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.

Rene Colato Lainez

René Colato Laínez is an award-winning Salvadoran author of numerous multicultural and bilingual books. He is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. René is a bilingual elementary teacher at Fernangeles Elementary School, where his students refer to him as “the teacher full of stories.” His writing style embraces his culture, reflects his language, and captures his experiences as an immigrant. René has received several awards, including the International Latino Book Award, Americas Book Award Commended Title, and the International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice.

Ricardo Lira Acuña

Ricardo Lira Acuña was born and raised on the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona and earned his BA from Stanford University in English and French Literatures and his MFA from Columbia University in Screenwriting. He has published two books of poetry and photography, under the influence and Greetings from Heaven & Hell; written and produced the PBS award-winning short film L.A. Noir; published his first graphic novel The Realm; and is currently working on the publication his first novel Prodigal Son.

Robert Kerbeck

Robert Kerbeck is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio who has worked extensively in theater, film, and television, appearing in lead roles in major shows and earning several acting awards, including an L.A. Weekly award and a Drama-Logue award. He founded the Malibu Writers Circle (MWC) to give Los Angeles-based writers a constructive place to work on their material while enjoying an ocean view. He has attended Tin House (twice), Bread Loaf (twice), and numerous writing workshops at the University of Iowa. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in numerous publications, including The Normal School, Atticus Review, upstreet, Gargoyle, Cream City Review, Exposition Review, Serving House Journal, Cortland Review and The MacGuffin. His first play, Putin And The Snowman, had two runs Off-Broadway. Robert currently lives in Malibu and owns a corporate intelligence firm.

Rocío Carlos

Rocío Carlos is the author of Coyolxhauqui, Los Angeles (Archetype Press, 2012), A World Below (Mindmade books, 2014), and (the other house) (Archetype Press, 2016) and co-author of ex her pt (wirecutter collective, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Chaparral, Angel City Review, The Spiral Orb and Cultural Weekly. Most recently, her work was included in LACMA’s Pacific Standard time exhibition: Those of This America. With the poet Terry Wolverton, she participated in the DIS.ARTICULATIONS project through Entropy Magazine. Her collaborative book with the poet Rachel Mcleod Kaminer is forthcoming from The Operating System in 2018. She is co-publisher of the Wirecutter Collective and is currently completing a book entitled (the other house). She was selected as a 2003 Pen Center “Emerging Voices” fellow.

Romaine Washington

Romaine Washington, M.Ed. is the author of a collection of poems, Sirens in Her Belly, (Jamii Publishing) which was on the BET top-ten must-reads for 2016 – Editor Britt Middleton. Her poem, Inseparable was nominated for Best of the Net by Spirit Fire Review. Romaine is an active participant in the Inlandia Writing Workshops and a fellow of the Inland Area Writing Project, U. C. Riverside and The Watering Hole, South Carolina. She is an educator and a native Californian from San Bernardino.

Ron Koertge

Ron Koertge, a long-time resident of South Pasadena, taught at Pasadena City College for thirty-seven years. His Poetry Writing Workshop at PCC was one of the department’s most popular classes. A prolific writer, he has published more than thirty books of poetry and prose. Some of his most recent books are Fever (Red Hen Press, 2006), Indigo (Red Hen Press, 2009), The Ogre’s Wife (Red Hen Press, 2013), and Vampire Planet. (Red Hen Press, 2015). He is the recipient of grants from the N.E.A. and the California Arts Council and has poems in two volumes of Best American Poetry (1999 and 2005). His most recent book from Red Hen Press is a comic-for-smart-people: Olympusville. He is also the author of “Negative Space,” short-listed for an Oscar in Animated Short Films.

Ross Ufberg

Ross Ufberg is cofounder of New Vessel Press, a publishing house specializing in literature from around the world. He is also a translator from Russian and Polish and a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Vice.

Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is the author of Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song) and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. Ryka was honored by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.” She worked with the American Association of Hiroshima Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, and two of her compositions were adopted as the organization’s official “songs of peace.” Ryka is a two-time Lambda Award finalist, winner of the Eli Coppola Chapbook Contest and the Corson-Bishop Poetry Prize. She has MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and is the recipient of a University Award from the Academy of American Poets. Ryka is also a former national judo champion, and the founder of the International Transgender Martial Arts Alliance. She is a professor of English at Santa Monica College.

Rykiell Rhea Turner

Rykiell​​ ​​is an evolving artist who has worked as a social worker and
mental health counselor and draws much of her creative work from these experiences. She is passionate about living, learning, growing and evolving in all ways that are for the betterment of the world. She is a mother of one amazing young goddess she affectionately calls Babywoman. Rykiell earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Africana Women’s Studies from Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC, and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology-Los Angeles.

S. Pearl Sharp

S. Pearl sharp creates cultural art for eye, ear, and heart with work including the non-fiction books Black Women for Beginners and The Evening News – Essays and Commentaries from NPR, And Other Clouds, poetry with jazz CDs Higher Ground and The Sharp Side, four collections of poetry, plays, and a fiction CD Uncertain Rituals. Her commentaries have been heard on NPR and Pacifica Radio and her films include Life is a Saxophone, Picking Tribes, and The Healing Passage/Voices From the Water. S Pearl is a creativity coach and instigates through art and activism.

S.W. Lauden

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the crime caper novella, Crosswise, and the sequel, Crossed Bones. His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. He is also the co-host of Writer Types, a monthly crime and mystery podcast. Steve lives in Altadena.

Sally Pla

Sally J. Pla is an award-winning author of books for young people, including The Someday Birds (HarperCollins 2017), Stanley Will Probably Be Fine (HarperCollins 2018), and Benji, The Bad Day, & Me (Lee & Low, Fall 2018). She is an #ownvoices writer and autism-acceptance advocate who believes in kindness, respect, and the beauty of different brains. We are all stars shining with different lights. Sally lives with her family and a big fluffy dog near lots of lemon trees in Southern California.

Seth Fischer

Seth Fischer’s writing has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Buzzfeed LGBT, PANK, and Best Sex Writing and listed as notable in The Best American Essays. He is a developmental editor for independent publishing houses and individual clients. Seth is also the nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown and was a contributing editor at The Rumpus, and he teaches for Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles. He has received fellowships from Ucross, Jentel, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere.

Seven Dhar

Seven Dhar aims to push the limits of language, merging East and West, performing in Sanskrit, Gaelic, Spanish, and the awed tongue of mystics. Graduate of UC Berkeley and UCLA, who also studied at Oxford and Yale. ALos Angeles Native American Irish Buddhist comedian, winner of the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival chapbook contest, SGV Poetry Quarterly broadside contest, LA Poet Society dual acrostic National Women’s Month poetry contests; published in Coiled Serpent; Altadena Poetry Review; Spectrum; The Border Crossed Us; LA Word Salon’s LAWS Review; Heartbreak; Hometown-Pasadena; Yay LA!; featured poet at the 2015 L.A. Shakespeare Fest and 2016 LitFest Pasadena with Poets in Distress.

Shakirah Peterson

Shakirah Peterson was born and raised in South Central, CA. She began writing at a very early age and has always had a love for poetry. She is currently writing her first book of poetry through Community Literature Initiative.

Sholeh Wolpé

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet and writer. The inaugural 2018 Writer-in-Residence at UCLA, Wolpé is a recipient of the 2014 PEN/Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, Wolpé ’s literary work includes four collections of poetry, two plays, three books of translations, and three anthologies. Her most recent publications include The Conference of the Birds (W.W. Norton & Co), Cómo escribir una canción de amor (Olifante Ediciones de Poesia, Spain), and Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press.) Wolpé ’s writings have been translated into eleven languages and included in numerous American and international anthologies and journals of poetry and fiction. She is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Stephanie Abraham

Stephanie Abraham is a non-fiction writer and media critic based in Los Angeles. Her writings have appeared in numerous publications, such as McSweeney’s, Al Jazeera, Ms. and Bitch, as well as several anthologies, and she’s the Pop Culture Correspondent and Film Critic for the radio and television show Rising Up with Sonali. Her master’s thesis, “Hollywood’s Harem Housewife: Orientalism in I Dream of Jeannie,” is part of the Jack G. Shaheen Collection on Arabs in U.S. Film and Television at New York University.

Steven Reigns

Steven Reigns was appointed the first Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. He has published two collections and dozens of chapbooks. He edited My Life is Poetry, showcasing his students’ work from the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks and is at work on a new collection of poetry.

Susan Lendroth

Susan Lendroth is a children’s author who likes to write about…nearly everything. Her books touch on history, exploration, folk tales, science, life in other countries and more. Her most recent picture books are HEY HO, TO MARS WE’LL GO!, a singing journey to the Red Planet that explains the science behind the journey, and NATSUMI!, which stars a small girl who lives life in a big way. Susan lives in the Pasadena area with her daughter and a round orange cat called Kitten.

Tananarive Due

American Book Award winner and NAACP Image Award recipient Tananarive Due is the author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University. Due’s novella “Ghost Summer,” published in the 2008 anthology The Ancestors , received the 2008 Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society, and her short fiction has appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies of science fiction and fantasy. Due is a leading voice in black speculative fiction. Due collaborates on the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with her husband, author Steven Barnes, in partnership with actor Blair Underwood. Due also wrote The Black Rose , a historical novel about the life of Madam C.J. Walker, and Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights , which she co-authored with her mother, the late civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due. Freedom in the Family was named 2003’s Best Civil Rights Memoir by Black Issues Book Review. In 2004, alongside such luminaries as Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison, Due received the “New Voice in Literature Award” at the Yari Yari Pamberi conference co-sponsored by New York University’s Institute of African-American Affairs and African Studies Program and the Organization of Women Writers of Africa. Due has an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar. In addition to VONA, Due has taught at the Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writers’ Week and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. As a screenwriter, she is a member of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA). Her website is at

Ted Hayden

Ted Hayden lives and writes in Los Angeles. His stories have appeared in publications including Nature, ELM, and Angry Old Man: A Magazine of Experimental Fiction. Read his work at

Thelma T. Reyna

Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D. has won 10 national literary honors for her books. She has written a short story collection (The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories); two poetry chapbooks (Breath & Bone; and Hearts in Common); and a full-length poetry collection, Rising, Falling, All of Us. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in literary journals, anthologies, textbooks, blogs, and regional media for over 25 years. As Poet Laureate in Altadena, 2014-2016, she edited the Altadena Poetry Review Anthology in 2015 and 2016. Her new hybrid poetry/prose book is titled Reading Tea Leaves After Trump (Golden Foothills Press, 2018). She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry in 2017. Her website is

Tim Callahan

I am an artist and worked in the animation industry for over 20 years. I’ve written poetry, somewhat sporadically, since I was in my thirties. In 2011 I decided I to write more poetry. So, I joined the Poets On Site, run by Kathabela Wilson, meeting every Friday on the CalTech campus. I write, on average, a poem a week. My poetry has been published in the Altadena Poetry Review. I also have two tanka sequences published in Bright Stars 2. A poem of mine, “In Freefall off Saturn” was accepted by the Journal of Modern Poetry 20 and, more recently, two of my poems have been accepted and are due to be published:”On Martin Luther King Day 2018″ is due to be published in the Journal of Modern Poetry 21 and “At Sunset will be published in the Highland Park Poetry Review.

Tim Stiles

Tim Stiles lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. His poems and short stories have been published in literary magazines throughout the US and Great Britain. His most recent work is Repeat After Me, a photography/poetry book collaboration with the Photographer Jay Tyrrell.

Tobi Harper

Tobi Harper is Deputy Director of Red Hen Press, Founder and Editor of Quill (a queer publishing series of Red Hen Press), Contributing Editor for The Los Angeles Review, and Instructor for the UCLA Extension Publishing and Editing program.

Tod Goldberg

Tod Goldberg is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Gangster Nation, Gangsterland, a finalist for the Hammett Prize, The House of Secrets, which he co-authored with Brad Meltzer, and Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His nonfiction, journalism, and criticism have appeared widely, including in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, and Best American Essays. Additionally, Tod is the co-host, along with Julia Pistell and Rider Strong, of Literary Disco, one of the most popular podcasts in the history of the world and founded and directs the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside.

Tom Rogers

Tom Rogers is a novelist and the screenwriter of numerous animated films, including Disney’s THE LION KING 1½, KRONK’S NEW GROOVE, TINKER BELL: SECRET OF THE WINGS, and TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST. He is currently a staff writer and songwriter in his third season on the hit Disney Channel TV show ELENA OF AVALOR, which introduced Disney’s first Latina princess. Tom made his debut as a novelist with ELEVEN, a middle-grades novel which tells the story of a boy turning eleven on 9/11. Originally from Texas, Tom graduated from Harvard with a degree in History and Literature and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and tango partner, Jennifer.

Tommy Domino

Tommy Domino has walked many roads – thug, misogynist, alcoholic, malcontent, student, script writ, rapper, minister, teacher, activist, husband, father, and poet. Tommy and his mother (Penny) moved from Oakland to Northwest Pasadena in 1972. Penny surrounded their apartment with books, albums, and other artistic crafts, but it was a book titled Black Voices, showcasing poems by Langston Hughes, that inspired Tommy Domino’s love for poetry. His teachers instilled in him the desire for authenticity, the requisite of research, and the necessity of preparation, which became the formula of his creative process. His High school years sped by in a blur until the emergence of Hip-Hop which sparked his social enlightenment. Listening to Boogie Down Productions, N.W.A, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, and Public Enemy were Tommy’s first real lessons about the collective struggle going on in the inner cities of America. Tommy moved to Compton in 1991 and became a street minister, but it was the introduction to The Autobiography of Malcolm X that changed his life’s perspective forever. He accumulated a vast collection of black history books and considered himself an autodidact. Leaving the ministry in 2003, Tommy started performing work from his journals at Shades of Afrika in Long Beach. In 2004 Penny passed away ending his performances for five years. Writing became his catharsis, meditations, and prayers. Listening to a co-worker, Deacon Kelly, sing gospel music with a bluesy tone inspired him to return to the stage. In 2012 he joined the Stillwater Writers Collective and graduated from the Community Initiative Literature Poetry module at the USC. Switches, Hot Wheel Tracks, and Extension Cords is Tommy Domino’s first full-length book published by World Stage Press.

Traci Kato-Kiriyama

traci kato-kiriyama is an award-winning artist, community organizer, and cultural producer. She is the Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project (presenter of art+community series, Tuesday Night Cafe, the longest-running Asian American mic series in the country). She is a steering committee member of the VigilantLOVE Coalition, working against Islamophobia. She is an actor and principal writer for PULLproject Ensemble, and has received recognition from several institutions and juries. Their current show in development, Tales of Clamor, will have its world premiere in January of 2019 in Downtown Los Angeles. Recently, she was the springtime Teaching Artist-in-Residence for Grand Park and Arts & Culture Consultant for NeighborWorks America. She has toured to hundreds of venues throughout the country as a performer/actor, writer, theatre deviser & collaborator, writing/storytelling and ensemble performance facilitator, educator, speech & speaking coach, cultural producer, and artist-in-residence [Presenters include The Getty Foundation (L.A.), Skirball Cultural Center (L.A.), The Smithsonian (D.C.), and more. Her writing and commentary have been featured by numerous print and online publications including for Melissa Harris-Perry; The Hollywood Reporter; Entropy; Regent Press; The Rafu Shimpo; Heyday Books; Tia Chucha Press; Chapparal Canyon Press. Her forthcoming book of writing & poetry will be released by Writ Large Press.

V Kali

V Kali is a vegan culinary artist, holistic health activist, social conduit and poet. A member of the World Stage Anansi Writers Workshop since ’92, its coordinator and host, she was featured in the [2015-16] Center Theater Group production of Through The Looking Glass at the Kirk Douglas Theater, released poetry book, HYMN, [2016], wrote the epilogue for the anthology, VOICES FROM LEIMERT PARK REDUX, and created/produced the wombins ensemble, OVARY OFFICE [2017].