly popular Escargot picture book series uses both the first and second person, while her award-winning picture book The Antlered Ship which has been translated into a dozen languages, uses the third person. She has been teaching picture book writing classes online and in-person since 2006.



Dashka Slater's Books


Abi Cushman

Abi Cushman is the author-illustrator of Animals Go Vroom! (Viking, 2021) and Soaked! (Viking, 2020), which was a Kids' Indie Next List Top 10 Pick. She has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years, and runs two popular websites of her own: MyHouseRabbit.com, a pet rabbit care resource, and AnimalFactGuide.com, which was named a Great Website for Kids by the American Library Association. Did you know that wombat poop is cube-shaped? You do now! And no, you’ll never un-know that.In her spare time, Abi enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and two kids.



Abi Cushman's Books


Katherine Jacobs

Katherine Jacobs is an editor, teacher, and reader. She worked at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, for thirteen years where she edited picture books, middle-grade, and young adult titles. Some authors and illustrators she has had the privilege of working with are Jennifer Mathieu (Moxie), Mahogany Browne (Woke Baby), Gary Schmidt and Daniel Minter (So Tall Within), Andrea Davis Pinkney (Rhythm Ride), Julie Berry (The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place), and Shane Burcaw (Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse). Katherine holds a graduate degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts. She is currently senior acquisitions editor at ZonderKidz, the children’s imprint of Zondervan.



Mina Witteman

Becoming an architect was Mina Witteman’s childhood dream but all her designs invariably ended in words and stories. She dropped out and tried for a while to escape the pull of fiction, until she realized that, indeed, fiction is stronger than reality. Upon completion of the four-year course Writing Prose for Children at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the Master Book Editing at the University of Amsterdam, her middle grade debut Deedee’s Revenge came out in 2005, soon followed by more novels and stories. Her latest middle grade series Boreas is praised by readers, teachers and librarians alike. Its first book, Boreas and the Seven Seas, was focus title for the 2019 Dutch National Children’s Book Week, an honor that brought the book to every classroom, library and bookstore in the country. To date, Mina has seven middle grade novels out in the Netherlands, a Little Golden Book, and about forty short stories in magazines and anthologies.Mina lives in Berkeley, California, and writes in English and Dutch. She works as an editor, a  teacher of creative writing, and she mentors published and aspiring writers. In addition, Mina is the Director of Strategic Partnerships & Programming for Cinnamongirl, an-Oakland-based organization that supports girls of color destined for greatness, for which she designed and developed the year-round writing program Write Your Story.



Mina Witteman's Books


Scroll to Top