We Need Diverse Books, the literary nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting multicultural books and their authors, has selected the first five winners of the Walter Dean Myers grants for emerging writers and illustrators that it launched last fall. The recipients, selected from 200 submissions, are all up-and-coming writers and illustrators: Naadeyah Haseeb (Raleigh, N.C.), Jami Nakamura Lin (Chicago), Yamile Saied Méndez (Provo, Utah area), Shveta Thakrar (Philadelphia), and Angela Thomas (Jackson, Miss.). They will each receive $2,000 to support their efforts to create diverse works.

The inaugural Walter Dean Myers judging committee consisted of seven agents and editors: Marietta Zacker (Nancy Gallt Literary Agency), Saba Sulaiman (Talcott Notch Literary Services), Monica Odom (Bradford Literary Agency), Michael Strother (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse), Andrew Harwell (HarperCollins), Lisa Cheng (Running Press), and Michael Bourret (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management).

Zacker, the Walter Grant committee chair, stated in a release, “I hope that awarding these grants will be a catalyst for even more writers and illustrators with diverse experiences to share their stories. It is only through them that we can produce and promote the literature young readers seek.”

The Walter Dean Myers Grant is named in honor of the celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers, who died in 2014. Myers, who served as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, from 2012–2013, was an outspoken advocate for diversity in children’s literature and in the publishing industry.