2020 Rising Star Award First Round Judges


Paula Adler is an American author, publisher, and member of WFWA. She traditionally published six romance novels under previous pseudonyms longer ago than she wants to admit. She currently has a prequel novella, for her Magnolia Grove women’s fiction series, launching in June available for free. Please go to www.PaulaAdler.comto download WELCOME TO MAGNOLIA GROVE. Her first book in the series, RETURN TO MAGNOLIA GROVE, will be available summer 2020. Although she has judged numerous national and local contests, this her first year as a Rising Star judge. Please join her newsletter atwww.PaulaAdler.com for updates and more information. 

Erica Alexander is a Romance and Women’s Fiction author. Her published works include, SEVENTEEN WISHES, BECAUSE OF LOGAN and BECAUSE OF LIAM. She’s a member of the Liberty States Fiction Writers, WFWA and former judge at RWA.

This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter @author_erica, Instagram and Facebook @AuthorEricaAlexander or stop by her website at www.authorericaalexander.com.

Ellen Green Andrews has always had a penchant for reading, with a broad and eclectic genre choice. After many years of nursing she left that field and encouraged by her husband and five grown children, began writing. She has two published novels, AN HONORABLE DECEPTION and ALL THE WORDS WE DIDN’T SAY and is currently working on her third.

She is an accomplished seamstress, and had acquired a collection of textile from around the globe from her travels and one globetrotting friend. She is a certified landscape designer with a concentration in residential design.

She grew up in Northern Indiana but has lived throughout the United States, following her husbands’ military career. She resides at present in North Central Florida.

This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. She is a member of WFWA and ALLi.

You can contact her via  Facebook: [email protected]  or her Website: 5petalspublishing.com  

Kimberley Ash is a British expat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for more than 25 years. She writes fish-out-of-water stories about people who find home where they least expect it. Her latest release is the Van Allen Brothers Trilogy with Tule Publishing: FORGIVE ME, FORGET ME, and FREE ME. When not writing contemporary romance or romantic women’s fiction, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. You can reach her at www.kimberleyash.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Sheila Athens is a traditionally-published author and a book coach who specializes in mainstream fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Her debut novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE, was a finalist for the prestigious Golden Heart award and was published in English, German and Turkish. She is a past chairperson of the WFWA Agent Pitch Events. Her book coaching clients have gone on to gain top-tier agents, contracts with Big 5 publishers and successful sales for self-published books. For more about Sheila, visit SheilaAthens.com.

Cheryl Barton

Diane Barnes is the author of MORE THAN, WAITING FOR ETHAN, and MIXED SIGNALS. She is also a marketing and corporate communication writer in the health care industry. When she’s not writing, she’s at the gym, running or playing tennis, trying to burn off the ridiculous amounts of chocolate and ice cream she eats. She and her husband Steven live in Massachusetts and dream of moving to Turks and Caicos – at least for the winter months. She hopes you enjoy reading her books as much as she enjoyed writing them.

Website: www.DianeMBarnes.com   Twitter and Instagram: @DianeBarnes777

Lara Bernhardt is a Pushcart-nominated writer, editor, and audiobook narrator. She is Editor-in-Chief of Balkan Press and also publishes a literary magazine, Conclave. Her debut novel, THE WANTLAND FILES, was a finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction. The sequel, THE HAUNTING OF CRESCENT HOTEL, was a 2019 semi-finalist for the KBR Awards Horror/Suspense category. SHADOW OF THE TAJ, her first women’s fiction, is a 2020 Oklahoma Book Awards finalist. She is delighted to serve as a Rising Star judge. You can follow her on all the socials @larawells1 on Twitter and @larabern10 on Facebook, BookBub, and Instagram.

Hildie Block

Betty Bolté is an award-winning American author and editor of fiction and nonfiction books. She has published 22 books, most recently BECOMING LADY WASHINGTON: A NOVEL, NOTES OF LOVE AND WAR, CHARMED AGAINST ALL ODDS, and THE HAUNTING OF FURY FALLS INN. This is her sixth year as a Rising Star judge. She’s a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association among other professional organizations. Find out more about her and her books at www.bettybolte.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter @BettyBolte or Instagram @bjbolte.

Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of DAYTIME DRAMA, published by TouchPoint Press in 2020, and DESIGNER YOU, released by Crooked Cat Books in 2018. DESIGNER YOU won the Indie Star Book Award for 2019 and was included on the 2018 “35 Over 35” list. When she’s not writing novels, Sarahlyn moonlights as a full-time writing and literature professor at a local community college. This is her second year serving as a Rising Star judge. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at https://sarahlynbruck.com. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.

Carole Brungar is a multi-award-winning New Zealand author whose novels have attracted international acclaim. They include her popular series of love stories set during the Vietnam war: THE NAM LEGACY, THE NAM SHADOW and GOING HOME. She is a member of WFWA, AMWA, RWA and RWNZ. Her Vietnam series has not only been described as powerful, gritty, and authentic but also as evocative and disturbing, by readers and Vietnam veterans alike. She has recently won two gold medals for excellence in independent publishing. During the day, Carole manages a library and encourages students to write. At night she writes. Carole lives on a large property in the North Island of New Zealand surrounded by magnificent old trees and gardens, and her two cats, Buddy and Wednesday. Follow her on Facebook at carolebrungarauthor, or learn more about her and her award-winning books at www.carolebrungar.com.

Lynne Bryant is an American author, educator, and member of WFWA and the Historical Novel Society. She holds a PhD in Nursing from the University of Colorado.

Lynne’s debut novel CATFISH ALLEY (2011) “…tackles the racial divide of both 1920s and current-day Mississippi in a page-turning narrative that has, at its heart, the search for personal connections as the path to both survival and understanding,” said Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River.

Lynne’s second novel ALLIGATOR LAKE (2012) was described by Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar, as “a gutsy examination of southern race relations. Bryant is provocative and unflinching as she reveals her characters’ private hopes and fears....”

Lynne and her wife live in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where Lynne writes novels, teaches nursing, and continues to be inspired by the generative power of women.

Visit her on Facebook at Author Lynne Bryant, Instagram @lynnebryantauthor, or her website at www.lynnebryant.com.

Denny S. Bryce is a historical fiction author, book reviewer, entertainment writer, and member of WFWA. Her debut novel WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES will be released in March 2021. She writes book reviews for NPR.org and entertainment articles, including recaps of OUTLANDER_STARZ, for FROLIC (https://frolic.media/). She also served as a 2019 PitchWars Mentor. This is her second year as a Rising Star Judge. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dennysbryce, and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/dennysbryceauthor), or visit her website: dennysbryce.com.

Lyn Liao Butler is an author of multi-cultural women’s fiction as well as a certified personal trainer, fitness and yoga instructor. Her debut, THE TIGER MOM’S LIES, will be published by Berkley (Penguin Random House) in early 2021 with a second book to follow. This is her second year as a Rising Star Judge. For more information, please visit her website at www.lynliaobutler.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @lynliaobutler

Regina Buttner is a registered nurse-turned-writer from Upstate New York where she enjoys paddling on the Genesee River and hiking with her golden retriever in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. Her short fiction has appeared in Stone Canoe and ROC Parent Magazine. Her debut novel Absolution will be published in October.

Ute Carbone  is an award winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and historical fiction. She also writes romantic comedy under her pen name, Annie Hoff. 

She lives in NH with her husband. When not writing, you’re likely to find her out in the woods pursuing her other life passion, photography. 

Barbara Conrey is a Women’s Fiction author.  Her debut novel, NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE will be published by Red Adept Publishing this winter. This is Barbara’s second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow Barbara on Twitter and Instagram @barbaraconrey and on facebook.com/baconreywriter. Check out her web site at barbaraconreyauthor.com

Lecia Cornwal

Amber Cowie is a novelist and freelance writer living in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Crime Reads and Knitty, among other publications. Her first novel, RAPID FALLS, was a runner up in the Whistler Book Awards and hit number one on the Kindle Bestsellers list as well as the top 100 books in the Kindle Store. She has appeared at Left Coast Crime, the Pacific Northwest Writers Festival, and the Whistler Writers Festival. She is a member of several writing groups and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria. 

She is a mother of two, wife of one, reader of many and writer of suspense novels. She likes skiing, running and making up stories that make her internet search history unnerving. 

RAVEN LANE is her second novel.

Grete DeAngelo is the author of GIVING MYSELF AWAY (2013) and a high school history teacher living in Pennsylvania.

Leah DeCesare is the award-winning author of Forks, Knives, and Spoons. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington post, Eligible Magazine, Simply Woman, The International Doula, and The Key, among others. Leah is the cofounder of the nonprofit, Doulas of Rhode Island, and she led the fundraising efforts to build a medical center in Uganda. She is a TEDx speaker and is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at The Newport MFA. The mother of three, DeCesare lives with her family in Rhode Island. leahdecesare.com

Ann DeFee is an award-winning author who infuses humor into her stories of romance, family dynamics, and quirky characters. She’s written twelve novels under various Harlequin imprints—American, Everlasting and Carina. Her debut book, A TEXAS STATE OF MIND was a double RWA Rita Finalist and a Romantic Times Finalist for Best First Book. SUMMER AFTER SUMMER won the Book Buyer’s Best Long Contemporary award.

Ann is currently writing Southern Fiction. Her first book in this genre, BELIEVE IN THE MAGIC won the Reader’s Favorite Book Award for Wizardry and Magic and the Chanticleer International Somerset Award for Women’s Fiction. The sequel WHEN THE MAGNOLIA BLOOMS won the NYC Big Book Award for Fiction and was also a Book Excellence Award Finalist.

As a business woman, Ann is a managing-partner of Bellastoria Press LLP, a hybrid publishing company that specializes in shepherding authors through the book publishing process.



Casey Dembowski is a contemporary women’s fiction author represented by Danielle Burby of the Nelson Literary Agency. Her novel FIRST COMES MARRIAGE won the Contemporary Romance Writers of America Chapter Stiletto Award and was a finalist in both the NJRWA Put Your Heart in a Book Contest and the Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star Contest. Follow Casey on Twitter at @casey_dembowski and on Facebook. 

Laura Drake is a New York and self- published author of Women’s Fiction and Romance.

Her romance series, Sweet on a Cowboy, is set in the world of professional bull riding.  Her debut, The Sweet Spot, was a double-finalist, then won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She’s since published 12 more books. She is a founding member of Women’s Fiction Writers Assn, as well as a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West.

Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

Molly Dwyer’s debut novel, REQUIEM FOR THE AUTHOR OF FRANKENSTEIN, was shortlisted for the 2009 Northern California Book of Year. She has written two additional novels (THE APPASSIONATA and BELLE MENDOCINO) and one nonfiction work, FROM MAIDENS TO MAVERICKS: MENDOCINO WOMEN, which was published by Mendocino’s Kelley House Museum in 2017. She is currently working on her fourth novel, LEGACY: A FAMILY HISTORY. 

Molly earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and a PhD from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She teaches English Comp, Critical Thinking and Creative Writing at Mendocino College and is the founding president of Writers of the Mendocino Coast, a branch of the California Writers Club. Molly lives near the ocean with her muse, a fluffy Maine Coon cat named Selene. She coaches writers, edits manuscripts of all stripes and facilitates critique groups.

Ann Anderson Evans is a linguist, teacher, and author of the award-winning DARING TO DATE AGAIN. Her work has also been published widely in the literary and academic press. She is working on a second memoir, MORE THAN A LADY. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter (annwriter), or the blog at her website, www.annandersonevans.com. This is her third year as a judge for WFWA. She has also established a short story award for middle schoolers in her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.

Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author who writes stories of family hardship and troubled times in a bygone south.  A native of North Carolina, she resides in her home state with her husband and their tiny heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, Mister.  Readers can visit her at www.donnaeverhart.com.

Aurelia Flaming writes about young women who make bad decisions, some of whom have superpowers. Her stories have appeared in OrsonScott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and The London Journal of Fiction. Originally from Los Angeles, she lives with her partner in Portland, OR. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Visit her at www.aureliaflaming.com.

Liz Flaherty

Jennifer Fromke writes contemporary women’s fiction from North Carolina, where she pines for colder temperatures all year long. Northerners by upbringing, she and her husband of 28 years have raised three Southern-ish children quite by accident. Jennifer reviews books at Shetalksbooks.com and you can download a free story from her website when you sign up for her newsletter at jenniferfromke.comJennifer is represented by Jane Dystel.

Elaine Gallant holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida. Her stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications. She’s since entered the more complicated world of fiction with her debut novel THE 5th C: A CIA NOVEL that’s available on Amazon. Her website is: www.westmauibookclub.com. Her blog: elainegallantblog.wordpress.com.

Donna Goodin is a college instructor, writer, and book coach. She has been coaching writers since 2006. These days she works in fiction, but she has also worked in nonfiction with academic writers. She holds a Ph.D. in literature, and a book coach certification from Author Accelerator, where she has coached writers since 2018. She loves helping women writers tell their stories. Her favorite moment as a coach is the instant when a writer’s manuscript clicks, when it goes from a collection of loosely connected scenes and characters to a story that pops. You can view her website at http://www.goodincoaching.com. Donna works with writers in both English and Spanish.

Jean M. Grant is a former scientist and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. Her books include historical romance (a trilogy: A HUNDRED BREATHS, A HUNDRED KISSES, and in 2020, A HUNDRED LIES), contemporary romance (SOUL OF THE STORM), and women's fiction (WILL RISE FROM ASHES). She also writes articles for family travel magazines and websites. She is a member of WFWA. When she’s not writing, she enjoys tending her flower gardens, hiking with her family, and doing just about anything in the outdoors. Find her online: www.jeanmgrant.com, Instagram (JeanMGrant), Twitter (@JeanGrant05), or Facebook (jeanmgrantauthor).

Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she learned how to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in 9 cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP Creative Director at an advertising agency, but on nights and weekends you can find her writing upmarket women’s fiction. Alison is represented by Joanna MacKenzie of Nelson Literary Agency. Her debut novel, “You and Me and Us” is now out from William Morrow (HarperCollins)

Lita Harris spends her time between New Jersey and the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania. She even lived in Alaska for a short time just for fun. Her two rescue dogs are always close by and travel everywhere with her.

An avid crafter, unused supplies clutter her basement and attempts at making pottery, jewelry, and stained glass are scattered throughout her house. She also makes candles and homemade soap. With enough books to stock a small library she may need to construct a building to store her literary obsession. She writes multiple genres, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, paranormal, and cozy mysteries.

Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her novels include HOW TO CLIMB THE EIFFEL TOWER, OVERLOOK and ESCAPE PLAN. This is her fourth year as a Rising Star judge.

Lori Henriksen is a women's fiction author. Her novel THE WINTER LOON was a finalist in the 2017 Star Award debut category. She is a long-time member of WFWA, and this is her third year as a Rising Star judge. Lori’s work in progress is a second novel about a woman who reinvents herself in the 1960s and must travel back to that time years later in order to heal old wounds and embrace her true identity. More information about Lori can be found at www.lorihenriksen.com.

Rebecca Hodge is an author of fiction, a veterinarian, and a clinical research scientist who lives and writes in North Carolina. Fiction writing is the space where her creative side comes out to play, and her writing centers on characters who discover that life is not a spectator sport. She has three grown sons, two crazy dogs, and one patient husband. When not busy writing, she loves hiking, travel, and (of course) curling up with a good book. WILDLAND is her debut novel. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rebeccahodgefiction , on Instagram @rhodge.fiction or check out her website at https://www.rebeccahodgefiction.com/.

Seven Jane is a bestselling author of dark fantasy and speculative fiction. Her debut novel, THE ISLE OF GOLD, was published by Black Spot Books in October 2018. Currently, Seven is collaborating as the lead author on a franchise project with a top veteran Hollywood director and an award-winning screenwriter.

Seven is a regular contributor to The Nerd Daily and Suspense Magazine. She is represented by Gandolfo, Helin & Fountain Literary Management and supported by Smith Publicity.  

A nomad at heart, Seven has spent time living everywhere from the South to the Pacific Northwest and New England. She currently lives in Juneau, Alaska. Follow Seven online @SevenJaneWrites or at www.SevenJane.com

Jacki Kelly has been writing since her fourth grade teacher made her keep a journal for a grade. Now she does it to keep track of all the fascinating and heartbreaking moments that life throws our way. Poetry, personal essays, short stories and novels have all occupied space in her heart and her hard drive. She has published over fifteen books in women’s fiction and romance.

Leslie Lehr is a prize-winning author and Novel Consultant for Truby Writer’s Studio. Her novels include WHAT A MOTHER KNOWS, WIFE GOES ON, and 66 LAPS. In Spring 2021, Pegasus Books will release her pop culture memoir, A BOOB’S LIFE.

Prior to her essays in the New York Times Modern Love column (narrated by Katie Couric on NPR), and in anthologies including MOMMY WARS, Lehr wrote the nonfiction books, WELCOME TO CLUB MOM, CLUB GRANDMA, and NESTING. She also wrote original screenplays for the films Heartless and Club Divorce. A popular speaker at writing conferences, Lehr has a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, an MFA from Antioch, and taught Novel Writing in the Writer’s Program at UCLA for a decade before launching her private consulting practice. In addition to WFWA, Lehr is a member of PEN, the Authors Guild, WGA, Women in Film, and The Women's Leadership Council of L.A.

Jocelyn Lindsay is a certified book coach and story warrior. Offering massive support and one-on-one coaching strategies, she helps serious writers roll up their sleeves, get their novel ready for publishing, and reach readers. From inspiration to publication, her clients have kicked their fears and doubts to the curb and gone on to sign contracts with their dream agents. When she’s not elbow-deep in the story trenches, she’s outside world-building in her garden and battling weeds with her three criminal mastermind cats. Jocelyn is an active member of WFWA and was recently the chair of the Online Pitch Event. Follow her on Instagram @jocelynlindsay and visit her website jocelynlindsay.com.  

Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. She specializes in helping women write from the heart so they can put their passion into words and inspire others. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need). Her books include F.A.I.T.H. - FINDING ANSWERS IN THE HEART, VOLUMES I AND II, the historical novel THE SACRED FLAME, and the contemporary sequel BELLA TOSCANA. In her spare time, she judges short story contests for NYC Midnight and serves as a Mentor for WFWA. http://www.wordsofpassion.com/

Tami Lowe writes fiction and nonfiction for women. Her memoir, MAKING SPACE FOR ME, MY MORMON ADOPTION STORY, was published in 2018. Tami is a member of the Florida Writers Association and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. As a Board Member of the Florida Writers Foundation and Chairperson of their Silent Auction, she helps raise money for literacy in the state of Florida. She is a judge for the Florida Writers RPLA and this is her second year as a judge for WFWA’s Rising Star Award. Tami writes a weekly email of connection, in her best London accent, titled IAmNotBritish. Follow her on social media or sign up for IAmNotBritish through her website at tamilowe.com.

Amazon Bestselling author Leslie Lynch gives voice to characters who grapple with their brokenness—and somehow find redemption. Leslie lives near Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and a rescued feral-turned-sweetheart cat. A light airplane pilot, she also loves quilting and pottery. She’s written three full-length novels: HIJACKED, UNHOLY BONDS, andOPAL’S JUBILEE; and two novellas: CHRISTMAS HOPE and CHRISTMAS GRACE. A graduate of Spalding University’s MFA low-residency program in Louisville, she writes both fiction and creative nonfiction, and is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s newspaper, THE CRITERION. Her work has been included in various anthologies.

Visit her at www.leslielynch.com; on Facebook at Leslie Lynch Writes; on Pinterest as Leslie Lynch; on Instagram as Leslie Lynch; and on Twitter @Leslie_Lynch_  

Kimberly Lynne writes speculative women’s fiction that explores the curiosities of being human. Her debut novel, A POCKET WATCH, SPRAY PAINT & MORPHINE was released in November 2018.

Kimberly is a slush reader and judge for multiple writing competitions. This is her second year reading for Rising Star. When not in the studio, she’s most likely to be found putting off housework by puttering in her veggie beds or hiking toward another waterfall. If the weather's perfect, you might find her in a sand trap on the back nine.

She posts good news and geekery on her Facebook page @KimberlyLynnesCuriosities. She’s also on Instagram @NovelistKimberlyLynne. Her flash fiction can be read at www.ByKimberlyLynne.com

Julie Merwin is the founder of MacGregor House, a small, indie publishing house in Vermont    ( adult and children’s fantasy, poetry, and other subjects ) She is an author and illustrator. THE KEY AND THE BEE HIVE, the last of five books in her series “THE TALES OF EARDEN” is available online in bookstores worldwide, and through Amazon. Her pen and ink illustrations grace the pages of “THE LEGEND OF NOW; WINGLESS”, a new YA fantasy published by Book Bogglers Press.

Find her at facebook/talesofearden and Author Central at Amazon.

Kamakshi P. Murti is Professor Emerita of German at Middlebury College. She has published extensively on German and European colonialism and imperialism, minorities discourse, and second- and foreign-language education. She is the author of INDIA: THE SEDUCTIVE AND SEDUCED ‘OTHER’ OF GERMAN ORIENTALISM (2001), and TO VEIL OR NOT TO VEIL: EUROPE’S SHAPE-SHIFTING ‘OTHER’ (2013). Since retirement in 2008, she has turned to writing fiction (e.g.: VEILED MURDERS, MURDERS MOST MATRONLY, LALLI’S WINDOW, YASEMIN AND NIRMALA: A TALE OF TWO TEENS).


  • 1995 Winner of FIVE STAR FACULTY AWARD (this award is student-generated), The University of Arizona Honors Center

  • 1998 Outstanding Faculty award from AAFSAA (Asian-American Faculty, Staff, and Alumni, University of Arizona).

  • 2015: American Association of Teachers of German and Goethe-Institut Certificate of Merit.

This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Lorraine Norwood, a native of Western North Carolina, is writing a historical fiction trilogy, THE MARGARET CHRONICLES, composed of THE SOLITARY SPARROW, A PELICAN IN THE WILDERNESS, and AN OWL IN THE DESERT. The novels are told in dual timelines, in 14th century England, France, and Germany and in the twentieth century. The first book of the trilogy is now making the rounds of publishers. Lorraine has two grown children and a neurotic yellow Lab named Sally. She once had a room of her own in which to write but then she lost it. She’s hoping to get it back.

LG O’Connor is a marketing executive at a Fortune 250 company who spends her free time spinning stories that touch the heart with themes of family, redemption, forgiveness, and most of all, hope. She’s the author of the urban fantasy / paranormal romance series, THE ANGELORUM TWELVE CHRONICLES, and the award-winning CAUGHT UP IN LOVE trilogy: CAUGHT UP IN RAINE, SHELTER MY HEART, AND SURRENDER MY HEART, which follows the three women who must confront ghosts of the past to find their second chance at love. A native ‘Jersey Girl,’ she’s always in search of the perfect cup of coffee and fine Italian leather. Her perfect hero always keeps the heroine fed. You can find recipes (which first appeared on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog) from the sexy hero of Caught Up in RAINE in his cookbook, RECIPES FROM RAINE’S ROOST AKA JILLIAN’S KITCHEN, available online where all fine books are sold. Find her at https://www.lgoconnor.com

Michele Orwin is a novelist, publisher, book coach, and teacher. She has published two novels (one under a pen name), several short stories, way too many nonfiction articles, and a few award-winning speeches. She has been a certified book coach with Author Accelerator for the past two years and now has her own coaching business. Several years ago she started Bacon Press Books as a way to help authors re-issue their already published books in paperback and digital. She recently reissued her first novel, Waiting for Next Week. She lives in Washington, DC.

Linda Bennett Pennell educator and the author of four works of historical women’s fiction and historical suspense, with a fifth to be released August 2020. She has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. Summer afternoons spent on her grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around the fireplace were filled with stories of the past both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into Linda’s work.

Linda resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable 105-pound German Shorthaired Pointer who is very certain he’s a little boy.


Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindaBennettPennell

Website:  http://www.lindapennell.com/

Shelby Riley is an author, speaker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and owner of a group family therapy practice in Chester Springs, PA. Her debut novel, ANGEL FALLS, won the WFWA Rising Star Award last year, and is currently out on submission. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter @ShelbyLRiley and on Instagram @shelbyrileywrites.

Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn't somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. She is the award-winning author of THE BRIDGE CLUB and the best-selling LOVE IN PROVENCE trilogy. Her fifth novel, DRAWING LESSONS, was released by Lake Union Publishing on October 1, 2017. In 2018/2019 Sands published the three-part Villa des Violettes series. She is a proud member of WFWA and a repeat Rising Star judge. Follow her at www.patriciasandsauthor.com or @patricialsands on Instagram or Facebook.

Award-winning author and educator Karen Sargent combines her two passions—writing and teaching—to equip and encourage writers to take their next step. She is a frequent presenter at writing workshops and conferences, and coaches aspiring authors through various stages of the publishing process. Her novel, WAITING FOR BUTTERFLIES, was the 2017 IAN Book of the Year and received the 2017 Foreword Reviews Gold for religious fiction. Other publishing credits include Guideposts publications, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and a variety of writing magazines and blogs. This is her fourth year as a Rising Star judge. Visit her at http://www.KarenSargent.com

Suanne Schafer was born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War. Her world travels and pioneer ancestors fuel her imagination and her writing. A genetic distrust of happily-ever-afters gives rise to strong female protagonists who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them. A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE explores the life of a nineteenth century artist in West Texas while HUNTING THE DEVIL explores the heartbreak and healing of an American physician swept up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Suanne has served as an editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and fiction editor for a literary magazine. Follow her at https://twitter.com/SuanneSchafer, https://www.instagram.com/suanneschafer/ and https://suanneschaferauthor.com

WFWA member William Schreiber began his creative-writing journey as an award-winning screenwriter before transitioning into novel writing. His debut novel, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER, won the WFWA’s 2019 Rising Star Award. To be released in May 2020 by Not A Pipe Publishing, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER is an adaptation of his original, yet-to-be-produced screenplay, which has earned numerous “Best Screenplay” awards at film festival competitions across the country, and it placed as a Quarterfinalist (top 5%) in the internationally competitive Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Program sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. William began his career as a magazine writer and editor after graduating with honors from the University of Florida College of Journalism & Communications. He lives and writes in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @bill_schreiber and on Facebook @williamschreiberauthor.

Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher, publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.

Her widely praised novels include WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?, 2010; REIS’S PIECES, 2012; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE, 2014 (Goodman Beck Publishing). Her new novel, LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, is in production at Red Adept Publishing.

Educated at The Ohio State University, Karen and her husband moved to the Central New York Finger Lakes region where they raised two daughters and shared a career in optometry. She now splits her time between Arizona, a small village in Belize, and traveling the earth in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Author website: http://www.karenwintersschwartz.com/

Rosemary Shomaker is a women’s fiction and mystery short story and novella author who writes about the unexpected in everyday life. Rosemary is the woman you don’t notice in the grocery store or at church but whom you do notice at estate sales and wandering vacant lots. In all these places she’s collecting story ideas. Rosemary, a Sisters in Crime national and local member, is a second year Rising Star judge. Find Rosemary’s “Ruff Goodbye” novella in TO FETCH A SCOUNDREL, the second book in the Mutt Mysteries series, and connect with her at muttmysteries.com and @MuttMysteries on Facebook. 

Laura Spinella is the author of eight published novels, including the #1 bestselling GHOST GIFTS. Her work meets with consistent critical acclaim for her well-drawn characters and intricate plots. UNSTRUNG, a women’s fiction novel, was a Publishers Weekly top-pick for spring and received a star review. She is a two-time RITA finalist, Audie winner, Holt Medallion finalist and the recipient of other industry nominations and awards. She is also creative liaison and project manager for AuthorBytes, the leading web developer of author dedicated websites. She enjoys working with new authors and is working diligently on her next book project. Currently, although she’s afraid of them, she resides in the horse-country of western New Jersey.   

Lorrie Thomson is the award-winning author of A MEASURE OF HAPPINESS, WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND, and EQUILIBRIUM. She lives with her husband and daughter in southern New Hampshire. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her husband lets her tag along for indoor wall climbing, outdoor hikes, and bike rides on their tandem. Learn more about Lorrie’s work at www.lorrie-thomson.com. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook, www.facebook.com/lorriethomsonauthor and Twitter, www.twitter.com/LorrieThomson.

Elizabeth Wafler writes evocative women’s fiction and is represented by Pamela Harty of the Knight Agency. Elizabeth serves as Director of Craft Education for WFWA. To learn more about her, visit her website: www.elizabethsumnerwafler.com, or follow her on Twitter: @elizabethwafler.

Ann Warner spent years in academia directing clinical laboratories, teaching, and doing research before taking a turn down a different road to write fiction. She is the author of thirteen novels including DREAMS FOR STONES and THE BABBLING BROOK NAKED POKER CLUB series. Ann has been a member of WFWA since its inception and has served as a judge for the Rising Star contest several times. She is also a co-administrator on Facebook for the Women’s Fiction Critique Group which has members from around the world who exchange critiques of complete works. Ann’s website is https://www.AnnWarner.Net

Sara B. Zalesky is the author of a sports romance series featuring women’s professional cycling. It all began with her first novel, WHEELER, a 2017 New Apple Award Official Selection for Cross-Genre Fiction. In 2018, the second novel, WHEELER: IN DARKNESS, THERE IS STILL LIGHT was published, with the third title, WHEELER: ONE FIRE BURNS OUT ANOTHER’S BURNINGcompleted the series in May, 2019. 

Her next novel, a romantic sci-fantasy, is currently in development. 

The author has been a WFWA Rising Star judge for the past three years. She resides in Chester County, PA with her husband, their son and two cats. Sara is also a legal assistant at a mid-sized law firm, an avid road cyclist and indoor cycling instructor.