Each panel is composed of an author, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic.
Claire Messud is the author of four novels and a book of novellas. The Emperor's Children, translated into more than 20 languages, was named one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books in 2006. Her most recent novel is The Woman Upstairs (2013). A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, and the Financial Times, among other publications, Messud teaches at Harvard University and lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Annie Philbrick purchased Bank Square Books located in downtown Mystic, Connecticut in 2006 and just opened a second store, Savoy Bookshop & Café, in nearby Westerly, Rhode Island. Annie is the adult book buyer and reads a ton of fiction and some narrative non-fiction. She currently sits on the Board of the American Booksellers Association and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and is a past president of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. Annie lives in Stonington, Connecticut with her husband and chickens, as her four kids are spread out in the world.
Gene Seymour has written about books, jazz, film, television, and other distractions for more than 20 years. His work has appeared in such publications as Kirkus Reviews, The Nation, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, Film Comment, CNN.com., and the late, lamented Emerge magazine, for which he wrote a monthly column, “Just Jazz.” In 1996, he published Jazz: The Great American Art, a history for young adults, and is at work on a collection of essays, most of them autobiographical, about his struggles with having to prove himself “authentically” black. He has taught courses in journalism and cultural criticism at the University of Delaware, The New School, Howard University, and Lehman College.
Héctor Tobar is a Los Angeles-born journalist and novelist. His book Deep Down Dark: The Untold of Thirty-Three Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the basis of the film The 33. He is also the author of the novels The Barbarian Nurseries (a New York Times notable book and winner of the California Book Award Gold Medal for fiction) and The Tattooed Soldier, both published by FSG. He’s written for the New York Times and the New Yorker and is the son of Guatemalan immigrants.
Chris Schoppa began his career in bookselling while in high school and has worked at several stores in the Washington, D.C. area, including the beloved independent Chapters Bookstore. After a 14-year stint in editorial at the Washington Post Book World, he began working at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. where he is currently a floor supervisor and manages the store's Signed 1st Edition subscription program.
Jim Piechota is a freelance writer, novelist, and veteran literary critic whose reviews and features regularly appear in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Bay Area Reporter, and Edge Media Network. His work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ware River News, and SF Gate. In his spare time, he enjoys reading his work live at LitQuake Reading Series events, performing in small, alternative Bay Area theater productions, DJing, and expanding his knowledge of baking science. A native of western Massachusetts, he now resides in San Francisco.
Jacqueline Woodson began to imagine a career as a writer when she was in the fifth grade. Since then, she has written over two dozen books for children and teens, including picture books, novels, and her 2014 memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the Coretta Scott King Author Award, the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Sibert Honor, among others. She has won multiple Coretta Scott King Awards and Newbery Honors, and her books have won numerous state awards. A tireless advocate for diversity in children’s books, she is a frequent speaker both in the United States and around the world. A winner of ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, she is currently serving as the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Laureate.
Bookseller and author Elizabeth Bluemle has held a variety of positions in publishing, education, and librarianship. She has a master's degree in education from Bank Street College of Education in NYC, and a master's in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has lived in Vermont since 1996, when she opened The Flying Pig Bookstore (now in Shelburne, Vermont) with co-owner and stand-up comedian Josie Leavitt. Together with Leavitt and Kenny Brechner, she is a regular contributor to Publishers Weekly’s ShelfTalker blog. Her most recent picture book, Tap Tap Boom Boom, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, was published by Candlewick.
Kirkus reviewer Deborah D. Taylor is the Coordinator of School and Student Services for Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she has worked for over 40 years. There she founded the “Books for the Beast” event, a biennial conference that brings authors and editors to Baltimore to talk directly to their teen readers and is a national exemplar. She’s spoken at countless conferences around the country and has served on numerous book award committees, including the Coretta Scott King, Printz, Best Books for Young Adults, Newbery, and Sibert committees. Her dedication for connecting children and teens with books that celebrate the African-American experience was recognized in 2015 with the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement.
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