Panelists

 

Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. In the past few years, she has written for a number of publications including McSweeneys, and for Esther’s Follies, Austin’s famous comedy revue. She has also been a commentator on Austin’s NPR station, KUT. Wendi is one of the creators of Mouthy Housewives and the much-lauded twitter feed @paulryangosling. She is also a writer for US Weekly magazine’s Fashion Police.

 

Robert Ashcroft is the author of the forthcoming 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.   

 

Chris Barton is the award-winning, best-selling author of several picture books including bestseller Shark Vs. Train, The Day-Glo Brothers, and Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List books The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, both illustrated by Don Tate. His new books include 88 Instruments (illus. by Louis Thomas), Mighty Truck: Muddymania! (illus. by Troy Cummings), Book or Bell? (illus. by Ashley Spires), and Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (illus. by Victo Ngai).

 

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author of six books, including Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence; The Big Rich; and Public Enemies. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for excellence in financial journalism.                                                        

 

Alexandra Burt is a freelance translator and the international bestselling author of Remember Mia and The Good Daughter. Born in Europe, she moved to Texas twenty years ago. While pursuing literary translations, she decided to tell her own stories. After years of writing classes and gluttonous reading, her short fiction appeared in fiction journals and literary reviews. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughter.                            

 

Chris Cander is the author of Whisper Hollow and 11 Stories and a storyteller with many outlets: writing novels, children's books, articles, essays, and screenplays, and teaching for Houston-based Writers in the Schools (WITS), which engages children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing. She well knows that the pen is mightier than the sword, but she's willing to wield one of those, too. A former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a second dan in taekwondo.   

 

Brian Contine is a Sales Manager for Penguin adult sales and sells to independent bookstores in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Prior to taking his position at Penguin, he worked at The University of Texas Press, where he spent time working in Sales, Marketing & Publicity, Editorial (acquisitions), and the Director’s Office. He began his bookselling career at BookPeople Bookstore, where he managed the floor for a number of years. He runs a public discussion of literature called The Voyage Out Book Group, which has been meeting the last Sunday of each month at BookPeople for the past eight years. He lives in Austin with his wife and two boys.   

 

Kate Winkler Dawson joined the University of Texas at Austin's School of Journalism as a senior lecturer in 2009. Before then, she was on the faculty of Fordham University's Marymount College for two years. A seasoned documentary producer, news writer and TV news producer, her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, United Press International in London, WCBS News, ABC News Radio, Fox News Channel, “PBS NewsHour” and “Nightline.” She's on the board of the Texas Center for Actual Innocence and lives in Austin, Texas with her family. Her debut book, Death in the Air, will be published in October.

 

Amanda Downum is the author of the Necromancer Chronicles—The Drowning City, The Bone Palace, and Kingdoms of Dust—published by Orbit Books, and Dreams of Shreds & Tatters, from Solaris. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and elsewhere. She lives in Austin, TX. Her day job sometimes involves dressing up as a giant worm.   

 

Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who dabbles in prose when she’s not buried in code. She resides in Austin, Texas where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required. Her debut novel The Prey of Gods is forthcoming from Harper Voyager this summer, and is set in a futuristic South Africa brimming with demigods, robots, and hallucinogenic hijinks.

 

Jennifer duBois is the author of the novels A Partial History of Lost Causes and Cartwheel, which was the winner of the Housatonic Book Award for fiction and was a finalist for a New York Public Library Young Lions Award. Jennifer earned an M.F.A. in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop before completing a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. She was the recipient of a 2013 Whiting Writer’s Award and a 2012 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 award. Her writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The Missouri Review, Salon, The Kenyon Review, Cosmopolitan, Narrative, ZYZZYVA, and she teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University.

 

Jodi Egerton is a wordslinger with Typewriter Rodeo, crafting custom poems on vintage typewriters. She's typed poems at museums including the Smithsonian, and at events ranging from the Texas Book Festival to Maker Faire Austin to the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. She's crafted poems for Luci Baines Johnson, actress Sharon Stone, and poet laureate Billy Collins. You can hear her and Typewriter Rodeo on the radio each week on the NPR show Texas Standard. Jodi co-wrote This Word Now, a creativity and writing craft book, with her husband Owen Egerton.

 

Novelist and filmmaker Owen Egerton is the author of several books including How Best to Avoid Dying, The Book of Harold, and the forthcoming Hollow. He’s the writer/director of the psychological horror film Follow and has written for Fox, Disney, and Warner Brothers. His essays have appeared in The Huffington Post and Salon. He cowrote the creative writing guide This Word Now with his wife, poet Jodi Egerton. Egerton also hosts NPR's The Write Up. He’s been voted Austin’s best writer by readers of the Austin Chronicle seven times.

 

Colleen Devine Ellis is publicity and communications manager at the University of Texas Press and a former 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.

 

Jill Alexander Essbaum is an American poet, writer, and professor. Her debut novel is Hausfrau. Her most recent poetry collections are the full-length manuscripts Harlot and Necropolis. Essbaum's poetry features puns, wordplay and dark humor, often mixed with religious and erotic imagery. She currently teaches at the University of California Riverside Palm Desert Graduate Center in the Masters of Creative Writing Graduate Program.

 

Jane Estes is a writer and artist whose work has been featured in newspapers and regional magazines, as well as online. She currently writes a monthly arts column for the Williamson County Sun. Through her many years of nonprofit work in the arts, Jane has built a reputation as an advocate for artists and art funding. She led a small group of volunteers in developing the Georgetown Art Center. She is a board member of the arts advocacy organization Texans for the Arts and the owner/director of Daisy Virtual Assistants where she helps writers and artists with the large and small tasks that keep creative people from creating.

 

Kendra Fortmeyer grew up in the lush woods of central North Carolina, surrounded by stacks of books from her local small-town library. Now a Pushcart Prize-winning fiction writer and dedicated youth librarian, Kendra’s work has been recognized by grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Dafna Zamarripa-Gensundheit Prize, and the Michener Center for Writers, and has appeared in One Story, The Toast, Black Warrior Review and elsewhere. She received her MFA in fiction from the New Writers Project at UT Austin, and her MLIS from the School of Information. She edits fiction for Broad!, a magazine publishing women and transgender writers, and is an attendee of 2016 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Her debut magical realist novel for young adults,The Hole in the Middle, is forthcoming from Little Brown in summer 2017.

                   

Walt Gragg is an attorney and former state prosecutor. He is a Vietnam veteran, who served at United States European Headquarters in Germany, where the idea for his debut novel The Red Line took shape. Being privy to the actual American plan for the conduct of the defense of Germany, and having participated in a number of war games while in Germany, gave Gragg the knowledge and experience to lend authenticity to many of the novel's events.

 

Charlotte Gullick is 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. The Shores of Tripoli is the first thrilling installment in his new nineteenth-century American naval fiction series.                                                 

 

Mary Jennings Hegar, one of Foreign Policy Magazine's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 and one of Newsweek's 125 Women of Impact of 2012, served on active duty as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri where she worked on the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the B-2 Stealth Bomber. She served three tours in Afghanistan flying Combat Search and Rescue as well as Medevac missions. On her third tour to Afghanistan on July 29th 2009, she was shot down on a Medevac mission and sustained wounds resulting in her being awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device (making her the sixth woman in history to receive the DFC). In 2012, Major Hegar filed suit against the Secretary of Defense asserting that the Combat Exclusion Policy was unconstitutional. In 2013, the Secretary of Defense repealed the Policy effective immediately. Today, MJ lives in Austin with her family and works as an Executive Coach and Consultant. Her new book SHOOT LIKE A GIRL will be published in March of 2017 by Penguin Berkley Caliber, and is in production for a film starring Angelina Jolie.

 

Bethany Hegedus’ books include the award-winning Grandfather Gandhi and the newly released Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, both co-written with Arun Gandhi, grandson to the Mahatma and illustrated by Evan Turk.  The Grandfather Gandhi books join Bethany’s novels Truth with a Capital T and Between us Baxters in gracefully handling race, class and diversity issues. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults, Bethany is prior editor of the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Bethany is the Owner and Creative Director of The Writing Barn, a writing retreat, workshop and event space in Austin, Texas.

 

Joe Jiménez is the author of The Possibilities of Mud and Bloodline, a young adult novel .  Jiménez is the recipient of the 2016 Letras Latinas/ Red Hen Press Poetry Prize and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. The short film “El Abuelo,” based on Jiménez’s poem, has been screened in Belgium, the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Argentina, Ireland, England, and the US. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, and is a member of the Macondo Workshops.

                   

Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, a memoir deemed “enthralling” by the New York Times and “compulsively readable” by Texas Monthly. The book made the Oprah.com Memoirs We Love list and took top honors at the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York. As a work in progress, Holy Ghost Girl took first place at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Donna’s work has appeared in several anthologies as well as the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, The Rumpus, Psychology Today and other publications. She is a Ragdale fellow and was recently awarded a Lucas Artist Residency for the 2017--2020 period. Donna is at work on a second memoir as well as a journalism project.

 

Varian Johnson is the author of four novels, including The Great Greene Heist, a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book of 2014. His novels for older readers include My Life as a Rhombus, named to the Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List and the New York Public Library “Stuff for the Teen Age” list, and Saving Maddie, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book. Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Varian now lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.

 

Christopher Locke is the author of Draw Like This! How Anyone Can See the World Like an Artist--and Capture It On Paper and a full-time artist and full-time art teacher. He uses large scale projects (like coloring books) to supplement his art lessons at the school, and also to supplement his public-school paycheck. His work has been featured in Details, Reason, The Week, PC World, Travel + Leisure and elsewhere.

 

Samantha Mabry grew up in Texas playing bass guitar along to vinyl records, writing fan letters to rock stars, and reading big, big books, and credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and her pets, including a cat named Mouse. She is the author of the novels A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World.

 

Alison Macor is a freelance writer and former film critic for The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. She holds a Ph.D. in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin and has taught film courses at the University of Texas, Austin Community College, and the Austin Museum of Art. She lives in Austin with her husband and son.

 

 

Karan Mahajan grew up in New Delhi, India and lives in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Family Planning, a finalist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and The Association of Small Bombs, which was shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Awards, won the the 2017 NYPL Young Lions Award, and was named one of the New York Times Book Review's "Ten Best Books of 2016." He was also selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker Online, n+1, and other venues.

               

Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son.  His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine.

 

Elena Meredith is a publicist at PR by the Book. Previously, she spent several years at a children’s educational publisher, Free Spirit Publishing, in Minneapolis. There, she planned and executed media campaigns for all of the company’s titles and managed 75+ authors working primarily in the areas of gifted education, special needs, and service learning.

 

Jill Meyers is the codirector of the independent press A Strange Object (which published the award-winning story collection, Three Scenarios In Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce) and the founder and organizer for Lit Crawl Austin, part of the Texas Book Festival. She is also the former editor of American Short Fiction, and she earned her MFA at the University of Houston.

 

Erin Pringle grew up in the Midwest and now lives Northwest. She's a recipient of a 2012 Artist Trust Fellowship, and the author of two story collections, The Floating Order and The Whole World at Once. She lives in Spokane with her partner, Heather, and son, Henry.

               

Mark Pryor is the author of the Hugo Marston novels The Bookseller, The Crypt Thief, The Blood Promise, The Button Man, The Reluctant Matador, and The Paris Librarian, as well as the novels Hollow Man and Dominic. He has also published the true-crime book As She Lay Sleeping. A native of Hertfordshire, England, he is an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children.

                                   

Gillian Redfearn has been in the book business since the ripe old age of 15-1/2 years old, actually has a degree in publishing from the University of Georgia, and has been a sales rep for the last 28 years after a very short stint as a publicist. She is a National Accounts Manager for Macmillan Publishing and works closely with the national retailer Books-A-Million. Her account base also includes etailers that are not Amazon, truckstops and Independent Booksellers in Utah. When not selling books and reading, she can be found teaching fitness or hanging on the football field with her one perfect son. (Currently reading The Kings of Big Spring by Bryan Mealer coming in February 2018.)

 

Sean Redmond is the founder and editor of fields magazine, an arts and culture journal launched in December 2013. He’s also a development specialist at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Mindy Reed is the founder and co-owner of The Authors Assistant and has over 20 years experience in editing and publishing both traditionally and independently. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Humanities from Southern Methodist University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Business from Kansas State University. She is a librarian and college instructor with membership in various professional writing organizations.

 

Nettie Reynolds is a playwright and marketing/branding consultant. She is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas. She has appeared in Frontera Fest Austin three times.  She has produced three variety shows at The North Door.  Reynolds has spoken on branding and marketing at many national conferences including Book Expo America, Social Venture Network Conference and Erma Bombeck Writers Conference. She is currently working on her memoir "It Wasn't That Funny When It Happened." Her website is www.nettiereynolds.net and her Twitter is @netreynolds.

 

Deanna Roy is the six-time USA Today bestselling author of women's fiction, college romance, and middle grade books under three pen names. She is a regular speaker and instructor for authors who choose the self-publishing route for their books.

 

Eric Silverstein is the founder of the Austin restaurant The Peached Tortilla. He’s a former litigator who decided to pursue a different career path and marry his passions of food and business. Eric was born in Tokyo, Japan, where he was heavily influenced by Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. At the age of ten, Eric moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he was introduced to traditional Southern cuisine. These divergent flavors and cuisines serve as the backdrop for The Peached Tortilla’s menu. In 2012, Restaurant Hospitality recognized Eric as one of the new “Stars of Street Food.” He is featured on the Chefsfeed Application for Austin, TX and was recently named one of the top 30 Up and Coming Chefs in America by Plate Magazine.

 

Suzy Spencer is the author of Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, a memoir about her journalistic research into Americans' sex practices. The book was featured on Katie Couric's talk show, Katie, and was a Publishers Weekly Editors' Pick. Suzy is also the author of four true crime books: Wasted, a New York Times bestseller and Violet Crown Book Award finalist; Wages of Sin; Breaking Point, the story of Andrea Yates, which was a Book of the Month Club, Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selection; and The Fortune Hunter.

 

Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz is an Austin-based entrepreneur, poet and advertising creative director and writer. In May 2016, her highly successful Kickstarter campaign funded the publishing of Haiku Austin, the inaugural title from Haiku Empire Press. During her tenure at GSD&M Advertising, this branding expert created award-winning integrated campaigns for national brands including John Deere, Zales, Hallmark and Southwest Airlines. Stankiewicz serves on the board of directors for The Writers’ League of Texas, and has previously spoken at The 3 Percent Conference, Listen to Your Mother/Austin and The One Page Salon.

 

Don Tate is the illustrator and/or author of more than fifty critically acclaimed trade and educational books for children. Some of the books he's illustrated include Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions; The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch; Hope's Gift; and The Cart That Carried Martin. He is the author of the upcoming Strong As Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became The Strongest Man on Earth; Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton; and It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started To Draw. Don is a two-time recipient of an Ezra Jack Keats Book Author Award, the winner of a 2016 Christopher Award, and a 2016 Texas Institute of Letters book awards recipient.

 

Brian Van Reet was born in Houston. Following the September 11 attacks, he left the University of Virginia and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a tank crewman. He served in Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. His writing has been recognized with awards and fellowships, including from the Michener Center for Writers, and has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Iowa Review, Fire and Forget, and many other publications. He has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters short story award. His first novel is Spoils.

 

Brian Yansky is the author of five published YA novels and over a dozen short stories for adults. His last three novels were published by Candlewick Press  (Utopia, Iowa, 2015; Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments, 2013; Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, 2010.) His stories have been published in Literal Latte, The Crescent Review and other literary magazines. He teaches writing at Austin Community College.

 

Jennifer Ziegler is a native Texan and a lover of family, history, barbecue, and loyal dogs and the author of several books for young people, including The Brewster Triplets series, Sass & Serendipity, and How Not to Be Popular. Jennifer lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, author Chris Barton, and their four children.