Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

About Us

Welcome to the Pennsylvania West Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. We sponsor many professional activities each year to help our members in their professional development as writers and illustrators for children.

  • Visit our regional Events page for the latest information.
  • Connect with us on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram
  • Critique Groups – If you’re looking for a critique group, we have several in the area. Please see this page for where our groups are located, if there are seats available, and who to contact to join.

Meet the Regional Team

Mike Bezilla, Regional Advisor

Mike Bezilla is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Pennsylvania: West. He is the author of the picture book series, The Adventures of Michael John. Book two, Space Race! will be available in Fall 2022. He has a second picture book series in the works called, The S’mores Family with book one released on September 1, 2022! Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, he currently lives just north of the city with his wife and two daughters and their cat, Elsa, and dog, Bruce. He has been an Instructional Designer for over a decade and enjoys writing, reading and reviewing books in his free time. He is an active member of the book reviewing community, BookSirens. He is a proud Pittsburgher and celebrates all things black and gold. He graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology.



Sarah Maynard, Assistant Regional Advisor

After living in New York, Vermont, Virginia, Texas and Maryland, Sarah now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, their four kids, a dog, a cat and books in every room. While in Maryland, Sarah was the Event Coordinator on the MD/DE/WV SCBWI Regional Committee and she is excited to share what she learned there in WPA. When she’s not reading or writing, Sarah loves hitting the water on her stand up paddle board, practicing her ukulele, trying out a new recipe in the kitchen, or finding zen on her yoga mat.

Julianna Zito, Illustrator Coordinator

Julianna loves all things picture book related and is committed to building a community of illustrators to support and celebrate our publishing dreams! She leads the North Hills Picture Book Illustrators Critique Group and coordinates the Sketchy Characters Illustrator Meetups. 

Joe Mruk, Events Coordinator

Joe Mruk is a Pittsburgh-based full-time freelance illustrator aspiring to write and illustrate for the children’s market. Most of his existing work is music-based with an emphasis on posters, maps and album art. Having graduated with a BFA in painting and graphic design at Cal U of Pennsylvania, he has now been freelancing for ten years. He has experience teaching illustration privately and in groups. When he’s not illustrating, he can be found walking his sweet pup October around town or going to shows in the city.

Meghan Francisco, Newsletter Editor

Meghan Francisco enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She holds a BA in English Literature and French from Elmira College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Meghan grew up in New York State and spent over a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area, both places that have heavily influenced her writing. She lives with her family, which includes four cats, a corgi, one inquisitive kiddo, and a scientist, near Highland Park in Pittsburgh, the land of the Osage, Shawandasse Tula, and Monongahela. Meghan is also a private tutor with 14 years of experience working with students in reading, writing, and elementary math. Many of her stories are inspired by former students and their interests in everything from outer space and airplanes to snakes and donuts!


Rebecca E. Hirsch, PAL Coordinator

Rebecca E. Hirsch has written more than 80 science and nature books for kids. Her writing is shaped by a childhood in the western Pennsylvania countryside, a PhD in the life sciences, and a background as a working biologist. She won the SCBWI Anna Cross Giblin Nonfiction Work-in-Progress Award in 2011, as well as the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature and the Riverby Award for Excellence in Nature Writing. When she’s not writing, she loves to spend time with her husband and three daughters, work in her garden, tend her small flock of chickens, and take long walks in the woods.


Laura Garvin, Social Media Coordinator

Laura Garvin is an illustrator and dreamer who has a passion for drawing cute characters and colorful scenes. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her cat Blueberry and when she isn’t drawing she loves exploring new art mediums, reading, and spending time outdoors.