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

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 

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

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

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

Tiffany Jackson portrait

Tiffany D. Jackson is the critically acclaimed author of YA novels including the NAACP Image Award-nominated Allegedly, Monday’s Not Coming, a Walter Dean Myers Honored Book and Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner, and her newest work Let Me Hear A Rhyme. The Brooklyn native received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University, her master of arts in media studies from the New School, and has over a decade in TV/Film experience. @TiffDJack

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

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.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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 

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

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

Eric Smith

AGENT: Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from Philadelphia. An agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked with New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors, focusing on Young Adult books, genre-blending literary fiction, accessible sci-fi and fantasy, and an array of non-fiction from memoir to pop culture to cookbooks. In his author life, his latest novel, The Girl and the Grove, was published by Flux in 2018. His next novel, Don’t Read the Comments, will be published by Harlequin’s YA imprint, Inkyard Press, in 2020. You can learn more about his list and sales on his website, www.ericsmithrocks.com. @ericsmithrocks

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

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