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Hello, friends! I hope you're all gearing up and preparing your entries for the Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest! We have over 160 kid judges signed up and ready to read your work! How exciting!

Today, I'm announcing all of the prize donors for this year's contest. This is an INCREDIBLE list of creators and prizes. PLEASE give them all a follow as a huge thank you for their donations!

You can go to THIS TWITTER THREAD to easily follow ALL of our amazing donors. Please like and retweet to spread the word.

And now, without further delay, the prizes for the 2023 Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest!

Zoom Call/AMA with Literary Agent Emily Forney (she/her)

Emily Forney is a literary agent for BookEnds Literary, a digital media and rhetoric teacher, cultural critic, and a writer for what feels like an eternity.

She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona at the mercy of two cats and a dream of owning a goat farm one day.

After earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University, Emily worked in editorial roles for literary magazines, journals, and digital prints before finding her home at BookEnds. She was named a 2022 Publisher's Weekly Star Watch honoree and was previously a Publishing Fellow with the LA Review of Books. She currently directs the BookEnds Publishing Fellowship, which mentors aspiring publishing professionals from marginalized communities and provides them with hands on education, resources, and workshops for roles throughout the industry. As a writer and former editor, she actively writes about identity, Blackness, and pop culture.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

15 min. AMA with Literary Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez (she/her)

Kaitlyn Sanchez joined Bradford Literary in 2022 with two years of agenting experience under her belt. Kaitlyn is the proud co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest and Kidlit Zombie Week as well as creator and co-host of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest. As a mom, wife, and middle school math teacher, Kaitlyn enjoys playing soccer, binge-watching TV shows, and, of course, reading, especially when she’s all cozied up with her husband and daughter reading together. Kaitlyn is an editorial agent and always works with her clients to make sure we’re putting out their best work. She’s highly communicative and invested in every aspect of helping her clients have a strong and happy career.

Kaitlyn is looking for children’s books (picture books through YA) in all categories, including graphic novels, nonfiction, and illustration.

Follow her on Twitter

Full PB Fiction or NF Critique with Literary Agent Joyce Sweeny (they/them)

Joyce Sweeney has worn many hats in the kidlit industry. They are the author of fourteen novels for young adults. They have edited, instructed, and encouraged writers for twenty-five years, successfully mentoring 78 traditionally published authors and still counting. They are very active in Florida SCBWI. They have also published poetry and managed a South Florida theater company.

As an agent, they pride themselves on client communication and are very editorial. They acquire picture books, chapter books, and middle grade, both fiction and non-fiction.They are particularly interested in graphic novels.

Their taste is eclectic, but they are always looking for underrepresented voices. They like science and aerospace, natural history, environmental and animal themes, and anything with a touch of magic. A lyrical voice is the surest way to their heart. Not a big fan of crude or bathroom humor, overtly religious stories or historical fiction.

Follow Joyce on Twitter

15 min. AMA with Literary Agent James McGowan (he/him)

James McGowan began his career right where he is: at BookEnds. He joined the team as an intern in the summer of 2015, and as the joke goes, they couldn’t get rid of him. He has worked in all departments at the agency and is now a literary agent representing a talented list of award-winning authors and illustrators. James’ list focuses on illustrated projects for young readers (board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade) as well as adult nonfiction and mystery/suspense novels.

In addition to being an agent, James is a children’s author. His debut picture book Good Night, Oppy! launched from Astra BFYR in 2021. He is born, raised, and currently living in Staten Island, NY. He is a professional snacker, a huge fan of Jeopardy!, and fluent in sarcasm. To learn more about James, his wishlist, or upcoming client books please visit the BookEnds website or his personal website. And to find a growing archive of thoughts no one asked for, follow James on Twitter and Instagram.

Winner's Choice of AMA or Query Critique with KiwiCo Press Editor Taryn Albright (she/her)

Taryn Albright has been in kidlit since 2011, when she went to a conference, learned about the business side of books, and convinced an agent to bring her and her teen perspective on as an intern.

Since then, she has been an agency assistant, an author assistant, an editor at small presses and mid-sized presses, an author of write-for-hire projects and live entertainment for Disney Parks, and a freelance editor. She's seen all sides of the book creation process—and has never fallen out of love with books.

In her non-editing time, Taryn has dabbled in her own writing, but her favorite thing about publishing is working closely with authors to create amazing books.

In her non-book life, Taryn was a swimmer through college and a powerlifter for five years (including a double bench press national champion). She currently lives in the Bay Area.

Follow Taryn on Twitter

Winner's Choice of Query critique, PB MS critique, or Phone call from Author Tara Lazar (she/her)

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been.

Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible.

Her picture books available now are:

  • THE MONSTORE (Aladdin/S&S, 2013)

  • I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, 2015)

  • LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, 2015)

  • NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, 2016)

  • WAY PAST BEDTIME (Aladdin/S&S, 2017)

  • 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, 2017)



  • THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN (HarperCollins, 2020)

  • BLOOP (HarperCollins, 2021)

Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

Follow Tara on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

PB MS Critique from Author Jody Jensen Shaffer (she/her)

Jody Jensen Shaffer is the author of over 80 books for children. Her forthcoming books include CREEP, LEAP, CRUNCH! A FOOD CHAIN STORY (Knopf 2023) and SOMETIMES I AM HOT LAVA (Beaming Books 2024), as well as A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (Paulsen), a 2021-22 Iowa Goldfinch Award nominee, PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (Godwin), finalist for the 2019-2020 Missouri Show Me Award and 2017 pick for the National Book Festival from Missouri, IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS! (Beach Lane), an Amazon best seller, Book Box pick, and AmazonKids+ choice, EMERGENCY KITTENS! (Doubleday), WHO IS JACKIE CHAN? (Workshop), and more. Jody lives in Missouri with her family.

Follow Jody on Twitter

Free Spot in a Future Kidlit Hive Webinar (details forthcoming) from Author Justin Colón (he/him)

Justin is a Latinx children’s author and active SCBWI member represented by Jennifer March Soloway of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. He’s also the founder of the Kidlit Hive, offering webinars, workshops, and multi-week classes focused on the craft and business of creating books for children

Justin has several forthcoming picture books, including Impossible Possums (Disney-Hyperion, 2024) and The Quacken (Simon & Schuster, 2024).

In his other life, Justin is a professional, formally trained voice and on-camera actor and has co-starred in shows such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Gotham, The First Wives Club, Sneaky Pete and Limitless.

Follow Justin on Twitter and subscribe to the KidLie Hive mailing list HERE

1 Hour Zoom Critique from PB Author Brian Gehrlein (he/him)

Brian Gehrlein is the creator of Picture Book Spotlight and #PBCritiqueFest, a member of SCBWI, and is represented by Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. He wrote a book. It's called THE BOOK OF RULES.

Brian teaches high school English and lives in Liberty, Missouri with his wife, Katherine, sons Peter and Albee, and their two corgis!

Brian tweets things sometimes. You can read the things by following him on Twitter: @briangehrlein. If you want to stay up on Spotlight interviews and other PB Spotlight happenings, subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight. Want to say hi? Contact Brian here.

Wondering how to pronounce "Gehrlein?" It's like "airline" with a "G."

Follow Brian on Twitter

15 min. AMA with PB Author Valerie Bolling (she/her)

Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! (2020). In 2022 Valerie welcomed TOGETHER WE RIDE and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!. Sequels to these books (TOGETHER WE SWIM and BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM!) as well as the Scholastic Acorn early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS, are slated for 2023. I SEE COLOR will be published in 2024.

A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie has been an educator for 30 years. She currently works as an Instructional Coach and, additionally, teaches picture book writing classes. She is also a WNDB mentor and deeply immersed in the kidlit writing community, particularly involved with SCBWI, the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and Black Creators HeadQuarters.

Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.

Follow Valerie on Twitter

PB Critique or giant pencil amigurumi from Author-Illustrator Kim-Hoa Ung (she/her)

Kim-Hoa Ung is a picture book author/illustrator and an amigurumi artist. Her two children inspired her to become an author/illustrator. One day while reading, her daughter asked why there weren’t any characters like her. It made Kim-Hua think about how nice it would be for her little girl to be able to identify with a character similar to her. That’s how Kim-Hua's dream of publishing a children’s book came about.

Her debut book, A GIFT FOR NAI NAI is set for publication in December 2023 From Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Follow Kim-Hoa on Twitter and Instagram

15 min. AMA from PB Author Ha Dinh

Ha Dinh is a primary school teacher, blogger, author, wife to her high school sweetheart, and mama of two. Her debut picture book, WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW was inspired by her experiences of living in a refugee camp in the Philippines as a child. It is set to be published in the Summer of 2023, and she can't wait!

Follow Ha on Twitter and Instagram

Query Critique or 15 min AMA from Author Allen Wells (he/him)

Allen Wells grew up in Jackson, MS where he spent a lot of his time with his head stuck in a book or creating worlds through his words or solving problems and puzzles.

When he isn’t writing, he’s trekking across the world, designing building engineering systems, in Alexandria, VA where he currently resides.

Upcoming Books include

IT'S PRIDE, BABY (FSG, Spring 2023)

DANTE PLAYS HIS BLUES (HarperCollins, Summer 2024)

Follow Allen on Twitter

15 min. AMA call with Author-Illustrator Jen de Oliveira (she/her)

Jen de Oliveira is a writer, cartoonist, and elementary school teacher from the Bay Area, California. She is also the co-creator of Sunday Haha, a free weekly comics newsletter for kids. REGGIE, the first in a series of early reader graphic novels, will be published in Summer 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ​

Follow Jen on Twitter and Instagram

PB MS Critique from PB Author Susan Yoon

Susan Yoon is a writer of books for children and an avid hobby doodler. She has a debut picture book, WAITING FOR TOMORROW, coming out in 2023. She hopes you’ll check it out.

Growing up Susan was not an avid reader or writer, although she did both, very slowly and steadily. Eventually her love of writing caught fire, and although she's done all kinds of writing — from poetry to screenplays to short stories — it was writing stories for kids that made her feel like my words had found their true home.

Other than writing, Susan's advanced skills include: inability to forget birthdays, matching faces to names, making meatballs, remembering nothing from books except for scenes that include food, and eating meatballs.

Follow Susan on Twitter and Instagram

PB MS or Dummy critique from Author-Illustrator DK Ryland

DK is an author/illustrator whose debut picture book, GIRAFFE IS TOO TALL FOR THIS BOOK comes out in 2023 with Page Street Kids. She loves to draw animals and nature and enjoys quirky and subversive humor. Before becoming an author/illustrator DK filmed wildlife in Africa, was a collegiate and professional athlete, and taught middle school English. DK received a PBChat mentorship with Cori Doerrfeld in 2019 and was a PBParty finalist in 2020. When not writing and illustrating, you can find DK going on adventures with her husband and kids, playing sports, or reading a good book - while petting a cat or dog.


Follow DK on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

A Signed Copy of A COSTUME FOR CHARLY by PB Author C.K. Malone (they/them)

PB critique, non rhyming, up to 1000 words from PB Author C.K. MALONE (they/them)

C.K. Malone (they/them) is a bigender award-winning educator and literature coach at the secondary level. When not grading essays or helping students, they're busy helping design culturally and LGBTQIA+ responsive units for the district and working as a climate and culture coach. When they're not writing, they're coaching and advising through alignment with the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network. CK's debut picture book, A COSTUME FOR CHARLY with illos by Alejandra Barajas, was released this year, and their 2024 with illos by Shelly Swann is their newest joy.

Follow C.K. on Twitter

Dummy Critique from Author-Illustrator Marietta Apollonio

Marietta Apollonio is an author-illustrator who grew up in New York making mud pies, reading comic books, and playing in the woods. She holds a BFA in illustration, and during her 20 years as a freelance illustrator, enjoyed eight-years as co-op gallery co-owner and 10-years at a Boston based graphic design firm. She spends her time as an "adult" illustrating and writing for picture books, visiting local libraries and bookstores, horseback riding, making mud pies, and exploring the woods of central Massachusetts with her family.

Her first book, JACK THE LIBRARY CAT releases March 1, 2023 from

Follow Marietta on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Winner’s choice or AMA call or PB critique with PB and MG Author Kelly Swemba

Kelly Swemba was born and raised in a suburb of Cleveland, OH, with her parents and two brothers. Her childhood was spent outside playing baseball in the field next to her house, attempting to fish at the neighborhood pond, and staying out until the stars peeked into the sky.

In addition to being outside, she also also loved going to the library. With card in hand, she discovered an amazing world, and her love for books was started.

Kelly went to college at Xavier University where she earned her degree as a registered nurse. She went on to obtain her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing. She still lives in Ohio, but now with her wonderful husband, two children, and one very fluffy Goldendoodle named Theo. She loves to write books in hopes to encourage imagination, support the big emotions of little ones, and foster their love for learning.

Her debut Picture Book, MISSING VIOLET releases January 31, 2023

Follow Kelly on Twitter

15 min AMA with PB Author Angela Pham Krans

Angela Pham Krans is a consultant by day, chicken farmer on weekends, and a children’s book author in all the time and spaces in between.

Her stories are inspired by life experiences, family interactions (she has a huge family), lots of animal videos and just moments that make her giggle. Ideas spark any time of the day but hot showers are the best time!

She is represented by Katherine Wessbecher from Bradford Literary Agency.

Angela's Debut Picture Book, FINDING PAPA releases in February 2023. Her lyrical debut picture book, based on her own experience as a child and powerfully brought to life by Caldecott Honor artist Thi Bui’s vivid illustrations, reminds us that love and courage can stretch an ocean and that nothing can keep us apart from those we care about.

Follow Angela on Twitter and Instagram

PB Critique from Author Jessica Stremer (she/her)

Jessica Stremer is a mom, military spouse, and author of two forthcoming nonfiction picture books - GREAT CARRIER REEF (Holiday House, 2023) and LIGHTS OUT (Paula Wiseman Books, 2024) - as well as a third soon to be announced title. Jessica obtained a B.S. in Biology, with an emphasis in Ecology, from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She enjoys combining her love of science and writing to create books that inspire kids to explore the world around them and beyond. Jessica received honorable mention for the SCBWI 2021 Ann Whitford Paul award, and took first place for her nonfiction entry in the 2021 Rate Your Story writing competition. When not writing, Jessica loves spending time with her family traveling, hiking, and camping. Jessica currently resides in Okinawa, Japan.

Follow Jessica on Twitter

PB Critique from Author Danielle Sharkan (she/her)

Danielle Sharkan is a PB Author with two upcoming titles coming out in 2024 and 2025.

Danielle finds inspiration from nature, her family, history, politics and everyday life. Danielle is a polyglot, and a lifelong learner. She has earned several degrees: a BA in Political Science, Jewish Studies and minor in Spanish from McGill University, MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and an MA in Social Studies Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, with an endorsement in ESL Education. Danielle has taught ESL, Social Studies, Spanish, and Literacy in New York, Illinois, California, Colorado, Israel and Chile.

Danielle’s journey to publication began in 3rd grade when she won first place and was published in her local newspaper. And in 10th grade she was chosen by her English teacher to pair up with an up and coming software company to create original children’s content. She joined the kidlit community in 2020 and was a winner of the FallWritingFrenzy contest 2020, 50preciouswords contest 2021, and received and Honorable Mention in 2022. She also received and HM for Rate Your Story in 2021, and was chosen as a PBChat Mentee in 2021. She is represented by Charlotte Wenger at Prospect Agency. When Danielle is not writing, her two young children keep her on her toes, and you can find her walking the many trails in her neighborhood, practicing yoga, or cooking up new recipes.

Follow Danielle on Twitter

15 min AMA with Author Aya Khalil (she/her)

Aya Khalil, M.Ed, is an award-winning author and freelance journalist. She holds a master’s degree in Education with a focus in teaching English as a second Language. Aya and her books have been featured in Oprah Daily, Teen Vogue, Yahoo!, Book Riot and USA Today. Her writing has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent and many others. ​ Her debut picture book THE ARABIC QUILT: AN IMMIGRANT STORY, published in February 2020 by Tilbury House & illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan, has won numerous awards and honors. ​ Her board book, OUR WORLD: EGYPT, published in October 2022 by Barefoot Books, illustrated by Magda Azab. ​ THE NIGHT BEFORE EID: A MUSLIM FAMILY STORY, will be published in 2023 by Little, Brown/ Christy Ottaviano, about three generations of Egyptian-Americans bonding over a special Eid treat. It is illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. THE BANNED-BOOKS BAKE SALE, about a girl and her classmates finding out their school district has banned diverse books and they organize a bake sale and protest. It is set to be published in the summer of 2023 by Tilbury House, and illustrated by Anait Semridzhyan. ​ Aya is a mentor for PBRising Star 2022, Kweli 2022 and DVDebut 2022. She's also a Muslim Highlights Foundation Storyteller. ​ Aya is one of the co-founders of Kidlit in Color. Besides writing and teaching, she enjoys hosting brunches, traveling and cycling (indoors and outdoors). She lives in Northwest Ohio with her family.

Follow Aya on Twitter

PB Critique fiction or NF, 1000 words or less from Author Jocelyn Rish (she/her)

Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who loves exploring the magic of stories in all their formats. Her short stories have been published in Highlights for Children and The Post & Courier, and she previously wrote for the MTV News website. Her debut book was published in November of 2021 by Running Press Kids, an imprint of Hachette. It’s a nonfiction picture book called Battle of the Butts, about ten animals that do weird things with their butts. Her next book is Battle of the Brains, about ten animals that have mind-blowing brain powers, published November 8, 2022, by Running Press Kids.

Follow Jocelyn on Instagram and Twitter

Query Critique, PLUS a PB MS or MG 5 page critique PLUS a 15 min. AMA phone call with Author Maria Marianayagam (she/her)

Maria Marianayagam is a Sri Lankan-Canadian picture book and middle grade author. She wears many hats--her favorite being, Amma (mom)--but others include wife, daughter, sister, friend, and engineer!

Maria writes lyrical picture books centered on STEM, faith, and South Asian culture, as well as high concept middle-grade grounded in culture. Maria is represented by Alice Fugate at The Joy Harris Literary Agency.

Maria's upcoming projects include her debut picture book I AM A FORCE which releases March, 2023, from Sourcebooks eXplore and several more projects yet to be announced.

Follow Maria on Twitter

PB MS Critique from author Chelsea Tornetto (she/her)

Chelsea Tornetto is an author and world geography teacher in Missouri. She is the author of Gardens Are for Growing (Familius, 2022) and God Made You Too (Worthy Kids, 2022), with more titles coming soon! She loves to help other authors find their way on this crazy publishing journey and offers critique and coaching services on her website and through She loves snow days, lattes, and Target. She hates spiders, her sinuses, and laundry.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter

30 min zoom critique or AMA from Author Bea Birdsong (she/her)

Bea Birdsong is the author of I Will Be Fierce! (illustrated by Nidhi Chanani/Roaring Brook

Press), Sam’s First Word (illustrated by Holly Hatam/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers),

How to Spot a Best Friend (illustrated by Lucy Fleming/Rodale Kids/RHCB), and several

forthcoming books, including Boop! (illustrated by Linzie Hunter/HarperCollins Children’s

Books 2023) and Goat Is the G.O.A.T. (illustrated by Kelly Murphy/Nancy Paulsen Books

2023). Bea is also a former teacher who believes in the awesome power of books to educate, entertain, and empower.

Bea invites you to follow her on Twitter @BeaBirdsong and Instagram, and to visit her online at

PB critique or 30 min AMA zoom from Author Ashlee Hashman (she/her)

Ashlee Hashman is a children's author who is passionate about creating stories that entertain, inspire, and educate. Her debut picture book, GIRLS BELONG IN SPACE (HarperCollins Children's), is slated for winter 2025. She has a Master’s in Mathematics from Pittsburg State University. Her love of numbers prompted her to work as a math teacher, where she discovered how much she loves encouraging young people. Ashlee enjoys all the unique aspects of Midwest living with her husband and children.

Follow Ashlee on Twitter

PB Critique from Author Leila Boukarim (she/her)

Leila Boukarim was born in Lebanon, raised in several countries, and now resides in Berlin, Germany. She spends her time writing stories that inspire empathy and encourage meaningful discussions between children and caregivers. She has published several picture books with Marshall Cavendish, Penguin Random House SEA, and Chronicle Books (2024).

There is nothing she enjoys more than playing with words to create a compelling and powerful story, and she is grateful she gets to do that as an author, a critique partner, and a freelance editor.

Follow Leila on Twitter and Instagram

30 min zoom consultation or critique with Author Lauren Kerstein (she/her)

Lauren is the author of the Rosie the dragon and Charlie picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions) and HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press). REMEMBERING SUNDAYS WITH GRANDPA (Illustrated by Nanette Regan/Beaming Books) is expected Fall 2023.

Lauren is also the author of a children's picture book entitled, A Week of Switching, Shifting and Stretching my Thoughts: How to Make my Thinking More Flexible so I Can Have Fun, and My Sensory Book: Working Together to Explore Sensory Issues and the Big Feelings They Can Cause: A Workbook for Parents, Professionals, and Children. Lauren authored a textbook about Autism Spectrum Disorders which is available as an on-line course through Western Schools Publishing.

In addition to a passion for reading and writing, Lauren continues to enjoy her career as a mental health clinician. She is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with children, adolescents, adults and families. Lauren is a nationally recognized speaker.

Follow Lauren on Twitter

MG NF 1st 5 Pages or Proposal Critique from Author Kailei Pew

30 min. AMA from Author Kailei Pew (she/her)

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She loves to write books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to. She is the co-founder of the PB Rising Stars Mentorship and the creator. of the Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest.

Upcoming books include:

THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED (Clarion/Harper, Fall 2023)

I SEE COLOR (With Valerie Bolling, HarperKids, Winter 2024)

KID MADE (F& F/Macmillan, Spring 2024)

When not writing or reading, Kailei can be found jogging through the Arizona desert, playing with her kiddos, or baking anything with extra chocolate.

Follow Kailei on Twitter

5 page MG Critique from Author Emi Pinto (she/her)

Emi Pinto is a Canadian writer and recent Doctorate of Education graduate. She loves to write middle grade fantasy, and weaves her mixed Indian and French-Canadian heritage into her stories. When she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her taking long walks in the Ontario NCC forest trails with her husband, looking for fairy doors.

Upcoming Book: BEE BAKSHI AND THE GINGERBREAD SISTERS (Fall 2023, KatherineTegenBooks/HarperCollins)

Follow Emi on Twitter and Instagram

5 Page MG Critique and 15 min AMA from MG author Craig Kofi Farmer (he/him)

Craig Kofi Farmer is a Maryland native, born and raised in Prince George’s County. Writing-wise, Craig loves to create bold, imaginative stories that take pre-established tropes and interrogate them. In his civilian identity, Craig works in higher education and student affairs to help facilitate a sense of belonging for students that hold traditionally marginalized identities. While his base of operations is in southern California, Craig holds two bachelor’s degrees from Towson University in Baltimore County, and his master’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. Outside of work and writing, Craig is an avid superhero enthusiast and is always down to make a case as to why, “The Lion King” (1994) is the best movie of all time.

Craig's debut MG novel, KWAME POWELL: THE ESCAPE FROM ASAMANDO, releases Spring 2024 from Roaring Brook Press/MacKids

Follow Craig on Twitter

AMA with YA Author Kay Smith (she/they)

Kaylie Smith is a writer and lover of all things magical and fantasy. She grew up in Louisiana where she frequently haunted bookstores and practiced her writing craft. After getting her degree in graphic design, she decided to fully pursue her dream of being an author, and the first book in her YA fantasy series, A RUINOUS FATE, debuts in January 2023 from Disney Hyperion. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found at home with her menagerie of animals, fussing over her houseplants, or annoying people about astrology.

Follow Kay on Twitter

AMA with YA Author Melissa See (she/they)

Melissa See is a disabled author of young adult contemporary romances. She lives in New York City, where she works in children’s publishing. When not writing, she can be found reading, playing Dungeons & Dragons, or curled up with her cat, most likely watching anime or 90 Day Fiancé.

Melissa's books include:

You, Me, and Our Heartstrings


LOVE LETTERS TO JOY CORVI (Coming summer 2023!)

Follow Melissa on Twitter

Query Critique from YA Author Elba Luz (she/her)

Elba Luz is a Puerto Rican author and lover of stories, whether in the form of anime, manga, video games, and of course, books. Speaking of books, she should be writing hers, but instead, you’ll probably find her replaying Final Fantasy, watching Abbott Elementary, or cuddling up with her adorable pit-bull Stormy.

Upcoming Books include:


LAST HELLOS AND FIRST GOODBYES (Spring 2025, Disney-Hyperion)

Follow Elba on Twitter and Instagram

Query Critique from Adult Author Teresa Hsu (she/her)

Teresa refused to learn English when she immigrated from Taiwan to America. So, her mother offered a deal: less chores if she demonstrated progress in English comprehension. Taking the deal, Teresa learned English by writing short stories. In high school, failing to frame a stronger argument to negotiate better grades, she read vampire books in the back of detention class. She got her first taste of the power of creating order with imagination. At Bryn Mawr College, an all-women's college filled with gothic architecture, she romanticized her major in Political Science and East Asian studies. She reframed it as apprenticing how to keep the peace amongst ancient Chinese warring tribes. Years later, marrying her former boss was the final steamy tale she needed to begin turning her short stories into full happily ever after. Teresa has no passions outside of writing because she doesn't want to risk having to go back to doing chores.

Follow Teresa on Twitter

ARC of DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER by MG Author Deke Moulton (she/they)

Deke Moulton (rhymes with 'geek') is a writer currently living in the US Pacific Northwest. They are a former US Army drill sergeant and trained as an Arabic linguist during their time in service. DON'T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER is their debut book.

They are represented by Emily Forney at the Bookends Literary Agency.

Follow Deke on Twitter and Instagram

$10 gift card to

WHOO!! That is QUITE a list, no? I cannot thank these INCREDIBLE donors enough. So very grateful to each and every one of them. Please, please, please go and give them each a follow as a sign of our deep gratitude.

And then, make sure you are subscribed to my blog so that you hear the moment the contest opens. Just a reminder that the contest opens January 26th through 28th. Can't wait to see what you come up with!



Updated: Jan 25

Happy New Year, friends! I hope all of your dreams come true this year and that you feel the excitement of new possibilities and new opportunities. I've got some lofty goals, major dreams, and exciting events coming for this year. Including my DEBUT picture book, THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED, releasing from Clarion/Harper Collins in November 2023.

I can't wait to drop the cover, share more details with you, and invite you to meet Blossom.

So grateful to each of you for following my journey.

Okay... enough self promo, right? Let's get to the reason you're all here today.


First, I want to THANK all of the grownups who have registered their kiddos to judge the 2nd annual Kids' Choice Kidlit Writing Contest! We currently have just over 150 judges!! WOO HOO! That is AMAZING. Last year, we had about 120, so we are already growing! Based on last year's numbers, I am hoping for about 20 more PB judges. If you know any kids who would be interested, I would SO appreciate you sending their grownups the info. You can read all about the program HERE and register kid judges HERE. Note that I can also take full classrooms who would like to participate. I am excited to say that I already have 4 classrooms registered so far this year, including the one I worked with last year!! It's a great opportunity for classes to discuss what they like about a story, what works, and what could be improved. I would love to work with even more classes!

And the last thing before jumping into the rules for this year...

Last year, I threw together thank-you gifts for the kid judges very last minute. This year, I want to be prepared! Last year, I ran some webinars to raise funds and it worked out well, but again, added a little to the stress level. This year, I would REALLY like to send each of the kiddos a book to thank them for their work. And trust me, it's a LOT of work for these kids and I really want them to feel valued and appreciated for their service.

For everyone who applies this year, I'm asking that you consider donating what you can to this effort. (Note that this is NOT a requirement for entry as I want this contest accessible to all, but it is encouraged so that we can support these kiddos who are donating their time and energies)

I wrestled for a LONG time with how to best go about this. I considered partnering with my local indie and letting people buy books directly from them for the kids. But then I realized that would mean that kids would receive books that they maybe already have. And that would be a real bummer, in my honest opinion. So I am asking that you send me money directly and to trust me that I will use 100% of the funds donated to send books to these kid judges. (I know this can be stressful in the internet age, but truly, I will do this).

You can either send the money via Venmo (@Kailei-Pew) or make an "order" through my website. Please feel free to donate what you can, no amount is too small.

When considering a donation, do consider that the cost of a book, plus tax and shipping will come out to about $23 (hoping to support local indies in this endeavor).

Note, if donating through my website, I have to set a specific price for the "product," so I requested the $23 there. Through Venmo, you can send any amount.

After the contest is over, kids will be able to request whatever book they like! I will then mail it to those within the United States, and send gift cards/paypal credit to those outside of the US. If I have more funds than I need for books alone, I will send them bookmarks and other swag along with it. Again, I will use 100% of the funds for these kiddos.

Thank you all SO much for considering a donation. It's truly the least we can do for these awesome kid judges.

And now...

Announcing the RULES, INFO, and IMPORTANT DATES for the 2nd Annual #KidsChoiceKidLitWritingContest.

*Please take note: I will be doing a SEPARATE post this year announcing the prizes and donors. Last year, this post got way too long, so I am doing 2 different posts this year. Read all of the rules below, then come back Tuesday, January 10th, to see the amazing prizes and incredible donors who are making this contest possible.

The Basics:

The Kids' Choice KidLit Writing Contest is a writing contest like no other. PB, MG, and YA authors will submit entries through a Google Form from January 26th through January 28th.

I am also encouraging entrants to post all or some of their entry in the comments section on the contest post that will go live on the 26th. Building community is what I love 2nd most about this contest. (First being working with the awesome kid judges). AND, I fixed my website, so you won't get a million notifications about comments. HOORAY!

As much as I love the community, it was way too much work to copy and paste every single comment into a google form for our kid judges, so having entries go directly into the form will make my life soooo much easier. Note that ONLY entries submitted through the Google Form will be judged. Comments will be exclusively for showcasing your work to the world and fostering connection.

Then, (with the express permission of their parents/guardians), KIDS will judge the entries in a series of rounds until we arrive at the finalists. We don't want any kid to have to read hundreds of entries, so each kid will read a set of approximately 10 entries in the first round of judging. All entries will be read and voted on by multiple kids the first round (exact number of readers in round one will depend on how many total entries we get, but it will be enough to have a consensus).

New this year, there will be a second round of voting based on the top votes from round 1 to ensure that we give everyone an equal shot at being seen by as many kid judges as possible.

Then based on the votes from the middle round, I will send ALL the kid judges the (approximately) 10 finalists in their chosen category (PB, MG, and YA) for final voting (again, the exact number of finalists will depend on the number of entries we receive).

All of the kid judges will then read and vote on the finalists from their specified category.

We have about 150 total kid judges currently signed up to read your work, so this will be very exciting! Since we do have kid judges and don't want to overwhelm them, we will give them plenty of time to read and judge. Winners will be announced sometime in March, hopefully around the 20th. (Rules continue below)



PLEASE FOLLOW THESE RULES! Know them. They are your friends (and mine). Follow them, please. I know some of them seem tedious, but please remember that this is a lot for one person to organize and know that these rules are in place to make life just slightly easier for me.

  1. Write a 200-word or less story for PB (approximately ages 3-8), MG (approximately ages 8-12), or YA readers (approximately ages 13-18). This might be a scene more than a complete story for the older readers, but try to have a sense of beginning, middle, and end. The story can be humorous, heartfelt, gut-wrenching, quirky, meta, lyrical, STEM, nonfiction, etc. Pretty much anything that YOU think kids will love.

  2. Title does not count towards word count

  3. Contest is open to all authors... agented, pre-agented, published, not published, veteran, or brand new. However, if there are any kid writers who want to enter, please let them know that I hope to host a "Kids Write KidLit" Contest just for them later this year (if my health cooperates).

  4. Art notes ARE allowed for PB entries (because I love me a good joke landed with an art note). BUT, keep in mind that your work will be read by kid judges. I will train them on how to read an art note, but make sure your notes are understandable... also, art notes DO count towards your final word count, so make sure you do not go over!!! There is no need to indicate "art note." Simply put your art notes in brackets. e.g.: Everything ran smoothly, until... [machine explodes].

  5. Come to my website between January 26th and January 28th to find the link to the Google Form entry page as well as to (optionally) post your story in the comments section of the Contest Page.

  6. While it's not required, I hope you will subscribe to my blog in the box at the bottom of this page to make sure you don't miss the Contest Page to enter on. I will email out a link when the Contest Page opens and blog subscribers will be the first to get that.

  7. Only ONE entry per person. You must choose between the categories. Last year, we had a few authors enter once in the PB category, once in the MG category, and once in the YA and they were sadly disqualified. ONE entry total. Choose wisely.

  8. You may post your entry to your own personal blog, but you must ALSO enter through the Google Form linked on my website You may include a link to your blogs/websites in the comments section of the contest page. .

  9. Submission Window will open Thursday, January 26, 2023 at 12:01 am Mountain Time. The deadline for posting your entry is Saturday, January 28, 2023 at 11:59 PM Mountain Time. I know this window is much shorter than last year, but again, I have to make just a few things a little easier on myself.

  10. If you have any problems with the Google Form, please fill out the contact form on my website and I will get back to you ASAP and help get entry in.

  11. OPTIONAL BUT ENCOURAGED: Post your entry (or a portion of your entry) in the comments section on the contest page. I hope that the Google Form will make things a little smoother without taking away the fun community aspect of this event, so I really hope you will consider doing this! (***NOTE: If you have a PB entry that you are planning to query/submit as is, you should ONLY post about 50-60 words as a sample in the contest post. Make sure to post the ENTIRE ENTRY in the Google form, knowing that it will be kept private).

  12. Have fun reading other entries and commenting on other's work while you wait to hear the results of the contest. It's a confidence boost to hear from other writers that they like your stuff.

  13. Be patient while the kids read your work. I don't want this to be a burden on any of our kid judges, so we are giving them ample time to read and make their choices.

  14. Winners will be announced around March 20th, depending on the judges. First place winners will choose from the list of prizes to be announced next week. Second place will choose from the remaining prizes, and so on until all prizes are claimed. Book prizes are available to U.S. authors only for shipping reasons, but all other prizes are available to all. Prizes can be gifted if desired.

  15. If you would like to include links to your social media handles on the contest page, feel free to do so. You never know who might stumble on your work here and what connections you might make!

  16. Follow all guidelines within the Google Form. The entry page is extremely clear and straight forward if you read carefully.

  17. If your child is judging, you may NOT enter in the same category that they will be reading. However, you may enter in a different category (i.e., if they are judging PB, you may only enter in the MG or YA categories, if they are judging MG, you may only enter in the PB or YA categories, and if they are judging YA, you may only enter in the PB or MG categories).

  18. You may NOT enter the exact same entry that you entered in last year's Kids' Choice Contest.

  19. You may NOT enter a piece that has been previously published (including self published) or that is currently under contract for future publication.

  20. You MAY enter a piece that is currently being queried or submitted, so long as it is NOT currently under contract or previously published, including self published.

I know this is all very specific, but please remember that I am coordinating this by myself with 150+ kid judges. I will be creating groups of judges, sending out hundreds of emails with the stories for each group, receiving their decisions, putting together the list of finalists based on their votes, and collecting the kids' final votes. So please, please, please help me out by following the above guidelines. Failure to do so will disqualify you.

Finally, I'll leave you with some interesting stats... Last year we had:

217 PB entries

42 MG entries

24 YA entries

I'm so excited to see how many entries we receive this year and what the distribution is.

Whoo! That was a lot. But how fun, right?? I feel so very blessed to be doing this for the second year and I cannot wait to read your amazing stories and see what the kids love.

Comment below letting me know how excited you are for this event!! Or hop on over to THIS TWEET to shout out your excitement!

About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and children's book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary.

Upcoming books include:

THE MONSTER ABOVE THE BED (Clarion/Harper, Fall 2023)

I SEE COLOR (With Valerie Bolling, HarperKids, Winter 2024)

KID-VENTORS (F& F/Macmillan, Spring 2024)

Learn more HERE

Hello, friends! And happy Thursday!! I'm so glad to be back up and running with this blog. Thank you all for such kind words on my post about the #KidsChoiceKidLitWriting contest. I am blown away by your kindness and understanding. I'm also so humbled by your excitement for the contest! In only 2 days, I have over 100 kid judges registered!! THANK YOU!

Today, I'm thrilled to be jumping back into PB23Bunch features! Have I told you how much I ADORE being part of this group? These amazing creators have been such a huge part of my own debut journey. It's so nice to have a group of people in your corner going through the exact same thing. Truly such a blessing.

Today, I get to introduce you all to the amazing Kelly Swenba. (And apologies for the delay... I've been trying to get this to post since Tuesday, but the website was not cooperating and I don't know much about technology, so it was a lot of trial and error).

If you've been part of the kidlit community for even 2 minutes, you will probably recognize her name. Kelly is one of the most positive, giving, and uplifting people I know. She is quick to volunteer her help, quicker to offer her cheering words and support, and to uplift after the hard stuff. I'm so grateful to know her and to introduce her to you all today!

So... join me in welcoming Kelly to the blog!

Kailei: Hi, Kelly! Welcome. Let's jump right in. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?

Kelly: Writing has always been something I loved. In college, I actually started off as an English major convinced I was going to be a college professor. But…one tough teacher brought about a pause, and I started to lean a different direction – toward nursing. I loved, and still do, science and taking care of people, so it was a perfect fit. I worked in various specialities and went on to get my masters with a focus on psychiatric medicine. Flash forward many years and I’m a stay at home mom of two kids who loved to let me read to them. I got to cuddle up and bring so many worlds to them through humor, heart and STEM. My love for picture books was born!

So in 2019 I started writing, and kept going. I met so many kind and helpful people through #PBChat, Twitter, SCBWI and eventually 12x12. One of my friendships led to a submission opportunity that led to my acceptance from Beaming Books.

Kailei: That is so neat, Kelly. I love that journey. And I can totally see your heart in all of it. So tell us what inspired your debut book?

Kelly: When I was in nursing school, I did a rotation in a long term care wing at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, OH. The staff took such wonderful care and connected so fully with the children who spent a lot of time there. I imagined that had to have been hard for the children and those that cared about them.

And that always stuck with me.

Then, the pandemic hit and brought a storm of tragedy. I couldn’t shake the thought of children who were missing their friends that life had taken from them. My heart hurt for them, and I wanted to help. I wanted to create a book on their level, where they could see someone, like them, going through something terrible. I wanted to offer parents, guardians and schools a bridge into a tough conversation. And this is where MISSING VIOLET found its footing.

Kailei: Oh Kelly, that sounds so powerful and needed. What message would you like for your readers to walk away with?

Kelly: I hope readers will walk away knowing that it’s okay to have big emotions – to feel something else besides happiness but know that the other emotions aren’t gone. That it’s okay to hope for brighter days even amidst the storm that surrounds them.

For adult readers, conversations about death and grief aren’t easy, but are so important because not talking doesn’t help children process things. Children need help to understand complex things, or things that don’t have an easy explanation. And we as adults need to be brave and help them through their feelings. Even the not so pretty ones.

To any readers who belong to the writing community both authors and illustrators:

I want to say that you inspire me everyday to keep creating. I am in awe of all the stories that come into this world, from board books to adult, and am grateful you share your talents with the world. Because we need each and every one of your books.

Kailei: That is so wonderful, Kelly. Truly, those big emotions are part of life. And again, I love your heart. So, when does your debut hit shelves?

January 31, 2023! So soon!

Kailei: Oh how exciting!! Can't wait to grab my copy! Where can we follow you online?

Kelly: Twitter: @Kswemba


Also, I just want to thank you for visiting Kailei’s blog and taking the time to get to know a little bit more about the inspiration behind MISSING VIOLET. It means so much to me!

Kailei: You are the sweetest, Kelly. Thank you so much for joining us today!!


Kelly is offering the winner's choice of a PB critique or even a 30 minute zoom chat.

To Enter:

  1. Follow Kelly on Twitter

  2. Follow PB23Bunch on Twitter

  3. Retweet THIS tweet

For bonus entries:

  1. Tag a friend in THIS tweet

  2. Subscribe to this blog and comment below

About Kelly Swemba

Kelly Swemba has been passionate about big feelings since she was little. She’s a nurse with a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing and a preschool aid for children with autism. Her debut will be published in 2023.

She lives in Ohio with her husband, two children, and their fluffy goldendoodle. When not writing, she enjoys being outside, going to the library, and playing strategy board games which she may (but most likely not) win against her kids.

About PB23Bunch

The PB23Bunch is a diverse group of 12 authors and illustrators with Picture Books debuting in 2023. We cannot wait to get our books in your hands!!

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