About Us

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee provides oversight to Straw Dog Writers Guild and all of the working committees.

Jacqueline Sheehan, President

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times Bestselling author. She is also a psychologist. Her novels include The Comet’s Tale a novel about Sojourner Truth, Lost & Found, Now & Then, and Picture This, The Center of the World, and The Tiger in the House.

Macci Schmidt, Clerk

Macci Schmidt is a geologist and science librarian with a murder mystery in the works. She is also pleased to be the Personal Librarian to many writers and enjoys helping with their research.

Becky Jones, Treasurer (ex officio)

Becky Jones leads bereavement writing groups and has an active volunteer life. She has published some poetry and works episodically on a manuscript of stories from her hospital chaplain days.

Alexis Johnson, Board of Directors

Alexis Johnson is co-founder and was Executive Director of International Language Institute for 31 years. Before that, she lived and taught in Barcelona for 9 years. Playing With A Full Deck is a wry look at her experiences.

Rick Paar, Board of Directors

Rick Paar taught psychology at Springfield College for thirty-three years. He has presented at local, national, and international conferences on topics ranging from psychotherapy to chaos theory to play. His book, God Bless America and Breakfast Burritos to Go, is to be published in the fall of 2022.

Mary Ann Scognamiglio, Board of Directors

Mary Ann is the assistant editor with Jane Yolen on the Compass Roads Anthology.

Stephanie Shafran, Board of Directors

A member of Straw Dog Writers Guild and Florence Poets Society, Stephanie Shafran resides in Northampton, where she writes poetry and prose. Her writing has appeared in several journals and anthologies over the years. Stephanie published her first poetry chapbook “Awakening” in 2020.

Lynn Bechtel

Lynn Bechtel has published articles, essays, and poetry in professional magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. She worked for many years as a social worker and health educator and then as an editor and writer for Center for Responsive Schools.

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen is the author of the novels The Lost Women of Azalea Court, Her Sister’s Tattoo, Kinship of Clover, On Hurricane Island, and House Arrest, and guest editor for the anthology Dreams for a Broken World. Her work has been honored by the Sarton Prize, Women’s National Book Association, and the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Recent essay publications include Ms Magazine, Lilith, The Boston Globe, The Writer, Guernica, and Lit Hub. She is a founding member of Straw Dog Writers Guild.

Ed Orzechowski

Ed Orzechowski, author of You’ll like it here (Levellers Press 2016) is a retired teacher and journalist. He lives with his wife Gail in Florence, MA.

Advisory Board

Patricia Lee Lewis

(aka Pat Sackrey) is an award-winning poet, has published two books of poetry, A Kind of Yellow and High Lonesome, and led creative writing & yoga retreats at her Patchwork Farm mountainside retreat in Westhampton MA and internationally for 30 years. She moved to downtown Northampton MA in 2020, where she led 98 “Writer’s Cave” workshops online and is revising a too-long novel, gratefully in the company of other writers. patricialeelewis@gmail.com

Richard Michelson

Richard Michelson’s books have been listed among the Ten Best of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; a three-time Massachusetts BookAward Finalist, Michelson’s work was chosen to represent the Commonwealth at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival. Michelson has received two Gold Medals from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the 2018 National Jewish Book Award. Michelson served two terms as Poet Laureate of Northampton, where he is the owner of R. Michelson Galleries.

Bill Newman

Bill Newman is a partner at the law firm of Lesser Newman Aleo & Nasser, the ACLU’s Supervising Attorney for Western Massachusetts, the host of the daily Bill Newman Radio Show on WHMP, and an author. Bill, who has been published in a number of periodicals, writes a regular column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. He is the author and voice of the Civil Liberties Minute®podcast. His books are When the War Came Home and Life on the Co-op Plan.

Lesléa Newman

Lesléa Newman is the author of 80 books for readers of all ages including the memoirs-in-verse, I Carry My Mother and I Wish My Father; the novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; and the children’s books Sparkle Boy, Alicia and the Hurricane: A Story of Puerto Rico, and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, two National Jewish Book Awards, and the Massachusetts Book Award. From 2008 – 2010, she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA.

Patricia Pin

Patricia Pin is an alumna of Vermont College with an MFA in poetry and works as the Public Programs Director at The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, MA. Her current writing pursuits include a speculative fiction project and a poetry manuscript.

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen’s 417th book has just come out. Her eyes are on # 500! She writes in almost every genre–adult and children’s books: poetry, comedy, adventure, picture books, verse novels, graphic novels, plain old novels. She teaches writing, too, writes lyrics for bands and operas, and now takes pleasure reading the books published by her children and grandchildren. Not to mention a book of poems written with her new husband (she is 83, he is 85). She has six honorary doctorates for her body of work.

Straw Dog Committees

The Straw Dog Writers Guild also has several committees attending to the organization’s basic needs and activities. If you are interested in serving on a committee, please contact admin@strawdogwriters.org for more information.

Finance-Development Committee
Alexis Johnson
Becky Jones
Macci Schmidt
Mary Ann Scognamiglio
Jacqueline Sheehan

Membership Committee
Alexis Johnson
Becky Jones
Rick Paar
Stephanie Shafran

Program Committee
The Program Committee seeks out and schedules programming for Straw Dogs members and the greater writing community. We strive to provide a wide variety of presentations and discussions regarding craft, navigating the profession, inspiration and the writing life. The program committee particularly encourages presenters from groups that have been underrepresented in writing and publishing communities. Propose a program HERE.
Steven Brewer
Michael Goldman – Chair
Becky Jones
Alexis Johnson
William Mailler
Judy McIntosh
Lindsay Rockwell
Mary Ann Scognamiglio
Anna Smith

Writers Night Out
Rick Paar
Jacqueline Sheehan
Beth Filson

Emerging Writers Fellowship Committee
Liz Bedell
Ellen Meeropol
Macci Schmidt
Fungai Tichawangana

Publicity Committee
Tzivia Gover
Mark Luebbers
Macci Schmidt

Valley Society
Christopher J. Sparks

The Edith Wharton-Straw Dog Writers Guild Writers-in-Residence Program
Becky Jones
Patricia Lee Lewis
Patricia Pin
Jacqueline Sheehan
Stephanie Shafran
plus the help of 30 reviewers


Arianna Alexsandra Collins, Administrative Director
Beth Filson, Special Projects Coordinator
Robin Glenn, Newsletter