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Meet The 12 X 12 2020 Scholarship Winners!

Meet the 12 x 12 2020 Scholarship Winners!

Let’s ring in the New Year by congratulating and welcoming our 2020 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge Scholarship winners!

The 12 x 12 Scholarship Fund started in 2014, when the 12 x 12 community generously donated funds to provide four scholarships in two categories — Diversity and Financial Need — for pre-published picture book authors. Since 2016, our members have donated enough money to fund SIX scholarships per year! The purpose behind these scholarships is to cultivate underrepresented voices in children’s picture books and to provide an opportunity for dedicated writers to join 12 x 12 who might not otherwise be able to. You can find out more details about the 12 x 12 Scholarship Fund on our Scholarship Page.

It is with great pleasure, and sincere thanks to the 12 x 12 community, that we announce the 2020 scholarship recipients.

Diversity Scholarship Recipients

Carmen Castillo Gilbert 200x300

Carmen Castillo Gilbert was born and raised in Panama in Central America. She attended American schools both in Panama and the US (kindergarten-PhD). She considers herself completely bilingual and bicultural. Carmen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language for nearly thirty years both in Panama and in the US at the college, high school, middle, and elementary school levels. In 2014, she was honored as that year’s New Hampshire World Language teacher by the NH Department of Education. In 2015, she also received the New Hampshire Excellence in Education award.  Carmen is now retired, a member of SCBWI and an active member of critique groups in the US and abroad. Her goal is to someday publish children’s picture books that will capture the imagination of Hispanic children everywhere using English as the primary language in her stories and a ‘sprinkling’ of Spanish, the secondary language so that parents, teachers, librarians, caregivers, and others can provide children with an early start in Spanish. Her biggest hope is that her stories will bring forth the many faces, the energetic nature, the values and the enthusiasm for the wonders of life that exist in the Spanish-speaking world.

Carmen says, “I want my stories to bring forth our many faces, our energetic nature, our values and our enthusiasm for the wonders of life.”


Karen Yin 200x300

Karen Yin was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, a peace-loving, riot-inciting middle child with one eyebrow permanently arched. Winner of the ACES Robinson Prize in 2017 for furthering the craft of professional editing, she founded Conscious Style Guide to help writers and editors think critically about conscious language. Named by Poynter as one of the top tools for journalists in 2018, Conscious Style Guide is recommended by NASA, BuzzFeed, Mailchimp, 18F (a government agency), the National Speech and Debate Association, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, and Winning Writers, among others. An award-winning fiction writer and Lambda Literary Fellow, Karen is a member of SCBWI and the Dramatists Guild. In 2019, she graduated from The Children’s Book Academy with a record number of Golden Tickets (eight) from judges. A lifelong dabbler in art, Karen is illustrating her first picture book. She lives with her partner and their cat friends on a mountain not too far from Los Angeles. You can find her at

Karen says, “I write for children as a way to invite playfulness into their lives. That might seem odd. After all, aren’t children already playful? As a child, my capacity for playfulness was unlimited, but it wasn’t always safe or acceptable to be playful. I was an American daughter of poor Chinese immigrants, which meant I was pressed into service early on—translating, negotiating with strangers, running errands, filling out forms, even signing them. If I wasn’t working, I was cleaning or taking care of something. But I had one outlet that my parents encouraged: reading. The local library was my second home. My sisters and I borrowed so many books each visit that my father made a rubber stamp of his signature. Through books, I was allowed to play. I could wear many faces, adopt unusual perspectives, and experience the beauty and cruelty necessary to nurture compassion. Stories instilled in me the belief that without playfulness, we have no imagination, no freedom, no future. So, for all children, but especially for those whose childhoods are on hold, I write in hopes that my books will help light a way back to playfulness, to ourselves.”


Taunya English 200x300

Taunya English (@taunyaenglish) began her writing career as a journalist and radio reporter. While working in radio, she not only reported the news but worked to spotlight underrepresented stories and perspectives. Later as an editor, Taunya commissioned diverse storytellers and voices often missing on public radio.

Writing for radio teaches you to 1) hook your audience early 2) keep your sentences short 3) offer one idea at a time, and 4) write for the ear. 5) Every word counts, and 6) one strong verb beats a string of showy adjectives. Taunya brings those skills to picture book writing.

Her children’s literature journey got serious in 2016 with the support of a critique group in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 2019, Taunya moved to Washington, D.C., where she has found a new squad of cheerleaders and coaches through a critique group based at The Writer’s Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Taunya says, “I write stories that move black girls from the margins and cast them — front and center — as main characters with complexity and foibles worthy of a full story line. My characters walk the world comfortably with cocoa-buttered knees and tightly coiled locks, but hair and skin color don’t define them. I’m working to create picture-book worlds where black girls see themselves and grow their confidence by conquering everyday problems.”

When she’s not writing for children, Taunya works as a digital and podcast editor serving up storytelling to entice people who don’t necessarily know they’re hungry for health-policy news.

 Financial Need Scholarship Recipients

Angie Quantrell 200x300

Angie Quantrell spent her elementary school recesses in the library, shelving returns in order to find the next horse book to read. In eighth grade, she wrote an extra credit chapter book, earning an A+++ for a mystery story about a girl and her horse. Reading and writing have long been Angie’s friends.

After earning her Elementary Education and Early Childhood Degree, Angie spent years sharing her love of books with preschoolers and elementary students in public and private schools. Angie adored her time with these young audiences.

Angie has written work-for-hire projects like curriculum, teaching guides, articles, blog posts, activity books, and preschool picture books. This type of writing has taught Angie to work on deadline and write to specifications required by different editors.

Angie says, “Always, it seems, I’ve jotted down picture book ideas. My teaching years were filled with wonderful books. My dream of becoming traditionally published grew stronger. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, co-started a critique group, and participated in online writing events. I’ve focused on learning about the publishing industry and writing picture books. I love the kidlit community. I can’t wait to learn and work on my picture book manuscripts.”

Cheryl MacAller 200x300

After college Cheryl MacAller joined Teach for America and worked to confront educational inequity from the inside out. After her two year commitment teaching kindergarten in the urban jungle of Chicago’s south side, she escaped the bitter cold and returned to sunny Los Angeles where she has spent the last 13 years teaching Pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 2016 Cheryl began to seriously focus on her passion for writing as a member of SCBWI, the PenUltimate and Topanga Writers critique groups, and 12 x 12. Her manuscript The Elephant Road won 1st place at the 2017 SCBWI LA Writers Day, and Little Eyes, Big World won 2nd runner up at the 2019 SCBWI LA Writers Day.

Cheryl says, “As an elementary school teacher, I know the importance of helping children develop the tools to understand that dark moments in life are not insurmountable. Giving young readers the opportunity to experience meaningful stories can make all the difference in bolstering their self-confidence and trust in the world around them. I strive to write stories that inspire, comfort, and encourage a sense of curiosity and wonder.”


Mindy Elyse Weiss 200x300

Mindy Alyse Weiss is a kid at heart and loves viewing the world through a child’s eyes. Writing, conferences, fun challenges, and hanging out with kidlit creatives is her air. No matter what life throws her way, writing and the kidlit community are her happy place.

Her heartfelt picture book manuscript, Mason’s Greatest Trick, won 5th place in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Competition and she’s had several pieces published in Highlights magazine. She’s the SCBWI FL Critique Group Coordinator and Free Meeting Facilitator, an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, a founding member of the From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors blog and a co-host for the PBParty contest.

Mindy lives with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog and cat. She adores animals and would adopt every homeless one if she could. She also loves chatting with other writers on Twitter and Facebook…and seeing their adorable pet photos!

Mindy says, “I loved participating in 12×12 the first two years and was thrilled to be a Silver member in 2019. The community and webinars were amazing and inspired me to write 12 new manuscripts…including an own voices picture book with a hearing disabled main character that digs way deeper than the isolation hearing loss can bring. It means so much to me, I actually shook during the first draft, and cried when I finished. I finally understand what it means to write the kind of book only I can write…and dig so deep you open a vein.

Here’s to all of us having an amazing and productive year, cheering each other on as we create picture books that empower children, make them laugh, learn, appreciate others and the world around them.”

Congratulations to this talented group of writers, and WELCOME to 12 x 12!

We’d love to welcome you to 12 x 12 in 2020, too! General registration will be open from January 8 – February 29, 2020.

Returning members, look for registration information in your inbox staring January 6th.

Happy New Year!



This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I am so excited for this opportunity! THANK YOU to all who contributed and support each other in so many ways! 2020 is going to be a great year for all of us!

  2. Thank you, Julie and Kelli, for welcoming me into the 12 x 12 community with a 2020 Diversity Scholarship. To have my writing recognized on 1/1 is a tremendous way to start the new year. Looking forward to immersing myself and supporting other PB authors!

  3. Congrats to all the scholarship winners and a HUGE thank you for awarding me a scholarship. I’m incredibly grateful. What a way to start 2020!

    I can’t wait to support, celebrate, and cheer each other on all year in this amazing challenge. 🙂

  4. Such exciting times ahead in 2020 for the 12 dedicated, talented writers who now have these scholarships to help them continue on their creative journeys! Congrats and best of luck to all the winners!

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