2024 Washington Writers Conference Panelists & Speakers

Elliot Ackerman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Halcyon, 2034, Red Dress in Black and White, Waiting for Eden, Dark at the Crossing, and Green on Blue, as well as the memoir The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan and Places and Names: On War, Revolution and Returning. His forthcoming novel, co-written with Admiral James Stavridis, is 2054. His books have been nominated for the National Book Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal in both fiction and nonfiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, among others. He is a contributing writer at the Atlantic and a former Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, DC.

Louis Bayard, says the New York Times, “reinvigorates historical fiction,” rendering the past “as if he’d witnessed it firsthand.” His acclaimed novels include The Pale Blue Eye, now a Netflix motion picture starring Christian Bale, the national bestseller Courting Mr. Lincoln, Jackie & Me, The School of Night, and Mr. Timothy, as well as the highly praised YA novel Lucky Strikes. A New York Times Notable author, Bayard has been nominated for both the Edgar and Dagger awards. His reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon.

Mary Collins has taught nonfiction workshops for 30 years, including 12 years at Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Writing program, 17 years as program director for the Writing Minors at Central Connecticut State University, and the last six years as nonfiction-workshop leader for the Yale Summer Writing Program. Her book At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces, which she co-authored with her son, Donald Collins, uses the essay form to work through their deep differences. It won Best Memoir of the Year from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. In 2023, she published an experimental collection of flash nonfiction essays and watercolor paintings, A Play Book: Creating Writers, Creating Citizens.

Rachel Coonce is an award-winning nonfiction writer, literary-arts community leader, and expert in broadcast audio and video production. Her nonfiction has received awards from New Letters magazine, the Missouri Review, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She is the recipient of an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, a B.A. from St. John’s College, and a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is also co-founder and executive director of the Inner Loop, a literary-arts nonprofit in Washington, DC, and serves on the board of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.

Sara Fitzgerald’s career as a journalist included 15 years as an editor and new media director at the Washington Post. Her biography The Silenced Muse: Emily Hale, T.S. Eliot, and the Role of a Lifetime, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in September 2024. Her biography Elly Peterson: “Mother” of the Moderates was recognized as a Notable Book of 2012 by the Library of Michigan and by the Historical Society of Michigan. She is also the author of The Poet’s Girl: A Novel of Emily Hale and T.S. Eliot and Conquering Heroines: How Women Fought Sex Bias at Michigan and Paved the Way for Title IX.

Marita Golden is the award-winning author of over 20 works of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent book is The New Black Woman: Loves Herself, Has Boundaries & Heals Every Day. She has taught creative writing at major universities, including George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth University, Johns Hopkins, and the University of the District of Columbia. She co-founded the Hurston/Wright Foundation and serves as its president emerita. As a literary consultant, she teaches writing workshops and offers editing and manuscript-development services.

James Grady, named one of “50 crime writers to read before you die” by London’s Daily Telegraph, is the author of multiple bestselling thrillers, including Six Days of the Condor, which was made into the iconic film “Three Days of the Condor,” starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. Grady’s new novel is The Smoke in Our Eyes.

Hannah Grieco is a writer and editor in Washington, DC. She edits novels and prose collections at the local independent press Alan Squire Publishing, where her anthology Already Gone: 40 Stories of Running Away was published in November 2023. Her own writing can be found in the Washington Post, the Independent, Al Jazeera, Brevity, Craft Literary, Poet Lore, Shenandoah, Fairy Tale Review, and elsewhere. Grieco is also editor-in-chief of two literary journals, the ASP Bulletin and Porcupine Literary.

Sarah Kain Gutowski is the author of two books, The Familiar and Fabulous Beast: Poems, winner of the 14th annual National Indies Excellence Award for Poetry. With interdisciplinary artist Meredith Starr, she is co-creator of “Every Second Feels Like Theft,” a conversation in cyanotypes and poetry, and “It’s All Too Much,” a limited-edition audio project. Her poems have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, the Threepenny Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the Southern Review, and her criticism has been published by Colorado Review, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and the New York Journal of Books.

Jen Harris, Ph.D., is the publisher and editorial director of JackLeg Press. She is also author of the novel Pink (Harrington Park Press) and is working on a collection of essays.

Lawrence Jackson is the author of the award-winning books Chester B. Himes: A Biography; The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics; My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War; and Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius, 1913-1952. His latest books are Hold It Real Still: Clint Eastwood, Race, and the Cinema of the American West and Shelter: A Black Tale from Homeland, Baltimore. Jackson teaches English and history at Johns Hopkins University and writes occasionally for Harper’s Magazine.

Alma Katsu has written many novels that could be described as “historical fiction meets the supernatural,” including her bestselling The Hunger, a reimagining of the Donner Party saga, and The Deep, which is set aboard the Titanic. Katsu also writes espionage thrillers — the marriage of her love of storytelling with a 30-plus-year career in intelligence. Her latest is Red London, the second volume in her Lyndsey Duncan spy series, which launched with 2022’s Red Widow.

Neil King Jr. grew up in Colorado with the Rocky Mountains out the back door and the flat plains out the front. He went to school in Chicago and then New York City, where he studied philosophy at Columbia University. He worked a multitude of jobs — from busboy and ranch hand to cab driver and private investigator — before settling into a career in journalism. He worked in Florida for the Tampa Tribune and later for the Prague Post in the newly born Czech Republic. For 20 years, he traveled to more than 50 countries on six continents to write, report, and poke around for the Wall Street Journal. During his years in Washington, DC, he served as the WSJ’s chief diplomatic correspondent, national political reporter, and, at the end, global economics editor. He now travels and writes on his own. King is also the founder and editor of Gotham Canoe, an online journal dedicated to life out-of-doors. American Ramble: A Walk of Memory and Renewal is his first book. He lives with his wife in DC.

Jee Leong Koh is the founder and organizer of Singapore Unbound, a NYC-based transnational literary organization that envisions and works for a creative life for everyone. Singapore Unbound organizes events — such as a reading series and a literary festival — and publishes SUSPECT, a journal of Asian writing and art, and books through its press, Gaudy Boy. Jee is also a poet who has published nine titles. Snow at 5 PM won the Singapore Literature Prize, and Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of the Year by the Financial Times and a finalist by Lambda Literary.

Len Kruger’s debut novel, Bad Questions, was the winner of the 2023 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Award. His short fiction has appeared in Zoetrope-All Story, the Barcelona Review, the Potomac Review, Gargoyle, Splonk, and the anthology This Is What America Looks Like: Fiction and Poetry from DC, Maryland, and Virginia. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Maryland, he lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Cynthia Folcarelli, and their Shih Tzu, Howie.

Michael Landweber is the author of four novels. His first two, We and Thursday, 1:17 PM, were published by Coffeetown, a small press in Seattle. His third, The In Between, was an Audible Original and is currently being developed as a feature film. Landweber’s latest book is The Damage Done. He has also been an editor for the Potomac Review and has written several pieces for the independent, including multiple features on small presses.

Tara Laskowski is the author of the suspense novels The Weekend Retreat, The Mother Next Door, and One Night Gone, the latter of which won the Agatha, Macavity, and Anthony awards. She also wrote two short-story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders. She has won the Agatha Award and Thriller Award for her short fiction and was the longtime editor of the online flash-fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly. She lives in Virginia with her husband, crime writer Art Taylor, and their son, Dashiell.

Lisa Leibow is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Faulkner-Wisdom Award finalist, and three-time merit-based-grant resident at the Vermont Studio Center. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Brooklyn Sunday Stories, Chapter House, and MacGuffin. Currently, she’s working on a collection that pushes the boundaries between legal and creative writing. Lisa and author Julia Alvarez co-founded the Scheherazade Project, an artivism movement that uses the power of creativity, solidarity, and courage in promoting social justice, nourishing our spirits, and enabling a more beloved community. She’s a graduate of Johns Hopkins’ Master of Arts in Writing program and teaches at George Washington University.

Joe McGinniss Jr. is the author of the novels Carousel Court and The Delivery Man. His next book, the memoir Damaged People, about his famous father (the late author Joe McGinniss) and raising a son of his own, comes out later this year. His work has appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times. He lives in Bethesda, MD, with his family.

Chloe Yelena Miller lives in Washington, DC, with her family. She is the author of the poetry collections Viable and Unrest. She is a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Chloe teaches writing at American University and the University of Maryland Global Campus, as well as privately. She is the co-founder of Brown Bag Lit, where she leads poetry workshops and hosts readings.

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist and author of two memoirs and several poetry collections. He hosts the WPFW radio show “On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller” and hosts and produces for UDC-TV “The Scholars,” which received a 2020 Telly Award. Miller is also associate editor and a columnist for the American Book Review. He was given a 2020 Congressional Award from Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin in recognition of his literary activism; given the 2022 Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Peace and Justice Studies Association; and named a 2023 Grammy Nominee Finalist for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. Miller’s latest book is How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask, published by City Point Press.

Felice Neals holds an M.A. in film and an MFA in creative writing. Based in New York City, she is the founder of (Re) An Ideas Journal, and is at work on her first novel.

Richard Peabody has spent the majority of his life in the DMV. He wears many literary hats: poet, writer, literary editor, publisher, teacher, mentor. The author of a novella and three story collections, he taught graduate fiction writing at Johns Hopkins for 15 years. His Gargoyle Magazine/Paycock Press was founded in 1976. His most recent poetry volume, Guinness on the Quay, was published in Ireland in 2019. The Richard Peabody Reader, a career-encompassing collection, was released in 2015 by Alan Squire Publishing as the first book in its ASP Legacy Series.

Eryk Pruitt is a filmmaker, novelist, and screenwriter living in Hillsborough, NC. His films have earned top prizes at film festivals around the world, and his novel What We Reckon was a finalist for the Anthony Award. His last novel, Something Bad Wrong, is available wherever you buy books, and his next, Blood Red Summer, comes out in May 2024. He can be found either at his desk, hard at work on another story, or mixing drinks at his bar, Yonder.

Eman Quotah’s debut novel, Bride of the Sea, was released by Tin House in 2021 and won the 2022 Arab American Book Award for Fiction. Her essays and fiction have appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, the Rumpus, Literary Hub, Guernica, and other publications. She’s proudly lived and worked in the DMV for nearly 25 years.

Shannon Sanders is the author of the linked short-story collection Company. Her short fiction has appeared in One Story, the Sewanee Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, TriQuarterly, Joyland, and elsewhere, and she has received a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She lives near Washington, DC, with her husband and three sons.

Lynn Auld Schwartz, a story-development editor and ghostwriter, guides clients to discover their stories and tell them well. She founded the Temple Bar Literary Reading Series in NYC, received two Individual Artist Awards in Fiction from Maryland State Arts Council and an Annie from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, and has taught creative writing at various venues, including St. John’s College and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.

Julia Tagliere’s work has appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, the Independent, and elsewhere. A past winner of the William Faulkner Literary Competition for Best Short Story and the Nancy Zafris Short Story Fellowship, Julia recently won the 2023 Alternating Current Press Electric Book Award for her forthcoming collection, Reliance: Stories and Essays. She completed her M.A. in Writing at Johns Hopkins and founded/hosts the MoCo Underground Writers Showcase. She serves as an editor with the Baltimore Review and is the recipient of a 2022 Independent Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Bernardine (“Dine”) Watson is a nonfiction writer and poet who lives in Washington, DC. She has written on social-policy issues for many major foundations and nonprofit organizations, as well as for the Washington Post Health and Science section and the She the People blog. Her poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Bourgeon/Mid-Atlantic Review, and Gargoyle Magazine. In 2023, two of her poems, “Hey 19” and “The Scalding,” were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Dine is a member of the 2015 class of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Poet in Progress Program and the 2017 and 2018 classes of the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s Summer Writers’ Workshop for Poetry. Her memoir, Transplant, won the 2023 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for nonfiction and also appeared on National Public Radio’s 2023 list of “Books We Love.” Dine was selected by Poets & Writers as one of its “5 over 50” debut authors for 2023 and was featured in the magazine’s November/December issue. She is a board member of Day Eight, a literary-arts nonprofit in DC.

Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novels The Hive and Flood and editor of Grace in Darkness and Furious Gravity, two anthologies by DC Women Writers. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Ms., the Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Ploughshares, Literary Hub, and Believer Magazine. She has been the recipient of the Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Foundation Residency Fellowship, the Center for Mark Twain Studies’ Quarry Farm Fellowship, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts Fellowship. Born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, she is an associate professor of Literature at American University.