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First Round Published Author Judges

Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she could 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 Creative Director at an ad agency, but on nights and weekends you can find her writing upmarket women’s fiction. Her debut novel, YOU & ME & US, is coming in Spring 2020 from William Morrow (HarperCollins). She’s represented by Joanna MacKenzie of Nelson Literary Agency. Learn more at and follow her @ThisHammer on all the social media platforms.

Anita Kushwaha is a Canadian author and former academic. She has an M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Geography from Carleton University and is also a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the Humber School for Writers. Her latest novel, SIDE BY SIDE (Inanna Publications), was released in fall 2018, and was awarded an Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY) Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction. She is also the author of a novella, THE ESCAPE ARTIST (Quattro Books). Her next book, CAUGHT IN A LIE, will be published by HarperCollins Canada in 2020. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. You can follower her on Twitter and Instagram @MsAnitaKushwaha and on Facebook ( She blogs about books, baking, and her life as a writer at


Ann Anderson Evans’s memoir, DARING TO DATE AGAIN (SheWrites Press, 2014) won multiple awards. Other work has been published in the literary press, academic journals, Kindle, and elsewhere. She has MAs in English and Linguistics, has lived and worked in Spain, Israel, Austria, Italy, and Greece, and speaks six languages. Recently, she taught freshman writing at Montclair State University.Find her at and on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Aurelia Flaming writes about young women who make bad decisions, some of whom have superpowers. Her stories have appeared in Orson Scott 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 first year as a Rising Star judge. Visit her at


Barbara Conrey writes Upmarket Women’s Fiction. Her first novel, NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE, will be published in 2020 by Red Adept Publishing. Barbara has been a member of WFWA for four years. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @barbaraconrey and on Facebook at Check out her new web site at


Barbara O’Neal is the author of twelve novels of women’s fiction, including THE ARE OF INHERITING SECRETS, and the upcoming WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAINDS.  Her award-winning books have been published in more than a dozen countries, including France, England, Poland, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Brazil. She lives in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs with her beloved, a British endurance athlete who vows he’ll never lose his accent.


Barbara Solomon Josselsohn is a novelist and freelance writer. Her debut novel is THE LAST DREAMER (Lake Union Publishing). Her articles and essays appear in a range of print and online publications including THE NEW YORK TIMES, PARENTS MAGAZINE, WORKING MOTHER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, and WRITER’S DIGEST. Her work is also included in the anthologies MY LIBRARY: TRUE STORIES OF BOOKS, NOOKS, AND FURTIVE LOOKS ( and NEW MITZVAH STORIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY (Reclaiming Judaism Press). Barbara is the founder of the Scarsdale Library Writers Center, in New York, which supports and promotes local and regional writers. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College, at Scarsdale Public Library, and privately, and is currently at work on her second novel. Visit her or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @BarbaraJoss and on Facebook.


Betty Bolté is an award-winning author known for authentic and accurately researched American historical fiction with heart and supernatural romance novels. She’s been published in essays, newspaper and magazine articles, and nonfiction books but now enjoys crafting entertaining and informative fiction. She earned a Master’s Degree in English in 2008, emphasizing the study of literature and storytelling, and has judged numerous writing contests for both fiction and nonfiction. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Alabama Writers Conclave, and Authors Guild. Get to know her at


Carrie Callaghan is a historical fiction author living in Maryland with her family. Her debut novel, A LIGHT OF HER OWN, about 17th century painter Judith Leyster, was published by Amberjack in 2018. Her next novel, SALT THE SNOW, is forthcoming in November 2019. Her short stories have been published in multiple literary journals around the country, and she is a senior editor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She loves seasons of all kinds, history, and tea.  And books, books, books.


Casey Dembowski is a contemporary women's fiction author represented by Danielle Burby of the Nelson Literary Agency. Her novel FIRST COMES MARRIAGE is currently out on submission. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow Casey on Twitter at @casey_dembowski and on Facebook.


Cheryl Barton is the author of 31 romance novels, 3 inspirational novels and is proud of 4 book compilation projects with several other incredible women called, ONE SISTER AWAY: ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM ONE SISTER TO ANOTHER – a series of books meant to empower and inspire other women. In 2017, Cheryl started her own independent book publishing company where she has published the books of six writers. Cheryl was a 2018 Finalist of the Literary Trailblazer of the Year award, given by the Indie Author Legacy Awards’ yearly event. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America – National Chapter and the Maryland Romance Writers. She is also a member of the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland and the International Women Writers Guild. Find out more about Cheryl and her novels on her website at You can also connect with her on social media using @AuthorCherylBarton on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Diane Barnes is the author of MIXED SIGNALS (2016) and WAITING FOR ETHAN (2015). Her third novel, MORE THAN, is her debut in women’s fiction and will be published later this year.  Diane is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @dianebarnes777and on Facebook. Visit Diane's website at


Donna Everhart is an award winning, USA Today bestselling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET and her most recent, THEFORGIVING KIND. The EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE was an IndieNext Pick (Nov.2016), and long listed for the Southern Book Prize. Her second book, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET was a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Winter Pick (2018), and a Publisher's Lunch Buzz Book. She was recently awarded the Southeastern Library Association's Author of the Year in fiction for THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET. Donna Everhart is a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, and the North Carolina Writers Network. She lives in Dunn, NC with her husband, and a tiny, heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, named Mister.

Elaine Gallant travels the world armed with a Journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Her work appears in numerous print and online publications. With the launch of her début thriller THE 5TH C: A CIA NOVEL, available on Amazon, this Maui girl now treks within the more complicated world of fiction. Follow Elaine at: and


EllenGreen Andrews is a romance writer, and a member of WFWA, RWA and ALLi. She retired from her first career as a nurse four years ago and shortly thereafter self published her first novel, AN HONORABLE DECEPTION available through Amazon.She is on track to release her second novel, ALL THE WORDS WE DIDN’T SAY at the end of April 2019.Ellen lives on ten acres with her husband and a myriad of pets in north central Florida. She is the mother of five children, has ten grandchildren, and frequently uses bits and pieces of them in her books.Ellen loves to travel, read, cook, and is an unapologetic people watcher.An accomplished seamstress, she has an unbridled love of fabric and textiles.This is her first year as a Rising Star judge.Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @elliespetals, and Facebook


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. HOW TO CLIMB THE EIFFEL TOWER follows one young woman as she navigates the world of cancer treatment with the help of her friends. OVERLOOK and ESCAPE PLAN chronicle how a small group of women bands together to free themselves from terrible marriages and forge their own paths in life. When she is not writing her own books, Elizabeth enjoys helping other writers fulfill their dreams of becoming novelists. She can be reached at


Elizabeth Wafler writes women's fiction and romance from the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. She is represented by Pamela Harty of the Knight Agency. An active member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, Elizabeth serves as Director of Craft/Education Programs. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter, @elizabethwafler, and on her website,


Emmy Curtis is an author and a former editor. She has published nine books with Hachette, two with Harlequin, and one with Entangled Publishing. This is her first year as a member of WFWA, and the first year as a Rising Star judge. You can follow her on Twitter @emmycurtis19, on Facebook as Emmy Curtis – Author, or on


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

Hildie S. Block is an author and writing instructor.  She’s been teaching writing since 1996 at places like American and George Washington Universities and Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  Through Hildie Block’s Workshops, for the last 14 years, she has helped students get their novels and memoirs out of their heads and onto the page, including many that have been happily published! Her book NOT WHAT I EXPECTED came out in 2007 and she has published over 50 short stories, several being included in anthologies. Her award winning short story PEOPLE is available as a Kindle single. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge.  Follow her on Facebook at Hildie Block and Hildie Block’s Workshops, Twitter @HildieSBlock and


J. Carter Merwin is an independent publisher/author and illustrator. Her novel, THE SEER, is the fourth book in THE TALES OF EARDEN fantasy series (previous -THE SWAN AND ARROW, THE FLEDGLING, THE GUARDIAN AND THE KING ). Her fifth and final in the series is being written, tentatively titled THE KEY AND THE BEE HIVE ). Four other books were published in 2018 by her imprint, MacGregor House, including children's books, poetry and a Scottish cookbook. THE MONKEY TREE, poetry by Vermont author, Michael Alter is her latest offering. Switching to her illustrator's hat and due out April 2019 from Book Bogglers Publishing - THE LEGEND OF NOW - WINGLESS. Julie is a proud member of WFWA, The Independent Publishers of New England, member and former judge for the Romance Writers of America. This is her third year judging for the Rising Star Award. Follow her on Facebook at Tales of Earden, at and on Pinterest at /mottst/The Tales of Earden Novels.


Jacki Kelly is a romance and women’s fiction author. Her first book was published in 2012. Since then she has published over ten books. She is an active member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writer’s of America. Her next book entitled IN PURSUIT OF PERFECTION will be released in August 2019. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s walking her adorable cocker spaniel or on the golf course. Her idea of bliss is squeezing all this stuff into one day. Follow her on Twitter @jackikellybooks and on Facebook at Jacki Kelly- Author.


Jean M. Grant’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. Her books include historical romance (A HUNDRED BREATHS, A HUNDRED KISSES) contemporary romance (SOUL OF THE STORM), and women’s fiction (WILL RISE FROM ASHES). She also writes articles for family and travel magazines. She is a member of RWA and WFWA. This is her first year as a Rising Star Judge. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors. She can be found at:, on Facebook, or @JeanGrant05 on Twitter.

Jennifer Fromke writes from North Carolina, where she pines for colder temperatures all year long. Northerners by upbringing, she and her husband of 27 years have raised three Southern-ish children quite by accident. She does not like sweet tea, but loves to cook for a house full of family and friends, especially when it involves the official vegetable of the South: homemade macaroni and cheese. She began writing contemporary women’s fiction in 2010 and sees no end in sight. Her stories always involve strong women making tough choices. Her first novel was award-winning and published in 2012. She’s been honing her craft ever since. Jennifer hosts a book review blog at www.shetalksbooks.comYou can check out her authorwebsite: or find her on social media: FB: IG: shetalksbooks Twitter: @jenniferfromke


While growing up, Judith Keim was drawn to the idea of writing stories from a young age. Books were always present, being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. All in her family shared information from the books in general conversation, giving them a wealth of knowledge and vivid imaginations. A hybrid author who both has a publisher and self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming novels about women who face unexpected challenges, meet them with strength, and find love and happiness along the way. Her best-selling books are based, in part, on many of the places she's lived or visited and on the interesting people she's met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many loyal readers love. Her 18th book, GOING HOME, was released in February 2019. She presently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally.


Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control. Her debut novel, THE ONES WE CHOOSE, was published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster in 2018, and has been optioned for television by Lionsgate. You can find her on Facebook at @julieclarkbooks, on Instagram at @julieclarkauthor, and on Twitter at @jclarkab.


Juliet Madison is a bestselling author of seventeen books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the Amazon Top 100 romantic comedy FAST FORWARD, the young adult supernatural series THE DELTA GIRLS, and the TARRIN’S BAY SERIES starting with the award nominated novel THE JANUARY WISH. Her self-help book THE SECRET LETTERS PROJECT sparked a worldwide kindness initiative of writing inspiring letters to strangers, and she has illustrated her own coloring and activity book, COLOR YOUR DREAMS. Living on a farm in a small coastal town in Australia, Juliet is also an intuitive life coach and crystal shop owner, and creates popular online courses for writers with WRITING MOJO ACADEMY. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. You can find out more about Juliet and her books and services at and follow her on Facebook at and instagram @julietmadisonauthorartist 

Kamakshi Pappu Murti is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Her fictional writing includes children’s books and murder mysteries. Her scholarly writing is devoted to multi-cultural issues, as well as gender studies. Her first children’s book LALLI’S WINDOW was published in 2017 by Austin Macauley, and her first murder mystery MURDERS MOST MATRONLY came out in 2017 as an e-book by Juggernaut Books in India. Kamakshi is an active member of SCBWI, WFWA, MLA, ACTFL, and NCORE (National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education). Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ([email protected]).


Karen (K.S.) Jones is an award-winning author. Her debut novel, SHADOW OF THE HAWK received multiple honors, including the 2016 WILLA Literary Award, the 2016 RONE Award, the 2015 Chaucer Award, and the 2015 Literary Classics International Book Award. Her mid-grade sci-fi/fantasy, BLACK LIGHTNINGwas the recipient of the 2017 Literary Classics International Book Award, as well as a Readers' Favorite finalist. In 2014, her short story, DEADLINES, was named "Best Short Fiction" by Southern Writers magazine. Karen is a member of WFWA, and she has just completed her first Women's Fiction–Historical, which is currently on submission. She writes from her home in the Texas Hill Country. Follow her on Twitter @KSJones2011


Karen Sargent is an award-winning author whose debut novel, WAITING FOR BUTTERFLIES, is the 2017 IAN Book of the Year. She writes “stories that stir the soul” with characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts. A romantic element is woven within. In addition to writing inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Her writing has been featured in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine and online at Writer’s Digest, Positive Writer, Seekerville, and Southern Writers Suite T. She is the volunteer coordinator for WFWA and a member of ACFW, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the SEMO Writers’ Guild. When she’s not writing, she teaches high school and college English and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at


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, MISS MANGO, 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 Central New York, 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 first year as a Rising Star judge. Author website:


Kathleen Barber is the author of ARE YOU SLEEPING (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster 2017), which is the basis for the forthcoming Apple series “Truth Be Told,” produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and starring Octavia Spencer, Lizzy Caplan, and Aaron Paul, and which is a WFWA STAR Award winner in the Outstanding Debut category. Her second novel, FOLLOW ME, is expected in 2020. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @katelizabee.

Kathleen West is a writer, teacher, reader, and semi-professional minivan driver. A life-long Minnesotan, she holds degrees from Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. Her debut novel, MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES, will be published by Berkley (Penguin Random House) in Spring 2020. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, their two sporty sons, and an ill-behaved goldendoodle. You can find her on Twitter @kwestbooks and at

Kelly Byrne is an award-winning poet, playwright, and short story writer. In addition to contemporary women’s fiction, she also writes contemporary YA fantasy and is the author of the novel, CHASING KATE. Currently, she works as a freelance fiction editor in Los Angeles. In a former life she was a snowboard instructor, a personal trainer, and a pet photographer. She’s a member of WFWA and this is her second year as a Rising Star judge. You can find Kelly on her website: or follow her on Facebook here:


Kelly Simmons is an advertising creative director and the author of the critically acclaimed novels STANDING STILL and THE BIRD HOUSE (Simon & Schuster) plus Target bestseller ONE MORE DAY, THE FIFTH OF JULY and the forthcoming WHERE SHE WENT (Sourcebooks.) She’s a member of WFWA, Tall Poppy Writers and The Liars Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping fledgling novelists. Additionally, she co-helms the weekly writers podcast “Liars Club Oddcast.”  She was born the same day as Dorothy Parker. Coincidence? She thinks not. Follow her on Instagram @kellyasimmons or twitter @kellysimmons. Or visit


Kim Taylor Blakemore's latest novel THE COMPANION, a historical suspense, will be published in January 2020 by Lake Union Publishing. The novel is a recipient of a 2018 Regional Arts and Culture Council grant, and winner of a 2018 Tucson Festival of the Books Literary Award. Other novels include BOWERY GIRL, set in 1883 New York; and CISSY FUNK, a Willa Literary Award winner for Best YA Novel. She is a member of Women's Fiction Writing Association and Historical Novel Society, and teaches writing workshops with PDX Writers in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Instagram @blakemorekimtaylor or


Kimberley Ash is a British expat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for almost 25 years. Her first novel, BREATHE, a contemporary romance, was published in 2018 by Crimson Romance. Her second, FORGIVE ME, the first in the Van Allen Brothers trilogy, releases in April, 2019 with Tule Publishing. When not writing 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, and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Goodreads.


Kimberly Lynne writes speculative women’s fiction that explores the inexplicable curiosities of being human. She writes from a sunny corner room in a minimalized house she shares with her husband of 35 years and a blind Havanese named Hope. Her debut novel, A POCKET WATCH, SPRAY PAINT & MORPHINE was released in November 2018.She’s a slush reader and judge for various writing competitions, a volunteer for WFWA, a member of the South Carolina Writers’ Association, and a Wild Acres Writers Workshop alumna. She’s most likely to be found designing a new garden or on a long walk in the woods when she’s not in the studio.Kimberly loves to connect with readers. She tweets all things readerly and writerly @ByKimberlyLynne on Twitter; uplifting news and science-geek posts are found on her Facebook page KimberlyLynnesCuriosities. Her flash fiction can be read at


LG O'Connor is a corporate marketing exec by day and multi-award winning author of the urban fantasy / paranormal romance series, The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, and her romantic women's fiction trilogy, Caught Up in Love, which follows three women in the same family on their road to redemption and a 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 her new book, Recipes from Raine's Roost (which first appeared on Joyce Lamb's USA TODAY Happy Ever After blog), by Caught Up in RAINE hero, Raine MacDonald, on Amazon under the Cooking & Wine section.


Laura Drake is a New York 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, won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She also published a four-book small town romance series with Harlequin’s Superomance line.  Her women's fiction, DAYS MADE OF GLASS, released January 2016, and THE LAST TRUE COWBOY, first in her Chestnut Creek series released December 2018. Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. Laura 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.


Laura Spinella is the award-winning author of eight novels, including the #1 bestseller, GHOST GIFTS, book one in the Ghost Gifts Trilogy. She is the author of the critically acclaimed UNSTRUNG, receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly and being named as “most anticipated book for spring” by the trade publication. She is a two-time RITA finalist, RT Book Reviews finalist, Audie winner, and continuously receives noteworthy reviews for her intricate plots and well-crafted characters. Her debut novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, received multiple industry awards and was named a Best Book of 2011 by In addition to her work as novelist, she is the editorial-project director for AuthorBytes, the largest and most prestigious web developer dedicated to author websites. She is currently working on her next novel, THRILLER QUEENS. 


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. The mother of three, DeCesare lives with her family in Rhode Island and is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at The Newport MFA. For more, visit Instagram: @leah.decesare Twitter: @leahdecesare.


Lecia Cotton Cornwall lives and writes in the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies with four cats and a wild and crazy 90-pound chocolate Lab named Andy. She has two grown children and one patient husband. Lecia is the author of fifteen historical romance novels, and she has just completed her first women’s fiction title. When she is not writing, Lecia is a dedicated volunteer at the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Alberta. For more information, please visit Lecia’s website at:


OUT OF THE DARKNESS, INTO HOPE: SUSPENSE AND HEALINGAmazon Bestselling author Leslie Lynch gives voice to characters who discover unconventional solutions to life’s twists. 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 BONDSand OPALS JUBILEE; and two novellas: CHRISTMAS HOPE and CHRISTMAS GRACEA graduate of Spalding University’s MFA 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; on Facebook at Leslie Lynch Writes; on Pinterest as Leslie Lynch; and on Twitter @Leslie_Lynch_  


Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She's the author of AMONG THE BRANDED and THE SECRET WE LOST and currently working on her third novel. When not in front of the computer, she's behind the drums (slightly) annoying her neighbors. This is her second year as a Rising Star Award judge. For more information about Linda, visit her website at and follow her on Twitter @lindasmolkin and Facebook @authorlindasmolkin.


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. For more information about Lita, please visit her website at | Twitter | Facebook | or | Instagram |


Lori Henriksen is a long-time member of WFWA. Her debut novel THE WINTER LOON was a 2018 Star Award finalist in the debut category, and she is currently working on a sequel. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Lori lives in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon with her husband, Pat, two rescue dogs and a reformed feral cat turned couch potato.  More about Lori can be found on her website


Lorrie Thomson is the award-winning author of A MEASURE OF HAPPINESS, WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND, and EQUILIBRIUM. She lives in southern New Hampshire with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, they let her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers. Learn more about Lorrie’s work at Connect with Lorrie on Facebook (lorriethomsonauthor) and Twitter.


Lyn Liao Butler writes multicultural women's fiction and recently signed with an agent. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge and you can find her on Twitter at @lynliao3 and Instagram at @lynliaobutler.


Lynn Reynolds published fiction includes chick lit, steamy romance, and a ghost storyRT Book Reviews called her debut novel THIRTY-NINE AGAIN, “a first-class mystery . . . and a first-class read.” Lynn’s real life alter ego, Linda Reynolds-Burkins, has written feature articles for many newspapers and magazines, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Baltimore Sun. She also worked in public relations for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and received the Mayor's Citation for her work with the symphony's Community Outreach Committee. She has coordinated PR campaigns for authors, nonprofits, and arts organizations. A woman with a dangerously short attention span, Lynn has been a librarian, a journalist, a publicist, a computer programmer, an actress, a stagehand, and a child model. Her real ambition is to be a wench at The Renaissance Faire.Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @wordsmithlynn or look for her on Facebook. Her website is


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 or her website at


Marlene Adelstein is a writer and freelance book editor and a member of WFWA. Her debut novel, SOPHIE LAST SEEN, is a USA Today Bestseller recently published by Red Adept Publishing. Her personal essays have appeared in:,,, and She has been awarded residencies to Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Wurlitzer Foundation, Robert M. MacNamara Foundation among others. She edits novels, memoirs, and screenplays, working with authors at all stages of their writing careers. Marlene worked for over twenty years as an executive in feature film and television development for a variety of top Hollywood producers. This is her first year as a Rising Star Judge. She lives in the Hudson Valley and can be found at: Marlene.Adelstein on Instagram, @fixyourbook on Twitter or on Facebook.


Mary Ann Carman is the author of nine novels in three genres all with some mystery and paranormal element. Her latest, SOMETHING BLUE is the fourth in her contemporary cozy mystery series was released in Oct 2018. Mary Ann is on the Board of Directors for the Society of Southwestern Authors for the past three years, this past year as president. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. You can fine her online at, also on facebook Mary Ann Carman the MAC Team, and twitter @Mary_Ann_Carman.


Michele Orwin is a writer, editor, publisher, teacher and book coach. She has had two novels published, one under a pen name, several short stories, and numerous nonfiction articles. Since she started her small, independent press, Bacon Press Books, she has published fifteen titles. She also works as a book coach helping authors with their fiction and nonfiction manuscripts. She is a new member of WFWA and this is her first year as a Rising Star judge. 


Molly Dwyer’s debut novel, REQUIEM FOR THE AUTHOR OF FRANKSENSTEIN, was nominated for the 2009 Northern California Book Award in Fiction and won the Independent Publishers Book of the Year Award and an Indie Book Award for Historical Fiction. In 2010, Molly was honored for “Writing Women Back into History” by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Mendocino County. She’s the Founding President of the Writers of the Mendocino Coast, a branch of California Writers Club, and teaches creative writing and Critical Thinking at Mendocino College. Molly works as an editor, writing coach, writing group and workshop facilitator. She has an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and a PhD in Humanities from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She’s written three novels and is working on a fourth, based on her ancestry and family history. For more info visit:


Nancy Burkey is a published author, a member of WFWA, a NetGalley Top Reviewer, and a psychiatrist for over 30 years. She writes in the suspense-thriller genre with strong underlying women’s fiction themes. Her debut novel, RUBBING STONES, published in 2016, is the story of a family taken hostage on a trip down the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, where political and personal agendas collide. Dr. Burkey’s current work-in-progress was inspired by the experience as a psychiatrist working with psychotic murderers in a large, state-run, public hospital.  It is the story of a female medical student who begins to suspect that deaths at a university hospital are actually murders, obtaining her clues from a Schizophrenic patient with a thought disorder. This is her third year as a judge for the WFWA Rising Star contest. Follow her on her blog and book reviews on


Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of PassionShe 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 works as a contest judge for NYC Midnight and as Editor in Chief for the Conscious Life Journal, an Atlanta publication that helps people journey into higher conscious awareness.


Nikki Stern is an essayist and author of four books, including HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist, and THE FORMER ASSASSIN, a 2018 Kindle Book Review finalist. Her latest book is THE WEDDING CRASHER, a mystery out this spring. Her essays have appeared in three anthologies and in online and print journals. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Independent Book Publishers Association. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her at, on Instagram and Twitter (@realnikkistern) and on Facebook (Nikki Stern, author)


Pat Valdata is a poet and novelist with an MFA in writing from Goddard College. Her fiction publications include two novels, CROSSWIND and THE OTHER SISTERwhich won a gold medal from the Árpád Academy in 2008. She also has two poetry books, WHERE NO MAN CAN TOUCH (winner of the 2015 Donald Justice Poetry Prize) and INHERENT VICE, and the chapbook LOOKING FOR BIVALVE.Valdata is an adjunct professor who teaches creative writing for the University of Maryland University College and the Salisbury University Center for Extended and Lifelong Learning. A native of New Jersey, she now lives in Crisfield, Maryland.


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 December, 2018, Sands indie published the first novella in the VILLA DES VIOLETTES series. She is a proud member of WFWA and a repeat Rising Star judge. Follow her at or @patricialsands on Instagram or Facebook.


Rosemary Shomaker’s fiction is about the universal in the everyday. She’s the lady next to you in the grocery store, the woman you pass on the walking trail, and the person you chat with at an estate sale. After a career writing non-fiction as a state government data and policy analyst, she now uses her early English degree to write fiction. Shomaker’s published short stories span the mystery, paranormal, and women’s fiction genres. She’s a national member of the Sisters in Crime ( organization, and she participates in its online and Central Virginia chapters. You may find her sharing her love of writing and of books with library audiences and at book festivals and writing conferences. See and for more information.


Sandra Z. Bruney, also writing as Sandy Bruney, has written 8 novels, both traditionally- and self-published. Her works include contemporary and historical fiction, and a 3-book series of alternate reality-fantasy-time travel that she says was great fun to write. Her latest novel is WHEN HE SAID GOODBYE. This is her second year as a Rising Star Judge. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sandra Hutchison, born and raised in Florida, Sandra survived a transplant to a small New England town during high school and eventually stopped sulking about it, though it's possible she's still working it out in her fiction. She spent seventeen years working as an acquisitions editor, marketing manager, and creative director for professional and educational publishing companies in New Jersey before moving to upstate New York, where she teaches writing at Hudson Valley Community College. She is the author of THE AWFUL MESS, THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE, BARDWELL’S FOLLY, DISORGANIZE ME, and the upcoming THE COMPLETE DISASTER. Learn more at


Sara Butler Zalesky is the author of WHEELER, the first novel in the women’s fiction/sports romance series featuring women’s professional cycling. A second book, IN DARKNESS, THERE IS STILL LIGHT debuted in 2018, and the third, ONE FIRE BURNS OUT ANOTHER'S BURNING set for release in May 2019. Follow Sara on Twitter and Instagram @sarazalesky and her website/blog She does a little happy dance every time someone follows her on Twitter. 


Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of DESIGNER YOU, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator. DESIGNER YOU is Sarahlyn’s debut, and is also the winner of the Indie Star Book Award 2019. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow along for news, events, and announcements at You can also find her on Facebook @sarahlynbruck, Instagram, @slbruck, Twitter @sarahbruck, and BookBub and Goodreads as sarahlyn-bruck.


Seven Jane is an author of dark fantasy and speculative fiction. Her debut novel, THE ISLE OF GOLD, was published by Black Spot Books in October 2018. Seven is represented by Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary Management and supported by Smith Publicity.This is her first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow Seven on Twitter and Instagram @sevenjanewrites and on Facebook.


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 first year as a Rising Star judge. Follow her on Twitter @ShelbyLRiley and on Instagram @shelbyrileywrites. 


Sheri Taylor-Emery is a past winner of the Rising Star Award (2017) and while her book THE FIFTY-WEEK WIFE is still in search of a publisher, she is fortunate to be represented by Carly Watters of P.S. Literary. She is active in WFWA, where she is the layout editor for the quarterly e-zine, WriteOn! She is also a member of the Romance Writers of American and her work-in-progress, THE SODA FOUNTAIN SISTER AND THE FLOWER LADY is a 2019 Golden Heart Finalist in the mainstream with a central romance category. You can follow her at and on Facebook at Write on, sister.

Suanne Schafer’s short works have been featured in literary journals, and anthologies. Her debut women’s fiction novel, A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE, explores the life of a nineteenth century bisexual artist living in West Texas and was released November 2018. Coming in 2019, HUNTING THE DEVIL explores the heartbreak and healing of a physician trapped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Suanne is a member of Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Historical Novel Society. She served as editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and as fiction editor for an on-line literary magazine. You can follow her at and

Tami Lowe is a memoir author. She also writes fiction and non-fiction, primarily about and for women. Her first book, MAKING SPACE FOR ME, MY MORMON ADOPTION STORY, was self-published in August 2018. Follow her on social media through her website: She is a member of the Florida Writers Association and a board member of the Florida Writers Foundation as chair of their primary fundraiser, the Silent Auction. This is her first year as a Rising Star judge.


Teya Peck is an American Author and a speaker. She holds dear her roles as a wife and a mother. This is her second-year WFWA Judge. She has also judged for other writing associations and groups. It helps her grow in her writing art. She has published ten books on Amazon. Currently, she is in contract with a publishing company. Books range from fantasy to children’s, non-fiction, and romance. She is also working on an urban fantasy trilogy. SEE ME FOR ME is one of her published favorites. One of her favorite things is speaking to schools and seeing the excitement in young creative mind coming to life. She encourages these children to never let anyone tell you, you can’t and fear can be a tool to propel you toward your goals. Follow Teya on her website and Twitter @Writertpeck


Theresa Munroe, who writes under the name T.A. Munroe, is an American author of women’s fiction. Her works include ANOTHER PLACE ON THE PLANET and PLACES BRIGHT AND DARK which are books 1 and 2 of her Lilyland Trilogy. She recently published a standalone novel, ZOOK’S CORNER. Theresa is an active member of WFWA. This is her third year judging for the Rising Star Contest. Follow her on Facebook:  TA Munroe, Author. Instagram: tamunroe. Her blog is at


Tina Jenkins Bell is a published fiction writer, playwright, freelance journalist, and literary activist. In 2019, her mini-memoir, DEVIL’S ALLEY, will appear in Us Against Alzheimer's- Stories of Family, Love, and Faith anthology. Last year, Bell, along with two other writers, created a collaborative short story hybrid that was published in They Said anthology.  In January 2017, her short story, The Last Supper appeared in Revise the Psalm, an anthology honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. She’s had other fiction and prose to appear in various other publications, including Hairtrigger, BAC Street Journal, Expressions of Englewood, and Steam Ticket: a Third Coast Review, Guildworks . Currently, Bell is shopping her novel, Mud Pies, and working on her second novel, Family Legacies.


Ute Carbone is the author of 8 novels, 4 novellas, and a short story collection. Her books include SWEET AURALIE, which, was awarded an EPIC for best historical novel and the  novella ALL THINGS RETURNED, which was voted best Civil War Era historical romance by Hearts through History, the historical arm of RWA. This is her 3rd year judging for Rising Star. Find more about her at her website, Follow her on Twitter @Wildwords2, on Instagram, and on facebook.