Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Meet The Team

Louisiana and Mississippi have been aligned as a region since 2013, a natural fit as the two states share a rich cultural, literary, and artistic past.

CherylMteamCheryl Mathis, Co-Regional Advisor, joined SCBWI in 2007 and became ARA in 2011. Her adult short stories have been published both online and in print literary journals, including THEMA and Broadkill Review. Two of her kiddo shorts are published in Bayou Bogeyman Presents: Hoodoo and Voodoo (Pelican 2016), a middle-grade anthology of scary stories. Along with her writing partner, Laura Roach Dragon, she is a past Honor recipient of the Sue Alexander Award. Her day job is Paralegal and Assistant Office Manager, and much of the rest of her days are spent reading and writing middle grade fiction. She has been a frequent visitor of the Rocky Mountains ever since her two sons moved from below sea level to the Mile High City. Along with her husband and black cat Walter, she lives near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain where she can frequently be found walking while writing in her head. Cheryl became Regional Advisor in 2015.

Marti Dumas, Co-Regional Advisor, is a mom, teacher, and creative entrepreneur from New Orleans. An expert in childhood literacy, Marti has worked with children and teachers across the country for the last 15 years to promote an early love of reading both in and out of the classroom. Her best-selling Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest series combines literacy with STEM skills and humor, and adds much-needed diversity to the children’s chapter book landscape. Her latest books, Jupiter Storm and The Little Human are middle-grade fantasies being heralded for their skillful combination of science, family, and magic.

Denise Gallagher, Illustrator Coordinator, joined SCBWI in 2014. Her writing and illustration are inspired by her passion for unusual animals, folklore, and fairy tales. She is the author and illustrator of the picture book, A Tip Tap Tale (2017, UL University Press). She has also illustrated folktales for both Louisiana and Canadian authors including Jean-le-Chasseur et Ses Chiens, a Cajun folktale by folklorist Barry Ancelet, and Peg Bearskin, a traditional Newfoundland folktale published in Canada. She is devoted to promoting a love of arts and literature in children and has given lectures and classes to students from kindergarten through college. Her illustrations have won numerous national awards and her fine art work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Indianapolis and throughout Louisiana. In 2019, a retrospective of her picture book illustrations was exhibited at the Hilliard University Art Museum in her home town of Lafayette, Louisiana.

GAteam2Gary Alipio, Assistant Regional Advisor, joined SCBWI in 2001 when he decided to start sharing the stories he wanted to read as a kid. Fast forward a marathon later, and his middle grade debut, The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou, was selected to represent Louisiana at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. The book was also an SCBWI Crystal Kite finalist. Gary has two short stories in the spooky middle grade Bayou Bogeyman Presents: Hoodoo and Voodoo both books with Pelican Publishing. When not writing, you can find him fishing, biking and hanging with his middle grade daughter around NOLA. Follow him on twitter/instagram: @garygalipio

DragonTeam1Laura Roach Dragon, Manuscript Coordinator, joined SCBWI in 2007 hoping to learn how to get her middle-grade novel traditionally published. Hurricane Boy was published by Pelican Publishing seven years later. It went on to win an SCBWI Crystal Kite. She is also published in the literary magazine, THEMA. In her regular life, she’s a psychotherapist and has worked in the children’s unit at a New Orleans area hospis a middle-grade anthology of scary stories, an anthology written with her fellow SCBWI authors. She always dreamed of writing, but without SCBWI’s meetings and conferences, she feels it never would have happened.

KaczmarekGinny Kaczmarek, Critique Group Coordinator, writes, edits, and reviews literature for kids and adults. After earning an MFA from the University of New Orleans, she served as the poetry editor for Literary Mama and as a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews. Her publications include Calyx, The Oxford American, Rattle, Stinkwaves, Women’s Review of Books, as well as several anthologies. She lives in New Orleans with her family and blogs at


HardyteamSarah Frances Hardy, PAL Coordinator. With a juris doctorate cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Law, a Bachelor of Arts in fine art from Davidson College (Class of 1991), and subsequent studies at Parsons School of Design in New York and Paris, Sarah Frances Hardy took an early retirement from practicing law to paint and write full time. As a painter, Sarah Frances showed in galleries throughout the Southeast as well as New York, and her paintings were chosen by Steve Wynn for his corporate collection at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. Sarah Frances’s first children’s book Puzzled by Pink which she both wrote and illustrated was published in April of 2012 by Viking Children’s Books. Her subsequent books Paint Me! and Dress Me! were published by Sky Pony Press in 2014 and 2015. Dress Me! was chosen as a featured selection in the Children’s Book of the Month Club. She is currently working on illustrated middle grade novels as well as other picture books.Sarah Frances lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with her husband John and three daughters where she serves as Vice-Chairman of the City of Oxford Historic Preservation Commission, the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library Board, and the Oxford Lafayette County Literacy Council Board. She is an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Courtney Warren, Membership Coordinator, is a writer for her local newspaper The Bolivar Commercial, a storyteller instructor, and an English teacher in Mississippi. She graduated from Hollins University with a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series. When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves reading picture books to her students and writing stories based in the Mississippi Delta. She lives in the Madison, MS area with her football coach husband Brett and spunky toddler Berit. She can often be found drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup and blogging at