2021 Conference Presenters

Keynote Speakers

Andrew Bertaina

Andrew Bertaina's short story collection One Person Away From You (2021) won the Moon City Press Fiction Award (2020). He has an MFA from American University in Washington, DC.

His fiction has appeared in Witness Magazine, Redivider, Orion, The Best American PoetryWitness Magazine Magic Issue, Tin House "Everyone", Trampset "The City on the Plain", Hobart "The Dog and I", Heavy Feather Review "A Good Day's Work", Matchbook "Passing", JMWW "Dream Mother", Atticus Review "The Harvest", Bending Genres "Misunderstanding Mother", Hobart "It Rained Laughter", Cease, Cows "In the Garden", Eclectica Magazine "Being and Time", Prism Review Issue 20 "Waking Dreams", Sierra Nevada Review Volume 26 "One Person Away From You", Catamaran Literary Reader Summer 2016 Issue  "Something Miraculous", Sierra Nevada Review Summer 2018 "Things She's Tired of Hearing", The Threepenny Review "A Translator's Note", Pthead Chapel ", Fiction Southeast "It Sings", Flash Fiction Press "The Nature of Time", Wilderness House Literary Review "Forty Days", StoryChord "A Woman's Life: An Abridged Version", Eunoia Review "Migrations", NanoismMicrofiction Monday Magazine "Across Town", Apt "When We Lived by the Sea", Cease, Cows "The Earth in its Flight", Necessary Fiction "Of Lakes and Swans", Whiskey Paper "That Summer", Bull "Angel", Bookends Review "Brothers", Foliate Oak "The Secret", Toasted Cheese Literary Journal "Years ago, In firenze", 99 Pine Street "The Finger and the War", Gambling the Aisle "Too Late For All That", The Journal of Microliterature "I Still Love You From the Other Side of this Bottle of Whiskey", OxMag "Changes", Literary Orphans "A Retraction", Literary Orphans "Come Winter", Gravel "The Note", Literary Orphans "The Journey", Crack the Spine "Due North", Molotov Cocktail "The Baby", OxMag "River Walk". 

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of fantasy and paranormal romance. Her debut novel Song of Blood & Stone was chosen as one of TIME Magazine's 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time. The novel also won the inaugural award for Best Self-Published Fiction from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

She was born in the Bronx, just after the birth of hip hop, but left before she could acquire an accent. Equally left and right-brained, she studied Film Production at Howard University and minored in Computer Science. This led to a graduate degree in Multimedia and a career in website development. She's also an award-winning independent filmmaker, co-founded a literary magazine, and sometimes dreams in HTML.

Leslye is an alumna of VONA/Voices and Hurston/Wright Writers Workshop. She has spoken and taught at conferences and festivals around the country including the Baltimore Book Festival, Romance Writers of America, Writers Digest Annual & Novel Writing Conferences, and the Historical Novel Society.

Her podcast, My Imaginary Friends, is a weekly journal of her publishing life, perfect for readers and writers alike. Leslye lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents. She is represented by Sara Megibow with kt literary and by Mary Pender with UTA for television and film.

Visit her online at http://www.lpenelope.com.

Literary Agents

matt belfordMatt Belford joined The Tobias Agency in 2020 after previously working at the David Black Agency and the Aaron M. Priest Agency. After he received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Emerson College, he decided to apply his talents in representing authors, as opposed to writing himself.

A lover of all things science fiction and fantasy, Matt accepts his nerd status readily. He is interested in receiving submissions for both graphic memoirs and graphic novels, as well as adult science fiction and fantasy, and some popular nonfiction. He is not interested in YA.

Some of Matt's favorite reads include: THE SUMMONER by Gail Z Martin, KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse, and RED RISING by Pierce Brown.

jessica erreraJessica Errera has been with the Jane Rotrosen literary agency since 2014. She is looking for commercial women’s fiction with a fresh and fun hook, all genres of YA (especially diverse stories), contemporary romance, book club fiction, mysteries and suspense, the occasional historical fiction, graphic and LGBTQ novels, and anything that might be read in a day on the beach. Jessica is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she spent four years cheering on the Tar Heels and a few fantastic months interning with Algonquin Books.

Jessica is also looking for anything with lists/letters/texts/media embedded into the story, or subplots that get woven together in unexpected (but seamless) ways. She is particularly drawn to family or sister stories, imaginative re-tellings, stories with a food or travel element, and anything to do with theater.

kristina slaterKristina Slater, an agent at Metamorphosis Literary Agency, has known she wanted to write since she was six years old and wrote her first fairy tale. A voracious reader, she likes to disappear into other worlds. She is the youngest of 10 siblings, having nine older brothers.

Kristina has an Animal Science degree from Kansas State University and is currently residing in Omaha, Nebraska. A fangirl at heart, she is looking for her next world to get lost in. She is seeking: Fantasy (Adult/YA), Horror, Sci-fi (Adult/YA), Historical Fiction, and STEM Children’s Picture Books.

lauren biekerAfter a brief career in the fashion industry, Lauren Bieker made her move to publishing as an intern for agent Paige Wheeler. She moved to FinePrint Literary Management to assist with day-to-day administrative tasks, but is now developing her client list and is open to queries.

Lauren is looking for commercial and upmarket women’s fiction and some well-crafted and differentiated YA novels. She is also open to select science fiction, as well as high concept and literary fiction works. She appreciates great storytelling and is a "sucker" for outstanding writing and convincing characters. While primarily interested in fiction, she will consider nonfiction proposals. She is looking for #ownvoices stories, Feminist lit/#MeToo stories, and LGBTQIA+ authors in both fiction and nonfiction. Her goal is to "hold the mic" for authors to tell their stories and be a helpful support system. Her message to querying authors: "Have fun with your pitch--if you're passionate about your story, I will be too!"

PLEASE NOTE: Lauren is NOT looking for religious fiction, horror, fantasy, or political/military fiction.

Lauren writes during her free time and has been published on various online platforms. She has attended many writing workshops and intensives, including the National Academy of Writing’s intensive at Cambridge University in the UK.

Other Breakout Session Presenters

edmund schubertEdmund Schubert is the author of the novel Dreaming Creek and of two short story collections, The Trouble with Eating Clouds and This Giant Leap. Schubert also contributed to and edited the nonfiction book, How to Write Magical Words. His 50+ published short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, covering a variety of genres. His fiction has been: included in storySouth’s Year’s Notable list; reprinted in The Writer’s Post Journal’s Year’s Best issue; a #1 rated story on Zoetrope.com; a preliminary nominee for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Short Story; and First Prize Winner in Lynx Eye’s Captivating Beginnings contest.

In addition to writing, Schubert served for ten years as head editor of the online magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show (including publishing three IGMS anthologies and winning two WSFA Small Press Awards). He also served for two years as executive editor of the regional business magazine NC Career Network Magazine, and three years as managing editor of the nationally distributed Diversity Woman. He is currently the Editorial Director for Falstaff Book’s Broken Cities line.

Schubert insists, however, that his greatest accomplishment came during college, when his self-published underground newspaper made him the subject of a professor's lecture in abnormal psychology. He graduated with his MFA from Converse College (Spartanburg, SC) in June 2019.

david cariensDavid Cariens is a retired CIA officer--31-year career. Most of his time at the Agency was spent as a political analyst dealing with Eastern Europe. In this capacity he wrote for all levels of the U.S. government--from the President to the working level analysts and policymakers.

Cariens served in Eastern Europe and as an editor at the BBC-FBIS facility outside London. He headed the CIA University program to teach new analysts writing and briefing skills. He also served on the Agency’s Inspector General’s staff.

Cariens teaches Intelligence Analysis and Writing for the FBI, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Center (FinCEN) and has taught for members of the U.S. Intelligence Community including the Department of Homeland Security as well as the National Counter-Terrorism Center. He also teaches for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Police College, the York Ontario Police, the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Singapore Police.

Cariens served as a member of the Ad-hoc Program Advisory Committee (PAC) relative to the development of the Bachelor of Applied Public Safety (BAPS) - Specialization in Crime and Intelligence Analysis at Seneca College, Toronto, Canada. He teaches at the University of Richmond’s Osher Institute and was an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Homeland Security Department.

He is the author of A Question of Accountability: The Murder of Angela Dales -- an examination of the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia in January 2002. Angela Dales, the mother of Cariens’ oldest grandchild, was killed in that shooting.

His textbook, Critical Thinking Through Writing: Intelligence and Crime Analysis, is the standard text for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and is used nationwide. Cariens is a contributing author to the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Agency’s textbook, Criminal Intelligence for the 21st Century.

Cariens is the author of the following published books: Virginia Tech: Make Sure It Doesn’t Get Out, in February 2014 (after taxes and expenses, all profits from the book go to the ‘Michael Pohle, Jr. Scholarship Fund’); Intelligence and Crime Terminology: A Glossary of Terms and Acronyms published in March 2015; A Handbook for Intelligence and Crime Analysis, published in July 2016; and his latest book on school shootings, The America We All Want: Protecting Your Community From Gun Violence, published in September 2016. Cariens is a victims' rights advocate; he takes no money for his work on behalf of school shooting victims and their families.

Cariens recently was a director of the Writers Guild of Virginia. His textbook on memoir writing, Eight Steps to Writing Your Memoir, was published in April 2018. Cariens memoir, Escaping Madness, is slated for publication soon.

chris dematteo

Christopher De Matteo holds a BA in History and a BA in Political Science from the University of Virginia's College at Wise, an MA in History from Old Dominion University, where he worked as a Teacher's Assistant, and an MT in Secondary Education from VCU. He currently teaches high school history. Chris has presented research at undergrad and graduate research conferences, and has been published in several journals, in both history and fiction. He has a love of science fiction and an obsession with world building; he is working on his first novel.

jason carney

Dr. Jason Ray Carney teaches popular literature and creative writing at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. His academic book, Weird Tales of Modernity (McFarland 2019), defends the artistic merit of the interwar pulp fantasists, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H.P. Lovecraft. He is the chair of the Popular Culture Association's "pulp studies" section, the co-editor of The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies, and the editor of Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery. His anthology of sword and sorcery, Rakefire and Other Storie (Pulp Hero Press) is forthcoming in 2020. He occasionally blogs at spiraltower.blogspot.com.

kindra mcdonald

Kindra McDonald is the author of the poetry collections Fossils published by Finishing Line Press (2019), In the Meat Years published by Aldrich Press (2019), and the chapbooks Concealed Weapons (2015) and Elements and Briars (2016.)

She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and her BA from Virginia Wesleyan University. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Rise up Review, Twyckenham Notes, Muddy River Poetry Review and the anthology, The Nearest Poem. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Bettering American Poetry. She lives in the city of mermaids with her husband and cats where she bakes, hikes, and changes hobbies monthly.

kelly morse

Kelly Morse is the author of the award-winning poetry chapbook Heavy Light (Two of Cups Press, 2016); her creative work appears in Gulf Coast, Mid-American Review, The Cincinnati Review, Brevity, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere. Kelly's translations of dissident Vietnamese poet Lý Đợi have been published in Asymptote, and received the Gabo Prize for Translation and Multi-Lingual Texts from Lunch Ticket.

Kelly holds an MFA from Boston University, is a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellow and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Mineral School, Cuttyhunk, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.

Sandra E. Johnson sandra johnsonis an award-winning author, experienced workshop presenter, and seasoned freelance editor. Her nonfiction book Standing on Holy Ground: A Triumph over Hate Crime in the Deep South (St. Martin’s Press) garnered warm reviews from O: The Oprah Magazine, USA Today, and Southern Living and won a literary award from The Christophers, an international organization that champions social justice. Her novel Flowers for the Living (Texas Review Press) received a nomination for a PEN/Faulkner Award as well as a Paterson Prize for Fiction. Her self-help book The Mind-Body Peace Journal: 366 Mindful Prompts for Serenity & Clarity (Sterling Publishing) earned praise from bestselling authors MJ Ryan and Timber Hawkeye and is in its third printing within ten months of its release. She offers a range of freelance editing for all levels of writing.

matt friedman

Matt Friedman teaches filmmaking at the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia. He wrote the local independent feature comedy, Moving, in the early 2000s (for which he won "Best Screenplay" at the Digital Visions film festival in Chicago), then his second script won him a fellowship to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, where he was the inaugural recipient of the Sloan Foundation Fellowship for science themes in film. He assistant directed the 2012 Doritos commercial "Man's Best Friend," which became the #1 ad of that year's Superbowl, then wrote and co-wrote several follow-ups.

He edited the Luthiel's Song fantasy series and Growth Shock by Robert Fanney. He is also active in the theater, having acted in and directed several plays including Enron and Hand to God, mostly at the Generic Theater, where he was a founding member of the Artistic Team and for whom he has written and directed a series of comedy shorts. In 2016, he produced and scored the short film Moss Manor, which won Best Film at the Hampton Roads 48 Hour Film Project and also garnered the award for Best Original Score. He later won the 2017 prize for "Best Writing" for his short film at the Seven Cities Film Showcase. He has been a screenwriting panelist at the Virginia Festival of the Book, a screenwriting workshop instructor at the CNU Writer's Conference, and helped launch the new film department at the Governor's School for the Arts, where he adapted and directed their educational feature, The Unknown Variable. He has also kept himself busy over the years as a volunteer EMT, and a graphic & web designer at Frame25 Productions.

bill glose

Bill Glose is a former paratrooper and combat platoon leader. Now a civilian, he undertakes intriguing pursuits—such as walking across Virginia and participating in a world-record-setting skinny-dip—to write about for magazines. For 17 years he was a contributing editor with Virginia Living magazine. He has also written freelance articles, essays, and stories for numerous other publications, including The Writer, Army Times, and GRIT. His literary honors include the 2020 Dateline Award for Excellence in Journalism (Trade Journal category), the Virginia Press Association First Place Award for Sports News Writing, and the Missouri Humanities Council National Award for Veteran’s Interviews. He maintains a page of helpful information for writers on his website.

terry cox joseph

Terry Cox-Joseph is president of the Poetry Society of Virginia and is a former newspaper reporter and editor. From 1994-2004 she was the coordinator for the annual Christopher Newport University Writers' Conference and Contest. An award-winning poet, she has been published in Northern Virginia Review, Allegro and Chiron Review among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Between Then and Now, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. Her first book of nonfiction, ADJUSTMENTS, The Making of a Chiropractor, was published by Hampton Roads Publishing in 1993. Her short stories and articles have appeared in numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Minneapolis College of Art and Design.