Great Valley Bookfest 2023 Authors & Poets


“Character Driven Mysteries”

Claire Booth, Jessica Cline, Richard Meredith, Jennifer K. Morita


Jennifer K. Morita started her writing career as a journalist, working her way up from a small weekly newspaper in Paradise, California to The Sacramento Bee. She spent several years juggling freelance jobs with being a stay-at-home mom.

Six months into the pandemic, after purging, painting and baking along with the rest of the world, Jennifer decided to give her pipe dream of being a mystery author a chance and wrote the book floating around in her head for twenty or so years.

Her debut, THE GHOST OF WAIKIKI, will be released by Crooked Lane Books in the fall of 2024. Learn more about Jennifer by following her on Facebook or Instagram. She is still working on her website.

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“Pathways from Penning to Published”

Regional authors describe the highways and byways of their writing journeys to becoming published: how they started, their midpoint agonies and ecstasies, and what it feels like now to be published in Great Valley Stories: Portals to the Past. The Anthology contains short stories, poems, and memoir excerpts with references to the Great Central Valley of California, or to some valley somewhere, either real or metaphorical. Authors will read from their published works, as well, and take questions from the audience.

 Pam Van Allen, Charity Romstad, Kimberly Wiley, Deborah Grochau

Pam Van Allen became a sun-soaked Californian decades ago. She draws on her background as a psychologist to construct rock and roll stories of intrigue featuring protagonists who cope with painful emotions. Dr. Van Allen’s fourth book, Silent Voices Calling, launches an epic science fiction series, Secret Messages. Dr. Van Allen is also an editor and formatter, specializing in working with independent authors with the goal of self-publishing. Her business, Whizzits Press, has assisted in the publication of twenty books.


Charity Romstad currently lives in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She has lived on five continents working as a teacher and taking note of humanity. She holds a BA in English from Pacific Union College and a Certificate in Creative Writing from UC San Diego Extension. She is a writer of poetry and fiction. Her poem “91 Going on 99 Fahrenheit,” which reflects the rising difficulty to achieve a sustainable life, is published in Great Valley Stories: Portals to the Past. She is currently polishing a novel and frequently writes on her minicomputer otherwise known as a smartphone.


Kimberly Wiley is a San Francisco native, is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and UC San Diego, La Jolla medical school. Retired in 2022, she practiced family medicine for 30 years, the last 22 at Kaiser Permanente. Preventive care and chronic disease management had been her focus, along with health disparities, cultural competency, and health literacy. Her greatest joys were listening to and partnering with patients in their health care. Residing in Sacramento, she has a penchant for cozy mystery novels while penning flash fiction and poetry. Her publications include a short story in the mystery anthology Obsidian Tales (2023) edited by Boranda Diaz and two flash fiction stories in the San Joaquin Valley Writers inaugural anthology (2023). She also crochets and sews garments.


When Deborah Grochau retired from Modesto City Schools, she told her high school students that instead of teaching English, she was going to “Do English.”

In 2023, her work will appear in three anthologies.

  • Her poem Morning Tai Chi is in Redwood Writers 2023 Poetry Anthology, Phases and is available on Amazon.
  • Tuleburg Press included her poem Saint Francis Park in their book of poems on Stockton and San Joaquin County.
  • Great Valley Stories contains a personal essay about her trip to the Yangtze Valley in China and a short story inspired by her experiences as a Census Worker in Manteca during the summer of 2020.

She is currently writing historical novels and hopes to have a full length book published in the near future.

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“Writing and Publishing 101 for the Indie Author”

Rae Rankin, Mariah Clark Skewes, Pam Atherstone

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“Relationship Marketing for Your Specialty Book – Your Ideal Reader and Who Can Help You Get Your Message to Them?”

Barbara Young, Betsy Schwarzentraub

Barbara Young writes to inspire well-being, creativity and empowerment using poetry, flash fiction, short story, nonfiction, children’s books, and in coffee table books featuring her photography. Her lifestyle, travel, hobbies and diverse career as a nurse, holistic consultant and mind-body skills educator inspired her first nonfiction book. The Heart that Rocks Health Care, has received multiple awards and recognitions, including in a phenomenal book review by the American Holistic Nurses Association. She has numerous short stories published in NCPA anthologies, including and award winning story, “On the Porch with Miss Lizzy”. In 2023 she published, Grandma Lost Cuddles!, the first children’s picture book in her 5-part “Adventures with Dementia” series. Presently she is writing the remaining books in the series, and a gift book, Mother’s Pearls. She is the vice-president of internal affairs for Gold Country Writers and a member of NCPA, SSWC, SCBWI, IBPA and SJWC.Get acquainted at

Rev. Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub is the author of four books on worship and stewardship. Tossed In Time: Steering by the Christian Seasons introduces people to the ancient worship seasons to help them reshape their sense of meaningful time in these disruptive, post-pandemic days. Growing Generous Souls: Becoming Grace-Filled Stewards invites readers to explore a way of being that reflects our true, God-given identity. See her blogs and resources at



Michael Baldwin also know as Black Pearl in poetry circles found peace and security through the rhythmic expression of poetry. After serving 26 years in prison Black Pearl has returned from the tombs of the unwanted to motivate-inspire and shine his light.


Stella Beratlis is the author of two poetry collections, Dust Bowl Venus and Alkali Sink. She is poet laureate emeritus of Modesto and lives in Modesto, where she works as a librarian.


Rhony Bhopla is a poet and visual artist whose poems and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in PRISM InternationalThe HopperNotre Dame ReviewCherry Moon: Emerging Voices from the Asian DiasporaNorthwest Review, and Harvard Review. She is a member of the Mapmakers Alumni Institute, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Pacific University.


Tina Curiel is a Xicana and Boricua almost native, Central Valley poet and artivist currently living in Modesto, California with her three cats and as many books and records as possible. Her poetry explores her family history, dealings with incarceration and the criminal legal system, activism, addiction, and hope.


Angela Drew is a mother, poet, author, and self-proclaimed linguistic artist who has loved the
rhythm of words for as long as she can remember. She is the author of ElderBerry Wine, a
children’s book written in poetic verse, celebrating the beauty and majesty of our elders. To
learn more, visit her on IG @she_spits_fire and online at


Nancy Gonzalez St. Clair is a Chicana poet, educator, and activist. She is the inaugural poet laureate of Lodi, California.


Tamer Said Mostafa is an Arab-American, Muslim poet and storyteller from Stockton, California, whose debut book of poetry, Where Will I Find America? was released in Summer, 2021. Tamer lives life through spirituality, community work, and the music of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.


A doctor and poet, in her native Dominican Republic, Vielka continues her work in both areas, here in the San Joaquin Valley and around the world. Veilka has been actively working to bring poetry as a means of therapy to women and children that have experienced domestic violence or other trauma, in neighborhoods too often overlooked.


Jenny loves poetry’s ability to create spaces where nuanced feelings are seen and called to life, and has performed in Beijing, Modesto, and Phoenix. She is an alumni of the Attic Institute, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Lighthouse Writers, and Aspen Summer Words.


Melchor Sahagun III is a forty-year old human being from the human city of Stockton, CA. His probably-overdue collection of poems, SORRY I’M LATE, as well as the music, plays, comedy, and other stuff he makes, can be found through the links here:




Gillian Wegener is the founding president of the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center, and a former poet laureate of Modesto, CA. She is  the author of two poetry collections, The Opposite of Clairvoyance (2008) and This Sweet Haphazard (2017), both from Sixteen Rivers Press.


Lynn M. Hansen is Faculty Emerita from Modesto Junior College Biological Sciences and a member of Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center and the National League of American Pen Women, Modesto Branch. She has a new book of travel poems currently at press in addition to her two published books: Flicker, Poems by Lynn M. Hansen and The Journey to Sky Avenue, an historical novel about the life of her grandmother.


Tricia Gardella’s books are heavily influenced by ranch, animals, and family life. She has tried it all and almost mastered some: canning, cooking, knitting and other fiber arts, rug-making, gardening, and various business ventures. Her passion is writing and helping others to write quality picture books. In the 90s she published four books with major publishers, while writing a weekly picture book review for a local paper, then took a twenty-year sabbatical from writing, and is now enjoying the creative control of indie publishing. Picture books might be her favorite writing genre, but she has always read whatever grabbed her attention since childhood. She has a BA in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology, three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, all giving her much food for thought. She lives with two self-centered cats in Central California.


After a nursing career spanning 41 yrs., along with 12 yrs. as a commercially rated hot air balloon pilot, Claudia is now retired and enjoying her new career as an author. She has published 14 nonfiction books covering a variety of topics from WWII to life as a redhead. “I enjoy the research it takes to create an interesting look at history and other topics that would peak the readers’ attention,” she states. When not researching or writing she enjoys reading, gardening, and tending to her cats.

Visit her website at:


My passion for writing began 15 years ago  when I hosted parties at my home. I wrote various games, brain teasers, puzzles, scavenger hunts, word challenges and other games for family, friends, and colleagues as a way of entertainment. It was great fun and everyone enjoy them.   The entertainment brought fun, laughter and enjoyment. In fact, I received compliments on the games and I kept  writing even when I wasn’t hosting any parties. This gave me a sense of passion and creativity. I continued  writing and published two books.

 In 2022, I published two books. The first book “The Zany Brain Teaser” has over 100 brain teasers which cover many topics, puzzles, challenges and solutions. The book is great for anyone who likes to tackle brain teasers and is perfect for anyone, regardless of age. To date, I am working on a sequel to The Zany Brain Teaser book. It will become available in 2024. The second book I published is “Let’s Add the Numbers”. This book covers the fundamental of adding numbers. The emphasis is on simple arithmetic, basic equations, how to count, mini quizzes, basic arithmetic facts and short stories. The book is ideal for young readers, educations, parents and anyone who is interested in teaching young children on how to add the numbers.


A life-long Valley Native with a degree in Art/Art History from Fresno State, Jason Mendez Napier has been producing art with faith-based components for nearly 30 years. His desire to share these stories visually, shifted to the page in 2010, when he began writing the first of three fiction novels.

His Thirty-Nine Sketches series  incorporates visual art, art history, and travel, while reaching deeper into what it means to be connected with characters who just want to look out for themselves.


Perry Lake has made up stories about monsters and the supernatural since he was a small child. You’d think he’d grow out of it.

Mr. Lake has thus far penned 11 books of horror, action, and humor. A lifelong devotee of supernatural and historical adventures, Lake has authored several series, including: Cassiopeia the Witch (in its original form, a comic book that ran 40 issues), The Legend of Dracula (chronicling the king-vampire’s rise from his days as Vlad the Impaler right up to Stoker’s novel), The Legend of Frankenstein (following the Monster on his quest), The Krantz Family Chronicles (featuring the adventures of Hugo and Edgar and more ghoulish delights), and the upcoming Forbidden Chronicles of Huang Zhou (tales of conspiracy and intrigue from the Far East).

Clutching his laptop, Mr. Lake escaped the flames that destroyed the city of Paradise, California, to bring you his tales of terror, intrigue, mischief, adventure, romance, and whimsy. Expect much more in the future!


Jennie Chadwick lives and writes in the Central Valley of California, which is the backdrop for The Peach Tree Kids. She is currently working on the next book in the series.


Rae Rankin is an award-winning author from Northern California. She has been in the marketing and graphic design field for nearly 30 years both in the corporate world and as an independent contractor. She has always loved reading and writing and wrote her first book Cowgirl Lessons for her daughter and the lesson horse she loved. Since then, she has gone on to publish seven more books and has another in the illustration process.

Cowgirl Lessons was named Best Children’s Book USA at the 2019 Equus Film and Arts Festival and Cowgirl Christmas was named Best Children’s Holiday Book USA at the same festival. Cowgirl and the Ghost Horse was named Best Children’s Short Story at the 2020 Equus Film and Arts Festival and won a Purple Dragonfly Book Award in 2021. Show Day was named Best Children’s Western at the 2022 Equus Film and Arts Festival and a Royal Dragonfly Award. Her other books Mountain Girl (Purple Dragonfly for Best Outdoor Recreation), Mountain Winter, and Beach Day celebrate families in the great outdoors. Her latest book, Meet the Birds won a Purple Dragonfly for Education in 2023.

In 2022, she started a free virtual summer reading program for kids around the world supported by horse book authors from all over the world. The program celebrated its second year with over 40 participating authors in 2023 and is looking forward to future growth. Information on the program can be found at

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Northern California Publishers and Authors and enjoys mentoring new authors on their self-publishing journey.  She sits on the board for the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Center in Sacramento which provides a program to help children with speech and language disorders. For more information on Rae, please visit


Mariah Clark Skewes, known in her real life as Mary Boyle, hopes to raise the understanding of individuals with learning, behavioral and mental health differences through her whimsical and touching books written for children, teens, and adults. Mariah/Mary is the proud parent of four unique successful grown children. Her degrees in Psychology and Special Education guided both her parenting and her work with children as a teacher and school administrator, specializing in connecting with kiddos who presented the greatest challenges – yet yielded the greatest rewards. She and her husband live on a vineyard in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California where they grow wine grapes and raise honeybees and Babydoll Southdown Sheep. When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a CASA with children in the foster care system, competing in world marathons and travelling.  Her picture books include Never Hug a Hedgehog, Never Kiss a Fish, Never Mimic a Woolly Mammoth, and Quirky Grandma Jean.  The ABC’s of Hope & Healing is a gift book for adults in recovery.


Samuel Narh is an award-winning children’s book author. He enjoys painting pictures with words using his stories, which are meant to touch and reach people across the world.


Freda Narh enjoys collecting children’s books. She was born and raised in Mississippi, and she is a graduate of Ole Miss. She loves being a mom to Merrit. She is also known as the Baby Whisperer, because of her love and magical ways with babies.


Retired from a career as an attorney and law school professor, Tim Schooley is a novelist, writing historical fiction and legal thrillers. His novel, The Wool Translator, won the University of Pacific Creative Writing Conference’s Jameson Award and was shortlisted for the 2021 Chaucer Book award. Tim also serves as a board member and the treasurer of the Sacramento branch of the California Writers Club. His website:


Judith Starkston is a best-selling author who has spent too much time exploring the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. She writes Bronze Age-inspired fantasy featuring two remarkable women, Briseis of Trojan War mythology and a Hittite queen who reigned for decades over the most powerful empire of the Near East. Her titles include Hand of Fire, Priestess of Ishana, Sorcery in Alpara, and Of Kings and Griffins. Come by for a visit, and you might even meet a mythic beast or two.


Entrepreneur, keynote speaker, coach, and roller skating enthusiast Angie Quitasol has been inspiring others since she was little. It’s probably in her DNA, considering her mom used to secretly place Dale Carnegie recordings in her room as she slept. Angie loves to help others live a life without limits. In a past life, she was an educator for 12 years, inspiring young minds as their energetic and stylish 5th grade teacher. Her natural love of style morphed into the role of fashion stylist, where she helped women find their groove and self-confidence through their own personal style. Today, Angie is a professional speaker and social media producer and coach, motivating businesses, schools, and other entrepreneurs to increase their performance, profits, and possibilities. Aficionado of Mondays, a good cup of coffee, a kick-butt workout, and a sassy outfit, Angie lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and fun collection of smiley faces. Follow her on social media at StyleByAngieQ or online at

JoAnn Conner

JoAnn Conner is a former English and history teacher who has published multiple Western historical fiction and mystery novels. She relies heavily on research to bring her stories to life with intrigue and unexpected details.

She is the author of the popular Detective Frank Riley mystery series. Her Westerns include The Mountain, Heartwood, and  Blood on the Timber Trail. JoAnn also recently published a children’s poetry book with her eleven year old granddaughter, Eleanor, as the illustrator.

Visit her Author’s page under J. Conner Books on Facebook, LinkedIn, follow her on Instagram or her Amazon Author’s page for upcoming events and new arrivals. Email her at

Subject to change.