Staff & Board

Staff

Daren Wang — Executive Director

Before founding the AJC Decatur Book Festival in February 2005, Daren Wang worked as a public radio producer. Series which he has produced and or hosted include The Spoken Word, Porches: The South and Her Writers, Circle of Friends, Between the Lines, ArtVoice, and Atlanta Forum.

His first novel, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, will be published by St. Martins Press in August 2017.

He is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in Decatur with his wife Eva.

Julie Wilson — Programming Director

A North Carolina native, Julie Wilson discovered her love of books from her mother, who was an elementary school librarian. She comes to the AJC Decatur Book Festival from the American Cancer Society, where she spent nearly seven years managing customer feedback and process improvement, measuring and evaluating customer experiences, and developing marketing communications programs.

Previously, Julie spent the bulk of her career at Ketchum, a leading international communications agency, managing myriad client and internal projects, from managing earned media evaluations and other measurement projects, to media relations campaigns for start-up and established companies. Throughout her career, she has written almost every business communication possible to help clients spread their information to their relevant audiences.

Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Journalism and concentration in advertising. When she’s not reading a Captain Underpants or Lunch Lady book with her son, she’s reading a handful of books she’s learned about through the DBF.

Alison Law — Associate Program Director

Alison Law is a professional writer, publicist and marketing and social media consultant based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has worked with a variety of clients, including authors and book publicity firms, public relations and advertising agencies, and professional service providers. She will serve as associate program director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival in 2017. Alison earned a master’s degree in English with a concentration in literary studies from Georgia State University. A frequent speaker and interviewer, Alison teaches marketing and social media workshops for authors and other audiences.

Mike Miller — Festival Manager

After graduating with a degree in general biology, Michael determined that working trade shows was both more lucrative and more gratifying than conducting tests on lab animals. Michael left the lab at VA Hospital in Washington, D.C. and turned his talents to the trade show industry, accumulating more than 40 years‘ experience since doing so. More important than the years is the breadth of his experience, which has included exhibit installation, warehouse management, drafting, estimating, show floor management, exhibit management, and on-site maintenance for domestic and international exhibitors.

His management experience includes developing an international network of direct employee and partner relationships to deliver international exhibit services on five continents and over 42 international trade show cities.

Michael gained great creative problem solving skills and insight into the human psyche in the late 70s due to this seven-year stint working experience in a tented traveling circus for seven months a year as an advertising agent and concession manager. For the remaining five months of the year, Mike was an IATSE member (stagehand) and worked as an electrician and carpenter in the live theater on rock-n-roll concerts, Disney World, and Circus World in Orlando, Florida.

Because of the growth of the trade show industry in Atlanta, Mike moved into the Decatur area from Florida in 1983 and into the city of Decatur proper in 1997. He started volunteering with the DBF in 2009.

Diane Capriola — Manager of Children and Teen Programming

Direct: 678.216.7421

Diane Capriola is co-owner of Little Shop of Stories, an award winning, independent bookstore for children in Decatur. She is also "that girl from 'You've Got Mail'". She grew up on Long Island but has called Decatur her home for over 20 years and lives there with her three children and two dogs, Jem and Scout Finch. Diane serves on the American Booksellers Association (ABA) advisory board as well as the advisory board of the ABA’s ABC Children’s Group, which provides “programs specifically aimed at growing and expanding the reach of children’s books to a wide audience of both consumers and booksellers.” Her favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird, but you already knew that.

Cindy Elsberry — Manager of Emerging Writer Programming

Direct: 678.310.5056

Cindy is a native Georgian born on Peachtree Street. She developed a love of reading from her grandmother and mother and has been an avid reader since childhood. When Cindy isn’t busy running her virtual assistant business, she is a member of two Atlanta book clubs. She loves outings with friends especially when it involves cupcakes! Cindy also participated as a giver for World Book Night 2013.

Board

James Diedrick, President

James Diedrick is Professor of English at Agnes Scott College. His teaching and scholarly interests include literature in English, Victorian literature and culture, contemporary British fiction, film studies, and nonfiction writing. From 2005 to 2013 he served as Associate Dean of the College and Vice President for Special Programs at Agnes Scott.

James has been a member of the AJC Decatur Book Festival Board and Planning Committee since 2011, in these roles he has worked to assure that the partnership between the college and the DBF is a creative and productive one.

He received his undergraduate degree in English from Western Washington University, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington. He has taught and held administrative positions at the University of Washington, Chapman University (California), Albion College (Michigan), and The Newberry Library (Chicago).

His most recent book is a biography entitled Mathilde Blind: Late-Victorian Culture and the Woman of Letters (University of Virginia Press, 2016). He has also written the critical study Understanding Martin Amis (University of South Carolina Press, 1995, 2004), and he co-edited a collection of essays on Stanley Kubrick, Depth of Field: Stanley Kubrick, Film, and the Uses of History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006).

James lives in Decatur with his wife LeeAnne Richardson, an English professor at Georgia State University.

Judy Turner, Past Board President

Judy Turner has been in banking in Metro Atlanta for over 50 years, having started with Citizens & Southern National Bank in the Personnel Department. She worked in Auditing, became one of the first Personal Bankers when C&S started its Personal Banker program, and became an officer of the bank in 1974. A year after C&S became NationsBank (1995), Judy had an opportunity to go to work in the Decatur Office of Bank South. Three years later, Bank South was purchased by NationsBank and several community leaders felt a need for a community bank in Decatur. They looked to Judy to organize and lead Decatur First Bank, where she was President.

She retired from banking in 2016, after founding Private Bank of Decatur and leading it for four years. Community involvement has always been important to Judy. She has served as President of the Decatur Book Festival, Chair of the Development Authority of DeKalb County, Trustee of the DeKalb History Center, Treasurer of Seniors Helping Seniors, and was on the board of the DeKalb Medical Foundation. She has also served on the boards of both the Community Bankers Association and the Georgia Bankers Association.

Judy lives in Decatur with her husband, Roy; they have a daughter and twin grandchildren.

Brett Gadsden, Vice President

Brett Gadsden is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. His book, Victory Without Triumph: School Desegregation in Delaware, is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press. Building on the insights of scholars who alternately stress the significance of supportive elite and grassroots actors in measuring the outcome of civil rights struggles, this project stresses the ways that racial reforms, especially as law was translated into public policy, reflected the prerogatives of its detractors — as constitutive actors in Long Civil Rights Movement histories — as well as its supporters. Portions of his book project have been published in the Journal of African American History and will appear in the Journal of Urban History. Gadsden is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Smithsonian Institution, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, American Historical Association, Hagley Museum and Library, and Delaware Heritage Commission. He lives in Decatur, GA with his wife and dog.

Linda Harris, Vice President

Linda Harris serves as the Chief of Civic Engagement, Communication & Education for the City of Decatur where she oversees the city’s marketing, communications, education, and outreach efforts. She is also the Executive Director of the Decatur Tourism Bureau and serves as the city’s liaison to public art initiatives.

She is a past president of the City County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA), a national organization of government communications and marketing professionals. She received the Communicator of the Year award from 3CMA in 2012.

She chairs the Wrens Nest House Museum/Joel Chandler Harris Association Honorary Advisory Board, is a graduate of Leadership DeKalb, and is active in a variety of civic organizations, including Decatur Rotary.

Linda received her undergraduate degree in English Literature/Creative Writing from Agnes Scott College and her masters in communication from Georgia State University. She is a former columnist and stringer for a weekly newspaper and has written features for variety of local newspapers and magazines.

Richard J. Lenz, Vice President

Richard J. Lenz is founder, president, and CEO of Lenz, Inc., a full-service advertising, marketing, and public relations firm based in Decatur, Georgia.

For the past 15 years, Lenz has brought effective integrated marketing to businesses and cause-oriented organizations primarily in the fields of medicine, conservation, and education. A recognized innovator in the marketing field, Lenz helps clients reach their goals with the skilled use of cutting edge marketing tools including creative design, public relations, advertising, promotions, multimedia, and events. His company has lobbied in Washington, D.C. and has brought fundraising expertise to a variety of causes.

Lenz, an award-winning writer who has studied with Allen Ginsberg, Peter Taylor, and Robert Dana, is the author of two books and co-author of eight others. He has written numerous magazine and newspaper articles on a wide variety of subjects in the areas of conservation, politics, education, and healthcare marketing. He has won awards for photography and design as well.

Because of his love for the written word and the City of Decatur, Lenz joined The AJC Decatur Book Festival Board of Directors in 2005 to help steer Decatur's first literary festival with his expertise in branding, marketing communications, fundraising, and events. More information about his company can be found at LenzMarketing.com.

Lenz is a graduate of the University of Georgia, is married to Dr. Wendy Hawke Lenz, and has four children, Laura, Claire, Kristen, and Eric.

Alice Murray, Secretary

Alice Murray is Student Media Adviser at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College. In that role, she works with students who write for the Georgia State Signal and record Perimeter College Podcasts as they develop their skills as student journalists. She is an active member of the College Media Association, where she regularly presents seminars at national conventions and co-chaired the programming committee for the 2016 convention in Atlanta.

In addition, Alice works as a freelance writer, copy editor, marketing consultant, and social media content developer.

Alice retired after a 26-year career at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she started as a reporter at the Atlanta Constitution — at the time the metro’s morning paper — immediately after she graduated with a journalism degree from Auburn University. She managed the company’s Special Sections and Advertising Creative departments before being promoted to a Director in the Marketing Department in 2003.

Alice was a founding member of the AJC Decatur Book Festival board, serving as the first president from 2006-2012. She served on the board of trustees and the advisory board of Georgia Shakespeare, on the board of the Empty Stocking Fund, and is a graduate of the Leadership DeKalb Class of 2006.

Alison Weissinger, Treasurer

Alison Weissinger is the Director at the DeKalb County Public Library. As Director, she oversees the administration of 22 DeKalb County branch libraries, and a $54,540,000 Library Bond program approved by DeKalb voters in November, 2005. Alison also manages the Georgia Center for the Book program at the DeKalb County Public Library which brings more than 100 author programs a year to DeKalb County.

Alison is a seasoned library veteran. She joined DeKalb County Public Library in 1997 as a youth services librarian. Additionally, Alison has served as a branch manager at several branches, including the Decatur Library, the county’s main library branch. Prior to being appointed Director, Alison served as the system's Adult Services Coordinator, directing adult programming, literacy and outreach services, and the library’s website.

Alison earned her bachelor’s degree in German Literature from the University of California at Davis and her master’s degree in Library Science from Florida State University. She lives in Decatur, GA with her husband Chris and two children.

George Bradford

George Bradford is an attorney with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Regional Counsel in Decatur, Georgia. He represents VA facilities and personnel in a wide range of legal matters throughout Georgia and South Carolina. An expert in Appropriations Law, he serves on the VA Office of General Counsel's Appropriations Law Specialty Panel. He also provides ethics training for all VA employees and teaches Continuing Legal Education courses on Veterans Legal Issues, Ethics and Professionalism. Prior to joining the VA, he spent ten years in the private practice of law in Houston, Texas.

Will Johnston

William Johnston is the Founder and Executive Director of Tiny House Atlanta, the largest education and advocacy group for the tiny house movement in the nation. His passion is to utilize engaging events to educate government, communities, and individuals on a variety of topics and issues surrounding the tiny house movement and the benefits of space utilization. He also serves on the American Tiny House Association Board and has been working directly with the City of Atlanta as well as other municipalities to strategically incorporate micro housing to benefit cities in Georgia.

Previously, he was Manager for Community and Customer Engagement at The Atlanta Journal Constitution where he managed community activation and events. He has been involved with The AJC Decatur Book Festival since its launch and joined the Board in 2009.

William Johnston received his Bachelor’s from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and majored in Theatre and Sociology. In 2012 he graduated LEAD Atlanta, a prestigious eight-month leadership program for young professionals in the Metro Atlanta area. Johnston has been featured on Georgia Public Broadcasting ReDream Project and frequently presents to numerous groups and organizations through out the Southeast about the Tiny House Movement.

Catherine Lee

Originally from Rockville, MD, Catherine has worked for the City of Decatur’s community and economic development department since 2007. As the Downtown Development Manager, she provides support to the implementation of the city’s economic development strategy through business recruitment and retention, marketing, and project management. Outside of work, Catherine writes a lifestyle blog, AsianCajuns, with her twin sister. She received a BA in economics/business from Agnes Scott College and a masters in public administration from Georgia State University.

Rosemary M. Magee

Rosemary M. Magee serves as Director of Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) overseeing the collection and development of significant literary and historical materials. Previously, she served as Vice President and Secretary at Emory, where she oversaw university governance processes, and also as Senior Associate Dean of Resources and Planning in Emory College of Arts and Sciences. A leader in Emory’s creative community, she is chair of Creativity: Art and Innovation, a framing principle of the University’s Strategic Plan, committed to supporting arts performances, scholarship, research, and conversations across campus.

In recognition for her service and leadership, in 2008, Magee received the Thomas Jefferson Award, one of the University’s highest honors. Rosemary Magee holds a Ph.D. from Emory and both a B.A. and M.A. from Florida State University. An artist-in-residence at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, she has published two edited volumes along with essays, reviews, and short stories in a variety of journals and literary magazines.

Pearl Amelia McHaney

Pearl Amelia McHaney is the Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature at Georgia State University in Atlanta where she also directs the Center for Collaborative and International Arts (CENCIA). In 2014, her book-length study A Tyrannous Eye: Eudora Welty's Nonfiction and Photography was published and she received the Phoenix Award for outstanding achievement in Welty Studies from the Eudora Welty Society.

She is the editor of Eudora Welty as Photographer, winner of the Eudora Welty Prize; Occasions: Selected Writings by Eudora Welty; Eudora Welty: Contemporary Reviews; A Writer's Eye: Collected Reviews by Eudora; and the Eudora Welty Review, an annual peer-reviewed journal. She has also lectured and published on work by William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, David Mamet, Sindiwe Magona, Alice Munro, Natasha Tretheway, and Tennessee Williams. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Rialto Center for the Arts and directs an international student exchange program between Georgia State University and the University of Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines.

Lain Shakespeare

Lain Shakespeare is a native and resident of Decatur. He graduated from Kenyon College in 2005 with a degree in English. Between 2006 and 2011, Lain served as executive director of the Wren's Nest House Museum. He currently works for MailChimp, where he helps manage the company's brand marketing. Lain also volunteers on the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund's advisory committee.