Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

CRAFTING CHARACTERS 2020 Conference Faculty Bios




Sheila Turnage

The Alchemy of Craft and Fiction

As a New York Times Bestselling author, Sheila is best known for her Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, and the award-winning Mo & Dale Mysteries series that followed. The mysteries feature eleven-year-old narrator Miss Moses LoBeau and her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson, III.  They’re set in tiny, fictitious Tupelo Landing, North Carolina – just down the road from Sheila’s real-life home. In addition to claiming a Newbery Honor, Three Times Lucky was a finalist for an Edgar Award and the EB White Read Aloud Award.  The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing represented the state of North Carolina at the National Book Festival.  The series includes two New York Times Bestsellers, regional bestsellers, and four Junior Library Guild award winners.

Sheila Turnage is also the author of Haunted Inns of the Southeast (John F. Blair, Publisher), Compass American Guide: North Carolina (Fodors/Random House), and Trout the Magnificent (HBJ).  Her articles have been published by Southern Living, American Legacy, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, among many others.

Sheila grew up on her family’s tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina and lives there today with her husband Rodney, their dog Callie, and too many chickens and guineas.  She’s writing a new novel set in North Carolina, to be published by Dial Publishing/Penguin Random House in 2021.





Tameka Fryer Brown

WRITING TRUE NORTH: Crafting Characters from the Heart

Tameka Fryer Brown is an award-winning picture book author. Her titles include AROUND OUR WAY ON NEIGHBORS’ DAY and MY COLD PLUM LEMON PIE BLUESY MOOD, which was lauded as a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, a Bank Street College Best Book, a CCBC Choices Best Book, an Abilene ISD Mockingbird Award nominee, a SIBA Book Award nominee, a Star of the North Picture Book Award nominee, and one of NYPL’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing. Her work is also featured in the much-heralded anthology, WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES. Brown’s most recent book, BROWN BABY LULLABY, was named an Amazon Best Book of the Year. TWELVE DINGING DOORBELLS, her fourth picture book, will be published in 2022 with Kokila. To learn more about Tameka Fryer Brown, visit





Aram Kim, Senior Designer at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Creating Memorable Characters Readers Will Fall in Love With

Aram is a writer and illustrator as well as a designer of picture books for children. She was born in Ohio, raised in South Korea, and now lives in Queens, NY, at the heart of diversity, happily surrounded by diverse food and culture. By day, she is a senior designer at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group designing picture books and middle grade books. By all other time, she writes and illustrates. Her titles include Cat on the Bus, No Kimchi For Me!, and  Let’s Go to Taekwondo! She is currently working on her next book to come out in spring 2021. 


(Please note: in addition to the above webinar, she will be offering an illustrator intensive: Picture Book Dummy Review. You can find more info on the main page.)




Kirk Benshoff, Designer/Art Director with Macmillan

*Kirk will be doing PORTFOLIO REVIEWS ONLY*

Bio: Kirk Benshoff is an accomplished designer/art director with Macmillan managing their First Second imprint with over twenty years of experience creating graphic novels, trade books, magazines, logos, illustrations, websites, and more. Self-directed, organized, and able to meet tight deadlines while maintaining the highest quality of work, he excels in communicating and collaborating in order to deliver top quality products and solutions to achieve the goal at hand. His approach centers around author care, determining objectives, staying on or under budget, on time, all while having fun designing. There are two dates for registrations that can be found on the main page. 






Brian Geffen, Editor at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

The Art of Characterization: How to Create a Winning Protagonist

Brian is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. He has worked with wonderful authors such as Julie C. Dao, Gregory Zuckerman, John Flanagan, Heather Kassner, Remy Lai, Katy Rose Pool, Rocky Callen, Christian McKay Heidicker, Oliver Jeffers, Loren Long, Lorna Scobie, and Andrew Maraniss, among others. Brian acquires a wide variety of young adult and middle-grade fiction, particularly fantasy, realistic contemporary, and action/adventure, as well as graphic novels and humorous picture books. Born and raised in Queens, NY, Brian is a fan of traveling, eating, rap, and learning foreign languages.



Kate Meltzer, Editor at Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Oh, What a Beautiful . . . Chapter One: Lifting the Curtain On Opening Chapters

Kate has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors such as Marie Lu, Melissa de la Cruz, and Matt de la Peña, among others. Kate acquires projects across genres for younger readers of all ages, ranging from original board books up through realistic contemporary YA and beyond. According to IMDb, she’s an actress known for The Last Five Years (though she thinks her cameo as “Handelman Twin #1” barely counts).






Chelsea Eberly, Agent at Greenhouse Literary

Kicking Off with Character

Chelsea is an agent at the Greenhouse Literary Agency, representing authors of middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction, as well as graphic novelists and illustrators who write picture books. As a former Senior Editor at Random House Books for Young Readers, she edited numerous award-winning and New York Times bestselling books. Chelsea is also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree, which recognizes “the rising stars of the US publishing industry.” Follow her on Twitter @chelseberly and learn more about her tastes at




Katie Grimm, Agent at Don Congdon Associates

Writing Young Voices: Differences Between Middle Grade, YA and Adult Fiction with Young Protagonists

Katie represents and is seeking adult literary fiction, young adult, and middle grade with a heartbeat and sense of purpose. She’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of human history, previously under- or misrepresented experiences, and narratives that contribute to a larger cultural conversation. She currently splits her time between New York and North Carolina and is actively seeking new voices from the South.




Additional Agents Providing Manuscript Critiques Only Include:

Kelly Dyksterhouse—Raven Quill Literary

Tara Gonzalez—Erin Murphy Literary

Wendi Gu—Sandford J. Greenburger Associates

Laurel Symonds—The Bent Agency

Victoria Wells Arms—Wells Arms Literary






Sheila Turnage       *       Frances O’Roark Dowell    *    Bobbie Pyron

Bobbie Pyron, Sheila Turnage and Frances O’Roark Dowell

How to Grow Onions: Creating Multi-Layered Characters Your Readers Will Love

Bobbie, Sheila, and Frances are award-winning, New York Times best-selling middle grade authors who live, write, and play in North Carolina. Sheila is the author of the much beloved Mo and Dale mysteries; Frances is the author of many award-winning books including the critically acclaimed DOVEY COE, THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS and most recently, THE CLASS; Bobbie Pyron is the award-winning author of several beloved dog books including the award-winning A DOG’S WAY HOME and the critically acclaimed THE DOGS OF WINTER, and most recently, STAY.



Megan Shepherd

The Work Before the Work: Pre-Planning Your Novel

New York Times bestseller and Carnegie Medal nominated author Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of many acclaimed middle grade and young adult novels including The Madman’s Daughter series, The Cage series, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, and the Grim Lovelies series. She now lives and writes on a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children, two cats, chickens, bees, and an especially scruffy dog.




Brandon Reese

From Sketchbook to Story

Brandon is an author/ illustrator based in North Carolina where he lives with his wife and son. His titles include OOTHAR THE BLUE (2018), CubHouse Publishing, and CAVE DADA (2020), Chronicle Books. His clients include Nick, Nick Jr., Highlights, Cricket, eeBoo, Crocodile Creek, Crayola, Scholastic, Sterling Publishing, Lion Forge, Chronicle Books, The Utne Reader, Buzzfeed, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Cryptozoic, BOOM! Studios, Topps, and Rack Room Shoes.




Dorothy H. Price

From Start to Finish: How to Write a Novel in a Month

Dorothy has been an SCBWI Carolinas member since 2010. Her first picture book, Nana’s Favorite Things, was published in 2016. In 2019, two of her stories were published in Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History series. That same year, Dorothy was selected for the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Program. In April 2020, Dorothy was one of two winners in the first #SCBWIFlashFic Twitter contest.

Dorothy is represented by Miranda Paul of the Erin Murphy Literary Association.





Louise Hawes

Writing Bad Guys (And Gals): A Villainous Workshop

Lousie is the author of two short fiction collections, a picture book, a graphic novel, and over a dozen novels. She is a contributor to numerous anthologies and has served as John Grisham Visiting Author at the University of Mississippi, a Read in Common Author at the Mississippi University for Women, and Writer in Residence at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Louise helped found and continues to teach at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.




Halli Gomez

The How and Why of Writing Neurodivergent Characters

Halli teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults. She has written several stories with neurodivergent characters including her debut young adult novel, LIST OF TEN (Sterling, March 2021) FITNESS FIASCO (Jolly Fish Press, January 2020) and a short story in the anthology BRAVE NEW GIRLS: TAKES OF HEROINES WHO HACK. (July 2018) She presented on Neurodiversity at WriteOnCon 2020 and was invited to speak at the School Library Journal Day of Dialog in May 2020. Halli lives in Charlotte with her husband, two boys, and two dogs and sock skates through the house when no one is looking.




Elizabeth Dulemba

How to Focus Your Reader’s Attention

Award-winning author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba is Associate Professor of Illustration at Winthrop University; a Ph.D. Researcher in Children’s Literature at the University of Glasgow; and is Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University’s Writing and Illustrating Children’s Literature MFA programs. Her three-dozen published titles include her Georgia Author of the Year-winning novel A Bird on Water Street, and three titles as illustrator written by New York Times Best-selling author Jane Yolen, Crow Not Crow, Merbaby’s Lullaby, and the forthcoming On Eagle Cove. Dulemba spent over six years as Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze SCBWI chapter and five years on the Board of the Georgia Center for the Book. Along with her Ph.D. research, she holds an MFA in Illustration from the University of Edinburgh and a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Georgia. Her public speaking history includes her TED Talk “Is Your Stuff Stopping You?” with a million views on Youtube. She also features authors and illustrators and hosts giveaways in her weekly newsletter.



Vincent X. Kirsch

What I Learned About Picture Books from Screenwriting and What I Learned About Screenwriting from Picture Books

Vincent X. Kirsch is an award-winning author, illustrator, playwright, screenwriter and puppeteer who recently moved from Los Angeles to Asheville.