Our Team - The International Women's Writing Guild
Let's Write Together

MICHELLE MILLER, MEd, Executive Director


Michelle joins the Guild in 2019 with over two decades of experience in international marketing and nonprofit management. Previously, Michelle directed PepsiCo’s advertising campaign from Hong Kong and Shanghai and Reebok’s global marketing campaign from Boston. She also led fundraising campaigns for NGOs focused on children’s welfare in China and human trafficking in Thailand. Michelle serves on several committees implementing social justice programs as communities rebuild from the pandemic. She believes in the power of diverse voices and in 2020 helped launch the Guild’s mentorship and global outreach programs to widen the IWWG community. Michelle holds a Master’s degree in Education from Boston College and a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from Harvard University. She speaks Mandarin, French and Spanish and is writing her first novel. She lives in Providence with her daughter, Lara..

Cathleen O'ConnorCATHLEEN O’CONNOR, PhD, Board Chair

Cathleen O’Connor, PhD is a life-long New York resident, 30-year member of the Guild and former Technology CIO with an MBA in International Finance. She is on the faculty of the IWWG teaching creative writing, the power of the first chapter for fiction, and how to create a successful anthology. Her articles have been published in Canada’s ALIVE magazine and Australia’s THE SPHERE. She has been featured on ABC News in Green Bay, WI and quoted in the Huffington Post.

Cathleen has offered programs in writing to not-for-profit organizations in her community, including Support Connection, a Westchester County organization providing services to women with breast and ovarian cancer, and Wainwright House, a non-profit center dedicated to education and programs for transformational living. She served on the Board of the Barbara Giordano Foundation, a NY nonprofit offering services and support to women veterans for two years and was instrumental in the development of their governance policies.

Her books include, The Everything Law of Attraction Dream Dictionary (Adams Media, 2010), and The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory (Anchala Press, 2018). She is at work on her first novel.

LAURA KIELEY, Board Vice Chair

A member of the Guild since 2003, Laura Kieley joined the Board in 2016. Recognizing the need for a refreshed brand that would appeal to a new generation of women writers, Laura founded the Branding Committee and served as its Chair. The Committee conducted an extensive branding and positioning initiative, which led to a new brand platform and visual identity. Laura currently heads the Guild’s Marketing and Communications Committee and is a member of the Governance, Fundraising and Conference Committees.

A former Director of Marketing and Communications, Laura’s fifteen-year career in communications and marketing began at the Canadian Consulate General in New York City, where she represented the Canadian federal government to its Wall Street investors. Since 2013, she has been an independent consultant, working with a range of organizations, from New York-based start-ups to an elite global law firm. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science (High Honors) and a Master’s in International Affairs from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Laura won a national writing award in Canada and has had her work included in several publications. She is happy to apply her professional experience to further the Guild’s mission and provide opportunities to amplify women’s voices around the world.

HOPE PLAYER, Board Treasurer

As Treasurer of The International Women’s Writing Guild, Hope Player is responsible for financial oversight of IWWG. Author of the book Find the Numbers for Your Business Plan (Full Court Press, 2010), Hope has published articles in New Jersey CPA magazine, Blue Ridge Business Journal, Bergen Record, RacersReunion.com, and Bergen Health and Life. Interim Co-Executive Director from 2018-2019, Hope is a member of the IWWG faculty, teaching business skills to writers.

Hope’s business, The Arcadian Group, provides advisory services and training to small businesses.  She holds the professional designations of Certified Public Accountant and Certified Valuation Analyst. A Cayce, South Carolina native, Hope received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Hope served in leadership roles with the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Fort Lee Regional Chamber of Commerce, New Century Venture Center, as well as many other civic and arts organizations.  For her dedication to small business, she was recognized by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants and by the Small Business Administration.

A member of IWWG since 2003, Hope loves the time she spends with writers and artists and is honored to be able to share her skills with the organization and the membership..

CARIDAD PINEIRO, Board Secretary

Caridad Pineiro is a transplanted Long Island girl who fell in love with the Jersey Shore. When she isn’t taking long strolls along the boardwalk, she’s also a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author with over a million romance novels sold worldwide. Caridad is passionate about writing and helping others explore and develop their skills as writers. She is a founding member of the Liberty States Fiction Writers and has presented workshops at the International Women’s Writing Guild, RT Book Club Convention, Romance Writers of America National Conference as well as various writing organizations throughout the country.

When not writing, Caridad is also an intellectual property attorney.www.caridad.com  


Catharina Coenen, PhD is a Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. As Director of Faculty Development, she administers professional development and mentoring programs for 150 faculty. Catharina first came to the United States from Germany as a Fulbright scholar to earn her PhD in Botany at Oregon State University. She returned to Germany on a nationally competitive postdoctoral research fellowship from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft before she accepted a professorship at Allegheny College. As chair of Allegheny College’s Biology Department, she oversaw budgeting, facilities, hiring, mentoring, and scheduling for sixteen faculty.

Catharina served as chair of Allegheny College’s Faculty Council, charged with oversight of committee structures and shared governance. She also served as chair of the College’s Finance and Facilities Committee, on the Membership Committee of the American Society of Plant Biologists, and on grant panels for the United States Department of Agriculture and for the National Science Foundation. Her scientific papers have appeared in highly ranked plant biology journals. Catharina’s literary work has been featured in many magazines, including The American Scholar, The Cincinnati Review, The Southampton Review, and The Christian Science Monitor. She has received a Fellowship from Creative Nonfiction Magazine and a Hedgebrook Residency.


Christie A. Cruise, PhD is an educator, advocate, and an author with a passion for empowering Black women and girls to speak their truths boldly and unapologetically. This passion led her to serve as a volunteer for St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Raising St. Louis Program and Girls Incorporated of St. Louis, a mentor with the Reach & Rise Program of the Gateway Region YMCA, an advisory board member for Nia Kuumba African and African American Women’s Spirituality Center, and treasurer for the Young Ambassadors of the YWCA of Metro St. Louis.

Dr. Cruise released her first book, It Don’t Hurt Now: My Journey of Self-Love & Self-Acceptance, in January 2019. She has contributed to blogs for the Black Mental Wellness Corporation and The Healing Collective Global. Her poetry, reflections, and self-portrait photography has been published in Gumbo Magazine, Remington Review, Gallery & Studio Arts Journal, and Sunspot Literary Journal.

Dr. Cruise received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois; a Master of Science from Eastern Illinois University; and a PhD from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She has over 20 years of experience in higher education in a variety of areas including social justice, diversity, and inclusion.

KELLY DUMAR, Board Member

Kelly DuMar, M.Ed., C.P., a Boston area playwright, poet, and workshop facilitator, has served on the board and faculty of the International Women’s Writing Guild since 2015. Instrumental in establishing the IWWG Digital Village, Kelly produces its innovative programming, including the popular Open Mic series. She also produces the annual Boston Regional IWWG Conference and teaches the Intensive Play Lab at the annual IWWG Summer Conference.

Kelly’s poems are published in numerous literary journals, including, Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and Tiferet. Her plays have been produced around the US and put into print by dramatic publishers. She is the author of a non-fiction parenting book, Before You Forget-The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children as well as three poetry chapbooks.

Kelly’s past board leaderships include Playwright’s Platform, Boston. She co-founded and ran the New England Chapter of the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, served on the Council of the Transformative Language Arts Association. and produces the Our Voices Festival of Boston Area Women Playwrights, held at Wellesley College.

Kelly is a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, a Certified Psychodramatist, a graduate of Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst..


Trish Hopkinson is a poet and advocate for the literary arts. You can find her online at SelfishPoet.com and provisionally in Colorado, where she works as a product director for an international software company, runs the regional poetry group Rock Canyon Poets, curates the Poetry Happens series for KRCL 90.9 FM, and is a Poetry Reader for The Adroit Journal. Her website includes hundreds of interviews with literary magazines, journals, and presses with a focus of sharing information on how to write, publish, or participate in the larger poetry community.

Hopkinson is one of two alternating literary arts program coordinators for the Utah Arts Festival, and co-founded Provo Poetry in 2015 to feature Utah poets in Poemball vending machines with three permanent locations in Provo and Salt Lake City. Her poetry has been published in several magazines and journals, including Sugar House Review, Glass Poetry Press, and The Penn Review; her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017, and her most recent e-chapbook Almost Famous was published by Yavanika Press in 2019. Hopkinson happily answers to labels such as atheist, feminist, and empty nester; and enjoys traveling, live music, and craft beer.


Michelle Hopson is a trusted consultant to Boards and Executive Leadership advancing work force and process integration causing people and systems to inter-functionally achieve high level results. She enjoys diversity and maintaining a mix of meaningful people, roles, and activities that cultivate her values. She serves as the Principal at Hopson Consultancy – a certified minority owned business supplying organizational development services; a Director of Administration at Friends of Animals; a contracted Chief of Staff at vChief; a National Board Member at EcoWomen; an Executive Function Coach at NFIL; a Fordham University Mentor; and a local Parish Council Member.

In 2015, Michelle was selected to attend a Harvard Advanced Leadership Institute symposium for Harvard Fellows, established, and emerging leaders of regional non-profits, cause-advancing organizations, public and government organizations. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Legal and Policy Studies from Fordham’s College of Liberal Studies, and also received an Executive Education Certificate from Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business & Graduate School of Social Service, Center for Nonprofit Leaders.

Her husband, daughter, and shih tzu help her recharge from her commitments. They’re usually at the town beach during twilight, soaking in a reverse sunset, and telling each other how this feeling never gets old.


Dr. Juanita Kirton earned an MFA from Goddard College (2015) in Creative Writing & Poetry and is the recipient of the Goddard College Spirit Scholarship.

Juanita is published in AVOW (American Veteran Association for Women Magazine), A Journal of Hope and Healing, Caribbean Writer, Chester H. Jones Literary Journal, Clevergirl, Exit 13 Magazine, Goldfinch Literary Magazine, Mom Egg Review, Narrative, Other Voices, Persimmon Tree, Pink Panther Magazine, Rat’s Ass Online Journal, Southeast Missouri State Uni Press, Stone Canoe, Veterans Voices and WORDPEACE. Her Peace Haiku was selected for Peace Mural in Philadelphia. She is a member of Women Who Write, Inc., International Women’s Writing Guild and Women Reading Aloud workshop series.

In 2018, Juanita was awarded the Baker Veterans Writing Scholarship to attend the Longleaf Writers Conference in Seaside, Florida. Her poem Fall Skates won 2nd prize in the Dream Quest One Writing Contest (2020) and won Sisters in Script self-publishing grant; served on the editorial staff for Clock house Literary Journal, is a teaching artist with Crossing Point Arts (Arts for survivors of human trafficking) and facilitates writing workshops for Kirkridge Retreat & Study Center. Juanita’s new book Letters to my Father was accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press (2020).


Cynthia Manick is a poet, storyteller, and community leader. She is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016), and editor of Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation (Jamii Publishing, 2019) and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism and Black Comics Poetry (Blair Publishing, forthcoming 2021). She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, MacDowell Colony, and Château de la Napoule among others. Winner of the Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry, Cynthia was also awarded Honorable Mention for the 2019 Furious Flower Poetry Prize. A performer at literary festivals, libraries, universities, and most recently the Brooklyn Museum, her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day SeriesAGNI, VIDA, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.

By day, Cynthia serves as a Data Coordinator and Scrum Master at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar); and is Founder and curator of Soul Sister Revue, a quarterly reading series for established and emerging poets who write in the narrative tradition of storytelling. She’s currently East Coast Editor of Jamii Publishing, trustee of the NYC chapter of the Awesome Foundation, and serves on the editorial board of Alice James Books. She can be found at http://www.cynthiamanick.com/.


Marisa Moks-Unger, MA, an adjunct professor of English and Humanities at Polk State College, is the fifth poet laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Part of the Guild’s teaching faculty, she also organized and managed two week-end regional conferences. Her articles have been published in First for Women and Women’s World. She has been featured on ABC News in Erie, PA and quoted in the Orlando Sentinel.

As poet laureate, Marisa used two concurrent $10,000 grants to create both in-person and virtual programming for the 250,000 residents of Erie County, PA. The project’s companion book, The Picture This Anthology: Poems from Pop Art, Fine Art, and Photography, featured established and emerging poets who bridged the county divided by the 2016 presidential election. She read two of her poems honoring women’s voices, Will You Mend or Add to the Fray, at the Erie Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

Author of Mud and Stars, a book of poems written in a four-story walkup in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Marisa is also the owner of We Write It Right. She delivers business writing, professional training services, and keynotes to women-lead companies and nonprofits servicing at risk populations, including Dress for Success and United Way.


A graduate of the University of Rochester and Temple University School of Law, Leslie Neustadt spent most of her career as an Assistant Attorney General in the NYS Department of Law, where she represented state agencies in appellate courts. She also served as regional coordinator for the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. Leslie taught CLE courses for the NYS Bar Association, the AG’s Office, and led consumer frauds workshops for seniors.

As a member of the Youth, Law, Citizenship Committee of the NYS Bar Association, she taught workshops for teachers. She co-chaired the Brandeis Society for the Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY. A cancer survivor, Leslie volunteered as a lifeline coach, advising patients for the International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation and led workshops at Gilda’s Club.

In 2014, Leslie published a collection of poetry, Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey, and has donated the entire proceeds to not-for-profits. Her poetry has been published in the following anthologies: the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry; Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women; Workers Write: Tales from the Courtroom, Mentor’s Bouquet, Musematrix, peer glass, A Measured Sense of Outrage,  and Decolonizing Poetry, as well as in numerous journals. Her artwork has been on four book covers.


Paula Chaffee Scardamalia is a multi-published author, a book coach and editor, and a dream and tarot intuitive. In 2019, Schiffer Publishing published her nonfiction book, Tarot for the Fiction Writer. Wild Rose Press published her fantasy romance novel, In the Land of the Vultures in December 2018. She self-published her first book, Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom, in 2006, which won Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards, Bronze.

For 20 years, Paula’s presented workshops across the country at: Romance Writers of America national and regional events; San Diego University Writers Conference; International Women’s Writing Guild; and at smaller venues like destination resorts and bookstores. She’s edited for and coached authors across the US, Canada, and Europe.

As a freelance writer, she wrote: book reviews for Foreword Magazine, Broad Universe, and Clarion online; and feature articles for Crafts Report Magazine, Faery Magazine, and First30Days.com.

Paula has published Divine Muse-ings, a weekly e-newsletter, since 2009. She was dream consultant for PEOPLE Country Magazine from 2010 until 2017, when it ceased publication.

She received her MFA from International College (Los Angeles, CA), and BA, from Penn State University.


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