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.


Our workshops include opportunities for manuscript reviews by peers and visiting editors. Check our events page often!

Fall Conferences

Our fall conferences include an evening of networking with visiting editors and agents followed by a full day of sessions and pre-scheduled reviews.

Meet the Regional Team



Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, Regional Advisor

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Pennsylvania: West. She is an award-winning children’s author from Pittsburgh, PA. She is the author of Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (Chicago Review Press) and  The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (Nomad Press) and several other books. She’s written graphic novels, textbook chapters, and online biographies. Elizabeth also writes fiction, non-fiction, crafts and recipes for magazines including Highlights for Children, and Muse. She’s an instructor in the Writing for Children and Young Adults Certificate program at McDaniel College. She loves birding, board games, baking and is a lifelong runner. She lives in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, with her family and pet schnoodle. She was won an SCBWI Merit Award in 2020 and was the 2016-2017 Pen Parents Fellow.



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, Regional Illustrator Coordinator

Julianna is from the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Her biggest dream is to write and illustrate picture books. She grew up as an 80’s child with all the quirky imagination and bright colors that represent that era. She has lived all in Santa Cruz, CA, St. Louis, MO, Philadelphia, PA and even Honolulu, HI. She went to LaRoche College for Graphic Design and she is now settled down in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband, two kids, chihuahua, cat that is bigger than the chihuahua, 3 fish, and a snail named Gary. Her background is full of variety  – all of which inspire her to make people laugh.



Michelle Vattula, New Members & Critique Groups

Michelle Vattula is a children’s picture book writer. She received her B.S. in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from Miami University of Ohio and her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Northeastern University in Boston. She has always loved language and creative writing which helped her start her career path to writing children’s books. Her debut picture book, The Stalking Seagulls, will be released in 2019 by MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing. Her second picture book, Dance With Me, will also be released by MCP, date is TBD. Michelle is an active member of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the SCBWI and is thrilled to be the new member coordinator for the WPA SCBWI.


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.


Dana DiSante, Newsletter Editor

Dana DiSante is the author of two children’s picture books about Penny the Pink Nose Poodle and is currently the Events & Features editor for CAPITOL STANDARD magazine. This year she is acting as the Assistant Conference Coordinator for the SCBWI-PA West Fall Conference.


Carla Mooney, Social Media Manager

Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. She is an award-winning author of numerous nonfiction and fiction books and magazine articles for children and teens. Carla has her BS in Economics and is a former certified public accountant. Now she loves writing about science and technology, nature and the environment, history, biography, business, current issues, health and medicine, and sports. She is also a regular STEM Tuesday contributor on the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog. When not writing, Carla is the Pittsburgh chapter director for Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides professional portraits of kids with cancer and other life-threatening conditions and raises money for childhood cancer research.




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.