2023 Rising Star Award First Round Judges

Christa Allan is an award-winning writer of Women’s Fiction and also a WFWA member. She has six traditionally published and two indie-published novels. This is her third year as a Rising Star judge. You can find her on Medium and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @christaallan.author. Her website is www.ChristaAllan.com.

Erin Bartels writes character-driven fiction for curious people. She is the award-winning author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, THE WORDS BETWEEN US, ALL THAT WE CARRIED, THE GIRL WHO COULD BREATHE UNDER WATER, and EVERYTHING IS JUST BEGINNING. A two-time Christy finalist and winner of two 2020 WFWA Star Awards and the 2020 Michigan Notable Book Award, Erin has been a publishing professional for more than twenty years. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning, beer-ponging frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is rather peaceful. You can find her on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor and on Instagram @erinbartelswrites. You won’t find her on Twitter because that place is a cesspool of negativity.
Kathleen M. Basi is a women’s fiction author and musical composer. Her novel, A SONG FOR THE ROAD, is the story of a woman on a cross-country road trip to honor her lost family. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge.  Follow her on Instagram @kathleenbasi and Facebook  @kathleenmbasi, or at kathleenbasi.com.

Lauren Beltz is a story engineer with experience writing and editing in multiple genres for traditional and indie publishing. She published her first novel, COLLEGE LIVING: A GUIDE FOR NEWBIES under the penname Elise Swift in college. Her recent novel THE PIT STOP was a RPLA semi-finalist. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lbeltzwrites or visit her at www.laurenbeltz.com.

Lara Bernhardt is a Pushcart-nominated writer and editor. She acted as Editor-in-Chief of Balkan Press and the literary magazine Conclave for six years. Twice a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, she writes supernatural suspense and women’s fiction and has been both traditionally and indie published. Lara also freelance edits, works closely with aspiring authors, has judged for numerous writing competitions, and has presented sessions on editing and writing craft at library programs and writing conferences.  You can follow her on all the socials @larawells1 on Twitter and @larabern10 on Facebook, BookBub, and Instagram. Her website is larabernhardt.com.

Kim Taylor Blakemore writes award-winning historical mystery/suspense and young adult historical fiction under the name Kim Taylor Blakemore. Her novels include AFTER ALICE FELL, THE DECEPTION, THE COMPANION, BOWERY GIRL, and the WILLA Award winner, CISSY FUNK. 

Her latest novel, THE GOOD TIME GIRLS is written under the pen name K.T. Blakemore. It’s the first in the Wild-Willed Women of the West series, featuring women who take no prisoners and succeed through sheer grit, determination, and a parcel of luck.

In addition, Kim is a developmental editor and novel coach, specializing in historical fiction, historical mystery/suspense and women’s fiction. She is the founder of Novelitics, which provides events, workshops and community to writers in the US and Canada.

Visit her at www.kimtaylorblakemore.com or on Instagram @kimtaylorblakemorebooks.

Betty Bolté is an award-winning American author and editor of fiction and nonfiction books. She has published 25+ books, most recently BECOMING LADY WASHINGTON: A NOVEL, NOTES OF LOVE AND WAR, and HOMECOMING (Fury Falls Inn Book 6). She earned a Master’s Degree in English in 2008, emphasizing the study of literature, and has judged many writing contests for both fiction and nonfiction. She’s been published in essays, newspaper articles/columns, magazine articles, and nonfiction books but now enjoys crafting entertaining and informative fiction, especially stories that bring American history to life. This is her ninth year as a Rising Star judge. She’s a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Authors Guild, and Historical Novel Society among other professional organizations. Find out more about her and her books at www.bettybolte.com. Follow her on Facebook, Bookbub, Twitter, and Goodreads

Jenn Bouchard is an author and high school teacher living in the Boston suburbs. Her debut novel FIRST COURSE was published by TouchPoint Press in 2021 and was the recipient of 14 awards. It will be released in audiobook by Tantor Media on May 9th. Her second book PALMS ON THE CAPE will be published by TouchPoint Press on October 3rd. She is currently querying a romcom. Her books are set in coastal New England and always involve delicious food and life's second acts. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @JennBouchardBOS and learn more at jennbouchard.com.

Sarahlyn Bruck is the award-winning author of three contemporary novels, Light of the Fire (forthcoming from Lake Union in fall 2023), Daytime Drama (2021), and Designer You (2018). When she’s not writing, Sarahlyn moonlights as a full-time writing and literature professor at a local community college. A Northern California native, she now lives in Philadelphia with her family. For the latest book news, events, and announcements, check out her website: sarahlynbruck.com. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @sarahlynbruck.

Lynne Bryant’s forty-plus years as a nurse and nursing academic have prepared her well for creating intimate human stories featuring the unheard voices of ordinary women. Lynne is the author of three novels: Catfish Alley, Alligator Lake, and The Mother Gene. She and her wife share a home with their three dogs—and occasionally their three children—in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where she attempts to grow flowers that deer don’t like and writes novels featuring delightfully flawed women in all their complexities.  Find Lynne online at www.lynnebryant.com. Follow her on Instagram @lynnebryantauthor.

Samantha Bryant is best known for her Menopausal Superhero series of novels through Falstaff Books, well that and her banana bread. The first book in the series GOING THROUGH THE CHANGE won a Jacquis Award from Legendary Women for feminist writing. Her stories mostly feature complicated women defying expectations, often through a speculative fiction lens. Check out her full catalog at  http://bit.ly/SamanthaBryant  or find her wasting time on Twitter and Instagram @samanthabwriter. If all else fails, check the woods. She likes to get lost there as often as she can.
Audrey Burges writes novels, humor, short fiction, and essays in Richmond, Virginia. Her debut novel, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone, was released January 24, 2023, by Berkley/PRH. Her second novel, A House Like an Accordion, will be released in May 2024 by Berkley/PRH. Both books are magical realism with romantic elements. Audrey is a frequent contributor to McSweeney's, and her work has also appeared in Pithead Chapel, Cease, CowsLost BalloonInto the Void, and numerous other outlets. You can read more of her work at audreyburges.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Rebecca Campbell is an amateur cook and non-practising scientist living in the New England region of northern New South Wales, Australia, with her husband, two stepsons, two cats and a dog. After studying and researching zoology, animal ecology, entomology, myrmecology and climate change for ten years, she realised academia wasn't for her and rediscovered her passion for creative writing. Her first novel, SANDALWOOD, touches on grief, sex, the power of scent, and confronting the past. She is currently working on a three-book series, which tells the interconnected but standalone stories of three vastly different women, and explores an age-hypogamous intimate relationship, forbidden love, and a non-monogamous marriage. She needs you to know that myrmecology is the scientific study of ants, not mermaids. Find her on Instagram @cleverhelpfulbitter and her website www.cleverhelpfulbitter.com.
Elise Chidley is the author of women's fiction novels YOUR ROOTS ARE SHOWING and MARRIED WITH BAGGAGE. Elise is an instructor with the Westport Writers' Workshop and a freelance developmental editor. She is a member of WFWA, SCBWI and the EFA. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter @EliseChidley and Instagram @elisechidleyauthor. Check out her website: elisechidley.com.
Charlotte Chipperfield is a women’s fiction author and founder of Her Narrative. Charlotte is enthusiastically devoted to being a “story catalyst” by creating space for women writers to reconnect with creativity and fully articulate the story they desire to tell. Charlotte brings a decade of experience as a marketing executive working with national brands and small businesses on messaging and strategy. Charlotte now applies this experience to support other women’s fiction writers to gather, learn and write their novels through the WriteConnect community, coaching, tools, and more! Follow @hernarrative on Instagram and Tiktok.

Karen Cino is a multi-published author. Her daily walks down at the boardwalk are what gets her muse going. It clears her mind and helps her find realistic plot ideas and characters, boosting up her muse. Karen loves writing about local places that people can relate to.

Karen loves the summer, loves the beach. Her previous books were written and take place in various places across Staten Island. Karen relocated to the Jersey Shore in 2015 and traded in the Staten Island Boardwalk for the Jersey Shore. Her Cookie Cutter Cozy Mystery Series takes place at the Jersey Shore.

Karen is a member of Women’s Fiction Writing Association. She resides in Toms River, New Jersey with her boyfriend and two cats.
Currently, Karen is working on a Women’s Fiction novel as well as a Cozy Mystery series. Her website is karencino.com.

Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White was born in rural England, but writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. Her passion for chipping away at stereotypes of mental illness inspires quirky stories about troubled but courageous characters, complicated relationships, and crazy critters…topped off with a dollop of hope. She is also an OCD advocate for the A2A Alliance, a non-profit that promotes advocacy over adversity. Visit her at barbaraclaypolewhite.com.
Nita Collins is an Author Accelerator certified book coach and developmental editor as well as a writer herself. She helps serious writers who have something to say get their novels onto the page so they can help change the world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Find her at nitacollinswriter.com, or @nitacollinswriter on Facebook and Instagram.
Barbara Conrey is the USA Today Bestselling author of Nowhere Near Goodbye, her debut, published on August 4, 2020, by Red Adept Publishing. Liza Fleissig represents her at the Liza Royce Agency. Her sophomore novel, My Secret to Keep, released on August 23, 2022. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, Facebook and her website, www.barbaraconreyauthor.com.
Martha Conway is the author of several novels, including THE UNDERGROUND RIVER, which was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice in 2018. Her other novels include THE PHYSICIAN’S DAUGHTER and THIEVING FOREST (winner of the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction). Martha's short fiction has been published in the Iowa Review, The Quarterly, The Carolina Quarterly, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University's writing certificate program. You can follow Martha on Instagram and Twitter (@marthaMconway); Facebook (@marthaconwaywriter); and on Post (@marthaconway). Her website is marthaconway.com.
Shelly Davis is a developmental editor and copyeditor specializing in women’s fiction and historical fiction. With clients ranging from Big 5 publishing to independent authors, she loves to dive into the details of a novel to determine what’s working and what needs a little polishing in order to shine. In addition to WFWA, she is also a member of Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and American Copy Editors Society (ACES). This is her third year as a Rising Star judge.  Visit her website at www.thedetaildevil.com and follow her on Twitter at @DetailDevilSD.

Grete DeAngelo is the author of GIVING MYSELF AWAY (2013) and a high school history teacher living with her family in Pennsylvania. She has served as a Rising Star judge since 2016. Her website is www.gretedeangelo.com.

KJ Dell’Antonia is the NYT best-selling author of The Chicken Sisters, In Her Boots, How to Be a Happier Parent and Playing the Witch Card (Fall 2023) She is also the former editor of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, co-host of the #AmWriting podcast and the passionate bookstagrammer (@kjda) behind #AmReading, a weekly-ish email of bookish enthusiasms (kjda.substack.com). This is her first year as a Rising Star Judge. Her website is kjdellantonia.com.

Laura Drake is a New York and self-published published author of Women's Fiction and Romance. Her debut, The Sweet Spot, won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She’s since published 13 more books. She is a founding member of Women’s Fiction Writers Assn. and Writers in the Storm blog.

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

Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and her website, lauradrakebooks.com.

Molly Dwyer has been an educator for over thirty years and is currently adjunct faculty at Mendocino College where she teaches creative writing. She’s the founding president of Writers of the Mendocino Coast and her debut novel, Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein, was shortlisted for the 2009 Northern California Book of Year. In 2010, the Mendocino County branch of the National Women’s Political Caucus honored Molly for “Writing Women Back into History.” Her nonfiction work, From Maidens to Mavericks: Mendocino Women, was published in 2017 by the Kelley House Museum. Her most recent novel, Hall of Lost Footsteps, is a family saga based loosely on the ancestry of her birth family.

Molly graduated from Sonoma State University. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont and a PhD from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She coaches writers, edits manuscripts of all stripes, and facilitates workshops and critique groups. Her website is whiskeydogpress.wordpress.com.

Lauren Faulkenberry is a novelist and artist. Her novels include TROUBLE IN BAYOU SABINE and TROUBLE WILL FOLLOW. Her artist books are held in special collections libraries across the US. She is co-founder of Blue Crow Books and is a member of WFWA. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram @lefaulkenberry and visit her at laurenfaulkenberry.com.

Lisa Fellinger is a writer and professionally trained developmental editor and book coach specializing in women’s fiction and romance. Her passion is helping writers become published authors by building up their writing skills and making their manuscripts stronger. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram @lisafellinger_editor. Her website is www.lisafellinger.com.

S.M. Freedman is an award-winning mystery and thriller author. Her latest psychological thriller, BLOOD ATONEMENT, about a woman who escapes an isolated religious sect and must determine if her alter personality is a murderer or if she's going to be the next victim, made The Globe and Mail's Top 100 Best Books of 2022. Follow her on Twitter, InstagramFacebook, and her website www.smfreedman.com.

Elaine Gallant travels the world armed with a Journalism degree, is founder of “808 Writers” and “NSB Writers,” founding member of Maui Writers Ink and creator of West Maui Book Club. She’s also a long-term WFWA member and author of “The 5th C: A CIA Novel” as well as several anthologies found on Amazon. Her many podcasts can be watched through ThinkTechHawaii.com. Elaine now resides in New Symrna Beach, FL after 20 years on Maui. Follow Elaine at her blog, ElaineGallantblog.wpcomstaging.com and on Facebook

Jeanne Gehret wrote groundbreaking books for neurodivergent children in the 1990s. After becoming a historical reenactor of Susan B. Anthony, she wrote SUSAN B ANTHONY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL and THE TRUTH ABOUT DANIEL. She is a member of WordCrafters, the longest running critique group in Rochester New York. Follow her at www.SusanBAnthonyFamily.com.
Maggie Giles is a Canadian author who is usually daydreaming about fictional characters. Always looking for a new creative outlet, Maggie dove into writing a novel head first. She has been a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association since 2014 where she works as their Social Media Director. The Things We Lost is her first novel. Her second, Twisted, will be releasing with Rising Action September 19, 2023. To learn more visit maggiegiles.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, and Goodreads

Karin Gillespie is the author of seven novels (Simon and Schuster and Henry Press) and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College. She is also a book columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, a humor columnist for Augusta Magazine and a recipient of a 2016 Georgia Author of the Year award. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at www.karinpgillespie.com.

Jean M. Grant has a penchant for misunderstood creatures, be it sharks, microbes, or wounded characters. A scientist by training, she now spends her days as an author and champion for her children. She writes historical and contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Two of her books won InD’tale RONE awards and one won a NN Light award.

A nature enthusiast, Jean also writes for family-oriented travel magazines and websites. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, tackling the biggest mountains in New England, and going on adventures near and far with her family. If she were stuck on a desert island, her three essentials (besides family, food, water, and shelter) would be coffee, lip balm, and endless pink post-it notes.

Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, or her website jeanmgrant.com

Amy Hagstrom is a writer, editor, and outdoor enthusiast who has spent two decades as a travel and outdoor adventure writer before debuting in women's fiction. She has been a columnist at Outdoors NW magazine, and has bylines in Huffington Post, Consumer's Digest, US News Travel, and Travel Oregon. Her op-ed pieces and essays have found homes at Grok Nation and First Day Press. Amy's debut novel, THE WILD BETWEEN US, publishes with Lake Union in November 2023. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram at @amyhagstromwrites and at amyhagstrom.com.

Emma Grundy Haigh is Editorial Director at Joffe Books. Throughout her publishing career, she has worked on Man Booker Prize shortlisters, illustrated children’s books and award-winning commercial fiction for publishers big and little. She loves working closely with authors to unknot tangled plot lines, push villains to their furthest extremes and draw out the weakness of the hero until they become strengths. She runs the Joffe Books Prize, now in its third year, which aims to amplify and celebrate crime writers of colour. Follow her on Twitter.

Leslie J. Hall is the author of the Kaitlyn Willis Road Signs mysteries, a humorous, PG-rated, amateur sleuth series starring a NW code enforcement officer. She also writes women’s fiction and in training to become a book coach. Leslie loves to speak, teach, and share her passion for writing with others. When not writing, Leslie volunteers for writer-related events, leads Write Night (a weekly virtual facilitated critique group), teaches beginning writing at community colleges in continuing ed, laughs as much as possible, and when not doing all of that, hangs out at the beach whenever possible. She lives in Bremerton, WA with her husband and her pandemic rescue cat, Mia. Learn more about Leslie’s writing and her classes at www.lesliejhall.com.

Jacque Hamilton is a developmental editor and coach specializing in structure, deep perspective, and creating an emotional connection. Her long form works and short stories explore the intricacies of intimate relationships or subtly reflect on current cultural changes through fiction. Jacque is an active WFWA member and mentor. You can connect with her at www.soapboxedits.com or on Instagram @soapboxedits_jacque.

Lita Harris is the author of CHRISTMAS IN BROOKSIDE FALLS, CHOCOLATE NUT SOMEDAY, ALWAYS, and several more titles in women’s fiction, contemporary, and small-town romance. She is a Jersey girl who enjoys spending time walking long the shore in the off-season looking for sea glass, and shells. References to the area are frequently mentioned in her books. The small-town settings in her stories are based on her time in rural Pennsylvania, and Alaska.

Her two rescue dogs are always close by, and occasionally find their way into a book.

For more information, please visit her website at LitaHarris.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hend Hegazi is a writing coach, freelance editor, and author of three novels. She is also the Editorial Director of Muslimah Writers and the Editorial Director of the emerging non-profit publishing house, Strange Incorporated. As an editor and writing coach, Hend helps authors of children’s books, novels, and non-fiction books develop their stories, tighten their narratives, improve their craft, and keep accountable so that they can achieve their writing goals. With nearly nine years of experience, Hend’s expertise has guided over 30 books as they have made their way to publication. Follow her on Instagram and visit her website at www.hendhegazi.com.
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. When not writing her own books, Elizabeth teaches basic fiction writing courses at her local community college. This is her seventh year as a Rising Star judge. Her website is www.elizabethhein.com.

Rebecca Hodge’s debut novel WILDLAND has received rave reviews from readers and received the WFWA Star award for debut Women’s Fiction. Her second book, OVER THE FALLS, about a woman searching for the sister she hates, Released in September 2021. Rebecca is a former veterinarian and clinical research scientist who lives and writes in North Carolina. She has three grown sons, two crazy dogs, and one patient husband. When not writing on the back porch or brewing yet another mug of tea, she loves hiking, travel, and (of course) curling up with a good book.

Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and check out her website www.rebeccahodgefiction.com to sign up for her newsletter, which offers a book giveaway in every issue.

Margaret Johnson is a UK author and member of the WFWA. Her novel FIVE WINTERS was recently published by Lake Union Publishing under the pen name Kitty Johnson. Writing as Margaret K Johnson she self-published five women's fiction novels and had many readers for people learning to speak English published by Cambridge University Press. Until recently she taught creative writing for Norfolk County Council but now concentrates full time on her writing. Follow her on Instagram at @kittyjohnsonbooks and on Twitter at @kittyjohnsonbks. Her website is kittyjohnsonbooks.com.
Sheryl Wolff Kayne is the author of two award-winning Countryman Press travel books: IMMERSION TRAVEL USA: THE BEST & MOST MEANINGFUL VOLUNTEERING, LIVING & LEARNING EXCURSIONS; and VOLUNTEER VACATIONS ACROSS AMERICA. She has three children's books: QUEEN OF THE KISSES; QUEEN OF THE KISSES MEETS SAM UNDER A SOUP POT; and HORROR IN TEXAS, along with "A Conversation Between Mother and Son" in A FRANKENSTEIN ANTHOLOGY and "Lucky In Love: Nancy Kuhn Clark" in DEATH, THE GIFT OF LIFE. She’s working on WHY YELL WHEN YOU CAN SING? and WHAT TATTOOS REALLY MEAN TO THOSE WHO WEAR THEM while completing a cozy mystery, DEATH BY DEMOLITION and a middle grade contemporary fiction, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HAIR. Sheryl’s a Sacred Heart University Professor since 2002 teaching Critical Thinking, Professional Writing, and Editing in the English Department and Welch College of Business. Her specialty areas include editing and rewrites. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at sherylkayne.com.
Lola Karns is the award winning author of WINTER FAIRY and SIDETRACKED, and a member of WFWA. She also provides beta reading services. Follow her on Instagram @lolakarns and Facebook. Her website is www.lolakarns.com.
Pamela Kelley is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of women's fiction. Her books include The Restaurant and the Nantucket Beach Plum Cove Inn series. The Bookshop by the Bay, is set on Cape Cod and coming in June. Follow her on FacebookInstagram, Tiktok, and Pinterest.  

Leslie Lehr, Novel Consultant for Truby Writers Studio, is a prize-winning author, essayist and screenwriter. Her pop culture memoir, A Boobs’ Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me ... and You, is in development with HBOMax comedy and was inspired by her NYTimes Modern Love essay narrated by Katie Couric on NPR. The paperback, with new material, will be released May 9, just in time for Mother's Day. Leslie's novels include What a Mother Knows, Wife Goes on, and 66 Laps, winner of the Pirates Alley Faulkner Prize. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts with an MFA from Antioch University, she has taught at the Writers Program at UCLA and is a member of WGA, Women in Film, PEN, The Authors Guild, The Women’s Leadership Council of L.A., and contributes to WFWA Write-On. Leslie, a past judge, helped develop the guidelines for the Rising Star Awards. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her website is www.leslielehr.com

Kim Lozano is a developmental editor and writing coach. She leads workshops online and in St. Louis and offers writing, editing, and publishing tips on her website. Her own work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been published in The Iowa Review, North American Review, Third Coast, and many other publications. This is her third year as a Rising Star judge. You can sign up for her popular resource for writers, [Kim's Notes], at kimlozano.com.

Jennifer Marra is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction who has had short works published. She will be querying her first novel in summer 2023. She took an early retirement from working as an electrical engineer. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter.
Heidi McCahan is an author, freelance writer, and digital course creator. Her books include ONE SOUTHERN SUMMER and HIS ALASKAN REDEMPTION. Heidi is an active member of Novel Academy and WFWA. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Her website is HeidiMcCahan.com.
Rachel Mans McKenny is an author and humorist. Her first book, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, was released in 2020 and was selected as the 2022 All-Iowa Read. She is an active member of WFWA and AWP, and has been published in The New York Times, McSweeney's, Electric Lit, and other outlets. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Her website is www.rachelmansmckenny.com.
J. Carter Merwin is an author/illustrator/independent publisher (MacGregor House) with over a dozen books in print and Kindle as well as books by other authors. Her latest, HOBB'S LAKE SECRET is a YA fantasy. She has been a proud Rising Star judge for many years. A member of the Independent Publishers of New England, her books and art work can also be found at www.merwingallery.comAmazon's Author Central and Facebook
Theresa Munroe is an independently published author of three works of women’s fiction. Her most recent novel is ZOOK’S CORNER. She has been a member of WFWA since 2015 and has previously participated in the Rising Star Contest as entrant, judge, and judge coordinator. She is active on Twitter and Facebook. Her website is tamunroe.com.
Lorraine Norwood is a developmental editor, copy editor, and book coach. She worked as a professional journalist for over 20 years before making a career change to archaeology. She participated in archaeological digs in the US and in England where her most memorable excavation was a 12th century cesspit. Her novel, The Solitary Sparrow will be published in October by Atmosphere Press. She is at work on the sequel, A Pelican in the Wilderness. Both novels are set in 14th century England and France. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association where she has served as a Rising Star judge for three years. She shares a room of her own with a 13-year-old Lab who thinks she is human. Lorraine can be found at www.lorrainenorwood.com where you will find links to social media.
Michele Orwin is a fiction author, book coach, publisher, editor, and teacher. She’s had two novels published - WATING FOR NEXT WEEK and THE CALL HOUSE. She coaches writers of fiction and memoir. Her press Bacon Press Books has published 15 titles. And she’s about to launch a course on Self-Publishing for Authors. Her website is micheleorwin.com. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.  
Kristina Parro is an American author, speech-language pathologist, book coach, content creator, business woman, and member of WFWA. Her debut, Lucky: A Novel (inspired by Taylor Swift's folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil Heiress Rebekah Harkness) came out in 2021. Follow Kristina on Instagram and Tiktok. Her website is Kristinaparro.com.
Chris Posti is the author of "Falling Apart, Falling for You," the first in a series of novels about three women who renew their friendship forty years after graduating and end up helping one another through assorted trials while saving their small town from economic disaster. She has also authored three nonfiction books and was a long-time freelance newspaper columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Her website is chrisposti.com.
Barbara Linn Probst Barbara Linn Probst is an award-winning, Amazon best-selling author of contemporary women’s fiction living on an historic dirt road in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her acclaimed novels Queen of the Owls (2020) and The Sound Between the Notes (2021) were gold and silver medalists for prestigious national awards, including the Sarton Award for Women’s Fiction and the Nautilus Book Award. The Sound Between the Notes, recipient of a Kirkus starred review, was selected as one of the Best Indie Books of 2021. Her third novel, The Color of Ice, was released in October 2022. Barbara has also published over sixty essays on the craft of writing for sites such as Jane Friedman and Writer Unboxed, and given workshops and webinars for writing organizations and conferences including the Kauai Writers Conference online, WFWA, and Story Circle Network. . Follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Her website is www.barbaralinnprobst.com.
Lalitha Ram is a published, award-winning author of novels, short stories and poems in English and her native language, Telugu. This is her second year as a judge in the Rising Star contest. Lalitha is a producer of music albums. She participates actively in international literary seminars and webinars and is the primary sponsor of a poetry anthology written by 250 poetesses from across the world. As a founder of a literary club in her hometown in the Pacific Northwest, she promotes arts and culture by giving awards to talented children. Her website is lalitharam.com. She can be reached on Facebook, and her email is [email protected].

J. Marie Rundquist is an author, educator, and a techie. Her debut, ALL I'M ASKING released in 2022 and her sophomore novel, AS THOUGH YOU WERE MINE is due out later in 2023. She is an active member within WFWA (currently serving on the Board of Directors as Secretary).This is her second year as a Rising Star judge.

Follow her on TwitterInstagramFacebook, YouTube, and writing.exchange. Her website is jmarierundquist.com.

Canadian author Patricia Sands writes award-winning women’s fiction that carries you away, especially in her seven best-selling novels set in Provence. Every summer she co-leads a popular 12-day tour in the south of France for 16 women based on those novels. Her 2022 novel, THE SECRETS WE HIDE, is the winner of the Book Excellence 2022 Award in Women’s Fiction. She is a longtime member of WFWA and a repeat Rising Star judge. Connect with her on Instagram and her website www.patriciasandsauthor.com.
Suanne Schafer has had two novels and multiple short stories published. A Different Kind of Fire depicts an early 20th century artist in West Texas while Hunting the Devil explores the plight of an American physician during the Rwandan genocide. Her work-on-progress looks at women’s rights in the late 19th century through the eyes of a teenaged girl committed to an insane asylum. Suanne has obtained a certificate in Novel Writing from Stanford University and taken copy editing classes from the University of San Diego.  Follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Her website is suanneschaferauthor.com.
Diane Cohen Schneider is a former Wall Street sales executive and the author of the novel ANDREA HOFFMAN GOES ALL IN. She has been a member of WFWA since 2015 and a Rising Star Judge once before. The links to her numerous published essays and interviews about her experience being a first time author the same year she started receiving Medicare can be found at her website Dianecohenschneider.com. Follow her on Facebook.

Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Forty-five years later her professional writing career finally began when the first of her widely praised novels were published by Goodman Beck Publishing: WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?, 2010; REIS’S PIECES, 2012; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE, 2014. Red Adept Publishing released LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, 2020, and THE VAST CLEAR BLUE, 2023; two richly emotional stories about relationships that take place in Belize.

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 fourth year as a Rising Star judge.

Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Her website is www.karenwintersschwartz.com.

Ella Shawn is an erotic women’s fiction writer, podcaster, and content creator. She has written and published four books in the Broken Souls series: BROKEN SOULS, MIRRORED SOULS, CONSECRATED SOULS, and HARMONIOUS SOULS. Her new podcast, BLACK WRITER THERAPY will launch on April 08, 2023. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @authorellashawn. Her website is www.ellashawn.com.
Elise Schiller is a writer and currently teaches writing at Community College of Philadelphia. She worked in non-profit administration for several decades. Her books include EVEN IF YOUR HEART WOULD LISTEN, a memoir, and WATERMARK, a novel. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. You can follow her and join her newsletter on her website, eliseschiller.com; follow her on Facebook at Elise Schiller Author, and on Instagram at EliseSchiller.
Rosemary “Rosie” Shomaker mulls story ideas and exercises her writing craft from Central Virginia. Her work features the mystery of seemingly everyday, banal surroundings, circumstances, and routines, and her stories often include dogs and trees. Several of Rosie's short stories have been published in mystery and women's fiction anthologies, and her two novellas are in volumes one and two of the Mutt Mysteries series. Follow her on Instagram @rosewritesva.
Amanda Speights is an 1800s American West romance author, entrepreneur, homeschool mom, and member of WFWA. Her debut novel, Love's Arrival, released March 8, 2023. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Instagram @AmandaJSpeights and Facebook @AmandaSpeightsAuthor and visit her website at amandaspeights.com.
A longtime member of Pennwriters, and the Executive Vice President of the IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), D. J. Stevenson has published twenty-four novels and over eighty short stories in numerous genres, including short stories for Star Trek and Shadowrun. She writes television essays and reviews for the Outside In series and the online Sci-Fi Bulletin. She chairs the IAMTW's Scribe Awards and ran Pennwriters' Annual Writing Contest for nearly ten years. She currently runs Pennwriters' Critique Partner Program. Visit www.BluetrixBooks.com for more information.
Rachel Stone writes stories of hope and redemption, often set against vibrant Canadian backdrops. Her writing placed first in the 2022 OBOA Writing Contest and has appeared in international literary and visual arts magazines, journals and blogs. She lives near Toronto with her family and on weekends you’ll find her along the southern shore of Georgian Bay, belting pop rock off-key from her paddleboard. Her debut novel THE BLUE IRIS is available to preorder in June. Follow her on Twitter @rachestone, Instagram @racheystone and on Facebook. Her website is www.rachelstoneauthor.com.
Kimberly Sullivan writes the women’s fiction stories she loves to read, both contemporary and historic tales of women and the rich lives they lead along their journeys of self-discovery. She's written three novels, THREE COINS, DARK BLUE WAVES, and IN THE SHADOWS OF THE APENNINES and one short story collection, DRINK WINE AND BE BEAUTIFUL. A lifetime admirer and longtime resident of Italy, she's often guilty of sneaking the bel paese into her stories. Follow her on Instagram @KimberlyinRome
Alisa Tapia, writing as N.L. Zuniga, is a freelance writer and an aviation administrative law judge for a federal agency.  She is a member of WFWA and the Authors Guild.  Her articles have been published in The Federal Lawyer magazine, and her short story, "A Special Place" in Chicken Soup of the Soul: Believe in Angels book published in January 2022.  She has served as a contest judge for Ageless Authors, Omega Writers, and a Rising Star judge for WFWA.  Ms. Zuniga plans to pursue her MFA degree in 2024. 
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.lorriethomson.com. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook and Twitter. 
Ann Warner is the author of six single titles, a trilogy, a five-book cozy mystery series, and a children’s story. Her novel DREAMS FOR STONES was an Indie Next Generation Book Award Finalist, and her BABBLING BROOK NAKED POKER CLUB series of cozy mysteries has garnered over 2000 five-star reviews. Formerly an academic and a scientific researcher, Ann took an unexpected turn down a different road when she began writing fiction. Ann has been a member of WFWA since its founding and has served as a judge a number of times. Visit Ann’s website at AnnWarner.net.
Danielle M. Wong is a bicoastal author with a permanent case of wanderlust. Inspired by her travels, she loves writing stories with complex characters and twist-filled plots. Danielle’s work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, HuffPost, PopSugar, and Writer’s Digest. An International Book Award recipient and Independent Press Award winner, she is currently penning her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter @Daniellemwong and Instagram @Daniellemwong_. Her website is daniellemwong.com.