2020 Participating Authors

The Inaugural 2020 Lehigh Valley Book Festival worked with publishers to organize a wonderful line-up of authors & illustrators with new books to share with our community. The books span from literary fiction to historical non-fiction, and from thrilling fast-paced action to exquisite children's picture books. 

Lehigh Valley Book Festival 

Jeanne Birdsall Award-Winning Kid Lit With Universal Appeal, Moderator

Jeanne Birdsall is the National Book Foundation National Book Award-winning author of the children’s book The Penderwicks and its sequel(s), The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, The Penderwicks in Spring, and the conclusion, The Penderwicks at Last, all of which were also New York Times bestsellers. In addition to being an incredible author, Birdsall is also an extraordinary photographer, and her photographs are included in the permanent collections of museums, including the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Art Museum. She lives with her husband in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their house is old and comfortable, full of unruly animals, and surrounded by gardens.

Deborah Heiligman

Deborah Heiligman is the author of 32 books, most of them nonfiction. Her latest, Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship” (October, 2019, garnered four starred reviews, won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award and is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. VINCENT AND THEO: THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS (2017), won the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for nonfiction, the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for nonfiction, and an ALA Printz Honor. CHARLES AND EMMA: THE DARWINS’ LEAP OF FAITH( 2009) won the inaugural YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, was a Printz Honor and a National Book Award Finalist. The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos (2013) won the Cook Prize, the Anne Izard Storytelling Award, was a New York Times notable book.

Gregg Hurwitz - Key Note Panel: Making Noise in a Multimedia World, Moderator

New York Times #1 internationally bestselling author of 21 thrillers including INTO THE FIRE (January 2020). His novels have won numerous literary awards and have been published in 32 languages. Additionally, he’s written screenplays and television scripts for many of the major studios and networks, comics for DC and Marvel, and political and culture pieces for Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and others. Gregg lives with his two Rhodesian ridgebacks in Los Angeles, where he continues to play soccer, frequently injuring himself.

Victoria Jamieson

Victoria Jamieson, Best-Selling & Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl (Penguin Books) will be joining us to talk about her new, much-anticipated book, When Stars Are Scattered (Penguin Books 4/14/20). Vicki co-wrote this book with Omar Mohamed, the founder of the non-profit organization Refugee Strong, which delivers school supplies to students still living in Dadaab.
When the Stars Scattered tells the story of Omar's childhood spent in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Omar and his younger brother Hassan fled their homeland of Somalia when civil war broke out and spent the next 18 years in Dadaab.

Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan is the award-winning creator of the graphic novels Snow White, The Storm in the Barn, Bluffton, and Around the World, and the picture book Druthers. He is also the illustrator of many books for young readers including Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal.
He has received the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (The Storm in the Barn), the Carolyn Field Award (Around the World and Snow White) and the Jefferson Cup (Bluffton). Matt has been nominated for five Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, including best writer/artist and best new graphic album for Bluffton. In 2014, Matt was awarded the Free Library of Philadelphia/Drexel University Children's Literature Citation.

Mo Rocca - Closing Keynote Speaker, in conversation with Josh Berk

Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, host of The Henry Fords Innovation Nation, and host and creator of the Cooking Channels My Grandmothers Ravioli, in which he learned to cook from grandmothers and grandfathers across the country. He's also a frequent panelist on NPR's hit weekly quiz show Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me! Rocca spent four seasons as a correspondent on Comedy Centrals The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He began his career in TV as a writer and producer for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning PBS children's series Wishbone. As an actor, Mo starred on Broadway in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Mo is the author of All the Presidents Pets, a historical novel about White House pets and their role in presidential decision-making.

David Rosenfelt

David Rosenfelt is an author who has written nineteen novels and three TV movies. His main character in most of his mystery books is Andy Carpenter, attorney and dog lover. Rosenfelt left the corporate industry and wrote screenplays for movies and television. He turned to writing novels and has become quite successful in that genre. In 1995, he and his wife started the "Tara Foundation" which has saved almost 4,000 dogs. He is a dog lover and supports more than two dozen dogs.

Chuck Wendig

American author, comic book writer, screenwriter, and blogger. He is best known for his popular online blog Terribleminds, and for his 2015 Star Wars novel Aftermath, which debuted at #4 on The New York Times Best Seller list and #4 on USA Today's best-seller list. He has written comics for Dark Circle Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Marvel Comics, and VS Comics.

Acampora, Paul

Paul Acampora is an avid reader, an enthusiastic dad, and a ferocious fan of being human. His first novel Defining Dulcie received starred review from Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal and Booklist, and was a School Library Journal Best Books of 2006 and a VOYA Top Ten. Other titles include I Kill The Mockingbird Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face, How to Avoid Extinction, and Confusion is Nothing New.

Baltsar, Suzanne

Suzanne’s storied history in literature began when she was first published in the 5th Grade Poetry Anthology of 1997 with a poem titled Snowy Day in May. She continued her career with a much-lauded Angelfire website featuring multiple novels of *NSYNC fanfiction. School, boys, and eventual full-time jobs got in the way here and there, but she kept on writing, including a screenplay which she directed to bring to the big screen in 2013. These days she writes stories about life, love, and bringing down the patriarchy in between wrangling a few beasts, some human, some not. 

Barnes, Derrick

Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which won a multitude of literary awards, making it one of the most decorated picture books in the history of children’s literature. The awards/prizes include two 2018 EZRA JACK KEATS AWARDS (one for New Writer and an honor for the magnificent illustrations). It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. In October of 2018, CROWN also took home the lucrative and highly coveted Kirkus Prize For Young Readers.

Berk, Josh

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 & Amazon.com) 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.

Deneen, Valerie

Valerie Deneen is the founder of InnerChildFun.com where she writes about what to do with kids, creative play for all ages, parenting tips & tricks, learning & educational activities for kids, craft ideas for tweens & school-aged children, and gardening with kids. Valerie is a speaker, creative play advocate, brand ambassador, television personality, and active Rotarian. Her work has been featured in Highlights High Five, Family Fun Magazine, PBS Parents, various morning talk shows, and several online publications. 

Gavigan, Jenna

Jenna Gavigan grew up dreaming of Broadway. ... A fourth generation New Yorker, Jenna graduated with a BA in creative writing from Columbia University, where she focused on fiction, television, and screenwriting. She lives in a teeny tiny Manhattan apartment with her husband, Kevin. Her books include Lulu the Broadway Mouse, and The Show Must Go On.


Gilmore, Jennifer

Jennifer Gilmore is the author is the author of If Only and We Were Never Here as well as three novels for adults: The Mothers, Something Red, and Golden Country (a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award). She teaches writing and literature at Harvard University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son. Visit her at www.jennifergilmore.net.

Havranek, Carrie

Carrie Havranek is a former Associate Editor for Simply Recipes and the author of the cookbook Tasting Pennsylvania (2019). She lives in Easton, Pennsylvania and goes out of her way for farmers' markets, new ingredients, yoga classes, and walks in nature. Find more of her work her on her blog The Dharma Kitchen.

Howes, Katey

Katey Howes is a children’s author writing picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels. She is represented by Essie White of Storm Literary Agency. She writes with the twin goals of helping children connect their own experience to the greater world, and of inspiring children to become lifelong readers. She loves exploring different techniques, styles and genres to match a theme and to build an immersive experience for the reader. Her debut picture book, Grandmother Thorn, illustrated by Rebecca Hahn, was named a 2018 Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book by the Children’s Book Council. Publishers Weekly calls the folk-tale-style Grandmother Thorn “a visually arresting reminder that compromise has its benefits.”

Lamba, Marie

Marie Lamba is author of acclaimed young adult novels, and of the picture book Green Green: A Community Gardening Story (co-authored with her husband Baldev Lamba),  illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan 2017).  Shelfawareness calls Green Green, “pure inspiration,” and the book is a 2017 Best in Rhyme Award nominee. Her newest picture book, A Day So Gray, illustrated by Alea Marley, is out through Clarion Books (2019). Shelfawareness says A Day So Gray is “enchanting” and “ethereal.”

Lazar, Tara

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible. Tara loves children’s books. Her goal is to create books that children love.

She writes picture books and middle grade novels. She’s written short stories for Abe’s Peanut and is featured in Break These Rules, a book of life-lesson essays for teens, edited by author Luke Reynolds. In November 2009, Tara created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). In 2017, PiBoIdMo’s name was changed to Storystorm and it’s now held on this blog every January…with nearly 2,000 participants from around the world.

Loveless, Gina

Gina Loveless writes for nine year olds and forty-nine year olds.  For kids, she’s the author of the middle grade series Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw (Epic! Originals/ Andrews McMeel, 2019/2020), Animal Rescue Friends (Epic! Originals, 2020), and forthcoming humorous health and wellness book Puberty Is Gross, but Also Really Awesome (Rodale Kids, Feb 2021). For adults, she writes ‘transformation’ pieces for MensHealth.com, and she has been a freelance researcher and fact-checker for the magazine since 2016.

Lubar, David

David Lubar is an author of numerous books for teens. He is also an electronic game programmer, who programmed Super Breakout for the Nintendo Game Boy and Frogger for both the SNES and Game Boy. As a game designer, he designed the game Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge for the Nintendo Game Boy Color. Lubar returned to writing in 1994 while still working as a developer. By 1995, he had sold six books, and the company he worked for had gone out of business. During 1998 and 1999 Lubar started programming for the Nintendo Game Boy while putting writing to the side, but he returned to writing shortly after. From 2000 to 2005, Lubar wrote short stories for various collections such as Ribbiting Tales, Lost and Found and Shattered.

McCloskey, Kevin

Kevin McCloskey. Kevin is the author and illustrator of the popular Giggle and Learn series of nonfiction comics published by Toon Books, including Snails Are Just My Speed!, We Dig Worms, and Something’s Fishy. His humorous illustrations have appeared in The Village Voice and The New York Times. He holds an MFA from The School of Visual Arts in New York City.

McLeod, Bob

Bob McLeod is the co-creator of The New Mutants, an American comic book published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1982. On April 3, The New Mutants film is coming to a theater near you. Bob is a nationally-recognized illustrator of pen & ink, and received the 2018 Inkwell Award - Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.  Bob authored and illustrated Superhero ABC, Harper Collins. 

Miller, Donald L.

Donald L. Miller is a biographer and historian. He is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. He is also a New York Times bestselling author of seven books, and one of the most respected authorities on World War II and U.S history.

Miller, Lisa

Lisa Miller is an American writer and journalist. She is currently a contributing editor for New York. Formerly a senior editor of Newsweek and a religion columnist for The Washington Post, Miller is a Wilbur Prize-winning author and a commentator on religion, history, and religious faith

Moralis, Shonda

Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW, is a women’s mindful empowerment coach, speaker, and psychotherapist in private practice. Founder of The BEA HIVE, a monthly online membership for ambitious women who want to step off the hamster wheel and play bigger in 5-minutes a day, Shonda believes that when women empower themselves and create life balance, they unleash the capacity for incredible accomplishments. Author of the award-winning Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms and Breathe, Empower, Achieve: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Women Who Do It All, Shonda lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids, loves to play outside, endeavors to practice what she preaches, and is perennially fascinated by what makes people tick.


Moretti, Kate

New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s next “exceptional…emotionally astute, [and] deliciously sinister” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) thriller follows the a newly engaged woman who is summoned to her aunt's storybook mansion in the Catskill mountains, the scene of her sister's mysterious and traumatic disappearance 17 years earlier. Once there, she discovers that some family secrets will not stay buried and sometimes old ghosts haunt forever. ​


Murphy, Frank

Frank Murphy has taught a wide variety of grades at the elementary and middle school level. A popular speaker, Murphy is the author of many fun historical fiction books for young readers, such as Brave Clara Barton, George Washington and The General's Dog, and Babe Ruth Saves Baseball. 

Noel, Kaela 

Kaela Noel’s debut middle grade novel Coo is forthcoming from Greenwillow at HarperCollins in 2020. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in New Jersey, and she now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family. 

Papp, Lisa

Lisa Pappgrew up telling stories. Saved in a notebook full of sketches, her early tales featured her cat and stuffed animals. Today, Lisa is still making up stories and painting pictures, only now, they fill the pages of children’s books, including Chloé et sa copine de lecture. She lives in Pennsylvania.


Papp, Robert

Robert Papp is an artist and illustrator whose work can be found on the covers of books, in Cooks Illustrated magazine, and in children's books. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and their three cats. Robert Papp has won awards nationwide, but he is most proud of the reaction his paintings receive from children.

Racculia, Kate

Kate Racculia is a novelist living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the novels This Must Be the Place and Bellweather Rhapsody, winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award. Her third novel, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in October 2019.

Rodale, Maya

Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the bestselling and award winning author of numerous smart and sassy romance novels. A champion of the genre and its readers, she is also the author of the non-fiction book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels, Explained and a frequent contributor to NPR Books, The Huffington Post, Bustle and more. Maya lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.

Rolli, Jennifer H.

Jennifer Hansen ran her own design firm for many years before returning to her first love: oil painting. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her family. She (usually) gets a kick out of her own children pushing for “just one more” until the occasional crash! boom! bang! and the realization that she has let them express a little too much independence!


Shanker, Adrian

Adrian Shanker (He, Him, His) is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Allentown, Pennsylvania’s LGBT Community Center, where he serves as Executive Director.

Taylor, Devon

Devon Taylor was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two daughters. His day job consists of sneaking around the house with ninja-like stealth to avoid waking up his kids. When not writing, reading, or tediously typing out text messages with all the correct spelling and punctuation, he spends his time with his family.

Watts, Stephanie P.

Stephanie Powell Watts is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University and has won numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and the Southern Women's Writers Award for Emerging Writer of the Year. Her 2017 novel, No One is Coming to Save Us, was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards--Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction and Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. She was also a PEN/Hemingway finalist for her short-story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need.

Whitson, Signe

Signe Whitson, a licensed social worker, school counselor, and author, is COO of the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute and presents workshops nationwide for parents and professionals on bullying prevention and helping kids manage anger. She lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.

Wild, Susan

Susan Ellis Wild is an American attorney and politician from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A Democrat, she is a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district.


Wolf, Matthew

Matt Wolf has written and performed poetry for the last 20 years in the Lehigh Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. He has organized over 45 local poetry readings and multidisciplinary arts events over the last 7 years in the Lehigh Valley area. He has also taught numerous poetry workshops in Lehigh Valley schools. He is the resident poet of Bethlehem’s Favorite Poem Project and is a member of the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission.