Keynote & Panels – Spring 2021

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

Day 1 – For Readers

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Day one of The BookFest Spring 2021 is devoted to readers. If you’re a bibliophile, then get ready for a bookish good time. In addition to a full day of panels and conversations, there are special segments, the Grand Prize Spring Picnic Giveaway, and the Live Author Chats hosted by Jenna Busch and Anastasia Washington.

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

All times listed in Pacific Time.


10:30am PT

Welcome Message from The BookFest Founder Desireé Duffy, and Special Guest Deborah Kobylt

We’ll kick off The BookFest Fall 2020 with a welcome message from its founder, Desireé Duffy, who will be joined by the host of Deborah Kobylt Live, Deborah Kobylt, and A.G. Billig, author of I Chose Love and member the Black Château team. They’ll discuss the evolution of The BookFest since its inception, 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 health, wellness, and creative mini sessions. Throughout The BookFest, Little Lion presents segments to help us be fit, well, and creative as readers and writers.
  • Todd Debreceni, author of Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen, does special effects makeup to create a famous literary character. Want to know who—or what—he’s creating? You’ll have to join us to find out.


10:45am PT

Opening Keynote by Bert Sarkkinen – From the Timber in the Trees to the Paper in Our Books, Let’s Find Long-Term Happiness

Bert Sarkkinen, founder of Arrow Timber, public speaker, and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, The Art of Hybrid Timber Framing, talks about the happiness we find within the pages of a book as well as within the comfort of our homes. Whether it’s curling up in a comfy reading nook, relaxing on your patio hammock hung from sturdy timbers, or reading with the family around the fireplace, our homes provide the foundation we need for long-term happiness. From the smell of a book’s pages, to the beauty that wooden timbers bring to our home, discover how happiness can be the next chapter in your book.


11:00am PT

A Conversation with Michael Shermer – Being a Skeptic Today

What is it like being a skeptic in a world of online conspiracy theories, fake news, and tribalism gone to extremes? This conversation with renowned skeptic and author, Dr. Michael Shermer, unravels the costs of free speech. What can the average person “do” about QAnon and the spread of conspiracy theories? Why do people believe weird things? How can we help loved ones caught up in cult-like groups? Must we give the devil his due for the sake of free-thinking?

Dr. Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, host of the podcast The Michael Shermer Show, Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, and author of numerous books including his latest Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist.

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


12:00 Noon PT

Books That Force You to See the World Differently

A discussion with fiction and non-fiction authors who’ve written books that spin established ideas and force readers to see the world in a new way. One of the beautiful things about books, is that they give us a deep dive into different points of view. Each of these speakers is a disruptor who may just rock your world.

Dr. Janet Bond Brill, Cardiovascular nutritionist, award-winning author, health and fitness expert.

Nancy J. Hite, Certified financial planner, fiduciary, and author of The Retirement Mirage: Time to Think Differently.

Steven Joseph, Attorney, negotiator, author of A Grownup Guide to Effective Crankiness: The CrankaTsuris Method.

Edgar Scott, Economist turned computer scientist, futurist, and author of 418: I Am a Teapot.

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

Moderator: Christina Hoag, the author of Girl on the Brink and Skin of Tattoos, is a former foreign correspondent who recently won honorable mentions for essay and short story in the International Human Rights Arts Festival.


1:00pm PT

Must Love Books and Television: The Connection between Television, Writers, and Pop Culture

Let’s unravel our fascination and love of retro entertainment and the crossover between TV, writing, books and entertainment. What is it about classic TV shows that envelope us like a cozy sweater? Why don’t they write shows like they used to? What are the stories behind some of the most iconic shows in TV? What is it like to write for TV and in novel format and how is it different? Discover the answers to these questions and more in a very special episode of…er…in this BookFest panel discussion.

Brad Dukes, Author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks and China Beach: A Book about a TV Show about a War.

Herbie J Pilato, Writer/producer, and classic TV talk show host (Amazon Prime’s Then Again with Herbie J Pilato), and the author of pop-culture/celebrity books like those about Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery.

Deborah M. Pratt, Writer, director, producer and author of The Vision Quest Series; executive producer and writer for Quantum Leap; four-time Emmy nominee and a Golden Globe nominee.

Scott Ryan, TV historian, publisher, and author of thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history; The Last Days of Letterman and the forthcoming Moonlighting: An Oral History.

Moderator: KJ Matthews, Award-winning media and entertainment journalist and regular contributor to BBC News, DW News, and previously was with Extra News and CNN for more than a decade.


2:00pm PT

Mental Health and Physical Wellness Books for the Extended Pandemic

What are we doing to tend to our mind, body and our hearts with long-term social distancing and the extended effects of the pandemic? What do we do when our coping strategies stop working? When we feel ugly, down, overwhelmed, or just plain exhausted? An author and healer on a mission to reach empaths, a psychotherapist specializing in body image issues, a certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, and the fitness model who surprised Betty White by jumping out of a cake on her birthday, all share insights.

Patrice Shavone Brown, CEO of Restoring Bodies and Minds, LLC. Mental health counselor, founder of The Confident Fat Girl’s Movement and author of The Fat Girl’s Confidence Guide: I’m Fat, So What.

Tony Catanzaro, Tony is known as “The Superman of Fitness.” He is a male model, fitness coach, and author of a book of poetry called Heat, which shares his journey through Parkinson’s disease. 

Kristie Anne Mah, Bestselling author of The Day the Cancer Quit and Certified BodyTalk Practitioner – this holistic health methodology, along with traditional medicine, helped her husband survive Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.

Alicia McBride, Bestselling author, healer and empath with an academic background in psychology. 

Ora Nadrich, Founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking, certified life coach, mindfulness teacher and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity.

Cristina Deptula, Former journalist and the founder of literary PR agency Authors, Large and Small and international literary magazine Synchronized Chaos.


3:00pm PT

A Conversation with Patrick M. Oliver: Creating the Next Generation of Readers, Writers and Leaders

Patrick M. Oliver is the founder of Say It Loud! Readers and Writer literary arts organization, and author of the forthcoming book Notes from a Literary Activist: Creating the Next Generation of Readers, Writers and Leaders from Third World Press, Chicago (April 2022) and author of On My Own: Vision Board Guidebook for Young People 5th Anniversary Edition. Oliver discusses ways to inspire young readers and writers ages 10 to 19. Educators and parents will discover ways to engage young people in fun and highly interactive literary arts activities. The activities are prose, poetry, vision writing, vision boarding and flash fiction. Attendees will receive an ebook of the anthology Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry edited by Dorothy Lasky, Dominic Luxford and Jesse Nathan. Oliver is a contributor in the section Featuring Leaders of Poetry Organizations for Kids from Around the United States.

Patrick M. Oliver, Founder of Say It Loud! Readers and Writer literary arts organization and author.

Moderator: Dr. Stephanie Helms Pickett, Associate Vice Provost, North Carolina State University, author of Later Never Came Until Now and this book right here: a 40-week devotional to manifesting your purpose.


4:00pm to 6:00pm PT

Live Author Chats – Hosted by Jenna Busch 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 Jenna Busch and Anastasia Washington. Some authors may do readings, some may take audience questions, some may make recipes, or do a performance. One thing we know for sure, there will be a lot of surprises. Plus, the winner of the Grand Prize Spring Picnic Giveaway will be announced, along with the Owlcrate and Amazon gift card winners.

Host: 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.

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

Sharon Koifman from Distant Job and author of Surviving Remote Work talks about thriving while working from home, and what the future holds for remote workers.

4:20pm PT

Amber Nichole, No, don’t look away. How to facilitate inclusion and dialogue between children of all abilities using play from the perspective of a parent and educator.

4:30pm PT

Jeff Sweat talks about his harrowing Covid experience and getting back to writing. He is the author of YA fiction including the books Mayfly and Scorpion.

4:40pm PT

Karen Sloan-Brown, author of The Fortunes of Blues and Blessings will talk about the Fisk Jubilee Singers Grammy win and what it means to chase one’s dreams.

4:50pm PT

Debra Eckerling, author of Your Goal Guide, speaker, and founder of The D*E*B Method and Write On Online talks about setting goals.

5:00pm PT

T.L. Bequette, author of the forthcoming Good Lookin’ talks about how being a criminal defense attorney in Oakland, California, who’s tried over 20 murder cases, inspires his writing.

5:10pm PT

Bill McCormick, aka Bill McSciFi, author of Splice: Hit Bit Technology and The Brittle Riders Trilogy, tells the story of how Russian bootleggers and Amazon Tech support gave him his nickname.

5:20pm PT

Celeste Duckworth from Vertikal Media Group and host of A Taste of Ink Live talks about empowering authors and our communities.

5:30pm PT

Julian Reeve, author of Captain Perfection & the Secret of Self-Compassion: A Self-Help Book for the Young Perfectionist talks about self-compassion and other perfectionism.

5:40pm PT

Mandy Jackson-Beverly, author of The Creatives Series: a dark vampire thriller, speaker, and host of The Bookshop Podcast, talks about the role of indie bookshops in communities. Reads from her latest collection of ghost stories.

5:50pm PT

Debbie Monteggia, poet and author of Tears of Change reads poetry from her book and shares a message of hope and inspiration.

Day 2 – For Writers

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Day two of The BookFest Spring 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 covering the craft of writing, the industry, editing, marketing, public relations and more. By the end of the day, if you have questions, then we have answers with a special Ask an Industry Expert Anything Q&A panel discussion.

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.


9:00am PT

A Conversation with Jonathan Maberry: Being a Prolific Writer

What is it like being a prolific writer with numerous novels, anthologies, comics, TV shows, and media tie-ins under one’s belt? Let’s ask Jonathan Maberry about it. He is a New York Times bestselling author, 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, board member of the Horror Writers Association and the president of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. His genre-hopping categories include suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and action for adults, teens and middle grade readers. He talks about the craft of writing, how you could become prolific with your writing, and gives insights as to why his latest book Ink: A Novel, is his self-proclaimed best to date.

Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author, 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, and comic book writer. His vampire apocalypse book series, V-WARS, was a Netflix original series.

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

How to Work Successfully with a Free-Lance Editor

Authors can only take their books to a certain level on their own. An editor brings a fresh set of eyes to the work as well as experience and knowledge of their craft. During this panel, you will meet free-lance book editors who will share how they work with clients and the different types of editing available. Through this discussion, you will learn how an editor can help you deliver a finely tuned manuscript to potential agents and publishers or directly to your readers. You don’t have to do this alone!

Deanna Brady, award-winning Writer, Ghostwriter, and freelance Editor of fiction and nonfiction, whose clients range from individual authors and professionals to small businesses and major corporations.  

Monica Faulkner, Ph.D., expert editorial guidance from initial evaluations through final drafts and submission guidance. Recent projects include: Out of the Fields (memoir/film documentary),The Photo Traveler (YA trilogy), Unlock the Sales Game (business program).

Gerald Everett Jones, Host, Get Published! podcast, Author of the award-winning Evan Wycliff Mystery series, Editor of Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? and Co-Writer/Book Packager of The Light in His Soul.

Flo Selfman is an in-demand Copy Editor-Proofreader for award-winning books in many genres, as well as a PR consultant. Conducts lively grammar/punctuation review workshops. President of IWOSC 2003-2016.

Moderator: Robin Quinn, Award-winning Editor specializing in self-help (e.g. A Woman’s Guide to Conscious Love) and memoir (e.g. Fly By, Most Inspirational Book of 2019). Provides manuscript evals, coaching, line editing, copyediting, copywriting. Won Best Media Kit 2021.


11:00am PT

Sharing Your Story: The Secret Ingredient in Your Memoir is You

WNBA-LA presents a panel of amazing women memoirists. Whether you are toying with writing a memoir, have a story you need to tell, or are just fascinated by the genre, these authors are sure to inspire. Featured authors write about grief, redemption, and good old-fashioned sex. There’s something for everyone.

Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley, Author of The Gift of Crisis, chronicles her story of financial crisis and the meditation practice which helped to overcome it. Bridgitte is the owner of Little Visioneers Bookstore.

Arlene Schindler, Author of the memoir Stand Up & Heartbreak and the novel The Last Place She’d Look. Arlene, who originated the comedy-review column at The New York Post, currently reviews films for Watercooler.hq.

Sue William Silverman, Award-winning author of seven books, including How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences and Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, made into a movie, teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Moderator: Diana Giovinazzo, Author of The Woman in Red and forthcoming Antoinette’s Sister, President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and co-creator of Wine, Women and Words, a weekly literary podcast.


12:00 Noon PT

PR Pro Tips for Powerful Book Promotions

To many writers, marketing your book seems an impossible challenge. But it can be broken down into simple actions that professional book publicists use to gain traction. Learn what are the best marketing resources to promote your book from four top book marketers and a publisher when they share their most potent tools to gain publicity for authors. All of the speakers are published authors.

Rhonda Rees, Award-winning veteran in the field of public relations with the Rhonda Rees Public Relations Company, and Aseity Press publishing. Named one of the five most powerful publicists in Hollywood by PeopleMaven in 2018.

Jackie Lapin, Founder of Conscious Media Relations specializing in Radio/Podcast Tours for experts who improve one’s life, business or the planet, and speaker resource Speakertunity. She focused the agency on this sector after becoming a bestselling author in the genre.

Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert who developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.

David Wogahn, Author of five books including My Publishing Imprint and The Book Review Companion. Frequent speaker and trainer, including presentations for the IBPA, ALLi, IWOSC, and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. President of AuthorImprints, a publishing service provider.

Moderator: Kathleen Kaiser, Author of five books, Book Marketer (Kathleen Kaiser & Associates), Producer—805 Writers Conference, President of the Writers & Publishers Network, and host of a new podcast TalkingBookMarketing.Today. Kathleen came to book publicity when she released her first novel and discovered a new world for marketing.


1:00pm PT

The Science of Storytelling: How To Use Science, Structure and Sizzle to Create a Bestselling Novel or Non-Fiction Book

Join #1 New York Times bestselling author James Rollins (Sigma Series) and New York Times bestselling authors W. Craig Reed (Red November) and George Galdorisi (Tom Clancy Op Center) for an entertaining and exciting look at how stories affect your readers at a primal level and how to harness that power for your own writing. You’ll learn how the latest neuroscience research as related to storytelling can help you create compelling characters that leap off the page and structure engaging plots that sizzle. You’ll also learn how to use personality profiling to create sympathetic characters, riveting plots, effective dialog, visual settings, and spine-tingling tension. The authors will also discuss how to use science, plot structure, and characterization to appeal to readers and specific target markets.

George Galdorisi, New York Times bestselling author of military thrillers including For Duty and Honor and the highly acclaimed Tom Clancy Op Center series.

Craig Reed, New York Times bestselling author of naval military/political thrillers and non-fiction books including the critically acclaimed Red November and Amazon bestseller Spies of the Deep.

James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of award-winning thrillers that appeal to Michael Crichton fans, including The Last Odyssey and the highly popular Sigma Series.


2:00pm PT

Goodreads 101: What Every Writer Needs to Know

Everyone talks about how important social media is for authors, and while some platforms might be better than others depending on your audience and goals, one is nearly universally necessary for almost every author, and that’s Goodreads. Find out why it is important in this presentation with Nic Nelson. Discover best practices, tips for getting the most out of Goodreads, and how it can be used successfully as part of your author platform.

Presenter: Nic Nelson, Founder and head coach for Wordsmith Writing Coaches, a full-service author coaching, editorial, and book production team in Los Angeles. For more than 15 years he’s coached authors to “write well and publish wisely.”


3:00pm PT

A Conversation with Mark Coker

In conversation will be Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, to discuss the challenges and opportunities authors face today. As the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, Smashwords represents more than 150,000 authors and independent presses. This talk will explore the ever-changing publishing options for authors as well as highlight Mr. Coker’s passion for the industry, role in the writing community, and visions for the future. A must-attend for authors and literary professionals.

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, contributing columnist for Publishers Weekly and host of the Smart Author podcast.

Moderator: Doug McIntyre, Columnist for Southern California Newsgroup, TV/screenwriter credits include: Married…with Children, WKRP in Cincinnati, Mike Hammer, former radio host KABC-LA.


4:00pm PT

Ask the Industry Experts Anything: A Live Q&A for Writers of Every Level

You have questions, we have answers. Whether it’s about the craft of writing, story structure, editing, pitching your manuscript, getting an agent, protecting your IP, publishing options, public relations or marketing, this panel’s vast array of expertise has it covered. Let’s chat in this two-hour interactive session with the best in the business.

The YouTube chat function is recommended, plus FaceBook is being monitored by BookFest Team Members who will relay questions to the panelists.


Dayna Anderson, Expertise in the small press and indie publishing worlds as a publisher, associate publisher, director of marketing, and head of the production, now founder of Cardinal Points Consulting.

Elaine Ash, Expert book doctor, ghostwriter and editor who helps clients shape manuscripts, acquire agents and land publishing deals. Author of Bestseller Metrics.

Desireé Duffy, Expertise in marketing and public relations. Founder of The BookFest, Black Château, Books That Make You and host of the award-winning Books That Make You Show.

Dr. Raye Mitchell, Expertise in helping you increase your IP asset value, reach the masses, and be heard. JD, MBA, Chief Boss Girl Content Officer, The Genius Agency, Inc., host of The Mouthology Show.

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.