Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI PA: West Regional Team

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, Regional Advisor

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan writes fiction and non-fiction for all ages. Her stories, crafts, and recipes have appeared in Highlights for Children, Muse, Cricket, and more. She also writes for the educational market, from PK to high reading level middle schoolers. She’s written for Heinemann Literacy Project (Fountas & Pinnell Classroom), Capstone, and KPS Storybook Development.

She was named a “Promising Writer to Watch” at the 2015 PA: West SCBWI conference. In 2016, she became a Pen Parentis Fellow.  In 2018, she became ARA for PA: West, and in 2019, became the Regional Advisor.


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. Sarah is represented by Jenna Pocius at Red Fox Literary.



Julianna Zito, Regional Illustrator Coordinator

Julianna is from the North Hills of Pittsburgh. She grew up as an 80’s child with all the quirky imagination and bright colors that represent that era. She graduated from Deer Lakes High School and was determined to move beyond her country girl roots. She has lived all over – Santa Cruz, CA, St. Louis, MO, Philadelphia, PA and even Honolulu, HI. She is now settled down in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband, two kids, chihuahua, and cat. Her background is full of variety both wonderful and traumatic – all of which inspire her to make people laugh – especially children. 



Kelly Conroy, Conference Coordinator

Kelly Conroy is a picture book writer who loves all things silly and whimsical. She volunteers as the Event Coordinator for the Pennsylvania:West Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

In her free time, Kelly enjoys going on adventures with her husband and two sons, exercising, and meeting friends for coffee.

Sam Smith, Conference Coordinator

Sam Smith is a freelance writer and author who published her first picture book, CATES’S MAGIC GARDEN, in 2017. She loves sharing its message that “words change worlds” through kindness and the power of positivity. At school visits, bookstores and other community events, she is on a mission to challenge both children and adults to try The Great Kindness Challenge, a global movement which amassed over 650 million acts of kindness in 113 countries over one week in January – and continues to grow.

Sam helps spearhead the WPA SCBWI Summer Brain Food program, which brings reading and recreation to Pittsburgh area children through an exciting partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Stephanie Keyes, Webinars/Online Learning

Stephanie Keyes is the author of the YA Fantasy series, The Star Child, as well as several other titles for the young adult market. Her most recent release, The Spellbinder’s Sonata, a tale where Beauty and the Beast meets The Phantom of the Opera, officially released on October 26th, 2018.
Mrs. Keyes is a 2018 International Book Award Finalist and a 2018 Reader’s Favorite Award Finalist. In addition, she’s in-demand as a public speaker and has appeared throughout the US and in the UK. Stephanie also writes romance as Gemma McKay.


Michelle Vattula, New Members

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.

Joy Givens

Joy Givens writes “fresh, fantastic, fierce” fiction, mostly for children and young adults. Her most recent projects include several pieces of award-winning short fiction, most recently published in WOW! Women on Writing, Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (2019) from Atthis Arts, and the anthologies Beach Life (2017) and Beach Fun (2018) from Cat & Mouse Press.

Joy resides in Pittsburgh with her husband, their two pint-sized superhero sons, and an impossibly lovable dog. When not writing, tutoring high school students, or freelance editing, she enjoys most genres of music, cooking for loved ones, volunteering in her church, and curling up with good books and good coffee.

Amy Wagner, Summer Brain Food Coordinator

Amy Wagner writes young adult contemporary fantasy. She is an active member of SCBWI and Pennwriters. She is thrilled to coordinate the Summer Brain Food Program for SCBWI and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Amy has attended the 2016 Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference and is a PitchWars 2018 Alumni with her novel, A GOOD STORY IS HARD TO FIND.