Main Stage Presenters 2017

  • 10:00 a.m.


Last Suttee eBook Cover Large 2

Madhu B. Wangu (Morning Bookend)

Madhu B. Wangu is an author and the founder of Mindful Writers Groups. She has a doctorate in the phenomenology of Religion from the University of Pittsburgh and a post-doctoral Fellowship from Harvard University. For twenty-five years she taught Hindu and Buddhist symbolic art at various American colleges and universities.

Dr. Wangu has published four non-fiction books: Images of Indian Goddesses: Myths, Meanings and Models, (Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 2003), A Goddess is Born, (Spark Publishers, 2002), and extensively illustrated books for young adults, Hinduism (Facts on File, Inc., New York, 1991) and Buddhism (Facts on File, Inc., New York, 1993).

Her first fiction, Chance Meetings: Stories About Cross-Cultural Karmic Collisions and Compassion, was released in 2015, and her debut novel, An Immigrant Wife: Her Spiritual Journey, in April 2016. Her second novel, The Last Suttee is forthcoming in August 2017. Currently she is writing her second story collection.

Based on decades of the practice of mindfulness meditation Dr. Wangu developed Writing Meditation Practice. In 2010, she founded the Mindful Writers Group. A second group was started in 2016 and a third one in 2017. As she led professional as well as novice writers in meditation, in 2011 Madhu was inspired to burn her first CD, “Meditations for Mindful Writers: Body, Heart, Mind.” Her second CD is titled “Meditations for Mindful Writers II: Sensations, Feelings and Thoughts.” Both CDs are available at

Visit her website at

  • 11:00 a.m.

Frederic S. Durbin A Green and Ancient Light final coverP1080320

Frederic S. Durbin grew up in rural central Illinois, where he spent his childhood avoiding shoes, climbing trees, reading, writing, and playing in a ramshackle barn.

He graduated summa cum laude from Concordia College, River Forest, where he studied classical languages, mythology, and English literature. For two decades he taught English and creative writing at Niigata University in Japan. Dwelling with his wife among the wooded hills of western Pennsylvania, he is a frequent presenter of writing workshops.

His published work includes the fantasy novels DRAGONFLYTHE STAR SHARD, and A GREEN AND ANCIENT LIGHT, as well as numerous stories for CRICKET, CICADA, FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, and BLACK GATE.

  • 11:30 a.m.

author photowhisper trilogyDana Faletti

Dana Faletti is a novelist with Pandamoon Publishing. She is the author of The Whisper Trilogy, a young adult paranormal romance and Beautiful Secret, a sweeping drama of family secrets and forbidden love that was released by Pandamoon Publishing in October of 2016.

Dana blogs about whatever inspires her. She writes poetry as a survival skill and loves to connect with other writers both online and in person. When she’s not writing, Dana can be found reading on her kindle, cooking something delicious, or daydreaming about her upcoming travel destinations. Learn more at,

She lives in in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, three young daughters, and two snarky Shichons called Dolce and Vita.

  • 1:00 p.m.

Janet Carlisle

Janet Carlisle focuses her creative energy on mixed-media collage. A native of Springdale, Pennsylvania, Carlisle is deeply connected to her roots. The descendant of four Lithuanian grandparents, she serves as chairwoman of the Lithuanian Nationality and Heritage Room at The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

She studied at Cleveland Institute of Art and Carnegie Mellon University, and has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Visual Art from what is now Chatham University and a Masters in Art Therapy from Seton Hill University. An Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) certified therapist, Carlisle is a member of the American Art Therapy Association, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Society of Artists,  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and Penn Hills Arts Council. She recently retired as a caseworker for the Neighborhood Living Project, a housing program for individuals living with chronic mental illness and homelessness at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and has also worked as an art therapist for the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery.

Published by Word Association Publishers, Carlisle will formally release Birds of A Feather in June 2017, her first children’s book which she both authored and illustrated. At her church in Springdale, Pennsylvania, she founded the Open Art Studio where she leads three art expression groups ­for children, youth, and adults during the week. She exhibits and sells her art around Pittsburgh and makes her home in Verona with her husband David and cat Frida.

  • 1:30 p.m.

Ellen A. Roth, PhD ellenrothCover Ten Fingers Touching (1)

Carl Kurlander, Screenwriter of St. Elmo’s Fire, and President/CEO of the Steeltown Entertainment Project describes “Ellen Roth as an enchantress – as if she came out of one of her stories. She reminds us that fairy tales are not just childhood fantasies, but can engage, delight, surprise, and inspire us at any age, and make us all dream again.”

As a child, Ellen spent countless hours reading fairy tales, dreaming and nurturing a creative streak that led her to earn a BA in art and art history (Goucher College), an MFA in museum studies (Syracuse University), followed by a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. Ellen worked with physically and emotionally challenged children as a registered art therapist, and later co-founded Getting to the Point, Inc., a premier relocation consulting firm. During her career, Ellen has received many awards and was named one of the Best 50 Women in Business in Pennsylvania, honored as a Woman of Distinction by Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, and is a recipient of the YWCA Tribute to Women Leadership Award in the category of Entrepreneur.

Ellen’s love of fairy tales inspired her to write one for grown-ups. Ten Fingers Touching has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and received first place for Fantasy Fiction at the TAZ awards (2016). It also received the Benjamin Franklin Digital Silver Award for exceptional content, design and use of technology (June, 2016) and was named the Travel Size Good Read of the Month by the Fairytale Traveler (July 2015). Ellen is currently writing the screenplay adaptation of Ten Fingers Touching. An accomplished presenter, Ellen speaks on Truth in Fiction: Lessons Learned from Fairy Tales.

  • 2:00 p.m.Echo_Final copyDSC_0477

Nadette Rae Rodgers

Nadette Rae Rodgers lives and writes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her passion for writing developed at a very young age.

She published her first novel, Illusion, at age eighteen. Her interest in dream analysis was the basis for this book series. Her goal in publishing this series is that her journey as an author will inspire others to follow their dreams.

Find her at her blog:




  • 2:30 p.m.

Sheila Flyer Picture

Warrior Mother FULL COVER_22Apr13.indd

Sheila K. Collins, PhD

Sheila K. Collins, PhD is an author, dancer, therapist, keynote speaker, and improvisational performance artist. Her award-winning memoir, Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss and the Rituals that Heal was published by She Writes Press in 2013. The book chronicles her experiences accompanying her best friend through 14 days of her dying, her son as he lived with and died from AIDS and her daughter, as she lived with and died from Breast Cancer. Her first book, Stillpoint: The Dance of Selfcaring, Selfhealing offers playful art tools and humorous reframes to help professional and family caregivers take care of themselves as they care for others. Her work has appeared in The Examined Life Journal, the anthology, Inside Out: Literature of Mental Illness, and the Huffington Post.

Dr. Collins currently directs the Wing & A Prayer Pittsburgh Players, an improvisational performance troupe that uses the art-based tools of InterPlay to explore large-scale societal challenges such as mental illness, violence, and racism. She travels nationally and internationally assisting individuals and organizations to tell their stories in transforming ways.

  • 3:00 p.m. (PANEL)

Lillie LeonardiInTheShadowOfABadge Lillie_Leonardi

After 25 years in law enforcement, Lillie Leonardi decided to pursue her lifetime passion for writing. In 2013, Lillie shared her experience as a responder on 9/11 in her first non-fiction book published by Hay House (In the Shadow of a Badge) which sold over 30,000 copies globally. With her second release in 2016, Lillie shared her life-long spiritual journey in, The White Light of Grace: Reflections on the Life of a Spiritual Intuitive. With her eldest grandchild, Lillie self-published the eBook, Before I Go through Amazon Kindle Publishing in 2016.

Founded in 2015, Lillie created Passages & Prose to support reading, writing, and literacy in Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities. Offering arts and literacy programming through events, partnerships, collaborations, and workshops, Passages & Prose provides published authors the opportunity to share their literary works with others. The endeavor culminates each October with Passages & Prose: A Gathering of Authors and Their Books, Pittsburgh’s largest literary event.

From 1998 to 2010, Lillie was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Pittsburgh Division as its Community Outreach Specialist and under the auspice of the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Pennsylvania where she served with a prestigious group of instructors.

On September 11, 2001 and in the post days of recovery, Lillie was utilized by the FBI to address law enforcement, government, and social service agency representatives assisting with evidence recovery and preparations for two memorial services at the Flight 93 crash site. She not only served as primary liaison to the United Airlines Humanitarian Response Team—presenting at daily briefings and interacting with surviving family members—but also escorted families to the crash site for the memorial services. Prior to her career with the FBI, Lillie worked as the lead law enforcement officer on two college campuses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1984, she was appointed to serve as the first female police officer with the City of Arnold, Pennsylvania. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Heal Your Life digital publications, Lillie was a 2016 honoree at the Women of Achievement Awards, an annual event hosted with the non-profit Cribs For Kids®.



Emma-in-the-Night-534hWendy Walker

Wendy Walker is a former family law attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten. Her second thriller, Emma In The Night, will be released August 8, 2017.

Wendy earned her J. D., magna cum laude, at the Georgetown University Law Center where she was awarded the American Jurisprudence award for her performance in Contracts and Advanced Criminal Procedure. She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University and attended The London School of Economics and Political Science as part of her undergraduate studies.

Prior to her legal career, Wendy was a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., in the mergers and acquisitions group. She has also volunteered at the ACLU, Connecticut Legal Services and Figure Skating in Harlem where she served on the Board of Directors for over twelve years. Wendy is currently writing her third thriller while managing a busy household.


J.D. Wylde had a long career working as a confidential assistant for an international software engineering corporation, which translates to she played the role of “Penny” to her own supporting cast of The Big Bang Theory.

Now she is pursuing her life-long passion of writing. With a deep belief in love, and the magic that happens when two souls connect and the heart finds love, she has a line of sexy contemporary romances, as well as a line of inspirational romances of faith. She writes stories with strong heroines, sexy heroes, and always, a happy ending.

She believes in Divine plans, the amazing journey we are blessed to pursue, one incredible day at a time – and dreams that really do come true. She lives on her very own mountain in Western Pennsylvania with the man of her dreams, who just happens to be her very own superhero.

For more information on all things, “Wylde”, please visit her website at Or follow her on Facebook (j.d. wylde).