Kid Lit Festival

Kid Lit Fest 2023 Logo

Rocky Mountain Kid Lit Festival 2023

Presenters & Sessions

Friday, May 5th, 5-5:30pm

Character Parade


6-7pm, Community Room

Kids Theatre with DeLaney Hardy Ray

After the Character Parade, stay for an interactive acting workshop with Youth Conservatory Director DeLaney Hardy Ray

DeLaney Hardy RayStudents at The Montana Kid Lit Festival will get to experience a NOVA Acting class!

The session will begin with a warm up that focuses on relaxing the mind and body and warming up the mind, body and voice. Warm ups will be followed by a series of group and ensemble building activities, which will lead into our improv or acting exercises. The session will end with a simple cool down activity that focuses on concentration and developing group think. 

DeLaney earned a degree in Theater Performance and is a well respected teacher, writer, actress, and director. She has been volunteering with the youth programs at NOVA Center for over 9 years. She has taught a wide variety of ages from Kindergarten on up. Some of the subjects she has taught are how to develop a character and how to write, produce, and perform a play. DeLaney uses creative teaching techniques to help her students excel. She helps them grow by using storytelling, improvisation, and visual imagery to advance their skills.

Along with her vast experience as a teacher, DeLaney has also been a part of many shows at NOVA, on stage and off. Some of the performances DeLaney has been seen in include: A Christmas Carol, From Chekhov with Love and Laughter, Sherlock Holmes, and Sweet Charity. Off stage, DeLaney can be found in the director’s chair in Free Birdie, Charlotte's Web, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and many more. DeLaney also directed a play she wrote called, The Vote. This play was written as a tribute to the “first lady of Congress,” Jeannette Rankin.

DeLaney’s experience in theater does not stop at NOVA. She has also worked with other companies around the area. Some of the other places DeLaney has left her mark are Billings Studio Theatre, The Virginia City Opera House, Venture Improv, Seattle Children's Theater, Yellowstone Repertory Theatre, and Slapstick Improv. 

Saturday, May 6th


9am-10am Session for Littles, “Birds & Books,” Community Room

Sneed B. Collard III

Sneed B Collard IIIMontana author Sneed B. Collard III shares his passion for nature and adventure, and describes how they inspire an endless variety of creative ideas. He’ll especially focus on how his love of birds and his travels to see them have shaped his most recent titles including Waiting for a Warbler, a finalist for the Green Earth Book Award.

Sneed B. Collard III has written more than eighty-five books for young people including Birds of Every Color; Fire Birds—Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests; Woodpeckers: Drilling Holes and Bagging Bugs; and Shep—Our Most Loyal Dog, winner of the Treasure State Book Award. In addition to his nonfiction, Sneed has written several popular novels including the chapter book mysteries The Governor’s Dog is Missing and Dog 4491. Sneed is an entertaining, award-winning speaker, and has visited more than six hundred schools in 40 states and 5 foreign countries. To learn more about him, visit his website and check out the birding, writing, and photography blog he writes with his teenage son, Braden, at

10am-11am Illustration Stations, Second Floor

Erika Wilson, Jeanne Bowman, Eddie Tanzosh, Jennifer Ard

Learn how to illustrate using various mediums with published professional illustrators!

Erika WislonErika Wilson is a Montana artist with two passions--children’s book illustration and printmaking.  She illustrated MONTANA’S MEMORY DAY by Sue Lawrence; SKEDADDLE and THE SPILL by Jacqueline Leigh, and MADDIE MCDOWELL AND THE RODEO ROBBERY by LuAnn M. Rod. Erika is an active member of SCBWI, and served as the Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Montana from 2018 - 2021. Whenever Erika isn’t illustrating books, you can find her treadling an antique press in her letterpress print shop, The Windy Mill Press, which is located in Billings. You can learn more about Erika’s creative endeavors at

Jeanne BowmanJeanne Bowman is the illustrator of Charlie Russell and the Gnomes of Bull Head Lodge written by Emily Crawford Wilson (South Dakota Historical Society Press) and The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde (Familius). She graduated from Rocky Mountain College in 2010 and has exhibited work at the Yellowstone Art Museum, the Harwood Art Gallery in Albuquerque, NM, and the Mondak Heritage Center in Sidney, MT. She works in watercolor, cut paper, and most recently, digital. 

Eddie TanzoshEdward Tanzosh is a military and law enforcement veteran who decided to give up this career path to pursue his passion for art. Edward attended Rocky Mountain College where he graduated with a degree in art. He has always been drawn to art, especially illustration, and also enjoys writing for children. Edward enjoys illustration since it brings the written word to life on the page, can invoke emotion, and cause smiles and laughter, which the world can always use a little more of. Edward currently lives in the state of Montana where he loves spending time with friends and family. He can be found in his drawing room or on the open roadways of Big Sky Country on his motorcycle. You can also find him on Instagram at edward_tanzosh or his website

Jennifer ArdJennifer Ard
is a children’s book author and illustrator from Laurel, Montana. Most recently, she illustrated Nest, by Montana author Precious McKenzie. She loves writing about and illustrating all the fur, fins, feathers, exoskeletons, and habitats she can find. Her favorite stories to work on are those that have a little bit of science, some humor and a lot of heart or those stories that shed light on misunderstood or under-appreciated creatures. She paints in watercolor, gouache, and digitally. In her spare time, she enjoys flyfishing and identifying plants and insects that she finds along the way. She is also a picture book collector and a reader of books about nature. Follow Jennifer on Instagram @jenniferardart to see her latest work.

11am-Noon Session for Littles, Community Room

Kevin Red Star, AJ Otjen, Sabreena Half

Illustrating and Bookmaking

Half, Red Star & OtjenSabrena Half, Crow, graduated from MSU Billings in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in Management. She is co owner of the publishing company Bakaate, LLC with a mission to teach children to care for the earth and respect all native cultures.  She co-authored all four books (Lily Good Path Series) and is working on a fifth. She currently works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Dr. A.J. Otjen is the other owner of Bakaate, LLC. Bakkate, pronounced ba ga da, means children in Crow. She also authored all four of the of the Bakaate books and is working with Sabrena on the fifth, Elk Morning at the Battle of Arrow Creek. Dr. Otjen is a Professor of Marketing at MSU BIllings.

Noon-1pm Kids Theatre Workshop, Second Floor

DeLaney Hardy Ray

Students at The Montana Kid Lit Festival will get to experience a NOVA Acting class!

The session will begin with a warm up that focuses on relaxing the mind and body and warming up the mind, body and voice. Warm ups will be followed by a series of group and ensemble building activities, which will lead into our improv or acting exercises. The session will end with a simple cool down activity that focuses on concentration and developing group think. 

2pm-3pm Bigger Kids, Poetry Writing Workshop, Second Floor Conference Room

Dave Caserio

Unleash your creative power with this refreshing writing workshop with poet Dave Caserio.

Dave CaserioDave Caserio is the author of This Vanishing and Wisdom For A Dance In The Street. Caserio works with various community outreach programs, Humanities Montana and Young Poets, a poet in the schools program from the Center for Creative Writing at MSU-Billings. He is co-editor for four volumes of the anthology, I Am Montana: Student Reflections on Identity and Place.  Publications include: Welcome to the Resistance: Poetry as Protest, Unearthing Paradise: Montana Writers in Defense of Greater Yellowstone, Poems Across the Big Sky, Volume II and Feverdreams.

3-4pm Session for Bigger Kids, “The Magic of Storytelling,” Community Room

Mike Thayer

Mike ThayerIn "The Magic of Storytelling" presentation, Mike Thayer will take you through how telling a great story is like casting a magic spell. He'll break down his creative process and tell you about his journey to becoming an author. 

Mike Thayer is the author of The Talent Thief, The Double Life of Danny Day, and The Epic Adventures of the Techno Wizard series. He is a proud father of three, lucky husband of one, passionate author, viral blogger, budding podcaster, degreed engineer, decent impressionist, inept hunter, lifelong gamer, erstwhile jock, and nerd. 

He has cast a ring on the slopes of Mt. Doom, eaten a feast at the Green Dragon Inn, cemented Excalibur in a sandstone block, tasted butter beer at Diagon Alley, built a secret door to his storage room, and written numerous novels. What else is left, really? 

4pm-5pm Endnote Session, “Stories: Magic Performed by Ordinary People,” Community Room Lora Senf

Lora SenfLora Senf is a writer of dark and twisty stories for all ages, including The Clackity and the forthcoming The Nighthouse Keeper.

The Clackity is a Junior Library Guild selection, a Cybils Award finalist in the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category, is on the New York Public Library's Best Books for Kids 2022 list, was the only middle grade title on Esquire’s list of the 22 Best Horror Books of 2022, and is a nominee for the inaugural Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Middle Grade Novel.

Lora credits her love of words to her parents and to the public library that was walking distance from her childhood home. Lora finds inspiration for her writing in her children’s retellings of their dreams, on road trips through Montana, and most recently in an abandoned abattoir. She lives in eastern Washington with her husband, their twins, and two cats who think they're people. Their house may or may not be haunted. Visit her at