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Meet our fabulous First-Chapter-of-a-Novel Contest judges for 2008

First-Level Judges


Our first-level judges will whittle down the entries to a short list.


Mick Halpin

Born in Iowa, Mick Halpin now resides in Dublin, Ireland. After earning a BA in History, Mick taught school for three years in South Louisiana and then worked briefly in the publishing industry in Orlando. A nine-to-five job in the IT industry now enables him to devote evenings to book fandom. Mick was a senior fiction editor at NFG Magazine and still heartily recommends the original, innovative fiction available in back issues.

Since May 2005, Mick has been webmaster of Critical Mick: “Reviews Free of Rules.” His “Unruly Reviews” of Irish and crime fiction try to capture the reviewed book’s spirit and flavor. Often they fail, but he hopes they provide entertaining reading all the same. The site also features author interviews, news, and some offbeat notes on ex-pat living.

Mick guest hosts at The Writing Show. Listen to his interviews:

The View from Ireland, with Kevin Stevens
Wearing Many Hats: It’s Just About Wanting to Write, with John MacKenna
You Found What in a Bog? Writing the Archaeological Mystery, with Erin Hart
A Conversation with Irish Horror Writer/Filmmaker Darryl Sloan
A Writer's Legacy: Walter Macken. Featuring Guest Hosts Mick Halpin and Rafael Guzmán


Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who writes under the name Mark Leslie, drops his surname when writing, claiming it makes his name easier to spell and pronounce. For the past fifteen years he has been published in magazines across North America, in the anthologies Stardust, Bluffs, and Bound for Evil: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad. He has collected reprinted stories in the book One Hand Screaming. Mark also edited the science fiction anthology North of Infinity II.

While most of Mark’s writing tends to be in horror and science fiction, he has written a “regular” novel, Morning Son, which is currently being shopped around, and which won a Writing Show First-Chapter-of-a-Novel Contest honorable mention.

He is in the middle of completing the first draft of A Canadian Werewolf in New York and is using his guest spot on The Writing Show series "Getting Published, with Mark Leslie" as motivation to get the novel finished.

Mark Leslie’s Web sites:
I, Death” - A Serial Thriller In Blog Format
North of Infinity II - Released June 2006
One Hand Screaming - Short Story Collection
Prelude To A Scream - Experimental Podcast on my Writing



John Marco

John Marco is the author of six novels of epic fantasy. His first book, The Jackal of Nar, was published in 1999 and won the Barnes and Noble Maiden Voyage Award. Other notable books of his include The Eyes of God and his most recently published work, The Sword of Angels. John also writes and edits short stories. He is co-editor of the anthologies Army of the Fantastic and the upcoming Imaginary Friends.

John's blog is The Bastion.


Tom Occhipinti

Tom Occhipinti produces and hosts the Creative Writing Podcast at, an online audio show that focuses on fiction writing and analysis. The idea for the show occurred to him when he found himself talking with friends at length on the process of writing his novel. They wondered how he was approaching his story, building his characters, developing conflict, and so on. A few days later, he came across the phenomenon of podcasting, let it simmer in him for a couple of weeks, and soon gave birth to the Creative Writing Podcast at

In 1989, Tom received his BA in Literature from Queens College in New York City; in 1993, he received his MS in Secondary Education, also from Queens College. Since 1994, he has taught English on the secondary level in New York City. Throughout his tenure, he has developed a literacy curriculum, has conducted extracurricular fiction workshops, and is proud to see a number of his students go on to pursue creative writing in college.

In 2001, Tom served as the editor and co-writer of the eZine, an online publication devoted to literary criticism, critical biographies, original fiction, language, linguistics, and etymology. He is currently working on a character-driven dark fiction novel, which he hopes to complete and send to publishers by the end of 2007. He is also working with Internet technologists in the creation of an online writing community. Tom occasionally takes on freelance writing projects.


Ann Paden

Ann Paden is a writer and editor who worked as a manuscript editor for academic and commercial presses before becoming a feature writer for a national newspaper chain and later a member of the creative department of a Chicago-based advertising agency.

Since 1990 Ann has worked as an independent writer specializing in business histories and as-told-to biographies and as an editor specializing in manuscript analysis and critique. Her many publications include They Built Chicago, with Miles L. Berger; I Bought It at Polk Bros; and Maria Chabot and Georgia O’Keeffe: Letters—1941-1949, with Barbara Buhler Lynes.

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Occidental College and did her graduate work at the University of London and Harvard-Radcliffe where she was elected a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.


Paula Paul

Paula Griffith Paul is an award-winning novelist who usually writes mysteries, but her current novel, Crazy Quilt, is a literary novel. The main character is a woman whose body, marriage, and spirit have been ravaged by cancer treatment, but who fights her way back in a most unconventional way. Paula is donating one third of the royalities to cancer research.

Listen to Paula’s Writing Show interview here.

Paula was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a B.A. in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist.

Her Web site is


Jill Ronsley

Jill Ronsley, editor and designer of several award-winning books, won the Best Book Editor 2005 Award from the Editors and Preditors Readers Poll. She edits fiction, nonfiction, stories for children, spiritual books, and cookbooks; has been a judge in writers’ competitions; and has written articles on editing, book design, and writing. From 2004-2007, she was the editor-in-chief of The Blue Review, a monthly writers’ e-zine available by subscription.

Jill founded and directs Sun Editing & Book Design, which provides editing services, designs and typesets book interiors and covers for all genres, and designs promotional materials for writers and publishers. 

She earned her BA at McGill University, where she studied English literature and fine art. She has a diploma in literature and language from Vanier College, where she studied English literature, French, German, and Italian. She also studied fine art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Listen to Jill’s Writing Show interview here.

Her Web site is


Celebrity Judges

Our celebrity judges will select the winners from the short list created by the first-level judges.


Wendy Barnard

Wendy Barnard was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. Growing up, she was often referred to as "the girl with the book."  Her first love was Stephen King’s Firestarter, and even today she is fascinated by the dark and sinister worlds found in horror and fantasy novels.  

Ms. Barnard’s goal is to bring the spotlight back to the darker fiction genres that people secretly crave in the depths of their souls. She established The Barnard Literary Agency in late 2006 to do just that. To make sure everyone is given an equal chance at success, she insists on reading the first five pages of every submission personally. She also responds to every query, question, and rejection personally. Although she is still considered the new kid on the block, she believes her passion and professionalism will help her shine through the grim clouds that linger over the publishing world.

Ms. Barnard spent many years working as an editor for horror-related print and online publications. She continues to offer many of them support under her pseudonym. She also writes and does Web design for the horror industry under that same pseudonym.

Her Web site is


Candace Lake began her career as a production assistant on network television pilots and specials. In 1974, she joined the literary agency Ziegler, Diskant Associates, a premiere boutique specializing in writers and directors like William Goldman, Sidney Pollock, and Frank Pierson. In addition to her work helping writer clients develop original scripts and directors select projects, she represented the agency’s New York corresponding book agents in the sale of motion picture and TV rights. The agency helped launch the then nascent movie of the week business with book sales involving such acclaimed popular novelists as Mary Higgins Clark.

After rising to Vice-President, Literary, at Ziegler Diskant Associates, Candace joined Jeff Berg and Jim Wiatt at International Creative Management as an agent in the film department, then worked with Lee Gabler as a packaging agent in the television department. In 1980, she left ICM to form her own agency, The Candace Lake Agency.

At her own agency, Candace has represented writers and directors in the film and television industry and has been responsible for the sale of such disparate original screenplays as the Sean Penn vehicle Bad Boys by Richard DiLello, Comes a Horseman written by Dennis Lynton Clarke, and the Chris Bryant period drama Lady Jane, which launched Helena Bonham Carter’s career. She has placed writer clients on television series like CSI, Star Trek Voyager, L.A. Law, Roswell, Farscape and 1-800-Missing. Her clients have also written pilots for Showtime, Oxygen, and the WB. Other clients have ventured in to new media by writing scripts for movie-based thrill rides, video games and Internet shorts.

Recently Candace started a literary management business, Stone Canyon Media, with her partner, Ryan Lewis. She now develops projects and, in some instances, produces them as well. Her first project for the new company is "105 Degrees and Rising," by William Akers, to be directed by Jon Amiel and produced by Echo Lake Productions and Overture. She is also partnered with Mark Gordon on a project at Paramount Vantage and with Piler/Segan on a book adaptation.

Listen to Candace's interview on The Writing Show


Simon Moore

Simon Moore is an award-winning writer and director in film, television, and theater. His first produced film was "Superhero," a cinema short about a comic-obsessed teenager, starring Ray Winstone. This was followed by "Inside Out," a six-part comedy drama series for the BBC about two women running an employment agency for ex-cons.

Other works include:

  • "Up on the Roof," an acapella musical, co-written and directed with Jane Prowse, which followed a group of friends over ten years. The play continues to be performed throughout the world; in 1997 Simon directed a film version, which was produced by Granada Films.

  • "Traffik", a six-hour miniseries for Channel 4 about the world heroin trade. Filmed in Pakistan, Germany and England, it starred Julia Ormond, Bill Paterson and Lindsay Duncan. The series was a critical success throughout the world, winning many awards including the International Emmy for "Best Series," four BAFTA awards, four FIPA awards, the top prizes at the BAMPF and Umbria Fiction Festivals, and the UK Critics Award as "Best Series." In 2000 the series was adapted into a feature film that enjoyed worldwide critical and box office success and won four Oscars.

  • "Under Suspicion," a private eye movie set in 1950's Brighton, directed by Simon, starring Liam Neeson and Laura San Giacomo.

  • "The Quick and the Dead," a Western for Tri-Star pictures about a female gunslinger, with an exceptional cast including Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The picture was directed by Sam Raimi, and opened as the number one film at the US box office.

  • An adaptation of Gulliver's Travels, made by Hallmark Entertainment and Jim Henson Productions for NBC and Channel 4. Simon won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing and the prestigious U.S. Humanitas award.

  • "The Tenth Kingdom," a 10-hour fantasy series that explored the world of fairy stories from an adult perspective. Aired in April 2000, it was the first 10-hour mini-series on U.S. network television for more than twenty years.

  • A six-hour adaptation of James Gurney's cult Dinotopia books, which describe a utopian world where humans and dinosaurs co-exist. The miniseries aired on ABC in America, and Sky and Channel 4 in the UK. A 13-part TV series has been made based on the miniseries.

  • A four-hour television adaptation of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, made for Hallmark television, starring Bridget Fonda.

  • "The Star" for Sony Pictures, which tells the Nativity story from the point of view of all the animals involved. The film is slated for an Xmas 2009 release.

Simon is currently writing "The Scarecrow and his Servant," an adaptation of Philip Pullman's acclaimed novel about a scarecrow who comes to life, for Aardman, and "Food," a six-hour international miniseries about all aspects of the food trade, for the BBC.

Listen to Simon's interview on The Writing Show


Joe Nassise

Joe Nassise is an internationally bestselling writer, podcaster, and life and creativity coach. His work has been nominated for both the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award and has been translated into Italian, German, Russian, and Chinese. His latest trilogy, The Templar Chronicles, was just optioned for Hollywood production.

Joe also dabbles in comics and the role-playing game industry. He is a former president and current trustee of the Horror Writers Association.

His Web sites are and

Joe's works include:


The Lost Tomb. Toronto: Gold Eagle/Worldwide Library, 2009(forthcoming)

Yin & Yang. Toronto: Gold Eagle/Worldwide Library, 2009 (forthcoming)

The Book of Coming Sorrows. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2010 (forthcoming)

Witches’ Hammer. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2009 (forthcoming)

Eyes to See. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2009 (forthcoming)

Die Schatten. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2008

Der Engel. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2007

Der Ketzer. Munich: Droemer-Knaur, 2007

Heretic. New York: Pocket Books, 2005.

Riverwatch. Rome: Gargoyle Books, 2005. Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee

Riverwatch. New York: Pocket Books Books, 2003. Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee

Novellas and Collections

More Than Life Itself. United Kingdom: Telos Publishing, 2006.

Spectres and Darkness. Los Angeles: Medium Rare Books, 2002

Laura Wright

Laura Wright has been writing for nearly twenty years. She has been a staff writer, freelance writer, contributing writer, and guest columnist. Her first novel, While I’m Dying, an ebook, received more than a million page views in two years. She is also the author of Timeslips and Terrors, an anthology of horror and suspense stories, and the novel Virginia Creeper. Several other books await publication.

Wright has operated the Web site,, a free community for readers and writers, since 2002. She is a Web instructor, a member of the Horror Writers of America, and administrator of