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12 x 12 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee – 12×12 Challenge


It is my great pleasure to introduce the members of the first Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee for The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge.

Our goal here at 12 x 12 is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community. To achieve that goal, we need to create and maintain a safe creative space for all writers to find their voices, master their craft, and launch their stories into the world. We realize that intentions are not enough, and that action is required to ensure authors and illustrations of all backgrounds feel welcome here.

As a starting point, the 12 x 12 DEI Committee has issued a Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge as well as a list of Resources on Diverse Children’s Picture Books, Anti-Racism, and #OwnVoices. Both are available on the website under a new tab entitled, Diversity, and are considered living documents. We will add to them as new information and resources become available. We ask that all members review both pages and consider how you can help contribute to the goals of making 12 x 12 the most diverse, welcoming writing space it can be.

More announcements about DEI activities will be coming soon, but for now, please meet our DEI Committee Members! All of them are here to help if you have questions or want to speak to someone from your own background or culture. We’re here for YOU, our members.

Aixa Perez-Prado 200x300Aixa Pérez-Prado is a native of Argentina who immigrated to the United States as a child. She is a writer, illustrator, editor, sensitivity reader, translator and professor at Florida International University with a PhD in Social Science and Education. Aixa began her teaching career as a bilingual Kindergarten teacher and has since worked as an ESOL teacher, cross cultural trainer and applied sociolinguist in the U.S., Latin America and Morocco. Her research interests include multilingualism and identity, anti-bias curriculum, culturally responsive pedagogy, peace linguistics, and diversity studies . Aixa is also a homeschool/unschool mother of six and founder of ‘The Thinking Café’, a website devoted to promoting critical and creative thinking, empathy across cultures, and thoughtful communication for children, parents and teachers. Aixa writes in Spanish and English and translates in Spanish, English and Portuguese. You can find her at: www.

Dani Duck is a bisexual writer and illustrator. She is an American living in Canada. She has a AAS in Graphic Communications and a BFA in drawing. She is a member of the SCBWI, 12 x 12 and co-host of #QueerKidlit chat on Twitter. Dani likes to create humorous and whimsical worlds for kidlit and especially loves graphic novels.

Matt Tesoriero’s passion for writing children’s books took hold while making up stories for his 12 nieces and nephews. Now he writes and revises picture books for his critique group and agent. His goal is to create lovable, diverse protagonists that inspire, enlighten and entertain children in unexpected ways.  Matt has been honored with various writing opportunities including a 12 x 12 Diversity Scholarship and being selected as a PBChat Mentee and a PBParty Finalist. Matt has lived with his partner in Boston, London, San Francisco and South Florida revealing a world he wants to write about in all its colorful, diverse glory.

Meghan Daniels is research administrator and picture book writer living in Austin, TX. She has been a member of 12 x 12 since 2015. Shortly after she signed up for her first year she had a medical emergency that threw off the first few months of the year. In 2016 she received a financial need scholarship that allowed her to return for her second year. In 2021 she will be returning for her seventh year as a member of the 12×12 Diversity & Inclusion Committee. She is neurodivergent and lives with multiple chronic health conditions. She is committed to supporting and amplifying voices from underrepresented communities across the spectrum.

Pradeep Velugubantla grew up in India, then came to the United States. When he became a father, he saw his children inherit Indian and American cultures simultaneously (Bi-cultural).  Though it is a fantastic opportunity for bi-cultural children to thrive by taking advantage of the best in both worlds, it can present some unique challenges. Today, he writes picture books for children to share his Indian culture, values and to offer perspectives on the challenges that bi-cultural children face.

Rachel Funez is a part-time lawyer, full-time mom, and aspiring children’s author. Having grown up in Central and South America as a Third Culture Kid, she loves to write stories that celebrate Latinx culture and inspire connection by giving mono-cultural children the opportunity to experience a little slice of life in someone else’s shoes. A neurodiverse creator with lifelong ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Rachel also hopes to write stories that help children and their parents (and herself) cope with anxiety in productive ways and find the beauty and humor in the chaos of childhood. Rachel is delighted to be a member of the diversity and inclusion committee, where she hopes to promote inclusion within the 12 x 12 community, connect with diverse writers, support them on their journeys, and continue promoting diverse stories in any way she can.

Rachel S. Hobbs Gunn grew up in a book-loving, storytelling, culturally mixed family. Her Anglo-American dad was born and raised in California while her mom was born and raised in Argentina. The mix of English and Spanish in her life propelled her love of learning languages, and she received her BA in Spanish in 2000, with a minor in Music. Rachel never outgrew children’s books and loved to immerse herself in reading them, and by 2005, writing them. She is excited to be on the 12 x 12 Diversity & Inclusion Committee and hopes to contribute by way of her experiences as a Latina woman with disabilities and mental health challenges.

Ramya Spaulding 200x300Ramya Spaulding (goes by R.G. Spaulding) grew up in India and came here to the US to pursue an MS degree in Engineering.  She loves to draw and frequently got into trouble as a kid for daydreaming too much.  Art was encouraged to be pursued only as a hobby and not as a main profession growing up.  When she quit her job in 2017, she decided to establish her second career as an author/illustrator. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two teen daughters, and two toy poodles.  Her family is as American as apple pie and butter dosa.  She is especially interested in helping out with the Diversity and Inclusion committee because she wants to see more interracial kids like hers represented in picture books. You can find out more by visiting

Rona Shirdan is a freelance writer, editor, and coach with a love for picture books and a passion for encouraging new writers. She is committed to the process of peacebuilding in the areas of social justice and diversity, focusing on children’s literature, and partnering with organizations that embrace these initiatives. She wants all children to feel seen and valued through the books they read, while also learning to appreciate others with different experiences. In addition, she works to ensure that all creatives have a safe and supportive space in which to produce these stories.

Sara Ackerman is a Kindergarten teacher who delights in finding the just-right book that will make a kindergartner gasp or giggle, ask questions or proudly declare “I knew that,” feel represented and loved or expand their thinking with the exciting and unfamiliar. She is a member of SCBWI, 12×12, and was a 2019 PBChat Mentee. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. After a decade overseas, Sara now lives in Brooklyn, NY and never leaves home without her library card.

Valerie Bolling has been an educator for 27 years, and her debut picture book, LET’S DANCE! was published in March. Since her book was released a week before the pandemic shutdown, she has been engaged in virtual storytimes and panels. Immersed in the writing community, Valerie serves as the co-chair of the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Team and is a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, and NCTE. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a member of Kid Lit in Color, Black Creators in Kid Lit, #12X12PB, 20/20 Vision Picture Books, and a picture book critique group. Valerie has two books scheduled for release in 2022 and two more slated for 2023. You can find out more about Valerie at

This content was originally published here.

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