Chit Chat Authors 2017


Judith A. Bannon is the executive director and the founder of Cribs for Kids®, which started out in 1998 as a campaign to launch a national infant safe-sleep movement and turned into a multimillion-dollar nonprofit that saves thousands of babies’ lives each year.

In addition to being a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including the Making a Difference Award from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Death, the Pittsburgh Business Times Top Women in Business Award, the Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairman’s Commendation Award, and the Distinguished Educator Award from the International Society for the Study and Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death. Recently she was honored with a proclamation by having April 26, 2017 named, “Judy Bannon Day” in the City of Pittsburgh. She lives in Elizabeth Township, Pennsylvania with her husband, Dick. Bannon coauthored her memoir entitled, Five Ladies and A Forklift: Cribs for Kids’ Quest to Help Every Baby Sleep Safer with the invaluable help of her daughter, Jennifer Bannon.

Jennifer “Jennie” Bannon has been teaching English and language arts for over a decade and is in her sixth year as a middle-school teacher at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park. She is co-author, with her mother Judy Bannon, of the book Five Ladies and A Forklift: Cribs for Kids’ Quest to Help Every Baby Sleep Safer. The book, a memoir of Judy’s role in launching the infant safe-sleep movement, is Jennie’s first.

As an avid reader and frequent journaler, writing a book was a lifelong dream of hers. She feels blessed that she was able to fulfill that dream while telling the story of her mother’s extraordinary impact on the lives of babies and families. In addition to editing her students’ papers, Jennie has begun moonlighting as a book editor for local authors. She is a 2012 fellow of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, an organization dedicated to the idea that “the best teachers or writing are the teachers who write”.



Terri Bertha is author of the Spooky Twisties Series for Middle Grade/YA. Each book consists of thirteen interconnected stories which follow a group of friends as they navigate their way through supernatural events in an idyllic community during the course of a ‘normal’ day. A mix of horror, humor and ‘twisted endings’ make for fun and entertaining reading.

Terri has lived her entire life in western Pennsylvania and the majority of her working years as a Systems Engineer for a large corporation. When her sons were born, she took a hiatus from work, and tutored math and reading while being a substitute teacher in local schools. She returned to the workforce and retired a few years ago.

Learn more about Terri at







Kathleen’s fascination in the written word was sparked at an early age when she tagged along with her two older sisters on summertime walks to the neighborhood library. After college, she devoted over thirty years as an elementary/special educator to promoting the joy of reading to her students, as well as to her two sons.

At this stage in life, Kathleen embraces her lifelong passions of reading, writing, genealogical research, gardening, volunteering, and travel.

Inspired by her volunteer experience teaching English to immigrants from Japan, India, Pakistan, China, Mexico, and even Burundi, her present writing project focuses on capturing the beauty, struggles, and hopes of people from around the globe who embrace a life of freedom and possibilities in the United States.

Kathleen and her husband reside in Washington, Pennsylvania.




Brian Burley, author of #YNGBLKPGH: Rewriting our future, one letter at a time, is a native son of Pittsburgh and a proud PPS alumnus representing Schenley High School.

Brian is an MBA graduate from Katz School of Business – University of Pittsburgh. He earned his undergraduate degree from Morehead State University in which he was a student-athlete. YNGBLKPGH has been seen in WHIRL Magazine, CBS, NBC, WQED, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Courier. Brian is a dedicated mentor with the 100 Black Men of Western PA’s program. In addition, he was named a 2015 BMe Community Leader for his many civic and philanthropic contributions.

YNGBLKPGH represents Brian’s vision and determination to show young African-American youth, many of whom have barriers to opportunity, that role models do exist much closer to home than they think.

Learn more at





Mary Frailey Calland, is the author of Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North, a story of courage, loss, and redemption that brings Civil War Pittsburgh to life as it sheds light on the tragic explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal that killed over 70 girls hired to roll bullet cartridges for the Union army.

As part of the 150th commemoration of the Arsenal explosion, Consecrated Dust was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Catholic, on KDKA TV, on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh and Speaking Volumes, and on SLB Radio’s Saturday Light Brigade.

Mary’s first historical novel, Barefoot In The Stubble Fields, was set during the Great Depression/World War II, and she is currently at work on a novel about the Confederate prisoner of war camp in her hometown of Elmira, New York.

Mary has a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame and is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School. She lives in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, Dean. Learn more about Mary at




In Grain of Hope: A Mother’s Memoir, Dolores’ voice and reflective style communicate more than the traditional “light at the end of the tunnel.” Instead, her advice resonates with readers to clearly illustrate a new way of life even when life seems no longer bearable. A boost for those suffering loss and needing the energy to wake to a new day, she inspires those facing life after unimaginable loss.

A gourmet cook, world traveler, and self-admitted fashionista, Dolores lives by her own credo to make the most of every day. She strives to soothe, counsel, and inspire others to work through sadness and tough times by tapping into their own strengths and understanding their own feelings, spirituality, and purpose in the world. Additionally, she moves others to realize their own dreams and to use their talents to achieve maximum happiness in life.

Dolores has a thirty-year background in both corporate American and academia working as a Software Administrator, a Manager of Human Resources, a GED Instructor, and an Educational Grant Writer. She has studied Creative Writing, Art, and Design at Allegheny County Community College, Business and Marketing at Point Park University, Digital Photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ School, and Residential Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

She resides in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, James. You can learn more about her at



Cathy believes the faery realm and all of creation are waiting to connect with you. Her paranormal romantic suspense novels, the Lilith and the Faeries Series, reflect her belief. Pittsburgh bookstore manager Lilith Devlin discovers her true life path, romance, adventure, and joy as she embarks on faery missions.

After studying the angelic and nature spirits for many years, Cathy finds an intimate relationship with nature to be the greatest adventure of her life. Her writing revolves around her deep reverence for animals, trees, and our planet.

Cathy’s written works are a by-product of her hands-on healing work as an RN, Reiki Master, and massage therapist (healing herself and the planet one person at a time). She and husband Alan own CAC Healing, where they offer classes as well as healing sessions. They thrive in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and enjoy nature indoors via their dog Bella, and kitties Cato and Cleo.

Learn more about Cathy and the faeries at or




A.K. Downing’s young adult novel, Into the Air, is a 2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story follows the adventure of teenager Mia Bryn as she leaves the safety of her underground compound and tries to survive in a world no one has inhabited for more than a hundred years.

Growing up in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, Aimee spent her summers exploring the fields, woods, and orchards of her grandparents’ farm. She was inspired by prepper shows and survivalist websites to create a story that weaves together the best aspects of young adult fiction – adventure, teenage angst, and a hint of romance.

Aimee studied graphic design at Kent State University and currently works as a Creative Director. She enjoys history and camping and feels there is no better way to see the world than from the top of a horse. Please visit her at



A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.

By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.



Rosemary Hanrahan MD, MPH is a physician, author and professional coach with 15 years of experience in the non profit sector and 25 years of experience practicing anatomic and clinical pathology. She has lived and volunteered in developing countries such as Nepal, Botswana, and Haiti.

Her experience as a physician, involvement with international and public health non profit organizations, and community development in Haiti are the inspiration of her first novel, When Dreams Touch and the sequel, When Dreams Roar (2018).

In addition to volunteering as a consultant in international healthcare and writing grants for non profit organizations, Rosemary has been an executive board member of Vincentian Collaborative System (VCS) since 2010. VCS provides a continuum of senior services in the Western Pennsylvania region. She also serves on the board of the International Coach Federation, Pittsburgh Chapter.

The mother of two adult sons, Rosemary lives in Western Pennsylvania, and is the founder of Beyond Words Wellness Resources, LLC. Beyond Words Wellness offers coaching and consulting for organizations and individuals in caregiving professions at risk for compassion fatigue.



Dr. Shellie Hipsky inspires, educates, and entertains internationally. With opulent photography gracing the pages, each issue of Inspiring Lives Magazine offers captivating stories and empowering ideas imprinted with Dr. Hipsky’s vision on business and finance, art and film, books, music, health and wellness, relationships and self-discovery, fashion and beauty, food, and travel.

Dr. Hipsky is the Executive Director of the new non-profit 501 (c) (3) the Global Sisterhood which guides and supports women and girls towards their dreams and goals.

The latest of her 10 published books, the internationally best selling Common Threads trilogy, provides “Inspiration, Empowerment, and Balance” based on 100 amazing interviews from her Empowering Women Radio. She is delighted to work with her talented daughter Alyssa Hipsky on this The World is Ours children’s book series that supports the Next Generation Global Sisterhood!

Learn more at



Ann K. Howley is the author of the award-winning memoir, Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad, and is a contributor to the HerStories Project anthology, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. She is a regular contributor to Pittsburgh Parent Magazine and teaches writing classes for CCAC’s Community Education program.

Her work was awarded the Silver Award from the Parenting Media Association in 2017 and she won the 1st Place Prize for Nonfiction in the 2015 and 2016 Pennwriters Writing Contest.

Her articles appear in publications nationwide, including skirt! Magazine, Bicycle Times Magazine, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A popular speaker, she has conducted workshops in cities across the country and hosts weekend writing retreats for aspiring authors.

Learn more at





As a United States Peace Corps Volunteer, David Koren taught English and general science at Ohuhu Community Grammar School in Eastern Nigeria for three years, 1964-1966. Following Peace Corps service he served again as a volunteer for UNICEF on the Biafran Airlift in 1968 and 1969; later he wrote a memoir about Peace Corps and the airlift called Far Away in the Sky.

Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of Nigeria, a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. In 1971 Koren accepted a job as a counselor in an adult education program in Buffalo, New York. That led to a full career as a Rehabilitation Counselor at Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

Retiring from that he returned to school at the University of Pittsburgh where he earned a master’s degree in Physics. As a final experience in gainful employment, he worked for 10 years as an Optical Design engineer making lenses for industrial infrared lasers. Now he is active in his local community on the township planning commission and the Friends of the Spring Valley Park. He is an amateur astronomer and maintains a six acre mini farm with his wife and two tractors.



Daniel Lowe teaches writing at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh.

His debut novel, All That’s Left to Tell, was published by Flatiron Books of Macmillan in February of 2017.

His fiction and poetry have appeared in West Branch, The Nebraska Review, The Montana Review, The WisconsinReview, The Writing Room, The Bridge, The Paterson Literary Review, Ellipsis, Blue Stem, Midway Journal, and The Madison Review. 








Brianne Mitchell is the (very) proud mom of Della and Lila. She enjoys spending as much time with her girls as possible, especially when traveling. In addition to working on children’s stories and songs with her daughters, Brianne is the CFO for Mitchell Legal Services and previously taught college for seven years. She holds an MA in Communication and a BA in English.

Brianne enjoys the arts, reading, adventures with her family, NBA basketball, and river-based activities. She also enjoys dabbling in photography and mixed media art. Bri has long considered the Monongahela River her muse. And, as such, she has photographed it and painted it; hunted for treasure along its winding banks; swam, skied, boated, kayaked, fished, and navigated all through it. And, more often than not, she enjoys sitting, observing, and appreciating its beauty – watching the water go by. Mitch, Brianne’s husband, also proposed to her along its banks. The Monongahela River is a special place for her.

Della Parker Mitchell, nine-years-old, is a storytelling, song-writing, adventure-loving little girl. She enjoys swimming, kayaking, dancing, acting, music lessons, and spending time with her family and friends. Della began making up stories and songs as soon as she could talk. Her father is also an avid storyteller and song- maker-upper. They especially enjoy these activities when they’re together. Della’s current favorite things include: The Muppets, Emily Windsnap books, Tales of a 6th Grade Muppet novels, Phineas and Ferb, Weird Al, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Beauty and the Beast, everything Star Wars, all things Disney, narwhals, unicorns, and mermaids.



Leah Pileggi was born in Kane, Pennsylvania, a tiny town in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest. She assumed everyone grew up watching men use chainsaws to make chairs out of tree stumps. While she didn’t have many books as a child, she now has more than one person probably should. Except that it’s not possible to have too many books.

She has lived in California, Connecticut, and Texas and now lives in the big small town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she studied creative writing at Chatham University and professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

Prisoner 88 is her first novel. It’s a middle-grade historical novel based on a real 10-year-old boy who went to prison in Idaho in 1885 for shooting a man who had threatened to kill his father. It’s been on state readings lists in Vermont, Nebraska and Arkansas and was chosen as a Notable Book by the National Council for Teachers of English. Leah is also the author of How to Design a World-Class Engineering College: A History of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, a historical narrative. Her work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Chautauquan Daily, Mental Floss, and Hopscotch Magazine.



Cara Reinard is an author of women’s fiction and domestic suspense and has published two domestic suspense novels in 2016 through The Wild Rose Press titled Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades and Last Doll Standing.

Cara is employed in the pharmaceutical industry and currently resides in Mars, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Learn more at





Pittsburgh legend Therese Rocco is known to her colleagues as “The Rock.” This diminutive woman, at the age of nineteen, began her career in law enforcement as a clerk in a small, all-female missing persons unit of the Pittsburgh Police Department. Her career ended nearly fifty years later, as an honored and acclaimed Assistant Police Chief—the first woman in the Pittsburgh Police Department to reach such a high-ranking position.

In her memoir, Therese Rocco: Pittsburgh’s First Female Assistant Police Chief, she shares gritty and entertaining stories that underscore the fact that as a young clerk she was quickly moved into investigative work because of her willingness to put herself in danger in the line of duty, and her determination to track down even the smallest lead. Therese became a household name because of her tenacity and fearlessness in high profile cases involving missing children. Her dedication and dogged pursuit of truth earned her the recognition of governors, mayors and other high-ranking officials. Therese is credited with establishing protocols for the investigation of missing child cases that have saved the lives of untold numbers of children.



Sarah K. Stephens is a developmental psychologist and a senior lecturer at Penn State University. Although Fall and Spring find her in the classroom, she remains a writer year-round. Her short stories and essays have appeared in LitHub, The Millions, National Book Critics Circle: Critical Mass, Five on the Fifth, The Indianola Review, and (parenthetical).

Her debut novel, A Flash of Red, was released in December 2016 by Pandamoon Publishing.

Learn more at








Kathleen Trew Swazuk was 19 years old and a junior in nursing school when she joined the Army Student Nurse Program.

Two years later she was in Vietnam, seeing and experiencing the horrors of war. She hid the memories and her pain of that time in the poems in this book, which have been lovingly illustrated by artists in a variety of mediums.







Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. She is the author of the BREWING TROUBLE mystery series set in Pittsburgh, featuring brewmaster and pub owner, Maxine “Max” O’Hara.

Her debut novel, TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW (December 2015) was nominated for a 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth.

The second book in the series TANGLED UP IN BREW (October 2016) was chosen as a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews and was the winner of the 2016 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth. The third book, A ROOM WITH A BREW, will be released on October 3, 2017.

Learn more at




Marcy Waldenville knew she wanted to write at an early age. A firm believer in anything is possible, she is happy to be following her dream.

Born and raised in a small town in western Pennsylvania surrounded by a very large and extended family, she married young and raised two wonderful children. In 2012 she added Nana to her most beloved titles.

Marcy and her hubby, Kenny, live in Southern Butler County, Pennsylvania with their lovable mutt, Max.








Cori Nicole Smith Wamsley is the author of six books, as well as a book editor, writing coach, and the executive editor of Inspiring Lives Magazine. Her books include four in a magical middle grade mystery-fantasy series, Martina Mackenzie; a novel that takes a humorous look at obsessive editing and the path to finding your purpose, Confessions of the Editor Brigand; and a self-illustrated children’s epic poem about a brave but clumsy knight, The Knight and the Ninjas. Two of her Martina Mackenzie books were top-100 finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

After ten years as a professional technical writer, Cori opened her own business, Cori Wamsley Writing Services. Cori grew up in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and lives in Washington, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two daughters.

Read her blog at




Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of three grown children and a middle school daughter. She is also Nana to four granddaughters. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Pennsylvania after a short sabbatical in the lovely state of Washington.

She has three published YA Christian Fantasy novels; Palace of the Twelve Pillars: Book One, Palace of the Three Crosses: Book Two, and Sanctuary of Nine Dragons: Book Three. She also has a woman’s Bible study, Women of the Bible: A Study published. Recently the first book in a MG Fantasy series was published, Sir E. Robert Smythe and the School Bully with the remaining five to be published over the next year and a half. Through her writing she strives to share the Word of God.