Advisory Circle

Amy Berkower, Chairman of Writers House

Amy Berkower

Amy Berkower

Amy Berkower is Chairman of Writers House, one of the world’s largest literary agencies, in addition to serving as AROHO’s key NYC advisor. Ms. Berkower began her career as a literary agent in 1979 after graduating from University of California at Santa Cruz. She founded the now thriving children’s book department at Writers House and has developed a diverse client list, including bestselling authors Nora Roberts, Ken Follett, Erica Jong, Sharon Creech, Laurie Anderson, Barbara Delinsky, Ann Martin, and Andrew Clements.

Breena Clarke, Oprah Book Club author and Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers organizer

Breena Clarke

Breena Clarke

Breena Clarke, currently a resident of Jersey City, has written three historical novels. She has recently published Angels Make Their Hope Here, set in an imagined mixed-race community in 19th century New Jersey. Breena’s debut novel, River, Cross My Heart (1999) was an Oprah Book Club selection and her critically reviewed second novel, Stand The Storm, set in mid-19th century Washington, D.C., was chosen by the Washington Post Book Review as one of 100 best for 2008. Breena Clarke is a member of the fiction faculty of The Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program at The University of Southern Maine, and is an organizer of The Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers.

Breena blogs about the writing, editing and promoting process at: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/angelsmaketheirhopehere and www.BreenaClarke.com. Prior to publishing her novels, Breena administered the Editorial Diversity Program at Time Warner Inc. in New York City, where she mentored a number of young journalists and writers. 

Esther Cohen, author and Book Doctor

Esther Cohen, image by Jamie Clifford

Esther Cohen, image by Jamie Clifford

Esther Cohen is a published novelist and poet. She is a book doctor, teacher, cultural activist, and lover of words. Words and good stories have always been part of her work. She’s taught writing at The New School and Manhattanville College, been a book publisher in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, a gallery curator, a labor union activist, and a creative director. As Executive Director of Bread and Roses, a national union cultural program, she developed Unseenamerica, giving cameras and classes to thousands of people around the country to reveal their stories from the perspective of what they see, and in 2013 she started Unheardamerica, a companion program telling stories. She’s currently helping fast food workers to write down the stories of their lives.

She has written for Bob Marley, The New York Times, Jewish Currents Magazine, The Washington Post, and many other publications small and large. Esther has published five books including No Charge for Looking (Schocken Books), a novel about Jews and Arabs; Book Doctor (Counterpoint), a novel about writing books; God is a Tree (Pleasure Boat), poems about getting older; Don’t Mind Me and Other Jewish Lies with Roz Chast (Hyperion Books); and Unseenamerica: Photos and Stories of Workers (Harper/Collins). www.esthercohen.com.

Sun Cooper, Digital Waves Editor

Sun Cooper is the editor for digital Waves, the 2015 Blackbird Fellow of AROHO, and a regular contributor to poetry journals and various publishing, travel, and women’s magazines. She founded her literary studio in the attic of a horse barn while completing her B.A. in English Literature. After 19 years in the world of writing and publishing – and a few stints as a newspaper editor, director of a nonprofit for students, and volunteer with women’s safe houses and boys’ homes – she concentrates on creative writing and cross-media publications, advocacy for women’s stories, and raising a kind, well-traveled young man. Her work has been featured in Rolling StoneNational Geographic, American Cowboy, Severine, Southern Writers, UNUM and the Red with Love Campaign. A native Oklahoman, she migrates the West with her son and pup.

After some fire in my life, I found myself rising with the help of other women – women who supported my writing, a woman gifting me the Blackbird Fellowship, other women caring for my son so I could go to Abiquiu, acts which claimed a sisterhood for me in the world of arts.

As my own rising has met the rising of other women, I carry forward wisdom from the swan wing-wearing Ghigau: Be courageous and compassionate with your life and with each other. This is how we release our stories.–Sun Cooper

Melissa Coss Aquino, Ph.D., writer

Melissa Coss Aquino is a writer and an Assistant Professor of Language and Literature in the English department at Bronx Community College where she serves as the co-faculty advisor for Thesis, the Literary Journal of BCC. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at City College and holds a PhD in English at The CUNY Graduate Center. Her personal essay “Una Sinverguenza” (Shameless) was published in Callaloo, and her fairy tale “Pelo Bueno/Good Hair” was published in The Fairy Tale Review

Kristi Crutchfield Cox, poet and clinical therapist

Kristi Crutchfield Cox manages cattle and wheat fields with her husband, two dogs, and a cat who has stealth down to an art on the plains and rivers of Oklahoma. The first time she saw Maxine Hong Kingston’s face peering from the announcement of the 2015 AROHO Retreat, she felt a yearning to experience herself differently, to exhale among words and spinners of tales. Creating 5 large canvas boards, brushing paints into swirling waves, shaping canyon walls, sharing words chalked by poets, authors, visionaries and seekers, welcoming and encouraging handprints of kaleidoscope souls, she found the self she had lost. She developed an intense yearning to give back to AROHO; to be a wave for others to connect to their deepest self, manifested.

Kristi is a published poet, photo essayist in collaboration with Tonya Ko Hong’s Comfort Women featured in Women’s Voices Now, past guest syndicated columnist for the online Ardmoreite, print columnist for The Wilson Democrat and The Healdton Herald, and The Oklahoma Observer, and an alum of Community at Squaw Valley alum 2017. She is editing her first completed fiction novel.

A career as a clinical therapist and teacher at Southeastern Oklahoma State University formed Kristi’s conviction that diverse voices be empowered to author their stories. Kristi is part of the documented and archived protest movement, the TWU Preservation Society, formed in 1994 at Texas Woman’s University, and she learned from the leaders of this group who taught her and many others the power of the transformational power of combined voices, ideas, and visions. 

Judith Curr, President and Publisher of HarperOne

Judith Curr

Judith Curr

President and Publisher of HarperOne, Curr spent 19 years as Executive Vice President, Publisher, and founder of Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc. She is responsible for all the editorial and publishing activities of the imprint, which includes Washington Square Press, Strebor Books, Atria/Beyond Words, and Atria Books Español. Atria Books is the publishing home of many major bestselling authors including Vince Flynn, T.D. Jakes, Shirley MacLaine, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Maria Celeste Arraras, Daisy Martinez, Brad Thor, Zane, and Rhonda Byrne’s international bestselling phenomenon The Secret. Ms. Curr has led the Atria imprint since it was launched in 2002. Prior to Atria, Ms. Curr had been President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books since 1999.

Jane Friedman, Co-Founder of Open Road Media

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman, considered the queen of publishing in NYC, is the former chief executive of HarperCollins and co-founder of e-book publisher Open Road Media. Ms. Friedman is credited with inventing the author’s tour, now a staple of the industry, and she founded and became president of the first audio books division of a trade publisher. Ms. Friedman has served on the board of the Association of American Publishers, Literacy Partners, Yale University Press, and Poets & Writers, Inc. She has been recognized as a Publishers Weekly Person of the Year as well as in The Wall Street Journal’s 50 Women to Watch, Fast Company’s Fast 50, and  New York Magazine’s The Influentials.

Diane Gilliam, author and Waves Anthology Editor

Diane Gilliam is editor of the first AROHO WAVES Anthology, inspired by Virginia Woolf and featuring Maxine Hong Kingston. Diane grew up in Columbus, Ohio, daughter of parents who were part of the post-war Appalachian outmigration. She earned a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from Ohio State and an MFA from Warren Wilson. Gilliam is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, and the 6th $50,000 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation.

 

For every truth told, how many go unspoken? Muriel Rukeyser was on the shelf at my shoulder: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.” I wanted to make of these pages a book that would split open whatever parts of the world it might touch.–Diane Gilliam

Leigh Haber, Books Editor for O, The Oprah Magazine

Leigh Haber

Leigh Haber

Leigh Haber is the Books Editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a self-titled “book entrepreneur/editor/consultant.” Leigh began her career in book publishing as a news aide for The Washington Post’s Book World. After moving to NYC, she became a publicity director for Harcourt Brace and other publishers, but her first love was editing. She has worked as an editor with such writers as Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Laurie Garrett, Steve Martin, Terry Gross, Peter Jennings, Lou Reed, Patricia Bosworth, The Kitchen Sisters, Senator Chuck Schumer, Bill Maher, and more.  She served as Editor-at-Large for Chronicle Books and as consultant to the publishing-on-demand platform Blurb and has held editorial roles at Scribner, Hyperion, and Rodale. With Rodale, Leigh oversaw editing for books such as An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and New Rules by Bill Maher.

Meredith Hall, author of Without a Map

Meredith Hall, 3rd Gift of Freedom Winner, author of Without a Map

Meredith Hall, 3rd Gift of Freedom Winner, author of Without a Map

Meredith Hall, who graduated from Bowdoin College at the age of 44, is also the Third AROHO $50,000 Gift of Freedom recipient. With that endowment she wrote her first book, Without a Map. Her other honors include a Pushcart Prize and notable essay recognition in Best American Essays; she was also a finalist for the Rona Jaffe Award. Hall’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Southern Review, Five Points, Prairie Schooner, and several anthologies. She teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire and lives in Maine.

Joy Harris, President of Joy Harris Literary Agency

Joy Harris

Joy Harris

Joy Harris established The Joy Harris Literary Agency in 1990, selling all rights pertaining to works of fiction and non-fiction. Her interest is in working directly with writers to help guide their careers, negotiate on their behalf, and protect their work; she takes great pleasure in finding new authors and, of course, in reading. Ms. Harris has worked with numerous reputable authors, many of whom she has represented since their first published work. She is most interested in literary fiction and narrative non-fiction.

Mary Johnson, author of An Unquenchable Thirst

Mary Johnson, catalyst for AROHO, author of An Unquenchable Thirst

Mary Johnson, catalyst for AROHO, author of An Unquenchable Thirst

Mary Johnson became the catalyst for the formation of A Room of Her Own Foundation when she met Darlene Chandler Bassett during a retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. When Mary expressed her desire to write the story of her years serving as a nun with Mother Teresa, Darlene became Mary’s benefactor. Mary has since graduated from Goddard College in Vermont with her MFA in creative writing and serves on AROHO’s Advisory Council. Read more about Mary Johnson and her memoir An Unquenchable Thirst, named one of the best nonfiction books of 2011 by Kirkus Review. Mary has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, O the Oprah Magazine, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg View, Religion News Services, The Humanist Magazine, Soujourners, and National Public Radio. Mary’s work has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, Salon.com, Poets & Writers, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and National Public Radio. Mary is also a Humanist Celebrant and was voted New Hampshire’s best Wedding Officiant in 2015.

Barbara Jones, Executive Editor of Henry Holt and Company

Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones is Executive Editor of Henry Holt and Company. Before that she was Editorial Director of Hyperion Books and Voice. She will acquire fiction, memoir, and narrative nonfiction projects. She began her career in magazine publishing with editorial positions at Rodale, Inc., and Meredith Corporation. She started working in book publishing at Disney’s publishing division.

Bhanu Kapil, author & teacher

Bhanu Kapil is a multi-genre and multi-talented writer writing at the intersection of poetry, prose, and non-fiction. As a teacher, Bhanu focuses on generative, experimental writing practice, with a focus on returning to works or parts of works that were discarded, inert, or tossed aside. Bhanu has written The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: A Space for Monsters (Leon Works, 2006/Kelsey Street Press, 2021), humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street, 2009), Schizophrene (Nightboat Books, 2011), Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015) and How To Wash A Heart (Pavilion Poetry, 2020). Bhanu lived in Colorado for many years, where she taught through earth memory, trauma, healing and narrative at Naropa University. Currently, she teaches for the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College, but lives now in Cambridge, England, where she is an artist by-fellow at Churchill College. In 2020, Bhanu won a Cholmondeley Award from the UK Society of Authors and a Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry from Yale University in recognition of her body of work.

Tanya Ko Hong, poet

Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong is a poet, translator, and cultural-curator. Born and raised in Suk Su Dong, South Korea, Tanya immigrated to the US at eighteen. She holds an MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles, CA. She is a Ph.D candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Tanya is the author of Mother to Myself: A collection of poems in Korean (Prunsasang Press, 2015) Yellow Flowers on a Rainy Day (Oma Books, 2003), Mother’s Diary of Generation (Qumran, 2002), and Generation One Point Five (Esprit 1993). Tanya’s work appears in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Entropy, Cultural Weekly, The Feminist Press, Lunch Ticket, Great Weather for Media, Califragile, Choson Iibo, Korea Times, Korea Central Daily News, the Aeolian Harp Series Anthology and more. She received an honorable mention in 2015 from the Women’s National Book Association. In 2018, Tanya won the Yun Doon-ju Korean-American Literature Award, was a finalist in Frontier’s Chapbook Contest, and was Pushcart nominee. In 2015 and 2018, Tanya translated to Arthur Sze’s poems, becoming the first person to translate and publish his poems into Korean. She champions bilingual poetry and poets. Tanya lives in Palos Verdes with her husband and three children.

My art is a border, a threshold between English and Korean, voice and voiceless, secrets and truth, dark and light.  I came from South Korea, where as a woman I was taught to be submissive, silent.  Poetry was forbidden, but absolutely essential. Living in Los Angeles, I’ve learned what it means to use my voice. My work engages creatively and critically with the role of women and diaspora. My works says, I am here and won’t be silent. My warm hands melt the walls of marginalization. I stand at the shoreline, collect the shells of our untold stories. I am here to bring our sisters to the lighthouse. We will support and create our art in freedom.–Tanya Ko Hong (고현혜) 

Cassandra Lane, author and editor

Cassandra Lane is Managing Editor of L.A. Parent magazine. She received an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her stories have appeared in a variety of newspapers, magazines, anthologies and storytelling venues, including The Times-Picayune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Writer’s Resist, Ms. Aligned, Raising Mothers, Expressing Motherhood and the New York Times’ “Conception” series. Her book-length project explores the impact of her great-grandfather’s lynching and her “late” entry into motherhood. A Louisiana native, she lives with her family in Los Angeles.

 

I’m fascinated by old railroads, bridges and roads, and love to discover some long-forgotten mode of connecting people from one place to another. I live in a fast city—L.A.—but grew up in a tiny Louisiana town in a house that once had a dirt road running alongside it. I can still hear the dirt beneath our feet. Inside our house, women and girls connected all day long—through prayer, the preparation of food, the caring of children, through music and stories. It taught me the power of community, which I aim to carry wherever I am in the world.–Cassandra Lane

Dr. Kumkum Pareek Malik

Kumkum Pareek Malik

Dr. Kumkum Pareek Malik is a mother of two children and a Clinical Psychologist. Kumkum’s clinical work is based upon her belief that caring for others is real work. She believes that when a woman devotes her energies into caring for her children, or another significant other, she is participating in work that transcends ego, is powered by love, and is a major source of fulfillment as well as stress for her during her life journey. However, this work is invisible or minimized in society, leading to challenges to a woman’s physical and emotional well-being.

Born and raised in India until she was twenty-five, Kumkum studied at Delhi University and completed graduate studies at The Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology and at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a published author, sought-after speaker, and a valued leader of workshops that focus on a woman’s journey of Motherhood.

Kumkum describes her greatest strength as the humility she experiences when sitting with a woman who is seeking transformation. www.aboutmotherhood.com.

Barbara Marcus, President and Publisher of Random House Children's Books

Barbara Marcus

Barbara Marcus

Barbara Marcus, the children’s publishing veteran and genius who brought Harry Potter to America at a price everyone could afford, now serves as President and Publisher of Random House Children’s Books. Ms. Marcus acquired the seven Harry Potter books when she was an executive at Scholastic.

Ellen McLaughlin, award-winning author, playwright, and actor

Ellen McLaughlin

Ellen McLaughlin

Ellen McLaughlin is an award-winning writer and playwright whose plays have received numerous national and international productions, including Days and Nights Within, A Narrow Bed, Infinity’s House, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Tongue of a Bird, The Trojan Women, Helen, The Persians and Oedipus, and most recently, Septimus and Clarissa, a critically acclaimed adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. McLaughlin is also an actor. She is most well-known for having originated the part of the Angel in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Other favorite roles include The Homebody in Homebody/Kabul, Pirate Jenny in Threepenny Opera (Elliot Norton Award), Mrs. Alving in Ghosts and Agave in The Bacchae at LaMama. Her most recent publication, by T.C.G., is The Greek Plays.

Gail McMeekin, best-selling author specializing in creative women

Gail McMeekin

Gail McMeekin

Gail McMeekin began her career as a child and family therapist. In 1982 she began Guided Growth, where she specialized in career consulting and organizational workshops. Her first book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, sold out its first printing in only 8 weeks and has been a bestseller. In addition to radio and television appearances, her work has been featured in Redbook, The Boston Globe, Health, Investor’s Business Daily, Boston Business Journal, Woman’s Day, Shape, One Spirit Bookclub, First for Women.

Marianela Medrano, author and poet

Marianela Medrano

Marianela Medrano

Marianela Medrano was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and has lived in Connecticut since 1990. A poet and a writer of nonfiction and fiction, she holds a PhD in psychology, with especial focus on transpersonal psychology. Her literary work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines in Latin America, Europe and the United States, including: The Black Scholar 45.2: Dominican Black Studies (2015), Phati’tude (2012), Letralia (2011), Callaloo 23.3 (Summer 2000), Sisters of Caliban: Contemporary Women Poets of the Caribbean. New York: Azul Editions, 1997: 210-211, 384. Revista Surgai. Bilbao, España, diciembre 1995: 88-91, González-Gimbernart, Esther. “Coreografía de la imagen”. Letras femeninas. XXII: 1-2 (1996): 155, among others. In 2015 she did a TEDTALK at Ursuline College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pQeBYd2oJk. Medrano is also a blogger for the American Counseling Association (ACA): http://www.counseling.org/news/blog/authors/marianela-medrano The following are her individual publications: Oficio de Vivir (1986). Santo Domingo: Editorial Buho Los Alegres Ojos de la Tristeza (1987). Santo Domingo: Editorial Buho. Regando Esencias/ The Scent of Waiting (1998). New York: Alcance Curada de Espantos (2002). Madrid: Ediciones Torremozas. Diosas de la Yuca (2011). Madrid: Ediciones Torremozas Prietica (2013) Santo Domingo: Alfaguara

Sandi Mendelson, CEO of Hilsinger-Mendelson East

Sandi Mendelson

Sandi Mendelson

Sandi Mendelson has established Hilsinger-Mendelson as the nation’s preeminent literary public relations firm, as well as leading the successful expansion of its services to include image- and brand-building campaigns for diverse individuals and industries, as well as a digital media consulting division. From Hilsinger-Mendelson’s office in New York, which she launched in 1983, she recently guided campaigns for the #1 New York Times bestsellers Suzanne Somers’ Sexy Forever, Knockout, and Ageless, Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen, Donald Trump’s Think Like a Champion, Larry King’s My Remarkable Journey and Truth Be Told, among others.

Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus, teacher, playwright, and creative consultant

Marsha Pincus

Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus is a post mid-life, post-career woman writing for her life. After more than three decades of teaching in Philadelphia public schools and at the University of Pennsylvania, Marsha retired in 2011 to write full time. AROHO changed her life and gave her the confidence and community to flourish as a writer and mentor for other creative women. Since 2009, she has teamed up with AROHO alumna Liz Bedell to create “Many Women, Many Stories” and “A Room of Our Own Making” – writing retreats for women teachers. She has also endowed the “Touching Lives Fellowship” for a public school teacher to attend the Ghost Ranch retreats. Her one-woman show “Chalkdust,” about her experiences as a young teacher in inner city Philadelphia, was performed in Santa Fe in 2015. From that show grew “Teaching Out Loud,” a project where teachers learn to write and perform their stories as a way of bringing their voices into the public dialogue about education. After decades of helping young people develop their writing ( four of her high school students had their original plays produced off-Broadway ) Marsha is offering her creative consulting and development editing knowledge to other post-career women, looking to take themselves seriously as writers. In 2016, she bought the house and guest house in downtown Santa Fe, where she had stayed when writing “Chalkdust.” Wanting to create for other women what she’d created for herself in that space, Marsha has turned her guest house into the “Two Ravens Studio Retreat for Creative Women.” Here women can come and have a “room of her own” to develop new projects, work on ones in need of completion within a supportive, nurturing environment. You can read more about Marsha, her writing, and her projects for women at www.marshapincus.com

Ramona Reeves, writer and editor

Ramona Reeves attended her first retreat hosted by A Room of Her Own in 2005. Originally from Alabama, she has a B.A. in history from Huntingdon College, an M.A. in English lit from Bowling Green State University, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from New Mexico State University. She lived in New York City for a decade where she worked in editorial and production roles for several magazines before moving into IT, technical writing, and project management roles for newspaper and magazine clients. She currently works as a technical writer and editor. Her creative work has appeared in literary journals and magazines. She’s also taught creative writing courses and workshops in university and nonprofit settings.

 

I am here because I want to be a part of the conversation about elevating women’s voices. A conversation that begins with a digital presence, opens to a printed presence and burgeons once again to a physical presence.  Years ago, AROHO handed me a mirror and a compass, which turned out to be two sides of the same thing. I’m here hoping the work we do helps other women emerge and keep going as they find themselves and their creative voices.–Ramona Reeves

Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Marilynne Robinson, credit Nancy Crompton

Marilynne Robinson, credit Nancy Crompton

Marilynne Robinson is an acclaimed essayist and novelist. During her writing career Robinson has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, the 2012 National Humanities Medal, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. In 2016 Robinson was named in Timemagazine’s list of 100 most influential people. Robinson is best known for her novels Housekeeping (1980) and Gilead (2004). Her novels are noted for their thematic depiction of both rural life and faith.[5] The subjects of her essays have spanned numerous topics, including the relationship between religion and science, nuclear pollution, John Calvin, and contemporary American politics.

Tess Sanchez, Executive Vice President of Fox Broadcasting Company

Tess Sanchez

Tess Sanchez

Tess Sanchez is the Executive Vice President of Fox Broadcasting Company. Sanchez has also worked as an independent casting director and as Vice President of Talent and Casting for the WB (later, the CW). While with the WB, she worked with writers Ryan Murphy, Greg Berlanti, and Kevin Williamson, helping to discover and develop talent for such shows as Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Popular, Smallville, One Tree Hill, and Supernatural.

Jane Startz, founder of Jane Startz Productions, Inc., and co-founder of Scholastic Productions

Jane Startz

Jane Startz

Jane Startz, a film producer specializing in family entertainment, formed her own independent production company, Jane Startz Productions, Inc., in 1997. Ms. Startz is the co-founder and was Executive Vice President of Scholastic Productions, the film and television division of Scholastic Inc., the largest publisher of materials for young people in the English-speaking world. Ms. Startz initiated SPI’s feature film effort and produced its first two motion pictures: The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), based on the contemporary classic by Lynne Reid Banks, and The Baby-Sitters Club (1995), based on the phenomenally popular book series by Ann M. Martin. Ms. Startz also launched Scholastic Productions in the television series arena with the long running comedy series, Charles in Charge (1984), as well as the hugely popular children’s series, The Magic School Bus (1994). Jane Startz Productions has continued Ms. Startz’s reputation as one of the most respected producers of children’s book adaptations. So far, JSP has produced two feature films, Disney’s Tuck Everlasting (2002) and Miramax’s Ella Enchanted (2004), both based on classic young adult novels. JSP is in development on many projects with some of the world’s leading children’s novelists. Ms. Startz has received over fifty major awards in the category of children’s and family programming. These include 2 Golden Globe Nominations, 6 Emmys, 10 Emmy Nominations, 2 Ace Awards, Parents’ Choice Awards, and an Action for Children’s Television Award. Jane Startz lives in New York City with her husband and their three children.

Shana Stein, producer

Shana Stein

Shana Stein

Shana Stein is a veteran of the film and television industry, having produced independent films, hit television shows, and music videos. In television, Stein executive produces the hit series “Power” for Starz. Prior to “Power,” she served as co-executive producer on three seasons of the CBS drama “Unforgettable” and four seasons of the CW drama “90210.” She served as co-producer on the USA Network original series “Monk,” which she worked on for seven seasons. In independent films, Stein produced Hell Ride, which premiered at Sundance and was executive produced and presented by Quentin Tarantino. Stein earlier produced Restaurant starring Oscar-winner Adrien Brody and Lauryn Hill. Restaurant premiered at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and was distributed globally. Stein earned her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA from The American Film Institute and teaches a course on film and television producing at UCLA.

Darlene Taylor, author

Darlene R. Taylor has had a long career as a senior aide to the U.S. Congress and an advisor to arts, cultural and development nonprofits, and Fortune 100 corporations. She has served as president of Preservation Action, a nonprofit grassroots voice of local and state historic preservationists. Darlene is Chair of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, a 24-year-old nonprofit dedicated to preserving the voice of Black writers. As a writer and preservationist, she aims to protect and share the stories of American life and history through its people, buildings, landscapes, and literary art. The literary journal Blackberry: a magazine published her short story fiction, and she is a 2014 fellow of Callaloo in fiction. A graduate of American University, she has lived in Cairo, Geneva, and New York. Currently, she resides in Washington, DC and lovingly cares for an 1860 waterman’s house on the historic eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Everyone has a story and every one has a purpose. In my writing, I (re) imagine the lives of people silenced in history. 

I believe in the power of books to inspire. Reading feeds my creativity and sense of purpose. I share that love with others through circles that bring writers and readers together. My father built me book shelves in my room, and he and my mom filled those shelves with books. Those books lead me to places where I could feel I belong.  So, I share my love of literature with others in my community and donate books to students at under-resourced public school libraries. I hope to lift the voice of other creators and inspire.–Darlene Taylor

Liza Wachter, co-founder of Rabineau Wachter Literary Agency

Liza Wachter co-founded the Rabineau Wachter Literary Agency (now RWSG Literary Agency) with Sylvie Rabineau in 2000. RWSG is a Los Angeles literary agency that represents exceptional writers of books, film and television. In addition to representing the dramatic rights to books, RWSG maintains a top tier roster of film and television writers. Prior to RWSG, Liza was an editor at Birch Lane Press. Before that, Liza worked as an attorney at the New York firm of Shearman and Sterling. Currently, she serves on the Board of The Paris Review. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Michel Wing, author and organizer

Michel Wing & Rocky

Michel Wing is a writer of poetry and creative nonfiction. They are the author of Body on the Wall (Saddle Road Press) and editor of Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence (WolfSinger Publications), both released in 2014 under the name of Michelle Wing. During years spent in California, Michel founded “Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence,” a program at the YWCA, and launched a successful reading series, “Books on Stage,” both in Sonoma County. They have a fifteen-year background in journalism, working on community newspapers and as a freelance magazine writer. In January 2016, Michel and their wife relocated to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Michel began photographing all the desert plants they couldn’t identify. Michel is assisted in all endeavors by their service dog, Rocky. (For any of you who know Ripley, please don’t worry. She is still with Michel; she is simply retired now, at age 14, and learning to take it easy.) Michel blogs about life with a service dog at www.caninebodhisattva.com.