Featured Panelists

Robert Ashcroft is the author of the science fiction novel, The Megarothke. He has worked as a State Department contractor and was recently mobilized to serve abroad with the U.S. Army Reserve. A lifelong fan of science fiction, Ashcroft spent nearly a decade after college staying up late to write novels, at one point going so far as to quit his job and rent an apartment in Mexico City. For nearly a year, he wrote, crafted stories, and visited subjects of interest such as the canals of Xochimilco and the shrine of the Santa Muerte in Tepíto.  The study of foreign cultures, languages and belief systems has been a lifelong priority and his main goal for the foreseeable future is to be able to travel and encounter interesting people and ideas.  

Juli Berwald is the author of Spineless, a memoir/nonfiction hybrid about jellyfish. She received her PhD in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications including The New York Times, Nature, National Geographic, and Slate.

Sarah Bird is the author of ten novels. Her latest, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, is a tribute to Cathy/Cathay Williams, the only woman to serve with the fabled Buffalo Soldiers. Her previous novel, Above the East China Sea, was long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award; was an ALEX Award nominee; winner of the Texas Philosophical Society Literary Award; a Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice; a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year; a Tucson Book Festival Great Books for Book Club selection; and a Marie Claire Best Summer Reads. Sarah was a B&N’s Discover Great Writers selection; a New York Public Libraries Books to Remember; a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship honoree; a two-time winner of the TIL’s Best Fiction award; and an Austin Libraries Illumine Award for Excellence in Fiction winner. She was voted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame has been awarded the Texas Writer of the Year by the Texas Book Festival. In 2017, she won The Austin Chronicle’s Best Fiction Writer award for the sixth time and received the Texas Institute of Letters Lifetime Achievement Award.

Christopher Brown is the author of Tropic of Kansas and the forthcoming dystopian legal thriller Rule of Capture. He was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including MIT Technology Review’s Twelve Tomorrows, The Baffler, and Reckoning. He also practices technology law.

Patrice Caldwell is a graduate of Wellesley College and the founder & fundraising chair of People of Color in Publishing–a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting, empowering, and uplifting racially and ethnically marginalized members of the book publishing industry. Born and raised in Texas, Patrice was a children’s book editor before shifting to being a literary agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, where she represents everything from chapter books to adult. In 2018, she was named a Publishers Weekly Star Watch honoree and featured on The Writer’s Digest podcast and Bustle’s inaugural “Lit List” as one of ten women changing the book world. Her anthology, A Phoenix First Must Burn–16 stories of Black girl magic, resistance, and hope–is out March 2020

D Chang is an editor/founder of the science fiction magazine Space Squid. He's also a designer, web marketing consultant, and game writer. His short fiction has appeared in the Avast Ye Airships anthology, the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and in videogames you’ve probably never played. He also creates book cover designs and helps businesses get more velocity out of their websites.

Samantha M. Clark is the author of the middle-grade novel The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She has lived in a land of rainforests, the land of the Queen, two Caribbean islands, and now lives with her husband and crazy dog in Austin, Texas (the land of the weird). Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

May Cobb is the author of the novel Big Woods, selected as the Winner in the 2015 Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest, the Winner for the 2016 NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza, and now publishing this July. May earned her MA in Literature from San Francisco State University and has spent the past several years researching and writing a book about the late jazz great, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (forthcoming). Her essays and interviews have appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly.

Carolyn Cohagan is the author of the Time Zero trilogy,  winner of the 2017 Readers Favorite Award and the 2017 International Book Award; and the novel The Lost Children, which became part of the Scholastic Book Club in 2011 and was nominated for a 2014 Massachusetts Children's Book Award. She is the founder of Girls With Pens, a creative writing organization dedicated to fostering the individual voices and offbeat imaginations of girls ages 9-15.

Christie Craig, a New York Times Bestseller, is an Alabama native, a multi-published writer, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. She currently hangs her hat in Texas and when she's not writing her romantic suspense novels or her humorous romantic suspense novels, she's working on her heart tugging young adult novels under the pen name C.C. Hunter.

Mark Dery is a cultural critic, essayist, and the author of four books, most recently the biography, Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. He has taught journalism at NYU and “dark aesthetics” at the Yale School of Art, been a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow at UC Irvine and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” and has written about pop culture, media, and American mythologies (and pathologies) in publications too numerous to name.

Jennifer Donaldson is the author of the novels Lies You Never Told Me and I Know You Remember, due out in October. She graduated from Reed College and received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Nicky Drayden is the author of the novel Prey of Gods, set in a futuristic South Africa brimming with demigods, robots, and hallucinogenic hijinks, and the novel Temper. She is a Systems Analyst who dabbles in prose when she’s not buried in code.

Owen Egerton is an author, performer, and filmmaker. He is the writer/director of the films Mercy Black, Blood Fest, and Follow.  He’s the author of several books including The Book of Harold, the Illegitimate Son of God, Everyone Says That at the End of the World, the short story collection How Best to Avoid Dying, and Hollow which NPR listed as one of the best books of 2017. Egerton is also the host of public radio’s The Write Up and the reading series One Page Salon. Egerton and his wife, poet Jodi Egerton, wrote the writing craft book This Word Now.

Heather Harper Ellett was born and raised in in the Piney Woods of East Texas and is a graduate of SMU and a therapist in private practice. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Her debut novel, AIN'T NOBODY NOBODY, will be published in Fall 2019 by Polis Books.

Colleen Devine Ellis is a book publicist at Devine Literary and the former publicity and communications manager at the University of Texas Press and publicity manager for Barnes & Noble. Most recently, she worked on the books How to Be a Texan by Andrea Valdez and Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chestnut by Kristen Hersh.

Bridget Farr is the author of the forthcoming novel Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home. She’s been an elementary and middle school teacher her entire career, most recently in the sixth-grade humanities program at an urban public school. She has a master’s from the University of Texas at Austin and plans to become an elementary school principal. Bridget is also an actor and producer and has starred in award-winning plays, produced a popular theater series, and written a short film.

Fernando A. Flores was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and raised in the U.S. His debut novel is Tears of the Trufflepig. He is also the author of the story collection Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas. Fernando was the recipient of a 2014 literary award from the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications since 2006, and was featured as one of Ten Writers to Watch in the October 2015 issue of Texas Monthly.

Kendra Fortmeyer grew up in the lush woods of North Carolina, surrounded by piles of books. She got the idea for her magical realist YA debut novel, Hole In the Middle, after a mediocre date, and also after her left lung unexpectedly collapsed. She received a 2017 Pushcart Prize for her story, “Things I Know to Be True,” which was originally published in One Story and reprinted in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She’s a recipient of grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Michener Center for Writers, Arvon Foundation and others, and a graduate of the 2016 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers workshop with an MFA from the New Writers Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Her short fiction has appeared in The Toast, Lightspeed, Apex, and elsewhere.

Josh Frank is a Writer, Producer, Director and Composer. His latest book is Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made. He has penned numerous plays (including an authorized adaptation of Werner Hergoz's 'Stroszek'), and screenplays (including an adaptation of Mark Vonnegut's The Eden Express), and musicals (including The Jonathan Richman Musical). He is also the author of Fool The World, the definitive oral history of the band the Pixies and In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Lost History of Peter Ivers and New Wave Theater.

Maria Frazer is a middle grade author from San Antonio, TX. She currently live in Austin, were she works at a high school. When she isn’t writing, she loves playing board games and swimming. Maria is represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

Jason Gallaher is the author of the picture book Whobert Whover, Owl Detective and the forthcoming Porcupine Cupid. He fell in love with detective work while watching episodes of Blue’s Clues. He solved the mystery of what to do when he grew up and became an author when he learned being a merman is impossible (at least for now).

Meg Gardiner is the author of fourteen thrillers. Her latest novel, Into the Black Nowhere, features rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix. Don Winslow calls it "A terrifying and brilliant read." It's the sequel to UNSUB, which is nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and is in development as a TV series by CBS.

Amy Gentry is the author of Good as Gone, a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” and Entertainment Weekly “Must List” Pick, and the novel Last Woman Standing. She is also a book reviewer and essayist whose work has appeared in numerous outlets, including the Chicago TribuneSalonThe Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Austin Chronicle. Amy has a doctorate in English.

Charlotte Gullick is the author of the novel By Way of Water and Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College. She holds BA in Literature/Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz  and a MA in English/Creative Writing from UC Davis as well as a MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her awards include a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship for Fiction, a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, and residencies at  MacDowell and Ragdale.

James L. Haley is an award-winning historian and author of numerous books on Texas and Western history, as well as several works of fiction, including The Buffalo War, which has been in print for thirty-nine years and remains the definitive history of the final war of the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne Indians against Anglo domination; the multiple award winning biography Sam Houston; and Wolf: The Lives of Jack London; among others. Haley’s work has garnered many awards, including two Spur Awards (2002 and 2011) from the Western Writers of America. A Darker Sea is the second thrilling installment in his new nineteenth-century American naval fiction series.

Kari Anne Holt is the author of Gnome-a-geddon, which received a starred review from Booklist, and Red Moon Rising, which Booklist said “will lasso readers and have them hoping for a sequel.” She has also written several middle grade novels in verse including Rhyme Schemer and Brains for Lunch, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was highlighted on the Texas Library Association’s Annotated Lone Star Reading List, and Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, a nominee for the Connecticut Library Association Nutmeg Book Award and the Maud Hart Lovelace Award. Kari has recently contributed to the anthology, Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters To Their Teen Selves.

Isobella Jade is the author of Almost 5’4”, a modeling memoir first written on the display computers at the Apple Store in SoHo when she was without her own computer at the time. Ms. Jade followed Almost 5’4 with her ongoing graphic novel digital series Model Life, a lifestyle podcast and the YA novel Careful – which is about a teenager who dies in a texting and driving crash. Her story of striving to beat the odds has been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, Publishers Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Glamour, Seventeen, Sirius Radio, BBC and others globally.

Jack Kaulfus is the author of the short story collection Tomorrow or Forever. Their work has been published in A Cappella Zoo, Heavy Feather Review, and Off the Rocks, among other journals. Jack teaches high school English and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University in San Marcos. When all the grading is finished, Jack plays in the queer Americana band Brand New Key and tries to avoid injury on the hiking trails around central Texas.

Anne R. Keene is the author of the only known account of the Navy baseball team manned by some of the most famous major-league fighter pilots in U.S. history, including Ted Williams. The Cloudbuster Nine was recommended by Newsday magazine as one of the “Top 12 Reads for Baseball Season” and was a finalist for the Casey Award for the “Best Baseball Book of 2018.” Keene’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Dallas Morning News and many sports magazines. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism, Keene focuses on narrative nonfiction and was honored with the Writers' League of Texas nonfiction award for this book.

Levis Keltner is the author of the novel Into that Good Night. He is the editor-in-chief at Newfound and teaches writing at Texas State University.

Sara Kocek is the author of Promise Me Something. She received her BA in English from Yale University and her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, where she taught fiction and poetry to undergraduates. A freelance editor and college essay coach, Sara has served as the Program Director at the Writers’ League of Texas, a literary nonprofit. She is also the founder of Yellow Bird Editors, a team of freelance editors and writing coaches based in Austin, Texas.

Stina Leicht writes science fiction and fantasy. Her next novel, Persephone Station, a Feminist Space Opera, will be published by Saga Press in 2020. She was a finalist for the Crawford Award and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2011 and 2012. She also has four Fantasy novels: Cold Iron, Blackthorne, Of Blood and Honey, And Blue Skies from Pain.

Alison Macor is the author of Rewrite Man: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren (2017, UT Press) and Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas (UT Press), which won the 2012 Peter C. Rollins Book of the Year Award from the Southwest Pop­ular/American Culture Association. She holds a PhD in film history and taught for more than 20 years at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University, Austin Community College, and the Austin Museum of Art. Alison is also a freelance writer and ghostwriter.

Rebecca Markovits has been the co-editor of the literary magazine American Short Fiction since 2012. Before joining ASF, Markovits was the executive editor and co-author of The Fearless Critic: A Guide to Austin’s Restaurants. She has been a regular book reviewer for the Austin-American Statesman, and her essays and reviews have appeared, among other places, in the Texas Observer and Texas Monthly.

Jill Meyers is the cofounder of A Strange Object, an independent literary publisher based in Austin. Before her current position, Jill edited a literary magazine called American Short Fiction. She is also one of the codirectors of Lit Crawl Austin.

S.C. Perkins is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel. Murder Once Removed was the winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. She resides in Houston and, when she’s not writing or working at her day job, she’s likely outside in the sun, on the beach, or riding horses.


Lara Prescott's debut novel, The Secrets We Kept, is forthcoming (September 2019) from Alfred A. Knopf (US) and Hutchinson (UK); it will be translated into 28 languages and adapted for film by The Ink Factory and Marc Platt Productions. Lara received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. She studied political science at American University in Washington, D.C. and international development in Namibia and South Africa. Prior to writing fiction, Lara worked as a political campaign consultant. Lara's writing has appeared in The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, and Crazyhorse.

Leila Sales is an author, editor, and book developer. She's written six young adult and middle grade novels, including This Song Will Save Your Life, and, most recently, If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, optioned for stage and screen, and received numerous starred reviews. Leila spent the past eleven years at Penguin Random House, where she edited bestselling and award-winning books by authors including Viola Davis, Max Brallier, Gayle Forman, Sally Green, Greg Pizzoli, and more. She is now a book developer working with authors, editors, agents, and other creators to turn their story visions into reality.


Patrice Sarath is the author of the fantasy books The Sisters Mederos (Book I of the Tales of Port Saint Frey), the series Books of the Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) and the romance The Unexpected Miss Bennet. She is also author of numerous short stories that have appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Weird Tales, Black Gate, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and many others. Her short story “A Prayer for Captain La Hire” was included in Year’s Best Fantasy of 2003 compiled by David Hartwell and Katherine Cramer. Her story “Pigs and Feaches,” originally published in Apex Digest, was reprinted in 2013 in Best Tales of the Apocalypse by Permuted Press.

Chaitali Sen is a writer and educator based in Austin, Texas. Her debut novel, The Pathless Sky, was published by Europa Editions in 2015. Short stories, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Brooklyn Magazine, Catapult, Chicago Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Ecotone, LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, New England Review, New Ohio Review, and many other publications. She is a graduate of the Hunter College MFA program in Fiction and founder of the interview series, Borderless: Conversations in Art, Action, and Justice.  She is at work on her second novel.

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro is the author of the memoir Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Believer, McSweeneys, and more.  She has an MFA from Columbia and has been awarded fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

ire’ne lara silva is the author of three poetry collections, CUICACALLI / House of Song, furia and Blood Sugar Canto, which were both finalists for the International Latino Book Award in Poetry; an e-chapbook, Enduring Azucares, as well as a short story collection, flesh to bone, which won the Premio Aztlán. She and poet Dan Vera are also the co-editors of Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands, a collection of poetry and essays. ire’ne is the recipient of the final Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Award, the Fiction Finalist for AROHO’s 2013 Gift of Freedom Award, and the 2008 recipient of the Gloria Anzaldúa Milagro Award.

Brittani Sonnenberg is the author of the novel Home Leave. She was raised across three continents and has worked as a journalist in Germany, China, and throughout Southeast Asia. A graduate of Harvard, she received her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan. Her fiction has been published in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008 as well as Ploughshares, Short Fiction, and Asymptote. Her nonfiction has appeared in Time, Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NPR Berlin.

Mary Helen Specht's first novel, Migratory Animals, was an editors' choice by the New York Times Book Review and the Austin American-Statesmen, an IndieNext Pick, and an Apple iBook selection, Migratory Animals also won the Texas Institute of Letters Best First Fiction Award and the Writers' League of Texas work of Best Fiction. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including: The New York TimesThe Colorado ReviewPrairie Schooner; Michigan Quarterly ReviewThe Southwest ReviewFlorida Review; Southwestern American LiteratureWorld Literature TodayBlue Mesa; Hunger MountainBookslutThe Texas Observer; and Night Train, where she won the Richard Yates Short Story Award. A past Fulbright Scholar to Nigeria and Dobie-Paisano Writing Fellow, Specht currently teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin. Texas Monthly has named her one of "Ten Writers to Watch."

Rachel Starnes is the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir The War at Home: A Wife's Search for Peace and Other Missions Impossible. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from California State University, Fresno and her BA from the University of Texas. Her essays have appeared in The Colorado Review, Front Porch Journal, and O Magazine. Born in Austin, Texas, she has lived in Scotland, Texas, Saudi Arabia, Florida, California, and Nevada.

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novels Chasing the Sun and Everyone Knows You Go Home. She was born in Lima, Peru and came to the U.S. at age four. As a child, she spent time in South Florida, Central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas before her family set roots in Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her work has appeared in Latina Magazine, Bustle, Catapult, Writer’s Digest, The Austin American-Statesman, and NBCLatino.com.

Brian Van Reet is the author of Spoils, an award-winning novel that was named one of the best books of 2017 by the Guardian, Military Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others. Following the September 11 attacks, he left the University of Virginia, where he was an Echols Scholar, and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a tank crewman. He was deployed to Baghdad under stop-loss orders and received a Bronze Star for valor. After an honorable discharge he completed degrees in English at the University of Missouri and an M.F.A. at the Michener Center for Writers.
Scott Von Doviak's twenty-year pop culture writing career includes a stint as a film critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and an ongoing role as television reviewer for The Onion's AV Club. He is the author of three nonfiction books including the acclaimed Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema. Charlesgate Confidential is his first novel.
Jessica Wilbanks is the author of When I Spoke in Tongues, a memoir about faith and its loss. She has received a Pushcart Prize as well as creative nonfiction awards from Ninth Letter, Sycamore Review, Redivider, and Ruminate magazine. Her essays have received Notable Mentions in Best American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading, and she was selected as a finalist for the PEN annual Literary Award in Journalism. Jessica received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Houston, where she served as nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast.

Barbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels when not ranting on her blog. She has been a finalist in the Foreword Review Book of the Year Awards, the Goldie Awards, and the Lambda Literary Awards. The Pyramid Waltz was one of Tor.com's Reviewer's Choice books of 2012, made BookRiot’s 100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors, and won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy. A Kingdom Lost won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance, while Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory won the 2016 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance.