The 2019 Washington Writers Conference Panelists

E.A. Aymar​ co-edited and contributed a story to​ The Night of the Flood, a novel-in-stories featuring 14 of today's most exciting crime-fiction writers. He writes a monthly column for the Washington Independent Review of Books and is managing editor of the Thrill Begins. His ​stories have appeared in a number of top crime-fiction publications​. ​His new novel, The Unrepentant, comes out in March.

Anjili Babbar (Ph.D., University of Rochester, M.A., University of Rochester, M.A., McGill University) is a writer, scholar, and professor of British and Irish literature, folklore, and crime fiction, and president of the Dashiell Hammett Society. Her recent publications include Finders: Justice, Faith, and Identity in Irish Crime Fiction (forthcoming from Syracuse University Press); “‘This Isn’t F*cking Miss Marple, Mate’: Intertextuality in Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy Series” (in Guilt Rules All: Mysteries, Detectives, and Crime in Irish Fiction, edited by Elizabeth Mannion and Brian Cliff, forthcoming from Syracuse University Press); “Humanizing History: Storytelling and Subjectivity in the Works of Frank Delaney” (in New Crops, Old Fields: (Re) Imagining Irish Folklore, edited by Conor Caldwell and Eamon Byers, published by Peter Lang); and annotations, transcriptions, and translations for James P. Leary’s Folksongs from Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946 (Grammy Award nominee 2016, published by the University of Wisconsin Press).

Audrey Bastian conference chair, writes history between professional interpreting assignments. Trying to understand the Japanese kids she grew up with in Okinawa turned her toward a lifelong interest in East-West relations. Now she explores these themes through the pages of history. She has published in the Journal of Burma Studies, the Washington Independent Review of Books, and other places. She won an honorable mention in the 75th Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition for a memoir, “Japanese Carp.” In 2017, the Cambridge University Summer Institute chose her creative nonfiction piece about an historical journey at sea for an honorary reading. Find her on Twitter at @AABastianWrites.

Caroline Bock’s debut short-story collection, Carry Her Home, is the winner of 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.

Christine Brennan is an award-winning national sports columnist for USA Today, a commentator for ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and NPR, a bestselling author, and nationally known speaker. Twice named one of the country’s top 10 sports columnists by the Associated Press Sports Editors, she has covered the last 18 Olympics, summer and winter. Brennan was the first woman sportswriter at the Miami Herald in 1981 and the first woman to cover Washington’s NFL team as a staff writer at the Washington Post in 1985.

Carrie Callaghan is an historical-fiction author living in Maryland with her family. Her debut novel, A Light of Her Own, about 17th-century painter Judith Leyster, was published by Amberjack in 2018. Her short stories have been published in multiple literary journals around the country, and she is a senior editor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She loves seasons of all kinds, history, and tea. And books, books, books.

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, and her short-story collection, Circe's Bicycle, came out in 2018.

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 writes the monthly “Exemplars” feature for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Her latest book is Other Voices, Other Lives (Alan Squire Publishing).

Tyrese Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, attorney, and writing instructor. She is also an associate editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, an online journal dedicated to flash fiction. An essayist and fiction writer, her prose has appeared in several publications, including Black Warrior Review, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, the Rumpus, and the Kenyon Review. An alumni of the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University and a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, her collection, How To Sit, was published in 2018 by Mason Jar Press. Find her on Twitter at @tylachelleco.

Susan Coll is the author of the novels The Stager, Beach Week, Acceptance, Rockville Pike, and Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times,,, the Millions, and a variety of other publications, including the Asian Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. Her novel, Acceptance, was made into a television movie starring the hilarious Joan Cusack. Susan worked as the events and programs director at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC, for five years. She is currently teaching an intensive novel workshop at the Writer’s Center. Her work has been supported by a fellowship from Yaddo, and she is a board member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

S.A. Cosby's work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including ThugLit and Tough magazine. His story “Slant-Six” was featured as a Distinguished story in the 2016 edition of Best American Mystery Stories. His debut crime novel, My Darkest Prayer, was published this year by Intrigue Publishing. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with a lazy dog and a cantankerous squirrel.

Katy Day is a literature specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts, working primarily on NEA Literature Fellowships. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Maryland and is a graduate candidate in creative writing at Sierra Nevada College.

Jeffery Deaver, a former journalist, folksinger, and attorney, is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the New York Times, the Times of London, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Los Angeles Times. The author of over 35 novels, three collections of short stories, and a nonfiction law book, as well as the lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over 25 languages. He has sold 50 million books worldwide. His most recent Lincoln Rhyme novels are The Cutting Edge, The Burial Hour, and The Steel Kiss.

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most-anticipated reads of the year. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English literature and language, and received her J.D. at Yale Law School. Her novel Forget Tomorrow won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. In addition, Seize Today is a 2018 RITA finalist. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Other titles of hers include Remember Yesterday, The Darkest Lie, Girl on the Verge, and the forthcoming Star-Crossed and Malice. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

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 has five poetry chapbooks, and her novel, Post-High School Reality Quest, was published by California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

Amy Freeman, a lawyer by training, spent the last five years working with people suffering homelessness. She now divides her time between serving as Development Director for the Writer's Center in Bethesda and writing. Bylines include the Washington Post, HuffPost, and She's currently wrapping up edits on her manuscript, Smotherly Love.

Andrew Gifford, born and raised in Washington, DC, is the founder and director of the Santa Fe Writers Project. Over the years, he’s worked as a caterer, a bookseller, a groundskeeper, in call centers, as the wire editor for an Associated Press company, as a business writer for Oxford Intelligence, and as a development editor for the American Psychological Association books department. He is the author of the memoir We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire.

Laura A. Hazan is a writer, librarian, mom, wife, and Washington Writers Conference agent liaison. She hopes one day to see her own novel on the shelf at her library. For now, find Laura wrangling agents, pitching agents, and querying agents for her first novel, Little Boxes.

Garinè Isassi is the author of the award-winning novel Start with the Backbeat. She is a singer/songwriter who grew up with one foot in Texas and the other in New Jersey. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she is a lover of music, chocolate, and altruistic sarcasm; and a writer of post-punk humor. She is proud of her Armenian-American heritage but tired of explaining it. Garinè was accepted into Barrelhouse Magazine’s Writer Camp in 2017. She currently lives in Maryland, where she works full time in marketing communications, sings in a gospel choir, is the Workshops Chair for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, over-volunteers for a variety of community organizations, writes when everyone else is asleep, and lives with her husband, three kids, a cat, a dog, and a gecko. It’s the gecko that sent her over the edge.

Eugenia Kim’s debut novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter, won the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was Best Historical Novel and Critic’s Pick by the Washington Post. Her second novel, The Kinship of Secrets, published in November with a Booklist starred review and was an Amazon Literature and Fiction Best Book of the Month. Her work has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Raven Chronicles, and elsewhere. Kim teaches at Fairfield University’s MFA Creative Writing Program.

Mindy Klasky, a USA Today-bestselling author, learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere through stories. As a writer, Mindy has traveled through various genres, writing more than 40 books — including light paranormal, hot contemporary romance, and traditional fantasy novels. In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her to-be-read shelf.

Eliza Knight is a USA Today-bestselling author of sizzling Scottish historical romance with irresistible heroes, courageous heroines, and daring adventure. Under the name E. Knight, she writes rip-your-heart-out historical fiction that crosses landscapes around the world. Her historical blog, History Undressed, has been mentioned in a feature article in the Wall Street Journal. While not reading, writing, or researching for her latest book, she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping, and visiting with family and friends. Eliza lives atop a small mountain with her own knight in shining armor, three princesses, and two very naughty puppies.

Christina Kovac managed newsrooms and produced crime and political stories in the District. Her career as a television journalist began with Fox 5's Ten O' Clock News, followed by the ABC affiliate in Washington, DC. For the last nine years, she worked at the Washington Bureau of NBC News. She lives with her family outside of Washington, DC. The Cutaway is her first novel.

Julie Langsdorf has received four fiction grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, and her short stories have appeared in several literary magazines. White Elephant is her first novel. In February, the New York Times included White Elephant as one of its “Twelve Novels to Watch for in March.”

Tara Laskowski is the author of the short-story collection Bystanders, which won the Balcones Fiction Prize and was hailed by Jennifer Egan in the Guardian as one of the best books of 2017. She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her debut novel, One Night Gone, is forthcoming from Graydon House Books in October 2019. She was awarded the Kathy Fish Fellowship from SmokeLong Quarterly in 2009, and won the grand prize for the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a B.A. in English with a minor in writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

Jane Leavy is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, The Last Boy, and Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, and the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called “the best novel ever written about baseball.” She was a staff writer at the Washington Post from 1979 to1988, first in the Sports section, then writing for the Style section. She covered baseball, tennis, and the Olympics for the paper. She wrote features for the Style section about sports, politics, and pop culture, including, most memorably, a profile of Muggsy Bogues, the 5-foot-3 guard for the Washington Wizards, which was longer than he is tall.

Shanon Lee is a survivor activist and storyteller with features on BBC Radio, National Geographic, HuffPost Live, the Wall Street Journal, TV One, and the REELZ Channel's Scandal Made Me Famous. She is a contributor for the Lily at the Washington Post and Forbes. Her work appears in Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Good Housekeeping, ELLE, Marie Claire, Woman's Day, Women's Health, Refinery29, and Redbook. Shanon is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert and an official member of the Speakers Bureau for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). She is the writer, producer, and director of Marital Rape Is Real.

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, his third book. He is a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, edits the quarterly B'nai B'rith Magazine, and contributes articles to the New York Times and other publications. Since leaving the Post in 2004, he has received more than a dozen awards for his journalism. Five for Freedom recently won the best biography/history book award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and his piece “Pittsburgh: Never Again? Just Words” won best personal blog. Meyer serves on the board of the Washington Independent Review of Books. Find him on Twitter at @genemeyer.

George Derek Musgrove is an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the co-author of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital, and author of Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics: How the Harassment of Black Elected Officials Shaped Post-Civil Rights America (University of Georgia Press, 2012) and a number of popular and scholarly articles on post-civil-rights-era black politics and Washington, DC. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. history from New York University in 2005 and lives with his wife and two sons in Washington, DC.

Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her full-length essay collection, Be with Me Always, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in March 2019, and her lyric-essay chapbook, Devotional, was published by Red Bird in 2017. Individual essays have appeared in the Modern Love column of the New York Times, the Massachusetts Review, the Georgia Review, Passages North, Shenandoah, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. She has presented at AWP, NonfictioNOW, and HippoCamp (the creative nonfiction conference run by Hippocampus Magazine), and she has had residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hambidge, and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2013, she was named a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow to attend a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the founding editor of After the Art and a freelance reviewer for the A.V. Club.

Patricia (Patty) O’Connell Pearson is a former Fairfax County Public Schools history teacher who has never tired of teaching. After many happy years in the classroom, she worked in the private sector, contributing to and editing history textbooks and writing history curriculum and education materials for online courses, always focusing on the story rather than the factoids of history. Ready to share that story in new ways, she earned her MFA in writing for young people from Lesley University and now writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. When she is not writing or doing research, she can often be found talking about history as a volunteer with the National Park Service in Washington, DC, where the FDR Memorial is her specialty. A native of the Washington area, she currently lives in Fairfax, VA.

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in February 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year. Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Her short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, the Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, the Collagist, Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, Salon, Washingtonian, and the Washington Post Magazine. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and often teaches in the MA program in writing at Johns Hopkins University. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in Alexandria, VA.

Zach Powers is a native of Savannah, GA, and lives and writes in Arlington, VA. His novel, First Cosmic Velocity, is coming in August 2019 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and his debut story collection, Gravity Changes, was published in 2017 and won the BOA Short Fiction Prize. He is director of communications at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD.

Laura Scalzo is a graduate of Syracuse University. Her flash fiction has appeared in Hobart, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Fiction, and elsewhere. She is the author of a YA novel, The Speed of Light in Air, Water, and Glass, and is currently writing an adult novel, The Nights and Days of Chry and Dare.

Salley Shannon is president of the Washington Independent Review of Books. She is a past president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA) and has authored several books and written for numerous publications, including Reader's Digest, Parents, Woman's Day, Smithsonian, Fitness, and Washingtonian. Salley recently ghost-wrote a memoir and is now writing a novel. 

Steven Skerritt-Davis is director of Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Awards, Community Arts Development, and Arts and Entertainment Districts programs. Having graduated from Brown University after a 10-year ballet career, Steven has held administrative positions at the National Dance Project and Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts.

Holly Smith is editor-in-chief of the Independent, as well as a college lecturer, award-winning freelance writer/editor, and co-author of Seafood Lover's Chesapeake Bay. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post,, USA Today Travel’s 10Best, More Mirth of a Nation, Salon, Not What I Expected, Washington Flyer, Brain, Child, and other publications. 

Alice Stephens’ debut novel, Famous Adopted People, was published in 2018 by Unnamed Press. Her work has appeared in Lit Hub, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Margins, Banana Writers, 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. She lives in an empty nest in Silver Spring, MD, with her husband and dog.

David O. Stewart, after many years of law practice, became a bestselling writer of history and historical fiction. His histories have explored the writing of the Constitution, the gifts of James Madison, the outrageous western expedition and treason trial of the mysterious Aaron Burr, and the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. He has won the Washington Writing Award for best book of the year, the History Prize of the Society of the Cincinnati, and the William H. Prescott Award of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. He is working on a study of George Washington’s political mastery.

Delancey Stewart is the bestselling author of contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and women's fiction. She also writes sweet romance under the name D.L. Stewart. Stewart writes from her home in Southern Maryland, and her work explores themes of family, friendship and finding home. Her latest series is Mr. Match, a romantic comedy series about a pro soccer player turned matchmaker. Stewart also has a professional background in editing, and is the owner of the editing and story shop Evident Ink.

Julia Tagliere’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Writer, the Bookends Review, Potomac Review, Gargoyle Magazine, the Washington Independent Review of Books, SmokeLong Quarterly, and numerous anthologies. Winner of the 2015 William Faulkner Literary Competition for Best Short Story and the 2017 Writers Center Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, Julia completed her M.A. in writing at Johns Hopkins University. She serves as an editor with the Baltimore Review and is working on her next novel, The Day the Music Didn’t Die.

Paula Tarnapol Whitacre is a transplanted New Englander who now lives in Alexandria, VA. She became a freelance writer shortly after DC’s “Blizzard of 1996,” when she realized she could make a living from home instead of trudging downtown to an office. Her biography of Julia Wilbur, A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time, tells the story of a woman — an abolitionist from Rochester who worked as a relief agent in Union-occupied Alexandria during the Civil War and then spent the rest of her life in Washington — who made an even larger mid-life change than she did.

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.

Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novel Flood. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and Poets & Writers. She’s a contributing editor for Fiction Writers Review and editor of the Grace & Gravity anthology. She teaches at American University in Washington, DC, and is a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow.

Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of Man Alive!, a Washington Post Notable Book, as well as The Bowl Is Already Broken and The Frequency of Souls. She is a founder of NoveltyDC, which offers manuscript consultations and private coaching. Among the honors she has received are numerous Artist Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, American Academy's Rosenthal Award, and the James Jones First Novel Award. Mary Kay has taught writing at American University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Mason University, and she has written and edited extensively for the Smithsonian Institution. She is a cofounder of the DMV Women Writers, DC-area ambassador for the Authors Guild, and a director emerita of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. She lives in Washington, DC.