About Us


Calendar of Events

Annual Conference

Getting Published

Member & Speaker Directory







SCBWI International

Northern Ohio Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Featured Members 

Mary Ryan - Middle Grade Author

Mary considers herself primarily a middle grade writer. After starting out with newspaper work and freelance writing, she had four books accepted by Little, Brown & Co., followed by two chapter books with Avon Books. Although her six children provided a great deal of inspiration, Mary understands that while the trappings of life have changed, the emotions and feelings of her own early years are timeless.

Not everything came easily. Mary was thrilled when she won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant for the first thirty pages of a novel. However, the novel was never finished. "It's still languishing in a closet somewhere, along with an adult mystery," she said. "Sometimes you have to know when to move on and I'm glad I finally did. But every once in a while, it still calls me."    

In 2000, Mary self-published The Secret in The West Woods, set in a Geauga County park. She recently issued it as an ebook through Amazon.com. Mary later published The Christmas Dragon and an ebook titled Blue Flyers. She now plans to release her Avon books as ebooks. Chapters can be found on her website at www.m-c-ryan.com.

Another self-publishing effort, Twitcher McGee and the Wonderful Tree, features a small gray mouse. Currently, Twitcher has visions of being a Broadway star, as Mary is working on a musical version of her book. Stay tuned! 

Colleen Kessler - Science/Nonfiction Author

Colleen Kessler is passionate about kids, hands-on learning, science and nature, gifted education, teaching, and books, and she indulges those passions every day as a science and education writer, and home school mom. Whether she is in her office overlooking her backyard, a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat; taking a hike through the nearby meadows or woods; or trying out new experiments, activities, and projects for her books with her three kids, Colleen is learning all of the time.

Colleen has written textbook chapters, teacher resources, lessons, experiments, games, leveled readers, and more for numerous educational publishers. She has a B.S. in elementary education, an M. Ed. in gifted education, and is the author of many books for teachers and kids including Real-Life Science Mysteries, Hands-On Ecology, and Super Smart Science from Prufrock Press, and seven books in the A Project Guide series from Mitchell Lane. Free Resources for Elementary Teachers (Prufrock Press) was released in April 2012.

Colleen blogs at www.raisinglifelonglearners.com. You can learn more about her career at www.colleen-kessler.com.

Jeannine Garsee Award-Winning YA Author

Jeannine Garsee is the author of three novels: THE UNQUIET (a YA paranormal, 2012), SAY THE WORD (2009), and BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN (2007), all from Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. SAY THE WORD was named a 2010 YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and received a starred review from Booklist. BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN was a Borders Original Voice in 2007 and named a New York Public. Library Book for the Teen Age. A personal essay, “Fearless,” based on a middle-school bullying experience, was included in the Harper Teen Anthology DEAR BULLY: 70 AUTHORS TELL THEIR STORIES (2011). She currently works as a psychiatric nurse in Cleveland, Ohio. Visit her at www.jeanninegarsee.com for more information.
Advice for writers: The best advice I ever received was from author Sherry Garland, who said in her books, WRITING FOR YOUNG ADULTS: “Don’t fall in love with your own words.” This little tidbit helps me enormously during the editing process when I’m stuck in that “Oh, no, I can’t cut a thing!” mind frame. You can cut. You can tighten your manuscript. You have to look at it as a product, not as your newborn child. Always remember: nobody but you will miss the words, or the scenes, or even the characters you have to cut. And, after a while, you won’t miss them, either.

Lindsay Ward Author and Illustrator

Lindsay Ward has a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University.  She has illustrated a handful of children’s picture books including THE YELLOW BUTTERFLY (Bright Sky Press) by Mehrnaz S. Gill, A GARDEN FOR PIG (Kane/Miller) by Kathryn Thurman, and the covers of both STAR Academy books by Edward Kay (Random House Canada).  

Lindsay both wrote and illustrated her most recent books: PELLY AND MR. HARRISON VISIT THE MOON (Kane/Miller) and WHEN BLUE MET EGG (Dial Books for Young Readers). Her upcoming book with Dial Books for Young Readers will be released in 2013.  You can visit her on the web at lindsaymward.com or check out her blog at  http://respectthecupcake.blogspot.com.

Lindsay’s advice for writer/illustrators:

“Draw and/or write your story. Don't get caught up in trying to catch the next trend, because by the time you figure it out, more than likely it's too late. Be true to yourself and your craft. Take the opportunity to know your market and what is already out there. Read as much as you can. Being a well read author and/or illustrator is a huge advantage in understanding the current market in children's literature.”

Lindsay Ward

Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton Award-Winning Author and Illustrator

Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton’s first published work was a note passed to a boy in third grade. You would have thought this most embarrassing moment would have stopped her writing career. But instead Laurie has gone on to write forty books and is the author/illustrator of two more.

Laurie has been published in the trade, educational, craft, and Christian markets. WHY COWBOYS SLEEP WITH THEIR BOOTS ON is Laurie’s best selling picture book. It won the Premier Print Award given by Eastman Kodak and has sold over 45,000 copies since publication.

Laurie wrote and illustrated RED, WHITE, AND BLUE in 2002. The Huebner Museum of Children’s Picture Book Art, housed  in the Toledo Public Library, honored Laurie by purchasing and exhibiting a piece of art from the book.

The Children’s Book Committee of Bank Street College of Education selected A YOUNG MAN’S DANCE as among the best Children’s Books of the year in 2007.

Laurie Knowlton is the founder and Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Northern Ohio SCBWI chapter. She is an international speaker, addressing students, educators, and writers throughout the United States and Mexico. You can visit her website at www.laurieknowlton.com.

Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Tricia Springstubb  Award-Winning YA Author

Tricia Springstubb began her career over thirty years ago, writing for children's magazines.  By now she's published sixteen books, from picture books to YA novels. Her most recent work is for middle grade: WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET, (Heather Ross, Illustrator) set in Cleveland, received numerous starred reviews, and was named to the best books of 2010 lists by Kirkus, The Washington Post, and Bank Street School. The sequel, MO WREN LOST AND FOUND, comes out this August.  HarperCollins is the publisher.  Candlewick will publish her picture book, PHOEBE AND DIGGER, in 2013.  Tricia's at work on another MG novel and has a YA in the back of her mind...
The mother of three grown daughters, Tricia lives with her husband in Cleveland Heights. She also writes for adults, and you can read an interview on what it's like to write for both audiences. If you want to know what it's like to have a career that stretches back to the days of carbon paper, check out Cynsations blog. You can also visit Tricia at www.triciaspringstubb.com

<featured member photo>

Mara Purnhagen — Award-Winning YA Author

Mara Purnhagen is the author of the young adult novels Tagged (March 2010), Past Midnight (September 2010), and One Hundred Candles (February 2011), all published by Harlequin Teen, and one novella, Raising the Dead (January 2011). Her next novel, Beyond the Grave, comes out in August 2011.

Past Midnight has been nominated for Young Adult Library Association’s (YALSA) 2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, the 2010 Cybil Award for best Fantasy/Science Fiction novel for young adults and the 2010 YABC Readers Choice Award. She was featured in the March/April 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest.
Ms. Purnhagen has lived in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and South Carolina. She now lives outside of Cleveland with her husband, two cats, three children and too many LEGO sets to count.
For more information, see http://www.marapurnhagen.com.

<featured member photo>

Judy Irvin Kuns - Award-Winning YA Author
Judy Irvin Kuns has loved writing since she was a child. "I remember my fourth grade teacher giving us the assignment to write a story or a poem using all 20 of our weekly spelling words and how I loved the challenge of that," she said. "Also, I have always been an avid reader. I grew up poor and in the country with no books around and no means of getting to a library, but we did have a bookmobile that stopped right in front of our house. I so looked forward to bookmobile day and would choose the thickest books I could find because I knew I had to make them last for three whole weeks. "

Her interest in writing for children grew as she made frequent visits to the Sandusky Library with her four children. "Those visits reminded me of how important books were to me as a child," she says. "Added to my love of reading and solitary, observant nature, writing for children seemed the perfect fit."

Kuns earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first middle grade novel, While You Were Out (Dutton: 2004), was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection and winner of the 2005 Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers. She has since written two more MG novels, Orange around the Edges and The Family of Things (a finalist in Hunger Mountain's 2010 Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing), and is currently working on a YA novel titled Spin Cycle and a picture book.

Kuns has also been published in Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, Children's Digest, and Once Upon a Time magazines and twice awarded Honorable Mention in the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition. She is available for speaking engagements and children’s book manuscript consultations. See http://www.cbmadvisors.com/index.shtml for more information.

<featured member photo>

Cinda Williams Chima - New York Times Bestselling Author
Cinda grew up with talking animals and kick-butt Barbies. She began writing romance novels in junior high school. Her Heir Chronicles young adult contemporary fantasy series includes The Warrior Heir (2006), The Wizard Heir (2007), and The Dragon Heir (2008), all from Hyperion, with two more books forthcoming.

Chima’s best-selling YA high fantasy Seven Realms series launched with The Demon King (2009), followed by The Exiled Queen (September, 2010) shown above, with cover art by Larry Rostant.

with The Gray Wolf Throne scheduled for fall, 2011.

Chima’s books have received starred reviews in Kirkus and VOYA, among others. They have been named Booksense and Indie Next picks, an International Reading Association Young Adult Choice, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, to the Kirkus Best YA list, and the VOYA Editors’ Choice, Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and Perfect Tens lists.

Chima was a recipient of the 2008 Lit Award for Fiction from the Cleveland Lit and was named a Cleveland Magazine Interesting Person 2009. She has been active in the SCBWI for more than five years. She lives in Ohio with her family, and is always working on her next novel.

Chima often addresses writing questions and concerns on her website and blogs. Visit her at www.cindachima.com or her blog at http://cindachima.blogspot.com/

<featured member photo>

Donna Bizjak
Works as a graphic designer for a large company by day. Nights and weekends are mainly devoted to illustration work. She is currently working on illustrations for a third grade workbook, illustrating the fourth book in the "Gator" series (about a happy horse and his meadow friends) and always drawing caricatures for weddings, birthdays, retirement, etc. She writes, " I met my agent at the first conference I attended in 2006 and the publisher through the SCBWI marketplace. SCBWI membership has been all good!"

Sophie Cayless
Have written and illustrated one picture book, Beaver Tales (Eastern National, 2001) for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and have three more in process of submission. I focus on nature illustration and created many illustrations for
national and local parks. My latest news is production of a puzzle, mug and water bottle from a Hawaiian mural I painted in 2000. View my work at Breaksville Studio.

Read Sophie's article The Craft of Scratchboard.

Deborah Jackson
Former Illustrator Coordinator for Northern Ohio SCBWI, Deborah has been involved in the arts for over 25 years. After Post Graduate studies in Illustration and Graphic Design at Kent State's award winning VCD Dept., she assisted in the development of curriculum for Le Chaperon Preschools in Cleveland. She served as illustrator for Makeovers Children, created by Destina Moga for her Makovers Life series. She was a board member for Northern Ohio SCBWI for three years. Her work in the field of Adult Spirituality has been published by the American Tarot Association and US Games. Her work on the Magdalene Tarot, created by Gnostic minister Casey DuHamel, has been signed for publishing by Tarot Media Company and will be available in late spring. Though Deborah is comfortable and active in many different two and three dimensional art forms, she chooses computer as her medium of choice for published illustrating. Her work can be viewed at her Cyber-Gallery. 

Tiffany Ann Laufer
Is a filmmaker and children's book author. She works in Cleveland and Los Angeles. She started her own publishing company called Bellaboo Books. She is presently working on a picture book and a chapter book/middle grade reader.
She also works in the film industry and does posters for films. View posters she has done on her website Laufer Film.


Michele Housholder Funk
Lives in Conesville, Ohio with her husband Dan and her bassett hound Max. She is writing and illustrating her first book. She just finished the illustrations, and now needs to type the text and have everything photographed. She finds this an exciting adventure and will be self-publishing through Author House.

Karen Maizel
Started out as an on-site fashion illustrator at each of the three major Cleveland department stores for 10 years. Began freelancing while raising a family, first doing greeting cards, then children's magazine illustrations. Also did a learn-to-read series from Zondervan (currently six in print, including Jake's Brave Night). Two picture books from Magination Press were done with our own Annette Sheldon (Big Sister Now, 2006 and Big Brother Now, 2009). With a few other small books with a local publisher, the count is up to 21. A wordless picture book, Night Moves, is being considered by Tricycle Press. Karen works traditionally, favoring watercolor. She is experimenting with collage, and over the years has moved from a highly realistic style to a lighter, more graphic look. Check out her work at www.karenmaizel.com.

Jodi Warner
Focuses on picture books and is pre-published and hopeful. She has created logos, greeting cards and t-shirt designs, and is currently working on a story inspired by the conference.
Her contact information is: 6074 Pebblebrook Lane - North Olmsted, OH 44070/ 440-777-3267/ geodi@wowway.com

Laurel Winters
Can be reached at 188 North Highland Ave. Suite 301 - Akron, Ohio 44303-1504 and you may see her work at WintersStudio.com

Anne Beekman — Educator/Illustrator
Anne is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at The University of Findlay. She teaches Children's Book Illustration courses and works closely with the Mazza Museum, The International Museum of Children's Picture Book Art.

Holding an MFA in Graphic Design and Illustration with high honors from Marywood University, Anne completed her BFA at the Cleveland Institute of Art and holds certificates in Teaching in Higher Education. For twenty years she worked as a professional Illustrator, Art Director, Graphic Designer and Web Developer in publishing and advertising, winning multiple national awards for her work.

Anne writes about illustration, design and education on her blog, At The Art of It. Deadlines and Closet Space is a recent article.

Visit her website at beekmanstudios.com

<featured member photo>

M. LaVora Perry - Writer
M. LaVora Perry has shown her devotion and support for the Northern Ohio SCBWI.  In 2008, she volunteered as an Executive Board Member filling the role of Assistant Marketing Coordinator.  In 2009, she stepped into the Executive Board Member role of Marketing Coordinator and continues in this position today.  She has brought forth dynamic and innovative marketing strategies, which added in record-breaking conference attendance for our 2008, and 2009 Annual September Conferences. M. Lavora received the V.O.Y. Award at the annual recognition brunch, where fellow board members described her as "Tireless!", "Amazing!" and a "Dynamo!" Congratulations M. LaVora, and continued success as the NOHSCBWI Marketing Coordinator!

Her Taneesha Never Disparaging, (Cover Illustration by Floyd Cooper) a middle grade story, was published by Wisdom Publications in 2008. Her young adult follow-up is in the works. She's also writing a teen girls health book with a Cleveland Clinic physician. LaVora lives in Northern Ohio with her husband and three children.
View LaVora's Perry's Website.

Kathiann M. Kowalski
Kathiann M Kowalski has written eleven books for young people, plus over 150 articles, stories, and activities, mostly nonfiction. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Northern Ohio Chapter and is available as a speaker on subjects as diverse as science, space, politics, nature and writing. Read Kathy's article Write Here in Ohio.

Nicole Hanusek
Nicole Hanusek, formerly of Maple Heights, Ohio, is an aspiring writer and illustrator. Her major at the Cleveland Institute of Art was Illustration and her life long dream has been to write and / or illustrate children's books. As she continues to work on the career of her dreams, she supports herself with various freelance illustration and web design jobs while working full time at a web development company. She previously served as the SCBWINO webmaster and wrote The Web is Here, and It’s Not Going Away...

Joan Marie Arbogast
Joan Marie Arbogast has shown her support and belief in the Northern Ohio SCBWI for many years as an Executive Board Member.  Her endless energy and soft-spoken personality has been a driving force behind the Northern Ohio SCBWI’s success in putting on professional conferences. And her knowledge on the publishing industry’s ins and outs brings forth the ability for stellar line-ups and hands-on workshops.

Her nonfiction book titled, BUILDINGS IN DISGUISE; Architecture That Looks Like Animals, Food and Other Things, published by Boyds Mills Press.

Check out her article The Inside Scoop on First-Time Book Signings.

©2010. Northern Ohio Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators.
All images are property of the original artist/creator and may not be reproduced without written permission of the owner.