Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2019 Fall Conference Faculty Bios

Industry Faculty

Megan Abbate is an Assistant Editor at Roaring Brook Press, where she acquires across all categories for children. She is most drawn to classic, timeless voices in stories grounded by fresh contemporary hooks, as well as books that build empathy. As a former teacher, she is always interested in books that can connect to school curriculum in interesting ways and books that could make for great classroom read-alouds. All the books she’s edited are great, but she especially thinks you should read How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom and Thundercluck! Chicken of Thor: Recipe for Revenge. Originally from Pittsburgh, she is a huge sports fan and also a theater lover.


Danielle Chiotti has worked in publishing for seventeen years. Formerly an editor, she joined Upstart Crow when it was founded in 2009, specializing in young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as cookbooks, select nonfiction, and literary and upmarket fiction for adults. Thanks to her extensive editorial background, she enjoys working closely with authors to develop projects.

She welcomes first-time authors with a unique voice and point of view. She is drawn toward gorgeous writing and strong, flawed characters. Her dream project for young readers is one that challenges and inspires, with a compelling voice that will make her stay up all night reading. Good examples of this are Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, Still Life With Tornado by A.S.King, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.


Courtney Code (she/her) is an Associate Editor at Abrams Books. Her list is made up of picture books and chapter books, with some select middle grade. She looks for stories that put the child reader first while packing an emotional punch. She’s particularly passionate about building an inclusive list that centers underrepresented creators and stories. Since joining Abrams in 2015, some of the extra-special projects she’s had the delight of working on include South by Daniel Duncan, Chicks Rule! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Renée Kurilla, The Ghoulia series by Barbara Cantini, and How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees by Vincent X. Kirsch.


Marisa A. Corvisiero, Esq., is a senior literary agent and the CEO of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She is also an author coach, literary consultant, speaker, author, and Attorney with more than 20 years of experience in corporate law and trusts and estates in New York City. She holds a J.D. from the Pace University School of Law with a focus in corporate and international law. She also received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hofstra University. Marisa began her publishing career as an agent at L. Perkins Associates before founding her own agency, which now has several agents, apprentices, and interns. She has attended more than 70 writing conferences, and hosted or participated in numerous boot camps, workshops, webinars, and tutorials on the craft, mindset, and business of writing at many of those events as well as Writer’s Digest and the Author-Preneur Workshops hosted by the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

For Middle Grade and Young Adult she likes character driven stories with humor or grit, and very unique concepts in Fantasy, Adventure, and Science Fiction in any time period and setting with authentic and standout voices. Issue and event driven stories, still need well formed and relatable or redeemable characters. Looking for intimate character driven plots with unique voices a la Thorne of Glass (YA) and Jed and the Junkyard War (MG).
She seeks Picture Books with special stories to deliver a subtle non didactic message, with unforgettable characters that have special value. (Illustrations not needed.)
She especially enjoys Christmas, time travel, space, science, magic, superpowers, handicaps, conspiracies, and special relationships themed stories. She is a fan of heavy science and high concept, high stakes, out of the box plots. Marisa likes to be surprised by unexpected twists (as they should be). She enjoys the challenge of figuring out villains who have logical motives that give them a good reason for being who they are and seeking what they seek, and when the morality line is blurred enough to make the reader wonder who is actually in the right.
In non-fiction, she seeks well focused books in spiritualism, self-improvement, science, business and cookbooks. This includes non fiction books especially science, finance and cookbooks for kids! Although these are her interests, her acquisitions are not limited to these topics. Marisa is always looking for new and amazing concepts that will add new and unique information, visions, levels or other value to their respective fields. Significant platforms preferred.


Wendi Gu started her career in publishing Sanford J. Greenburger Associates as an intern and now works there as an agent. She represents voice-driven fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle-grade, and young adult titles with a special interest in mental health, girl power, family relationships, and the immigrant experience. She loves dark stories that root for the underdog. Her favorite books have voices that range from warm and lyrical, to witty and deadpan. For illustration, she enjoys elegant and eclectic color palettes, and looks for nuanced character expression and dynamic composition. She has a hands-on, editorial approach to agenting.


Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, where she spent weekends reading stories and writing her own. After graduating from Barnard College, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit organization that advocates for diversity in the publishing industry, and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and artists, and helping their projects grow into published books. Professionally and personally, Kandace loves tales of action & adventure featuring strong female protagonists, as well as any story that can make her laugh.


Nick Courage is a New Orleans-born writer and aspiring skateboarder who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two cats. His work has recently appeared in The Paris Review Daily and Writer’s Digest . . . and he’s also a co-founder of Littsburgh (“Celebrating Literary Pittsburgh Since 2015”)! Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) has recently published his second novel, Storm Blown (“a must-have” – School Library Journal). For more about Nick, visit


Rachel Ekstrom Courage is a literary agent at Folio Literary Management, representing YA, Middle Grade, and adult fiction. Before becoming an agent, she spent over a decade as a book publicist, first working on mysteries and thrillers for Minotaur, then holding managerial and directorial roles at Penguin’s Dutton and Gotham imprints, and St. Martin’s Press. Over the course of her career, she’s worked with a range of bestselling and award-winning authors, and is the co-founder of Littsburgh. Find out more at

PA West Faculty

Carol Baicker-McKee is a self-taught illustrator who works with paint, fabric, and clay to create wonderful 3-dimensional artwork. She holds a Ph.D. in clinical child psychology and is the author of the award-winning FussBusters series of parenting books. She also wrote the monthly Baby Games column for Nick Jr. Magazine. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Cathy Breisacher spends her days surrounded by books working as an elementary school librarian in Hollidaysburg, PA. She first earned her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education and worked as a high school guidance counselor before earning her Master of Library Science Degree and making a career change. Her passion is to write fun, silly, humorous picture books that will put a smile on kids’ faces. Her first two trade picture books released this past spring: Cavekid Birthday (Charlesbridge, 2019) and Chip and Curly, the Great Potato Race (Sleeping Bear Press, 2019). Cathy lives in Central PA with her husband.

Twitter @CathyBreisacher,


Writer, artist, and creature-enthusiast, JD Donnelly was born on a beach where dolphins played, grew up in an enchanted forest filled with deer, and studied Studio Art and Creative Writing at Hollins University, home to many squirrels. Her stories and illustrations have been featured in literary magazines, art shows, and conventions, and her block print illustrating the Grimm’s fairytale Godfather Death won a national contest held by Dick Blick in 2014. She’s also an experienced dinosaur artisan, crafting fossil replicas for museums and private collectors, and dotes on her wiggly rottweilers, cuddly corgi, and squishy axolotl.

Twitter @JDArtist23,


Alan Irvine has been a fencer for many years – both modern foil and historical weapons like rapiers and small swords. He runs a theater company that specializes in shows featuring sword fighting. Alan writes and directs in close partnership with his fight choreographer. He also lives with a daughter who is obsessed with swords and both fences and is certified in many stage combat styles.

Twitter @alanirvinestory,,


Stephanie Keyes is the author of over a dozen titles for young adults. Her most recent title, The Spellbinder’s Sonata [October 2018], her Beauty and the Beast meets Phantom mash-up, was an Amazon #1 new release. Keyes has spoken at events throughout the US and the UK, and was a featured artist at Pittsburgh’s First Night 2019. She is the webinar and online education coordinator for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a member of Pennwriters and Parsec.

Twitter @StephanieKeyes,


Brittany J. Thurman writes picture books, middle grade and young adult literature. A Children’s Specialist at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Brittany conducts storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers that emphasize the importance of representation and early literacy. Dedicated to ensuring literature truthfully reflects the world we live in, Brittany has performed sensitivity reads, presented at the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Children’s Literature, SCBWI Western PA’s Diversity Workshop, The Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, NV, and more. Brittany is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and Kingston University, London, England.

Twitter @janeebrittany,


Karen Lynn Williams has published more than 14 picture books and mid-grade books for children. She has 5 more books coming out in 2021-22. Five of those books have been coauthored and two more in process are collaborations. Two of her books are non-fiction. She has participated on the Walter Dean Myers Panel on multicultural books for children at the CDF conference in Tennessee and will be presenting on this topic at the USBBY conference in Austin Texas in October with authors Nancy Bo Flood, Padma Venkatraman, Tracy Sorell and others.

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