Ohio Author & Illustrator Panelists

Thursday Author Panels

11:15 am - 12:00 pm


No Perfect First Draft:


Explain what you do when you get stuck, how your failures have shaped the choices that you make, and what you have learned about writing since you first began in the profession. 

Speaker photo

Kate Hoefler

Kate Hoefler grew up in the foothills of Ohio surrounded by books that were as crucial to her as the moon. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she studied as a Colby Fellow. She is the author of Real Cowboys (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Great Big Things (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Rabbit and the Motorbike (Chronicle Books). Her fourth book, Nothing in Common (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), illustrated by Corinna Luyken, will hit shelves in the fall of 2020.



Kristina McBride

Kristina McBride has published four novels for young adults - The Tension of Opposites, One Moment, A Million Times Goodnight, and The Bakersville Dozen. Kristina is a former high school English teacher and yearbook advisor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University Midwest and Wright State University. Kristina has a thing for music, trees, purses, and chocolate. You might be surprised to learn that Kristina was almost kidnapped when she was a child. She also bookstalks people on a regular basis. Kristina lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. You can learn more at http://kristinamcbride.com/.


Megan Whalen Turner

Megan Whalen Turner is an award winning and NYT bestselling author of fantasy for children, adults, and young adults. Her first novel, The Thief, was a Newbery Honor book in 1997.  She has since been awarded a Horn Book Honor, been shortlisted twice for the Norton Award, and won both the Mythopoeic Award and the LA Times Book Award for Young Adult Literature.  Her books are filled with political machinations and divine intervention, friendship, fortitude and deception. Her most recent book, Thick As Thieves, is the fifth set in the world of the Queen’s Thief.


Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey is the author of the YA novels Love and Other Alien Experiences and Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It, both from Feiwel and Friends, and Waiting for Tom Hanks, a romantic comedy from Berkley. She blogs about rom-coms at ayearofromcoms.tumblr.com. You can find her on Twitter @KerryAnn and on Instagram @KerryWinfrey. 

Research in the Real World:

Explain your research process, how it differs from the research method you were taught in school, and how librarians can apply this to their work with children.


Mary Kay Carson

Mary Kay Carson is an author of nonfiction books for young people. Her book Alexander Graham Bell for Kids received a 2019 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. She’s written six titles in HMH’s acclaimed Scientists in the Field series, including Mission to Pluto, an Ohioana finalist, and The Bat Scientists, an ALA's 2011 Notable Children's Books for Middle Readers. Her book Beyond the Solar System was a 2015-16 Choose to Read Ohio selection. Carson also gives presentations at schools about nonfiction writing, inventors, bats, space, and other science and history topics. Learn more at: www.marykaycarson.com.

Terry Eisele

Terry Eisele has taught English for over twenty-five years in places as far flung as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, California, and Ohio. He is currently a professor at Columbus State Community College. He received a master’s degree in comparative cultural studies from the Ohio State University. Terry is the writer of the three-volume graphic novel, With Only Five Plums, which tells the life story of a Czech Holocaust survivor whom he interviewed three times in the mid-1990s. His latest project, Far Tune, is a coming-of-age graphic novel about a fourteen-year-old Somali refugee girl living in Columbus, Ohio. Far Tune won the 2018 S.P.A.C.E. Prize in the Graphic Novel category at the Small Press and Alternative Comic Expo. He reads comics, supports Arsenal Football Club, coaches high school girls’ soccer, and writes in his spare time.


Dee Garretson

Dee Garretson’s first middle grade adventure, Wildfire Run, was released in 2010 from HarperCollins. Since then she has published an additional middle grade, Wolf Storm, participated in a middle grade anthology, Been There Done That, from Grosset and Dunlap, published four young adult books, including a World War I historical, All Is Fair, and the science fiction Torch World trilogy, with Macmillan and Month9 Publishing. She also writes for the Boxcar Children series. Her books have been Junior Library Guild selections, a Scholastic book club selection and nominated for numerous state awards lists. Another young adult historical, Gone by Nightfall, is scheduled to be released in January of 2020. Before writing full time, Garretson taught landscape horticulture at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. In addition to a degree in Landscape Horticulture, she also has a degree in International Relations. Garretson lives in Cincinnati with her family. You can find more information about her books at http://deegarretson.com


Darby Ratliff

Darby Ratliff (she/hers) is a writer originally from Cleveland, Ohio, who now lives in Buffalo, New York. In 2019, Ratliff published her first novel-in-verse, Some Girls Bind, under the pseudonym Rory James. She currently works at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, New York, and contributes regularly to several local publications there. Both her bachelor's and master's degrees are from Canisius College. 


Strong Females:

How do you craft story lines and characters that show the female gender as strong and empowered? Why is it important for young people to read books with strong female characters?


Emma Carlson Berne

Emma Carlson Berne has authored and ghostwritten over one hundred and twenty titles for middle-grade and young adult readers. A seasoned professional, she has worked with American Girl Publishing, Disney Lucasfilm, Simon & Schuster, MTV Books, Alloy Media + Marketing, National Geographic Kids, and Scholastic, Inc, among others.
A short list of Emma’s titles include her YA thrillers published with Simon & Schuster’s Pulse imprint (Never Let You Go, 2012, Still Waters, 2011), middle-grade romances from Pulse (Sunset Ranch, 2014, Hard to Get, 2010), and her five books of middle-grade fiction written for American Girl Publishing (Real Stories From My Time: Titanic, 2018, The Lady’s Slipper: A Melody Mystery, 2016, The Ghost Wind Stallion: A Kaya Mystery, 2015, The Song of the Mockingbird: My Journey with Josefina, 2015, The Roar of the Falls: My Journey with Kaya, 2014). Emma is also the author of the four-book middle-grade Star Wars series Forces of Destiny from Disney Lucasfilm (Daring Adventures, Vol. 1, 2017, Daring Adventures, Vol. 2, 2017, The Leia Chronicles, 2018, The Rey Chronicles, 2018).
As a ghostwriter, Emma has worked extensively with Alloy Media + Marketing, in partnership with the HarperCollins imprint Harper Teen and Simon & Schuster’s BFYR imprint. Her YA thrillers and romances are written under the names Hailey Abbott (The Other Boy, 2008, Flirting with Boys, 2009) and Elizabeth Woods (Choker, 2012, Figment, 2013). She was a ghostwriter of the YA dating guide Lessons in Love (Simon & Schuster/MTV books, 2008), under the name Lila Stewart.
Emma is also the author of over ninety titles of middle-grade fiction and non-fiction written on a variety of topics for National Geographic Kids, Sterling Publishing, Capstone, and Lerner Publishing Group. She often writes articles for Scholastic’s classroom magazine, Geography Spin, and for the healthcare and parenting website CareDash. In 2018, Emma was the Writer-in-Residence for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (https://foundation.cincinnatilibrary.org/WhatWeDo/writerinresidence/EmmaCarlsonBerne). 
Emma holds a master’s degree in composition-rhetoric from Miami University (2003). She is a keen horse-back rider and lover of nature and animals. She enjoys running and walking, hiking, camping, and cooking. She is the mother of three boys, ages 10, 7, and 3, and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was raised. 


Keturah Bobo

Keturah A Bobo is an artist and NYT bestselling illustrator known for creating vibrant images that are relatable and distinguishable. She is passionate about creating art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for her community. Keturah has received notable praises for her colorful illustrative style that brings the story to life and resonates with the viewer. Over the past two years, Keturah has illustrated children’s books and covers for Bloomsbury Publishing, Penguin Young Readers Group, and the first board book developed by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Cultures.  She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her family of entrepreneurs. Visit www.keturahariel.com.


Terri Libenson

Terri Libenson is the author of the best-selling illustrated middle grade novels, Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzy, and Just Jaime. Terri is also the cartoonist of the Reuben Award-winning syndicated comic strip, The Pajama Diaries, which runs in hundreds of newspapers throughout the US and abroad. In addition, Terri was an award-winning humorous card writer and illustrator for American Greetings. She lives with her husband, Mike, and their two daughters in Cleveland, Ohio.
Website terrilibenson.com and pajamadiaries.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThePajamaDiaries/ and https://www.facebook.com/terrilibensonauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/terrilibenson/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/terrilibenson


Brandon Marie Miller

Brandon Marie Miller earned her degree in American History from Purdue University. She writes about famous people and common folk, about great events and everyday life. Her award-winning books for young people have been honored by the International Reading Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, the American Library Association, the Society of School Librarians International, Voice of Youth Advocates, Bank Street College, the Junior Library Guild, the New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library, among others.

Brandon encourages readers to think of history as the greatest story of all. Fiction has nothing on history for tales of courage, sacrifice, redemption, cruelty, and betrayal. As a writer of history, Brandon aims to inspire readers with stories of people who have struggled, overcome great odds, and made a contribution to our human spirit. It’s no coincidence that “story” is right there in the word history!

Born and raised in Illinois, Brandon lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not researching and writing, she loves to read biographies and murder mysteries, travel, play games, attend the ballet, watch sports and old movies from the 1930s and 1940s, and enjoy great conversation. She includes her middle name on all her books so that people know she is a girl named “Brandon.”
Find out more:  www.brandonmariemiller.com

Making Characters Come to Life:

How do you take an idea and turn it into a character whom students love (or hate), who seems so real that readers believe he/she could exist?


Ronni Davis

Ronni Davis grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she tried her best to fit in—and failed miserably. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology, she worked in insurance, taught yoga, and became a cat mom.

Now she lives in Chicago with her husband Adam and her son Aidan. By day she copy edits everything from TV commercials to billboards, and by night she writes contemporary teen novels about brown girls falling in love. When she’s not writing, you can catch her playing The Sims, eating too much candy, or planning her next trip to Disney World.

Her debut novel, When the Stars Lead to You, will be released by Little Brown Books for Young Readers in November 2019.


Will Hillenbrand

Will Hillenbrand is a celebrated author and illustrator whose published works include over 65 books for young readers. In addition to his own self-illustrated titles, he has illustrated the works of writers and retellers including Verna Aardema, Judy Sierra, Margery Cuyler, Judith St. George, Phyllis Root, Jane Yolen, Karma Wilson, Maureen Wright, Daniel Pinkwater, Olivier Dunrea, Eve Bunting, and Jane Hillenbrand. In his work, Will uses a combination of traditional drawing methods and direct impression media to create his magical illustrations. 

Will has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park, Ohio. Will is the first Illustrator and Author in Residence at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He is a member of the National Advisory Board at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio, and is a member of the Greenacres Artists Guild in Indian Hill. Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. You can connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.


Michele Jakubowski

Raised in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Michele Jakubowski has teachers in her life to thank for her love of reading and writing. While writing has always been a passion for Michele, she believes it is the books she has read throughout the years, and the teachers who assigned them, that have made her the storyteller she is today. Her books include the following series:  Sidney & Sydney, Perfectly Poppy, The Sleuths of Somerville, and Ashley Small and Ashlee Tall as well as the Choose Your Own Adventure, Rapunzel: An Interactive Fairy Tale. Michele lives in Powell, Ohio, with her husband, John, and their children, Jack and Mia.


Emery Lord

Emery Lord is the author of several YA books, including the Schneider-award-winning When We Collided. She lives in Cincinnati with her actual family and several shelves of books that she considers family.