Authors & Speakers

Over 150 authors, artists, and speakers are participating in LitFest Pasadena 2018. For authors with books available, books may be purchased at Vroman’s Bookstore for signing after they appear.

Melissa Jane Osborne

Melissa Jane Osborne is an actor, writer, and teller of stories in film, theater, TV, and new media. She’s created award winning graphic novels (The Wendy Project), the first interactive scripted iPhone game for teenagers, and videos. She works to give voice to things that we have trouble talking about. NYTheatre.com called her ‘funny, insightful, and intriguing’ ‘a writer and actor to keep eye on’, Vulture has called her work ‘Hypnotic’ The NYTimes “striking’. But her friends just call her Mo.

Melissa Roxas

Melissa Roxas is a mother, poet, acupuncturist and herbalist. She is a human rights activist working for social justice for over twenty years. A Kundiman and PEN USA Emerging Voices fellow, her work was published in RHINO, Boxcar Poetry, Solo Novo, and in the anthology “Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond.” Melissa was among the 100 Most Influential Filipina Americans named by the Filipino Women’s Network and awarded CSU Northridge’s Phenomenal Women’s Award. She is a survivor of abduction and torture in the Philippines. Her book, (ˈhyü-məs): Resistance Against Erasure is forthcoming.

Michael Sedano

Michael Sedano, a Pasadena resident, is a grandfather, Veteran of the United States Army 1969-1970, photographer, gardener, guardian of La Chickenada, and a co-founder of La Bloga.

Michele Zack

Michele Zack is an award-winning writer, journalist, and historian whose work has been twice recognized by the American Society for State and Local History. She also received the Pfleuger Local History Prize from the Historical Society of Southern California. She reported for AsiaWeek and Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1990s when residing in Thailand, where she also wrote economic development speeches for three prime ministers and other officials. In California, she worked with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, writing federal grants and developing contextual programs to link local to national history and improve the teaching of American history.

Michelle Castillo

Michelle Castillo is a writer, interdisciplinary artist, educator, social activist, curator and community organizer. Castillo founded the Feminist artists’ collective Wyld Womxn and the Filipino pop-up eatery Lola’s Kusina. Her writing and poetry have been featured in Coachella Magazine, The Desert Sun/USA Today, DESERT magazine, alternative weeklies, funky art zines, and other places. Castillo has worked with galleries & arts and culture non-profit organizations to create inclusive public arts programming. Her events have happened inside of studio apartments, coffee shops, malls, supermarkets, and in the middle of the desert. Her most recent work, “Intimate Conversations with the Desert,” a poetry installation was part of the Joshua Treenial at the BoxoHOUSE in Joshua Tree, CA. The piece melded her original poetry, field recordings, and the unique landscape of the desert. Castillo earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California Riverside’s Palm Desert program. Currently, she is at work on a book of short stories and her first poetry collection.

Michelle Huneven

Michelle Huneven was born in Altadena, California. For many years her “day job” was reviewing restaurants and writing about food for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, Gourmet and other publications. Her first novel, Round Rock, was a New York Times notable book and a finalist for the LA Times First Fiction Award. Her second novel, Jamesland, was also a New York Times notable book, a finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, and a winner of the Southern California Bookseller’s Award for Fiction. Her third novel, Blame, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Michelle presently teaches creative writing at UCLA.

Mike Sonksen

Equally a scholar and performer, Mike Sonksen, also …known as, Mike the Poet, is a 3rd-generation L.A. native acclaimed for poetry performances, published articles and mentoring teen writers. Following his graduation from U.C.L.A. in 1997 as a Sociology Major, he has published over 500 essays and poems. His KCET column L.A. Letters celebrates literary Los Angeles. Mike has an Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in English and History and his prose and poetry have been included in programs with the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Made in LA,” series, Grand Park, the Music Center and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. His most recent book, Poetics of Location was published by Writ Large Press. Mike has taught at Cal State L.A., Southwest College and Woodbury University.

Mindy Quigley

Mindy Quigley has won a number of awards for fiction, including the 2013 Bloody Scotland prize. Her non-fiction writing includes an academic article co-written with the researcher who created Dolly the Sheep. She is the author of the bestselling Mount Moriah mystery series, which features a small-town hospital chaplain. She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with her history professor husband, their two children, and their miniature schnauzer.

Mira Mataric

Dr. Mira N. Mataric holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and world literature. She has taught English, Russian, and Creative Writing, edited a literary magazine for 20 years, organized workshops and public readings. Her work is translated into several languages and present in numerous international anthologies. She has 44 books published in two languages (poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, and translations of noted American and European authors), with numerous citations in Asian, Australian, European and North American publications. The recipient of more than 20 international awards, Mira has built cultural bridges between continents for most of her life.

Molly Erdman

Molly Erdman is a Los Angeles-based writer, actor, and teacher. She began her career in improv and sketch comedy in Chicago; she is an alumna of The Second City Chicago, where she wrote and performed in three Mainstage revues. She’s the creator of the blog Catalog Living, a comedic glimpse into the fictional lives of the people living in home furnishing catalogs, which was named one of Time magazine’s Best Blogs of 2012. The success of her blog led to the publication of her book, Catalog Living at its Most Absurd (Plume, 2012). Molly’s writing has been featured by Rotten Tomatoes and Huffington Post, and in the 2018 book Pregnancy, OMG! by Nancy Redd. She is a co-founder of The BreakWomb, a sketch comedy web series currently collaborating with TV Land to create branded content for television and the internet.

Myriam Gurba

Myriam Gurba is a high school teacher and author who lives in Long Beach, California. She wrote the true crime memoir Mean and co-hosts the podcast Ask Bi Grlz with MariNaomi.

Nadia Hunter Bey

Los Angeles-based poet Nadia Hunter Bey was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, in the city of Sylmar. The importance of reading was instilled in Nadia early on in life, and it soon blossomed into a love of reading and writingpoetry after receiving her first Maya Angelou book at the age of 12. Now 37, and “quietly quite loud,” this Season 2 Community Literature Initiative alumni has crafted her writing to become her voice, and she uses it to share the stories of the voiceless and overlooked. A regular on the L.A. poetry scene, she has been known to frequent such venues as Vibrations in Inglewood, Shades of Afrika in Long Beach, S.W.A.A.M. in Los Angeles, and The Last Sunday at U.S.V.A.A. in Culver City. You can catch Nadia at the World Stage in Leimert Park, where she is currently the host of the Anansi Writer’s Workshop on the second Wednesday of the month. Nadia is the book production manager and layout designer for World Stage Press. Nadia is more than a writer; she is also a preschool teacher and has an all-natural personal-care line called 15 Deep, which specializes in the care of sensitive skin.

Nadine Levy Redzepi

Nadine Levy Redzepi is an enthusiastic home cook, a mother of three daughters, and has spent most of her adult life working with her husband René Redzepi, chef-patron of the multi-award-winning restaurant Noma. Downtime: Deliciousness at Home is her first cookbook.

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of two mystery series set in Los Angeles. Her seventh and final Mas Arai mystery, HIROSHIMA BOY, was released in March. The first book in the series, SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, is currently being developed into an independent film. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper and curator of historical exhibitions, she has also published noir short stories, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction books. For more information, go to www.naomihirahara.com.

Natashia Deon

Natashia Deón is an NAACP Image Award Nominee and author of the critically-acclaimed novel, GRACE (Counterpoint Press), which was named a best book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Root, Kirkus Review, Book Riot, and Entropy Magazine, and has been featured in People Magazine, TIME Magazine and Red Book. GRACE won the 2017 American Library Association, Black Caucus Award for Best Debut Fiction. A practicing attorney, mother and law professor, Deón served as a 2017 U.S. Delegate to Armenia in partnership with the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

Neelanjana Banerjee

Neelanjana Banerjee’s is the Managing Editor of Kaya Press, an independent press dedicated to innovative Asian Pacific American and Asian diasporic literature. She is the co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press) and The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press). Her own writing has been published in Prairie Schooner, PANK, The Rumpus, World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Nimrod and many other places. She teaches writing at UCLA and through Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

Nikki Black

Nikki Blak is a proud Los Angeles native and lifelong resident. She is the author of 5 volumes of poetry and fiction. Her work has been featured nationally on Season 5 of Lexus Verses and Flow. She has been a member of 4 different southern California poetry slam teams and has gone on the compete at the annual National Poetry Slam an equal number of times.

October Blu

October Blu (Breathing Life into the Universe) has been writing for over 19 years but spent many of those years as a “closet poet”. Since 2018, she featured at the 2018 Pan African Film Festival, participated in open mics and featured including Thursday Night Vibes, Griot Cafe, and Speak Easy. Her first book of poetry in will be released in October 2018 through World Stage Press.

Olga Garcia Echeverria

Olga García Echeverría is the author of Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas. Her work appears in Lavandería: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash, and Words, U.S. Latino Literature Today, Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language, Bird Float / Tree Song, The Sun Magazine, and Imaniman: Poets Writing from the Anzalduan Borderlands. She lives, teaches, writes, and shape-shifts in Los Angeles.

Oscar Sagastume

Oscar is an accomplished performer/writer/teacher. He is a multiple Moth StorySLAM winner and has hosted shows across the country at venues like the House of Blues, Caesar’s Palace, Disneyland, the Rose Bowl, and more. Oscar has also been featured in the L.A. Times, on the BBC, TruTv, and Buzzfeed. He has produced and hosted a variety stand-up/storytelling shows including: Tales from Tinseltown, The Morning After, Muse Lit Salon, DIRT (at UCB), and Tattletales. Oscar is always involved in a variety of projects, including (his most important) raising his #4kidsandadog with his beautiful wife. His greatest accomplishment was purchasing a 1978 Skylark with stories of adventure. You can learn more at www.oscarsagastume.com

Pam Ward

Los Angeles native, Pam Ward’s first novel, “WANT SOME GET SOME,” Kensington, chronicles L.A. after the ’92 riots. Her second novel, “BAD GIRLS BURN SLOW,” Kensington, features a female serial killer who works the funeral circuit. A UCLA graduate and recipient of a California Arts Council Fellow and a Pushcart Nomination for poetry, Pam edited the first journal on LA black women poets entitled, “The Supergirls Handbook.” She operates a design studio and mentors at ART CENTER COLLEGE. Merging writing & graphics, Pam produced “My Life, LA” documenting Black Angelinos in poster/stories. Pam wrote/directed/produced, “I Didn’t Survive Slavery For This!” a poetic multi-media performance on life 150 year post emancipation. Pam Ward runs a community press called Short Dress Press and is currently working on her fourth novel “I’ll Get You My Pretty” a true story about her aunt, a 1940s actress and Black Dahlia suspect. www.pamwardwriter.com

Pamela Samuels Young

Author and attorney Pamela Samuels Young is best known for tackling important social issues in her fast-paced mysteries. Her thriller Anybody’s Daughter won the prestigious NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction. Prior to becoming a full-time novelist, Pamela worked as an employment attorney for Toyota and as a news writer and associate producer for KCBS-TV. She received a bachelor’s degree from USC and earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law.

Pat Alderete

Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Pat Alderete writes about the beauty and brutality of varrio life, rendering the complex inner worlds and strict social hierarchies of a community too seldom observed in literature. Her memoir, Varrio With a V: Stories from Atzlan, East Los Angeles, will be coming out in the near future.

Penelope Lowder

Ms. Lowder is a playwright, actress and novelist. She is a 2015 Fellow for the Community Literature Initiative, a 2017 Skylight Playwrights Lab Fellow. In 2017, her short play, The Third Day, was produced for Tony Abatemarco’s Alimento Program. Black Women State of The Union premiered her two short plays, The Follicle Prison War and 15 Minutes at The Skylight Theater in Los Feliz. In 2014, her first short film script, 4Closure, was produced by Hilldog Productions and Keep It Short Productions. In 2012, Ms. Lowder was a Cosby Screenwriting Fellow. NAACP selected her short play, The Follicle Prison War for its 2011 Short Playwriting competition. The Short Playwriting Festival in New York selected “Honest Sam” about an African war criminal that finally receives his comeuppance as a semi finalist in 2009. Her other works that have been performed in Los Angeles and New York are “Pushing Yellow”, “And So We Supped”, Reaching Autonomy. Currently, Ms. Lowder is the co-creator, writer and Executive Producer of a web series, Life On Pause, scheduled for release in December. In addition to her literary work, she has performed on the stage in London, New York and Los Angeles. Ms. Lowder is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Theater and is a past member of the Audrey Skirball Kenis Playwrights Lab, Los Angeles Playwrights Center, Che’Rae Adams Playwright Workshop, and Robey Theater Playwrights Lab.

Pete MaGill

PETE MAGILL is a 56-year-old masters runner, coach, and writer. He is the lead author of Build Your Running Body (a book that Runner’s World founder, Bob Anderson, called “the best running book ever”), The Born Again Runner, and the just-published SpeedRunner, and he’s a former senior writer and columnist for Running Times magazine, as well as a longtime contributor to Runner’s World, Competitor, and other fitness publications. In his 30s, Magill was a screenwriter, with script sales to New Line Cinema and Disney. Currently, he heads the SpeedRunner training program, which will sponsor three SpeedRunner Combine competitive events in the summer of 2018, beginning with a Combine at John Muir HS on June 16. Magill has coached at the youth, high school, open, and masters levels. Over the past fifteen years, he’s led his Southern California clubs to two dozen masters national championships in cross country and road racing. He’s a five-time USA Masters Cross Country Runner of the Year, the fastest-ever American distance runner over age 50 on the roads for 5K (15:02) and 10K (31:11), holds multiple American and world age-group records, and, in 2016, was inducted into the USA Masters Hall of Fame. Magill lives in South Pasadena, California, and competes for the Cal Coast Track Club.

Peter J. Harris

Peter J. Harris, winner of the City of LA’s 2017-18 COLA Fellowship, is the author of Bless the Ashes (Tia Chucha Press), which won the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award; and The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ a book of personal essays, winner of a 2015 American Book Award. Harris has published his work in a wide variety of publications, most recently in Voices from Leimert ParkRedux; Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond; Altadena Poetry Review Anthology; and Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles. Since 1992, Harris has been a member of the Anansi Writers Workshop at the World Stage, in LA’s Leimert Park. www.blackmanofhappiness.com/shop.

Peter Woods

Peter Woods is a partner at LA based indie publisher Writ Large Press. He has contributed over a decade of service as a one of LA’s most prolific producers, with events ranging from music and culture to education and literary arts, and in a wide range of unique venues— from guerilla spaces such as auto body shops and lofts, to renowned galleries, exquisite locations, and large format venues. His productions reflect a need to address the shortage of creative events accessible to the community as displayed by his continued work with his own Quality Collective, a grass roots movement created in 2000 with a manifesto to create alternative stages, increase artist visibility and offer free art to the public. Perhaps these endeavors are due to the influence imparted on Peter at an early age from his grandfather, Harold L. Patton, stage manager for Ray Charles and owner of the largest collection of Black literature in the United States.

Rachelle Cruz

Rachelle Cruz is from Hayward, California. She is the author of God’s Will for Monsters, which won the 2016 Hillary Gravendyk Regional Poetry Prize (Inlandia, 2017), Self-Portrait as Rumor and Blood and co-editor with Melissa Sipin of Kuwento: Lost Things, an anthology of Philippine Myths (Carayan Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in As/Us, New California Writing 2013, LARB, Yellow Medicine Review, Jet Fuel Review,The Lit Pub, The Bakery, The Collagist, Bone Bouquet, PANK, Muzzle Magazine, KCET’s Departures Series, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, among others. She hosts The Blood-Jet Writing Hour. She is a recent recipient of the Manuel G. Flores Scholarship from PAWA. An Emerging Voices Fellow, a Kundiman Fellow and a VONA writer, she lives, writes and teaches in Southern California.

Radomir Vojtech Luza

Radomir Vojtech Luza was born in Vienna, Austria to prominent Czech parents. The SAG/AFTRA/AEA actor and veteran comedian is the Poet Laureate of North Hollywood,CA, a Pushcart Prize Nominee and the author of 31 collections of poetry, whose 26th book, the 404 page magnum opus, Eros of Angels, a tribute to Los Angeles, won the Irwin Award for Best Poetry Collection last year. The Tulane University and Jesuit High School (New Orleans) graduate has had his poetry published in over 80 literary journals, anthologies and websites.Luza has hosted and organized more than a dozen readings across the country and is presently the primary host and co-organizer of the monthly UNBUCKLED: No Ho POETRY literary series in North Hollywood, CA with Mary Anneeta Mann which is now in its eighth year.

Raphael Cohen

Raphael Cohen is a writer, performer, and educator who uses the literary arts to disrupt injustice and inspire defiance. A 2017-18 Fellow at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, he recently released Rebel Elegant, a chapbook and solo performance paying homage to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a former NBA star most remembered for his religious and political protest of the U.S. national anthem in 1996. Launched at SoleSpace in Oakland at the end of 2016, Rebel Elegant has since been featured at Lunada Literary Lounge in San Francisco, the White Privilege Conference in Kansas City, and Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. In 2007, Raphael released Scrutinizing Lines, his first full-length poetry collection. His written work has been published or is forthcoming in Tikkun, Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Arts & Culture, and Words, Beats, & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture. Originally from New York, Raphael’s called Oakland home since 2001. He holds a BA from San Francisco State University and a MFA from Mills College.