Successful local group of children’s authors & illustrators- A Mint Hill Times Exclusive Interview

Top row: Dy English and Viviane Elbee Bottom row: Stacy Gray, Jennifer Bower, Brandon Reese, Becky Shillington, Cindy Clemens

Children’s literacy is key to a society’s sustainable future. Many American families rely on schools to teach their kids the basics. Changes in technology have led children to spend more time with computers, tablets, video-games and the Internet, but less time with books. Now schools are fighting to stem an epidemic of illiterate-children. According to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 40% of CMS 3rd graders were reading at grade level in 2014. It’s not just schools and libraries making efforts to promote books and reading though. Children book writers and illustrators are also striving to make books that will appeal to children and motivate them to read.

In an exclusive interview with the Mint Hill Times, children’s author Viviane Elbee brought our attention to a group of published children’s authors in the greater Charlotte area.  “There’s a thriving community of children’s authors and illustrators right here in the Charlotte area,” she says.

These authors belong to the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), a professional organization founded in Los Angeles in 1971. Nearly 30 years ago, Carol Baldwin started a SCBWI critique group in Charlotte.”

Viviane also told us about the mission, and contributions of this group to the world of children books. “The critique group meets in various locations around Charlotte a few times a month, and members exchange manuscripts, offer constructive feedback, and encourage each other through the publishing process. Since its creation, the local SCBWI critique group has grown and changed, but members remain dedicated to producing high quality works for children.”

Among the locally published author / illustrators from this group are: Jenn Bower (illustrator of 10 books, including THE FUNNIEST MAN IN BASEBALL);Vanessa Brantley Newton (author & illustrator of over 80 books, including GRANDMA’S PURSE); Maria Bostian (author of 2 books, including FIREFIGHTERS BUSY DAY and an upcoming series of chapter books); Viviane Elbee (author of TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI); Megan Hoyt (author of HILDEGARD’S GIFT);Tara Luebbe (author of I AM FAMOUS & SHARK NATE-O);Susan Pless (author of several poems in children’s magazines, including Toe-rrific and The Moon in LadyBug and Turtle magazine); Dorothy Price (author of NANA’S FAVORITE THINGS); Brandon Reese (author-illustrator of OOTHAR THE BLUE and Mint Hill resident);Becky Shillington (author of a recently published poem, ODE TO BOOKS, in Highlights magazine), Derrick Wilder (author of an upcoming picture book THE LONGEST LETSGOBOY) and Kim Wilson (author of OLLIE THE OWLLAMA).  Three of the group’s original members are still active SCBWI Carolinas members and published – Carol Baldwin (author of many articles and TEACHING THE STORY), Miriam Franklin (author of 3 books including EXTRAORDINARY and CALL ME SUNFLOWER), and Linda Vigen Phillips (award-winning author of CRAZY and BEHIND THESE HANDS).

Viviane explained, “Our group also includes many talented pre- published authors, so this list of local published talent is bound to grow bigger.”



It is interesting how much work, effort and dedication goes to produce a book for children. There are many children for whom books are still a window to the world. Though some books are read on tablets, a great number of children consider physical books to be treasured items.

Viviane Elbee let us know that “people interested in having a special, personalized gift for their children, grandchildren or friends may be able to snag autographed copies of some of these books at the local indie bookstore – Park Road Books.” Park Road Books is located in the Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte, near the post office & Harris Teeter. If you don’t see autographed books on the shelves, ask the Park Road Book employees, as they may be able to obtain an autographed copy for you, or contact Park Road Books online via their website: https://www.parkroadbooks.com/.

Books by local author / illustrators are also available from Barnes & Nobles, Books-a-Million and online from all major bookseller outlets.”

If you’re curious to learn more about SCBWI, here is a link to their website: https://www.scbwi.org/.