Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

About Us



Regional Advisor – Previously a middle school teacher for over fifteen years, Marie Sontag now pursues her passion for kids as a MG and YA historical fiction author–whenever she’s not romping with her grandkids playing superheroes or princesses. She and her husband live in North Richland Hills, and she looks forward to serving writers and illustrators in the SCBWI North Texas region. You can connect with her on her website,, on Facebook, Instagram,  or Twitter.



Assistant Regional Advisor – Kelli McKinney is a middle grade author with an ever-growing TBR pile. She lives in Argyle, TX with her husband, son, and sweetly persistent English Mastiff. When she’s not writing, she is a title marketing specialist for Chicken Scratch Books. Follow Kelli on Twitter @KelliMcChick, Instagram @kellimckinneywrites, and  her website




Illustrator Coordinator – Erin Nielson is a freelance illustrator in McKinney, Texas, (just outside of Dallas). Her love of art started early, with her paintings and artwork hung in my grandmother’s home.  She attended college at Brigham Young University and graduated with a BFA in illustration. Soon after graduating, she married my husband, Matt, and moved to Texas for new adventures. She works from my home studio, and collaborates with clients on everything from commissioned pet portraits to magazine graphics and illustrations to middle grade cover and interior artwork.  She’s a few years into her illustration career, and she really enjoy diving deep into projects and new industries.  Her current #1 driving goal is to illustrate middle grade fiction books, although she still creates artwork for picture books and other children’s publications. Erin loves to create imaginative and whimsical artwork (especially if she gets to include an animal or two in it), and past clients include BYU Independent Study, Who Chains You Publishing, and The Friend Magazine.


Published and Listed (PAL) Coordinator – Nancy Churnin is the  author of eight picture book biographies, including The William Hoy Story, on several state reading lists, Irving Berlin, a Sydney Taylor Notable, Manjhi Moves a Mountain, a 2018 South Asia Book Award and Anne Izard Storytellers Choice winner, plus two Social Studies Notables, two Silver Eureka Award winners, a Mighty Girl listing and more. The former theater critic for the Dallas Morning News and Los Angeles Times San Diego Edition, she’s now a full time writer and peace negotiator between her dog and cats. A member of the Nonfiction Ninjas and the Book Meshuggenahs, she lives in North Texas.



Event Coordinator – Debby Spitzer is a writer, event planner, and educational consultant. She started her career as a teacher and then moved into educational publishing, where she worked with authors from around the world. She helped plan and execute numerous events and currently serves as the event coordinator for the Old Town Keller Foundation. As a veteran educational consultant, Debby works with school districts around the country. Her high energy, humor, and keen insights have made her a popular presenter at state and national conferences. Debby is an avid reader and lover of history. After years of research and interviews, she is finally writing her YA historical fiction novel based on the true story of a teenage girl who worked with the leader of the Dutch Resistance during World War 2.



SCBWI North Texas serves 120 counties (indicated in yellow below) and approximately 350 members. We are part of the international SCBWI nonprofit organization. Our job is to serve local members by providing education and encouragement to enhace our craft and connect with national and international writers and illustrators of children’s and teen literature. 



Our longest-term members joined SCBWI in 1980, and the chapter was formally founded in 1981 by Mary Brite, the first regional advisor. The chapter was known as North Central/Northeast Texas until May 2013 when the name changed to North Texas.


  • Beth Mills (2019-2023)
  • Jackie Kruzie (2016-2019)
  • Carrie Charley Brown (2016)
  • Carol Barreyre (2013-2015)
  • Alan Stacy (2012)
  • George Hellstern (2009-2011)
  • Linda Powly (2006-2008)
  • Kathy Lay (2003-2005)
  • Karen Ferrell (2000-2005)
  • Jane Shuffer (1997-1999)
  • Crosby Holden (1995-1996)
  • Jan Peck (1992-1994)


  • Kristine Tague (2016-2018)
  • Cindy Rodella-Purdy (2013-2015)
  • Alan Stacy (2001-2011)