Building Community Through the Arts

All Write, Columbia 2023 Conference Faculty

Donna Kaz | Melissa Holbrook Pierson | Pramila Venkateswaran | Jen Beagin | Venise Berry | Jennifer Chen | Lisa Cron

Workshop Leaders

DONNA KAZ is a multi-genre writer and the author of the award winning UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour, and PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art, because the world’s gone bananas. She has been published in Variety, Theatre Topics, Ms. Magazine, The Daily Mail, Bitch Media, Bust, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, Little Patuxent Review, Alternet, Role Reboot, Stonecoast Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Dramatist, Ful Art Magazine, Girl Drive Blog, Lilith, The Sun, Gagibi, Levitate, Gender Across Borders and Women in Hollywood. She is a 2023/24 research fellow at Winterthur and the director of the Kaz Conference Writing Workshop. Instagram | Website

Melissa Holbrook Pierson

MELISSA HOLBROOK PIERSON is the author of five books, including The Perfect Vehicle and The Place You Love Is Gone, all published by W. W. Norton. She co-edited and contributed to O.K. You Mugs: Writers on Movie Actors, and has appeared in numerous other anthologies. Her book reviews have run in a wide variety of publications, from the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post to The Nation and Hyperallergic; she is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Also an essayist and freelance editor of both fiction and nonfiction, she has taught with Writers in the Mountains, located in the Catskills region that Pierson now calls home. Website

Pamila Venkateswaran

PRAMILA VENKATESWARAN is the co-director of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poetry Festival and author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002), Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015), Slow Ripening (Local Gems, 2016), and The Singer of Alleppey (Shanti Arts, 2018). She teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York. Author of numerous essays on poetics as well as creative non-fiction, she is also the 2011 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Long Island Poet of the Year. She leads writing workshops for breast cancer patients in their healing journey. She is a founding member of Women Included, a transnational feminist association and the current President of NOW Suffolk, Long Island.

Conference Faculty

Jen Beagin

JEN BEAGIN holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a Whiting Award in fiction. Her first novel Pretend I’m Dead was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and Vacuum in the Dark was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. Along with conference writers, she will be reading a scene from her latest novel, Big Swiss. She lives in Hudson, New York.

Venise Berry

VENISE BERRY is a professor of Journalism and African American Studies at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and DEO of African American Studies. Her academic research focuses on media, African Americans and popular culture. Her current book project is Racialism and the Media: Black Jesus, Black Twitter and the First Black American President (Peter Lang, June 2020). Berry’s creative publication record includes three national bestselling novels; So Good, An African American Love Story (1996), All of Me, A Voluptuous Tale (2000) and Colored Sugar Water (2002). She completed a book of essays Driven: Reflections on Love, Career and the Pursuit of Happiness in October 2018 and is currently working on her fourth novel, Pockets of Sanity. Each winter Berry serves as faculty in the Solstice MFA low-residency creative writing program at Lasell University in Massachusetts and every summer she offers writing workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Website

Jennifer Chen

JENNIFER CHEN is a freelance journalist who has written for Today, New York Times, Oprah Daily, Real Simple, and Washington Post. She is a proud volunteer for WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization. She lives in Los Angeles with her TV writer husband, twins, two pugs, and a cat named Gremlin. Her debut YA rom-com book, Artifacts of an Ex, will be published by Wednesday Books in fall 2023. TikTok | Twitter | Instagram | Website

Lisa Cron

LISA CRON is a story coach and the author of: Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From the Very First Sentence; Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages that Go Nowhere); and most recently, Story or Die: How to Use Brain Science to Engage, Persuade and Change Minds in Business and in Life, all three published by Ten Speed Press. Her seven-hour video class Wired for Story can be found at Her video tutorial Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story can be found at Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency. Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and been on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program in visual narrative in New York City. Website

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