Meet our 2016 contest judges!
Final Round Judges
These guys will choose our Grand Prize winners:
Astronaut Bill “Billy O” Oefelein
Billy O was the first Alaskan in space and the first person to write a blog whilst in orbit. He’s logged over 300 hours in space and thousands of hours flying in more than 60 types of aircraft with more than 200 carrier-arrested landings. He’s climbed both Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua (two of the seven summits), completed an expedition to Antarctica, and teaches corporate pilots how not to crash when stuff goes wrong. He also writes Picture Books 🙂 Billy O loves a great adventure story that makes his heart pound and his eyes race through the pages.
PEOPLE Magazine Staff Writer Jeff Truesdell
As a staff Writer for People magazine since 2005, Jeff Truesdell draws on three decades as a newspaper reporter, editor, freelancer, journalism educator, and budding documentary filmmaker. Jeff loves emotional stories that ring true to life.
Literary Agent Michelle Johnson
Michelle is the founder of Inklings Literary Agency. After a life long obsession with books, a career in business management/ownership including bookstores and community writing centers, and a few years with small presses in an editorial capacity, Michelle Johnson is now a sought-after literary agent, who represents many NYT Bestsellers, award-winning authors, debut authors, and indie authors alike. She loves books that are like watching a train wreck you can’t look away from, characters that leave you feeling like you’ve just lost a friend because the book is over, and plots that she can’t predict at every turn. She especially loves books that make her think about something in a new way, but without preaching. Michelle also loves to laugh and loves dark, smart humor.
Literary Agent Naomi Davis
Naomi Davis has a background in writing, editing, and customer service. When she’s not entertaining her spawn, she’s immersed entirely in imaginary worlds with the characters who inspire her fiction, or reading stories with characters who spring off the page, grip her by the heart (/throat), and wring her emotionally dry. She loves a good bad guy, especially when he has a story to tell, too.
Literary Agent Amanda Jain
Amanda Jain has loved books for as long as she can remember. When she was a kid, Amanda always had her head in a book. In her room, in the car, in the bathtub, wherever. She probably would have brought a book to the dinner table every evening if that was allowed. After earning a BA in English, she worked in the trade department at W. W. Norton for seven years before earning her MA in the history of decorative arts. Amanda loves stories that completely immerse her in their world. She wants to feel the sun on her shoulders, smell the smoke of the battlefield, and hear the horses galloping in the distance.
Author Lynn Lovegreen
Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught English for 20 years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and family, and hitting targets with a cowboy action shooting club. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters.
Preliminary Round Judges
These guys choose which entries go to our final round judges. It’s arguably the toughest job in the contest to whittle all these great entries down to the top 3-5 in each category!
Author CM McCoy (aka Colleen Oefelein)
Our contest coordinator, Colleen is well aware no one can say or spell her last name, hence the pen name. She’s an Irish dancer and retired military officer living in the Great White North. Though she holds a B.S. in chemical engineering and one in German from Penn State, she’s far happier writing stories of near misses and awkward kisses. In Alaska. While working 911 dispatch for Alaska State Troopers, she learned to speak in 10-codes, which she still does…but only to annoy her family. Her debut novel is EERIE, a teen fantasy about a girl from the city who travels to a Paranormal University in Alaska. There she battles Yetis and carnivorous trees and finds that if her classes don’t kill her, the guy she fell in love with just might.
Author Crystal Brinkerhoff
Crystal writes teen fiction and currently lives in Spring, TX with her adventure-loving husband, five boisterous children, and one boxer who’s happiest when he’s in the thick of it all. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her current project, CLEVER ELSIE, is hauntingly intriguing: Elsie quickly learns that an asylum in 1930 is full of sterile smells and whispers of experiments. Desperate to gain Ma’s freedom, Elsie seeks out the director of the hospital to appeal for Ma’s release. But Elsie soon finds that the director is not what he seems and the asylum has its own sinister secrets.
Author Jodi Gallegos
When she’s not saving lives (she’s a nurse) or kicking butt (she’s a black belt), Jodi writes historical teen fiction. An intern at Lakewater Press, Jodi G is also a devourer of books, publishing reviews on her blog where she also posts about writing. She lives with her husband, three sons and an evolving herd of undisciplined animals in Colorado. She has a well-earned fear of bears, but tolerates the Teddy and Gummy variety. She loves historical fiction featuring well-developed characters with beautiful backstories.
Author Karen Nunes
Karen writes dark teen fiction and likes off-the-wall stories. She works numbers by day, words by night and lives in sunny California with her husband, two children, and dogs. Most of her spare time is taken up with reading and writing. She’s currently hard at work on her 2nd Young Adult novel and enjoys reading anything dark and/or strange.
Author Sherry Howard
Sherry Howard lives with her children and crazy dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. In her previous life Sherry was a teacher, consultant, author, and principal in one of the largest urban/ suburban school districts in America. She was published in the educational field for years, and she’s seen her poems and stories appear in multiple journals and anthologies. After writing six novels, she finally decided to see about getting an agent and getting one published. Sherry loves poetry, scifi, and fantasy in the vein of Jumanji and Beetlejuice.
Author Destini Sawyer
Destini writes contemporary romance and fantasy. She’s a wife of a billion years (feels that way sometimes) with three beautiful demon children that keep her active and make her insane. She reads romance and mystery, when she has time, and drinks enough coffee to keep the small town she lives in awake for days. She likes road trips that lead to nowhere and pulls ideas for her writing from everyday life.