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Joanna Cooke

Jackson, WY
Graduated January 2015

JOANNA COOKE writes books for young people, focusing on nature and the human experience. Her debut picture book, The Sequoia Lives On, earned a starred Kirkus review, and her middle grade novel, Call Me Floy, was on a School Library Journal Summer 2020 reading list. Due out in Spring 2023, Joanna’s third picture book Fire Shapes The World is a natural history of fire. In addition to her MFA, Joanna holds an MEd in Elementary Education. Prior to writing, she spent ten years working as an environmental educator and naturalist in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. She lives with her husband and son in Jackson, WY.

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Frances Esbee

Manchester, VT
Graduated January 2017

FRANCES ESBEE writes young adult and middle grade fiction with contemporary themes, as well as quiet narratives for younger children.

Sara Farizan

Graduated January 2012

SARA FARIZAN is a graduate of the Lesley MFA program class of 2012. Her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine, won the Ferro-Grumley Award, the Edmund White Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for Children’s/Young Adult Literature in 2014, and was named to the American Library Association Rainbow List as one of the year’s best LGBT-themed books. Her other novels are Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, which was again named to the Rainbow List for 2015 and received two starred reviews, and Here to Stay, which Entertainment Weekly called “a powerful YA novel about identity and prejudice.” Her short stories have been featured in several anthologies including The Radical Element, Fresh Ink, All Out, Hungry Hearts, and the forthcoming Fools in Love. She lives in Massachusetts, enjoys classic film, kayaks way too much, and thanks you for reading her work.

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Sabrina Fedel

Pittsburgh, PA
Graduated January 2014

SABRINA FEDEL’s young adult historical fiction, Leaving Kent State, has won multiple awards. Her second novel, All Roads Lead to Rome, is a young adult romcom forthcoming from Delacorte Press in the summer of 2024. Sabrina’s poetry and short stories have appeared in various journals including The Pedestal Magazine and Lunch Ticket. You can learn more about her at and at Storm Literary Agency where she is represented by Michelle Hauck.

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Saraciea J. Fennell

Bronx, NY
Graduated January 2020

SARACIEA J. FENNELL is the founder of The Bronx is Reading—Bronx Book Festival. She is also a book publicist who has worked with many award-winning and New York Times best-selling authors like Daniel José Older, Tui T. Sutherland, Peter Sís, Kass Morgan, Chris Colfer, Deborah Wiles, Javaka Steptoe, & many more. She is passionate about books and devours anything sci-fi/fantasy-related in books, TV, and movies. Fennell sits on the steering committee for Latinx in Publishing as well as on the Advisory Board of People of Color in Publishing. You can find her somewhere in NYC boxing or practicing yoga in the next up and coming studio. The Bronx Times listed her as one of 25 Influential Women of 2018, she was listed on the Bitch Media 50 list for 2018, and was included among Remezcla’s 30 Latinxs who made an impact in 2018 . In her time pursuing an MFA at Lesley University she studied under David Elliott, Jason Reynolds, A.J. Verdelle, Tracey Baptiste, and Chris Lynch. She was born in Brooklyn and currently lives in the Bronx, New York. Her anthology, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, published by Flatiron Books is available now where ever books are sold. Follow her on social @sj_fennell.

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Photo Credit: Viscose Illusion

Kate Fussner

Boston, MA
Graduated June 2021

KATE FUSSNER is a novelist, teacher, and accidental poet living in Massachusetts with her wife and dramatic dog. When not reading or writing, Kate can be found baking, spending time with her family, or singing her favorite musicals. Kate believes in the power of a good laugh and a good cry, and hopes her stories will provide readers with both. Her debut novel, The Song of Us, will be published in Summer 2023 by HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, WBUR’s Cognoscenti (x , x), and elsewhere.

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Beth Raisner Glass

Falmouth, MA
Graduated June 2006

BETH RAISNER GLASS is a children’s book author, newspaper writer and teacher. She has taught in the Massachusetts public school system, and was Associate Professor of Education at Wellesley College. Her first picture book, Noises at Night, was published to wide acclaim and was featured on the Today Show’s “Best Books for Children” segment. Her picture book, Blue Ribbon Dad, was published in 2011, and is now a featured book on Reading Rainbow’s iPad app. Noises at Night was also selected as a Reading Rainbow ebook for their ipad app. She received her Bachelors in Education from Lesley College, and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Lesley University.

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Abbie Harlow

San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Graduated June 2019

ABBIE HARLOW graduated from Lesley University in June 2019. Her debut novel, BUTTERFLY’S STING, which she wrote at Lesley, will be published by Groundwood Books in Fall 2025. She has previously been published in BYU’s Inscape and Assumption College’s Thoreau’s Rooster. In her spare time, she reads (of course!), hangs out with her cat, and goes to concerts with her sister. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Check Abbie out on Instagram @abbiewritesbooks, Threads @abbiewritesbooks, or Twitter @abbieharlow.

Emily Inouye Huey

Salt Lake City, UT
Graduated June 2011

EMILY INOUYE HUEY is the author of BENEATH THE WIDE SILK SKY (Scholastic, Fall 2022). She holds an MFA from Lesley University, where she had the privilege to study with Chris Lynch, David Elliot, and Anita Riggio, and is a creative writing instructor at Salt Lake Community College. Besides books, her passions include education, the arts, the outdoors, and her family.

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Candice Iloh

Philadelphia, PA
Graduated June 2017

CANDICE ILOH is a first-generation Nigerian-American writer and performer whose writing has appeared in Fjords Review, The Grio, For Harriet, Blavity (x , x), No Dear MagazineGlass Poetry Journal, Puerto Del Sol, and The Black Girl Magic Anthology by Haymarket Books. They are a recipient of fellowships from VONA, Home School via Lambda Literary fellowship, as well as a Rhode Island Writers Colony Writer-in-Residence alum. They hold an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University, where they completed their debut young adult novel in verse, Every Body Looking (Dutton YA/Penguin Random House, Sept 2020). They are a 2018 Hi-ARTS Critical Breaks artist residency recipient where they debuted their first one-woman show, ADA: ON STAGE. When Candice isn’t writing, they dance. You can follow them @becomher on Instagram and Twitter.

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Katherine Karch

Salem, Massachusetts
Graduated June of 2018

KATHERINE KARCH spent most of her childhood catching frogs, climbing trees, reading books, and writing stories. She is a veteran teacher of biology at Pingree School in Massachusetts and holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her writing has appeared in numerous science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines including MetaStellar, Uncharted Magazine, Radon Journal, Metaphorosis, Barbaric YAWP, and Samsara: The Magazine of Suffering. Follow her on Instagram (@katherinekarchwrites), Mastodon (@[email protected]), or BlueSky (

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Sara Levine

Guilford, CT 
Graduated January 2006

SARA LEVINE is an educator, veterinarian and award-winning writer of STEM books for kids.  Her picture books which include Bone by Bone, Tooth by Tooth, Flower Talk, and The Animals Would Not Sleep! have received the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, the Beehive Book Award, the Cook Prize Honor and the Mathical Book Prize. Her writing for adults has appeared in the Massachuestts ReviewBayou, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and The Boston Globe.

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Axie Oh

Las Vegas, NV
Graduated June 2017

AXIE OH is a first generation Korean American, born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California – San Diego and holds an MFA from Lesley University in Writing for Young People. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea.

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Patty O’Connell Pearson

Fairfax, VA
Graduated June 2015

PATRICIA (PATTY) O’CONNELL PEARSON is a former high school history teacher and curriculum writer with an MEd from George Mason University and an MFA from Lesley University. Her first book, Fly Girls, was named a best of 2018 by A Mighty Girl and a best of 2019 by Bank Street Books. Fighting for the Forest was named one of four finalists for the 2020 NY Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize and Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders will be released in August, 2020—all are nonfiction for ages ten and up from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. When she is not writing, researching, or catching up with her four adult children, Pearson can often be found talking about history as a volunteer with the National Park Service in Washington, DC.

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Jørn Earl Otte

Beckley, WV
Graduated January 2018

JØRN EARL OTTE is a poet, essayist, novelist, and memoirist. Jørn’s work has appeared in the literary magazines Kestrel, Duende, Brittle Star, Brightly Press, and Briller Magazine. He is a contributor to Vocal, and his latest blog can be read here.

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Cynthia Platt

Marblehead, MA
Graduated June 2014

CYNTHIA PLATT is the author of three picture books and her first chapter book, Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship, was published in May 2019. Postcards from Summer, her first young adult novel, will be published in summer 2021. She also teaches at Montserrat College of Art and writes for the Khan Academy Kids learning app.

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Cynthia can also be found on our Mentors Page

Janessa Margaret Ransom

Alpine, Utah
Graduated January 2024

JANESSA MARGARET RANSOM (she/her) holds an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University and a BA in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. She resides on the western edge of the Rocky Mountains in Alpine, Utah where she writes poetry and young adult fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Dialogue and Exponent II and her fiction is represented by Amy Jameson of A+B Works. On Tuesday nights you’ll find her at the Encircle home in Provo, Utah, teaching creative writing lessons to LGBTQ+ youth.

Caitlin T.D. Robinson

Dedham, MA
Graduated June 2018

CAITLIN ROBINSON received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in June, 2018 and is currently working toward her MA at The Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College. As an after-school director for children in Grades 3-8, she has taught creative writing at various elementary schools throughout her career as an educator. Raised in a family of artists and musicians, Caitlin enjoys playing and writing music as well. She met her husband while living in the Pacific Northwest and they now live in Dedham, MA with their cat, Gus. She also writes non-fiction essays, and has been published on Kripalu, Solstice Lit Mag and The Dedham Times.

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Lisa Robinson

Newton, MA
Graduated June 2011

Lisa Robinson is a child psychiatrist and children’s book author. She also teaches an interdisciplinary course, Creativity and the Unconscious Mind, in Lesley University’s MFA program. She is the author of five picture books and has three forthcoming. In her free time she likes to read, wirewalk, and fly through the air on aerial silks.

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Photo Credit: Cheryl Clegg

Leah H. Rogers

Sagaponack, NY 
Graduated January 2017

LEAH H. ROGERS is an artist and author of picture books for children that evoke emotion, and spark imagination. Leah resides in New York with her husband, son, poodle and appaloosa.

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Claudia Rueda

Graduated January 2010

CLAUDIA RUEDA is a Colombian author and a New York Times Best Seller illustrator of over thirty picture books. Rueda’s books have been published in the United States, Mexico and Spain and have been translated into fifteen different languages for Asia and Europe. She’s a 2016 Hans Christian Andersen and Astrid Lindgren Awards nominee.

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Valley C. Shaia

Cambridge, MA
Graduated June 2021

VALLEY CAROLINE SHAIA grew up in an overly-loud family and attributes that to her own dramatics. She graduated from JMU with a BA in English and Creative Writing. In 2021, she received her MFA in Writing For Young People from Lesley University, where she was a recipient of the Finnegan Scholarship. Shaia daylights as a Game Design Writer for Monopoly at Hasbro, and spends her free time chugging coffee at bookstores.

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Hengameh (Heny) Taraz

Cambridge, MA
Graduated June 2021

HENY TARAZ is a full-time professional educator who currently serves as the lead teacher and curriculum writer for the Gifted & Talented program at Waltham Public Schools. She holds a Masters degree in education (M.Ed.), Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS), teaching and Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent licensures in the State of Massachusetts, and an MFA in Creative Writing in the Writing for Young People genre. Heny is an artist and her expression of the arts is exhibited through illustration and design, rhythm in words, and flowing movement in dance. As a visual artist she has held recent art exhibitions in 2011 (Lexington) and 2015 (Museum of Fine Arts Boston). With an undergraduate concentration in pre-med, Heny has served as a research scientist. She graduated in January 2023 with a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Education.

Jana Van der Veer

Arlington, MA
Graduated June 2009

JANA VAN DER VEER writes MG, YA, and adult fiction, and is an Author Accelerator certified book coach helping writers to finally finish the book they’ve been longing to write.

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Rose Viña

Graduated January 2016

ROSE VIÑA is a Cuban-American author originally from California. She received her MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her debut picture book, Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating (Oct 2019), was an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist. Her next book, Alicia Alonso: Dancing Through Darkness, will be published Fall 2021 by Albert Whitman and Co. She was a professional figure skater with Disney On Ice and Holiday On Ice. Rose is currently the head figure skating coach in Sweden where she resides with her husband, son, and puppy Jack.

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Andrea Wang

Centennial, CO
Graduated June 2011

ANDREA WANG is the award-winning author of picture books The Nian Monster (Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor), Magic Ramen (Freeman Book Award Honor), and Watercress (JLG Gold Standard Selection, seven starred reviews). The Many Meanings of Meilan, her debut middle grade novel, publishes in August 2021. Andrea’s work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven non-fiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Centennial, Colorado with her family.

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Photo Credit: Elaine Freitas Photography

Jasmine Warga

Chicago, IL
Graduated June 2013

JASMINE WARGA is the New York Times-bestselling author of middle grade novels Other Words For Home and The Shape of Thunder. Other Words For Home earned multiple awards, including a John Newbery Honor, a Walter Honor for Young Readers, and a Charlotte Huck Honor. The Shape of Thunder was a School Library Journal Best Book of 2021, and has been named to several state reading lists. She is also the author of young adult books, My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now, which have been translated into over twenty different languages. Her next novel, A Rover’s Story, will be out on October 4, 2022. Jasmine currently teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Cincinnati, she now lives in the Chicago-area with her family in a house filled with books.

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Stephanie Willing

Bloomfield, NJ
Graduated June 2017

STEPHANIE WILLING is a kidlit author and audiobook narrator. She primarily writes speculative fiction for middle-graders and loves to mix this world with otherworld. Originally from Texas, she now lives in New Jersey with her two young sons, her husband, two cats, and fish.

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Photo Credit: Anna Ty Bergman