Keynote & Panels – Fall 2021

The BookFest Brings You An Array of Panel Discussions, Keynotes, and Conversations

Day 1 – For Readers

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Day one of The BookFest is devoted to readers. If you’re a bibliophile, then get ready for a bookish good time. In addition to a full day of that begins with an opening keynote, includes panel discussions and conversations, there are special segments, the Big Bundle of Books giveaway, and the Live Author Chats hosted by Scott Ryan and Anastasia Washington.

Sit back, curl up with your fur baby or text your friends so you can hang out and enjoy the presentation. Don’t forget, join the chats to network with your new book-buddies.

All times listed in Pacific Time.

9:00am PT

Welcome Message from The BookFest Founder Desireé Duffy.

We’ll kick off The BookFest with a welcome message from its founder, Desireé Duffy. She will discuss the evolution of The BookFest and the exciting programming everyone can look forward to.

Plus, throughout the day, there will be special segments to enjoy between panels, including:

  • Little Lion presents health, wellness, and mindfulness sessions
  • Todd Debreceni, author of Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen, creates a famous literary character with special effects makeup

9:15am PT

Opening Keynote – Lori H. Schwartz

What’s Your Tech Story? Forget About Killer Robots, How Storytellers Can Embrace the Tech in Our Lives

Known as The Tech Cat – short for Technology Catalyst – author, entrepreneur, regular fixture at CES and many technology conventions, and regular contributor to CNN and other media, Lori H. Schwartz talks about the convergence of technology and storytelling to launch The BookFest Fall 2021.

9:45am PT

Poetry Reading – Debbie Monteggia

Author of Tears of Change, poet Debbie Monteggia reads poetry as part of The BookFest opening programming.

10:00am PT

A Conversation with Mark K. Shriver – Being an Author and Being of Service

Being an author and being of service to others are two callings that merged for Mark K. Shriver. In this BookFest Conversation, he talks about the powerful message of gratitude, unity and healing he has for teachers, parents, and children in his first children’s book, 10 HIDDEN HEROES: A Counting Book with a Message. Mark K. Shriver is also the author of Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis and the New York Times bestselling memoir, A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, which received a 2013 Christopher Award.

Mark K. Shriver, New York Times bestselling author, President of Save the Children Action Network in Washington, D.C., creator of the Choice Program, and former Maryland state legislator

Moderator: Deborah Zara Kobylt, Award-winning journalist, best known for her work as a CNN correspondent, reporter on Fox11 LA, KCAL9 News, plus her Deborah Kobylt LIVE and Little Italy of LA podcasts.

How to Organize Your Bookshelf with Nic Nelson

11:00am PT

Kid Lit: Culture, Character and Creativity

This discussion features authors from around the world who use their words to celebrate an array of cultures, help build character, and inspire creativity in young readers. Explore the worlds these diverse children’s book authors have crafted and discover new reads for the children in your life.

MJ Fievre, Author of the Badass Black Girl series, educator, and frequent keynote speaker, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she currently writes from Orlando, Florida.

Dames Handsome, Teacher, father and author of the Fairy Knights children’s book series.

David Konrad, Adventurous dad who writes the Project Adventure Children’s Book Series for middle-grade readers.

CJ Ives Lopez, Retired Air Force Master Sergeant turned author of over 20 published books, writes under pen name Auntie Nann for children’s books, and founder of The Author’s Porch Magazine and Podcast.

Angela Shanté, Award-winning author of The Noisy Classroom, a picture book that she wrote about her third-grade classroom to help soothe childhood anxiety associated with school and change.

Moderator: Debra Eckerling, Author of Your Goal Guide and Purple Pencil Adventures, creator of The D*E*B Method, and founder of Write On Online, is a goal-setting expert and corporate consultant.

Noon PT

Who Put the Bomp in Your Favorite Romance Novel?

Let’s shake the virtual hands of romance novelists who are shaping the genre in exciting ways. Get a glimpse into their process and find out how they craft those sizzling stories that uplift our hearts and our minds. This panel is sure to deliver insights about why we love love stories, what is evolving in the world of romance fiction, and introduce you to romance novelists you don’t want to miss.

Sharon Buchbinder, President of the Paranormal Romance Guild and author of 14 romance novels as well as six textbooks.

Susan Mac Nicol, Contemporary romance writer, award-winning script writer, Editor in Chief at LGBTQ e-zine Divine Magazine, member of The Society of Authors, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and the US Authors Guild.

Adrianne Monson, Award-winning author of historical romance, paranormal romance, retold fairytales and of the Blood Inheritance Trilogy.

Clyve Rose, Historical and regency romance writer longlisted for a 2010 Hachette Award for Fiction, paranormal short story The One Below is a Sexy Scribbles award-winner, and author of the novel Always a Princess.

Moderator: Elaine Ash, Expert book doctor, ghostwriter, and editor with a forte for romance fiction. Ash helps clients shape manuscripts, acquire agents, land publishing deals, and is also the author of Bestseller Metrics.

Cooking Up Something for the Season with Chef and Author David Ruggerio

1:00pm PT

Thrills, Chills and Red Herrings – Things that Make You Go “Ooo” (And Want to Read More)

It is said that mysteries are about what happened, thrillers are about what’s going to happen, and horror is about what the heck is happening now. Bestselling and award-winning authors in the three genres talk about the stories they choose to tell and how they tell them to intrigue readers and keep them reading.

T.L. Bequette, Criminal defense attorney turned writer from Oakland, California and author of Good Lookin’: A Joe Turner Mystery.

Alexia Gordon, Physician by day and an award-winning, #ownvoices crime novelist by night, author of the award-winning Gethsemane Brown mystery series and host of the podcast, The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon

John Palisano, Current President of the Horror Writers Association, author of Night of 1,000 Beasts, Nerves, and Dust of the Dead.

Carole Stivers, Speculative fiction author (The Mother Code) and former medical diagnostics. professional.

Stacy Woodson, Romantic suspense and crime fiction writer, U.S. Army Veteran and former paratrooper whose time in the military inspire her stories.

Moderator: Al Pessin, Award-winning journalist, playwright, and author of the Task Force Epsilon thrillers series. The first book, Sandblast, was published in March 2020.

2:00pm PT

The Fantasist’s Forge and Mythologist’s Muse

There’s a great deal more to creating successful fantasy fiction and adapting mythology to fiction than what the reader ultimately sees on the page. The rituals and mores of new cultures must be delineated, rules of magic established, and alternate histories and genealogies wrought in intricate detail. Our panelists will reveal how they lay down the foundations of their imaginary worlds and discuss how they synthesize research and imagination in their works.

Laurel Anne Hill, Author of two award-winning novels: The Engine Woman’s Light and Heroes Arise as well as her latest young adult fantasy novel, Plague of Flies.

Mike Robinson, Award-winning author of ten books, including dark urban fantasy trilogy The Enigma of Twilight Falls, Dreamshores: Monster Island, and Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray: A Collection of Weird Fiction.

Ilana C. Myer, Author of epic fantasy novels: Last Song Before Night, Fire Dance and The Poet King, and writer of reviews and critical essays for The Globe, Salon, and The Huffington Post.

Leslie Ann Moore, Past VP of The Greater L.A. Writers Society, author of the award-winning romantic fantasy Griffin’s Daughter Trilogy, and the epic science-fantasy series The Nuetierra Chronicles.

Moderator: Neal Halford, Writer, filmmaker, audio dramatist, founder of LockDownCon and author of non-fiction books The Derailment of the Sunset Limited and Swords & Circuitry: A Designer’s Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games.

3:00pm PT

A Conversation with Helene Wecker – Blending Fantasy, Mythology, Romance and Horror

Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni has been applauded for masterfully blending urban fantasy with folklore, romance, horror, and mythology in a multi-layered novel. Her follow up novel, The Hidden Palace, brings the saga into the 20th century. Find out how all these elements are woven together to create dynamic and enthralling storytelling that garnered The Golem and the Jinni the Mythopoeic Award, the VCU Cabell Award, and the Harald U. Ribalow Prize, and a nomination for a Nebula and World Fantasy Award.

Helene Wecker, Author of The Golem and Jinni and The Hidden Palace, a Midwest native, Wecker holds a B.A. in English from Carleton College and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from Columbia University.

Moderator: Jenna Busch, Writer/Host for sites like SYFY Wire, Vital Thrills, Metro, The Washington Post and more. Contributing author to 11 books including Star Wars Psychology. Co-hosted Cocktails With Stan with the legendary Stan Lee.

BookTok Talk with Jessica Mclennan

4:00pm to 6:00pm PT

Live Author Chats – Hosted by Scott Ryan and Anastasia Washington

Part afterparty, part networking, and part authors doing whatever the heck they want, this fun interactive event presents authors and literary folks in fast-paced chats with hosts Scott Ryan and Anastasia Washington.

You’ll hear authors do readings, tell stories, answer audience questions and be creatively spooky to celebrate the season. Plus, the winner of the Big Bundle of Books will be announced, along with other prize winners.

Host: Scott Ryan, Television historian, managing editor of The Blue Rose Magazine, co-founder of Fayetteville Mafia Press and author of Moonlighting: An Oral History, thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history, and The Last Days of Letterman.

Host: Anastasia Washington, Actress, comedian, filmmaker, director and podcast host. Produced and starred in her One Woman Show, 50 Shades of Mixed: Confessions of your Ethnically Ambiguous Best Friend.

4:10pm PT 
Helene Wecker, award-winning author of The Golem and Jinni and The Hidden Palace, applauded for masterfully blending urban fantasy with folklore, romance, horror, and mythology in a multi-layered novel builds a small clay golem live on camera while she talks about the golem myth and how it relates to our own human over ambitions and insecurities.

4:20pm PT 

Steven Joseph, author, attorney, negotiator, speaker, fully cured overweight person, and multiple times Boston and NYC Marathon runner, talks about the importance of being effectively cranky and provides some previews of his Second Book on Effective Crankiness, to be coming out next year.

4:30pm PT 


Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield, internationally exhibited and published artist and author who lives and works from a home and studio on Oregon’s shore of The Columbia River, reads from her book, Babe in the Woods: Self Portrait, and demonstrate how to trim a wick from a kerosene lamp and maintain this light so you can read and write without electronic illumination.  


4:40pm PT

Dames Handsome, teacher, father and author of The Fairy Knights children’s book series talks about how books can help children explore, have fun, and level up.  

4:50pm PT 

Mikki Hernandez, actress, voiceover artist, and writer selected for American Express xiFundwomen’s#100 for100 Founders of Change grant program. She will discuss culture and new perspectives in the 21st century.  

5:00pm PT 

Hari D. Sharma, civil and geo-environmental engineering expert turned author passionate about environmental preservation and improving the quality of human life, reads from his new book, Climate Change and Leadership Shaping Civilizations, and talks about our history as seen through the eyes of iconic monuments and statues.  

5:10pm PT 

Patrick Oliver, literary arts and education consultant, publishing expert, editor and author of five books which include On My Own: Vision Board Guidebook for Young People (2021), talks about how to build your vision board and make your dreams come true.  

5:20pm PT 

A.G. Billig, multifaceted creator, published author, and agent of inner transformation, reads from her book, I Choose Love: A Journey from Fear to Love and gives actionable steps for tuning into the frequency of love and living your best life. 

5:30pm PT 

Amy M. Le, author of the Snow trilogy, founder of Quill Hawk Publishing, and co-founder of The Heart Community Collection, an online cooperative bookstore for the CHD community. Passionate about food, which heavily laces her trilogy, she reads from her books and rolls spring rolls. 

5:40pm PT 

Al Pessin, award-winning journalist, playwright, and author of the Task Force Epsilon thriller series, takes you inside the Pentagon to the event that inspired him to create the hero at the center of his books, and the missions he takes on. 

Day 2 – For Writers

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Day two of The BookFest Fall 2021 is devoted to writers. If you’re part of the writing community or a professional in the literary world, or even if you’re a student or just starting out, then this day is dedicated to you. An array of professionals will inform you with panel discussions and conversations.

Plus, live interactive panels will help viewers see what it takes to pitch one’s manuscript and pitch their book idea. Don’t miss Critiki-Bar and Brave New Writer at The BookFest Adventure.

Pull up a cozy chair and brew a cup of tea and enjoy the presentation. Please join the chats on YouTube to network with your new book-buddies, too.

All times listed in Pacific Time.

8:30am PT

Welcome Back Message from The BookFest Founder Desireé Duffy.

8:35am PT

Keynote from Kristie Anne Mah

From Sluggish to Published: Letting Go of What is Holding You Back

Do you already have everything you need to publish a bestseller? Join Kristie Anne Mah, bestselling author, motivational speaker, master meditation and mindset coach, and find out how authors are realizing their true potential to become accomplished authors.

9:00am PT

A Conversation with Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein – Dreaming a World where Everyone Experiences the Wonders of the Universe

Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly non-traditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions. Author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter — all with a new spin informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, PhD., Author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, Assistant Professor of Physics and Core Faculty Member in Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire.

Moderator: Desireé Duffy, Founder of The BookFest, Black Château, Books That Make You and host of the award-winning Books That Make You Show.

10:00am PT

Books Out of Africa: Bookish World Tour

The continent that gave birth to humanity delivers some of the most provocative and moving stories in our world. From non-fiction to fiction to poetry, with invigorating and moving perspectives from an array of authors and literary professionals, this panel discussion aims to create connections and stimulate imaginations. Join these literary leaders who tell the tales of the people, the place, and the continent that is Africa.

Dr. Edward Bynum, Ph.D., ABPP, Author of several books including the latest, Our African Unconscious: The Black Origins of Mysticism and Psychology, clinical psychologist, and former director of the behavioral medicine program at the University of Massachusetts Health Services.

Paulino Chol, Author of Leading the Lost Boys, the true story of leading 700 boy prisoners in South Sudan to freedom, and PhD student in management and homeland security at Colorado Technical University.

Gerald Everett Jones, Author of the award-winning Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner and Evan Wycliff Mystery series and host, for the Get Published! Podcast.

Useni Perkins, American poet, playwright, activist and youth worker, known for his poem “Hey Black Child”, and author of the newly released Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence from Just Us Books.

Moderator: Celeste Duckworth, Author, President of Vertikal Life Magazine, and host of A Taste of Ink LIVE Radio Program.

To Tell the Truth or Not with Dr. Raye Mitchell and Cindy Brown

11:00am PT

Alternative Ways to Publish: Hybrid, Self-Publishing and More

There are more avenues than ever to publish your writing. Whether the traditional route with a publisher is your path, or you decide to take full ownership of your career in the self-publishing world, or explore the options offered by hybrid publishers, this panel is for you. The experts discuss best-practice examples and the opportunities that come with the new business models and technology and also break down the pros and cons of each publishing path to help you determine the best option for your writing journey.

Jim Azevedo, Marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks, and a convert from Silicon Valley’s tech industry.

Deborah Herman, Founder of Author Branding Solutions, publisher, author, and former literary agent with over thirty years experience in the publishing industry.

Karen Hodges Miller, Founder of Open Door Publications, a company that helps authors navigate the world of self-publishing.

Russel Nohelty, USA Today bestselling author, publisher, and founder of the small press Wannabe Press and The Complete Creative, which helps creatives build better businesses.

Joe Solari, Strategy and operations consultant for authors and publishers with a focus on publishing strategy and optimizing publishing businesses to delight readers and meet investor needs.

Moderator: A.G. Billig, Published author, self-publishing expert, book shepherd, and founder of the award-winning blog Self-Publishing Mastery.

Noon PT

Do You Have the Write Stuff? A Frank Discussion about Being an Author Today

Are you ready to be an author? Find out during this panel discussion including a wide array of experts discussing what authors really need to know in today’s competitive marketplace. From the craft of writing, to building an author platform, to finding an agent or publisher, to marketing and promotions, there are a lot of things savvy writers need to know to succeed today.

William Bernhardt, Author of over 50 books including bestselling Ben Kincaid Series, founder of WriterCon, publisher to other authors, founder of Red Sneaker Writers Center and multi-award winner.

Elliott Wolf, Founder of Peanut Butter Publishing, one of the oldest publishing houses in the U.S.

Eddie Louise, Author of Transmigrations, audio drama/podcast creator, head-writer of hit audio drama The Tales of Sage & Savant, and professional ghostwriter who focuses on building worlds through speculative fiction and memoir.

Moderator: Kathleen Kaiser, Author of five books, Book Marketer with Kathleen Kaiser & Associates, Producer—805 Writers Conference, President of Writers & Publishers Network, and host of the podcast Talking Book Marketing.

1:00pm PT

A Conversation with Lisa Morton: Thirty Years of Fear

Lisa Morton has been crafting horror fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays since 1988, when her first movie Meet the Hollowheads went before the cameras. In the years since, she has produced four novels, eight non-fiction books, six anthologies (as co-editor), more than 150 short stories, and assorted articles, essays, introductions, poems, and podcasts. How does a writer still find new scares after decades? Lisa will chat about how to break into horror, how to stay inspired, and how to scare readers.

Lisa Morton, Six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, her work has been translated into nearly a dozen languages, and she has appeared in numerous documentaries and podcasts.

Moderator: Kate Maruyama, Writer of HARROWGATE (47North) and FAMILY SOLSTICE (Omnium Gatherum) as well as dozens of short stories published online, in journals, magazines, and anthologies. She has served on the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards juries and writes and teaches in LA.

How to Write a Query Letter with Steven Hutson

2:00pm PT

Critiki-Bar: Page One Manuscript Critiques (An agent and an author walk into a bar…)

Gather around to watch and listen to a rare two-sided assessment from both the business and the craft side of writing — served with wit, insight, experience, and punch. Witness how a highly regarded literary agent and a New York Times bestselling author discuss — and debate — aspects of creating a skillfully told story and navigating the professional side of publishing by dissecting that oh-so-important first page.

David L. Robbins, New York Times bestselling author, creative writing professor, founder of James River Writers and The Mighty Pen Project, and co-founder of the Podium Foundation.

Katharine Sands, Literary agent representing fiction, non-fiction and memoir. Agent provocateur of Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, a collection of pitching wisdom from leading literary agents.

Pitching and Book Proposal Dos and Don’ts with Paul S. Levine

4:00pm PT

Brave New Writer at The BookFest Adventure

Watch as they boldly taking the stage. Several brave writers pitch their manuscripts to a panel of literary agents and publishing decision-makers. Like Shark Tank, but for writers, Brave New Writer at The BookFest Adventure invites authors who have been hand-selected and primed for pitching. What will the agents say about their pitches? Will any of the writers have the hook to reel in a book deal? Will you read any of their books one day? Root for your favorite pitches during Brave New Writer. Brought to you in collaboration with Roadmap Authors.

Whitney Davis, CEO and Founder at Whitney Davis Literary, a boutique literary management firm that offers coaching, editing, writing consultation and management services for writers.

April Eberhardt, Literary change agent who represents authors traditionally and also provides guidance to those exploring non-traditional publishing paths, representing clients worldwide.

Andy Ross, Founder of the Andy Ross Agency, represents books in narrative non-fiction, history, current events, adult and teen fiction. Authors include Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Masson, Susan Griffin, Fritjof Capra, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Thomas Sanchez, and Tawni Waters.

Angela Shanté Johnson, award winning author, Founder of Sunday Dinner Publishing, and diversity & inclusion activist working to increase representation for marginalized creatives in publishing. 

Moderator: Selene Castrovilla, Director of Author Programs, Roadmap Writers and award-winning author of 13 books with five more releasing in the next two years. MFA in Creative Writing from New York University and a BA in English from New York University. 

Moderator: Desireé Duffy, Founder of The BookFest, Black Château, Books That Make You and host of the award-winning Books That Make You Show.