Featured Speakers 2018

Join us to meet and hear award winning children’s book creators working in a variety of genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, picture books. Each speaker is different. Each has something interesting to say. Each will tell his/her own story. For more about each of these speakers and their work, check their websites and/or blogs.

Poet, author, teacher KATHI APPELT will be keynote speaker. Author of more than forty books including novels, picture books and nonfiction her first novel, The Underneath, was a Newbery Honor Book and a National Book Award Finalist.. She was born in the front seat of a Ford as her father drove wildly to the Army hospital at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. When the M.P.'s who were chasing him across the fort realized what was going on, they decided not to arrest him. Kathi still loves cars and never has been good at waiting. When Kathi was growing up, her mother divided an unfinished sheet rock wall into three sections—one for each of the girls. As soon as they could hold crayons, they were allowed to express ourselves on that wall in any color or form that they wished. Once she started actually writing, on paper, she no longer needed the wall. But she thinks of it as her first journal, a record of her feelings and experiences. Kathy still keeps a journal, a place for catching all her thoughts, and sometimes her dreams. According to Kathi, “It’s often the first place that the idea for a new story or poem occurs. Because I don’t have any particular rules about writing in my journal, sometimes I’m surprised by what shows up! Most of my books and poems come directly from my own life because that’s what I know best and feel most strongly about.” Kathi lives live in College Station, TX with her husband Ken and five cats. Their two grown sons are both musicians.

Pre-luncheon speaker MARC TYLER NOBLEMAN grew up thinking he would become a superhero because his last name already sounded like one. Instead he turned into a writer, cartoonist and comic book maven. Nobleman is the author of more than 70 books for young people of all ages. His picture book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is the first biography in any format for any age on the two young men who dreamed up the world’s first superhero. The book received multiple starred reviews and made the front page of USA Today for a discovery Marc made during his research. Nobleman is the author of "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman" (which changed history, inspiring both the Hulu documentary "Batman & Bill" and a TED talk), ", "Brave Like My Brother," "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra"; "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon" and "Fairy Spell." Marc has been invited to speak at schools, conferences, companies, and other venues from Thailand to Tanzania. He blogs about adventures in publishing at Noblemania. At the beginning of his writing career, he wrote books for the school and library market but they did not allow for creativity nor was he expected to break new ground. Other titles include Vanished: True Stories of the Missing and two books called Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day. Marc has written extensively for Nickelodeon and is also a cartoonist whose work has appeared in about 100 international publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, and 94 more you’ve never heard of. The Maryland author has been invited around the world—from Thailand to Tanzania-- to speak at schools, libraries, conferences, and even a business lunch or two. Check his blog Noblemania for the behind-the-scenes stories of his books.

Post-lunch speaker R. W. Alley is the award-winning author and/or illustrator of well over 100 books. For the last twenty years, R. W. Alley has illustrated Paddington Bear books, in all their formats. Recently, he began a collaboration with Garth Stein to bring Enzo, the canine narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain, to picture books. He has also returned to writing his own books with a series of four season titles about four siblings. Winner of a Theodor Seuss he also collaborates with his wife, author Zoë B. Alley. There’s A Wolf at the Door was selected as a Washington Post Best Book of the Year and its companion book of reinvented fairy tales, There’s a Princess in the Palace, received equally positive reviews. As an only child, drawing was fine self-entertainment. Before he could read, he was telling himself stories in pictures. The more he drew these characters the more they started moving around on the page and getting into adventures, and he started making little books. He didn’t go to art school, but earned a BA in Art History from Haverford College and spent a lot of time in the fine arts studio. Today, he lives in Rhode Island where he and his wife Zoë raised their now adult, children. He draws his characters in a studio that used to be the garage. It has a rolling library ladder, walls lined with books and a drawing board surrounded by pens, pencils, paints and paper.

The Friday afternoon general session features SY MONTGOMERY, a naturalist, author and scriptwriter who writes for adults and children, for print and broadcast, in America and overseas in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible at what she considers a critical turning point in human history. She says, “We are on the cusp of either destroying this sweet, green Earth – or revolutionizing the way we understand the rest of animate creation. It’s an important time to be writing about the connections we share with our fellow creatures.” She is the author of more than 20 books. Her Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a New York Times bestseller. To research books, films and articles, Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica, worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba and handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana. Her work with man-eating tigers, the subject of her book Spell of the Tiger, was made into a National Geographic television documentary she scripted and narrated. She speaks frequently at schools and museums, libraries and universities. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire with her husband, writer Howard Mansfield.

Saturday morning will open with 2018 Charlotte Huck speakers LESA CLINE-RANSOME and JAMES RANSOME. For the first time we are giving the award jointly. Charlotte’s guidelines for a quality picture book include the importance of the illustration as an integral part of the text, the quality of the language and how the theme is developed through both text and illustration. Their work exemplifies this criteria whether both of their names are on is on the book or just one.

LESA CLINE-RANSOME grew up in a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. Her mother loved to read, and each week she took her children with her to the local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older, reading became a wonderful escape and writing even more so when her mother gave her a diary. Her mother started her on her writing journey, but she credits her teachers in school and throughout college for sustaining it. Books written by Lesa include Germs: Fact and Fiction, Friends and Foes, Freedom's School, Light in the Darkness, Before There was Mozart, and biographies of musicians including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, dancer Robert Battle, Helen Keller, soccer star Pele, and historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, many of which have received ALA Notable book awards and starred Kirkus reviews.

JAMES E. RANSOME was raised by his grandmother in the rural South where he did not have the opportunity to meet artists, visit art galleries or museums. He does not remember how his interest in art began. What he does remember is that is that some of his drawings were of hot rod cars and images copied from the pages of comic books and the Bible. The Children's Book Council named him as one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. . Currently a member of the Society of Illustrators, he has received both the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the IBBY Honor Award. He has completed several commissioned murals for the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro, NC. His traveling exhibit, Visual Stories has been touring the United States since 2003. His work is part of both private and public children's book art collections. Books illustrated by James include The Creation, Before There Was Mozart, Uncle Jed's Barbershop, The Wagon, Let My People Go, Sky Boys, This is the Dream, A Pride of African Tales, Freedom's School, This is the Rope, and Light in the Darkness, James and Lesa’s most recent book together, Before She Was Harriet (2017), is a lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman described as “an evocative poem and opulent watercolors that come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.”

James and Lesa live in the Hudson Valley with their four children and one St. Bernard.

GEORGIA HEARD will give the closing address on Saturday afternoon. Focusing on “Writing from the Heart,” Georgia gained a love of reading from her mother who was a school librarian. Her favorite book as a child was The Secret Garden, but she also loved to write her own thoughts in a girlhood diary, creating original poems that she would present to loved ones as family birthday gifts. In college she took creative writing classes and particularly enjoyed the power and connectedness of reading and writing contemporary poems. After graduating from Columbia University with a Masters in Fine Arts degree, she discovered a love for teaching poetry, especially with school children who have surprised her with their poems’ beauty and openheartedness. She is a founding member of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and spent seven years as Senior Staff Developer in New York City schools. In addition to writing several collections of children’s poetry, such as Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems, she continues to bring a poet’s ear and a teacher’s know-how to every aspect of writing instruction. Her newest book, Heart Maps, provides 20 unique, multi-genre heart maps to help students write with purpose and authenticity. Georgia is the author of Finding the Heart of Nonfiction, and Writing Toward Home, along with Awakening the Heart—which Instructor Magazine called one of its "12 Books Every Teacher Should Read." Today she travels the U.S. and the world as a consultant, visiting author, and keynote speaker in school districts and conferences.