2018 Featured Authors


Donia Bijan is a Bay Area chef and author who left her native Iran in 1978 during the Islamic Revolution.  After graduating from UC Berkeley, she attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris and ran her own restaurant, L’Amie Donia, in Palo Alto, for ten years. Her well-acclaimed memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie, was published in 2011. Her novel, The Last Days of Café Leila, about a young woman returning to her native Iran was published in 2017.

Pete Crooks is a Senior Editor/ Senior Writer covering  arts and entertainment, personality profiles, news and service at Diablo magazine. He returned to his hometown of Lafayette and began working at Diablo magazine in 1998, after spending most of the ’90s as a scuba-diving, movie-watching, library-frequenting vagabond, living in Micronesia, Australia, and the Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to his love of all things East Bay, Pete is a major film buff—his movie blog, Pete’s Popcorn Picks, can be found at diablomag.com, and he has contributed weekly reviews for radio programs on KFRC, KNBR, and 107.7 The Bone. He has written stories for the Arizona Daily Sun, Via magazine, Athletics magazine, and Theowlmag.com, and appeared as an expert tipster on the television programs Bay Area Backroads and Eye on the Bay.

Gregory Crouch is a writer who specializes in adventurous and historic subjects. He is the author of the true-life World War II flying adventure China’s Wings and the alpine memoir Enduring Patagonia. Among many articles, Crouch has written about a U.S.-Iranian climbing exchange in Iran, cave exploration in Oman, winter mountaineering in Patagonia, and Mount Everest. For five years, he was a Senior Contributing Editor at Climbing, focused on writing personality profiles of famous climbers. Crouch graduated from West Point but left the Army to pursue other interests, mostly in adventure travel, rock and ice climbing, and high-stakes international mountaineering. Along the way, he became a writer. Crouch lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his son, Ryan.

Jason Fagone is a journalist who covers science, technology, and culture. Currently a narrative writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, he has been a contributing editor with the Huffington Post Highline, and his stories have appeared in GQ, Esquire, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. His most recent book, The Woman Who Smashed Codes, is about a puzzle-solving heroine of the world wars. He lives in San Francisco.

Shanna Farrell – CANCELLED no longer attending


Daryl Gregory – CANCELLED no longer attending


Meredith Jaeger is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of UC Santa Cruz. She is the daughter of a Swiss father and American mother. Her own engagement ring, a 1903 heirloom, inspired her to write her debut novel The Dressmaker’s Dowry. She wrote it on nights and weekends while working for a San Francisco startup. Meredith finds the immigrant experience a rich part of the fabric of American history. Her second novel, Boardwalk Summer, will be published in June. Now a full time writer, Meredith lives outside San Francisco with her husband, toddler, and spoiled English bulldog.

Laleh Khadivi – CANCELLED no longer attending


Don Lattin is an award-winning journalist and author of six books. His most recent is CHANGING OUR MINDS – Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy. It chronicles a quiet revolution in our understanding of how psychedelic drugs work and how they can be used to treat depression, addiction, and other disease.  Lattin’s journalistic work has appeared in dozens of U.S. publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle, where Don worked as a staff writer for nearly two decades. Don holds a degree in sociology from UC Berkeley, where he has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Graduate School of Journalism.

Mark Lukach is a teacher and freelance writer. He is the author of the international bestselling memoir My Lovely Wife in The Psych Ward. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Wired, and other publications. He lives with his wife, Giulia, and their son in the San Francisco Bay area. He has also shared their story at The Moth Mainstage, and at a TEDx conference. This memoir is the product of five years of writing about how mental illness redefined his young marriage to Giulia, and ultimately affirmed the power of love.

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee is a Features Editor at The Rumpus. Her memoir, Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember, details her reinvention after suffering a stroke at age 33. She is now working on her forthcoming novel The Golem of Seoul. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Guernica, The Rumpus, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed among others. Born in New York City, Christine earned her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and her MFA at Mills College. She has been awarded a residency at Hedgebrook and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and placed in competitions such as the Poets and Writers’ Magazine Writers Exchange Contest.

Bram Stoker Award finalist Erika Mailman brings the true story of the brutal murder of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother into new focus by adding a riveting contemporary narrative. The Murderer’s Maid interweaves the stories of two women: one, the servant of infamous Lizzie Borden, and the other a modern-day barista fleeing from an attempt on her life. Mailman grew up in Vermont and received an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona. She has been a Yaddo fellow, and currently lives with her family in Northern California—close to where gold was discovered in 1848.

Joyce Maynard has authored 16 books including the novels To Die For and Labor Day (both adapted for film) and the bestselling memoir At Home in the World.  Her essays have appeared in dozens of publications and numerous collections. She has been a frequent performer with The Moth, a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and founder of the Lake Atitlan Writers’ Workshop. The Best of Us: A Memoir is a heart-wrenching, ultimately life-affirming reflection on coming to understand true love through the experience of great loss. She makes her home in Lafayette, CA.

Robert Aquinas McNally is a nonfiction writer and poet who seeks out stories about the connection — sometimes mythic, sometimes scientific, and sometimes both — between the human and the wild. His latest book, The Modoc War: A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America’s Gilded Age, is a work of narrative nonfiction about California’s only full-blown Indian war, which took place in 1872-1873.

Emily Murphy is the author of the foodie-centric garden blog Pass The Pistil, and one of Garden Design Magazine‘s “most loved” blogs of 2015. Emily is a web series host, a contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, a garden design and organic gardening consultant, and a teacher of organic gardening. Her new book Grow What You Love is designed to be a simple guide to growing vegetables, herbs, and more. Emily holds a degree in Ethnobotanical Resources from Humboldt State University where she also studied botany and environmental science. 

Veteran journalist Barbara Falconer Newhall has been a reporter and editor for Good Housekeeping magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times. Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith is the story of her quest to find a way to believe in God in the 21st century. She takes her search to the source she trusts most—her fellow human beings— interviewing and asking the big questions of dozens of believers of dramatically differing temperaments and religious traditions. “With any luck, their answers would open up a window on the God who’d gone missing from my life —for me, for my skeptical friends and newspaper colleagues, as well as for believers everywhere struggling to hang onto their faith. . . ”

It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak‘s career as a New York Times bestselling author– she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.  She has published more than 50 books, including her latest Right Where We Belong, a moving novel about rebuilding your life when you’ve got nothing left to lose.

Caroline Paul is the author of Lost Cat, a True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology, named Best Book by Jezebel  and  Brainpickings and optioned for a film. She also wrote Fighting Fire, a memoir about her 13 plus years as a San Francisco firefighter. She has traveled to remote places like Siberia, biked in the Bolivian Andes, and weathered a blizzard on Mt. Denali. Her 2016 book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, is a rallying cry for girl power. A Stanford alumna, she has been part of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto since 1999. Her next book, You Are Mighty: A Guide to Change the World, is due out in May.

Christopher Sindt is a professor of English at Saint Mary’s College of California, where he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and serves as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.  System and Population is a lyrical account of the proposed damming of the American River in Northern California. It explores the intersections of personal and cultural experience, scientific study, and the politics of dams and rivers; meditates on human experiences, such as parenthood and loss; and studies the effects of environmental damage and disaster.

Kevin Smokler is the author of the essay collection Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books you Haven’t Touched Since High School, and the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2005. In Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies, he gives virtual tours of your favorite ‘80s movies while also picking apart why their locations are so important to these movies. His writing on pop culture has appeared in the LA Times, Salon, BuzzFeed, Vulture, the San Francisco Chronicle and on NPR. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, cat, and most of MTV’s first year on vinyl.  

Jason Turbow has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, SportsIllustrated.com, and Slam magazine. He is a regular contributor to Giants Magazine and Athletics, and for three years served as content director for Giants Today, a full-page supplement in the San Francisco Chronicle, published in conjunction with every Giants home game. His Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic deals with how the Oakland A’s of the 1970s—a revolutionary band of brawling Hall of Famers—won three straight championships and knocked baseball into the modern age. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.  

Michael R. Wing, Ph.D., is an author, scientist, and full time classroom teacher at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo. His book Passion Projects for Smart People is a guide for turning side passion projects into career-building opportunities. He has done field work throughout the world and worked in collaboration with NASA, the University of California, the Mars Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service.

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