Speakers

Our 2023 Lineup

BILL BERNHARDT

William Bernhardt is the author of over fifty books, most recently the Daniel Pike legal thriller series, starting with the #1 best-selling novel The Last Chance Lawyer. His previous works include the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference (WriterCon), small-group writing retreats, plus a bi-weekly e-newsletter and podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the president/owner of Bernhardt Books, which publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Bernhardt has received the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (University of Pennsylvania) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (Oklahoma State), which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.” He has been nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award nineteen times in three different categories, and has won the award twice. In 2019, he received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

In addition to his novels and poetry, Bernhardt has written plays, a musical (book and score), humor, children stories, biography, and puzzles. He has edited two anthologies (Legal Briefs and Natural Suspect) as fundraisers for The Nature Conservancy and the Children’s Legal Defense Fund. In his spare time, he has enjoyed surfing, digging for dinosaurs, trekking through the Himalayas, paragliding, scuba diving, caving, zip-lining over the canopy of the Costa Rican rain forest, and jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. In 2013, he became a Jeopardy! champion.

OSU has called Bernhardt “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man.” In 2017, when Bernhardt delivered the keynote address at the San Francisco Writers Conference, chairman Michael Larsen noted that in addition to penning novels, Bernhardt can “write a sonnet, play a sonata, plant a garden, try a lawsuit, teach a class, cook a gourmet meal, beat you at Scrabble, and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.”


MICHAEL BRACKEN

Bracken’s story “Disposable Women” (Tough, July 19, 2021) is currently short-listed for a Shamus Award. Bracken and co-author James A. Hearn received an Edgar Award nomination for their short story “Blindsided” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2021). “All My Yesterdays,” “Getting Out of the Box” and “The Downeaster Alexa” received Derringer Awards; “Aloha Boys,” “Cuts Like a Knife,” and “Love, or Something Like It” were short-listed for the Derringer Award; and “Of Dreams Unborn” appeared on the preliminary ballot for the Nebula Award. In 2016, Bracken received the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement from the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

His short crime fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Black Mask, Crime Square, Down & Out: The Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Espionage Magazine, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, The Private Eye Writers of America Presents: Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, and in many other anthologies and periodicals. A multi-genre writer, Bracken has also published erotica, fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories, and he wrote so many stories for women’s magazines such as True Confessions, True Experience, True Love, True Romance, and True Story that he was dubbed “The King of Confessions” (“Diversify Your Career: Exploring Fiction-Writing Options” by Vivi Anna, Romance Writers Report, July 2010).


CLARISSA WILLIS

Clarissa (Chrissy) Willis is an author, consultant, and professional developmental specialist. She provides workshops, keynote addresses, and customized professional development both nationally and internationally. In her spare time, she writes early childhood curricula, teacher resource books, non-fiction self-help books, and books for children.

Clarissa Willis has over 20 years in the publishing industry, from intellectual property development to international/foreign rights acquisitions. She has worked for two major publishing companies and owns her own international rights agency.

Contact her at: clarissa@clarissawillis.com


RENEE GEORGE

USA Today Bestselling author Renee George writes paranormal mysteries and romances because she loves all things whodunit, Otherworldly, and weird. Also, she wishes her pittie, the adorable Kona Princess Warrior, and her beagle, Josie the Incontinent Princess, could talk. Or at least be more like Scooby-Doo and help her unmask villains at the haunted house up the street.

When she’s not writing about mystery-solving werecougars or the adventures of a hapless psychic living among shapeshifters, she is preyed upon by stray kittens who end up living in her house because she can’t say no to those sweet, furry faces. (Someone stop telling them where she lives!)

She resides in Mid-Missouri with her family and spends her non-writing time doing really cool stuff…like watching TV and cleaning up dog poop.


CINDY KIRK

USA Today and Publishers Weekly Bestselling author Cindy Kirk is also a Booksellers’ Best Award Winner and a National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist. Cindy launched her Good Hope series with a bang. Christmas in Good Hope hit #1 on the Amazon best-seller list for both Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction.

A lifelong Nebraska resident, Cindy started writing after taking a class at a local community college. But her interest in the written word started years before when she was in her teens. At sixteen she wrote in her diary, “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.”

An incurable romantic, Cindy loves seeing her characters grow and learn from their mistakes and, in the process, achieve a happy ending.

Someone once told Cindy that to know a writer you just have to read what she’s written; she hopes that once you read her books you can tell she is an eternal optimist, one who truly believes in the power of love. She invites you to kick off your shoes, pick up one of her books and get to know her.

Cindy and her high school sweetheart husband live on an acreage with their two dogs.


LARA BERNHARDT

Lara Bernhardt is a Pushcart-nominated writer and editor. She acted as Editor-in-Chief of Balkan Press and the literary magazine Conclave for six years. Twice a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, she writes supernatural suspense and women’s fiction and has been both traditionally and indie published. Lara also freelance edits, works closely with aspiring authors, has judged for numerous writing competitions, and has presented sessions on editing and writing craft at library programs and writing conferences. You can follow her on all the socials @larawells1 on Twitter and @larabern10 on Facebook, BookBub, and Instagram.


JON CHANDLER

The Los Angeles Daily News dubbed Denver native Jon Chandler the “…best western songsmith since Ian Tyson,” while Texas’s Country Line Magazine exclaimed, “Thank God for Chandler and his gang of musicians.”  A review of Jon Chandler’s iconic CD WESTERNS includes the phrase, “Chandler’s music is literate and literary.”  That about covers it.  There’s not an ounce of stereotypical Gene ‘n Roy retro-cowpoke, Lazy Z Chuckwagon faux-western schtick in his music, voice or prose.  Chandler writes and sings of the historic and contemporary West – not particularly cowboy songs and stories, although they tend to show up with frequency.  His songs owe more to Larry McMurtry, Elmer Kelton, Robert Service and Mark Twain than they do to anyone in a band that ends with Wranglers or Ramblers.  Simply put, his music and his writing are reflections of his heritage.  A seventh-generation Coloradan, his novels, songs and poems serve to keep the West’s frontier ethic alive.

“It was a pleasure to see Jon and his ensemble of first-rate musicians on the Lakewood Cultural Center Stage.  Jon’s talent goes beyond his extraordinary way with words and deeply moving melodies; Jon is an artist in the truest sense of the word.”
– Lakewood Cultural Center

“The first time I saw you perform was in Jackson, Wyoming a couple of years ago.  The performance was indescribably moving! Thank you for making great music with words that describe what we hold in our souls.”
– Debra Brandsrub

I had the good fortune of hearing Jon Chandler sing at this year’s WWA convention in New Mexico and it was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever witnessed.
– Chris Enss


TIERNEY JAMES

Tierney James – Adventure, Thriller & Romantic Suspense Author

Tierney James decided to become a full-time writer after working in education for over thirty years. Besides serving as a Solar System Ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and attending Space Camp for Educators, Tierney served as a Geo-teacher for National Geographic. Her love of travel and cultures took her on adventures throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. From the Great Wall of China to floating the Okavango Delta of Botswana, Tierney weaves her unique experiences into the adventures she loves to write. Living on a Native American reservation and in a mining town, fuels the characters in the Enigma and Wind Dancer series. Now with over twenty books under her belt, Tierney feels there is no stopping her now.

After moving to Oklahoma, the love of teaching continued in her marketing and writing workshops along with the creation of educational materials and children’s books. She likes to tell people a little lipstick and danger makes the world go round. http://www.tierneyjames.com  Speaking at conferences, book clubs, school functions, church and community groups are a few of the things Tierney enjoys doing when not writing her next adventure. She also helps beginning writers in their quest to becoming a published author through her workshops and classes. Family, an adopted dog and gardening fill her life with plenty of laughter to share with others.

Tierney has been an Amazon #1 Best Selling author and won numerous awards for her work. 


JAYCEE DELORENZO

Jaycee DeLorenzo is an award-winning graphic designer out of Tucson, Arizona. She is a self-taught designer who started out doing small projects for authors in an attempt to supplement her teaching salary in 2011. By 2015, the demand for her services and a steady stream of clients afforded her the ability to leave teaching and become a full time cover designer. While her main focus is book cover design, she also provides a myriad of services, including formatting, branding development and website development. While her clientele mostly independent authors, she also subcontracts with several small (and a few large) presses. She is a mother, a wife, a proud cat mom, a book, coffee and Diet Pepsi addict, and a proud-to-be homebody. You can find her online at Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs.


C. A. SIMONSON

C.A. Simonson is a freelance writer and author. Her first piece was accepted in a national magazine at age of seventeen. The writing bug bit hard. Nearly 800 nonfiction human interest stories, how-to articles, and worksheets have been published over the years. She began writing fiction after her family was grown. Simonson’s award-winning short stories have been published in seven anthologies. To date, six young adult inspirational novels, three novellas, two children’s activity books, and five nonfiction books have been published. All are available on Amazon.com, KOBO, B&N or casimonson.com. Her YA/CF novel, RUNAWAY, received the 5-star silver award in Reader’s Favorite, a gold award from Literary Titan, and 2nd place in the Best Book Cover at the 2022 BTP Conference.

After retiring from a career in teaching computer applications, Candy began to write content (articles, blog posts, ads, etc) for various companies on the internet. 

Between writing, quilting, and crafting, Candy loves to assist other budding authors with their craft and publication. She lives with her husband in the country outside Strafford, MO.  casimonson.com


ALLY ROBERTSON

Ally Robertson has been an editor with The Wild Rose Press since they opened in 2006. She is also a writing coach, freelance editor, and author, with more than twenty-five published titles. She’s partial to all things dark and creepy…the scarier the better. She loves meeting authors, discovering fabulous new stories and helping authors realize their dreams. Many years divorced, with three grown children, she lives alone in Edmond, Oklahoma. She adores editing, writing, reading, Elvis Presley, the MLB, the NFL, and watching her favorite television shows–which she calls ‘research’ so it doesn’t seem as though she’s wasting time.


DAWN FREDERICK

Dawn Frederick is the owner of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. After earning her B.S. in Human Ecology and M.S. in Library and Information Sciences, she moved to the Twin Cities, to work for Oliver Press. Eventually she met Laurie Harper of Sebastian Literary and became an agent in 2002.

Between working in both chain and independent bookstores, books have played a significant role in her personal and professional lives. From working with sales reps, booksellers, and building strong relations with her bookstore customers, it was clear that truly finding a good book requires knowing what readers want. It’s no surprise she eventually became an agent, as it was a natural progression.

Dawn co-founded the MN Publishing Tweet Up, a local community social monthly meetup. She was formerly a member of the Board of Director for Loft Literary and a former President of the Twin Cities Community Advisory Council for MPR. In addition to being an instructor at Loft Literary, Dawn has taught extensively around the country on the ABCs of getting published at many writing conferences.

She lives in St Paul, with her three cats and one grumpy bird (who is 27 years old). When she isn’t chasing down a cat or gardening, she can be found attending a show at First Avenue.


COLE LANAHAN

As a junior agent, Cole Lanahan possesses a wide range of skills to offer her authors. Aside from being a published author of eight novels, Cole holds a degree in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State. Her past experiences include lobbying the United States congress for better mental health initiatives, leading a multimillion-dollar mental health nonprofit, creating strategic corporate partnerships, and implementing large-scale marketing campaigns.

When she’s not traveling, Cole lives in the Midwest with her husband, daughter, four dogs, and twenty chickens. Her personal interests include reading, quilting, and performing with her acoustic band.

Cole is actively looking for all genres of YA, all genres of adult romance, psychological suspense in the vein of The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, and thrillers in the vein of Verity by Colleen Hoover and I’m thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. In nonfiction she is looking for humor, business, self-help, lifestyle, and arts and crafts books.