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CHECK OUT OUR 2020 SPEAKERS!
James River Writers is pleased to announce the accomplished slate of presenters for our 18th Annual James River Writers Conference. Join us online!
Marc Aronson has worked as an editor, publisher and author of books for younger readers for over 30 years. He earned his Ph.D in American History at NYU, won the first Robert Sibert medal from ALA for youth nonfiction, and trains youth librarians in the Rutgers graduate MI program. He is the co-author of Poisoned Water, on the Flint water crisis, and the co-editor of 1789, a new nonfiction anthology on the revolutionary year. His history of Manhattan: A Place for Us, will be published in fall 2021.
Heather Bell Adams
Heather Bell Adams is the author of the novels, Maranatha Road and The Good Luck Stone. Her short fiction, which has won the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and James Still Fiction Prize, appears in The Thomas Wolfe Review, Atticus Review, The Petigru Review, Pisgah Review, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and other journals. A lawyer by day, she also volunteers on the Raleigh Review fiction staff.
AGENT –After a brief career in the fashion industry, Lauren Bieker made her move to publishing as an intern for agent Paige Wheeler. She moved to FinePrint to assist with day-to-day administrative tasks, but is now developing her client list and is open to queries. Lauren is looking for commercial and upmarket women’s fiction and some well-crafted and differentiated YA novels. She is also open to select science fiction, as well as high concept and literary fiction works. While primarily interested in fiction, she will consider nonfiction proposals. She is looking for #ownvoices stories, Feminist lit/#MeToo stories, and LGBTQIA+ authors in both fiction and nonfiction. Her goal is to “hold the mic” for authors to tell their stories and be a helpful support system.
AGENT – Michael Carr is a literary agent with a background in editing and writing, working from a home base in San Francisco. He represents writers in a variety of genres, with a special emphasis on historical fiction, mystery and suspense, and science fiction and fantasy. Michael works carefully with clients to produce the cleanest, most professional manuscripts and enjoys teaching at workshops and conferences to help develop emerging writers. He speaks Spanish and conversational French and before joining Veritas had professions as diverse as programming simulators for nuclear submarines and owning an inn in Vermont.
Karen A. Chase
Karen A. Chase is an independent author and a Daughter of the American Revolution with the Commonwealth Chapter in Virginia. Her first novel, Carrying Independence, book one of the 3-part Founding-Documents Series, is historical fiction about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was awarded #12 on Shelf Unbound’s 100 Best Indie Books of 2019. Her first book, Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, garnered seven independent publishing awards. Karen was a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year, with residency at the Library of Virginia. Originally from Canada, Karen is now chasing histories from Richmond, VA.
Victoria Christopher Murray
A native New Yorker, Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of 30+ novels with Simon and Schuster. In addition, she is a five-time NAACP Image Award nominee for Outstanding Literature. Winner for Stand Your Ground.
Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Athena Dixon is a poet, essayist, and editor. She is the author of The Incredible Shrinking Woman and No God In This Room. Athena is the founder of Linden Avenue Literary Journal and a co-host of the “New Books in Poetry” Podcast.
AGENT – April Eberhardt is a self-described “literary change agent” and author advocate passionate about helping authors be published in the most satisfying way. After 25 years as a corporate strategist and management consultant, April joined the literary world, where she saw strategic opportunity to play a role in the changing world of publishing. She advises and assists authors as they choose the best pathway to publication, and serves as a consultant to publishing startups serving indie authors. She represents a diverse group of clients in the U.S. and abroad, and speaks at conferences worldwide. April serves on the Advisory Council for The American Library in Paris, and is a reader for The Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris.
Lisa Ellison is an editor, coach, writer, and speaker with an Ed.S in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a background in mindfulness. She has spent the last two decades helping clients and students turn difficult experiences into art. She currently teaches courses in memoir, creative nonfiction, and mindful writing. Her life story and essays have appeared on NPR’s With Good Reason and in Hippocampus Literary Magazine, Kenyon Review Online, Huffington Post, and The Guardian, among others.
AGENT – Over the course of her twenty-five year career as an acquiring editor at Simon & Schuster and the Editor-in-Chief of Plume, Cherise Fisher has edited and published several bestselling and award-winning authors. As an agent, she is interested in working with novelists committed to perfecting their craft as storytellers and non-fiction writers who are experts on a variety of topics such as personal development, health and sexuality, racial identity, spirituality, and pop culture.
Paula Michelle Gillison
Paula Michelle Gillison is a Richmond performance artist & writer. Her work has been published by The Billie Holiday Theater & YHMAB. She’s a member of The Writer’s Den, Tuesday Verses, Slam Richmond and teaches at “Life in Ten Minutes.” Her blog “For Lack Of Better Words” is read internationally. The author of “Under” and “Parables & The Gold Plated Things,” she is currently completing a book of short stories & a self-help guide entitled So Shall You Slay.
Valley Haggard is a writer, teacher, mother, coffee drinker and the founder of “Life in 10 Minutes” journal, podcast and press. She co-edited Nine Lives: a Life in 10 Minutes Anthology and wrote The Halfway House for Writers and Surrender Your Weapons: Writing to Heal and feels like each class she teaches turns into a stunning work of performance art. You can find her writing and writing from people around the world at lifein10minutes.com.
Beverly Jenkins is the nation’s premier writer of African-American historical romance fiction, and specializes in 19th century African-American life. Ms. Jenkins is the 2018 Michigan Library Association Author of the Year, a USATODAY best-selling author, an NAACP Image Award nominee, and the 2017 recipient of Romance Writers of America’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. She has over forty- five published novels, and has been named to many Best Book of the Year lists, including NPR and the American Library Association. She speaks widely on romance, writing, and African-American history.
Heath Hardage Lee is an independent historian, biographer and curator. Potomac Books published Heath’s prize-winning book, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause, in 2014. Heath’s narrative nonfiction book entitled The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019. Heath’s exhibition “The League of Wives: Vietnam POW MIA Advocates & Allies” is currently traveling through 2021 to museum venues all over the United States. Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine has optioned The League of Wives for a feature film.
Sarah Glenn Marsh
Sarah Glenn Marsh is the author of YA novels including the Reign of the Fallen series and picture books Ninita’s Big World, Alice Across America, and many more. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their zoo of four rescued sighthounds, two birds, and many fish. When she’s not writing, she’s in the pottery studio, volunteering with greyhound rescue, and raising awareness about Type 1 diabetes.
Meg Medina is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of numerous works for children and teens, including Merci Suárez Changes Gears, which won the 2019 John D. Newbery medal. She serves on the board of advisors for both the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and We Need Diverse Books, and she is on the faculty of Hamline University’s MFA program in Children’s Literature. A proud member and supporter of James River Writers, she lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Sharvette Mitchell works with entrepreneurs to help them build their online platforms to generate more revenue with an amazing online brand. She does this through skilled web design services, personal branding, social media coaching, and conferences. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and hosts a weekly talk radio show The Sharvette Mitchell Radio Show. Sharvette is the visionary author of the new book collaboration, PROPEL – The Essential Handbook for Emerging Women in Business & Leadership. In addition, she is the author of the upcoming anthology, POUR (September 2020) as well as co-author of two books, Mogul In the Making and Get It Done! Design The Business of Your Dreams.
Porsha Olayiwola is from the future! Black, poet, queer-dyke, hip-hop feminist, womanist: Porsha is a native of Chicago who now resides in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization. Olayiwola is an MFA Candidate at Emerson College. Porsha Olayiwola is the author of I Shimmer Sometimes, Too published by Button Poetry and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston.
Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2002 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard and The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent title is Prairie Lotus, a historical fiction middle-grade novel. She serves on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books, the Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators, and the Rabbit hOle national children’s literature museum project.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Hank Phillippi Ryan is an on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 36 EMMYs. Nationally bestselling author of 11 mysteries, Ryan has five Agathas, three Anthonys, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Hank’s 2018 Trust Me is an Agatha nominee. Her newest book, The Murder List, is an Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. The Library Journal starred review says, “Masterly plotted—with a twisted ending—a riveting, character-driven story.” Coming: The First to Lie.
AGENT – Katharine Sands has worked with a varied list of notable authors, who publish a diverse array of books including fiction, memoir and non-fiction. Katharine prefers books that have a clear benefit for readers’ lives in categories of food, travel, lifestyle, home arts, beauty, wisdom, relationships, parenting, and fresh looks, which might be at issues, life challenges or popular culture. When reading fiction she wants to be compelled and propelled by urgent storytelling, and hooked by characters. For memoir, femoir, and himoir, she likes to be transported to a world rarely or newly observed. In addition, Katharine is the agent provocateur of Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, a collection of pitching wisdom from leading literary agents.
AGENT – Eric Smith is an author and literary agent from Philadelphia with a love for young adult books, literary fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and non-fiction. An agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on award-winning and New York Times bestselling books. A frequent blogger, his ramblings about books and the publishing industry regularly appear on Book Riot, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. His latest novel in his author life, Don’t Read the Comments, published with Inkyard Press in January 2020.
Kris Spisak wrote her first book, Get a Grip on your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused, with a goal to help writers of all kinds sharpen their craft and empower their communications. Her “Words You Should Know” podcast and “Grammartopia” events follow the same mission, as does her latest book, The Novel Editing Workbook: 105 Tricks and Tips for Revising Your Fiction Manuscript. A former college writing instructor, having taught at institutions including the University of Richmond and VCU, Kris is now an active speaker and freelance editor. She is a member of James River Writers, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
AGENT – Saba Sulaiman holds a BA from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. She joined Talcott Notch after working at Sourcebooks, where she worked primarily on their romance line. She’s looking primarily for Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction and Young Adult, and is particularly (although not exclusively) interested in contemporary realistic stories. She’s also open to romance, literary, upmarket, and commercial fiction, tightly plotted, character-driven psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries ala Agatha Christie, and memoir.
Author of 19 books of fiction, poetry, memoir, biography, and translation of Nuer song, Guggenheim fellow Terese Svoboda published Great American Desert (stories) in 2019, and Theatrix: Play Poems is forthcoming from Anhinga Press in 2021. “Terese Svoboda is one of those writers you would be tempted to read regardless of the setting or the period or the plot or even the genre.”–Bloomsbury Review.
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York-based journalist and author of the international bestseller Sarong Party Girls, named one of Amazon “Best Books of the Month” for July 2016. She also wrote A Tiger in the Kitchen, which New York magazine called a “Top 25 Must-Read Food Memoirs of All Time,” and was editor of the anthology Singapore Noir. She was a staff writer at the Wall Street Journal, In Style magazine and the Baltimore Sun.
ReShonda Tate Billingsley
ReShonda Tate Billingsley is the national bestselling author of 50 books. She writes both adult and teen fiction, as well as nonfiction. Her sophomore novel, Let the Church Say Amen, was made into a film directed by actress Regina King, and produced by TD Jakes and Queen Latifah. Her book, The Secret She Kept, was also made into a movie. A well-respected journalist for more than two decades, ReShonda is a highly sought-after motivational speaker and award-winning poet. She is the recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. The graduate of The University of Texas at Austin is the mother of three.
Ran Walker is the author of twenty books. He is the winner of the 2019 Indie Author of the Year and 2019 Black Caucus American Library Association Fiction Ebook Awards. He teaches creative writing at Hampton University and lives with his wife and daughter in Virginia.