Meet the 2022 #QueerKidlit Mentors!
These incredible kidlit creators have volunteered to be mentors. We are thrilled to have these notable mentors who span the breadth of children's literature from picture books to YA novels.
Adib Khorram is a queer Iranian-American. His books have won several awards and accolades, such as the William C. Morris Award, Asian Pacific- American Award for Literature, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor, a Stonewall Honor, and one of TIME’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and spent his summers with his extended family in Vancouver, British Columbia. After years of trying to style his hair into a perfect middle part, he went bald instead, so now he writes about boy bands rather than singing in one. When he’s not at his desk, you can find him playing his Fender Stratocaster, working on his crossovers, or trying to find decent poutine south of the 49th Parallel.
Aida Salazar is an award-winning author, arts activist, and translator whose writings for adults and children explore issues of identity and social justice. She is the author of the critically acclaimed middle grade verse novels, THE MOON WITHIN (International Latino Book Award Winner) and LAND OF THE CRANES (Américas Award, California Library Association Beatty Award, Northern CA Book Award, NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, Jane Addams Peace Honor, International Latino Book Award Honor). Her forthcoming books include the picture book anthology, IN THE SPIRIT OF A DREAM: 13 Stories of Immigrants of Color (Fall, 2021), the novel, A SEED IN THE SUN (Fall, 2022), the bio picture book JOVITA WORE PANTS: The Story of a Freedom Fighter (Spring, 2023), and the anthology CALLING THE MOON: Period Stories by BIPOC Authors (Spring, 2023). Aida is a founding member of LAS MUSAS - a Latinx kidlit debut author collective. Her story, By the Light of the Moon, was adapted into a ballet production by the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance and is the first Xicana-themed ballet in history. She lives with her family of artists in a teal house in Oakland, CA.
AJ Irving grew up in Boise, Idaho, writing stories and daydreaming about becoming an author. Now, she writes picture books and poetry on her big back porch in a tiny town near Jackson, Wyoming. AJ reads kidlit every day and dances every chance she gets. She is the author of Dance Like a Leaf (Barefoot Books, 2020) and The Wishing Flower (Knopf BFYR, summer 2023). As a children’s author and former bookmobile librarian, AJ is passionate about inspiring kids to love books. When she’s not reading, writing, or dancing, she enjoys exploring the Wyoming wilderness with her husband, two children, and their English bulldog. AJ received a B.A. in journalism and women’s and gender studies from the University of Oregon. She is represented by Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary.
Alex Gino is author of middle grade novels Alice Austen Lived Here; Rick; You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!; and the Stonewall Award-winning Melissa. They love glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the complexity of being alive.
Chris Tebbetts is the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestselling MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson, as well as the bestselling STRANDED series with Jeff Probst from TV’s “Survivor.” Chris is also the author of two queer-interest YA novels: ME, MYSELF, AND HIM and M OR F? (with Lisa Papademetriou); the bestselling adult thriller 1ST CASE (also with James Patterson); and the middle grade fantasy-adventure series, THE VIKING. His work has received children’s choice awards in Oregon and Hawaii, as well a Sunshine State Young Readers Award nomination, and a nod on the New York Public Library’s annual list of Books For the Teen Age. He offers author talks and writing workshops for any age from fourth grade through adult, online and (when feasible) in person. Chris has visited schools around the country and taught for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, Highlights Foundation, Adirondack Center for Writing, and others. Find him online at christebbetts.com and @christebbetts.
Elizabeth Lilly (she/her) is an author, illustrator, animator and educator. Elizabeth’s work deals with the difficulty of understanding and loving yourself, and the celebration of your true self once you find it. She struggled to find her own identity growing up, but now finds pride and joy in her own identity as a lesbian, biracial Colombian Latina. Elizabeth's first author-illustrated picture book, GERALDINE, about a lonely giraffe girl navigating life a human school, was released from Roaring Brook Press in 2018. Her second book, LET ME FIX YOU A PLATE about the love and food in her dual Colombian and American cultures, was released in fall 2021. Elizabeth’s illustrations feature pen-and-ink drawings that are loose and concise and deeply expressive of her characters’ nuanced emotions. Elizabeth also practices 2D frame-by-frame character animation and is working on her first animated short film. When she is not writing, painting or drawing, Elizabeth teaches illustration, drawing and storytelling as an adjunct professor at Towson University. She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland with her partner and white fluffy dog, Ponyo.
Jenn Reese (she/they) is the author of A Game of Fox & Squirrels, an NPR Best Book of 2020, a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and the Mythopoeic Award, and winner of the Oregon Book Award and Oregon Spirit Book Award. Their other publications include Every Bird a Prince (coming in 2022), the Above World trilogy, and numerous short stories and essays.
Kaylani Juanita is a freelance picture book illustrator and writer. California grown and raised, she's studied at CCA for a BFA in Illustration and UC Davis for an MFA in Design. She’s known for winning a Coretta Scott King Honors (and Lupine Award,) for her Illustrations in Magnificent Homespun Brown, as well as a Stonewall Book Award for When Aidan Became a Brother. Some of her clients include Chronicle Books, Tilbury House, Scholastic, and many more. Through counter storytelling, Kaylani strives to create new ways for readers to imagine themselves and others.
Keisha Morris is an award-winning illustrator based in Maryland, who loves to create whimsical and joyful illustrations from diverse narratives. She earned her BFA in Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and mentored with illustrators such as Sean Qualls, Selina Alko and Dan Santat. When she is not drawing or crafting stories, you can hear her chatting about her picture book experiences and illustration process in her podcast called The KidLit Show.
Lee Wind is a lighthouse of stories—true and fictional—that empower kids and teens to be their authentic selves and change our world. Closeted until his 20s, Lee writes the books that would have changed his life as a young gay kid. His Masters Degree from Harvard in Education didn’t include blueprints for a time machine to go back and tell these stories to himself, so Lee pays it forward with a popular blog with over 3 million page loads (I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?) and books for kids and teens. He is the author of the nonfiction Queer History Project series for readers age 11 and up (Zest Books/Lerner), with the first title, NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves being named a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books Winner and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Next up is THE GENDER BINARY IS A BIG LIE: Diverse Cultures and People. His debut picture book, RED AND GREEN AND BLUE AND WHITE (Levine Querido, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky), received five starred trade reviews, was named a Sydney Taylor Award Notable Picture Book, and was called “Beautiful” by the New York Times. His debut YA novel, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL, was a Publisher’s Weekly Indie Success Story and won the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Book: LGBTQ For Children & Young Adults. Lee works for the Independent Book Publishers Association (as their director of education and programs) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (as their official blogger). Visit www.leewind.org to subscribe to Lee’s newsletter and start your journey to discover our past and live your future.
Megan Dowd Lambert earned her MA in Children’s Literature at Simmons University, where she taught for many years. Her experiences as a bisexual, white mother of seven children in a blended, multiracial, queer, foster-adoptive family inform her work in children’s literature. She reviews and writes for Kirkus and The Horn Book, is a consultant with EmbraceRace, and served as an inaugural member of the OurShelves curation team. In 2009, Mass Literacy named her a Literacy Champion, and she was a member of the 2009 Geisel, 2011 Caldecott, and 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book award committees. Megan’s book Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See (Charlesbridge 2015) introduces the Whole Book Approach storytime model she developed in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. An essay collection on family reading, Book Bonding, will publish with Charlesbridge in 2023. Her books for young readers include: • A Crow of His Own, (illus. David Hyde Costello, Charlesbridge 2015), a 2016 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor book; • Real Sisters Pretend, (illus. Nicole Tadgell, Tilbury House 2016), a Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2017, and a Massachusetts Book Award Must-Read Picture Book/Early Reader title; • A Kid of Their Own (illus. Jessica Lanan, Charlesbridge 2020), a Massachusetts Must-Read Picture Book/Early Reader title; • Every Day with April & Mae, a 7-book early reader series debuting with Charlesbridge in 2022, with illustrations by Briana Dengoue. Today, Megan is co-owner and president of Modern Memoirs, Inc., a noncommercial publishing company that specializes in memoirs and family history books, and she is working on several projects inspired by her Franco-American and Irish heritage. She brings this work the conviction that everyone’s story is worth telling, and a belief in the transformative power of radical listening.
Rebecca Kim Wells writes books full of magic and fury (and often dragons). Her debut novel Shatter the Sky was a New England Book Award finalist, a Bisexual Book Award winner, an ALA Rainbow Book List title, an Indies Introduce title, and a Kids’ Indie Next Pick. She is also the author of Storm the Earth and Briar Girls, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. If she were a hobbit, she would undoubtedly be a Took.
Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is known for his funny and fierce fiction and nonfiction picture books and is recognized as one of the pioneers in the arena of LGBTQIA+ literary nonfiction picture books. Rob’s nonfiction books continue to break new ground, including the first picture books about the Pride Flag, the Stonewall Uprising, a transgender Civil War soldier, a gay presidential candidate, and the first gay marriage in America. His work also continues to introduce readers to heroes of the LGBTQIA+ community—from Harvey Milk to Gilbert Baker, from Cleve Jones to Bayard Rustin, and more. His fiction explores friendship, relationships, standing up for others, and being allies. Blood Brothers, his first middle grade novel, written in powerful, raw verse releases in Spring 2022. And Rob pays it forward. He serves as co-regional advisor for SCBWI Florida and is a frequent speaker, teacher, mentor, coach, and critiquer.
Robin Stevenson is the author of 30 books for young readers, ranging from picture books to middle grade to young adult, and including both fiction and non-fiction. She was the winner of the 2020 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize for her book MY BODY MY CHOICE, and her book PRIDE won a 2017 Stonewall Honor. Her books have been finalists for many other awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and numerous reader’s choice awards, and a number of them have been ALA Rainbow list selections. Robin launched three new books in 2021: a picture book called PRIDE PUPPY (Orca), a middle-grade non-fiction book called KID INNOVATORS (Quirk), and a young adult novel called WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE (Running Press Kids). Robin is a former social worker and crisis counsellor, and has also taught creative writing and worked as a free lance editor. She lives on Vancouver Island with her family.