Writers & Artists

We are dedicated to tirelessly reading manuscripts, hearing stories, and looking at artwork to find the best emerging multicultural talents to publish works for AcuteByDesign. We find our writers and artists as fascinating as they are talented. Read on to get to know a bit more about each of our talented authors and illustrators.

Jackie Neypes

Jackie Neypes
Author, Just Indian

Jackie Neypes is a dedicated teacher in her hometown of Anza, California. At an early age Jackie was the ambitious type. She was heavily involved in sports and school events. When she went to college at San Diego State University, she took a step back from the extracurriculars to focus on her education. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administrations in three and a half years.

When Jackie graduated from San Diego State University, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. So she started taking Master’s courses right away in early 2012. She earned her California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Master’s of Arts in Education from Azusa Pacific University.

She realized her dream of writing when she was teaching full time while earning her credentials in 2012. Her first class inspired her with their silly story-telling and playful nature. She dabbled with writing, but schooling took too much of her time. In 2015, after returning to her hometown to teach, she felt like it was time to take her writing seriously. Now Jackie spends her time creating curriculum for her classroom and creating worksheets for her TeachersPayTeachers store.

In her free time, Jackie likes to craft, paint, and cook. She enjoys traveling with her husband and seeing new places. She is of Washoe descent and visits her family in Tahoe every year.

Find out more about the native Washoe tribe here.


Wanda CoppedgeWanda Coppedge

Author, Dirty South

Wanda Coppedge is from Washington, DC and has served as an English instructor for over 17 years in the public and private sectors as well as a lecturer at Howard University and Maryland University. She’s earned her degree in Theater Arts at the University of the District of Columbia. After graduating, she ventured into an acting career in the theatre, for ten years. After much resistance, she chose a career to teach high school English, and has not stopped, since.

One thing that has not changed is her passion for writing. She has written articles for the Online DC Examiner, advocating for our youth in the educational arena. Now, she has embarked onanother career as a novelist. Her work takes on provocative real life issues and turns them into unpredictable fiction. She especially loves delving in the veracity of a character, understanding that everyone has their reasons of why they are the way that they are, and explores those reasons raw and candidly.

Her life has been full. She has been blessed to do everything she has set her heart and mind to do, and is stillgoing. She aspires for her body of work to become classics to be enjoyed in the classrooms and beyond, for years to come.

Wanda has two wonderful daughters, and resides in Washington, DC.


WilesMatsue Z. Wiles

Illustrator, The Lost Bicycle

A native of Monrovia, Liberia, Matsue relocated to Louisiana in the early 80’s so that her father could attend Louisiana State University (LSU). The Wileses returned to Liberia four years later, only to seek shelter in Baton Rouge again in the 90’s to escape the brutal civil war in Liberia.

Considering herself a native of both places, Matsue is a true contemporary African artist and fans can easily see a recurring theme of being a part of two cultures in her art.

“In my art, you will see my effort to embrace my heritage and culture,” Matsue said. “I was brought up to have confidence and pride in myself, but growing up in two places and being different in both led to an internal struggle to define and understand who I was and where I belonged. Being of two cultures, art became my way of not only acknowledging my heritage, but also discovering it.”

Matsue attended Baton Rouge Magnet High School for Visual and Performing Arts and LSU for art history. In college, she found herself drawn to the arts of the ‘other’, or non-western/ non-traditional art. It was during this time she truly found her artistic voice echoed by her African ancestors art and its rich saturated colors, textures, shapes and patterns.

“Typically when one thinks of African art there is a primitive association. It is my hope that my audience will experience the charm, beauty and elegance of African art through my work,” she said.

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Cory Hills

Author, The Lost Bicycle

Percussionist, composer, and storyteller Cory Hills is the creator of “Percussive Storytelling,” a program that fuses percussion instrumentation with oral storytelling, creating exciting sonic worlds for both children and adults. Since 2009, Hills has presented Percussive Storytelling over 350 times to more than 32,000 children in eight countries.

With a multi award-winning children’s album (The Lost Bicycle) under his belt, Hills is equally comfortable in a concert hall or school gymnasium. The album was so successful that he has agreed to publish his first-ever children’s book with AcuteByDesign. The book is a companion piece to The Lost Bicycle, holding the same name and expanding the world and story he created with the album.

The Lost Bicycle was released in the spring of 2010 and received four national awards, including a gold medal from the NAPPA Parenting Awards, a silver medal from the Parent’s Choice Awards, a Preferred Choice from the Creative Child Awards, and World Storytelling honors. In addition, NAPPA named The Lost Bicycle one of the top 13 children’s products for 2010.

He holds degrees from Northwestern University, Queensland Conservatorium, and the University of Kansas.


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Cynthia MacGregor

Author, Moving Day for Alex (Growing Up With Alex series), Heartfelt, the Special Reindeer, and Abuelita’s Tree

Cynthia, or “Cyn,” as she likes to be called, is a veteran children’s writer. She has published numerous fiction and nonfiction titles including Octopus Pie and Ants in His Pants.

In addition to publishing with AcuteByDesign, Ms. MacGregor serves on the AbyD Ensemble, which provides coaching and editorial feedback to aspiring writers and illustrators.

Cyn absolutely loves her work and she is emphatic when she says, “I can’t wait to bound out of bed in the mornings and get started. I might be the happiest person in the world. There’s no one in the world I’d want to trade lives with.”

Cynthia MacGregor’s exciting children’s titles from AcuteByDesign include Moving Day for Alex; Heartfelt, the Special Reindeer; and Abuelita’s Tree.


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Michael Sharpe

Author, The Last Drop of Sunshine , There’s a Tiger in My House, and The Legend of MeeCheli, The First African American Princess: The Secret Ndongo Kingdom

Nothing gives Michael Sharpe greater joy than seeing or hearing about a happy child—except, perhaps, being the cause of that happiness. It was inevitable that someday he would turn to writing children’s books. Michael’s gift of seeing the world through the fascinated eyes of a child has never diminished.

Over the years, the author has been blessed with the opportunity to work with students of both young age and older. His academic background includes a B.A. from Columbia University and an M.A. from Norwich University, and his career has included working in high levels of government and education.

But nothing, he says, has given him more joy and sense of purpose than raising his beautiful daughter, Michele, and the years spent instilling hope and inspiring accomplishments in thousands of the children he encountered during the years of his career as an educator.

The path, however, was not all roses, he freely admits, explaining, “I have had a few knee- bending failures along the way, but none so great as to overshadow the love of my Creator.”

In Michael’s free time, he mentors young teens and adults and enjoys playing the piano, playing racquetball, gardening, and cruising to warm climates. His titles for AbyD include The Last Drop of Sunshine, one of the first books published by AbyD, There’s a Tiger in My House; and MeeCheli: The First African American Princess; and Fallen Warrior, both currently being revised.

Perhaps, in due time, AbyD will be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to publish still more from this wonderful writer.


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Niki Key

Illustrator, Last Drop of Sunshine & When I Got A Sister

Niki is originally from a tiny town in east Texas and moved to New York in her twenties.

She majored in studio art at The City College of New York and spent a year of intensive figure study at The Art League of New York.  She explores a variety of media and subject matter, which can be seen on her site NikiKey.com.  She currently resides in a small community with her small family and giant cat.  When not in her studio she enjoys the theater, biking and stand up comedy.

She has already illustrated two titles for AcuteByDesign: Last Drop of Sunshine and When I Got A Sister, and we have big plans for her for the future!



Samantha Kennedy Pohl

Author, When I Got a Sister

Samantha, new to children’s book writing, found her inspiration for doing so in the smiles of her two daughters.

With a B.S. in Human Biology from Kettering College, she has always valued learning and saw a need for books that put a charming twist on explaining life’s confusing happenings to little ones. She feels very strongly about the value of education, and is dedicated to writing books that will get children excited about reading and science.

In her free time, Samantha enjoys a long run or day at the beach with her family in Clearwater, Florida, where she resides. She describes herself as a native Ohioan living in paradise, a lifelong learner, devoted wife, mother, and sports-lover.

Her title, When I Got a Sister, was written for her daughter Addison prior to the arrival of baby Temperance and tells the tale of a little girl observing the changes of her pregnant mother and adjusting to having a new sister – from a child’s perspective.

Keep up with her on her website and lifestyle blog: http://samanthakennedypohl.com 



Tyrelle Smith

Illustrator, The Legend of MeeCheli and Just Indian

Tyrelle is an artist from Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and majored in illustration.

A big fan of fantasy and science fiction, he always strives to give his own artwork a sense of scale, and epic, mythic quality. These strong senses are already being applied to a few of the wonderful stories that AcutebyDesign has under contract.

Drawing inspiration from multiple sources and cultures around the world, Tyrelle’s work is a means to make the audience feel something epic and visceral, something larger than themselves.

He said, “For me, knowing my work has made someone think or feel anything – whether it be excitement, sorrow or just awe – lets me know I am doing something right.”

Find out more about Tyrelle at: http://tyrellesmithillustration.squarespace.com/


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Patricia Norki Nater

Author, Dance of the Antelope: A Ghanaian Cinderella Story

Patricia Norki Nater began writing stories at a young age. One of her earliest and fondest story-writing memories is when her fifth grade teacher, Mr. Osei, was so pleased with a poem she wrote about the Christmas season and shopping in the Makola Market of Accra, Ghana that he read the poem to the class, showed it to the other teachers and displayed it on the classroom bulletin board.

Now an inner-city teacher herself, Patricia has seen firsthand the positive effects that diverse children’s books can have on students of minority and/or under-served backgrounds and is thrilled to publish a book that we agree can really make a difference.

She has won the Paul Phillips Cooke Scholarship (UDC Teacher Education Program) and is a Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society member in Education

Patricia was inspired to write her AcuteByDesign title, called Dance of the Antelope, when she discovered that – despite there being approximately 1500 versions of Cinderella tales from around the world – few existed from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The story tells a story of transformation and redemption and intertwines aspects of Ghanaian life and culture that kids of all ages will find fascinating.

She currently resides in Washington, DC.



Verónica Rosado
Illustrator, Heartfelt, the Special Reindeer and Abuelita’s Tree

I have always admired the Victorian and early 20th century children’s book illustrators and painters. As a child, I was hypnotized by these kinds of images, doubly so if fairies or other magical creatures were depicted!

I didn’t pursue my artistic career until my mid-twenties. I began by working as a comic colorist for various independent authors and publishers. After four or five years, I decided to become an artist myself. I’m currently dedicated to my personal projects but will work on commissions for projects I find interesting.

As a children’s book artist and author, my dream is to become well-known for my own style and make a living from my personal works. I’d love to have a museum dedicated to my creative world while raising my son in a peaceful, exciting and creative environment; teaching him how to pursue his own dreams with his parents as an example. Fairies, magical creatures, nature and wonder are my inspiration! I hope they guide me to achieving my dream!

I was looking for an exciting creative project when I came across AcuteByDesign on Deviantart. I knew that I wanted to get involved, I love projects with a purpose and those that focus on teaching the fundamentals of ethical behavior, diversity and tolerance to kids. I feel really fortunate to be a part of this creative team!


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Tracie Mitchell
Illustrator, Moving Day for Alex

Tracie is a visual and performing artist and has been throughout the country and overseas working in the arts. She currently lives in New York City and is originally from the small town of Wintersville, Ohio near the border of the state, which she describes as Steeler Country.

She is a Congressional Arts Caucus Award recipient, and had one of her paintings displayed in the US Capitol Building as part of a one-year collection. She is a graduate of Chatham University, where she studied Arts Management with a concentration in Visual Art and Art History. She is also a veteran of the United States Navy, where she was a mechanic on the flight line based in Northern Japan.

Her professional visual art credits include murals and décor for many restaurants throughout the country including in Rainforest Cafés, Landry’s, Joes Crab Shack, and along the Keemah Boardwalk near Galveston, Texas. She has been part of the team at Spaeth Design, where she helped create and build the Christmas windows for Macy’s in New York City as well as those for Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. She also worked for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission helping to restore artifacts for the museums of Pennsylvania. As a performer she has appeared on television and the silver screen as well tours entertaining the troops overseas in Korea, Kuwait and Iraq.

Tracie is honored and excited to be among the talented writers and artists in Acute by Design family. She hopes that her illustrations capture and entertain children of all ages.


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