Book Festival Panelist Bios

Keynote Speaker

Michael Granberry

Michael Granberry is the Arts and Feature writer at the Dallas Morning News. He was born and grew up in Dallas. He graduated from Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove in 1970 and from Southern Methodist University in 1974. Between his junior and senior years, he interned at The Washington Post during “the Watergate summer” of 1973. He spent 19 years at the Los Angeles Times before returning to Dallas.

Michael has recently co-authored the book, “HOLE IN THE ROOF: The Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison Jr., and The Stadium that Changed American Sports Forever,” together with Burk Murchison, son of Clint Jr.

To reserve a copy of the book, please go to .

Children's Panel

Moderator-Nancy Churnin

Nancy Churnin writes about inspiring people that encourage kids to be heroes and heroines, too. Dear Mr. Dickens, the true story of a woman who spoke up to Charles Dickens, won the 2021 National Jewish Book Award; A Queen to the Rescue, about Henrietta Szold, who saved 11,000 children from the Holocaust, won 2022 Social Studies and Sydney Taylor Notables. Nancy’s books have earned starred reviews, been Junior Library Guild selections, A Mighty Girl picks, National Council for the Social Studies Notables, Silver Eureka winners and Kids’ Choice Award finalists. Additional awards include a Sakura Medal finalist, a Book for a Global Society Notable, an Anne Izzard Storytellers’ Choice winner and a South Asia Book Award winner. Nancy lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, a mischievous menagerie of cats and a dog named Dog. You’ll find free teacher guides, resources and projects on her website at

Bethany Hegedus’ picture books include the award-winning Grandfather Gandhi and Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, both co-written with Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), as well as Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People: Dr. Maya Angelou, Hard Work But It’s Worth It: The Life of Jimmy Carter and Huddle Up! Cuddle Up! Her books have been included in numerous “best of” lists such as A Mighty Girl’s Best Books of 2018 and Kirkus’ Best Books of the Year. A former educator, Bethany is an in-demand speaker and mentor who speaks and teaches across the country about writing, creativity, resilience, and privilege. She is also the Founder and Creative Director of The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas and host of The Porchlight podcast, which include writing craft & creativity interviews, as well as the popular Courage to Create series. She graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

Beth Mills is an illustrator who also occasionally writes things. She wrote and illustrated Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen, winner of the International Literacy Association’s Primary Fiction Honor and the 2019 Writers League of Texas Picture Book Award) and illustrated the Beatrice Bly’s Rules for Spies series, written by Sue Fliess. She is currently working on an unknown number of projects stuffed into desk drawers, file cabinets, and bookshelves around her house. Beth is from Texas and says “ya’ll” and “howdy” unironically. Beth’s favorite things to draw are quirky characters, animals in clothes, and monsters. Beth’s favorite thing to write is funny fiction. Her least favorite thing to write is her bio. You can learn more about Beth at

Carmen Oliver is the author of many award-winning picture books for children including A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chavez Taught Children to Make Music From Trash, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and The Twilight Library (Sept 6, 2022). She’s also the author of the Bears Make the Best Buddies series (Reading, Writing, Math, Science).

 In 2014, Carmen founded the Booking Biz, a boutique style agency that brings award-winning children’s authors and illustrators to schools, libraries, and special events. She also teaches writing at the Writing Barn and The Highlights Foundation and loves speaking at schools, conferences and festivals. She lives with her family outside of Austin, Texas.

To connect or learn more about Carmen and her books,visit or Twitter or Facebook.

Navigating the Spectrum

Celebrating, Supporting and Encouraging the gifts in ALL our Children

Moderator-Mary Margaret Wilson

Mary Margaret Wilson’s professional career spans 45 years and she has served in a variety of positions serving children, families and leaders. She holds certifications in Special Education, Early Childhood, Elementary Education and also Masters of Education. She taught in Texas public school classrooms for 23 years and has taught courses at both the University of Texas at Tyler and Kaplan University as an adjunct instructor.  She has served in a variety of Administrative and Leadership positions for the Region 7 Education Service Center and as a Training and Technical Assistance Consultant for the Office of Head Start through the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm.  She has presented at National, Regional and State conferences. She is a National Conscious Discipline® Certified Instructor and CLASS Reliable Trainer and Observer.  She lives in Palestine, Texas with her husband and is a mother of 2 adult children, and 2 grandchildren. She is presently an independent Education Consultant, Teacher/Administrator Coach, Parent Educator and Public Speaker and Advocate for Educators, Children and Families.

Sarah Mensinga is the author and illustrator of The Box, and the author of the YA fantasy novels, Currently and Shimmerdark. She has also illustrated several books, including Different: A Great Thing to Be!, the Trillium Sisters series, and Flipping Forward Twisting Backward, and contributed stories to comic anthologies such as Flight and Fablewood. In the past, she worked on the animated films The Ant Bully and Escape from Planet Earth, as well as the TV series, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. Born in Canada, Sarah now lives in Texas with her family and is currently writing and illustrating a graphic novel. Find more of her work at

Bridget McCaslin, M.Ed. Currently works with Head Start at Region 7 ESC as the Coordinator for Student Support over Mental Health and Disabilities. Prior to joining Head Start, she was a special education teacher, an educational diagnostician, and a coordinator overseeing assessment and 504 in a school district. She advocates for children with special needs and works with teachers and families to ensure they receive responsive and engaging school experiences that meet their learning needs. Bridget has earned her Mater’s in education with a school counseling and diagnostician certification. Bridget lives in Texas, and when she is not working, she may be running a half marathon or enjoying time with her husband and daughter at the beach.

Monica Wood, M. Ed. has been a part of the early childhood profession for almost 20 years. She has held many roles including teacher, preschool educational diagnostician and Head Start coordinator. Her focus has been to advocate for inclusion of special needs students in the general education classroom and to ensure families feel they have a partnership with their school districts. Currently, she is a Student Support Specialist for the Region 7 ESC Head Start program in Kilgore, TX. She lives in Lindale, TX, with her wonderful husband, two crazy cute children and two unruly hounds.

Poetry Panel

Moderator-Leslie Karen Lutz

Leslie Karen Lutz’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in various journals, including TypishlyKaaterskill Basin Literary JournalRaintown Review, and OrcaFractured Tide, her young adult thriller, was voted “Best of 2020” by Suspense Magazine. She is also the recipient of the Quarterly Award in Poetry from The Lyric literary journal. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out at the DFW Writers Workshop, diving at Wheeler Branch, or climbing the cliffs at Mineral Wells State Park. Or sleeping. She does that too. 

Anne Champion is the author of She Saints & Holy Profanities (Quarterly West, 2019), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), Book of Levitations (Trembling Pillow Press, 2019), Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Verse Daily, Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere.  She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient.  

Stephen Sanders, also known as “Blackbead the Pirate Laureate,” also known as “The Steampunk Poet,” is a man who writes in many voices.  First published in 1975, Sanders has become an award-winning poet with book/magazine/anthology credits too numerous to list here.  He regularly performs and speaks at pirate, Renaissance, and Steampunk events, most recently performing at the Heavener Runestone State Park “A Walk Through Time.”  He is on the Board of Directors of Seadog Enterprises which includes a publishing firm, Blackbead Books, a recording studio, Seadog Studios, and Galaxy of Voices, a stable of voice-over talent.  He is the current President of the Fort Worth Poetry Society and an active member of the Poetry Society of Texas and the National Federation of State Poets.  He is also a published author of flash fiction and short stories.  If you want to know more about him, simply do a web search for “Stephen Sanders poetry.”

Michael Guinn is a social worker turned author, turned actor turned activist. He is a two time national poetry slam finalist and international spokenword slam champion. He is a native east Texan but is currently residing in the Dallas Fort Worth Texas Area. For the past 25 years he’s been blessed to successfully plan, curate and promote upscale national level spokenword events conferences and symposiums.  As a professional speaker he facilitates creative confidence workshops that focus on speaking your truth when it comes to social awareness issues. His dedication to this craft has led him to be a Sub Committee member for the NAACP Image awards.  He is also a published award winning poet with a collection of poetry called Crying In Colors The Poemography Of A Man.  For more visit 

John Bartell is an east coast transplant trying to make it Texas, drinking Shiner beer and enjoying the Austin music scene, though he hasn’t taken to wearing cowboy boots. He is the president of the DFW Writers’ Workshop as well as vice president of the Fort Worth Poetry Society. His poetry has been published in The Orchards Poetry Review, Canyon Voices, The Loch Raven Review, Rat’s Ass Review and Muddy River Poetry Review. He also has short stories published in several journals, including the Manhattanville Review, Sanitarium Magazine, and in A. Lee Martinez’s Strange Afterlives Anthology. 

Mystery Panel

Moderator-Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent is a New York Times bestselling author and an Edgar Award Nominee for her contemporary crime trilogy, The Dime, The Burn and The Pledge. Ms. Kent is also the author of three award-winning historical novels, The Heretic’s Daughter, The Traitor’s Wife, and The Outcasts.  Her newest novel, Black Wolf, a Russian spy novel, will be published February 2023.  She has also written short stories and essays for D Magazine, Texas Monthly and LitHub, and has been published in the crime anthology Dallas Noir.   In March 2020 she was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for her contribution to Texas literature.

Reavis Wortham was born in Paris, Texas, but his dad worked for the Ford Motor Company in Dallas. He started his writing career in the fifth grade, and his work didn’t truly progress until nearly 25 years later. In the meantime, he graduated from W.W. Samuel High School, worked in a library as a “Page” (one who shelves books, and that job fed into my Book Needs). Wortham was submerged in books, discovering influential authors such as Donald E. Westlake, Jack Kerouac, Jean Shepherd, William C. Anderson, and guys we know by their last names, Heinlein and Silverberg. While continuing to work toward his dream of becoming an author, Wortham worked in public education for 35 years. His first novel, The Rock Hole, was published by Poison Press when Wortham was 56. He has continued to publish novels and more than 2,000 newspapers and magazines bear his byline.

Daniel J. Hale is an Agatha Award-winning author and two-time former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. A professional photographer and FAA-certified drone pilot, he speaks fluent French. Hale holds degrees from Cornell University, the Bowen School of Law and Southern Methodist University.  Dallas is home, but he spends long stretches of time in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hale is currently at work on a mystery novel set in the Texas Trans-Pecos.

Born and raised in East Texas, Heather Harper Ellett is the author of Ain’t Nobody Nobody. She is a graduate of SMU and taught at The Writer’s Path at SMU, and now coaches writers through their first novel or memoir. She is a licensed professional counselor in private practice, a skill set that lends itself nicely to working with writers. She lives in Dallas with her son, her husband, two cats, and border collie.