Panelists, Washington Writers Conference 2017

Ken Ackerman is the author of five major books on Americana, including Boss Tweed: The Corrupt Pol who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York; Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield; and his most recent, Trotsky in New York, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution. When not writing, he practices agricultural law in Washington, DC.

Tara Bahrampour is the author of To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America, a memoir about her bicultural family and the Iranian revolution. A staff writer for the Washington Post since 2004, she has written for magazines and journals including the New Yorker, the American Scholar, and Travel + Leisure, and has taught journalism at New York University and at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs in Tbilisi. She currently writes about aging and generations and lives in Washington, DC.

Kate Buford’s award-winning Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Burt Lancaster: An American Life was named a best book of 2000 by the Times and other publications. A commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and APM’s Marketplace from 1995-2004, Buford serves on the board of the Biographers International Organization and is a co-founder of Biography by Design, LLC.

Tara Campbell is a Washington, DC-based writer, Washington Independent Review of Books columnist, assistant fiction editor at Barrelhouse, and volunteer with the children's literacy organization 826DC. Prior publication credits include McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the Establishment, Barrelhouse, Masters Review, Punchnel's, and Queen Mob's Teahouse. Her debut novel, TreeVolution, was released in November.

Ron Capps founded the Veterans Writing Project, a nonprofit that provides no-cost writing workshops for veterans and their family members. He is an award-winning writer and recent recipient of Johns Hopkins University’s Anne Smedinghoff Award for “a life dedicated to service, social justice, and a commitment to others.” His memoir, Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, was published in 2014.

Ron Charles is the editor of “Book World” and the creator of “The Totally Hip Video Book Review” at the Washington Post. He has won the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle and served as a judge for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Susan Coll is the author of five novels, most recently The Stager — a New York Times and Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice. Her other books include Acceptance — which was made into a television movie starring Joan Cusack — Beach Week, Rockville Pike, and Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post,, and the Millions. She is currently teaching an intensive, year-long novel writing class at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and is on leave from Politics and Prose, where she oversaw events and programs for five years.

Jennifer Keats Curtis has penned numerous stories about animals, including Children’s Choice Book Award Winner Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue. Her newest book is After a While Crocodile: Alexa’s Diary with co-author Dr. Brady Barr of Nat Geo Wild’s Dangerous Encounters. Her newest book of fiction, due this spring, is Moonlight Crab Count, co-authored with environmental ecologist Neeti Bathala. Jennifer has resided in Maryland since the age of 7. She and her family love the fact that they live where other people pay to vacation. 

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book columnist for the Washington Post. He is also the author of the memoir An Open Book, which received the Ohioana Award for nonfiction; On Conan Doyle, which received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; and five collections of essays, including, most recently, Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books. 

John Aloysius Farrell, after graduating from the University of Virginia, embarked on a prize-winning career as a newspaperman, most notably for the Boston Globe. He covered every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2012, two wars, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. At the Globe, he was White House correspondent and Washington editor and worked on the vaunted Spotlight team. In 2001, he published Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, a biography of the late speaker of the house which won the Hardeman Prize for the best book on Congress. Farrell's biography of the great American defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, won a 2012 Los Angeles Times book award. His newest book, Richard Nixon: The Life, is scheduled to be published in March 2017.

Mary Alice Garber’s professional experiences have always focused on children and books. She is the buyer for the Children and Teens Department at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. A former public-school special-education teacher and supervisor, she began her career at Politics and Prose in 1999.    

Marita Golden, co-founder and president emeritus of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, is a veteran teacher of writing and an acclaimed award-winning author of over a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. She has taught writing workshops nationally and internationally to a variety of constituencies. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Writers for Writers Award presented by Barnes & Noble and Poets and Writers and the Fiction Award for her novel After, awarded by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her new novel, The Wide Circumference of Love, will be released in March 2017.

Phyllis Heller heads Heller Media Solutions. Based on her 20 years of experience as a book publicist and TV producer, she creates platform-building campaigns that make — and keep — people talking. If you have a newsworthy message, want to be the media’s go-to expert in your field, sell lots of books, and have a dance card full of speaking engagements, I’m ready. Are you?

Carolivia Herron is an African-American Jewish author and educator best known for her award-winning children’s book, Nappy Hair, first published in 1997. Recent works include Peacesong DCAsenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair, and the libretto for the opera “Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson” (composer Bruce Adolphe). She hosts the radio show “Epic City” on WOWD-LP Takoma Park and directs the educational programs EpicCenter Stories and EpicCentering on the National Mall. Carolivia has taught at Harvard and Mount Holyoke. Her first novel, Thereafter Johnnie, was recently included in a listing of 100 must-read Jewish novels and also identified as one of five hidden pearls of African-American literature.

Kelly Kennedy served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1993, including in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm, and in Mogadishu, Somalia. She works as a writer for the So Company, a veteran-owned business, was a health policy reporter for USA Today, spent five years covering military health at Military Times, and is author of They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq.

Tara Laskowski is the author of the story collection Bystanders and Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. Her fiction has been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, and elsewhere. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. She lives in Virginia.

Eugene L. Meyer is a veteran journalist and author and serves on the board of the Washington Independent Review of Books. His first book, Maryland Lost and Found, was favorably reviewed by acclaimed novelist Anne Tyler. His Chesapeake Country, first published in 1990, is in its second edition (2015) with a new introduction focusing on climate change. He contributes articles on economic development to the New York Times and edits B’nai B’rith Magazine. He is currently writing a book about the five African Americans with John Brown at Harpers Ferry.

Chloe Yelena Miller’s chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press. Additional work has been published in Beltway Poetry Review, the Cortland Review, Narrative Magazine, and Poet’s Market, among others. She teaches privately, at the University of Maryland University College, and at Politics and Prose Bookstore.

James A. Percoco is a nationally recognized history educator. He taught for 32 years at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia. He is the author of Summers with Lincoln: Looking for the Man in the Monuments (Fordham, 2008). He was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2011. Currently, he is the Teacher-in-Residence for the Civil War Trust.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is the author of over 140 books for both children and adults, including the Newbery-winning Shiloh, the first book of a quartet, and the popular 28-book Alice series. She has written picture books, chapter books, and novels for the 8 to 12 set, in addition to YA.

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of two novels, Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a DayThis Angel on My Chest, her collection of linked short stories, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in many publications, including the Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Gettysburg Review, the Sun, and Washingtonian.

Rion Amilcar Scott’s work has been published in the Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, the Rumpus, Fiction International, Washington City Paper, the Toast, Akashic Books, Melville House, and Confrontation, among others. A story of his earned a place on the Wigleaf Top 50 (very short) Fictions of 2016 and 2013 lists, and one of his essays was listed as a notable in Best American Essays 2015. His short-story collection, Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky), was published in August 2016. Wolf Tickets is forthcoming from Tiny Hardcore Press. 

Tom Shroder is the author of The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family (2016) an investigation into the life of his grandfather, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist MacKinlay Kantor; Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal (2014), about the resurgence of research into the medical use of psychedelic drugs; co-author, with John Konrad, of Fire on the Horizon: the Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster (2011); and sole author of Old Souls: Scientific Evidence From Children Who Remember Previous Lives (1999). His ghostwriting credits include the newly published The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior, by Robert O'Neill. As editor of the Washington Post Magazine, he oversaw staff writer Gene Weingarten's two Pulitzer Prize-winning feature stories. As an independent editor, he has edited such New York Times bestsellers as Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One has the Time by Brigid Schulte and Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William Arkin.

Holly Smith is managing editor of the Washington Independent Review of Books and former managing editor of Maryland Life magazine. Her work has appeared in Salon, the Washington Post,, More Mirth of a Nation, Not What I Expected, Brain, Child, and other publications. She recently co-authored Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay, a travel guide that keeps getting shelved in the cookbook section.

Alice Stephens writes reviews and a column for the Washington Independent Review of Books, “Alice in Wordland,” often commenting on race and feminism in writing, literature, and the publishing industry. A bi-racial, transracial adoptee who has lived and traveled around the world, she is multicultural to her core. She has written novels on Imperial Japan and transracial adoption, and is currently working on a novel set in a Japanese-American internment camp.

David O. Stewart writes fiction and nonfiction. His most recent work of history is Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which the Washington Post called a portrait “rich in empathy and understanding” by “an acknowledged master of narrative history.” In its review of his most recent novel, The Babe Ruth Deception, in 2016, the Washington Times described David as “one of our best new writers of historical mysteries.” He is president of the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Barbara Feinman Todd is the author of Pretend I'm Not Here: How I Worked with Three Newspaper Icons, One Powerful First Lady, and Still Managed to Dig Myself Out of the Washington Swamp. She is the founding Journalism Director at Georgetown University, where she teaches in the English Department. Cofounder of the Pearl Project, she coauthored the e-book The Truth Left Behind: Inside the Kidnapping and Murder of Daniel Pearl. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Glamour, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Newsweek, and on NPR. 

Neely Tucker writes nonfiction by day at the the Washington Post and fiction by night. Love in the Driest Season, a memoir, was named one of the 25 Best Books of 2004 by Publisher’s Weekly, the American Bookseller’s Association, the New York City Library, and others. The Ways of the Dead and Murder, D.C., the first novels in the Sully Carter series, have earned praise, with the U.K.’s Daily Mail naming the latter one of the three best crime novels of 2015.  

Steve Twomey began his journalism career as a copyboy at the Chicago Tribune in high school. After graduating from Northwestern, he began a 14-year career at the Philadelphia Inquirer, during which he won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, and then worked at the Washington Post for the next 13 years. More recently, he has written for Smithsonian and other magazines and taught narrative writing at the graduate schools of New York University and the City University of New York. He was the ghostwriter of What I Learned When I Almost Died and author of the recently published Countdown to Pearl Harbor.

Judith Viorst, born and raised in New Jersey, is the author of 23 books for children, including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which has been inducted into the Children's Picture Book Hall of Fame and was made into a 2014 Disney movie, and 17 books for adults, including Necessary Losses, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years. She is married to political writer Milton Viorst and is the mother of three sons and the grandmother of seven perfect grandchildren.

Dana A. Williams is a professor of African-American Literature and chair of the Department of English at Howard University. She co-edited August Wilson and Black Aesthetics; edited African American Humor, Irony, and Satire: Ishmael Reed, Satirically Speaking; Conversations with Leon Forrest; and Contemporary African American Fiction: New Critical Essays. She is the author of the first and only book-length study on Leon Forest, In the Light of Likeness Transformed: The Literary Art of Leon Forrest. She chairs the Black American Literature and Culture Forum for the Modern Languages Association, and is immediate past president of the College Language Association — the oldest and largest professional organization for faculty of color who teach languages and literature.

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi’s debut novel, Up the Hill to Home, tells the story of four generations of a Washington, DC, family from the Civil War through the Great Depression. Jenny is a member of PEN/America and the National Book Critics Circle, and reviews regularly for both the Washington Independent Review of Books and the Historical Novels Review of the Historical Novel Society. She is chair of the 2017 and 2018 Books Alive! Washington Writers Conference and is president of the Annapolis chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association.

Washington, DC, native Morowa Yejidé’s novel Time of the Locust was a 2012 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, longlisted for the 2015 PEN/Bingham Award, and a 2015 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Literary Work. Her short stories have appeared in the Adirondack Review, the Istanbul Review, and other publications. Her short story "Tokyo Chocolate" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, anthologized by Britain's Best of the Willesden Herald, and praised by the Japan Times. She is currently a PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools author. 

Mary Kay Zuravleff’s prize-winning novels have been praised for their “impressive intelligence and sly humor.” Her latest, Man Alive!was a 2013 Washington Post Notable Book. She serves on the PEN/Faulkner Foundation board and cofounded DC Women Writers. Her business, NoveltyDC, offers classes and consulting to writers looking for courage, an audience, and a finish line.




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