The bios below are for the 2018 San Francisco Writing For Change


The man behind the Pentagon Papers and bestselling/award winning author. He is an activist on the dangers of the nuclear era and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing.

After graduating from Harvard in 1952 with a B.A. summa cum laude in Economics, he studied for a year at King’s College, Cambridge University, on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Between 1954 and 1957, Ellsberg spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as rifle platoon leader, operations officer, and rifle company commander. From 1957-59 he was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows, Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard in 1962 with his thesis, Risk, Ambiguity and Decision.  The research for it has become known as the “Ellsberg Paradox.” It is widely considered a landmark in decision theory and behavioral economics.

Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on the escalation of the war in Vietnam. He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification in the field.
At the RAND Corporation in 1967, Ellsberg worked on the top secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.


NINA AMIRis an international speaker, award-winning blogger and journalist, bestselling author, and one of 300 elite Certified High Performance Coaches in the world. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she helps people Achieve More Inspired Results. Amir is the author of How to Blog a BookThe Author Training Manual, and Creative Visualization for Writers, and she has 12 ebooks toher name as well. She created the Author of Change Transformational Coaching Program and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMO) and the Nonfiction Writers’ University (NFWU). She also developed two proprietary training programs, one for aspiring authors and author coaches and another for authors who want to plan all aspects of their careers.

 JIM AZEVEDO is the marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks serving over 130,000 independent authors, publishers, and literary agents. Since 2008, Smashwords has helped authors around the world release more than 470,000 titles to top ebook retailers, subscription services, and public libraries.. For best practices: Smart Author Podcast at or another podcasting service, @smashwords, Jim@jazzervedo.

BRENDA KNIGHT began her career at HarperCollins, working with Marianne Williamson, Huston Smith, and Paolo Coelho. Brenda was Publisher of Cleis Press and was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in 2014.  She is the author of Wild Women and Books, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. She is the cofounder of PI: Promotional Intelligence for Authors, Publisher and other Creatives and Publishing Consultant to Mango Media.

MARY E. KNIPPEL, Writer Unleashed, author, publisher, and speaker, is committed to helping women in transition claim their voice…to Live a Life Unleashed! A two-time breast cancer survivor, Mary chronicles moving from survive to thrive in her upcoming book, The Secret Artist. She has served as president of the WNBA-SF chapter and past board member of CWC-Peninsula branch.  Visit to learn about coaching, classes and workshops.

DAVID LANDAU has been a recognized writer all his adult life. In 1971, as managing editor of The Harvard Crimson, he struck up a friendship with Daniel Ellsberg before the release of the Pentagon Papers. Since then, David has been a journalist, novelist, publisher and playwright. Because of its magical power to transform even the best writing, editing is his greatest passion.

LAURIE McLEAN is the co-founder and partner of Fuse Literary, actively creating the literary agency of the future and igniting author careers. Laurie ran her own eponymous publicity agency for 20 years and then spent 8 years as an agent before forming Fuse in 2013. Laurie specializes in adult/young adult/middle grade genre fiction, but also listens to pitches at conferences for the entire agency of 8 agents. Query her at

BRIGID O’FARRELL, author of She Was One of Us:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker, is an independent scholar affiliated with the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, George Washington University. Her writing in sociology and labor history focuses on changing public policy and gender equality in the workplace. Earlier books include Beyond Gender: The New Politics of Work and Family with Betty Freidan. Publications span academic journals, newspapers, magazines, and on-line. National Writers Union, UAW 1981:

JOAN GELFAND reviews, stories and poetry have appeared in over 100 national and international literary journals and magazines including Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, California Quarterly, the Toronto Review, Marsh Hawk Review and Levure Litteraire. She has been a featured reader at numerous venues in the United States and Mexico  including Bowery Poetry Club, the Southern Festival of Books, The Public Library of New York, and Litquake. Development Chair of the Women’s National Book Association, a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a juror for the Northern California Book Awards, Joan blogs for the Huffington Post and coaches writers.

BARBARA SANTOS helps writers connect with the right people. As the marketing director of the San Francisco Writers Conference and former co-director of the Maui Writers Conference, she has worked with the biggest names in publishing. She has written and edited two cookbooks and, along with co-author Mark Ellman, created a guide to living Hawaiian style with the anthology, Practice Aloha.  It features essays (and even a few recipes!) from contributors who agree that if people lived their life with aloha, the world would be a much better place.


CRISTINA DEPTULA is a creative writer, former science and technology journalist, and editor of the literary magazine Synchronized Chaos. She leads the literary publicity team of Authors, Large and Small, which helps writers of all sorts find and reach audiences for their work.

TANYA EGAN GIBSON is a freelance editor and the author of the novel How to Buy a Love of Reading (Dutton), in which a bibliophobic girl’s entire life changes in the weeks leading up to her Sweet 16 because of a book her parents buy her—one she absolutely does not want. Tanya’s articles have appeared in Writer’s DigestThe Writer, and Parents, and her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

MARY RAKOW, Ph.D.’s name appears in the acknowledgments of Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, long-listed for the National Book Award, and Gregory Boyle’s Amazon bestseller Barking to the Choir. “Rakow is a legendary editor,” says Tupelo Prize winner Ilya Kaminski. A San Franciscan, Mary also meets with clients. Her latest novel, This Is Why I Came, received outstanding reviews in the Washington PostBoston GlobeAtlanticHarvard Divinity Bulletin, and Christian Century,,

MONICA WESOLOWSKA is an author, teacher, and independent editor. Her memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, was named a “Best Book of 2013” by Library Journal and The Boston Globe. She publishes fiction and essays and has a children’s picture book forthcoming from Scholastic. She teaches at UC Berkeley Extension, Stanford Continuing Studies and elsewhere and has worked one-on-one as an editor for over a decade. Read more at