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Meet the Authors

In Alphabetical Order

Sara Johnson Allen

Sara Johnson Allen was raised (mostly) in North Carolina. Her debut novel, Down Here We Come Up, winner of the Big Moose Prize from Black Lawrence Press, was released in August 2023. A recipient of the Marianne Russo Award for Emerging Writers by the Key West Literary Seminar, the Stockholm Writers Festival First Pages Prize, an artistic grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and MacDowell fellowships, her work has appeared in PANK Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Reckon Review among others. When she is not teaching or shuttling her three kids around, she writes about place and how it shapes us.

Ashley Belote

Ashley Belote is the illustrator of FRANKENSLIME and VALENSLIME by Joy Keller. She is the author-illustrator of numerous titles including THE ME TREE, LISTEN UP, LOUELLA, and WITCH & WOMBAT. Her forthcoming titles include DON'T WASH WINSTON (3/26/24 Feiwel & Friends) and SHEEPWRECKED (Random House, 2024).

She studied traditional animation under the direction of Don Bluth. She earned her MA in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky, and her graduate study included a children’s literature and illustration course, The Whole Book Approach, through Simmons College at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Ashley is represented by Moe Ferrara of BookEnds Literary Agency. To learn more, please visit

Dawn Crawford

Dawn Crawford is the founder and leader of BC/DC Ideas, a creative agency that has worked with more than 100 nonprofit organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, to build better communications strategies and tactics. She is the creator of the Kind Review process, which has been used to build 1,000s of products over the last decade of her career.

Lori Degman

Lori Degman is the award-winning author of seven picture books, including 1 Zany Zoo (winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest) and Cock-a-Doodle Oops (International Literacy Association Honor Book). Lori was a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and now writes full-time. She loves doing school visits and presenting at writing conference and book festivals. She lives with her family in a suburb of Chicago.

Chrystal D. Giles

Chrystal D. Giles is a champion for diversity and representation in children’s literature. Chrystal often says she’s a lover of both words and numbers. She spent fifteen years as an accountant before transitioning to writing full-time. Chrystal made her debut with Take Back the Block, which received multiple starred reviews, was a Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and NPR Best Book, and won the IRA Social Justice Literature Award. Her latest middle-grade novel, Not An Easy Win, received four-star reviews and was named an ALA Notable Children's Book. Chrystal lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and son.

Robert Gwaltney

Robert Gwaltney, an award winning author of Southern fiction, resides in Atlanta Georgia where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community serving as a board member for Broadleaf Writers Association. He was the 2022 recipient of the Pat Conroy Writer’s Residency. The Cicada Tree is his debut novel and winner of the Somerset Award for Literary Fiction. Robert was also named the 2023 Georgia Author of the Year for First Novel by the Georgia Writers Association.

Jeffrey Dale Lofton

Jeffrey Dale Lofton hails from Warm Springs, Georgia, best known as the home of Roosevelt’s Little White House. He calls the nation’s capital home now and has for over three decades. He is a Senior Advisor at the Library of Congress where he is surrounded by books and people who love books—in short, paradise. He and Robert Gwaltney host Inside Voices, a podcast in association with WELL READ Magazine, an exploration of all things literary, from authors to agents to publicists to book designers.

Red Clay Suzie is his first novel, a fictionalized memoir written through his personal lens as an outsider—gay and living with a disability in a conservative family and community in the Deep South. It was longlisted for The Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize and was awarded the Seven Hills Literary Prize for Fiction. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Red Clay Suzie go to support the important work of The Trevor Project and the Born This Way Foundation. Learn more about Jeffrey at

Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children's book author and teaching artist. Her mission is to center Black heroes, celebrate family, friendship and heritage and show all kids the storyteller they hold inside. Many of her books have won accolades, including a Caldecott Honor for Going Down Home with Daddy, illustrated by Daniel Minter; Christopher Award for Tiara's Hat Parade, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell; a Geisel Honor for Ty's Travels: Zip, Zoom, illustrated by Nina Mata and Junior Library Guild selection for Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon, illustrated by Laura Freeman. Her latest picture book, My Hands Tell a Story, illustrated by Tonya Engel, earned two starred reviews.

Her Jada Jones series has earned praise for celebrating an African-American girl who loves science, friends and family. The latest is Jada Jones: Nature Lover. In 2022, Kelly's Miles Lewis spin-off series debuted. The first book, Miles Lewis: King of the Ice, is a Junior Library Guild selection. Stay tuned for more easy readers, picture books and chapter books.

Stacy McAnulty

Stacy McAnulty is an award-winning children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, and who dreams of someday being a dog therapist, a correspondent for The Daily Show, an astronaut, and a Green Bay Packer coach. She has written over 30 books including the middle-grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl , an Indie Bestseller, and the picture book, Excellent Ed, a 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor book. Her popular and continually expanding Our Universe series includes Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, Moon! Earth’s Best Friend, Sun! One in a Billion and more. Her debut middle-grade nonfiction, Save the People! Halting Human Extinction was favorably reviewed in the New York Times and received starred-reviews from Kirkus Review and School Library Journal. Most of her books include a STEM angle or an adorable dog—some include both. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR (or 80s music), bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband. 

Crystal Smith Paul

Crystal Smith Paul attended Spelman College and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and received her master’s in journalism from NYU. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Salon, Jezebel, and HuffPost. She currently works in digital marketing for wellness and beauty brands. Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is her first novel.

Scott Reintgen

Scott Reintgen is a New York Times Bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy books. He is a former public school teacher from North Carolina. When he's not writing, he uses his imagination to entertain his wife and three children. Scott is the author of the Nyxia trilogy, the Celia Cleary series, and instant bestseller: A Door in the Dark. You can find him on Instagram or visit his website at

Amber Smith

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels for young adults, including the international bestseller, The Way I Used to Be, as well as her critically acclaimed sophomore novel, The Last to Let Go, award-winning Something Like Gravity, and most recently, The Way I Am Now, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling sequel to The Way I Used to Be. Along with her middle grade debut, Code Name: Serendipity, she also contributed to the award-winning YA anthology, Our Stories, Our Voices. An advocate for increased awareness of mental health, gendered violence, and LGBTQIA+ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her wife and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats.

Laura Whitfield

Laura grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a journalist and a teacher. Her coming-of-age memoir, Untethered: Faith, Failure, and Finding Solid Ground (She Writes Press, 2022) won a First Place 2022 CIBA Journey Award and was a Finalist in the 2023 Eric Hoffer Awards and a Distinguished Favorite in the 2024 Independent Press Awards for New Nonfiction.

She has been an advertising copywriter, newspaper columnist, staff writer for an international relief organization, travel writer, blogger, kindergarten teacher, communications director for several nonprofits, and personal assistant to a New York Times bestselling author. She is passionate about her faith, books, travel, nature (especially the beach), social justice, and her family. She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with her husband, Stephen.

Dan Yaccarino

Dan Yaccarino is the author and illustrator of more than fifty books for children, including City Under the City, Unlovable, Every Friday, and I am a Story. Awards and honors include The New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books, the Bologna Ragazzi Award, ALA Notable Children’s Books, the Parents’ Choice Award, and has had the honor of being invited to the White House to read his books.

Dan is also the creator and producer of the animated series Doug Unplugs, Oswald, and Willa’s Wild Life, as well as the character designer behind the series, The Backyardigans. You may visit him online at

Phoebe Zerwick

Phoebe Zerwick is a journalist, narrative writer, and web-based documentary maker who teaches writing and journalism at Wake Forest University, where she is professor of the practice and director of the Journalism Program. She is the author of Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt, shortlisted for the 2023 Southern Book Prize in nonfiction. She came to teaching after 20 years at the Winston-Salem Journal, where she was a reporter, columnist, and editor. Her work has been recognized by The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, Columbia University, and the North Carolina Press Association. She lives in Winston-Salem with her husband, a dog and three cats.


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