Speakers and Moderators

James River Writers is pleased to announce the speakers and moderators for our 17th annual James River Writers Conference.

Confirmed Speakers

Stacy Hawkins Adams photo

Stacy Hawkins Adams is a longtime author and journalist. Her books, essays and articles inspire readers to find confidence in their own stories. She has penned nine women’s fiction novels and one nonfiction devotional book, including Watercolored Pearls, which has been featured in college coursework, and Coming Home, a Target stores “Recommended Read.” Stacy also curates a blog called LifeUntapped.com and teaches at writing conferences nationwide. Beyond the literary world, she is a communications and marketing professional, based in Richmond, Virginia. @stacyinspires

Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. Her essay “What We Aren’t” was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Jennifer is editor of the short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books). And her writing has appeared in various publications in print & online. Her website is jennifernbaker.com. @jbakernyc

Malaga Baldi

AGENT – Malaga Baldi has worked as an independent literary agent since 1986. The Baldi Agency is an eclectic agency specializing in literary fiction, memoir and cultural history. She worked as a cashier at Gotham Book Mart, in the Ballantine Books Publicity Department, as an associate at Candida Donadio & Associates and the Elaine Markson Agency before going out on her own. Baldi believes the strength of the author’s voice and the heart of the story to be key when considering new work. Baldi graduated from Hampshire College and lives in NYC.  Baldibooks.com  @malagabaldi

Ballantine Pip sq 1

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is a New Zealand born fantasy writer, podcaster, and author of the Books of the Order, The Chronicles of Art, The Shifted World series. She is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with her husband, Tee Morris. In non-fiction, Pip has co-written with Tee Social Media for Writers from Writer’s Digest. @philippajane 

Mary Bonina

Mary Bonina is a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellow, Warren Wilson MFA, and member of the Writers Room of Boston. Credits include poetry collections, Clear Eye Tea and Living Proof, My Father’s Eyes: A Memoir, a completed novel on submission, Poets and Writers and Adelaide essays, poetry anthologized and in Hanging Loose, Salamander, etc. A Boston Contemporary Authors winning poem is now permanent public art. Several poems were set to music by composers Paul Sayed and Christopher Montgomery. @reebonina 

Ellen Brown

Ellen F. Brown is a lawyer, freelance writer, and co-author of the book Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood. She holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Goucher College, where her master’s thesis on Tennessee Williams won the Chris White Award for best nonfiction thesis. @ellenfbrown

Joshua Cane

J. P. Cane‘s novel, Shadows Within, begins The Shadowless vampire series, set in his hometown of Philadelphia. He hosts a podcast on writing, interviewing authors and others about the craft. A member of James River Writers, he and his wife live in Virginia. @jpcane

 

Wendy DeGroat

Wendy DeGroat is the author of Beautiful Machinery (Headmistress Press) and recently finished a documentary poetry manuscript about Grace Arents, a Progressive-era philanthropist and educator, and Grace’s companion, Mary Garland Smith. Wendy’s poems have appeared in Streetlight, Rust + Moth, Common-place, and elsewhere. She is a librarian in Richmond, Virginia, where she also teaches writing, curates poetryriver.org, and facilitates workshops that help writers find creative inspiration in quirky historic artifacts. 

Michelle Dodd

Michelle Dodd is a spokenword artist based out of Richmond, Va. She is a graduate fellow of The Watering Hole Writing Retreat and a fellow of Winter Tangerine. She has coached VCU’s slam team in 2018 and has been published in numerous literary journals, along with two self-published chapbooks. Instagram: @delightfullydodd

Brenna English Loeb

AGENT: Brenna English-Loeb comes to Transatlantic Agency (TLA) after working for several years at Janklow & Nesbit Associates and Writers House, where she had the pleasure of working with New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors across multiple genres. At TLA she’s excited to grow her list of speculative and suspenseful fiction in both YA and adult, as well as adult nonfiction, in collaboration with senior agents. @benglishhh 

Roben Farzad

Roben Farzad is the host of public radio’s Full Disclosure and author of the book Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami. @RobenFarzad

Amina Gautier

Dr. Amina Gautier is the author of three award-winning short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. Her books have received the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award, the Eric Hoffer Legacy Award, the International Latino Book Award, a National Indie Excellence Award, and the Phillis Wheatley Award. More than one hundred of her stories have been published. For her body of work, she has received the PEN/MALAMUD award. @DrAminaGautier 

Geller Anna Knutson sq

AGENT: Anna Knutson Geller has nearly twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, ranging from editor to literary scout to rights director to agent. She founded Write View, a literary agency with a focus on practical nonfiction, spirituality, and inspirational memoir, in 2016. She previously worked at Maria B. Campbell Associates and at The Book Group, and she has been on the faculty of the Columbia Publishing Course since 2011. 

Marita Golden portrait

Marita Golden is the award-winning author of 17 works of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent novel is The Wide Circumference of Love. As a cultural activist, she is the co-founder and President Emeritus of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. She has been a member of the writing faculties at George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Johns Hopkins University. @maritagolden

Green Kristen sq

Kristen Green is a longtime journalist and the author of Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County, a New York Times bestseller. Kristen is a Virginia Humanities fellow and former Writer-in-Residence at the Library of Virginia, where her book won the Literary Award for Nonfiction and the People’s Choice Award. @kgreen

Melanie Hatter portrait

Melanie S. Hatter’s most recent novel Malawi’s Sisters (Four Way Books 2019) won the inaugural Kimbilio National Fiction Prize, selected by Edwidge Danticat. She is also the author of The Color of My Soul, and Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss. She is a participating author in the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program in Washington, D.C., and serves on the board of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. @mshatter1

Phillip Hilliker - Membership Coordinator

Phillip Hilliker has been a freelance illustrator for eighteen years. While the bulk of his output has been in the role-playing game industry, his focus for the past few years has been shifting toward writing for kids, including middle-grade novels and picture books. He is also the membership coordinator for James River Writers, and teaches at both Visual Arts Center of Richmond and Richmond Young Writers. @philhilliker

Phaedra Hise photo

Phaedra Hise is an award-winning writer, editor, and author, whose articles and cover stories have run in national publications including Glamour, Inc, Fortune, Forbes, CNN Money, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Mechanics, and Salon. In brand publishing, she has worked with brands including American Express, Pitney Bowes, Merrill Lynch, LoyaltyOne, and Walmart. She has authored or co-authored five books. She is married to a former chef and loves to write about food. @hiphaedra

Bruce Holsinger

Bruce Holsinger is a novelist and scholar based in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two award-winning historical novels, A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, as well as a new contemporary novel, The Gifted School (Riverhead/Penguin Random House, 2019). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Slate, and many other publications. @bruceholsinger

Jeff Jackson portrait

Jeff Jackson is a novelist, playwright, and songwriter. His second novel Destroy All Monsters was recently published by Farrar Straus & Giroux. It received advanced praise from Don DeLillo and Janet Fitch and rave reviews from The New York Times, NPR, and The Washington Post. His first novel Mira Corpora was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Six of his plays have been produced by the Obie Award-winning Collapsable Giraffe theater company in New York City. @DeathofLit

Alma Katsu portrait

Alma Katsu is author of The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party. The Hunger was on NPR’s list of 100 favorite horror stories, and named one of the best books of 2018 by Barnes & Noble, The Observer, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, The Taker, was one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut Novels of 2011. She’s a graduate of the Johns Hopkins writing program and an alumna of the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. @almakatsu 

Marie Lamba

AGENT: Marie Lamba is author of the picture book Green Green (Farrar Straus Giroux), of the upcoming picture book A Day So Gray (Clarion), and of the YA novels What I Meant… (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. Marie is also a Literary Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (jdlit.com), where she represents picture book writers and illustrators, middle grade, YA and adult fiction, plus memoir. @marielamba

Nathan Alling Long portrait

Nathan Alling Long’s work has won international competitions and appears on NPR and in over a hundred publications, including Tin House, Story Quarterly, and The Sun. Nathan’s flash fiction collection, The Origin of Doubt (2018), was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award; his second manuscript was a semi-finalist for the Iowa Fiction Award. He is the recipient of a Mellon Foundation Grant, a Truman Capote Literary Fellowship, two Bread Loaf scholarships, and three Pushcart nominations. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches Stockton University.

Beth Marshea

AGENT: Beth Marshea is the owner and Lead Agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. She represents work from diverse authors with a special focus on underrepresented voices in both Adult and YA. She represents literary fiction, speculative fiction, mystery, and thriller. as well as narrative nonfiction and memoir. @ladderbirdlit 

Ginger McKnight-Chavers portrait

Ginger McKnight-Chavers is an author and attorney whose novel, In the Heart of Texas (She Writes Press), won a 2016 USA Best Book Award. A native Texan, she is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, and was a Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellow at Sarah Lawrence College. McKnight-Chavers was a contributor to Oil and Water: And Other Things That Don’t Mix, and has written for Essence, ShareBlue, The Huffington Post, and other publications. She currently resides in New York. @gingermckchav

Sharvette Mitchell

Sharvette Mitchell works with entrepreneurs to help them build their online platform so that they generate more revenue with an amazing online brand. She does this in a couple of ways with web design services, personal branding, social media coaching, and conferences. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth Univerity and for over 12 years she has hosted a weekly talk radio show every Tuesday at 6 pm EST – The Sharvette Mitchell Radio Show. Lastly, Sharvette is the visionary author of the new book collaboration, PROPEL – The Essential Handbook for Emerging Women in Business & Leadership. Find out more at www.SharvetteMitchell.com. @Sharvette

Maureen Moretti

AGENT: Maureen Moretti began her publishing career as an intern with several prestigious literary agencies before joining P.S. Literary Agency as an associate agent. She holds a B.A. from Saint Mary’s College of California, and attended the Columbia Publishing Course where she fell in love with New York City. She loves narrative non-fiction, especially biography, culture and history but reads widely in commercial fiction with a soft spot for upmarket women’s fiction and romance. PSLiterary.com @maureen_moretti

Christina Morgan portrait

AGENT: Christina Morgan has worked in book publishing since 2005. She has worked for Curtis Brown LTD., HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt prior to joining Serendipity.

Tee Morris

Tee Morris first appeared on bookshelves with Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana in 2002. With his wife, Pip Ballantine, Tee created the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series and its companion podcast, Tales from the Archives. Their series have won numerous awards including RT Reviewers’ Choice for Best Steampunk of 2014. They concluded the adventures of Books & Braun with Operation: Endgame. Tee kicked off 2019 with Twitch for Dummies, a how-to approach to streaming content.

Erica Orloff

After publishing over 20 novels for adults, Erica Orloff penned the award-winning middle-grade fantasy trilogy The Magickeepers as Erica Kirov. Her books been praised in Us Weekly and Cosmopolitan, and translated into thirteen languages. She writes regularly for publications on motherhood and complexities of family, and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay “Choose Me,” on motherhood after loss. She speaks and offers workshops, as well as school author visits. @ericaorloff

Perkins Dolen sq

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Wench. In 2017, HarperCollins released Wench as one of eight “Olive Titles,” limited edition modern classics. Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel Balm which was published by HarperCollins in 2015. In 2013, Dolen wrote the introduction to a special edition of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, published by Simon & Schuster, which became a New York Times bestseller. Dolen is a 2019 nominee for a United States Artists Fellowship. @dolen

Jon Pineda

Jon Pineda is the author of the novel Let’s No One Get Hurt, published by FSG and Picador. His poetry collection Little Anodynes received the 2016 Library of Virginia Literary Award. He teaches at the College of William and Mary. @scrimshawcinema 

Robbins David

David L. Robbins began writing fiction in 1997 and has published fourteen novels, with repeated visits to the New York Times bestsellers list. He is also an award-winning screenwriter, essayist, and playwright. David is the co-founder of James River Writers, co-founder of the Podium Foundation, which supports the practice of writing for Richmond area youth, and creator of The Mighty Pen Project, helping Richmond area veterans and first responders turn their service into written narratives. The Virginia Commission for the Arts named David one of the two Most Influential Literary Artists in the state for the last 50 years. 

Brian Rock

Brian Rock is a children’s author of seven picture books and three chapter books. He live in Richmond, VA with his wife, daughter and his many imaginary friends. @brianrockwrites

Jenn Stroud Rossmann

Jenn Stroud Rossmann is the author of the novel The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh (7.13 Books) and the essay series “An engineer reads a novel” at Public Books. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, Cheap Pop, jmww journal, Literary Orphans, and Jellyfish Review. She is also a professor of mechanical engineering at Lafayette College. @jenn_rossmann

Melissa Sinclair

Melissa Scott Sinclair is a fiction writer and an award-winning journalist. Her recent work has appeared in Richmond magazine and the anthology Life In 10 Minutes. She co-chaired The Writing Show in 2019. 

Kat Spears

Kat Spears is the author of three novels for young adults, with a fourth title, 87 Days, forthcoming from Wednesday Books. Her novels have been included on the recommended reading list for young adults by the American Library Association and as finalists for the Nutmeg and Virginia’s Reader’s Choice Awards and have received critical acclaim from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. Kat lives in Richmond, VA with her three children and serves as the volunteer bookseller at the annual JRW conference. @katwritesbooks

Kris Spisak

Kris Spisak wrote her first traditionally-published book, Get a Grip on your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused (Career Press, 2017), with a goal to help writers of all kinds sharpen their craft and empower their communications. A former college writing instructor, having taught at institutions including the University of Richmond and VCU, Kris now works as a ghostwriter and freelance editor, specializing in fiction. She is the board chair of James River Writers. @krisSpisak

Swenson Kristin sq

Kristin Swenson, Ph.D. is the award-winner screenwriter of Tell Mister Lincoln and author of nonfiction including the books Bible Bable (Bible 101, but fun), God of Earth (an ecological Christianity), and the forthcoming Horns of Moses (oddities of and in the Bible). She co-hosts The Writer’s Story  podcast. Works in progress include historical fiction and nonfiction at the intersection of sustainability, spirituality, and food including her prettygoodkitchen.com blog. She writes for HuffPo and reviews for Publishers Weekly. @Kristinswenson

Ramona Taylor

Ramona L. Taylor, Caring Field Films’ founder, has been writing for decades. In 2008, Camp DOA, her first produced screenplay premiered. Since 2008, several of projects have been recognized across the nation. Her screenplay, Blind Justice, was a winner in the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Competition. 

Chris Terry portrait

Chris L. Terry was born in 1979 to an African-American father and Irish-American mother. His satirical novel Black Card is set in Richmond, Virginia and will be published by Catapult in August 2019. Terry’s debut novel Zero Fade was on Best of 2013 lists by Kirkus Reviews and Slate.com and shortlisted for the American Library Association’s YALSA BFYA. He lived in Richmond during his high school and college years and now lives in Los Angeles. @chrislterry

Nafissa Thompson Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires earned a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeny’s “The Organist,” The Paris Review Daily, Dissent, Buzzfeed Books, The White Review, and other publications. Her first book, Heads of the Colored People, was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize; was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction; and has won the PEN Open Book Award, The Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award, and an Audie Award. She is also the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. @TisforThompson

Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie writes upmarket women’s fiction and is developing a series set in the fictional Village of Primm. Her debut novel, Holly Banks Full of Angst, publishes December 2019 with Lake Union Publishing. Julie founded the 85K Writing Challenge (85K90.com), providing writers with a supportive, enriching forum to pen 85,000 words in 90 days followed by 12 months of writing, editing, prepping to pub, and publishing support. Julie earned an editing certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School and enjoys testing her knowledge of the Chicago Manual of Style. Learn more at julievalerie.com. @Julie_Valerie

Padma Venkatraman portrait

American author Padma Venkatraman lived in five countries, explored rainforests, and was chief scientist on oceanographic vessels. Her novels, A Time to Dance, Island’s End and Climbing the Stairs, were released to multiple starred reviews and received several honors and awards. Her latest novel, The Bridge Home, a contender for the Global Read Aloud initiative, has received starred reviews in PW, Kirkus, Booklist and SLJ. A former keynote speaker, she is delighted to return to JRW. @padmatv

Speakers and Moderators

A. B. Westrick is the author of Brotherhood (Penguin Random House). She lives near Richmond, VA, teaches in Western Connecticut State University’s low-residency MFA program in writing, and blogs monthly about writing. Her most recent essays appear in the series “Every Atom: Reflections on Walt Whitman at 200” (North American Review 2019) and in the anthology Slavery’s Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race & Reconciliation (Rutgers University Press 2019). @ABWestrickabwestrick.com

Paige Wheeler

As the founder of Creative Media Agency, Inc., Paige Wheeler has merged her creativity and business savvy to create an agency that is dedicated to maximizing author potential. With over twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, Paige is propelled by an entrepreneurial spirit, ignited by the thrill of discovery. Through all of her professional endeavors, Paige has ventured to support her clients and their unique voices in an unprecedented way. In 2006, Paige also became a founding partner of Folio Literary Management, LLC. Through CMA, she is now able to manage the intellectual property rights of authors by selling both domestic and foreign rights, and co-agenting film and audio rights.

Paige is interested in all commercial fiction and upscale (think book club) fiction, as well as women’s fiction, romance (all types), mystery, thrillers, inspirational/Christian and psychological suspense. She enjoys both historical fiction as well as contemporary fiction. In nonfiction she’s looking for both narrative nonfiction and prescriptive nonfiction. She’s looking for books where the author has a huge platform and something new to say in a particular area. Some of the areas that she likes are lifestyle, relationship, parenting, business/entrepreneurship, food-subsistence-homesteading topics, popular/trendy reference projects and women’s issues.  cmalit.com @pwheeler_agent

Michael Williams

Michael Paul Williams is a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A graduate of Virginia Union University and Northwestern University, he won Virginia Press Association awards for column writing in 1992, 1994, 2007 and 2014. During 1999-2000, he was one of a dozen U.S. journalists awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. He was the 2010 recipient of the George Mason Award for outstanding contributions to Virginia journalism, given by the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.  He has also received a 2012 Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and the 2014 Will Rogers Humanitarian Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. @RTDMPW