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Fall 2021 Conference Speakers

Concordia's Fall 2021 Plum Creek Literacy Festival is scheduled for Sept. 23-25. Meet our lineup of authors, illustrators and literacy experts.

Fall 2021 Speakers

Jim Arnosky


Jim Arnosky was raised in Pennsylvania and graduated high school in Philadelphia. Soon afterwards he joined the U.S. Naval reserves. His active duty took him to Maryland, Bermuda, Bremehaven, Germany. In 1976, Jim and his wife Deanna along with their daughters, Michelle and Amber, moved to Vermont where they have lived in an old farm for the past 44 years. 17 of those years were spent raising sheep on three acres of land. The other 40 acres of woodland on their farm have been set aside for wildlife.

Jim has written and illustrated 104 books on nature subjects and has illustrated 46 other books written by various authors. He has over 142 books published world wide. 

Jim's Website

Carin Berger

Author, Illustrator

Carin Berger is a designer, artist, and author. She is also a treasure hunter who can’t pass up a good piece of ephemera. Her cut-paper collages and dioramas are made with scraps of old books, letters and receipts. Carin has written and illustrated over ten picture books and her work has been included in numerous shows including at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Bruce Museum. She was the 2015 chair of the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. Awards include: The 

Original Art Founder’s Award, The New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and Best of Show from 3 x 3 Magazine for the International Children’s Book Show. Her most recent books include All of Us, a celebration of the power of family, community, and love; and A Curious Menagerie, a playful exploration of collective nouns.

Carin's Website

David Ezra Stein

Author, Illustrator

Award-winning children’s author and illustrator David Ezra Stein was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. By the time he was two or three, he was asking adults, “Wanna come to my room? Read books?” David says, “I’ll never forget the experience of sitting in a beloved lap and having a whole world open before me: a world brought to life by the pictures and the grown-up’s voice. That wonder is what I want to re-create in my own books.” Children’s-book historian Leonard S. Marcus has called David “one of the most gifted younger artists working today.” David’s Interrupting Chicken was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

David's Website

Nathan Hale


Nathan Hale is the cartoonist behind the Hazardous Tales series of graphic novels about American history. He has also created the kids horror graphic novels ONE TRICK PONY and APOCALYPSE TACO. He is the illustrator of the RAPUNZELS REVENGE series. He lives in Utah.

Nathan's Website

Molly Idle

Author, Illustrator

Molly Idle is the author and illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Flora and the Flamingo and all of the Flora books. She’s also the creator of the Rex series, which includes Tea Rex and Sea Rex, and the illustrator of We Believe In You. Her newest picture books are the mermaid tales, Pearl and Coral

As a child, Molly was scribbling with pencils before she could walk. After graduating from Arizona State University with a BFA in Drawing, Molly accepted an offer to work as an artist for DreamWorks Feature Animation Studios, where she worked on a number of films. Then she made the move from movies to the wonderful world of children’s book illustration!  

These days, Molly lives in sunny Arizona with her marvelous, multigenerational family which includes: her brilliant husband, two mercurial sons, two remarkable parents, two cuddly cats, and one pair of loquacious lovebirds. When she’s not making mischief with her boys or watching old Technicolor musicals, Molly can be found in her workshop with a pencil in one hand and a cup of espresso in the other- scribbling away on her next picture book! 

Molly's Website

Varian Johnson


Varian Johnson is the author of numerous novels, including The Parker Inheritance, which was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; The Great Greene Heist, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014; and Twins, his debut graphic novel. Varian received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he now serves as a member of the faculty. Varian lives outside of Austin, Texas with his family, and can be found online at

Varian's Website

Laurie Keller

Author, Illustrator

Laurie Keller is the author and illustrator of many books including The Scrambled States of America, Potato Pants!, Arnie the Doughnut, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners (Amazons No. 1 Editors' Pick on their Best Books of 2007 List), The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut chapter book series, and We Are Growing!, part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series and winner of the 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. When Laurie isn't busy making books, she enjoys playing the banjo (the neighbors do not enjoy this), traveling, hiking, camping and playing outdoors. She lives in the Mitten State along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Laurie's Website

A.S. King


A.S. King has been called “One of the best Y.A. writers working today” by the New York Times Book Review. King is the author of highly-acclaimed novels including 2020 Michael L. Printz Award winner and LA Times Book Prize finalist DIG, 2016's Still Life with Tornado, 2015’s surrealist I Crawl Through ItGlory O'Brien's History of the FutureReality Boy, the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner Ask the PassengersEverybody Sees the Ants, 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz among others. She also writes Middle Grade fiction as Amy Sarig King.

She is a faculty member of the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and spends many months of the year traveling the country speaking to high school and university students, educators, and humans who care about the mental health of young people. After more than a decade living self-sufficiently and teaching literacy to adults in Ireland, she now lives in Pennsylvania.

A.S.'s Website

Juana Martinez Neal

Author, Illustrator

I’m Juana and I write and illustrate books for young readers. Alma and How She Got Her Name (Candlewick Press) was my debut picture book as an author-illustrator, and was awarded the 2019 Caldecott Honor. I am also the illustrator of La Princesa and the Pea (written by Susan M. Elya, Putnam/Penguin), winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (written by Kevin Noble Maillard, Roaring Brook Press), winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Medal.

I was born in the busy city of Lima, the capital of Peru. Now I live in the United States in the state of Arizona. Here I share a home with my husband, two sons, daughter, two dogs (one ginormous, one miniscule), and the soul of our late cat, Kitty. Our home can get quite busy at times and I love it.

Juana's Website

Meg Medina


Meg Medina is a Newbery award-winning and New York Times best-selling author who writes picture books, as well as middle grade, and young adult fiction. Her works have been called “heartbreaking,” “lyrical” and “must haves for every collection.” When she’s not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latinx youth, and/or literacy. She serves on the Advisory Committee for We Need Diverse Books, the grassroots organization working to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. She is also a faculty member of Hamline University’s Masters of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.

Meg's Website

Tim Miller

Author, Illustrator

Tim Miller is the author-illustrator of MOO MOO IN A TUTU & WHAT'S COOKING, MOO MOO?, and the illustrator of the picture books SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK!), SNAPPSY AND HIS BEST FRIEND FOREVER! (PROBABLY), MARGARASH, & HORSE MEETS DOG as well as the middle grade series HAMSTERAURUS REX.

Tim's Website

Frank Morrison


Frank Morrison started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey, tagging walls with spray paint. However, it was the opportunity to tour with music artist Sybil as a break dancer, an influential high school art teacher, and a visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris that opened him up to new artistic and creative avenues.

Morrison strives to capture people as they are, translating emotions through his paintings and leaving a memoir of our life and times today. His work depicts African-American livelihood in a way that is both familiar and comforting to those who often feel histories have been forgotten and culture has been usurped.  

An acclaimed illustrator Morrison’s work can be found in numerous award-winning children’s books including Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award winner Jazzy Miz Mozetta, NAACP Image Award winner Our Children Can Soar and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Little Melba and her Big Trombone. 

Continuing to celebrate the teacher that changed his life by insisting he visit his first art museum, Morrison signs each of his works “TTG” (Thanks to God) to also show his gratitude for God’s plan in positioning him where he is today. “I know where I am is not by accident. I want to just be able to continue doing what I do.”

Frank Morrison lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and five children.

Visit Frank on the web at 

Frank's Website

Leslie Patricelli


Leslie Patricelli has been cartooning to entertain herself and others since childhood. Leslie discovered her mischievous Baby character while doodling during a distressing Infant First-Aid course, shortly after her first child was born. The resulting Baby is now the star of 28 beloved board books, including Yummy Yucky, Potty and Toot. Watching her three children as they grew continued to inspire and ignite ideas, such as the Boston Globe Honor Book, Higher! Higher!, her Patterson Puppies Series, and Be Quiet, Mike!. Leslie grew up in Issaquah, WA, on Pine Lake, which is the setting of her debut middle-grade novel, The Rizzlerunk Club: Best Buds Under Frogs. She now lives in a pleasantly cacophonous home in the mountain town of Hailey, ID with her drummer husband, three musical children, a dog and three cats. Leslie loves to mountain bike, hike and ski, and plays her clarinet in the local orchestra. 

Leslie's Website

LeUyen Pham


LeUyen Pham is the award-winning and critically acclaimed illustrator of more than one hundred books for children. LeUyen (pronounced Lay-Win) is a New York Times bestselling illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner. LeUyen lives in Los Angeles with her husband Alex (who is also an artist), and their two adorable sons, Adrien and Leo. She also has a cat named Sardine and a gecko named Kumquat. She adores traveling and speaking, but given her way would spend all her time making Star Wars-themed birthday cakes.

LeUyen's Website

Matthew Reinhart

Author, Illustrator

Matthew Reinhart is a world-renowned children's book author, illustrator and paper engineer, known best for cutting and folding paper into gravity-defying pops in his acclaimed pop-up books. His NEW YORK TIMES bestselling titles include STAR WARS: A POP-UP GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, DC SUPER HEROES: THE ULTIMATE POP-UP BOOK, and MOMMY? created with children’s book legend Maurice Sendak. Matthew’s ENCYCLOPEDIA PREHISTORICA and ENCYCLOPEDIA MYTHOLOGICA series have been translated into many languages and are enjoyed by readers all over the world. A new transplant to San Francisco, California, Matthew is happily married and enjoys every second of his work—and sharing it with everyone!  

Matthew's Website

Sergio Ruzzier

Author, Illustrator

Sergio Ruzzier is a picture book author and illustrator. Born in Milan, Italy, in 1966, he began his career as an illustrator in 1986. In 1995 he moved to New York City, where he’s been creating pictures and stories for national and international magazines and book publishers. Sergio was a recipient of the 2011 Sendak Fellowship, and his early reader/comic book Fox+Chick: The Party and Other Stories received the 2019 Geisel Honor.

Sergio 's Website

Eliot Schrefer


Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

Eliot's Website

Shawna Coppola

Literacy Expert

Alexis Gardner

Literacy Expert

Alexis is an English instructor at Lincoln High School in her 6th year of teaching. She currently teach Oral Communications and the AVID elective. She is also the NCTE Nebraska Leadership Development Award 2021-22 recipient. 

Dr. Lauren Gatti

Literacy Expert

Lauren Gatti has been an educator for over 20 years, teaching at both the high school and university levels. She earned her B.A. in English and secondary English from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, her M.A. in English from Loyola University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is an Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a baker, a writer, a (slow) runner, and a shameless cat lady. She firmly believes that we all need more poetry in our lives.

James Ginal

Literacy Expert

James is currently a tenth-grade English teacher at Lincoln North Star High School, while also attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln for his master’s degree in Teacher Learning and Teacher Education. James is a graduate of Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Traci L. Glass

Literacy Expert

Traci Glass is the Assistant Director for the Lincoln City Libraries in Lincoln, Nebraska. She reviews comics for Library Journal, Booklist, No Flying No Tights, and School Library Journal. Traci was also a 2019 Will Eisner Comic Industry judge along with other comics professionals, was the Chair of GGNT in 2017 and is a current member.

Jillian Harpster

Literacy Expert

Jillian is a lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she works largely with pre-service English/Language Arts teachers. Prior to her appointment at UNL, she taught high school English at North Star High School in the Lincoln Public School District for 10 years. 

Katherine Hill

Literacy Expert

Katherine is a 7th year English teacher at Lincoln North Star High school.  She has taught sophomore classes all the way from the remedial to the gifted level all seven years, as well as creative writing, composition, Women’s Literature, and she is in her second year as the literary magazine advisor.

Dr. Joan Jacobs

Literacy Expert

With degrees in English, educational administration, and gifted and talented education, Joan Jacobs has worked across the nation in a variety of school systems. An educator of multiple decades, Joan Jacobs currently supervises the Lincoln Public Schools gifted program. Her passion is reading and literature.