Recent Accomplishments

Some recent achievements by current students and graduates of our programs:

Current Students

Sarah Rouhier, who is pursuing her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, has won the MA/MFA level scholarship to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference. The Society of Children’s Book Writers is the largest professional organization for creators and publishers of children’s and YA literature.

Amanda Becker, who is pursuing her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, has been honored with a 2021 Graduate Essay Award by the Children’s Literature Association (ChLA). A four-member committee of children’s literature scholars selected Becker’s essay, “A Story in Fragments: An Analysis of Poetry and Perspective in October Mourning,” as the winner of this year’s master’s level award.

Andrea Badger is working on her thesis for the M.F.A. in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating. Kayla Tostevin at Page Street Kids has bought the rights to Moles Present the Natural Tolls of Digging Holes by Badger. Publication is planned for fall 2021.

Nicole Panteleakos is pursuing her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, planning to graduate in 2022. Her debut novel, Planet Earth Is Blue from Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, was released in May 2019 to rave reviews and has earned numerous distinctions, including Parents’ Choice Foundation Gold Award, and the New York Public Library’s Best Middle Grade Book list.


The debut book by Rebekah Manley M.F.A. ’11 is a hilarious take on dating horror stories, but at its core, Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates is a heartwarming tale that can be enjoyed and appreciated as a shared experience.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins holds an M.A. and M.F.A. in children’s literature from Hollins, receiving the former in 2005 and the latter in 2011. She has written articles for the SCBWI Bulletin and the Children’s Writer Newsletter and has recently published four books with Scholastic. Her Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature was named one of Kirkus’ Best Informational Picture Books of 2019.

Alison Clarke graduated from Hollins with an M.A. in children’s literature in 2017. Book three in her young adult series published while at Hollins, Circle, won the 2016 Writer of the Year Award from Diversity magazine. Her most recent work, a collection of poetry about Phillis Wheatley, was published by the University of Calgary Press. Alison served as the 2021 Writer-in-Residence for the Alexandra Writers’ Centre and is continuing there as an instructor.

Dhonielle Clayton earned an M.A. in children’s literature from Hollins in 2009. She is COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and owner of Cake Creative, an IP story kitchen dedicated to diverse books for all ages and responsible for titles such as the Tristan Strong series, the Love Sugar Magic series and more. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Belles series, The Marvellers series, Shattered Midnight, co-author of Blackout, and the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things duology, a Netflix original series.

Laurie J. Edwards completed her M.F.A. in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating in December 2019. She’s a prolific author across ages and genres. Twenty million copies of her 2015 illustrated picture book app of The Teeny Tiny Woman were distributed worldwide by Reading Is Fundamental. Her most recent works for children include a picture book, The Mystery of the Missing Parathas (2017), and the Second Chance Ranch Series of middle-grade novels under the pen name Kelsey Abrams, published by North Star in 2018.

Elizabeth Parker Garcia received her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins in 2011. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee in the literacy studies program with a specialization in children’s and young adult literature. Her passions center on issues of diversity in publishing.

Cassie Gustafson received her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins in 2017. She is the author of two young adult novels including her Hollins thesis and debut After the Ink Dries (Simon & Schuster, 2021), which weaves a dual-POV with graphic novel interstitials, and her forthcoming sophomore novel, The Secrets We Keep (Simon & Schuster, 2022), which mixes prose with dark fairytales and flashbacks.

Sarah Jackson received her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins in 2014 and completed her Ph.D. in Literature for Children and Young Adults at the Ohio State University in 2020. She now teaches in the Department of Early, Middle, and Exceptional Education at Millersville University in PA. Her most recent publication was of her Hollins thesis (mentored by Lisa Rowe Fraustino) in a book of Pooh scholarship published by the University Press of Mississippi.

Rebekah Lowell graduated with her M.F.A. in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating from Hollins in 2019 and is eagerly awaiting the release of her debut middle grade verse novel, The Road to After, with Nancy Paulsen at Penguin. Her debut picture book, Catching Flight, releases with Doubleday Books for Young Readers in spring 2023. Rebekah is also an art educator on the online platform, Skillshare.

Jen McConnel received an M.A. in children’s literature from Hollins in 2017 and went on to complete a Ph.D. in education at Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Her research centers on student and teacher perceptions of literacy (especially writing) in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. She is happily teaching down the road from Hollins as an assistant professor of English Education at Longwood University. Her first textbook, a guide for student writers to help them bring creativity and individuality to academic writing, is due out in 2022 from Routledge.

Donna Patterson graduated with her M.F.A. from Hollins in 2018. While a student in the program, she published a picture book, Midnight Forest, under the name D. M. Patterson, using large text and illustrations for children with partial visual impairment. Her most recent picture book, Chelsea’s Crabby Day, came out in February of 2019. She is the director of the children’s literature division at HSC Publishing.

Victoria Piontek graduated with her M.F.A. in children’s literature in 2014. Her first novel, The Spirit of Cattail County, was begun at Hollins and published by Scholastic in 2018. Her second book, Better with Butter, launched in summer 2021. Victoria is a literary associate for Executive Agent Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Lara Saguisag received her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins in 2005. She is the author of several books for young readers including Ninoy Aquino: A Courageous Homecoming (2010) and Children of Two Seasons (2007). She is currently an assistant professor of English (children’s and young adult literature) at the College of Staten Island (CUNY). She also currently chairs the Diversity Committee of the Children’s Literature Association.

Anastasia Salter graduated from Hollins in 2011 with her M.F.A. in children’s literature. She is the Director of Graduate Programs and Associate Professor of English for the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Central Florida, and author of seven books that draw on humanities methods alongside computational discourse and subjects. These include most recently Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives (Amherst College Press 2021, w/ Stuart Moulthrop).

Ali Standish graduated from Hollins with an M.F.A. in children’s literature in 2014. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Ethan I Was Before, was published by HarperCollins in 2017 to immediate critical acclaim as a Junior Library Guild selection, an Indies Introduce and Indies Next pick, and the 2017 North Carolina Young People’s Literature Award. Three more novels—August Isle, The Climbers, and Bad Bella—were released in 2019. How to Disappear Completely came out in 2020.

Suzu Strayer received her M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins in 2011. She completed her Ph.D. in literature for children and young adults at the Ohio State University in 2018.

Jennifer Colleta Tullos received an M.A. in children’s literature from Hollins in 2015. She is an interdisciplinary scholar who has particular expertise in children’s and adolescent literature and culture. She is an active member of Houston’s Write About Now spoken word poetry community.