Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Writer Mentors

2021/2021 Writer Mentors

Read more about each of our mentors to determine who might be the best fit for you. Check out each mentor’s website to learn more about them and view their books!


Beth Anderson 

Picture Books (especially interested in those with a NF element)

Beth is a former K-8 English as a Second Language educator and reading specialist. She began writing for children in 2013 and found her niche with narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books. With her writing, she strives to open minds, touch hearts, and inspire questions. She firmly believes that the most essential aspect of story is “heart.” Beth is the award winning author of Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wiggle, “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses, Lizzie Demands a Seat!, and An Inconvenient Alphabet, and she has five more titles on the way. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado. See her website for more information

Beth has been filling her writer’s toolbox at retreats, in classes, and with learning from every manuscript. She’d like to mentor an aspiring author whose goal is to traditionally publish picture books with a nonfiction element. Depending on the author’s needs, Beth is open to taking one manuscript from big picture to line edits or working on several manuscripts over the course of the program. Her feedback addresses structure, story elements, craft, pacing, heart, and more. Communication will be through email and several virtual conversations. 


Fleur Bradley

Chapter Books and MG Fiction (any genre)

Fleur is the author of the Crystal Kite and Colorado Book Award winning MG mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking Books for Young Readers), the Double Vision trilogy (HarperCollins Children’s), and the forthcoming Daybreak on Raven Island (Viking, Summer 2022). She has judged for awards like the Edgars, and regularly does school and Skype visits, as well as librarian and educator conference talks on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, she now lives in Colorado Springs with her family and entirely too many rescue animals. You can visit her website for more information at


Samantha Cohoe

MG & YA (all genres)

Samantha is the author of the YA historical fantasies A Golden Fury (Wednesday Books, October 2020) and Bright Ruined Things (forthcoming from Wednesday Books, February 2022). She is a former Latin teacher, current history nerd, and constantly torn between her warring desires to wear bright lipstick and eat messy food. Samantha has lived in Denver with her philosopher husband and anarchist children since 2011. Learn more at

Samantha’s mentoring process focuses on developmental edits: big picture feedback to help you make your manuscript what you imagined it, while preserving your vision and voice. The goal will be to get the manuscript ready for submission, including some extra polish on the opening chapters and a sparkling query letter. Samantha’s own work is in young adult fantasy and historical fiction, so she would be an especially good fit for these categories. She also has extensive experience critiquing YA contemporary and all genres of middle grade in her critique group. 


Joanna Cooke

PBs (non-fiction), MG & YA (especially historical fiction)

Joanna writes books for young people, focusing on nature and the human experience. Her debut picture book, The Sequoia Lives On, earned a starred Kirkus review, and her middle grade novel, Call Me Floy, was on the  School Library Journal reading lists for the summers of 2020 and 2021. Due out in Spring 2023, Joanna’s third picture book Fire Shapes The World is a natural history of fire on Earth. She has also written two nonfiction picture books for the educational market. Joanna holds an MFA in Creative Writing for Young People and an MEd in elementary education. Prior to writing, she spent ten years working as an environmental educator and naturalist in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. She lives with her husband and son in Jackson, WY. Visit her website for more information.

She is open to mentoring writers working in all genres and stages, though her specialties lie in nonfiction picture books and MG & YA historical fiction.


Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Picture Books (fiction and informational fiction, non-rhyming) 

Carmela is the author of the 11-book Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? series, plus others. She won a 2014 Colorado Book Award for The Tumbleweed Came Back, and the 2017 Foreword Indie Silver Award for Wild Zoo Train. Her books have been translated into French, Italian, and Spanish. She is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her latest picture book, Something Spectacular (Muddy Boots Books, Fall 2022), illustrated by Carly Allen-Fletcher. When Carmela is not in her writing room exploring story, she’s pursuing new interests, or cooking up something yummy, meditating, doing yoga, or roaming the urban wilds near and around her home in south Denver. She’s the mom of two (grown) kids, and a pup who can tell time. See for more info.

This is Carmela’s 5th year mentoring with Rocky Mountain SCBWI. Her mentoring process includes conscientious commentary and critique, line editing, story development, etc., with attention on helping mentees discover voice and story breakthroughs. Please submit your most polished picture book manuscript. Carmela recommends a Zoom introduction meeting, with one follow-up Zoom meet-up later during the process. Most communication will be via email. 


Kellye Crocker

MG & YA (most genres)

Kellye is the author of the forthcoming contemporary middle grade novel Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties (Fall 2022, Albert Whitman). She’s a former journalist whose work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, and Glamour magazines. Kellye, who holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, has taught writing at two Iowa universities, worked in library youth services, and has been an unpaid reader for a literary agent specializing in kidlit. She is on the faculty of the Young Writers Program at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her website address is

When working with a mentee, Kellye first wants to understand their goals for their book. This guides feedback on character development, plot, setting, pacing, and voice. Kellye believes that the best writing comes from a playful, curious attitude and helps authors draw out the humor and heart in their stories. She’ll help her mentee set goals for their work together, offer written feedback, and check in with monthly calls or Zooms. She is happy to work on a middle grade or YA novel and is open to all genres but isn’t the best match for high fantasy and hard science fiction.


Anna-Maria Crum

MG & YA (all genres)

Anna-Maria is the author of 22 grade school readers, both fiction and nonfiction. She has also illustrated over 50 books. She has co-authored an interactive digital novel, Sorcery is for Saps, for Choice of Games, which was like three-dimensional chess for plotting. She is a long-time member of SCBWI and is on the board for Picture Book Artists Association. She is also a part-owner in Plot Doctors, a writing service that helps people with their plot problems. A number of people she’s worked with have gone on to sell their books. Anna-Maria loves helping authors see the potential in their stories and showing them how to add the depth and motivation their characters lack. So often authors already have everything they need in their story—they just aren’t using it to their advantage. 

When she’s not writing, she’s busy playing balloon bopping with Tucker, and teaching him what things he can jump up on (couches, chairs, bed, laps) and what he can’t (tables, kitchen counters, stove, and window ledges). Update: Anna-Maria has ceded ownership of the dining room table to Tucker (it has the best view of the street) but has successfully reclaimed all kitchen counters and window ledges. For more information  see

In the  initial meeting with mentees, I help them establish goal(s) for the mentoring period. From there we determine what the mentee can commit to for each month and set realistic goals. I usually meet once a month on Zoom to go over what the mentee has sent me and discuss the next writing goal. Mentees can also contact me any time for help if they get stuck and we can schedule a Zoom brainstorming session to work out the problem—my writing superpower is plotting, so take advantage. The energy that happens during a brainstorming session can’t be beat. Often the story will gain from exciting new approaches and possibilities, added motivation, and plot twists. Two brains, in this instance, are better than one.


Julie Danneberg

Picture Books (fiction and nonfiction)

Julie writes mostly trade picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, with a smattering of nonfiction for the education market thrown in.  She doesn’t like to brag but does admit that several of her books have won awards. Her fictionalized account of her back-to-school nerves in the book, First Day Jitters, is a perennial bestseller as well as a favorite of other teachers who are also terrorized at the beginning of the school year and comforted by the fact that someone else feels like they do. She currently lives in Louisville, has two adult children and two adorable granddaughters.

 Julie was a middle school writing teacher for many years (which accounts for her feelings of terror about the first day of school) but has also taught adult writing classes for BVSD Lifelong Learning program, as well as Lighthouse Writing and through her school district.  In addition, she has worked privately with many adult writers, helping them take their manuscripts from rough to ready to send out. Learn more about Julie at

Her mentoring style is flexible, and she tries to work with the mentee in a way that best suits his/her learning style. She is definitely open to meeting via Zoom, or in person, in addition to giving feedback via the computer.  She is not opposed to working on more than one manuscript over the course of the program. Questioning and discussion is encouraged.


Anna H. Freeman

Picture Books (rhyming or non-rhyming, fiction or nonfiction)

Anna Harber Freeman is the author of several books for children, from rhyming board books to non-fiction. Her recent picture book biography, Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez (Albert Whitman & Co, April 2021), received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her first book, Love You More Than Anything (Sterling Publishing, 2014), was featured in the New York Times, and published as both a picture book and board book. Anna also recently completed her first nonfiction book for the educational market. In addition to writing, Anna has a Master’s degree in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity and has taught many subjects for grades PK-12. When she isn’t teaching or writing Anna loves spending time outside in Colorado with her husband, two boys, and poodle. See for more information. 

Anna looks forward to working with a picture book author who is open to hearing feedback and working hard. As a mentor, she can offer advice on editing and polishing your writing, from line edits to big picture choices. And when you’re ready to share your work with the world she can help you write an eye-catching query and pitch. 


Martha Freeman

Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade

Martha’s 30-plus books for kids include Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists (CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science title, 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist), Zap! (2018 Edgar nominee), Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question (SLJ starred review, JLG selection), and The Orphan and the Mouse (JLG selection, Bank Street Best Book of the Year) as well as the Secret Cookie Club, First Kid, and Chickadee Court series. Her picture book, Mrs. Wow Never Wanted a Cow, has sold more than 250,000 copies. SLJ called her picture book, If You’re Going to a March, “a befitting and timely addition that belongs in any collection.” Martha’s books also appear on multiple state award lists and have been translated into Turkish, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Martha graduated from Stanford University sometime after Woodstock and has worked as a reporter, copy editor, freelance journalist, college instructor, and volunteer EMT. She has never taken a creative writing class. She is faking it. Her No. 1 tip for aspiring authors is: finish the project. She looks forward to helping her mentee do just that. Martha recently relocated from Boulder to Portland, Oregon, so all meetings will be remote. Visit her website for more information at


Kimberlee Gard

Picture Books (rhyming and prose)

Kimberlee is the award-winning author of several picture books including The Little i Who Lost His Dot, The Day Punctuation Came to Town, and Snoozapalooza.  Her books have made best-seller lists and Vooks, a streaming app for kids books, has chosen her as a featured author and transformed her titles into living story books. In addition to writing, Kimberlee speaks at conferences and schools where she shares her story and struggle with dyslexia, and encourages others to believe that with determination, dedication, and persistence, any dream can come true.  She lives on a small hobby farm outside of Denver with her husband, sons, and a gaggle of barnyard friends. More information can be found at

Kimberlee loves helping other authors grow in their writing careers.  Her mentoring process is catered to each individual mentee and where they are in their writing journey.  The process will include plot and character development, story structure, craft techniques, critique, and detailed line editing to make every word sing.  She encourages mentees to submit up to three manuscripts.  Kimberlee will also help authors with other key elements to get a book submission ready including creating a strong pitch and query letter. She will communicate with an introductory virtual or phone chat followed by bi-weekly email check-in’s and monthly virtual or phone meetings. Kimberlee will be both a coach and cheerleader to help get mentees closer to their dream of being published.


Jenny  Goebel

PBs & MG (any genre; rhyming or non-rhyming PBs)

Jenny is an award-winning children’s book author, Colorado native, and outdoor enthusiast. Her middle grade novels include Alpaca My Bags, Out of My Shell (Green Earth Book Award Winner), Fortune Falls (Indies Next List pick), Grave Images (Colorado Book Award Winner), and The 39 Clues – Doublecross series book Mission Hurricane. Her latest picture book is Adelita, A Sea Turtle’s Journey. She lives in Westminster with her husband, three sons, three crested geckos, and one mischievous dog. For more information, visit her website at

Jenny has enjoyed participating in the mentorship program for the past four years. She’s happy to tailor the structure of the program to fit the needs of her mentee. Work with her to polish up one or more picture book manuscripts, focus on a single middle grade novel, or a combination of the two. Expect to connect monthly and receive feedback either through in-depth notes or over the phone, depending on the mentee’s preference.   


Donna W. Guthrie

Picture Books

Donna is the author of twenty-four books for children, including the 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist Flibbertigibbety Words, Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration (Page Street Kids, 2020). She has written and produced sixty-four educational videos for homeschoolers, three award-winning documentaries, two animated films, and ten podcasts about country music history.  Donna has a BA in Journalism from Rider University, New Jersey, and an MFA in Children’s and Young adult Writing from Vermont University. When Donna is not writing, she is continuing her goal of hiking five miles in all of the sixty-three National Parks. To find out more, visit her website at

With over thirty years of writing experience, she is interested in mentoring other picture book authors at the beginning of their writing careers through encouraging feedback on manuscripts and one to two ZOOM meetings per month.


Traci L. Jones

MG or YA (any genre)

Traci  holds a B.A. in psychology from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, an M.A. in advertising from the University of Denver, and has taken several courses in creative writing at the University of Denver. Prior to launching a career as a young adult novelist, Traci L. Jones wrote articles for the local business magazines, In The Black and Emerging Markets.  

Discovered in the slush pile by Beverly Reingold at Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), Traci’s first YA novel, Standing Against the Wind was published in 2006 and won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.  Her second novel, Finding My Place, was published by FSG in 2010. Her third novel, Silhouetted by the Blue (FSG) was released July of 2011, and received a starred review from Booklist. 

Traci is the proud mother of four and lives with her husband in Denver, Colorado, where she works with the MFA program at Regis University and the Lighthouse Writing Workshop as a creative writing instructor. To learn more, visit


Darby Karchut

MG Fiction (especially with male MCs)

Darby is an award-winning author, former middle school teacher, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy wrangling words. Author of over a dozen books, her middle grade books include Del Toro Moon (Colorado Book Award winner) and On a Good Horse (High Plains Book Award winner). For more information, see her website at

With a focus on story structure, character development, dialogue, and author voice, Darby looks forward to helping her mentee polish and hone their story to make it the best it can be. 


Nancy Oswald

Chapter books and MG

Nancy Oswald loves researching and writing historical fiction books for young readers. She has, however, written in a variety of genres including personal interest pieces, children’s plays, poetry, educational research, biography, and nonfiction. Oswald spent her growing-up-years in Denver but has lived as an adult in rural Colorado and the outback of British Columbia where she taught in a one and a two-room school and also taught adults. Nancy loves teaching students of all ages and taught for 20 years in rural Colorado before retiring. Writing awards include the Willa Literary Award, Spur Award, Evvy Award, CAL Award, Mom’s Choice, and the Will Rogers Award. Nancy currently lives with her husband and their dogs, cats, cows, chickens, and one nearly human donkey on a family ranch near Cotopaxi, Colorado. To learn more about Nancy, visit  

My goal as a mentor is to help individuals meet their writing goals via a supportive two-way street. First, I’d like to learn who you are, what your writing goals are, and have an idea of how I can help you succeed and get the most out of our time together. In the classroom, my philosophy has always been to understand where a student is at, and move forward from that point. I will cheerlead and guide you, help with individual skills, and give feedback and support as needed. I’m happy to share my own journey of more than thirty years of publishing.  It’s been a combination of traditional publishing both large and small with some self-publishing thrown into the stew for good measure. Lots has changed over the years, but the one thing that remains the same is if you write a good book, there will be a way to publication that matches your writing goals. 


Laura Perdew

Picture Books (fiction and nonfiction)

Laura is a middle school teacher turned author. Her first fiction picture book, The Fort (Page Street Kids), was published in April 2020 which she admits was really bad timing. She has also written over 40 nonfiction books for young readers on subjects ranging from wetland conservation to extinction, and the exploring mountains to animal adaptations. Most of her work is for the education market, including Biodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth which is on the Booklist editors’ 2020 list of the Top 10 Books on the Environment & Sustainability for Youth. If it isn’t obvious, her favorite subjects are nature, the environment, and environmental issues. It will not surprise you then, to learn that when she’s not writing she’s usually outside being amazed by all that Colorado has to offer. For more information about her and her books, visit

She looks forward to working with a mentee who is willing and ready to dive into deep revisions of a nonfiction or fiction picture book manuscript. Laura is also open to helping a mentee break into writing for the education market (generating writing samples, crafting queries, and approaching publishers). If time allows, mentees may be able to work on an additional manuscript during the mentorship, as well as cover letters, Twitter pitches, and more. Monthly meetings (either in-person or via Zoom) as well as email check-ins.


Heather Preusser

Picture Books (rhyming and prose)

Heather is the author of the picture book A Symphony of Cowbells (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017). She has an MFA in creative writing as well as sixteen years of experience teaching English in both middle and high school classrooms. This past year she was a Critique Ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Writing Challenge, and she just finished mentoring a picture book writer through Inked Voices. She is represented by Janine Le at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency.  When she’s not reading or writing, Heather and her toddler son visit local fairy gardens and marvel at construction vehicles. Visit her website at for more information.

During the mentoring process, Heather can provide big-picture commentary, detailed line editing, or a combination of both based on her mentee’s needs. She can also suggest mentor texts to study and discuss. Although she’s open to reading rhyme and non-fiction, she’s a better fit for someone writing fiction in prose, particularly someone who’d like to hone their narrative voice and/or tighten their plot. 


Heather Sappenfield

MG & YA (all genres)

Heather writes across genres. She’s published two contemporary YA novels, The View from Who I Was and Life at the Speed of Us; the latter was a Colorado Book Awards finalist. Her story collection, Lyrics for Rock Stars, was featured on Colorado Public Radio, nominated for the MPIBA’s Reading the West Awards, and earned a silver medal from the IBPA’s Ben Franklin Awards and an Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine. Her writing has also won the Danahy Fiction Prize and the Arthur Edelstein Prize, garnered six Pushcart Prize nominations, and was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award. She’s published interviews with some of the nation’s foremost poets and authors in The Writer’s Chronicle. This February, her MG novel, The River Between Hearts, releases with Fitzroy Books. More information can be found on her website –

With an MFA in writing from Pacific University, Heather has taught workshops at Colorado Mountain College, Western Colorado University, and Pacific University. Her mentoring focuses on character, in both story and student. She loves guiding mentees in crafting their stories into what they’d dreamed, along the way nurturing an author, beyond a single book.


Michelle Schaub

Picture Books (rhyming or lyrical prose) or Poetry Collections

Michelle is an award-winning children’s author and language arts teacher. Michelle loves using wordplay and the sounds and rhythms of language to delight, inspire, and empower kids. She is the author of the poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market (2018 Growing Good Kids Award and 2019 Northern Lights Book Award) and Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (2020 NCTE Notable Poetry Book.) Her rhyming picture books include Dream Big, Little Scientist and Kindness is a Kite String. Michelle’s poems also appear in several anthologies, including A World Full of Poems and Hop To It: Poems to Get You Moving.  Michelle shares ways to use poetry in the classroom at Poetry Boost. She has experience helping aspiring authors polish their work through her critique service, Rhyme Doctors. Visit her website for more information about Michelle and her books.

Michelle looks forward to working with a mentee who is crafting a lyrical (rhyming or non-rhyming) picture book or poetry collection.  She is happy to work on 1-3 picture books over the course of the program.  Michelle’s mentoring focuses on helping authors with language, diction, meter, and rhyme scheme, as well as structure, pacing, voice, and marketability. Michelle will provide written feedback as well as engage in Zoom meetings as needed.


Sonja Solter

PB, MG, & YA

Sonja is the author of the middle grade novel in verse When You Know What I Know, an ILA Honor Book. She writes both prose and verse fiction, from picture books through YA which vary in style from the intensely emotional to the humorous. Sonja graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in human biology from Stanford University and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her master’s critical thesis was on writing trauma in middle grade and young adult realistic fiction. Her master’s creative thesis was a series of humorous picture books, as well as a young adult novel. She is currently a creative writing mentor and Drafting Workshop lead for the Society of Young Inklings. Sonja lives with her husband and two children in Louisville, Colorado, and enjoys nature, travel, and yoga. To find out more, visit

Sonja’s mentoring style works for those who are still finishing a project all the way up to those who are readying their manuscript for submission. She will focus on helping you understand the reader’s experience of your work, so that you can bring your vision more fully onto the page. 


Natasha Wing

Picture Books (rhyming or prose)

Natasha has been publishing picture books for 27 years, and has both traditionally and independently published about 50 books. Her most popular books are from The Night Before series which has sold millions of copies. The holiday and school-themed titles show up regularly on best-seller lists. Her strength is writing in rhyme, but she has also written pun-filled stories (Bagel In Love) and intriguing biographies (When Jackie Saved Grand Central). See to learn more about her and her books.

Natasha looks forward to working with an author who’s committed to finishing his or her manuscript with the goal of getting it ready for submission. She will give written feedback on picture books and follow up with 1-2 Zoom or phone calls a month throughout the program. Natasha prefers light-hearted stories with heart, and clever, playful writing so she is not the right mentor for those writing about dark, dysfunctional topics or families, or social and gender injustice.