Author Biographies

Kristi Abbott has been obsessed with popcorn since first tasting the caramel cashew popcorn at Garrett’s in Chicago and with mysteries since she first swiped an Agatha Christie novel off her father’s bedside table when she was twelve. She lives in northern California, although she was born in Ohio just like the heroine of her story Kernel of Truth, a novel about heroine Rebecca Anderson, owner of a gourmet popcorn shop, who investigates the murder of a close family friend from the chocolate shop next door. Abbott loves snack food, crocheting, her kids, and her man, not necessarily in that order. Abbott also writes as both Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr and has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles. (www.KristiAbbottAuthor.com)


Sasha Abramsky studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University before moving to the U.S. to pursue a career in journalism. In the twenty years since, he has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Nation, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker online, the Village Voice, Salon, the London Guardian and many other venues. He has written seven books, including, most recently, The House of Twenty Thousand Books, a family memoir about his grandfather set in London. Abramsky teaches part-time in the University Writing Program at U.C. Davis. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children. (www.sashaabramsky.com)

 
Kate Asche writes poetry, essays, and short stories. Earning her M.A. in Creative Writing from U.C. Davis, she’s a writing teacher and literary community builder in her hometown of Sacramento. She also helped to establish the award-winning I Street Press at the Sacramento Public Library. She collected her first poems in a journal her grandmother gave her, starting when she was seven years old. Her first book of poetry, Our Day in the Labyrinth, is enriched by her classical music training, her husband’s fine art photography practice, and their long walks along the American River Parkway and travels further afield—along with the natural and manmade objects they find on these journeys. By day, she works as a marketing and program coordinator at U.C. Davis. (www.kateasche.com.)
 

Cara Black’s love of all things French was kindled by the French-speaking nuns at her Catholic high school in the Bay Area, where she first encountered French literature and the work of Prix Goncourt winner Romain Gary. In her junior year of high school, she wrote him a fan letter – which he answered – and it inspired her to make her first trip to Paris, where her idol took her out for coffee and a cigar. Since then, she’s traveled to Paris often. For the scoop on real Paris crime, she takes the cops out for drinks and dinner to hear their stories. Cara writes the New York Times and national bestselling Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series set in Paris, her most recent being Murder on the Champ De Mars. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, a former bookseller. (http://carablack.com)
 

Jackie Boor began her writing career in 1968 as a teen correspondent for two Northern California newspapers. A longtime Sacramento resident, community advocate, and dispute resolution specialist, Boor’s path to becoming an award-winning author crossed a rich landscape of amazing true stories. Her first major work, Inside the President’s Helicopter, is the memoir of Army One pilot LTC Gene Boyer who flew for Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford. More recently, after nearly 30 years of researching the controversial killing of her great grandfather, Boor’s latest book, LOGAN: The Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman, has earned several honors, including being featured during the 2015 National Police Memorial Week in Washington, D.C. (www.jackieboor.com)
 

Patricia Bracewell’s love of stories led to a master’s degree in literature, a brief career as a high school English teacher, and an unquenchable desire to write. She experimented with personal essays and short stories before turning her attention to the novel. Shadow on the Crown, the first book in her trilogy about an 11th century queen of England, was published in 2013. Her second novel, The Price of Blood, continues this gripping tale of Emma of Normandy, whose marriage to an English king set in motion a series of events that would culminate in the Norman conquest of England. In November 2014, Bracewell was honored to serve as Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library in Wales. She has two sons and lives with her husband in Oakland. (www.PatriciaBracewell.com)
 

Val Brelinski was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, the daughter of devout evangelical Christians. From 2003 to 2005, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where she was also a Jones Lecturer in fiction writing. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Virginia, and her recent writing has been featured in VogueMORESalonVQR and The Rumpus. Set in 1970 Arco, Idaho, her debut novel, The Girl Who Slept with God tells a powerfully affecting story about three sisters and a family’s desperate need for truth, love, purity, and redemption. Brelinski lives in Northern California and teaches creative writing at Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. (www.valbrelinski.com)
 

Kris Calvin, a former local elected official, has been honored by the California Assembly and the Governor’s office for her advocacy on behalf of children. Educated in economics and psychology at Stanford and Berkeley, Calvin was inspired by her political and business experience to write traditional mysteries based in Sacramento. One Murder More is the first in Calvin’s new Maren Kane mystery series, which features a woman lobbyist as an amateur sleuth – think Agatha Christie meets House of Cards. As a single mother of three, Calvin found when her children were little that the only time she had to write was 4-6 a.m., a habit she’s kept. Having discovered her passion for writing, her goal is to complete a book a year, always. (www.kriscalvin.com)
 

Frances Dinkelspiel is a fifth generation Californian, which may explain her continuing interest in California history. She started her career as a journalist, working for a number of newspapers, publishing articles the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and People magazine. Dinkelspiel started to write books because she wanted to delve deeply into topics instead of spending a day or a few weeks on a subject. Her first book, Towers of Gold, was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and her second and most recent book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, tells Dinkelspiel’s journey to reconstruct the history of the vineyard where her great-great grandfather’s wine was made. She is also the co-founder of Berkeleyside, an award-winning news site about Berkeley. (www.francesdinkelspiel.com)
 

Janis Heaphy Durham was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1951 to a Presbyterian minister and his wife. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and taught high school English following graduation. Several years later, she moved west and was hired in the advertising department for the Los Angeles Times where, in her 15 years there, she rose to senior vice president of advertising. In 1998 she was recruited by a headhunter in a nationwide search and named the first publisher in the history of the Sacramento Bee, where she was responsible for all facets of the newspaper, including news and business operations. Her memoir The Hand on the Mirror tells of her personal journey after the death of her husband that transformed her spiritually and altered her view of reality forever. (www.thehandonthemirror.org)
 

Laverne Frith, an African American, grew up in the segregated schools of Oklahoma. He attended several colleges before eventually graduating from San Francisco State College. He is a retired Manager of Research for the State of California and has served as an editor of many poetry journals. He and his wife founded Ekphrasis: A Poetry Journal in 1997, a magazine they continue to edit and publish. In addition, Frith wrote a poetry column for a regional magazine for 19 years. He is currently on the reviewer panel for the New York Journal of Books. His award-winning poetry, such as that found in The Evaporating Hours, is heavily infused with the experiences of his youth and development, his dedication to the arts, his Emersonian sensibility, and his love of nature. (http://www.lavernefrith.com/)
 

Ruth Galm was born and raised in San Jose, California, in the last years before Silicon Valley exploded. She grew up near San Jose State University and her writing is influenced by vivid memories of the seedy and colorful downtown before redevelopment and the pockets of orchards still scattered around the city. She earned her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in history and French, then went east for graduate school in education, not understanding until her thirties in New York City that she wanted to write fiction—and how deeply her home state informed it. When she returned to San Francisco, she began taking road trips around the Sacramento Valley, which inspired the setting of her debut novel, Into the Valley. (www.ruthgalm.com)
 

Alex Gerould grew up in San Francisco and New York. He is a professor of criminal justice at San Francisco State University and of history at De Anza College, holding graduate degrees in law and history. Gerould has over twenty years’ experience working with law enforcement, prison inmates, and youthful offenders. The Valley of the Shadow of Death, co-written with retired 49er star Kermit Alexander, is a nonfiction murder mystery thriller covering the 1984 massacre of Alexander’s family and his thirty year quest for redemption. The book is set in the Deep South, Los Angeles, San Quentin’s Death Row, and Port-au-Prince Haiti. Gerould is now working on his next books, a history of crime in New York City, as well as dystopian novel also set in New York. (http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Alexander-Gerould/441090527)
 

William Gladstone attended Yale College and earned a graduate degree in cultural anthropology from Harvard University. He is considered a pioneer in the publishing industry, having contributed to the creation of the first print-on-demand book publishing company as well as the first eBook company. Throughout his career, Gladstone has worked with prominent visionaries, including Tom Anderson, founder of Myspace; Peter Norton, founder of Norton Computing; and Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system. He is a trustee of the International Club of Budapest whose honorary members include the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall and Mikhail Gorbachev. His latest book, Dr. and Master Sha: Miracle Soul Healer: Exploring a Mystery explores the ultimate mystery of how faith, science, and healing can change your life. (www.12thebook.com)
 

C.W. Gortner is half-Spanish by birth and was raised in southern Spain. His obsession with the past led him to an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance history. For ten years, he worked as a bi-coastal fashion executive. In his late twenties, he wrote an epic historical novel that was rejected by every publisher on the planet. Thirteen years later, he sold two subsequent novels at auction to Random House. Now an international bestseller of nine acclaimed novels, with over a million copies in print and translations in twenty-four languages, he is a full-time writer. His latest novel, The Vatican Princess, focuses on Lucrezia Borgia of the Borgia family of Renaissance Italy. Gortner lives in the Bay Area and Antigua, Guatemala, with his partner. (http://www.cwgortner.com/)
 

David Hagerty grew up reading the classics in the tony suburbs north of Chicago. His fascination with mystery fiction began while he was working as a crime reporter, and later when he taught in the Alameda County Jail. His first novel, They Tell Me You Are Wicked, was inspired by the most famous crime ever to occur in his hometown: the murder of U.S. Senator Charles Percy’s daughter six weeks before his election to office. When he is not writing, Hagerty teaches reading, writing, and math to students with disabilities at Sacramento City College. (www.davidhagerty.net)
 

Jacquelyn Smithson Howard is a freelance writer and poet originally from Nashville, Tennessee. In her book, I’ve Got My Wings – Poems and Short Stories That Shaped My Life, she writes about our shared experiences of life, love, and triumph, and how she has used her stories to uplift and empower others. Her father’s stroke in 2004 was the catalyst for her journey to better health. She completed her 26.2 mile Marathon in Kona, Hawaii, in June 2005 and competes in various marathons to this day. She has logged more than 2,500 training miles and has crossed 25 finish lines with her team, Athletes In Motion. She is a member of the ZICA Creative Arts & Literary Guild in Sacramento and has performed her marathon story at Celebration Arts Theater. Howard lives in Elk Grove. (http://www.amazon.com/Ive-Got-My-Wings-Stories/dp/151233958X)
 

Annette Kassis considers Sacramento her home town, even though her father’s military career meant all six children in her family were born in different places. She was the “souvenir” from the posting in Taiwan and Sacramento was her first state-side home. Kassis has had a lengthy career in advertising, marketing and communications; while co-owner of the Sacramento-based advertising agency K&H Marketing, she earned her Master’s degree in history. Working on her Ph.D., she chose to abandon pursuit of an academic career and focused instead on writing history for a general audience and uncovering Sacramento’s fascinating stories. Sacramento on the Air: How the McClatchy Family Revolutionized West Coast Broadcasting is her third book. She and her husband divide their time between the Sacramento and Truckee regions. (http://www.amazon.com/Sacramento-Air-Annette-Kassis/dp/1626191654)
 

Stephanie Kegan grew up in Southern California and graduated from U.C. Berkeley. After college she worked as a substitute and preschool teacher. Her first writing job after graduate coursework in journalism at the University of Southern California was for Automotive Age, during which time she was the only female automotive writer in the country. She has written several books about California, her latest novel, Golden State, centers on a California political family with deep ties to the state’s history. After nearly a lifetime of living in and writing about California, she continues to be fascinated by the state. (www.stephaniekegan.com)
 

Angel Knox is a native of Folsom, California.  She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2006, where she was crowned Miss Xavier University of Louisiana 2005-2006. Her first memoir entitled, My Three Trees: And the Spiritual Journey Within, is a journal-style book that details her journey while being trapped during Hurricane Katrina and follows her life in the years afterward. As a motivational speaker, Knox spends her time with youth groups, churches, and organizations to enable others to fulfil their purpose. Her adult years have been spent in New Orleans, Louisanna, Charlotte, North Carolina, Charleston South Carolina, and now in Sacramento. She is recently married, and she and her husband plan to continue writing and growing their family. (bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author)
 

Susan Carol McCarthy was born and raised in the rolling grovelands of pre-Disney Florida. The daughter of independent citrus growers, she recalls picking fruit, packing bushel baskets, and pouring fresh-squeezed orange juice for the tourists beside busy Route 441. A graduate of University of South Florida in English, McCarthy wrote advertising for newly-opened Walt Disney World in Orlando. Later, after successful stints at McCann Erickson Advertising in Atlanta and San Francisco, McCarthy married a Californian and settled in San Diego as a full-time freelancer, eventually penning novels inspired by true racial and historic events in her home state of Florida. Her latest novel, A Place We Knew Well, draws on true events plus her vivid memories of what it was like to be in Orlando during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. (www.SusanCarolMcCarthy.com)
 

Elizabeth McKenzie grew up in California and has written letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times about zoos, Nixon, plastic surgery, and other topics that she was upset about as a child. Later she became assistant fiction editor at The Atlantic Monthly in Boston, then returned to California and continued to work as an editor for the Chicago Quarterly Review and Catamaran Literary Reader. She has published three novels. Her latest, The Portable Veblen, is an exuberant, one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and she received a Pushcart Prize. (www.macgregortells.com)
 

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and educated at Edinburgh University, leaving with a Ph.D. Formerly a linguistics professor, she has been a full-time writer since 2005. The latest of her multi-award-winning 1920’s mysteries, featuring Dandy Gilver, is A Deadly Measure of Brimstone. McPherson also writes darker contemporary suspense novels, which have won two consecutive Anthony awards and been shortlisted for the Edgar, the crime fiction world’s highest honor. Her latest novel, The Child Garden, tells the gripping story of the investigation of a student’s suicide at an abandoned alternative school, where at the site of the suicide the dead claim that it was murder. McPherson immigrated to America in 2010 and lives in the hills west of Davis. She is a second-generation librarian on her mother’s side. (www.catrionamcpherson.com)
 

David Meuel grew up in the San Francisco suburb of Burlingame. As a young boy he was fascinated by the movies he saw with his family at the nearby drive-in theater in his parent’s 1947 Dodge. In college he studied films in earnest and, after co-authoring a business book and publishing two award-winning books of poetry, he decided to integrate his love of films into his own writing. The second of his film studies books, The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962, focuses on the history of the noir western and how it helped set the standard for the darker TV shows and science fiction, action and superhero films of today. Meuel lives in Menlo Park and works as a freelance business writer for several Silicon Valley organizations. (http://www.amazon.com/Noir-Western-Darkness-Range-1943-1962-ebook/dp/B00SZAM9FG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455224626&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3ADavid+Meuel)
 

Maggie Mitchell grew up on the Canadian border in upstate New York, pillaging her parents’ bookshelves and filling notebooks with stories from an early age, and attempting her first novel in fifth grade. Sidetracked into academia, she began publishing stories while writing a dissertation on the Victorian novelist George Gissing in graduate school. Mitchell started writing in earnest after landing a job in Victorian literature at the University of West Georgia. Her first novel, Pretty Is, tells the tale of two women who, nearly twenty years after they were kidnapped by a charismatic stranger at the age of twelve, must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still after a popular movie is released with a shockingly familiar plot. (http://us.macmillan.com/author/maggiemitchell)
 

Maceo Montoya grew up in Elmira, California. He graduated from Yale University in 2002 and received his M.F.A in painting from Columbia University in 2006. His paintings, drawings, and prints have been featured in exhibitions and publications throughout the country as well as internationally. He has published three works of fiction, as well as a hybrid book combining images, prose poems, and essays. His latest book, You Must Fight Them: A Novella and Stories, explores characters navigating the difficult situations that arise when different worlds collide, such as a short, bookish half-Mexican doctoral student who must first fight three hulking brothers before he can date Lupita Valdez, the girl he worshipped in high school. Montoya is an assistant professor in the Chicana/o Studies Department at U.C. Davis where he teaches the Chicana/o mural workshop and courses in Chicano literature. (www.maceomontoya.com)
 

Janis Cooke Newman loves to write and read historical fiction because it gives her the opportunity to experience what it must have been like to have lived in another time, and often another place. She wrote her first book, the memoir of adopting her son from a Moscow orphanage, because the story of how she and her husband came to adopt their son was the only history they would ever have to tell him. She got the inspiration for her most recent novel, A Master Plan for Rescue, after hearing the story of the refugee ship the St. Louis at the Holocaust Museum. When she is not writing fiction, Newman is running Lit Camp, a juried writers conference that takes place every May in the Northern California Wine Country. (www.janiscookenewman.com)
 

Lori Ostlund was born in a town of 400 people in central Minnesota and spent the first 18 years of her life there, working in her parents’ hardware store and listening to the way that Minnesotans communicate, an experience that finds its way into nearly everything that she writes. When she left this town, she decided that she needed to travel in order to gain the necessary perspective to write about where she was from, so after finishing a master’s in literature, she moved to Spain and then, later, to Malaysia. Her travels and her work as an ESL teacher influenced her first book, a story collection entitled The Bigness of the World, as well as her most recent novel, After the Parade. She lives in San Francisco. (www.loriostlund.com)
 

Marian Palaia was born in Riverside, California and has lived in San Francisco (on and off) since 1985, also having lived in Washington, DC, Maryland, Colorado, Montana, Wisconsin, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nepal, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. To support her writing habit, she has been a teacher, a truck driver, a bartender, and the littlest logger in Lincoln, Montana. Palaia has been writing all her life, seriously for the past thirty years. Her first novel, The Given World tells the story of young Riley who, after her big brother is declared missing in action in Vietnam, packs up her shattered heart and leaves her family and her first love, exploring the challenges in her journey of building a new life and growing up. (http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Marian-Palaia/453789729)
 

Simon Read was born in Britain but moved to the United States with his family when he was seven. A former award-winning newspaper reporter, he is the author of eight works of narrative nonfiction published on both sides of the Atlantic, including Human Game: Hunting the Great Escape Murderers. His passion for journalism and lifelong fascination with Winston Churchill led him to write his most recent book, Winston Churchill Reporting: Adventures of a Young War Correspondent. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Time, and Publisher’s Weekly. When he’s not busy at the keyboard, Read enjoys messing about on the piano and drinking English beer. He lives in Roseville. (www.winstonchurchillreporting.com)
 

Peter Richardson teaches humanities and American studies at San Francisco State University and serves as senior literary advisor to the Bay Area Book Festival. He has written critically acclaimed books about the Grateful Dead, Ramparts magazine, and Carey McWilliams, the prolific California author and longtime editor of The Nation magazine. He also reviews books for various outlets and received the National Entertainment Journalism Award for Online Criticism in 2013. Drawing on new research, interviews, and a fresh supply of material from the Grateful Dead archives, his book No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead explores one of America’s most popular touring bands and attempts to correct their portrayal as grizzled hippy throwbacks with a cult following of burned-out stoners by revealing them to be one of the most popular, versatile, and resilient music ensembles in the second half of the twentieth century. (www.peterrichardson.blogspot.com)
 

Robert Roper was born in Manhattan and hitchhiked to California as a teenager. He liked the look of the place. He stayed and studied at U.C. Berkeley for a year and a half, and then at Stanford for a year. In the seventies he lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and wrote fiction. His first book, Royo County Tales, is set in the Central Valley, while his latest novel, published last year, is The Savage Professor. Roper also writes biographies, including his most recent, Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita, about Vladamir Nabokov during the years he wrote Lolita, considered the most sensuous novel of the 20th century. (www.rroper.com)
 

Elizabeth Rosner grew up in Schenectady, New York as a daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors. She is a graduate of Stanford University, the M.F.A. program at U.C. Irvine, and the University of Queensland in Australia. Now living in Berkeley, she is a full-time writer after having been a college level instructor of creative writing for over thirty years. She has traveled extensively, including long-term stays in the Philippines, Israel, Australia, Sweden, and Mexico. Her latest and third novel, Electric City, is a blended work of fact and imagination based on the history of her birthplace in Schenectady. Rosner’s essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle and several anthologies; her prize-winning poems have been published widely. She leads intensive writing workshops and her book reviews appear frequently in the San Francisco Chronicle. (www.elizabethrosner.com)
 

Peter Schrag served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, and later wrote a weekly column for the Bee. A former executive editor of Saturday Review magazine, he is the author of articles and reviews in places such as The Nation, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and The American Prospect. His book, When Europe was a Prison Camp, weaves together two accounts of a family’s eventual escape from Occupied Europe, capturing the danger and suffering, the comradeship and betrayal, and the naïve hopes and cynical despair of those in prison. Schrag has taught at Amherst College, the University of Massachusetts, and at U.C. Berkeley. From 1998 to 2013, he was also a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He lives in Oakland. (www.thenation.com/authors/peter-schrag)
 

Harvey Schwartz grew up in San Francisco. His interest in labor and social history stems from observations he made in Texas while in the Army during the Civil Rights movement. After the Army, he attended graduate school at U.C. Davis, where he studied with the eminent labor historian David Brody. Schwartz has worked on or for the West Coast-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for 47 years. A job interviewing 1930s Golden Gate Bridge construction veterans inspired him to recount their story in his most recent book, Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Workers’ Oral History. Schwartz’s other writings include Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU and The March Inland, an account of a 1930s ILWU organizing drive. He lives in the East Bay. (www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/SCHBUI.html)
 

Alex Sheshunoff graduated from Yale and started and ran an internet company in New York called E-The People – a nonpartisan precursor to Moveon.org but with a pun in its name. Five years later, burnt out and facing a quarter-life crisis, Sheshunoff gathered the hundred books he was most embarrassed not to have read and bought a one-way ticket to the small Pacific island of Yap. While there, he’d meet a woman, build a house, adopt a baby monkey, and, of course, write his own book: A Beginner’s Guide to Paradise, a thoughtful and vaguely humorous memoir of his experiences there. Today, Sheshunoff and his wife Sarah live in Ojai, California with his two sons. (www.alexsheshunoff.com)

J. Ryan Stradal was born and raised in southern Minnesota, living on a corn farm with extended family until he was four. With a Czech deer-hunting family on one side and German-Swedish farmers on the others, Stradal grew up eating a lot of meats, hot dishes, and salads that didn’t contain vegetables. His debut novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, tells the story of a young woman who comes of age as a chef in a culinary world inspired by the one that he often enjoyed and sometimes endured growing up. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is editor-at-large at Unnamed Press, fiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown, and advisory board member at the educational nonprofit 826LA. (www.jryanstradal.com)
 

Steve Swatt grew up in Los Angeles and loved reading about history and politics at an early age. He credits an introductory journalism course at U.C. Berkeley for setting him on his career path. After a stint at United Press International in L.A., Swatt moved to Sacramento and fused his passions as KCRA-TV’s political correspondent. He later became a partner in a public affairs firm and taught political communication at Cal State University Sacramento. He is the lead author of Game Changers: Twelve Elections That Transformed California, which documents how ordinary citizens have defined California by using their voting franchise to change lives and political institutions. Swatt and his wife live in Sacramento. (www.calgamechangers.com)
 

Renee Swindle was born in Vallejo, California and earned her MFA from San Diego State University. Her first novel, Please Please Please, became an Essence Magazine Bestseller and was published in Germany and Japan. Her other two novels, Shake Down The Stars and, her latest, A Pinch Of Ooh La La, are both set in Oakland, CA where Swindle has resided for the last twenty years. Writing A Pinch Of Ooh La La gave Swindle the opportunity to write about her two loves—baking and jazz. Shake Down The Stars involves an amateur stargazer, another personal interest. Swindle currently works as an adjunct professor at Solano Community College and Diablo Valley College. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually grading essays, baking or walking her rescue dogs. (www.reneeswindlebooks.com)
 

Elizabeth Tallent lives in a 1901 farmhouse on the Mendocino Coast, where many of her stories are set. Her original plan to become an archaeologist was sabotaged by an unexpected detour to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she worked in a bookstore and began writing short stories on the store’s typewriter after closing the store for the night. After the New Yorker accepted an early story, her work appeared there for years, as well as in The Paris Review, ZYZZYVA, and The Threepenny Review, and she published three story collections and a novel before finding herself unable to write. Mendocino Fire is her first story collection after this long silence. She’s currently working on a memoir, Perfectionism, and works at Stanford’s Creative Writing Program where she has taught for 20 years. (www.elizabethtallent.com)

Katherine Taylor graduated from University of Southern California and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University, where she was a Graduate Writing Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Town & CountryZYZZYVA, The Southwest Review, and Ploughshares, among other publications. With all the sharp-tongued wit of her first novel, Valley Fever examines high-class, small-town life among the grapes—on the vine or soaked in vodka—in a blisteringly funny, ferociously intelligent, and deeply moving story of self-discovery set in Fresno, California. Taylor lives in Los Angeles. (www.katherinetaylor.com)
 

Josh Weil was born in the Appalachian Mountains, where, in a cabin he built with his brother and father, he wrote the novellas in his first book, The New Valley. As a teenager, he was an exchange student to the Soviet Union, an experience that sparked the story that became his latest novel The Great Glass Sea. A Fulbright Fellow and National Book Foundation 5-under-35 honoree, Weil has received many literary awards, such as the Pushcart Prize. He has written non-fiction for the New York TimesThe Sun, Poets & Writers and Time.com, and has taught in the graduate programs at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, and Bennington College. He currently lives with his family on a creek in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. (www.joshweil.com)
 

Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. She grew up in a bookish, religious family where the King James Bible and theology books shared shelf space with Dickens, Stendhal, and the Bronte sisters. After spending over a decade working at various nonprofits and publishing concerns in San Francisco, Williams moved to Davis with her family and began writing fiction. Her debut novel, Landfalls, reimagines the historical Lapérouse expedition, an absorbing maritime adventure of scientific exploration, human tragedy, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for the glory of France. She’s hard at work on a second novel, a fictionalized account of the Japanese poet and feminist Akiko Yosano. (www.naomijwilliams.com)

 

Wendy Wood holds a doctorate in human science and is a mediator and leader in the field of narrative research, social change, and mindful engagement. She has worked as a peacebuilder internationally,  and she mediates with high conflict and marginalized individuals, families, communities, and organizations. Her book Do No Harm: Mindful Engagement For A World In Crisis focuses on change actions in world situations in a way that does no harm. Her efforts support the change people are hoping to initiate while assisting with navigating complex challenges by working from one’s innermost integrity. She is the co-founder and a director of The Karuna Center for Mindful Engagement. Wood lives in El Dorado Hills. (http://www.mindfulengagement.org/)