CONFERENCE FACULTY
LAURA BLAKE PETERSON
VICE PRESIDENT, 
CURTIS BROWN, LTD.

Laura Blake Peterson is Vice President at Curtis Brown, Ltd., one of the oldest and most established literary agencies in the world.  She began her career in publishing at Curtis Brown as a summer intern. She is a graduate of Vassar College and has been with Curtis Brown since 1987, representing a wide range of fiction, non-fiction and books for children. Her client list reflects a wide range of interests – including memoir and biography, natural history, literary fiction, mystery, suspense, women’s fiction, health and fitness, children’s books, faith issues and popular culture.

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MICHELLE CAMERON
AUTHOR and DIRECTOR, 
THE WRITERS CIRCLE

Michelle Cameron is the award-winning author of works of historical fiction and poetry: Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, 2020), The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Pocket, 2009), and In the Shadow of the Globe (Lit Pot Press, 2003). Beyond the Ghetto Gates took Silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards‘ Historical Fiction Category, won First Place, Best of Category for the Chanticleer Goethe Awards and was a finalist in the 2020 Foreword Indies. Michelle is a director of The Writers Circle, an NJ-based organization that offers creative writing workshops and events to children, teens, and adults. She lives in Chatham, NJ, with her husband and has two grown sons of whom she is inordinately proud. Visit her website for more information: https://michelle-cameron.com

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ASHLEY LOPEZ
LITERARY AGENT, WAXMAN LITERARY AGENCY,
MANAGING EDITOR, PIGEON PAGES LITERARY JOURNAL

Ashley Lopez joined the Waxman Literary Agency in 2015. She received her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and is a founder and the managing editor of Pigeon Pages Literary Journal. Her personal writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Split Lip Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Ashley is looking for literary, upmarket, and young adult fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and cultural criticism. Most importantly she seeks authors with a strong point of view and an eye for language.

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JIM McCARTHY
VICE PRESIDENT,
DYSTEL, GODERICH & BOURRET

Jim McCarthy is a VP and literary agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret where he has spent the entirety of his career for more than two decades. He represents over 50 clients including several NYT bestselling and award-winning authors. His primary focus is on fiction for readers of all ages.

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ANDY SKURNA
TECHNOLOGY and SECURITY CONSULTANT

“After high school, you’ll be unemployable if you don’t know computers.” That was the ominous warning Andy heard from a friend in the late 1970s, when windows were things you opened to throw breadcrumbs to the birds in the backyard. For the 40 years since Andy has worked directly with computers, either in “computer businesses” or in businesses that have used computers. From manager of a computer store, to computer operator for the Department of Medicine at one of NJ’s largest hospitals, to selling advertising space to programmers for Microsoft, to launching his own brand of computers, it’s been a rewarding silicon-rich ride on the cyber superhighway.

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LAUREN WISE
HYBRID PUBLISHER, ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER,
SHE WRITES PRESS

Lauren is the associate publisher at She Writes Press and SparkPress, and the editorial director at SheReads. She’s worked as a book and magazine editor, and in 2009 founded Midnight Publishing, an editorial company that helps authors develop their stories. It is through serendipity and a drive to deliver thought-provoking and inspirational literature that brought Lauren to SparkPoint Studios in 2015. She works with dozens of award-winning children's, YA, and adult fiction and nonfiction authors each year, and in 2020 helped spearhead the SparkPress Children's Publishing Package. In 2021 she was elected to IBPA’s Advocacy Committee, and in her spare time, as an award-winning columnist, is a journalism mentor to at-risk youth. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

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JESSICA BRODY
AUTHOR and FOUNDER,
WRITING MASTERY ACADEMY
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Jessica Brody is the author of the #1 bestselling novel-writing guide, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and the founder of the online writing school, Writing Mastery Academy. She has also written over 20 novels for teen, tweens, and adults including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, A Week of Mondays, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, Better You Than Me, the Unremembered trilogy, and the System Divine series which is a sci-fi reimagining of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, co-written with Joanne Rendell. Her books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and several have been optioned for film and television.  She lives with her husband and three dogs near Portland, OR.

EMMA D. DRYDEN
EDITOR and PUBLISHER,
drydenbks
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Emma Dryden was born and raised in New York City and established her premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm, drydenbks, after two decades as a highly regarded children’s book editor and publisher with Simon & Schuster as VP, Publisher of Atheneum and Margaret K. McElderry Books. Over the course of her thirty-five year career, Emma has edited more than 1,000 books for children and young readers, many of which have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to the National Book Award Honor, Newbery

Honor, and Caldecott Honor, and which have hit bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, as well as other national publications. Emma is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ Advisory Council, she teaches numerous writing and craft workshops around the world, and can be found online at: Twitter: @drydenbks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drydenbks  Website: https://drydenbks.com/

DON GEORGE
AUTHOR and EDITOR AT LARGE,
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVEL
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Don George is the author of the award-winning anthology The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George, and of How to Be a Travel Writer, the best-selling travel writing guide in the world. His most recent book is an ebook entitled Wanderlust in the Time of Coronavirus: Dispatches from a Year of Traveling Close to Home. He is also the editor of ten acclaimed literary anthologies, including A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and An Innocent Abroad. Don is currently Editor at Large for National Geographic Travel, and

has been Travel Editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, Salon, and Lonely Planet. He has visited more than 90 countries and has written more than a thousand articles for print and online publications. He has been honored 18 times in the Society of American Travel Writers’ annual Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism competition. In addition to his writing and editing, Don has taught travel writing at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the San Jose State University MFA Program in Creative Writing, and has spoken about his writings and travels at corporations around the world, including the New York Times and Google. Don is the co-founder and chairman of the acclaimed annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference, and currently teaches travel writing workshops online and at Book Passage. He has been interviewed as a travel expert on NBS, CBS, ABC, and NPR, as well as dozens of podcasts, and he leads tours around the world for National Geographic and for Geographic Expeditions.   

NANCY LUBARSKY
AUTHOR, POET and RETIRED
EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT
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Nancy Lubarsky has been an educator for over 35 years in various roles as teacher, curriculum supervisor, principal, adjunct professor, and superintendent in Mountainside, New Jersey, from where she is retired.  She holds a Doctorate in English Education from Rutgers.  Nancy has published articles in several academic journals, frequently on the subject of teaching poetry.  In 2006, the English Journal called Nancy’s 2002 article, Poetry as a Lens: Alternate Ways of Seeing the Novel, one of 10 watershed articles written by practicing teachers (1912-2005) that “deserve to be reread and restudied in the present.” 

NICOLE SMITH
PODCASTER and NJ CHAPTER LEADER,
ROOMTOREAD.ORG
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Nicole Smith is a podcaster and promoter of her favorite people, places and products. Nicole is the host of Happy to Help, a show produced by Hunterdon Chamber Radio focused on the value of helping others. Nicole interviews Executive Directors, founders, fundraisers, volunteers and authors about the work they do, who they help, and the why behind it. She is the New Jersey Chapter Leader for the global nonprofit roomtoread.org, a member of Somerset Hills AAUW and a creative nonfiction writing student.

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