Meet Our Judges
We are dedicated to our participants getting great value from our writing community so we’ve united professionals from every field who have a love of words to give your writing a well-rounded review. We want to support you and challenge you to improve your craft and explore your unique voice on the page. We encourage our judges to offer comments and feedback whenever possible to guide and encourage you throughout your writing journey.
Final Round Judges for our Featured Contest
The Short Story Challenge 2021
Award Winning Author
An American author and emergency medicine physician, John Burley is the author of The Absence of Mercy-honored with the National Black Ribbon Award, The Forgetting Place; and The Quiet Child. His fourth book Surrender the Dead released January 12th
John attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He continues to serve as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California.
Award Winning Author
Originally from central Indiana, thriller and mystery author August Norman has called Los Angeles home for two decades, writing for and/or appearing in movies, television, stage productions, web series, and even commercial advertising. COME AND GET ME, August’s debut thriller featuring investigative journalist Caitlin Bergman, was released in 2019 by Crooked Lane Books, and SINS OF THE MOTHER, the second in the series, was voted one of the best thrillers of 2020 by Suspense Magazine. August is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, the Sisters in Crime, and the Blackbird Writers – and regularly attends the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
Award Winning Author
Trey Dowell received his BS degree (insert joke here) from Washington University in St. Louis. Despite a strong love for the written word, he artfully managed to avoid all English classes beyond E-Comp 101. For the next decade, Trey’s only creative pursuits revolved around “basic verbal storytelling,” which was often referred to as “lying.”
Our Judging Panel
Allison K Williams
Published Author / Editor
Guerilla memoirist, essay writer and travel journalist, Allison K Williams has written about race, culture and comedy for National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Travelers’ Tales.
Copyeditor / Proofreader
Alyson is an avid reader who graduated with a degree in professional writing. She has published poems, essays, and articles for audiences small and large alike. Her favorite activities include traveling, going to movies, being with friends, seeing live theater, and volunteering.
Best Selling Author
The international award-winning author of GAME OF LOVE, TEN YEAR DANCE, and 15 DAYS WITH YOU. Ara is a technology executive in the entertainment industry and a story coach.
Best-Selling Author / Business Coach
Author of six books and hundreds of blog posts and articles on marketing, entrepreneurship, and content writing. Her bestselling book Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants and Coaches has become the marketing bible for thousands of self-employed professionals. C.J. is also the author of The One-Person Marketing Plan Workbook, 50 Ways Coaches Can Change the World, and her newest book The Women’s Giving Circle Guide.
Dale Griffiths Stamos
Award Winning Screenwriter and Director
Award winning playwright and screenwriter, a producer, director, nonfiction author, Emmy nominated writer, poet and writing teacher/consultant. Dale has completed, to date, six short films. She has written and produced, or co-produced, all six, and has directed three. Her latest, Entwined, starring Michael Dorn, has just begun its festival run and has been accepted so far at two festivals.
Award Winning Author
Author of The Dream Stitcher and Synchronicities on the Avenue of the Saints. The Dream Stitcher was a finalist in the 2018 National Jewish Book Awards and winner of the 2019 IndieReader Discovery Awards.
Author / Agent
Eric Myers founded Myers Literary Management in 2017, following two years with Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret LLC and thirteen with The Spieler Agency. A graduate of UCLA and the Sorbonne, Eric entered publishing as a journalist and author
Award Winning Author
Jenny likes to write, eat and make people laugh. She used to have a life plan, but when she was laid off from her first job after college as a dolphin trainer (true story), she turned into a wandering gypsy. Now she enjoys telling stories.
Writer / Editor
A native Los Angelian, a fact that has made an indelible mark on her writing life, having grown up in Hollywood with all its scattered palm trees, jacarandas, broken sidewalks, and blaring sirens over Sunset Boulevard at night. She took the circuitous route to her writing life.
Screenwriter / Novelist
A Midwest native and Big Ten grad who now happily dwells, writes, and teaches in Southern California alongside her fiance and two precious dogs. As a creative writing major at Michigan State University, she was drawn to the narrative freedom of prose and the drum-beat structure of screenwriting, and she refuses to believe she has to choose between them.
Best Selling Non-Fiction Author
Award Winning Author
A graduate of the MFA program in screenwriting at UCLA. She has won the Screenwriting Expo Screenwriting Contest, The Contest of Contest Winners, The Filmmakers.com/The Radmin Company Contest, The Scr(i)pt Magazine/Open Door Contest, The Acclaim Film and Television Contest, The A Penny Short Contest, The Family Category of the Fade In: Awards, and been a finalist at Austin and CineStory.
Nicholas Deitch is a seeker of truth and beauty, an advocate for the homeless and those on the edges of our society. At present, he’s working on a collection of short stories titled, The Boatman in the Shadows. This writing began as a series of stories centered on the last day of someone’s life, stories which sought to reveal the struggle and beauty of love and loss in the moment of letting go.
Writer / Performer
Writer and occasional performer from Ojai, California. His work has been featured in Cagibi Magazine, Allegory Ridge Literary Magazine, Array Photo Journal, Beyond Words Magazine, at Speaking of Stories, and on The Townies Podcast. His radio play will be produced through Eastside Queer Stories. He is the producer of the Comedy/Party Thing at Kim Maxwell Studio and of the short film, Nothing New, featured at the Culver City Film Festival.
Christy brings a unique perspective to the table as a reader. She cannot boast about the tomes she has written and published because she simply reads the works of others. For the fun of it – without getting bogged down by rules. She enjoys a good cross section of genres with an unabashed penchant for beach reads. Christy’s partner is a published author and as such she has bourne witness to the beautiful process of watching a story unfold. Being immersed and included in the writing process has been one of the great joys of her adulthood. She is secretly working on a screenplay.
Author of the young adult novel, “Call Me Him”. Having gone through puberty twice and worked with a national organization assisting with high-risk LGBTQ+ youth, River feels uniquely qualified to write about the emotional turmoil that is growing up in a world where it can feel impossible to find the love and support we crave.
Editor / Educator
As a James Joyce scholar, Susan Brown introduces her clients to the secrets of the world’s greatest authors. A teacher, private writing coach, editor, and collaborator, Susan has spent decades assisting unpublished as well as prize-winning writers develop their projects (memoir and fiction) from concept to manuscript.
EMMY AND MULTI-WGA AWARD WINNING SCREENWRITER
After morphing from screenwriter to documentarian, Vickie Patik transplanted back to NYC where her roots in Broadway theatre wielded an irresistible pull. Currently she is writing the book, lyrics and music for a musical as well as three screenplays. She’s a writer’s writer and claims to dream in alphabet.
Gymnast / Educator
Shenea Stiletto (Booth) is a Two -Time World Champion Handbalancer, USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Member, and World Acrobatic Society Inductee. She has a decades worth of collaborations with Cirque Du Soleil including a starring role in the historic run of the touring show Varekai.
Early Education / Parenting Specialist
A parenting and early care and education consultant, Melani has been working with parents, caregivers and young children for over 20 years. Combining RIE training and a deep knowledge of child development, she helps parents develop real, reciprocal relationships with their children from the very beginning. Her mission is to help parents recognize children’s brilliance and competence and discover their own authentic voice: Confident Child. Confident Parent.
Published Author / Educator / Performance Specialist
Laura grew up in Oakland, California Earning a Division I scholarship in volleyball, she attended the University of California, Riverside. After college, she played on the AVP (professional beach volleyball) tour and represented the United States in tournaments in Mexico, Italy, and France. She went on to attain a Master’s in Kinesiology with a specialization in Sport and Exercise Psychology, as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS). Laura is the founder and owner of Ratto Consulting, a professional performance optimization service for businesspersons and athletes, an adjunct professor at SWC Chula Vista, and a published writer always looking to have a true and lasting impact on people’s health and well-being.
Karla Fischer, Ph.D.
Research Psychologist / Writer / Educator
Karla lives in Champaign, Illinois, where the astonishing flatness of the prairie feels like home after more than 25 years. Her background as a research psychologist with a law license led to an expertise in domestic violence and eventually to a niche as an expert witness in murder cases. These cases involve trauma and the psychology of violence, such as battered women charged with killing their abusive partners or other crimes. She is currently working on a narrative nonfiction book about battered women and self defense.
ENGINEER / BEER ENTHUSIAST / VOICE-OVER ACTOR
A transformational and empowering leader, presenter, and educator with an ability to see opportunities, cultivate strengths, and inspire a passion for excellence. He’s an award-winning home-brewer, national beer judge and certified beer server and an accomplished endurance mountain biker who competed in solo 24-hour races and completed the grueling Leadville 100 (with the belt buckle to prove it!)
Skin Care and Wellness Expert
Bridget lives in beautiful California and works in project management and just launched her own skincare line and wellness business. In her free time she likes to play outdoors and believes there is no bad weather only insufficient clothes. She also likes to play beach volleyball and loves live music. Between a podcast or a book she would choose a good book and enjoys reading all genres. Her favorite things to read include history, health/wellness, non fiction and romance novels.
Audrey is a Scrum master and part time mermaid living by the beach in sunny southern California. Her hobbies include spearfishing, fitness, beach volleyball, and cooking healthy food while listening to a great audiobook. She is a voracious reader across all genres, but her favorites are fantasy, romance and wellness.
Firefighter / Beach Volleyball Pro
Short bio: Aurora Paaluhi is a Firefighter-Paramedic for the Santa Monica Fire Department. Before that, she competed professionally in beach volleyball, and before THAT she was a software engineer, with most of her career at Yahoo!, Inc. Aurora lives in Hermosa Beach and has two amazing step-sons with her husband Mark.