2023 Panelists & Speakers

Sathya Achia is an author of South Asian descent who creates stories of adventure and discovery for picture book, middle grade, and young adult readers, many of which are influenced by her South Indian Kodava culture. She grew up spending summers in the remote hills and jungles of the Western Ghats in India, where she learned the art of storytelling from her grandparents. Sathya is the bestselling author of In My Hands, a contemporary YA fantasy-adventure novel, and “The Crane in the Mist,” a short story published in the anthology Tales Untold: Mythos Around the World. Her soon-to-be-announced debut picture book will be published in 2024. When not spinning stories, Sathya can be found exploring the great outdoors, traveling the world, or wrapped up in her greatest adventure of all: motherhood. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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 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.

Anthony Award-nominated E.A. Aymar’s most recent thriller, No Home for Killers, earned high praise from Kirkus and others. His previous thriller, They’re Gone, garnered rave reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus (starred) and was named one of the best books of 2020 by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He is a former member of the board of International Thriller Writers and is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Sisters in Crime. He runs the DC Noir at the Bar series, was born in Panama, and now lives and writes in (and generally about) the DC/MD/VA triangle. Find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Anjili Babbar is a writer and a scholar of Irish and British literature, with a particular focus on crime fiction and criminality, including literary forgery and deception. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and Master’s degrees from the University of Rochester and McGill University. She has published on topics ranging from Irish crime fiction to representations of Irish folklore in popular culture. Her new book, Finders: Justice, Faith, and Identity in Irish Crime Fiction, is forthcoming from Syracuse University Press. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Hive (@anjili).

In the words of the New York Times, Louis Bayard “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, Roosevelt’s Beast, The School of Night, The Black Tower, and Mr. Timothy, as well as the highly praised young-adult novel Lucky Strikes. A New York Times Notable author, he 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, and he authored the popular “Downton Abbey” recaps for the New York Times. Find him on Instagram and Twitter.

Caroline Bock is the author of Carry Her Home, winner of the Fiction Award from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House (WWPH), and LIE and Before My Eyes, young adult novels from St. Martin’s Press. The winner of the Writer magazine story award and the Adrift short story award from Driftwood Press, her work has also recently appeared in SmokeLong, Brevity, Gargoyle, Grace & Gravity: DC Women Writers, Jarnal, and elsewhere. She is co-president of the WWPH, a nonprofit independent literary press based in Washington, DC. A graduate of Syracuse University, she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver and, in 2011, earned an MFA in fiction from the City University of New York. She lives in Maryland with her family and is at work on a novel. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Tara Campbell is an award-winning writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse, and graduate of American University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Her flash and speculative fiction have appeared in Masters Review, Wigleaf, Electric Literature, CRAFT Literary, Uncharted Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising, among other outlets. She’s the author of the eco sci-fi novel TreeVolution, two hybrid collections of poetry and prose, and two short-story collections from feminist sci-fi publisher Aqueduct Press. She teaches creative writing at venues such as American University, Johns Hopkins, Clarion West, Catapult, the Writer’s Center, Hugo House, and the National Gallery of Art. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Elizabeth Chang is a former reporter and editor at the Washington Post. She spent most of her career there editing for Wellness, Travel, and the Sunday Magazine, all of which relied heavily on freelancers, and knows firsthand what you need to do to make an editor love you. Find her on Instagram at @elizabethgchangwrites.

Myna Chang is the author of The Potential of Radio and Rain. Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton) and Best Small Fictions. Awards include the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction, the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction, the CutBank Books Chapbook Award, and the CRAFT Creative Nonfiction Editor’s Choice Award. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series, reads and edits for several journals, and judges literary and speculative fiction contests. She lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her husband, a huge German shepherd, and a high school senior. Find her on Twitter.

S.A. Cosby is an Anthony Award-winning writer from Gloucester, Virginia, who’s been hailed as the future of American crime fiction. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Razorblade Tears and of Blacktop Wasteland, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book, and was named a best book of the year by NPR, the Guardian, and Library Journal, among others. Both novels have been optioned for film. Cosby’s latest book, All the Sinners Bleed, comes out in June. When he’s not writing, Cosby is an avid hiker and chess player. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Evelyn M. Duffy has been writing and editing in DC since 2006. Through Open Boat Editing, she works primarily with journalists, professors, and other subject-matter experts on nonfiction books. Evelyn also enjoys working on genre and indie fiction, particularly horror and mystery. She collaborates frequently with literary agents and publishers and most enjoys working with authors on their first books. From 2007 to 2020, Evelyn worked in-house with journalist and author Bob Woodward on six bestselling books covering four American presidents. She lives in Washington, DC, and has a degree in English & Creative Writing from George Washington University.

Ann Fraistat is a Maryland-based author, playwright, and narrative designer. Her debut novel, What We Harvest, was an ABA Indies Introduce and Kids’ Indie Next Pick, and a finalist for the Barnes & Noble YA 2022 Book Awards. Her co-author credits include plays such as “Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending,” and alternate-reality games sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She has a B.A. in theater and English from the University of Maryland and is a graduate of NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

You can find Amy Freeman’s bylines and upcoming work in the Washington Post, Parents.com, HuffPost, X-R-A-Y Lit, Taco Bell Quarterly, and many other publications and anthologies. She also serves as development director for the Writer’s Center, the premier literary organization in the Washington, DC, area. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Melanie S. Hatter is an award-winning author of two novels and one short story collection. Her most recent novel, Malawi’s Sisters, was selected by Edwidge Danticat as the winner of the inaugural Kimbilio National Fiction Prize and was published by Four Way Books in 2019. Her debut novel, The Color of My Soul, won the 2011 Washington Writers’ Publishing House (WWPH) Fiction Prize, and Let No One Weep for Me: Stories of Love and Loss was released in 2015. She is a participating author with the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program and serves on the board of the WWPH. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Cheryl A. Head writes the Anthony and Lambda Literary award-nominated Charlie Mack Motow Mysteries. Formerly of Detroit, Head’s books are included in the Special Collections of the Library of Michigan. The most recent book in her series, Warn Me When It’s Time, received a Silver Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards and was dubbed “chilling and prescient” by the New York Times. Time’s Undoing, a crime novel based on her family’s personal tragedy, is forthcoming from Dutton. Cheryl now lives in Washington, DC, with her partner and her canine supervisors, Abby and Frisby. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Nadine Farid Johnson serves as managing director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs, spearheading PEN America’s engagement with the U.S. government on free-expression issues globally. She is the co-author of Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools (2022). A frequent media contributor, her commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, World Politics Review, and other national and international publications. A former diplomat, nonprofit leader, attorney, and law professor, Nadine is a graduate of DePauw University and Tulane Law School, and studied at the U.S. Naval War College.

The majority of Alma Katsu’s novels could be considered horror or fantasy and usually combine historical fiction with supernatural elements. Her best-known novel, The Hunger (2018), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, was named one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories, and continues to be honored as a new classic in horror. She also writes spy thrillers — the marriage of her love of storytelling with a 30-plus-year career in intelligence. Her latest is the forthcoming Red London, the second volume in her Lyndsey Duncan spy series. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Angie Kim is a Korean immigrant, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, and author of the international bestseller and Edgar Award winner Miracle Creek, which has been translated into over 20 languages and was named a “Best Book of the Year” by Time, the Washington Post, Kirkus, and “The Today Show.” She has written for the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Glamour, among many other outlets. Her second novel, Happiness Falls, is forthcoming from Hogarth in September 2023. Find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Meg Eden Kuyatt is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee and teaches creative writing at colleges and writing centers. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature-winning poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (Press 53) and of children’s novels, most recently Good Different, a JLG Gold Standard selection (Scholastic, 2023). Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

A former NCAA Division I fencer for Yale, Lillie Lainoff is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers and the winner of the 2019 L.A. Review Literary Award for Short Fiction. Her nonfiction has been featured in the Washington Post Outlook section, amongst other places. She received her M.A. in creative writing (prose fiction) from the University of East Anglia. One for All, her debut novel, was named a Best Book of 2022 by NPR and was a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Ally Machate is on a mission to help authors make great books and reach more readers. A bestselling author and expert publishing consultant, Ally has served small and “Big Five” publishers, including Simon & Schuster, where she acquired and edited books on staff. Her clients include authors with such companies as Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Rodale Inc., Chronicle Books, Kaplan Publishing, Sourcebooks, and Hay House, as well as independently published bestsellers. Ally leads a diversified team of professionals who specialize in helping serious authors to write, publish, and sell more high-quality books.

Annie Marhefka is a writer in Baltimore. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have been published by Lunch Ticket, Fatal Flaw Lit, Literary Mama, Pithead Chapel, and others, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Annie is the executive director of Yellow Arrow Publishing, a Baltimore-based nonprofit supporting and empowering women-identifying writers, and is working on a memoir about mother/daughter relationships. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tsar of Love and Techno, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, and Mercury Pictures Presents. He was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.

Nevin Martell is a DC-area-based food and travel writer, parenting essayist, recipe developer, and photographer who has been published by the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Daily Beast, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Washingtonian, Washington City Paper, and many other publications. He is the author of eight books, including Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery and Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip.

Leeya Mehta is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose latest poetry collection is A Story of the World Before the Fence. In 2022, her work appeared in three new anthologies: Future Library (Red Hen Press), The Penguin Book of Indian Poets, and Converse. Leeya writes a column for the Independent on the literary life, “The Company We Keep.” She is the interim director of the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center, serves on the board of the Inner Loop, and teaches at George Mason University. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Eugene L. Meyer is the author of four books and a former longtime reporter and editor at the Washington Post. He has contributed to many national and regional publications, including the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Washingtonian, Bethesda, and Chesapeake Bay Magazine, and he is the editor of B’nai B’rith Magazine.  Since leaving the Post in 2004, he has received 17 awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Independent Review of Books, on whose board he serves. The American Society of Journalists and Authors named his Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army the most outstanding biography/history book of 2018.

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. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Raised in the Detroit suburbs, Eliza Nellums now lives just outside Washington, DC. Her first novel, All That’s Bright and Gone, was named an Amazon Editor’s Pick and was praised in the Washington Post and Real Simple. Her second novel, The Bone Cay, was released in 2021. She is a member of the Metro Wriders, a weekly critique group that meets in Dupont Circle. An amateur botanist and avid gardener, she divides her time among plants, books, and cats. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Diana Parsell is a former journalist and longtime writer and editor in the DC area. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in writing program, she helped launch the Independent in 2011. She has worked for publications including National Geographic and the Washington Post, and for science organizations in DC and Southeast Asia. She received a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography to write her forthcoming Eliza Scidmore: The Trailblazing Journalist Behind Washington’s Cherry Trees, and she won the 2017 Hazel Rowley Prize from Biographers International Organization. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Bethanne Patrick maintains a storied place in the publishing industry as a critic and as @TheBookMaven on Twitter, where she created the popular #FridayReads and regularly comments on books and literary ideas to 200,000+ followers. Her work appears frequently in the Los Angeles Times, as well as in the Washington Post, NPR Books, and Literary Hub. She sits on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and has served on the board of the National Book Critics Circle. She is also the host of the “Missing Pages” podcast. Patrick’s essays and short fiction have appeared on Elle.com, the Rumpus, VQR.com, and in the Grace & Gravity series. Her debut memoir, Life B: Overcoming Double Depression, is out in May. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

David Payne is chief of Neighborhood Library Services at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where he oversees the administration of Pratt’s 21 branch libraries and has worked since 2020. His career began as a library clerk in the Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain before continuing in the academic libraries of the University of London and the public library systems in Florida, Ohio, Philadelphia, and several locations in Maryland. David holds a B.A. in humanities from Teesside University in England, an M.S. in library science from Florida State University, and an M.S. in management of library and information services from Aberystwyth University in Wales. He serves on the advisory board of Public Libraries Magazine.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the New York Times bestselling author of Wench, Balm, and Take My Hand. She was a finalist for two NAACP Image awards and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction, and she was awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She lives in Washington, DC, with her family and chairs the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Katherine Pickett is the owner of POP Editorial Services LLC, where she offers copyediting, proofreading, and developmental editing. She is the author of the award-winning Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now in its second edition. Her creative work can be found in Voice of Eve, Lowestoft Chronicle, U Revolution, and Grande Dame Literary. Her articles have appeared in Publishing Perspectives, JaneFriedman.com, Writer Beware, IBPA Independent, and elsewhere. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her handsome and strong husband, Chris, and their two awe-inspiring daughters.

Laura Scalzo is the author of two novels, The Speed of Light in Air, Water, and Glass (2018), praised as “lyrical and insightful,” and American Arcadia (forthcoming in May), “a gorgeous riff of a New York City novel.” Her shorter work has appeared in various literary magazines, including Had, Ellipsis Zine, and Reflex Fiction, and in the Grace & Gravity Series. She is a 2023 Chautauqua writer-in-residence. She lives in Washington, DC.

After many years as a trial and appellate lawyer, David O. Stewart has published five books of history and four historical novels. His most recent nonfiction work, George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father, won awards from the Colonial Dames of America, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, and the Society of the Cincinnati. It was also a finalist for Mount Vernon’s George Washington Prize. His previous books have won the William H. Prescott Award, the Society of the Cincinnati Award, and the Washington Writing Prize. His most recent novel, The New Land, was inspired by family stories his mother told and is the first of a trilogy following an ordinary American family from its arrival on the Maine coast in the 1750s through the Civil War and World War II. The second installment, The Burning Land, comes out April 4, 2023. An earlier trilogy of historical mysteries — The Lincoln Deception, The Paris Deception, and The Babe Ruth Deception followed the exploits in the early 20th century of an unlikely duo, a white physician and an African American ex-baseball player. The Bloomberg View named The Lincoln Deception the best historical novel of 2013. Stewart was the founding president of the Washington Independent Review of Books and currently serves on its board, as well as on the board of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He lives in Maryland with his wife of 48 years, Nancy Floreen, who served for 16 years on the Montgomery County Council. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Michael B. Tager is a Baltimore-based writer and editor. He is the managing editor of Mason Jar Press, an independent publisher of high-quality books. His work has been published in  jmww, Uncharted Mag, Necessary Fiction, Hobart, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He is uncomfortable but not worried. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.

Charlene Thomas started writing as a child because she loves telling stories as much as she loves living them. She was 16 when she wrote a manuscript that won the National Novel Silver Award from Scholastic Books; she went on to minor in creative writing at North Carolina State University. Charlene writes books about the world we live in, inspired by her experiences growing up in Montgomery County, Maryland. She believes in people and what all of us are capable of; maybe that’s why she loves creating big characters who are steadfastly determined to change their own little parts of the world. Her debut novel, Seton Girls, was released by Penguin Random House in 2022, and her sophomore novel, Peekabo, will be released in 2024. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Evan Thomas, the author of 10 books, including the bestsellers John Paul Jones and First: Sandra Day O’Connor, was a longtime writer and editor at Time and Newsweek. He wrote Newsweek’s 50,000-word election specials in 1996, 2000, 2004 (winner of a National Magazine Award), and 2008, and won a National Magazine Award in 1999. He has appeared on many TV and radio talk shows, including “Meet the Press” and “The Colbert Report,” and was a guest on PBS’ “Charlie Rose” more than 40 times. Thomas has taught writing and journalism at Harvard and Princeton; at Princeton, he was Ferris Professor of Journalism from 2007 to 2014.

Martha Anne Toll’s debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction and has received glowing tributes since it came out in September 2022. She writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering authors of color and women writers as a critic and interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, the Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll is a member of the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Sarah Trembath is a poet and creative nonfiction writer who is on the faculty at American University. Her work has appeared in the Rumpus, Everyday Feminism, the Washington Independent Review of Books, Radical Teacher, Azure, and other publications. As a body of work, it earned her the American Studies Association’s 2019 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars. She has written two books: This Past Was Waiting for Me (Lazuli Literary Group, in press) and It Was the Scarlet that Did It (Moonstone, 2018). Sarah’s doctoral research is on the suppression and distortion of non-white historical narratives in K-12 education, especially the manner in which critical reading skills can mitigate the effects of such bias.

Veteran communications professional Cherrie Woods is widely known as a book publicist and workshop facilitator. She has presented workshops and participated on panels for authors at libraries, writing centers, and conferences throughout the U.S. Woods is also an award-winning poet and the author of Where Do I Start?: 10 PR Questions and Answers to Guide Self-Published Authors.

Mary Kay Zuravleff is the award-winning author of the forthcoming American Ending, which Alice McDermott called “wholly fresh and achingly believable.” Inspired by her coal-mining grandfathers and the grandmothers she’s named for, all Russian Orthodox Old Believers, American Ending chronicles immigrant life in Appalachia, a worldwide pandemic, and who gets to be an American citizen — all from 100 years ago. Her third novel, Man Alive!, was a Washington Post Notable Book, and she is the recipient of the American Academy’s Rosenthal Award and multiple DC Artist fellowships, including for 2023. She teaches writing at American University and the Chautauqua Institution. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.