About Us

Media Inquiries: Call 610-928-8600 

Mission: The Lehigh Valley Book Festival is a celebration of books and the strong connections they forge – bringing published authors, illustrators and readers together, through thoughtful, approachable and inclusive programming. Our mission is based on the notion that reading is for everybody – and that people of all ages and interests can find something to spark their imagination, broaden their perspective and nourish their spirit in a book.

Leadership Team 

KIRSTEN HESS, Director

Kirsten is the owner and founder of Let's Play Books Bookstore and the Lehigh Valley Book Festival. Kirsten spent the first 15 years of her adult life in major events & leadership development in higher education and fortune 50 companies in the Washington DC area prior to realizing she likes playing with books a whole lot more. 

JOSH BERK  Venue Director, Bethlehem Area Public Library 

Josh Berk is the author of the teen novels The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews) and Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator (2012) as well as the middle grade mysteries Strike Three You’re Dead and Say It Ain’t So. Coming soon: the horror/comedy CAMP MURDERFACE series co-written with Saundra Mitchell.

 VALERIE DENEEN, Co-Chair of Communications 

Valerie is the founder of InnerChildFun.com, a site where she writes about creative play for all ages, parenting tips, educational activities for kids, and more. Valerie is the author of two coloring and activity books for kids, HORSES! and DOGS! Her work has been featured in Highlights High Five, FamilyFun Magazine, and PBS Parents.

THERESA HEGEL, Co-Chair of Communications

 Theresa is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for several daily newspapers and national business-to-business magazines. Highlights of her career include interviewing former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and winning a Jesse H. Neal award --sometimes referred to as the Pulitzer of business journalism -- for a magazine feature documenting the months-long makeover of a struggling embroidery shop. She's shadowed a famed fashion designer for a day and an amateur ghost-hunting group for a night, profiled a legally blind art teacher who used a magnifying glass to critique his students' paintings and a dog that used his keen sense of smell to sniff out bedbugs, plus covered way too many school board meetings and town council meetings to keep track. In her spare time, Hegel is a voracious reader, an occasional book club host, a marathoner-in-training and mother to an 8-year-old who's way cooler than she'll ever be.

JIM HESS, Operations Manager

SARA MOORE,  Technical Manager 

TARA M. SANTORO, Volunteer Coordinator, and Co-Chair of Kids' Fest 

is an aspiring children's book illustrator studying to receive her Certificate in Illustration from UC San Diego Extension. She is also an award-winning colored pencil artist. Her work has been featured in Allentown’s Urban Fences exhibit, Ann Kulberg’s Color Magazine and Colored Pencil Magazine 2020 Look Book. In her past life, Tara was a bookstore manager who enjoyed the voice, color and chaos of the Children’s Department. Today, Tara is an art instructor, mentor and freelance artist. She is an active member of the Emmaus Arts Commission and has been a member of The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator since 2014 and Colored Pencil Society of America since 2016. When not creating art she spends time with her husband and two adult children. www.TaraMSantoro.com