Panelists Attending the 2020 Washington Writers Conference

It’s with sadness that we announce the 2020 Washington Writers Conference is canceled. Please read the full announcement here. Contact us at [email protected] with questions.


Elliot Ackerman is the author of the novels Red Dress in Black and White, Waiting for Eden, Dark at the Crossing, and Green on Blue, as well as the memoir 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. His writing often appears in Esquire, the New Yorker, and TIME Magazine, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing. He is both a former White House Fellow and Marine, and 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.

Kim Alexander grew up in the wilds of Long Island, NY, and slowly drifted south until she reached Key West. After spending 10 rum-soaked years as a DJ in the Keys, she moved to Washington, DC, where she lives with two cats, an angry fish, and her extremely patient husband, who tells her she needs to write at least 10 more books if she intends to retire to Thailand, so thank you for your patronage.

Naren Aryal is CEO and publisher of Mascot Books/Amplify Publishing, one of the fastest-growing and most respected hybrid publishing houses. 

Kevin Atticks is publisher at Apprenctice House, the nation's first entirely student-managed book publisher, based at Loyola University Maryland.

Mariah Barber

Cathy Barrow is an award-winning author, knitter, traveler, cook, teacher, and gardener. Published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Serious Eats, Food52, the Local Palate, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, NPR, and National Geographic, Cathy believes in the power of home cooking and the stories that connect us to food, culture, home, friends, and family.

Louis Bayard’s acclaimed historical novels include Courting Mr. Lincoln, Roosevelt's Beast, The School of Night, The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye, 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, and his story “Banana Triangle Six” was chosen for The Best American Mystery Stories 2018. His reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. An instructor at George Washington University, he is a board member for the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and author of the popular “Downton Abbey” recaps for the New York Times.

Bonnie Benwick is a freelance editor, writer, recipe developer and food stylist. She worked for 39 years as a journalist, spending the majority of her career at the Washington Post. She retired in July 2019 as deputy Food editor/recipe editor. She wrote the weekly "Dinner in Minutes" recipe column for 12 years and contributed to several series of monthly food-related features for the Washington Post Magazine. Her efforts won honors from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals, among others. She teaches cooking classes and assists in food photography/styling instruction in the Washington area, and continues to speak about food journalism to local and national groups, with a particularly keen interest in all facets of recipe writing.

Dara Moore Beevas

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is author of White Dancing Elephants: Stories, winner of the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize. Her work has appeared in the Bangalore Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Narrative Northeast, Jellyfish Review, and other publications.

Caroline Bock’s debut short-story collection, Carry Her Home, won the 2018 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Prize. She is also the author of the young adult novels LIE and Before My Eyes from St. Martin’s Press. Educated at Syracuse University, where she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver, she spent two decades as a cable-television executive, including as the senior vice president, marketing and public relations, at Bravo, the Independent Film Channel, and IFC Films. She was part of the executive team that launched the Independent Film Channel. She has an MFA in fiction from the City College of New York, and her short stories and poetry have been published or are forthcoming with Akashic Books, Delmarva Review, Little Patuxent Review, Fiction Southeast, Gargoyle, 100 Word Story, F(r)iction, Ploughshares, Vestal Review, and Zero Dark-Thirty. Currently, she is a lecturer in the English department at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Born in the Bronx and raised in New Rochelle, NY, she now lives in Maryland with her husband and teenaged son and daughter.

Tara Campbell is a fiction editor at Barrelhouse and an MFA candidate at American University. Her publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, b(OINK), Booth, Spelk, Litbreak, and Queen Mob's Teahouse. Her debut novel, TreeVolution, was published in 2016, her short-story collection, Circe's Bicycle, came out in 2018. And her Midnight at the Orangporium came out in 2019.

James Carter is the author of Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai (available in June from W.W. Norton), which tells the story of China on the eve of World War II through the events of a single day at the Shanghai horse races. Like his previous books, Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a 20th-Century Monk (Oxford, 2010) and Creating a Chinese Harbin (Cornell, 2001), Champions Day explores the interactions between China and the West through the lives of individuals. His writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the L.A. Review of Books, ChinaFile, and the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, among other venues. He is professor of history and director of the Nealis Program in Asian Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Grace Cavalieri, Maryland’s poet laureate, founded and produces public radio’s “The Poet and the Poem” at the Library of Congress; it’s now celebrating 41 years on air. She also wrote the popular monthly “Exemplars” feature for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Her latest book is Other Voices, Other Lives (Alan Squire Publishing).

Andrea Chamblee

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. Marlena is a bisexual poet and serves on the planning committee for OutWrite, Washington, DC's annual LGBTQ literary festival. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Breath & Shadow, the Deaf Poets Society, the Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Rogue Agent, Stoked Words, Wordgathering, and more. Find her on Twitter at @mchertock.

Amy Collins is the founder of Bestseller Builders and president of New Shelves Books. Collins is a trusted expert, speaker, and recommended sales consultant for some of the largest book and library retailers and wholesalers in the publishing industry. She is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and, in the last 20 years, Amy and her team have sold over 40 million books into the bookstore, library, and chain-store market for small and midsized publishers. She is a columnist for and a board member of several publishing organizations and a trusted teacher in the world of independent publishers.

Rachel Coonce is a graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, specializing in creative nonfiction writing. She received Honorable Mention in the Missouri Review's 2012 Audio Documentary Contest. She is cofounder of the Inner Loop, a literary reading series and writing community in Washington, DC, and executive producer of “The Inner Loop Radio: A Creative Writing Podcast.” Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @theinnerlooplit.

Susan Muaddi Darraj is an associate professor of English at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD. A 2018 USA Ford Fellow, Susan is also a lecturer in the Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Writing program and a faculty member in Fairfield University’s MFA program. In 2014, her short-story collection, A Curious Land: Stories from Home, won the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. It also won the 2016 Arab American Book Award and a 2016 American Book Award, and it was shortlisted for a Palestine Book Award. Her previous story collection, The Inheritance of Exile, was published in 2007 by University of Notre Dame Press. In January 2020, Capstone Books will launch her debut children’s chapter book series, Farah Rocks, about a smart, brave Palestinian-American girl named Farah Hajjar.

Barbara Westwood Diehl is founding and senior editor of the Baltimore Review. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of journals, including Quiddity, Potomac Review (Best of the 50), Measure, Little Patuxent Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gargoyle, Superstition Review, Per Contra, Thrush Poetry Journal, Tishman Review, the MacGuffin, Atticus Review, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Therese Doucet is the publisher at Strange Violin Editions and author of the 2020 historical fantasy novel The Prisoner of the Castle of Enlightenment.

Evelyn M. Duffy has been editing in the Washington, DC, area for over 12 years. She is a full-time, in-house researcher, transcriber, and editor for journalist Bob Woodward and has assisted with his five most-recent bestsellers. Evelyn provides developmental editing through Open Boat Editing, where she especially enjoys working with first-time authors, genre writers, and journalists. Through her boutique editing service, the Proofread Bride, she specializes in proofreading wedding materials (a niche where a typo can really ruin a day). Evelyn has a degree in English and creative writing from George Washington University and lives in DC with her wife and cat. Please connect with her on Twitter at @_EvelynMDuffy.

Meg Eden's work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest, and the forthcoming poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World. She runs the Magfest MAGES Library blog, which posts accessible academic articles about videogames. Find her on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

Melanie Figg is the author of the award-winning poetry collection Trace (New Rivers Press), as well as a chapbook. She has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight and Jerome foundations, the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and others. Her poems, personal essays, and book reviews have been published in dozens of literary journals, including the Iowa Review, Nimrod, and Iron Horse Literary Review. Melanie teaches writing at the Writer’s Center, the Writer's Passage, and privately in the DC area. As a certified professional coach, she leads women’s writing retreats and works one-on-one with writers and others. She lives in Silver Spring, MD.

Marita Golden is the author of 17 works of fiction and nonfiction. The Black Caucus of the American Library Association awarded Marita an Honor Award for GUMBO, an anthology of fiction by African-American writers which she edited with the late E. Lynn Harris, and the Literary Award for Fiction for her novel After. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker said of Marita’s Migrations of the Heart, “It is a book all women will find useful and compelling and all men who love women will find disturbing.” Marita’s novel The Wide Circumference of Love was released in March 2017.

Melanie S. Hatter is author, most recently, of the novel Malawi’s Sisters. Her debut novel, The Color of My Soul, won the 2011 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Prize. She also published a short-story collection, Let No One Weep for Me: Stories of Love and Loss, featuring her novelette, “Taking the Shot.” Her short stories have appeared in Defying Gravity, TimBookTu, the Whistling Fire, the Lipstick Pages, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and elsewhere.

Susan Hawk is an agent at Upstart Crow Literary, a boutique literary agency she joined after 25 years working across many areas of the children’s book world. She represents writers and illustrators of books for kids and teens, board books through YA, as well as graphic novels and nonfiction (also for children and teens). Her clients includes Ruth Spiro (author of the Baby Loves books), J.M.M. Nuanez (Birdie and Me), and Rachael Allen (The Summer of Impossibilities). Find her on Twitter at @susanhawk.

Emily Holland

Joshua Jones is a writer and animator, and he reads for Pithead Chapel. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Best Microfictions 2020, The Best Small Fictions 2019, The Cincinnati Review, CRAFT, Juked, matchbook, Paper Darts, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Frederick, MD. Find him on Twitter at @jnjoneswriter.

Angie Kim is the author of the national bestseller Miracle Creek, named a “Best Book of the Year” by Time and Amazon, a Washington Post Bestseller and Summer Read pick, and a Top 10 AppleBooks Debut of the Year. Kim is one of Variety Magazine’s “10 Storytellers to Watch,” and has written for Vogue, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Glamour, Salon, and Slate. She moved from Seoul, Korea, to Baltimore as a preteen, and attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. A former trial lawyer, she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three sons, and is at work on her next novel.

Laura Lippman, our keynote speaker, has been called one of the "essential" crime novelists of the past 100 years, with 24 books published in 30 languages. She will speak about the writing life and her forthcoming book of essays, My Life As a Villainess. A former journalist, Lippman continues to write for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Real Simple, New York Magazine, and

Domenica Marchetti is the author of seven books on Italian home cooking, most recently Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her other books include Ciao Biscotti, The Glorious Pasta of Italy, The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, and Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian. Her articles and recipes have appeared in the Washington Post, Cooking Light, Eating Well, Fine Cooking, Food and Wine, and other publications. Domenica teaches Italian cooking classes and workshops across the country and leads culinary tours in Italy.

Lauren Menkes is a seasoned transactional entertainment attorney with over 25 years of experience spanning all aspects of the television, motion picture, and literary industries. Her current roster of clients includes authors, screenwriters, speakers, journalists, directors, producers, actors/reality talent, development executives, literary agencies, and more. As senior counsel at Boyarski Fritz LLP, she is working with the firm's top clients (including the Prince estate) on major precedent-setting theatrical and television transactions. Prior to her private practice, Lauren spent most of her career in Los Angeles as a legal and business affairs executive for various companies, including United Talent Agency, Comedy Central, Walt Disney Television, and Twentieth Century Fox. She has negotiated numerous publishing and option-purchase agreements for potential film and television projects. Lauren received her A.B. degree from Duke University and her J.D. degree from Emory University School of Law. She resides in Bethesda, MD, with her family, working remotely for New York City-based Boyarski Fritz.

Eugene L. Meyer, a former longtime Washington Post reporter and editor, is the author, most recently, of Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army, winner of the 2019 Outstanding Biography/History Book award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He serves on the board of the Washington Independent Review of Books and is a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine. His work has appeared in many national and regional publications, including the New York Times, Washingtonian, Maryland Life, Preservation, Smithsonian, and U.S. News & World Report. He is also the editor of B’nai B’rith Magazine.

Eliza Nellums was raised in the Detroit suburbs and now lives with her cat in Washington, DC. She is a member of Bethesda Writer's Center as well as the Metro Wriders, a weekly critique group that meets in Dupont Circle. All That’s Bright and Gone is her debut novel.

Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her collection, Be with Me Always, was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2019, and her lyric essay chapbook, Devotional, was published by Red Bird in 2017. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, listed as Notable in The Best American Essays, and appeared in the Modern Love column of the New York Times, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, and elsewhere. Currently, she is editing an anthology of lyric essays forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press in 2021, and she is the founding editor of the online literary journal After the Art.

Richard Peabody, along with being the founder of Gargoyle magazine and Paycock Press, is an award-winning fiction writer and poet. He has edited multiple anthologies, including Conversations with Gore Vidal, A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation, and Grace and Gravity: Fiction by Washington Area Women. He is also the author of numerous poetry and story collections, including Guinness on the Quay and The Richard Peabody Reader.

Zach Powers is the author of the novel First Cosmic Velocity (Putnam 2019) and the story collection Gravity Changes (BOA Editions 2017). His work has been featured by American Short Fiction, Lit Hub, Tin House Online, and elsewhere. He is director of communications at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. Find him on Twitter at @Z_Powers.

Rion Amilcar Scott is the author of the story collection The World Doesn’t Require You (Norton/Liveright, August 2019). His debut story collection, Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky, 2016), was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been published in journals such as the New Yorker, the Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and the Rumpus, among others. One of his stories was listed as a notable in Best American Stories 2018, and one of his essays was listed as a notable in Best American Essays 2015. He was raised in Silver Spring, MD, and earned an MFA from George Mason University, where he won the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, a Completion Fellowship, and an Alumni Exemplar Award. He has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writing Conference, Kimbilio, and the Colgate Writing Conference, as well as a 2019 Maryland Individual Artist Award. Presently, he teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @ReeAmilcarScott.

Courtney Sexton is a New Jersey native who grew up between the Delaware River and the sandy Pine Barrens. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, was a 2015 Our City Festival curator, and is co-founder of Washington, DC’s the Inner Loop. She is the recipient of a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Fellowship. Water and her dog (or manifestations thereof) are recurrent characters in her writing — and her life, for that matter. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @theinnerlooplit.

Rose Solari is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, The Last GirlOrpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play "Looking for Guenevere," and the novel A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park; St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland; the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University; and Oxford University’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Rose’s awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing, an independent literary press that publishes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. 

Alice Stephens’ debut novel, Famous Adopted People, was published in 2018 by Unnamed Press. Her work has appeared in LitHub, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Margins, and other publications. She is a contributing editor to Bloom and writes book reviews and a column, Alice in Wordland, for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Known as the PR guru for self-published authors, Cherrie Woods is a 16-year public relations veteran/author who has worked in arts and culture and government for most of her career. Woods presents PR workshops at libraries, festivals, writing centers, and conferences throughout the country. She is an adjunct faculty member at Maryland Institute College of Art and also an award-winning poet. Woods is the author of Where Do I Start?10 PR Questions and Answers to Guide Self-Published Authors and has been featured in several media outlets for her PR work with authors, including the Baltimore Sun, Fox45-TV, WJZ-TV, Maryland Public TV, WEAA 88.9, and SiriusXM.

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

Laura Zam is an author, speaker, certified trauma professional, and sexuality educator whose work focuses on sexual healing and preventing violation. Her writing appears in the New York Times, Salon, the Huffington Post, and the Forward, as well as in seven anthologies. In 2013, Laura’s one-person play about healing in the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, “Married Sex,” was presented at the New York International Fringe Festival and Off-Broadway. Find her on Twitter at @LauraZam.

Nadeem Zaman is the author of the novel In the Time of the Others (Picador India 2018) and the story collection Up in the Main House & Other Stories (Unnamed Press 2019)He was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and grew up there and in Chicago. He studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned a Ph.D. in fiction and postcolonial studies at the University of Louisville. He lives in Maryland, where he teaches in the English department at St. Mary's College of Maryland.