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Additional Speakers

NOTE: WLA members who are conference presenters are not included in this listing. Nevertheless, their participation is critical to the success of our conference, and we thank them! For contact information, members may consult the online directory at http://wla.memberclicks.net/.

avi-1Avi is part of a family of writers extending back into the 19th century. Born in 1937 and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools, before going to the Midwest and then back to NYC to complete his education. Starting out as a playwright—while working for many years as a librarian—he began writing books for young people when the first of his kids came along.

His first book was Things That Sometimes Happen, published in 1970, recently reissued. Since then he has published seventy books. Winner of many awards, including the 2003 Newbery award for Crispin: the Cross of Lead (Hyperion), two Newbery Honors, two Horn Book awards, and an O’Dell award, as well as many children’s choice awards, Avi frequently travels to schools around the country to talk to his readers.

Among his most popular books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing But the Truth, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic, and The Fighting Ground.

In 2008 he published The Seer of Shadows (HarperCollins), A Beginning a Muddle and an End (Harcourt), Hard Gold (Hyperion) and Not Seeing is Believing, a one-act play in the collection Acting Out (Simon and Schuster). City of Orphans was released in 2011, receiving a number of starred reviews, as did his most recent book, Sophia’s War: a Revolutionary War Tale, released in 2012 (Simon & Schuster). Learn more at Avi-writer.com. Follow Avi on Facebook, where he shares an inside look at his writing process: facebook.com/avi.writer.

Avi lives in Clark, Colorado, with his wife.

rebeccabehrens-1Rebecca Behrens
was born and raised in Wisconsin.  She attended Northwestern University and followed that up by eventually earning a master’s degree in comparative literature at the Graduate Center in New York City.  In addition to being an author, she currently works as a production editor for children’s books.  Her first novel, written for a middle grade audience, is When Audrey Met Alice, which blends the modern day with the historical in this tale of the fictional first daughter, Audrey, a lonely teenager who discovers Alice Roosevelt’s secret diary hidden beneath the White House floorboards.

Ching-In Chen
 is author of The Heart's Traffic and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. A Kundiman, Lambda and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities, and was a participant in Sharon Bridgforth's Theatrical Jazz Institute. They have been awarded fellowships and residencies from Soul Mountain Retreat, Ragdale Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony, Norman Mailer Center and Can Serrat.  A community organizer, they have worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston. In Milwaukee, they are cream city review's editor-in-chief, senior editor of The Conversant, and serve on the board of Woodland Pattern. www.chinginchen.com

Genevieve Davis
is the author of the nonfiction mystery Secret Life, Secret Death as well as the author of Fanni's Viennese Kitchen, a collection of authentic Austrian recipes.  Davis is also the producer and director of the film version of Secret Life, Secret Death.  The film won best Art Film at Indie Fest in 2013 and has played at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and in Rome, London, New Orleans and many theaters, museums and libraries in Wisconsin.  Currently Davis is at work on The Brides' Tale, a steamy novel of medieval Italy, of star-crossed lovers, magic realism, court intrigues and the Black Death. 

Heidi Hammond, Ph.D. has 23 years of experience as a school librarian at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and currently coordinates the school library media specialist portion of the MLIS program at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Hammond served on the 2011 Randolph Caldecott Award Committee (Association for Library Service to Children) that selected A Sick Day for Amos McGee. She was a member of the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee (Young Adult Library Services Association) that selected Tamora Pierce. She has also served on the editorial board of SLR-School Library Research (American Association of School Librarians). She will be serving on the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Committee in 2016. Along with Gail Nordstrom, Hammond is the co-author of Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: A Guide to the Illustrations. 


kevinhenkes-1Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers and novels. A Wisconsin native who often visited his local public library and art museum during his childhood, Henkes was encouraged in high school to combine writing with his art.  His awards include the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon in 2005, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen in 1994 and two Newbery Honors for novels—one for his newest novel for young readers, The Year of Billy Miller, and the other for Olive's Ocean.  He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.

Mary Hoddy (M.S., UW-Madison) is Academic Staff Emerita at UW-Madison and is a Master Trainer for Global Learning Partners. She teaches classes in Coaching Employees and Appreciative Inquiry for the Wisconsin Public Certified Manager Program. In her former position as Staff Education and Training Director for the Wisconsin Union, Mary developed and taught campus classes in communication skills, coaching, management, adult education and workshop design. She also facilitated numerous teams and campus committees. She received an award in 2014 from the Wisconsin Union for her work on campus in creating community and building a diverse and welcoming environment.

karenjensenKaren Jensen
is the creator of the Teen Librarian Toolbox (TLT), a professional development website for teens, as well as a part-time Youth Services Librarian at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, Texas.  She has an undergraduate degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Youth Ministry with a minor in Psychology and received her MLS from Kent State University in 2002.  TLT’s mission is to help libraries serving teens and to foster a community of professional development and resource sharing by providing quality information, discussions, book reviews and more.  Jensen was named a 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker and is the co-author of The Whole Teen Library Handbook, published in 2014.

Dasha Kelly
is founder and director of Still Waters Collective, a Milwaukee-based outreach initiative utilizing the transformative power of the written and spoken word. Dasha has performed and delivered workshops to writers, youth, educators, co-eds, executives, inmates and artists throughout the U.S. She is also an HBO Def Poetry alum. Dasha recently traveled to Botswana as a U.S. Embassy Arts Envoy. As a poet and novelist, Dasha’s writings have appeared in anthologies, text books, magazines and online.  Her latest collection of work is titled Call it Forth. Her second novel will be available through Curbside Splendor Publishing in spring 2015.

Evan Maruszewski
is a part-time melodeon player, full-time multimedia specialist /slash/ jack of all trades. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in film and video from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts in 2005, he became the multimedia director for Byte Studios, a local web and design firm. There he designed and produced interactive media for Snap-on Tools, The Girls Scouts of America and The School of American Ballet, to name a few. In 2007 he co-founded Cream City Media and Polakię Games, two ventures with the combined focus of putting Milwaukee on the map creatively. In 2011 he collaborated with renowned Midwest rapper Tahrim Tatum (Spade One) and local poetry and publishing magnate Keith Gaustad (The Brümeister) to form The November Criminals - the world's only non-ironic polka/hip hop band. Together they have delighted and confused audiences in pubs and taverns across the Midwest, as well as a few choice cheese markets here and there. He believes firmly in the human race and its potential for good, and one day hopes to make some modicum of difference in this big, crazy world. Failing that, he'd very much like to take his new wife Sarah to France where they can live together on baguettes and brie forever

carriemesrobian-1Carrie Mesrobian is the author of the young adult novels Sex & Violence (2013) and Perfectly Good White Boy (2014), both of which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly.  Her writing has also appeared in the StarTribune and Brain, Child magazine and she is an instructor at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. 

Gail Nordstrom rediscovered the power and delight of children's books as a youth services librarian for Stillwater Public Library in Minnesota, where she worked with children, teens, and caregivers for nineteen years. She is currently the public library consultant for Viking Library System in west central Minnesota. She continues to share her enthusiasm for children's literature in workshops and conferences in the state. Nordstrom was a member of the 2002 John Newbery Award Committee and has organized local Newbery and Caldecott mock discussions for librarians and teachers since 1997. While serving on the 2011 Randolph Caldecott Committee with Heidi Hammond, the duo first envisioned writing the book Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: A Guide to the Illustrations, released in September.

William “Naawacekgize” Quackenbush became the HO-Chunk Nation Historic Preservation Department(HPD) - Cultural Resources Division Manager (CRD) in 2009. He receives advice and support from the Ho-Chunk Nation Heritage Preservation Board. Their mission reads, “To protect and preserve the HoCak culture and heritage as living forces in the lives of the HoCak Wajic. To nurture our Nation’s culture – to strengthen it as a living source of identity and pride for our people.” William is apprised of native oral traditional practices by the Ho-Chunk National Traditional Courts. His current responsibilities also include the following: Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO); The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Designee Alternate; Ground Penetrating Radar Operator (GPR); Tribal Historian; and Tribal Monitor.


jessriley-1Jess Riley is an author from Oshkosh whose first novel, Driving Sideways, was published by Random House in 2008.  Since her debut she’s self-published two novels and a novella.  Jess maintains a blog at http://jessriley.blogspot.com/ and also participates in the Girlfriends Book Club blog at http://girlfriendsbookclub.org/.

Gayle Rosengren is a children’s fiction author who grew up in Chicago.  She attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where she majored in creative writing. She worked as a children's and young adult librarian at a public library for several years.  Rosengren eventually moved to Wisconsin and worked at American Girl, first in the reference library and then as a copyeditor.  What the Moon Said is her first novel, the story of a young girl, Esther, whose family moves from Chicago when her father loses his job during the Great Depression to a farm in Wisconsin to start over.

michaelschumacher-1Michael Schumacher
grew up in Milwaukee and Kenosha.  He started writing for magazines and is a former columnist for Writer’s Digest who has interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Kurt Vonnegut and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.   Schumacher has written several books including Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (2005) and Wreck of the Carl D. (2008), and has written scripts for twenty-five documentaries on Great Lakes shipwrecks and lighthouses.   His latest book is November’s Fury: The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913, the first complete and fully illustrated account of the deadliest storm in Great Lakes history.

Juliette Sterkens
, AuD is an audiologist whose efforts have leveraged over 425 hearing loop installations in the Fox Valley and Wisconsin. Hearing loops send the audio or voice signals picked up by microphones wirelessly to hearing aids and cochlear implant users. In Wisconsin libraries stand out as the early adopters of the technology (on service desks and in meeting rooms) as well as the 2,200 seat Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and the Fireside Dinner Theater in Fort Atkinson. Dr. Sterkens recently retired from her audiology practice in Oshkosh Wisconsin to devote her time to promoting the use of hearing loops in behalf of the Hearing Loss Association of America (www.hearingloss.org).  She is the recipient of the Wisconsin Audiologist of the Year, the UW-Oshkosh 2014 Alumnus of the Year and Arizona School of Health Sciences Humanitarian of the Year award for her advocacy efforts on a local, state and (inter)national level. For more information see www.loopwisconsin.com.

Stephanie Vance, also known as the “Advocacy Guru”, is author of five books including Citizens in Action: A Guide to Influencing Government and the recently released The Influence Game. She’s a 25 year veteran of the Washington, D.C. political scene and has held positions as a lobbyist, grassroots consultant and Congressional aide.

Stephanie’s experiences as a legislative director and Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill led her to found Advocacy Associates, a firm dedicated to helping individuals and organizations be both heard and agreed with in the legislative environment. To achieve that goal she provides inperson and online trainings for thousands of advocates around the world.

Ms. Vance holds a Master’s Degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University and a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies at Georgetown University. She lives and works in Washington, D.C..

rebeccavnuk-1Rebecca Vnuk is a readers advisory expert who has been with Booklist as the editor for reference and collection management since 2011.  She is a former adult services librarian who has received awards for excellence in readers advisory and was named a 2010 Library Journal Mover & Shaker.  Vnuk has authored three books on women’s fiction, including her latest in 2013 with co-author Nanette Donohue – Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests.  In 2014 she teamed up with Thorndike Press, a large print publisher, on a Women’s Fiction line for which she selects and reviews two books each month.  Vnuk has also served as the chair of Chicago’s Adult Reading Round Table and on the board of trustees of the Forest Park Public Library.

larrywatson-1Larry Watson
was born in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck and married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of North Dakota, his Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College.  Watson taught writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin/Stevens Point for 25 years before joining the faculty at Marquette University in 2003 as a Visiting Professor.

Watson is the author of the several novels including Let Him Go, Montana 1948, White Crosses, Laura and Orchard.  He has frequently been recognized by the Wisconsin Library Association’s Literary Awards Committee, previously winning the 1994 and 2004 Literary Award and celebrated as a Notable Wisconsin Author in 2008.  Let Him Go has won the 2014 Literary Award and has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal.

Stu Wilson
is a Principal and lead consultant with Library Strategies Consulting Group. Previously the executive director of the Friends of the Hennepin County Library (Minneapolis), and vice president of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, Stu has over 25 years of senior management experience.   As a consultant, Wilson has led numerous strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, board development, and training activities for libraries, Friends and foundations. He currently serves on the board of Coffee House Press and heads a new nonprofit celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald in Saint Paul.  He has published and presented widely on library, nonprofit, and historical topics. He holds an M.A. degree in architectural history from the University of Oregon, and a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

chriswirthChristopher Wirth is a Madison, WI based psychotherapist in private practice at Mental Health Solutions, as well as the owner of Northside Mental Health and Consulting.  He is a native of southern Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a B.S. in Psychology.  He received an M.S., studying Marriage and Family Therapy, from Edgewood College with an emphasis on systems therapy.  He enjoys working with a variety of people, and in his spare time is a volunteer mentor for the UW-Madison chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society for undergraduate psychology majors.