Speakers at the 2013 Conference

Ian Belknap -- Founder, WRITE CLUB

ibelknapIan Belknap is a Chicago writer/performer and founder/curator/host of WRITE CLUB, the world’s greatest competitive readings series, now happening in 6 North American cities with more on the way. Ian’s work has been featured in the live lit shows This Much is True, Tuesday Funk, Reading Under the Influence, Here’s the Story, and Essay Fiesta, among many others. Ian has appeared as a guest lecturer at Columbia College Chicago and teaches regularly at StoryStudio Chicago.

Shari A. Brady -- Author

SONY DSCShari A. Brady is the author of Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye, which recently won first place in the Independent Publisher’s Book Award contest.  She’s a native Chicagoan and graduate of Loyola University and the University of Chicago’s Creative Writing program. She lives in suburban Chicago with her son and daughter, and their shelter dog, Betty Queen Elizabeth. Her next novel, All the World’s a Stage is scheduled for release in 2014.

Wesley Chu -- Author

Wesley-ChuWesley Chu is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the author of The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao (Oct 2013), published by Angry Robot Books. He lives in Chicago with his wife Paula and their Airedale Terrier, Eva. He likes cake.

Jennifer Ann Coffeen -- Author

jacoffeenJennifer Ann Coffeen is a historical romance writer, Live Lit performer, and teacher at StoryStudio Chicago. Her most recent romance, A Deal with Lord Devlin was released August 2013 from The Wild Rose Press. She is also the author of Lover’s Gamble, the novel Priceless Deception, and Five Golden Suitors which spent two weeks in the top 100 regency romances on Amazon.

Andy Crestodina -- Content Marketing Expert

acrestodinaAndy Crestodina is a co-founder of Orbit Media, an award winning, 30-person web design company here in Chicago. Over the last 12 years, Andy has provided web strategy and marketing advice to more than 1000 businesses. In addition, Andy teaches marketing. He’s written something like 170 articles on topics like email marketing, search optimization, social media, Analytics and content strategy. He is also the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.

Noah Cruickshank -- Writer

ncruickshankNoah Cruickshank is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The A.V. Club, TimeOut Chicago, and Paste Magazine. He is also a Board Member of the Chicago Writers Conference. A fiction writer as well, he is currently polishing up his latest novel.

Shannon Downey -- Online Marketing Expert

sdowneyShannon Downey launched Pivotal in 2007 in response to the need for a responsible, transparent, forward thinking and agile marketing company. With an instinct for people and a passion for what’s new and next she has built a career innovating new techniques to communicate in an increasingly complex and ever expanding universe. She has logged hundreds of hours training agencies, corporations, small businesses and nonprofits alike in digital and social media marketing. Shannon is adjunct faculty at DePaul University, board member for the Firebelly Foundation, advisory board member for Geek Bar Chicago, world traveler, whiskey lover and burgeoning ukulele player.

Danielle Egan-Miller -- Literary Agent

dEgan-MillerDanielle Egan-Miller is president of Browne & Miller Literary Associates, Chicago’s premiere independent full-service literary agency. In the past decade, Danielle has sold hundreds of books with a heavy emphasis on commercial fiction and her roster includes several New York Times bestselling authors and numerous prize- and award-winning writers. Upcoming Browne & Miller notable releases include Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas (St. Martin’s Press) and Tandem by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte/Random House).

Robert K. Elder -- Author

relderRobert K. Elder (@robertkelder) is an author, editor-in-chief of Sun-Times Media local and founder of Odd Hours Media. Studs Terkel called him “a journalist in the noblest tradition” in his introduction to Elder’s book, Last Words of the Executed. In 2009, he launched ItWasOverWhen.com: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends and ItWasLoveWhen.com. Both sites went viral and resulted in a two-book deal. Elder’s sixth book, released this summer, is The Best Film You’ve Never Seen.

James Finn Garner -- Author

jfinngarnerJames Finn Garner is best known for Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, which was an international best-seller translated into more than 20 languages. It spawned two best-selling sequels, a computer game, calendars, and in 2012 an indirect sequel, Tea Party Fairy Tales (Amazon Singles). A former columnist for Chicago Magazine, he’s been published in Playboy, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune, among  others. During the season, he runs the fan-driven baseball doggerel site, Bardball.com. His most recent novel is the clown noir thriller, Honk Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko, Private Clown Mystery, which was named 2011 Book of the Year (Nontraditional Fiction) by the Chicago Writers Association.

Samantha Hoffman -- Author

shoffmanSamantha Hoffman is a runner, a reader, film and theatre buff, tech geek, social media queen, personal assistant, chef, wine enthusiast, volunteer, lover of life and…oh yes, an award-winning writer. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul, The Corner Magazine in London and numerous other print and online publications. She also writes a popular blog about life in Chicago, at www.samanthahoffman.com. What More Could You Wish For, is her first novel.

Glenn Jeffers -- Writer

gjeffersGlenn Jeffers is an award-winning reporter and writer. Currently, he serves as editor of Kellogg, the alumni magazine for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has held staff positions at the Chicago Tribune, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Ebony magazine, and has written for RedEye, The Red Bulletin, N’Digo, The Washington Post and Black Enterprise. He produced his first feature-length play, “The Marker,” last year. He makes a mean mac and cheese.

Rick Kogan -- Award-Winning Journalist

rkoganBorn and raised and still living in Chicago, Rick Kogan has worked for the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, where he is currently a senior writer and columnist. Named Chicago’s Best Reporter in 1999 and inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2003, he was the creator/host of WGN radio’s Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan and has been host of The Afternoon Shift on WBEZ. Kogan is the author of a dozen books, including Everybody Pays: Two Men, One Murder and the Price of Truth (with Maurice Possley), America’s Mom: The Life, Lesson and Legacy of Ann Landers, A Chicago Tavern, the history of the Billy Goat, and Sidewalks I and Sidewalks II, collections of his columns embellished by the work of photographer Charles Osgood.

Mary Robinette Kowal -- Author

mrkowalMary Robinette Kowal is the author of Shades of Milk and HoneyGlamour in Glass, and Without a Summer (Tor, 2013). In 2008 she received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2011, her short story “For Want of a Nail” won the Hugo Award for Short Story. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

Lisa Laureta -- Comedy Writer and Performer

llauretaLisa Laureta is a Chicago-based comic who engages audiences by mixing characters with story-telling and classic stand up techniques. She’s performed at Zanies, Chicago Underground Comedy, The Lincoln Lodge, and Laugh Factory. A graduate of The Second City and iO training centers, Lisa’s performed sketch and improv in both renowned theaters. She utilizes her humor by writing webisodes, original pilots, blogs, spec scripts, musicals, and solo sketches. She one day hopes to own a penguin.

Heather R. Liberman -- Arts Attorney

hlibermanHeather R. Liberman is an associate at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler, LLC where she represents transactional and litigation clients in the areas of copyright, trademark and entertainment law. Heather has also worked clearing rights for television, film, and audio releases. Heather recently finished writing two chapters and editing the upcoming publication, Music Law for the General Practitioner. Heather is the Chair of the Chicago Bar Association Media and Entertainment Committee and a member of Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

Amanda Luedeke -- Literary Agent

aluedekeAmanda Luedeke is an agent with MacGregor Literary. One of her defining skills is her understanding of marketing and promotions. Before agenting, Amanda worked as a social media marketer and copywriter with Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore, and other major national clients. Amanda represents CBA and general market literary fiction, romance (all kinds except erotica), women’s fiction, YA, science fiction, fantasy, horror, African American fiction, category fiction, and non-fiction of all genres.

Patricia Ann McNair -- Author

pmcnairPatricia Ann McNair’s debut short story collection, The Temple of Air, was selected as the Book of the Year in Traditional Fiction by the Chicago Writers Association, the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award by Southern Illinois University, and for the Society of Midland Authors finalist award in adult fiction. McNair is an Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago, where she was chosen for an Excellence in Teaching Award.

Adam McOmber -- Author

amcomberAdam McOmber is the author of The White Forest (Touchstone 2012) and This New & Poisonous Air (BOA Editions 2011). His work has appeared recently in Conjunctions, Fifth Wednesday and The Fairy Tale Review. He is the associate editor of Hotel Amerika at Columbia College were he also teaches literature and creative writing.

Jonathan Messinger -- Publisher

jmessingerJonathan Messinger is co-founder and editor-in-chief of featherproof books, a Chicago publisher of fiction, and managing editor of ChicagoSideSports.com. He was also on the launch team for Time Out Chicago, and worked for years there as the Books editor and a web editor. His book Hiding Out was named one of the best books of the year by the Omaha World-Herald a very long time ago, and his writing has appeared in GQ, the Chicago Tribune and on NPR. You can follow him on Twitter @jonnymess.

Nnedi Okorafor -- Author

nokoraforNnedi Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her short story collection Kabu Kabu and science fiction novel Lagoon are scheduled for release in 2013 and 2014. Nnedi is a creative writing professor at Chicago State.

Marcy Posner -- Agent

mposnerMarcy Posner has spent a lifetime in books. She started out with a brief stint as a librarian, but found it a bit too staid, so moved on to publishing. Her first job was at Pinnacle Books where, as assistant to the President, she was given a book to edit the third week of her employment. She then moved on to Rodale Press and then Salem House where she helped bring British books to the US, finally moving up the publishing ladder to Pantheon’s Associate Publisher. Marcy made the jump to agenting – spending twelve years as at the William Morris Agency as an agent and as Vice President and Director of Foreign Rights; five years as president of her own agency; five years at Sterling Lord Literistic as an agent and Director of Foreign Rights; and she’s now happy at Folio.

Randy Richardson -- Author

rrichardsonAn attorney and award-winning journalist, Randy Richardson is the author of the novels Lost in the Ivy and Cheeseland. His essays have been published in the anthologies Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul, Humor for a Boomer’s Heart, The Big Book of Christmas Joy, Be There Now, and Cubbie Blues, as well as in numerous print and online journals and magazines. He serves as president of the nonprofit Chicago Writers Association.

Jill Salzman -- Author

jsalzmanJill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. (She also just launched her fourth, The Founding Kit which helps startups get started.)  A graduate of Brown University and law school, she started a music management firm and then launched a baby jewelry company before creating her current venture. Jill has been featured in national media outlets including People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Candy Kids, NBC5 and WGN TV. She is the author of Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs, a columnist for NBC Chicago,  and she gave her own TED talk on 11/11/11. In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, baking, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.

Doug Seibold -- Publisher

dseiboldDoug Seibold has been a publishing professional in Chicago since 1986. In 2003, he founded Agate, which is now a diversified independent publishing company with five distinct imprints. In 2005, he created ProBooks, a digital educational content development service. In 2006, Agate acquired Surrey Books, a 25-year-old Chicago-based book publisher, which is now run as an imprint of Agate. In February 2012, Publishers Weekly magazine identified Agate as the fastest-growing small press in America.

Alex Shakar -- Author

ashakarAlex Shakar’s latest novel, Luminarium, won the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. It was also named a Washington Post Notable Book, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and other periodicals.  His novel The Savage Girl was a New York Times Notable Book. His story collection City in Love won the FC2 National Fiction Competition. A Brooklyn native, he now lives in Chicago.

Julie Shapiro - Artistic Director & Radio Producer

jshapiroJulie Shapiro is Artistic Director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival. In previous lives, she worked at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, helped launch an experimental music/film festival, Transmissions, and produced the radio series Storylines Southeast – a survey of seminal literature from the American South. Shapiro has shared her radio perspectives at conferences and with publications around the world. Every now and then she produces stories for the public radio airwaves.

Cynthia Sherry -- Publisher

csherryOver the last 24 years, Cynthia Sherry has held financial management as well as editorial and acquisitions positions at Independent Publishers Group and Chicago Review Press. Prior to working at Chicago Review Press she worked briefly at The University of Chicago Press. As publisher she acquires books for Chicago Review Press and oversees the editorial and book production of 65 new titles a year and manages an editorial, publicity, and production staff of 13.

Christine Sneed -- Author

csneedChristine Sneed’s story collection Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry won AWP’s Grace Paley Prize and was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize for first fiction. Portraits won Ploughshares’ Zacharis Prize for a first book and was the Chicago Writers Association’s book of the year. Her second book, Little Known Facts, was published by Bloomsbury in February. Bloomsbury also recently acquired her novel-in-progress, Paris Gare St. Lazare, and a story collection, tentatively titled The Virginity of Famous Women. Her short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, The Southern Review and other journals.

Jen Spyra -- Comedy Writer & Performer

jspyraJen Spyra is a staff writer with The Onion whose comedy writing has been published in McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, and elsewhere. She holds a BA in English from Columbia Univeristy and an MFA in Screenwriting from Northwestern University, and studied and performed improv and sketch at iO, Second City, and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theaters.

Mike Stephen -- Radio Host

mstephenMike Stephen is the host of Outside the Loop Radio on WLUW-FM (88.7) and outsidetheloopradio.com. For seven years his weekly show has covered Chicago-centric issues that have flown just under mainstream media’s radar. In 2010, NewCity Magazine named the show ‘Best Local Podcast.’ For six years he worked as a producer at WGN-AM (720)- a radio geek’s dream come true. Mike lives in Wicker Park, eats tacos, shoots hoops, plays harmonica, and explores Chicago with his wife, Jenny.

Emily Clark Victorson -- Publisher

evictorsonEmily Clark Victorson is the owner/publisher of Allium Press of Chicago. Prior to starting the press she worked as a librarian, historian, and book designer. Allium was founded in 2009 as a small, independent press and publishes literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and young adult fiction, all with a Chicago connection. All Allium Press books are published both in print and as ebooks.