Meet Our Camp Counselors!

(Authors, Illustrators, & Publishing Professionals)

Julia Garstecki

Julia Garstecki has written more than 70 nonfiction books for young readers. Before she began life as an author, she taught special education and reading instruction and currently works as a writing coach at Daemen College near Buffalo, NY. Julia began her writing career as a craft writer for regional magazines, justifying her obsession with craft stores. She has hosted writer-in-residence workshops encouraging young writers to create, explore the publishing world, and see their own voices in print. You can learn more about Julia at

Destiny Soria

Destiny Soria is a Young Adult fantasy author and freelance writer. Her novels feature magic, mystery, and an excess of witty banter. She lives in Birmingham, AL, where she spends her time trying to come up with bios that make her sound kind of cool. She has yet to succeed.

Brooks Benjamin

In sixth grade, Brooks Benjamin formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing back then. But now he’s got a new crew–his wife and all his amazing students. Brooks lives in Tennessee where he teaches and occasionally busts out a few dance moves (he hasn’t gotten any better).

Visit him at

Jackie Yeager

Jackie Yeager is a middle grade author whose stories inspire children to think more, work hard, and dream big. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and spent several years coaching Odyssey of the Mind, a creative, team-based, problem-solving competition for kids K-12. She’s the author of the Crimson Five middle grade STEM/ STEAM series which includes: Spin the Golden Light Bulb, Flip the Silver Switch, and Pop the Bronze Balloon. Jackie lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and two children. You can follow her blog for writers and learn about her books at or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tina M. Shepardson

An award-winning teacher for 32 years, Tina has shared thousands of books with children. As a passionate advocate for children and reading, she finds her best stories are inspired through her favorite roles in life: mother and teacher. Find her in Upstate New York with her family, enjoying the latest snowstorm with her akitas.

Nicole Melleby

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She has an MFA in creative writing and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses at Kean University. Her debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON was a Lambda Literary Finalist and was awarded the Skipping Stones Honor Award for exceptional contribution to multicultural and ecological awareness in children’s literature. Her second novel, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS… was be released June 2020. When she’s not writing, Nicole can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

Chris Tebbetts

Chris Tebbetts is the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestselling MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson, as well as the bestselling STRANDED series with Jeff Probst from TV’s “Survivor.” He is also the author of two YA novels: ME, MYSELF, AND HIM, and M OR F? (with Lisa Papademetriou). His work has received children’s choice awards in Oregon and Hawaii, as well a Sunshine State Young Readers Award nomination, and a nod on the New York Public Library’s annual list of Books For the Teen Age. His online, interactive writing workshops and book talks can be tailored for any age from grade 4 through adult.

Ella Schwartz

Ella Schwartz is the award-winning nonfiction children’s book author of CAN YOU CRACK THE CODE? (Bloomsbury, 2019) and MAKE THIS! (NatGeo Kids, 2019). Her next book, HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINE will publish in 2021. She is also a featured writer for National Geographic Kids magazine and the Melissa & Doug toy company. In addition to writing books, Ella works with the U.S. federal government on strategic cybersecurity initiatives. Learn more about Ella and her books at