ERIC WEINER, keynote speaker, is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. His books include The Geography of Bliss and The Geography of Genius, as well as the spiritual memoir Man Seeks God and, his latest title, The Socrates Express. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Eric is a former foreign correspondent for NPR, and reporter for The New York Times. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, BBC Travel, and AFAR, among other publications. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
KATYA BURESH (book publicity) serves as the Marketing and Publishing Assistant at Avid Reader Press. She previously worked as a publicist for the Santa Fe Writers Project and as an editorial and publicity intern with Mason Jar Press.
A graduate of Towson University, her poetry and literary criticism has been published in venues such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB, Ligeia Magazine, G*MOB, and other publications. She lives in Maryland.
ELIZABETH EVITTS DICKINSON (freelance writing; curiosity and discovery in nonfiction) is an award-winning writer whose work encompasses cultural criticism, narrative nonfiction, investigative journalism, short fiction, and memoir. Known for astute research coupled with incisive, literary prose, Elizabeth’s work has been widely published in places like The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, The Washington Post Magazine, The Southern Review, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Her nonfiction has been optioned for film and television, and has earned recognition in The Best American Essays anthology, among many accolades. Her fiction won the Independent Artist Award from The Maryland State Arts Council twice. She was a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow and in 2023, Elizabeth became the first writer to win the prestigious Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize from the Baker Artist Awards. This prize is awarded to those who exemplify mastery of craft, depth of artistic exploration, and a unique vision.
Elizabeth is currently working on a book about Claire McCardell, the trailblazing midcentury fashion designer whose revolutionary clothes helped women live independent lives; the book is forthcoming in 2025 from Simon & Schuster.
CARLA DU PREE (literary citizenship and service) has been the executive director of CityLit Project since the fall of 2016. She is an author, a national and state arts ambassador and a literary arts consultant. Carla was recently selected as the Maryland State Department of Education's Arts Leader Spotlight in celebration of the Year of the Woman.
Carla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s Degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of several fellowships for her work in fiction, including Hedgebrook, Rhode Island Colony Writers of Color, Poetry Foundation through Furious Flower Poetry Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been awarded a Rubys Grant in Literary Arts, and a Maryland Individual Artist Award in Fiction.
Carla serves on several boards, all affiliated with the arts, primarily to stay abreast of the vibrant arts scene and to press the idea of inclusivity, equity and access at the leadership level.
WALLACE LANE (Baltimore / creativity) is a poet, writer, author and creative director from Baltimore, MD. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore in May 2017. His debut collection of poetry entitled Jordan Year was also released in May 2017. Wallace works as an English and Creative Writing Instructor with Baltimore City Public Schools. His writing has been published in several print and online publications and forthcoming in several upcoming anthologies. Wallace Lane is also part of The Baltimore Banner’s Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region.
NGUYÊN KHÔI NGUYÊN (web comics) is a multi-disciplinary artist and educator. He is the cartoonist of the Ignatz nominated comic series, "The Gulf." Nguyên’s work has been featured in The New Yorker, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and Medium. Nguyên most recently completed “In Our Own Time,” a six-part webcomic for McSweeney’s that charts the ups and downs of his and his wife’s fertility journey. As a 2021 Rubys Artist Grantee, he is working on a graphic novel version of "In Our Own Time." He previously served as the senior video producer/editor at Science Magazine. As a digital media lecturer at Loyola University Maryland, Nguyên teaches video, graphics, animation, comics, and more.
Nguyên was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and raised in Cape Coral, Florida. He studied visual art at The Cooper Union, music and integrated arts at Bard College, and earned a master’s degree in jazz piano at the University of Maryland. Nguyên lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, son, and terrier.
MORGAN ORMOND (they/them) (podcasting) is a writer, game designer, and podcast producer. They are the writer of the sci-fi drama podcast Earth Break, starring Jenny Slate, which was the first podcast to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2019. They're the creator of Earth Break's affiliate game, Escape the Invasion, a sci-fi murder mystery set in a bunker community of apocalypse survivors. Morgan went on to produce Shoe Bones: Bone-chilling Horror on a Shoe-string Budget (ongoing), a horror anthology podcast, with a group of writers to tackle each episode. They are currently co-writing a comedy drama podcast, Broken-Hearted Monsters, with their partner, Shane Ormond, for the Rusty Quill, which is set to release by early 2024. They are also the host and producer of The Vampire Journals, a podcast that analyzes every episode of the CW supernatural teen drama, The Vampire Diaries. They have written short-form comics for the Cork Horror Comic, an annual horror anthology magazine, and they are currently contracted with Insight Editions to write a choose-your-own-adventure coloring book. Morgan's day job is writing and producing interactive learning modules for businesses.
JAKE RICAFRENTE (literary service and citizenship) (he/him) is a management consultant, poet, and board director at Kundiman, a national organization dedicated to nurturing writers and readers of Asian American literature. He has been published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, South Carolina Review, Sewanee Theological Review, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from the AT&T Foundation, Rotary Foundation, University of the Philippines, and Kundiman, he holds an M.F.A. in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from Texas Tech University.
Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, ATHENA DIXON (nonfiction; podcasting) is a poet, essayist, and editor. She is the author of the essay collection The Loneliness Files (Tin House 2023), The Incredible Shrinking Woman (Split/Lip Press 2020) and No God In This Room (Winner of the Intersectional Midwest Chapbook Contest, Argus House Press 2018). Her work also appears in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books) and Getting to the Truth: The Practice and Craft of Creative Nonfiction (Hippocampus Books 2021). She was the Founder of Linden Avenue Literary Journal, which published from 2012-2021. Athena is a former co-host of the New Books in Poetry Podcast via the New Books Network.
ELIZABETH DeMEO (publishing and editing) is an editor at Tin House, where she acquires fiction and literary nonfiction. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, where she was managing editor of the Arkansas International literary magazine and director of the Arkansas Writers in the Schools program. Books she's edited at Tin House have been named best books of the year by the New Yorker and NPR; reviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among others; and short- or long-listed for numerous awards including the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, Aspen Words Literary Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, and New American Voices Award. Originally from New Hampshire, she currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
WAYNE JOHNSON (screenwriting), born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, is the President of Lafayette Pictures Production Company and Chief Content Officer of TMT Digital Network. He has spent the last 24 years as a screenwriter and producer in the television and film industry.
Mr. Johnson is an optioned screenwriter who wrote an original DC Comics / Warner Brothers Picture's Green Lantern script. He continues to concentrate his creative energies into writing and producing screenplays for development and production for the small and big screens.
As founder of Lafayette Pictures production company, Mr. Johnson has since been involved with the development of several film projects, including the independent film, Unraveling the Urban Pedigree and the award-winning docudrama Chasing Greatness for Making Others Believe Entertainment.
KERRY GRAHAM (Baltimore / creativity) is a Baltimore-based writer and former English teacher. She is a Creative-in-Residence at the Baltimore Banner, and her essays and vignettes have appeared in dozens of publications. HuffPost published her essay about being childfree by choice in three languages. Dan Rather said of Kerry’s writing, “in a sea of doom scrolling, a beautiful island of hope.”
LESLIE HARRISON'S (poetry) second book, The Book of Endings (U of Akron, 2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first book, Displacement (HarperCollins 2009) won the Bakeless Prize in poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her third book, Reck, was published in 2023 from the University of Akron Press.
She was born in Germany and raised mostly in New Hampshire. You can find recent or forthcoming poems in journals including The Kenyon Review, New England Review, West Branch, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere.
A former photojournalist, book designer and publishing manager, Harrison was awarded a fellowship in literature from The National Endowment for the Arts in 2011. She has also held the Philip Roth residency in poetry at Bucknell University. She lives in Baltimore and teaches at Towson University.
MORGAN LaROCCA (they/she/them) (book publicity) is the publicist at Milkweed Editions. She also is the 2023 poetry publishing mentor for Get the Word Out: A publicity incubator for debut authors.
Prior to joining Milkweed in 2022 they worked as a freelance publicist, Publicity Associate at Graywolf Press and served as Marketing and Publicity intern at Tin House Books. They are a graduate of Towson University and a proud Baltimorean.
DANIEL TORDAY (fiction) is the author of The 12th Commandment, The Last Flight of Poxl West, and Boomer1. A two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for fiction and the Sami Rohr Choice Prize, Torday has published stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and n+1, and his work has been honored by the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. Torday is a professor of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College.
JEANNIE VANASCO (curiosity and discovery in nonfiction) is the author of the memoirs Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl—which was named a New York Times Editors' Choice and a best book of 2019 by TIME, Esquire, Kirkus, among others—and The Glass Eye, which Poets & Writers called one of the five best literary nonfiction debuts of 2017. Her third book, A Silent Treatment, is forthcoming.
Her essays have appeared in the Believer, the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. They cover subjects as wide-ranging as artificial eyes in fiction, artists named after dead siblings, nineteenth-century house-moving, and the history of erasure literature.
Born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio, she lives in Baltimore and is an associate professor of English at Towson University.
MAURICIO VELÁZQUEZ DE LEÓN (editing and publishing) is founder and publisher of duopress, since 2007 a publisher primarily of children's and gift books, which was recently acquired by Sourcebooks. With Velázquez de León continuing as editorial director, the duopress imprint of Sourcebooks will publish 15 titles per year. Velázquez de León was also editorial director for Buenas Letras, the Rosen Publishing Group's Spanish-language imprint.
Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Velázquez de León has since 2004 been a contributing writer for Saveur Magazine, and he has written for Lonely Planet, also as a contributing writer.
EMILY WILLIAMSON (literary agent), is the founder and principle agent at Williamson Literary. She represents a variety of projects in non-fiction and fiction. A native of New Jersey, Emily graduated from American University (BA, anthropology) in 1997 and Johns Hopkins University (MA, writing) in 2012. She began her editing career in 2011 with Chrysalis Editorial in Washington, DC. In 2016 she founded Williamson Literary, driven by the desire to help great writers achieve their publishing goals.
As a writer, she understands the investment of time and heart it takes to follow this challenging path. It is the core of Williamson Literary—to support the careers of dedicated writers who deserve to see their ideas and imaginings realized. Williamson Literary is also about building relationships: agent-author, agent-publisher, author-publisher.
Emily spent 13 years as an archaeologist traveling all over the United States and abroad in search of many things…sometimes finding nothing. It is this varied, nomadic past that has influenced her own writing and her particular interests as an agent.
Special Critique Faculty:
GEOFF BECKER is the author of four books of fiction, most recently Hot Springs, a novel (Tin House), and Black Elvis (U. of Georgia Press), a collection which won the 2009 Flannery O'Connor Prize for Short Fiction. He is a professor at Towson University. (Fiction Quick Critiques)
MICHAEL DOWNS is the author most recently of The Strange and True Tale of Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist, his debut novel from Acre Books. Earlier works include The Greatest Show: Stories (LSU Press), inspired by the true story of the Hartford, Conn., circus fire, and House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City (University of Nebraska Press), named a finalist in memoir for the Connecticut Book Award. His work has won a literary fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the River Teeth Prize for Literary Nonfiction. In 2021-22 he served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, affiliated with Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. He lives in Baltimore and directs the professional writing graduate program at Towson University. (Fiction and Nonfiction Quick Critiques)
DIANA FRIEDMAN's features, essays and fiction have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Flyway:Journal of Writing and Environment, New Letters, Washington Independent Review of Books, and Bethesda Magazine. She received the Alexander Patterson Cappon prize for best short story at New Letters and has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council. She currently facilitates writing retreats at Zigbone Farm and Retreat Center, and is the founder and director of Pyrenean Creative Writing Retreats. As co-editor of Ole Blue Claw: Tales from Maryland's Crustier Side, she is seeking short stories written by Maryland residents. (Nonfiction Quick Critiques)
KATHRYN RHETT is the author most recently of a poetry collection, Immortal Village, and an essay collection, Souvenir, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. She has also published a memoir, Near Breathing (Duquesne University Press, selected by Lee Gutkind for the Emerging Writers of Creative Nonfiction series) and edited the anthology Survival Stories: Memoirs of Crisis (Doubleday/Anchor). A 2007 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellow in Nonfiction, she has published essays in Creative Nonfiction, Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New York Times Sunday Magazine and elsewhere. She writes screenplays with her sister, film editor and writer Cecily Rhett, and their TV movie, "Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver," premiered on the Hallmark channel in January 2020. She lives in Harrisburg and is a professor at Gettysburg College. (Poetry and Nonfiction Quick Critiques)
At Johns Hopkins, KAREN HOUPPERT is the program director and a senior lecturer for the MA in Writing, MA in Science Writing, and MA in Teaching Writing programs.
Houppert is author of three nonfiction books, Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice, which investigates the country’s broken public defender system, Home Fires Burning, which chronicles a year in the life of military wives with husbands deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and The Curse, which examines the culture of concealment surrounding menstruation.
Her reporting has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, Newsday, The Nation, Salon, Mother Jones, Ms, and Baltimore City Paper, among other publications. (Nonfiction Quick Critiques)
Barbara Westwood Diehl is senior editor of The Baltimore Review. Her poems and stories have been accepted for publication in a variety of journals including Atticus Review, Five South, Free State Review, Gargoyle, The Inflectionist Review, Raleigh Review, Ponder, Allium, Potomac Review (Best of the 50), The Shore, Superstition Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Fractured Lit, South Florida Poetry Journal, and Split Rock Review. Recent acceptances include Bacopa Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Poetry South. (Poetry Quick Critiques)