Rochester Area Children's Writers & Illustrators
Author Spotlight (Click on the Blue rectangle to read about your Favorite Authors)
  • Sue Williams Beckhorn





    Author/Illustrator for picture books, middle grade, and young adult books.


    Published Works & Awards:

    In the Morning of the World, Six Woodland Why Stories

    (Down East Books 2000) 

    The Kingfisher’s Gift  (Philomel, 2002) Junior Library Guild selection) 

    Sarey by Lantern Light (Down East Books 2003)  

    Wind Rider (Laura Geringer, 2006) Booklist and Kliatt starred reviews, Amelia Bloomer Listing, Book Sense Pick, URI’s Andrew Eiseman Award, also published in Germany  

    Moose Eggs, or Why Moose Have Flat Antlers

    (Down East Books 2008)

    Moose Power (Down East Books 2010)                                                                                                                      • The Wolf’s Boy (Disney*Hyperion 2016) ALSC Notable Book 2016; Kirkus List: Best Middle-grade Historical Fiction 2016; Starred Reviews: School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist; Junior Library Guild Book Club Selection, December 2016


    What other awards have you received for your work?

    Faculty member, 2008 and 2014 Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Conferences, 2012 Ranger Rick Magazine Writing Award.


    Who influenced you to become an author?

    Number one, I was in love with books from the beginning, an obsessive reader. One Christmas when I was about ten, my father’s cousin, Arthur Walworth, who had won a Pulitzer for his biography of Woodrow Wilson in 1953, came to visit. I told him that I would like to write a book too, someday. He could have brushed me off with a laugh, but instead he said quite seriously, “Then you probably will.” I’ve had many other wonderful mentors over the years, but I think those four words of affirmation gave me my start.


    Do you have an agent?  If so, how did you find your agent?

    Yes, but I probably queried fifty or more before being accepted—and this was after publishing six books traditionally, with a seventh on its way to acquisitions. I found Brianne Johnson at Writer’s House through She said one of her favorite books growing up was THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR “before it devolved into cave porn.” I thought she might like THE WOLF’S BOY and she did.


    What is your process for getting published?

    Write and re-write. Submit and re-submit. Go to critique groups, conferences and workshops. Believe in yourself and never give up.


    What is your favorite part about writing?

    I love it when I write something that touches me so deeply that I actually weep. Holding your own book in your hands for the first time is akin to holding a newborn, but I think the very best is when a young reader tells me that my story meant something very special to them.


    How do you make time for writing?

    There’s an old theory that if you put the big rocks in a jar first, then the small ones, the pebbles, and even some sand, will fit in later—but not the other way around. I’ve tried it with real rocks and it actually works. Your writing has to be your first priority after partner and kids. I like to keep my laptop beside my bed and work for an hour first thing in the morning before I even get up. I feel calmer, happier, less frustrated all through the day to follow—which may or may not allow me to get back to my story.


    What advice would you give to new writers/illustrators?

    I have advice, book and conference recommendations on my website.


    Sue's Website

  • Kathleen Blasi

    Author of picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction for 15 years.


    Published Works:

    A Name Of Honor (Mondo, 2006)

    Are Organized Sports Better For Kids Than Pickup Games? (Mondo, 2006)


    How did you get started?

    I started by reading a lot and then realizing I had some stories to tell myself.


    Do you have an agent?  If so, how did you find your agent?

    I did have an agent and found her through query tracker. I’m looking again, as she left agenting to become an editor.


    What is your process for getting published?

    Write, revise, submit, repeat. Don’t give up!


    What is your favorite part about writing?



    How do you make time for writing?

    Treating it seriously, like a job.


    What advice would you give to new writers?

    Read. Do your homework. Go to workshops and conferences. Write. A lot.


    Do you have any how-to writing books that you recommend?

    The Writer's Journey.


    Are there any conferences or workshops that you think new writers

    should attend?

    SCBWI Nuts & Bolts conferences.


    Kathleen's website


  • Kevin Kurtz

    Author of nonfiction picture books


    Published Works:

    A Day in the Salt Marsh (Arbordale Publishing, 2007)

    A Day on the Mountain  (Arbordale Publishing, 2010)

    A Day in the Deep (Arbordale Publishing, 2013)

    Uncovering Earth’s Secrets: Science and Adventure on the JOIDES Resolution (eBook on the JOIDES Resolution website, 2014)

    What Makes Sports Gear Safer? (Lerner Publishing, 2015)

    * Where Wild Microbes Grow: The Search for Life Under the Sea Floor (eBook on the JOIDES Resolution website, 2015)

    * Sharks and Dolphins: A Compare and Contrast Book (Arbordale Publishing, 2016)


    What awards have you received for your work?

    • A Day in the Deep winner of 2013 ForeWord IndieFab Bronze Award for Picture Book of Year

    • A Day on the Mountain was a 2011 Library Media Connection

    Editor's Choice

    • A Day in the Salt Marsh was a finalist for 2008 Florida Publishers Association President's Award for Picture Books

    • What Makes Sports Gear Safer? was a 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection


    How long have you been a writer?

    My first book was published in 2007, but I have been writing my own stories and comics since about age nine.


    Who influenced you to become an author or illustrator?

    When I first became aware of the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz around age six, I loved it. By the time I was nine I was starting to write and draw my own comic strips. Unfortunately, I did not have a significant amount of natural talent as a visual artist, but I enjoyed the writing, kept at it, and eventually made that my main focus.


    What is your process for getting published?

    I look up the publisher’s submission guidelines on their website and then I do what the guidelines say.


    What is your favorite part about writing?

    I like doing research for my nonfiction books. I’m a curious person, so research allows me to keep learning new and amazing things. I also enjoy editing because it takes the pressure off of the initial writing. Instead of giving into my perfectionist inclinations which usually results in nothing getting put on the page, I can just write down whatever is in my head knowing I will improve it when I edit and revise.


    How do you make time for writing?

    I’ve been lucky in the last couple years that I am getting enough school visits and science education consulting jobs to pay the bills. I can now work from home on my own schedule, which is giving me a lot more time to write..


    What advice would you give to new writers?

    1. Schedule time to write everyday, so it becomes a habit.

    2. Join a critique group and be open to their suggestions for improvement.

    3. Edit and revise your writing multiple times.

    4. Attend conferences and read editor and agent interviews and blogs, so you are aware of how the business of children’s publishing works and what is expected of you as an aspiring author and/or illustrator.


    Do you listen to specific writing podcasts?

    I listen to ‘All the Wonders’ sometimes, which features interviews with children’s authors and illustrators, but the podcast I find most helpful is actually ‘Scriptnotes,’ a podcast for movie and television screenwriters. There are enough parallels between screenwriting and writing picture books, which are both visual mediums, I find their advice on the craft and business of writing to be insightful.


    Kevin's website


  • Andrea Page

    Author of middle grade and picture books.


    Published Works:

    Sioux Code Talkers of World War II

    (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017)


    What is your favorite part about writing?

    The personal connections I’ve made while researching and writing.


    How do you make time for writing?

    I consider writing a second job, so I make sure I’m at my desk writing something each day, mostly at night when I’m teaching during the

    school year.


    What advice would you give to new writers?

    Find a topic you are passionate about because it will make it easier to

    dedicate your time to completing the project.


    Do you have any how-to writing books that you recommend?

    Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

    Keep It Real edited by Lee Gutkind

    The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield


    Are there any conferences or workshops that you think new writers

    should attend?

    New writers should attend their local SCBWI regional conferences.  I also try to attend every year to support our local chapter and reconnect with writing friends from other cities. I’ve tried to attend as many as I can.  I enjoy networking with others and learning about our craft from authors, editors and agents.


    Andrea's website


  • Jeff Minerd



    Author of fantasy novels for middle-grade and young adult readers.

    (I also wrote short stories for adults, as well.)


    Published Works:

    • The Sailweaver's Son (Silver Leaf Books, 2016)

    The Wizard's Daughter (Silver Leaf Books, expected 2018)


    What awards have you received for your work?

    My short story “Stepping Off” won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Competition and was published in The North American Review.


    How long have you been a writer?

    Nearly 30 years; since my first job as a reporter for a small-city newspaper,

    The Ogdensburg Journal.


    What awards have you received for your work?

    Having my book “out there” and having readers connect with it has been an amazing experience. People have written to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, or that it helped them get through a tough time by allowing them to escape into another world, and that has been very moving for me.


    How do you make time for writing?

    It’s hard. You have to constantly fight other things off in order to have time to write. Scheduling regular times to be at your desk helps..


    What advice would you give to new writers?

    Many new writers mistakenly believe that if you’re a good writer, the words flow  effortlessly and your writing comes out perfectly on the first try. That is definitely not the  case. More experienced writers know that initial drafts tend to be bad. J.R.R. Tolkien’s  first draft of  The Lord of the Rings was actually pretty lame. It took him several tries to  find his story. So the best writers usually aren’t those who get it right on the first try. It’s  those who are willing to revise and revise again.


    My advice to new writers is to think of themselves as potters or sculptors working in clay. Whether you are writing a story, a poem, a novel, or an essay, first drafts are just  about getting some clay on the wheel and giving it a rough shape. You have plenty of  time after that to work and re-work your piece, giving it the exact shape and qualities you  want. In fact, you may actually discover what it is you truly want to make as you are making it.


    Is there a writing Facebook group you recommend new writers to join?

    ROC City Writers & Readings


    Do you have any how-to writing books that you recommend?

    I found The Art of Fiction by John Gardner very helpful in my graduate

    school days.


    Are there any conferences or workshops that you think new writers

    should attend?

    I gave a reading and sat on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention in 2016.

    It seemed like a great place for new and emerging writers to rub shoulders with big names.


    Jeff's Website


  • Wendy Dunham


    Author of picture books, easy readers, middle grade novels, and young adult.


    Two middle grade novels:

    My Name Is River (Harvest House Publishers, 2015)

    Hope Girl (Harvest House Publishers, 2016)

    A series of four easy readers: The Tales of Buttercup Grove (Forthcoming in 2018)


    How long have you been a writer and/or illustrator?

    I have been a writer for over 20 years


    Who influenced you to become an author or illustrator?

    As a young girl I remember having a love of books by authors such as Judy Blume and Shel Silverstein. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew Mystery series. I also had fun writing poems then. However, it wasn’t until I had small children of my own and began reading to them, that I had a desire to write for children.


    Do you have an agent?  If so, how did you find your agent?

    I am very fortunate to have an agent. We met at a conference I attended.


    What is your process for getting published?

    After I complete a manuscript, my agent presents it to a publishing house that she feels is a good fit. And then we cross our fingers and wait!


    What is your favorite part about writing?

    One of my favorite parts of being a writer is when a reader reaches out to me and tells me how much they liked my book. It’s such an incredible feeling to know I can touch someone’s heart through a story and help them along in their journey.


    How do you make time for writing?

    Finding time to write is tricky for me since I work full time. But since I work in a school, I have summers and snow days off! I also write on the weekends. Someday I hope to have the opportunity to write full time.


    What advice would you give to new writers/illustrators?

    My advice to new writers is to read book after book in the genre you would like to write. I would also recommend reading many books on the craft of writing, and attending conferences.


    Do you have any how-to writing books that you recommend?  My favorite book on writing is by Donald Maas – How to Write the Breakout Novel.


    Wendy's website

  • Vivian Vande Velde

    Author of middle-grade and young adult.


    Books published: Total 36.  Most recent:

    •  First book: A Hidden Magic (Crown Publishers, 1985)

    • Latest book: Squirrel in the House (Holiday House, 2016)

    • Book #37, The Princess Imposter, (Scholastic, Fall of 2017)


    What awards have you received for your work?

    • Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize in Children’s Literature (Heir Apparent)

    • Edgar Award (Never Trust a Dead Man)

    • Both the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People, and Writers and Books Literary Award

    • For body of work; several state children’s choice reading awards

    • Inclusion in multiple reading lists such as ALA and International Reading Association


    How long have you been a writer and/or illustrator?

    Always but I started writing and submitting in 1979.


    Who influenced you to become an author or illustrator?  Or, how did you get started?

    I always loved stories and wanted to create my own. And my parents always assured me I could do whatever I set my mind to.


    Do you have an agent?  If so, how did you find your agent?

    Yes, I have an agent. I’d been listening to friends talking about their agents, reading on-line what other authors had to say about theirs, checking out agents’ blogs, deciding what I wanted and what I didn’t want in an agent. Finally, I queried one online about one specific book; she asked to see it, and accepted me based on that.


    What is your process for getting published?

    I’m rather new to being agented (about 3 years after 33 of submitting on my own). I belong to a critique group and they help me all along during the writing process, but then I have to decide on my own when a piece is ready to be submitted. I know that I can ALWAYS find something that I feel I can improve on, but at some point the project needs to go out or it would never see the

    light of day.


    My agent will decide the editors to submit to--and twice she has submitted and gotten a piece accepted by someone I would not have submitted to. (The first was to a house I did not know was starting a YA line (Boyds Mills); the second was to a house I had found to be a black hole when I submitted to them in the past (Scholastic).)  Then, of course, once we have an acceptance, the editor will point out questions he or she has, and the revision process restarts.


    What is your favorite part about writing?

    Odd as it may seem, I DO like revising. Starting from scratch, there are so many possibilities, so many decisions--this stage can be daunting. But at the stage where I’m revising, I’m more focused: THIS needs to be more believable, or clearer, or funnier. Or I have to put something HERE so that when we get THERE, what happens doesn’t seem a too-convenient coincidence. And, OK, *I* know this is a transition scene, moving the characters to where they need to be for the big action in the next scene--but the readers don’t know that; so how do I get them interested in what’s happening now if not all that much is happening? It’s still work, but it’s easier and more fun.


    How do you make time for writing? 

    Ooo, I’m not the person to ask that. I waste a lot of time. I think the thing that saves me is belonging to a critique group (Actually, I belong to two.). I don't want to show up to a meeting with nothing to read.


    What advice would you give to new writers/illustrators?

    Don't give up. Everyone has stories, and you are the only one who can tell your particular stories. At the same time, don't expect it to be easy, Read (yeah, I know you've heard that before), and read analytically: How did the author get you to trust that character? What could have been cut? Where was something more needed? What could have made you believe that unbelievable ending?


    Do you have any how-to writing books that you recommend?

    It's been a long time since I've read one. That does not mean I think I know everything. I still read the articles in the SCBWI bulletin, as well as those with links in the RACWI newsletter.


    What experience do you have with writing conferences or workshops?

    Writing workshops are great if they motivate you and encourage you and if they have you trying something new.


    Vivian's website


   Author Spotlight Currently Featured Sue Williams Beckhorn Kathleen Blasi Kevin Kurtz Andrea Page Jeff Minerd Wendy Dunham Vivian Vande Velde ILLUSTRATOR SPOTLIGHT Currently Featured Yuko Jones • • • • • Coming Soon! Author Spotlight Sally Valentine Rose O'Keefe Marsha Hayles Lorraine Lander Julian Woodruff Jackie Yeager Susannah Buhrman-Deever Mylisa Larson Bill Thomas ILLUSTRATOR SPOTLIGHT Karen Sorce Melissa Mihalyo Donna Farrell Annie Zygarowicz
Illustrator Spotlight

Yuko Jones

Yuko Jones is an artist and illustrator who believes in the power of imagination. Yuko’s illustrations are gentle and sweet, and her quiet style is influenced by Japanese art and culture. She uses various media to create illustrations rich in color and texture, including coffee, soft pastel, acrylics, colored pencil, and Photoshop. But her signature style is pen drawing with watercolor on cold press water-color paper.


Yuko believes our imagination opens up the

door to the world and inspires us to explore and achieve our dreams. She hopes her work will be a source of boundless imagination for children

of all ages.


You can follow Yuko's creative process on: Instagram

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Board members:

Kathleen Blasi, Co-President

Andrea Page, Co-President

Barbara Underhill

Vicki Dodd Schultz

Roxanne Chadwick

Vivian Vande Velde

Elizabeth Falk

Susannah Burhman-Deever

Mylisa Larsen





Website Contributers:

Jenny Shipkowski

Roxanne Chadwick

Barbara Underhill,

Vivian Vande Velde

Kathleen Blasi

Andrea Page

Annie Zygarowicz, Zygdesignz Studio

(Website Design)

©2018 Rochester Area Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It is unlawful by Federal law to copy, download and distribute any of the content and photographs from this website. Site Design: Zygdesingz Studio