Mercy Strongheart grew up in Northern New Mexico. A child of hippie folk musicians, she spent her childhood making up stories and searching for sugar. Mercy lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. A Boy Named Trout is her first novel.

Richard D. Bank received his BA from Temple University and his Juris Doctor from University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is the author of nine books including his most recent book, The Tree of Sorrow, which along with Feig and I Am Terezin, comprise his Holocaust Trilogy. He has also written one play, The Old Jew Who Wouldn’t Sit Down. Richard has published more than one-hundred articles, short stories, essays, OP-ED’s, and book reviews for a wide variety of publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Moment Magazine, Midstream, Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, Writer’s Digest, and Philadelphia Forum. Richard is a past president of the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference and has taught writing and publishing law courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Rosemont College’s graduate program, and other venues. 

Photo courtesy of Teachers College, Columbia University

Frances Schoonmaker

Winner of the 2019 Agatha Award for Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Mystery, Frances Schoonmaker is author of The Last Crystal Trilogy, Auctus Publishing: (2018, 2019). The trilogy combines history, mystery, and fantasy around the central theme that there are some things only a child can do.
Since her early years as an elementary school teacher, Schoonmaker has drawn on imagination and the arts to engage children in making sense of the world around them.
As a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, she directed the graduate program in elementary and middle school education, a program drawing heavily on story and children’s literature. Schoonmaker headed the curriculum development team for The Lincoln Center Institute’s Teaching Artists program (now Lincoln Center Education) and
a doctoral seminar that explored children’s literature and spirituality, funded by the Spencer Foundation. She has taught, lectured, and consulted internationally, particularly in the Middle East and in Asia.
Her curiosity about places and interest in people and their ways of doing and being inform her fictional writing, a second career that has been a natural segue from her years as a teacher and professor. Childhood memories of growing up in rural Oklahoma and family stories inform place and context. While the trilogy spans the years 1846-1944, books two and three take the reader back into pre-European, America. Schoonmaker completed her bachelors degree in elementary education, speech and
communication; her master’s degree in early childhood education; and her doctorate in curriculum leadership, theory, and development. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her family, including three contentious cats.

Learn more about her and The Alabaster Box at her blog:

Miriam Segal Shnycer is a journalist and freelance writer. She has written numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers and worked as an editor for a publishing company.

She is an Emeritus board member of the  Philadelphia Writers’ Conference’s Emeritus Board. She received her BA from Temple University, School of Communications and Theater (now School of Media and Communication). She is a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the journalism honor fraternity. Of Love and Death:  Young Holocaust Survivors’ Passage to Freedom is her first book.

Nikki MacCallum is a New York City based writer, performer, and avid runner. She conceived and co-wrote the script to Matchmaker Matchmaker I’m Willing to Settle! – a musical about internet dating that premiered at the American Repertory Theatre’s Second Stage, OBERON and has since had multiple productions both Off-Broadway and in various parts of the country. In 2016, she was one of fifty-one entrepreneurs world-wide (including NFL Running Back Jonathan Stewart, NBA power forward Anthony Tolliver, and Morgan Stanley’s Executive Director, Kimberly Hatchett) interviewed in the book, Hustle Believe Receive,an 8-Step Plan to Changing your Life and Living your Dream. Shortly after the release, she was one of four individuals highlighted in the book selected to speak on a panel for a featured segment aired on ABC news. Her essay, Passing A Parent, based on Dry Run, was published in an anthology titled The I’Mpossible Project. As a performer and lover of show tunes, her original solo acts have appeared at 54 Below, Lincoln Center, Birdland, and she’s been featured on VH1. As a standup-comic she’s played The Comedy Cellar, Dangerfield’s and Caroline’s.  Outside of the arts, Nikki is an established talent expert and career coach in the field of litigation technology and has spoken on panels globally (American Express, International Legal Technology Association, Coalition for the Homeless) about networking, career development, and how to capitalize on rejection. Originally from the Boston area, she holds a Bachelor of Music from New York University but remains a die-hard New England Patriots’ fan.

Ayesha F. Hamid is a Philadelphia-based poet and creative nonfiction writer,  published in Big Easy Review, Philly Flash Inferno, and Rathalla Review. Her memoir, The Borderland Between Worlds. published by Auctus in 2020, was awarded a Thesis Distinction by Rosemont College (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania). Ayesha has an MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Publishing from Rosemont College and also received an MA in Sociology from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She is the Editor-in-Chief at The City Key. Aside from writing, Ayesha loves photography and traveling to far places.

Harry Ringel’s publication story begins many years ago when he still had the energy to walk pitches for articles into offices for Philadelphia-area magazines and newspapers including Metropolitan, The Evening Bulletin, and The Drummer.  Nationally and internationally, his feature articles appeared in periodicals as varied as Sight and Sound, Cinefantastique, and Country Music magazine. His novel, The Tender Seed, which dealt with a psychically gifted child, was highly praised and widely received. Harry has written much in the ESL field. His textbooks are published by New Reader Press. Harry Ringel currently works with international students in Bucks County Community College’s Continuing Education Department in Pennsylvania.

Mike Metzler was born in the small Western New York town of Salamanca and is one of eight children. Mike grew up being interested and loving sports. His love of sports would influence his career choices later in life.

Due to his tenaciousness and positive attitude, Mike’s professional history has been one of accomplishments, including playing football at Tufts University, earning a doctoral degree from Ohio State University, and becoming a university professor and researcher where he enjoyed a long and productive career, training physical education teachers, conducting research, and being a leader in professional associations. He has earned numerous awards and been invited to be a speaker, consultant, and visiting professor in many countries around the world. For two years, Mike served on the Science Board of the President’s Council for Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition in the Obama Administration.

Though Mike retired from full-time duties at Georgia State University in 2017, he still works part-time to help GSU faculty do research on their own teaching. Mike’s many interests still drive his pursuits in semi-retirement, including a lifelong interest in many types of music, designing and building, repairing stereo speakers in his basement shop, a lifelong interest in many types of music, which has led him to have one of the largest recordings of Grateful Dead concert recordings, and preparing chili as a competitive chili cook where he has won several major contests over the years.     

Mike and his wife Terry were married in 2006 on the Honduran island of Roatan. They now live in Decatur, Georgia; they love to spend time at their getaway cabin in the mountains of Northern Georgia, gazing at the clear night skies, hiking, and enjoying the wonderful wines of the area.

A prolific writer in his profession, My Two Journeys in Cancer World is his first work of creative nonfiction.

Tracy Kauffman Wood received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and Master of Arts in Education from Maharishi International University. A third-generation Philadelphian, her family has influenced the street-food scene since 1935. She is a graduate of Temple University. Tracy has been a freelance photographer and writer for thirty years. She is a storyteller, memoir writer, and a staunch advocate of the open mic. Her work has appeared on WHYY TV,, Rathalla Review and various blogs and websites. She has taught writing at Temple University, facilitates memoir writing workshops and currently works with writing students at Delaware County Community College.

Dipti Chakrabarti was born in Bhatpara, West Bengal, India in 1939. She was a house wife. After her husband passed away, she used her time to put her thoughts into writing. In 2012, she decided to compile a book of her writings and thus came out her first book in Bengali, Parijaye Pakhi. She learned to use computer solely for this purpose of creating her manuscript for the book. She has continued to write since and her second book, Nirer Maya, is a compilation of poetry and prose in Bengali. The name of the book, Nirer Maya, reflects her feeling of nostalgia for her home and memories in India. Presently she lives with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.

Patti Callahan has been a student, hairstylist, cocktail waitress, corporate professional, and small business owner. She’s also an expert multitasker who has pursued a lifelong love of travel, completed her MBA, and raised two amazing sons.

She’s the author of two novels – Dirty Girl and Genuine Italian Mourning – published under the name Patti Gallagher. In 2018, she launched Rio Wellness, an online platform dedicated to personal growth, reflection, and healing. She lives in Seattle with dreams of an apartment in Europe to use as a home base for exploring the world. Find her online at or @rio.wellness on Instagram.

Scott Spires is a writer, a translator, and a nomad at heart. Born in India, he has since enjoyed a transatlantic life, living in the United States, Argentina, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, and Russia. He studied linguistics and Slavic languages at the universities of Chicago, St. Andrews, and Oxford, and works as a translator from Russian and German into English. Currently he lives just north of Chicago in charming and bucolic Lake Bluff, a few minutes’ walk from Lake Michigan.

As a writer he has an extensive publication record, which includes academic articles on linguistics, as well as articles on such diverse subjects as the Czech beer industry, the New Urbanist movement in America, minority languages in Russia, and many others. His literary side is manifested in numerous book reviews and short stories. Abandon All Hope is his first novel.

You can visit his website and blog at

Cristina Utti, Ed.D. is a Philadelphia-born writer and educator. She is one of five children born to immigrant parents and has five children of her own. She has over 200 articles published on the topics of mental health and addiction. Dr. Utti has written articles for Dyslexia Magazine on the topic of education and has articles featured in Reflections Magazine. She received her BA in English from Temple University, her Instructional Certification and MA in Philosophy from West Chester University, an MFA in Creative Writing, and recently completed her Ed.D. in Policy, Planning, and Administration from West Chester University. Her recently published dissertation, Mass School Closures in the School District of Philadelphia: Personal Narratives and Impacts focused on hearing collective voices in relation to the public-school closures. Her debut novel, Breaking Infinity, is a coming-of-age memoir that delves into the darkest emotions of adolescence. The novel won a Novel of Distinction Award. She currently teaches 11th grade English, Journalism, and Creative Writing in Chester-Upland School District. Besides her love of writing and education, she is an avid long-distance runner, passionate about gardening, canning homegrown foods, spending time traveling with her children, and helping her students attain love of reading and writing.

Betty A. Block, Ed.D. is an award-winning author and scholar. Her body of work examines the relationship between the phenomenon of embodiment and being-in-the-world. She applies her knowledge of the philosophy of the body to multiple subjects including aesthetics, art, dance, poetry, and physical education. She has received recognition for her research, teaching, and service throughout her career of over thirty years. Betty’s work in kinesiology has been nationally recognized by the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education where she was awarded Fellow status in the Field. Her artistic direction for dance therapy performances with differently-abled dancers was honored by The Carter Center. She is a 2019 Texas A & M System Regents Professor. Betty currently lives in Tennessee with her husband, Steve Estes, who is a former U.S. National Team Rower and leadership scholar. They have three daughters, Nan, Katherine, and Erin. Betty loves spending time with her grandchildren Alyssa and Anthony.

The artist, Ray Kleinlein, was born in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio. As an undergraduate, in a self-designed program of study, he attended both The Columbus College of Art and Design and The Ohio State University. He earned a Master’s degree in both painting and art history at The Ohio University and has held teaching positions at several colleges and universities.  

Kleinlein obtained gallery representation while still in graduate school. Since then his work has been exhibited in galleries, museums, and art fairs throughout the United States. His paintings are in museum, corporate, and private collections throughout the world. 

Patrick Vitullo is a writer, poet, essayist, and world traveler who lives in Havertown, PA. He was awarded the 1979 John T. Fredericks Prize in Literary Criticism by the University of Notre Dame where he graduated with a B.A. in liberal arts. He also has a law degree from Villanova University and limits his law practice to representation of injured workers. Patrick has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Antigonish Review. He is the author of The Lighthouse, scheduled for publication by Auctus Publishers in August 2022.

James L. Merriner wrote five books about politics and history before turning his talents to historical fiction. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Merriner has served as the James Thurber Writer in Residence at Ohio State University and as president of the Society of Midland Authors. He covered presidential politics as the political editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Constitution. Stumbling in the Public Square is his first novel. Merriner lives in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago with his partner, the artist Itala Langmar.

Marlene K. Kushner, Ed.D., a native of Brooklyn, New York, Marlene traveled westward as she completed her education to become a psychologist. She earned a B.A., cum laude, at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and was inducted into Psi Chi, The National Honor Society of Psychology.  Following that, she was awarded a  M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Marlene became a New Jersey Certified School Psychologist through a program at Montclair State University and then earned a national certification. During this time, she learned, quite incidentally, that she herself  had a number of learning disabilities. She concluded her formal studies at  Indiana University of Pennsylvania,  receiving an Ed.D,  with a specialization in The Neuropsychology of Learning Disorders.

Throughout her studies and career, Marlene has sought to advance the knowledge about and opportunities for individuals who learn differently. She has served  as an accommodation specialist in  disability centers at a number of colleges and universities. In addition to working with students, she has given presentations to faculties and authored papers for professionals as well as for the general public

 Marlene was a pioneer in the emerging field of post-secondary disability service. She was appointed to The Advisory Board of the New Jersey Department of Higher Education. Its mission was to establish guidelines for programs serving college students with learning disabilities. She also has been a longstanding member of The Association on Higher Education and Disability.  Marlene was awarded Ushkow Foundation grants to evaluate cognitive remediation programs and programs for learning disabled college students. The Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities has honored her with a Certificate of Recognition.