Mary Brigid Barrett
President and Executive Director

One of my first paid jobs was, at age fifteen, working as the talking Christmas tree in a major Cleveland department store’s holiday exhibit—a job I was born for! Listening to hundreds of children’s inner yearnings and wishes, which daily ranged from unintentionally hilarious to deeply poignant, convinced me that I wanted a career working with kids.

I began my education career as a public high school teacher and am ending it as the president and executive director of the NCBLA. In between, I taught writing and illustration at The Rhode Island School of Design, guest lectured at various colleges and universities, published a few picture books, and served as the creative editor on two NCBLA publications: Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out and The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.

When my books were first published, I was frequently invited to elementary and middle schools as a visiting author. Spending time with teachers in and outside of the classroom, I learned that most were eager to learn more about the writing process. After listening to their questions and concerns, building on my own experiences as a teacher, artist, and writer, I designed a series of writing workshops for elementary and middle school students. For well over two decades, I worked hands on with students and teachers across the country, sharing writing workshops and critiquing thousands of students’ stories, essays, and articles. The NCBLA’s Empowering Young Writers slideshows and educational support materials were inspired by those experiences.

Read Mary Brigid Barrett’s full bio.

Geri Zabela Eddins
Assistant Director, Program Director

Geri Zabela Eddins is Assistant Director and Program Director of the NCBLA. Geri is a voracious reader who has indulged a lifelong passion for the written word in her education, work, and volunteer experiences. She is thrilled to be actively engaged in promoting literacy through her communications, website, and project and event planning tasks for the NCBLA. Assisting with the development and publication of Empowering Young Writers has been a truly rewarding highlight of her work with the NCBLA. Geri’s additional career experience includes over twenty five years as a technical writer and editor in the computer software industry. Her volunteer experience includes tutoring ESL students at the town library, organizing and promoting community events, and chairing the local cultural council in her hometown. Geri holds both a BA and MA in English. She lives in Massachusetts.


Annisha Jeffries
Literature/Diversity Consultant for Empowering Young Writers

Annisha Jeffries is a highly experienced Youth Services Department manager at the Cleveland Public Library. She leads monthly professional advancement meetings and shares knowledge with the library’s youth services staff. Jeffries holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Cleveland State University and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. She has received the prestigious 2000 American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship and has served on various selection committees, including the 2018 Caldecott Committee, and was the Chair of the 2021 Caldecott Committee. She is currently the Chair of the Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award.

Reneé Critcher Lyons
NCBLA Secretary and Empowering Young Writers Review Assistant and Editor

Reneé Critcher Lyons is a Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Serving as the Program Coordinator for the School Librarianship Program, she has published in Childhood Education Innovations, New Literaria, New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, Children and Libraries, YALS, School Library Connection, Public Library Quarterly, and the International Journal of the Book. Reneé is also a children’s book author, having published Rollin’ on Down the Line: Lady Bird Johnson’s 1964 Whistle-Stop Tour for Civil Rights with Sleeping Bear Press.  She serves on national book award committees for the American Library Association, Nature Generation, and Children’s Literature Association.

Catherine Deutsch
Bibliography Assistant for Empowering Young Writers

Catherine was an English major at Indiana University, having always loved reading and writing. She worked as a baker and pastry chef in Boston and Cambridge for a decade, before returning to her true love of reading and promoting literacy. In 2021 she began the Library Media graduate program at Salem State University, which she is currently completing while working as a paraprofessional with high school students in Revere, MA.

Elizabeth Rock

Elizabeth Rock (1956-2022) was an editorial illustrator and freelance designer. She is almost entirely unknown for her unique body of work, a collection which veered between impenetrable allegorical representations of vague concepts and miniscule, illegible drawings done most commonly on cocktail napkins, paper placemats, and the small, torn-off corners of things. Learn more about her work at

Christopher Eddins
Graphic Designer

Graphic designer Christopher Eddins offered creative advice and assistance regarding various visual elements for this website, including the Great Reads photographs.

Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. Ltd

The NCBLA’s Accountant

951 North Main Street
Providence, RI 02904
Tel: 401-274-2001

Additional Acknowledgements

The final content of this website owes a tremendous debt to the keen eyes and unending patience of volunteer editors Helen Kampion, Renée Critcher Lyons, and Marilyn Ludolph, all of whom worked tirelessly to ensure the content is up to date, no typos remained lurking in our text, and all links directed to their intended destinations. Thank you!