Presenters & Instructors

This page will be updated as more faculty members are confirmed
for the 2017 Michigan Writing Workshop.

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Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 12.11.39 PM.pngJanna Bonikowski is a literary agent with The Knight Agency.

In addition to taking pitches from attendees, she will be teaching the class “How Write and Sell Romance in Today’s Market.”

Janna came to the Knight Agency with several years of experience as both an independent editor and a freelance editor for Lyrical Press/Kensington. Though her Bachelor’s degree focused on business and economics, her passion for books made a career in publishing inevitable.

Raised on a steady supply of books including everything from Little House on the Prairie to Trixie Belden to Anne of Green Gables, Janna has since moved on, expanding her reading diet to multiple genres.

She is seeking: romance, women’s fiction, literary/commercial fiction, suspense, young adult, and historical fiction. With such a wide range of literary loves, she manically adds to her to-be-read pile every new-release Tuesday, supporting the economy one book purchase at a time.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.18.49 AM.pngRegina Brooks is a literary agent with Serendipity Literary Agency.

At the 2017 workshop, in addition to taking pitches from writer attendees, she will be teaching the session “How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir.”

She represents: young adult and middle grade fiction. In nonfiction, she is open to any subject where the author has a great platform, but especially enjoys memoir, health, how-to, business / finance, relationships, biography, cooking, and science.

Equally at home in the technical world of engineering as in the literary world of writing and editing, Ms. Brooks has over a decade of experience in senior positions at major publishing houses including John Wiley & Sons Inc. and the McGraw-Hill Companies. She is a graduate of the Howard University Publishing Institute in Washington DC. Prior to her publishing career she worked as an aerospace engineer for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and made history as the first African-American woman to receive a Bachelors of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Ohio State University.

Ms. Brooks is a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR) and has edited over 100 published books, and is the author of Writing Great Books For Young Adults (Sourcebooks) the Essence Magazine 2004 Quick Pick children’s book Never Finished! Never Done!, published by Scholastic Inc. and You Should Really Write A Book: How to Write, Sell and Market Your Memoir (St. Martin’s Press). She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Forbes, Media Bistro, Writers and Poets, Publishers Weekly, Essence Magazine, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer, and Sister2Sister magazine.

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Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 7.27.25 PM.pngTara Carberry is Content Strategist at hoopla digital, where she oversees the global content team and focuses especially on curating and promoting the eBook and audiobook collections. Working closely with authors and publishers, she essentially sees her job as connecting the right books to the people who will want to read them.

Prior to hoopla, she was associate literary agent at Trident Media Group, focusing on women’s fiction, romance, young adult, thrillers, and select nonfiction. In that role, she worked with authors to concept book ideas, develop and sell them to publishers including St. Martin’s Press, Harlequin, Kensington, and others.

She has also held editorial positions at Norton and Weinstein books, and completed a Master’s Degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
was formerly a literary agent with Trident Media Group in New York City. Connect with her on Twitter here.

At the workshop, Tara is offering critiques for the following genres: mystery, suspense, crime, thriller, women’s fiction, romance (all types), and new adult romance. (As of March 1, 2017, Tara is sold out of appointments.)

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Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 3.46.16 PM.pngKirsten Carleton is a literary agent with The Prospect Agency.

She represents action, adventure, crime, fantasy, general, historical, humor, LGBTQ, literary, military, mystery, science fiction, thriller, young adult.

In addition to taking pitches at the event, she is also teaching the speech “Talking Diversity in Fiction.”

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Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 11.40.29 PM.pngD.E. (Dan) Johnson‘s literary debut, a historical mystery titled The Detroit Electric Scheme, was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in September 2010. The sequel, Motor City Shakedown, was published by Minotaur in September 2011. These were followed by Detroit Breakdown and Detroit Shuffle. Dan is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood, but had to hit his midlife crisis to realize he should get serious about it.

At the 2017 workshop, D.E. will be giving the presentations “Ten Tips for Writing Great Mysteries, Thrillers, and Crime Fiction” and “Talking Craft and Revision.”

He and his wife, Shelly, have always encouraged their children to make their dreams a reality – and it finally occurred to him to do the same. After taking classes, reading everything about writing he could find, and writing for hours every day, he hit on the right subject and genre, and wrote a book that Loren Estleman calls “a Les Miserables for the American experience.”

The early Twentieth Century, a time of big ambitions, huge achievements, and crushing poverty, holds a special fascination for him. Dan comes by his interest in automotive history honestly. His grandfather was the Vice President of Checker Motors, beginning work with Checker in 1924 and continuing until 1980. Fortunately, Dan doesn’t come by his interest in murder the same way. See his author website here.

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Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 9.37.58 AM.pngThe author of 12 books, Weam Namou has been a journalist for The Chaldean News for nearly ten years and the ambassador of and regular contributor to Arab America. Her essays, articles and poetry have appeared in national and international publications, including World Literature Today, Mizna, Gargoyles, Acumen 59 [England], the Transnational [Germany] and numerous other literary publications, including a chapbook called Lettre Savage. Find all Weam’s books on Amazon here.

At the 2017 workshop, Weam will be teaching the session “How to Self-Publish Your Book and Do It Right.”

Formerly, she was a columnist for the Macomb and Oakland Observer, a regular contributor for the Gazette van Detroit, and a feature writer for St. Claire Shore Times. She has given readings, lectures, and workshops at various educational and cultural institutions such as Wayne State University, Madonna University, and Oakland Community College. In 2012, she received a lifetime achievement award from Erootha, a local artists organization. To learn more, visit www.weamnamou.com.

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Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 10.31.54 PM.pngDavid Erik Nelson (website) is an award-winning science fiction author and essayist who has become increasingly aware that he may be “that unsavory character” in other people’s anecdotes.  His stories have appeared in Asimov’s, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and elsewhere. In addition to publishing science fiction pieces, he also writes nonfiction about hogs, guns, cyborg cockroaches, and Miss America—some of which can be found online, as can he, at davideriknelson.com.

At the 2017 event, he will be meeting with writers one on one to critique their 10-page submissions (adult science fiction and fantasy) as an add-on element.

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Screen-Shot-2014-01-08-at-1.09.19-PMChuck Sambuchino (chucksambuchino.com, @chucksambuchino) is the former longtime editor of Guide to Literary Agents as well as the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (both Writer’s Digest Books). His authored books include Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript; Create Your Writer Platform, which was praised by Forbes.com; and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, which was optioned for film by Sony. During his past time at WD Books (through 2017), he oversaw one of the biggest blogs in publishing: the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. He is a freelance editor who has seen dozens of his clients get agents and/or book deals, and he has presented at more than 140 writing conferences and events over the past eleven years.

At the workshop, Chuck will be presenting the session, “Everything You Need to Know about Agents, Pitching, and Queries,” “Your Publishing Options Today,” and more. He is doing query letter critiques over e-mail prior to the event.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 11.12.28 PMMadeline Smoot is the publisher of CBAY Books and former editorial director for children’s books of Blooming Tree Press. She runs the Buried in the Slush Pile blog.

At the workshop, Madeline will be presenting the session, “How to Write Amazing Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction” and well as “How to Write and Sell Picture Books for Children.”

She is critiquing young adult, middle grade, and chapter book submissions as an add-on element for attendees.

Madeline lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, son, two cats, a dog, and more books than should fit in any normal person’s house. Visit her website here.

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Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 12.38.01 PM.pngPaul Stevens is a literary agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

In addition to taking pitches at the workshop, he will be teaching the class “Talking Fantasy and Science Fiction.”

Paul represents science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, suspense, and humor (both fiction and nonfiction). He’s looking for strong stories with interesting characters. Well-rounded LGBT characters and characters of color are a plus.

He has worked as an editor for 15 years, primarily at Tor Books, where he edited science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Paul has worked with authors such as Alex Bledsoe (The Hum and the Shiver), Marie Brennan (A Natural History of Dragons), Robert Brockway (The Unnoticeables), Tobias S. Buckell (Crystal Rain), Adam Christopher (Made to Kill), Hilary Davidson (The Damage Done), David Edison (The Waking Engine), Michael Livingston (The Shards of Heaven), A. Lee Martinez (Gil’s All Fright Diner), and Patrick Taylor (An Irish Country Doctor).


Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 12.15.26 AM.pngJessica Bell is the executive coordinator of Writing Day Workshops, which organizes one-day writing conferences. These events take place mostly in the U.S., but can happen elsewhere.

If Jessica could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she spends most of her time in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a 30-something Australian contemporary fiction author, award-winning poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.

She started as a poet, drawing from her musical background and etching her thoughts and feelings into verse. Those stanzas soon turned into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually into published books. Her literary voice is said to overflow with “lyrical descriptions, unique metaphors, tight dialogue, and an abundance of sensory detail.” She has also been told she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a main stage event.

In addition to her novels about unique dysfunctional families, poetry collections, and her best-selling pocket writing guides (Writing in a Nutshell series), she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia’s Cordite Review, Writer’s Digest, and the anthologies 100 Stories For Queensland and From Stage Door Shadows, both released through Brisbane, Australia’s, eMergent Publishing.

One of Jessica’s proudest moments was when, in November 2013, her poem, Sugar (which was published in a poetry anthology called Women’s Work, edited by Libby Hathorn) was broadcast on ABC National Radio’s Poetica program.

Jessica Bell is the Publisher of Vine Leaves Press, and she makes a living as a Book Cover Designer for indie authors, and an editor/writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

As of October 2016, she is the singer of Keep Shelly in Athens.

To see a list of awards click here.