Bethesda Magazine's 2017 Best of Bethesda Editors' Pick for "Best Place for Literary Inspiration"


The Writer's Center Board of Directors

2015-2016 Board of Directors


Sally Mott Freeman


Mier Wolf


Margaret Meleney


Patricia A. Harris

Chair Emeritus

James T. Mathews

Board Member Biographical Information

Ken Ackerman

Ken is a writer and attorney in Washington, D.C., and a 25-year veteran of senior positions in Congress, the executive branch, and financial regulation.  Ken has authored four published books: The Gold Ring: Jim Fisk, Jay Gould, and Black Friday 1869 (1988), which recounts the famous gold market corner; Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield (2003), his critically acclaimed biography, Boss Tweed: the Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York (March 2005), and his most recent, Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties. When he's not writing, Ken practices law in Washington at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC. Along the way, he has served as legal counsel to two committees of the United States Senate: Governmental Affairs (1975-1981) and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (1988-1993). During the administration of President Bill Clinton, he headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency and Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (1993-2001). Earlier, he held various legal positions at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  Ken was profiled in Government Executive magazine in 1997 and included by National Journal that year in its “Washington 100” list of top Federal decision-makers.  He teaches seminars for TheCapitol.Net and serves on the board of The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Freedom to Write Fund of American Independent Writers in Washington, D.C.  He enjoys scuba diving and is a PADI certified divermaster.  A native of Albany, New York, and a graduate of Brown University (1973) and the Georgetown University Law Center (1976), Ken lives with his wife Karen in Falls Church, Virginia.

Margot Backas

Margot retired from the National Endowment for the Humanities as an administrator, after overseeing a wide range of research projects, among them scholarly editions and translations.  Before joining the NEH, she was the Editorial Director of Liveright Publishing Company in New York, which published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and earlier held editorial positions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago Press and the Johns Hopkins University Press, as well as the National Book League in London.  She has been an editorial and publishing consultant to various museums and foundations, and has written many book reviews for newspapers in the United States and Britain.

Linna Barnes

Linna has lived in Montgomery County in the Town of Chevy Chase next to the Writers Center for over 25 years and has spent much of that time as a community activist. For ten years, she was on the Town Council and served as Mayor. A non-practicing attorney, Linna has also served on numerous non-profit boards and in leadership positions. She is currently the President of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and on the board of directors of Interfaith Works and the Committee for Montgomery. She also co-produces a television program on Channel 21. In addition, Linna is the Chair of the Advisory Council for the Woodrow Wilson House in the District. 

Naomi F. Collins

Dr. Naomi F. Collins is a writer and consultant to cultural and higher education organizations.  She has served as Executive Director of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and as Executive Director (and before that, Chairman) of the Maryland Humanities Council.  She has recently published the book Through Dark Days and White Nights: Four Decades Observing a Changing Russia (followed by more than 30 book talks); and an article "Understanding our New Global Context Through the Liberal Arts.” Born and raised in New York, and a resident of a Washington, D.C., suburb, she has lived, worked, and traveled in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Mexico, Canada, Germany, China, Central Asia, England, and Europe, in addition to time spent in Russia.

Mark Cymrot

Mark specializes in international and commercial litigation and arbitration. He has published numerous articles in professional journals such as “Cross Examination in International Arbitration” in Disputes Resolution Journal, “Squeezing Silver: Hunt Brothers Manipulation of Worldwide Silver Prices” in ABA Litigation, and “Welcome to the Jury System: Supreme Court Limits Sovereign Immunity for State-Owned Companies” in Business Law International.  He has been a speaker on litigation, arbitration and sovereign debt issues at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and American Bar Association and International Bar Association conventions.  He is a member of the ICDR Panel of Arbitrators, the international branch of the American Arbitration Association, and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.  He has represented governments, major international companies, and individuals in litigation and arbitration nationally and internationally.  Mr. Cymrot was chosen by Washingtonian magazine as one of the best lawyers in Washington and is listed in 2010 in The Best Lawyers in America. He also can be found in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Law.

Sally Mott Freeman

Sally is currently serving her fourth term as Board Chair of The Writer’s Center. Her first book-length work will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2016. It is war and family memoir centered on her father, who set up the White House Map Room for President Roosevelt, and his brother who was wounded in the Philippines and taken prisoner shortly after the outbreak of World War II. Sally brings 25 years of executive experience to The Writer’s Center from her career as a speechwriter and media and public relations executive. In the 1980s she was the speechwriter for an FCC commissioner and later its chairman, after which she became the FCC’s News Media Division Chief. In that position she served as the agency spokesperson through a tumultuous period in FCC’s history, beginning with the court-ordered break-up of AT&T, followed by the rapid deregulation of the telecommunications and broadcast industries. After leaving the FCC, she ran her own telecom policy consulting business but returned to the public sector as Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Information at FmHA, the lending agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this position she managed relations between FmHA and the Congress and news media as well as oversaw the agency’s 1900 field offices. She also represented FmHA on Capitol Hill during the lengthy negotiations over the Farm and Agricultural Appropriations bills. In 1993, she returned to the private sector as a Vice President for Communications at Fleishman Hillard, a global public relations firm. In that position she managed a consortium of telephone companies competing for an FCC license to deliver personal communications services. After the consortium won their bid, she oversaw its public relations campaign as they brought that business to fruition. She later served as Corporate Vice President of Public Relations for two trade associations, The Software Publishers’ Association and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. In addition to her work at TWC, Sally has served on numerous Boards of Directors, including those of The Washington Shakespeare Company, the American Diabetes Association, the Washington Tennis Foundation, and Recording for the Blind. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Sweet Briar College and spent a year studying Renaissance Literature at the University of Exeter, Great Britain.

Patricia Harris

Patricia is a Partner in the Bethesda, Maryland office of Holland & Knight, LLP and practices in the area of zoning and land use. She focuses on representing multi-family developers, land owners, major retailers, and religious and educational institutions in zoning and land use matters before various administrative boards and commissions, including the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Planning Board, Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission and Board of Appeals, and the Montgomery County Council. Ms. Harris is also very active in land use matters in the City of Rockville and represents interested parties before the Rockville Mayor and Council and Planning Commission. Her representation includes such matters as Project Plans, Site Plans, Special Exceptions, Subdivision approvals, Historic Preservation, local map amendments, zoning text amendments, Master Plan issues and building permit issues. Ms. Harris' work includes experience in a number of issues including Smart Growth and in-fill development, mixed-use developments, adequate public facilities, planned developments, urban design and historic preservation.

Les Hatley

Les, a CPA, has over 30 years of professional experience with the insurance industry, first in senior financial positions for several insurance groups, then as Director of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Financial Analysis Division and then as a consultant.  Presently Mr. Hatley is the Managing Member of Hatley Insurance Consulting, LLC (HIC LLC), which began operating in December 2008.  HIC LLC provides regulatory insurance services including assistance with Risk-Focused Examinations, financial analysis services, troubled company monitoring, and training. Les’s passion, however, is writing, recording and playing music.  He began playing in bands in the mid 1960s, first as lead guitarist with the Showmen, a group which eventually opened shows for Roberta Flack, Charlie Byrd, and the Chartbusters.  The Showmen also had the honor of playing as the back-up band for the Fantastic Johnny C. of “Boogaloo Down Broadway” fame. In the 1980s, after a tour of duty in the Navy and getting a family started, Mr. Hatley began playing music again. Playing in various groups, including Nite Life, the Blue Dog Band, the Shakers, Crumpled Hat, Second Wind Bandits, Seneca and other groups, venues have included clubs, concerts, parties, festivals and special venues such as the White House, the Air Force Academy Chapel and the Lincoln Theatre. He also had the pleasure of opening shows for Steppenwolf, Lou Christie, Gary U.S. Bonds and the Coasters.  Presently he plays with Seneca, Crumpled Hat and the Bozman Brothers Band. Les has played guitar on a number of CDs with his own groups and for hire, and has recently completed recording his first solo CD called Second Chair. Mr. Hatley also serves on the Board of Directors of the Songwriters Association of Washington.

John M. Hill

John teaches English language and literature at the U.S. Naval Academy. He specializes in Old and Middle English literature, with interests in the early modern period and in psychological and anthropological approaches to literature. He is the author or editor of books on Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon Lordship, medieval rhetoric and poetics, Chaucer, and the aesthetics of Beowulf and other Old English Poems. He has served on the Board since the early 1990s, has been Chair, and is a founding member of The Writer’s Center.

Jeff Kosseff

Jeff practices media, technology, and privacy law in Covington & Burling's Washington, D.C., office. Jeff received a juris doctor from Georgetown University Law Center, and a masters of public policy and bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan. He clerked for Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Before becoming a lawyer, Jeff was a reporter for The Oregonian, covering technology and Congress. He was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and a recipient of the 2006 George Polk Award for national reporting. Jeff is an adjunct professor of communication law at American University.

Howard Lavine

Howard currently serves as the Senior Officer for Editing and Writing at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Prior to his position at Pew, Mr. Lavine served as Chief Speechwriter and Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski of Oregon from 2003 to 2011. In that capacity, Howard managed the Governor’s successful CHAMP and CHAMP II cultural reinvestment program, which provided significant new funding for culture, history, arts, movies, preservation, and public broadcasting in Oregon. Howard began his speech writing career with former mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore. As the mayor’s Assistant for Communications, he wrote the 1995 commencement address at Yale University, among many others, and articles for The American Oxonian, Hofstra Law Review, the National Review, Rolling Stone Magazineand The Washington Post. Prior to that, Howard became Senior Speechwriter and later Director of Speechwriting for Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was raised in Albany, New York. He received his JD from the University of Oregon, and is a member of the Maryland bar. He also holds  master’s degrees from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He served on the board of Oregon Public Broadcasting from 2011 to 2012.

James Mathews

James served two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has twenty-five years of military experience in the U.S. Air Force and the D.C. Air National Guard. His work has been featured in many literary journals and his collection of military-themed stories entitled Last Known Position won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Short Fiction in 2008.Jim has taught fiction and memoir workshops at TWC, including Writing the Wartime Experience, for several years. He was educated at University of Maryland and The Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a Master of Arts (Writing). In addition to teaching at The Writer’s Center, Mathews is a workshop leader for the Operation Homecoming writing program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, for which the TWC provides programmatic support.

Jim McAndrew

Jim is a 40-year veteran of marketing communications. When asked to define marketing success, his answer is to find simplicity in complex ideas: “Marketing is selling people what they want or making them want what you have to sell.” As an innovator in traffic safety advertising, Jim has directed marketing campaigns that have focused on teen drivers and pedestrian safety, among other issues. His clients have included AARP, The Department of Energy, and Printing Industries of America. Prior to his work in advertising and marketing, Jim toured with and managed a music group called Happy Feet, which backed recording artists including Chubby Checker, Lou Rawls, and Chuck Berry.

Margaret Meleney

Margaret is a senior executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, operations, investment, budgeting, annual auditing, and financial analysis. She has managed six entities with operating budgets of over $15 million and, since 1996, has been the Chief Financial Officer of Club Managers Association of America, where she has implemented cost-savings and reallocation strategies to improve overall financial health of the organization. She has also volunteered on a number of nonprofit committees.

Joram Piatigorsky

Joram received a Ph.D. in developmental biology and chemistry in 1962 from California Institute of Technology. His postdoctoral studies with Dr. Alfred J. Coulombre at the National Institutes of Health on lens and crystallins introduced him to vision research. He remained at NIH where he was Chief of the NEI’s Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, which he founded in 1981. Dr. Piatigorsky has published 232 scientific articles and 63 reviews and chapters. He was elected a Fellow of the Advancement for the Association of Sciences (1982), has served on many national and international review panels and scientific advisory boards, and was a trustee and Vice President for ARVO (1986-1991) and a trustee for the Whitney Marine Biology Laboratory, University of Florida (1993-1998); in addition, he has been on the editorial boards of 7 scientific journals. Among his recognitions and named lectureships are the NIH Director’s Award (1978), the Jonas S. Friedenwald Lecture (1986), the First Han Bloemendal Lecture Award (1986), 2 Alcon Research Institute Awards (1985, 1991), the Sydney Futterman Memorial Lecture (1987), the Tenth Annual Neurochemistry Lecture (1988), the G. Burroughs Mider Lecture (1991), the Donald P. Abbott Memorial Lecture (1992), the Frederick H. Verhoeff Lecture (1993), the Robert R. Kohn Memorial Lecture (1993), the V. Everett Kinsey Lecture (1995), the Joseph M. Bryan Lecture (1997), the Russell Marker Lectures (2002), and the Jin H. Kinoshita Lecture Award (2005).

Bill Reynolds

Bill graduated from B-CC high school in 1967, when The Writer's Center was the Bethesda Youth Center and he acted in plays on the Center's stage. He left Bethesda for Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he graduated in 1971 with a degree in English Literature and where he has served on the Board of Trustees and as Secretary of the College. He has served on the board of the Writer's Center since 1999. Bill is the Sr. Managing Principal of MCS Capital LLC, a private equity fund sponsored by Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS) that invests in value-added hotel opportunities. Bill and Marcus formed the venture in 2011. Prior to MCS, Bill was Chief Investment Officer for Thayer Lodging Group in Annapolis; managing director of Hospitality Capital Partners for USAA Real Estate; Chief Investment Officer for MeriStar Hospitality REIT in Washington; and a principal in Dallas-based Metro Hotels. He also headed marketing for a CT and TX developer of apartments and condominiums, Portfolio Management, Inc. He is a member of the Hotel Development Council of the Urban Land Institute, serves on the steering committee of Americas Lodging Investment Summit, the New York City Hospitality Council and is a former trustee of the American Resort Development Association. He is also a director of Carey Watermark Investors, a non-traded REIT. He is a frequent speaker at lodging industry investment conferences and universities.

Mier Wolf

Mier, then Mayor of the adjacent Town of Chevy Chase, went over to welcome The Writer’s Center and Al Lefcowitz when the organization moved to Chevy Chase in 1992. Al immediately recruited Mr. Wolf for the Center board. Since then, Mr. Wolf has worked on a number of community outreach projects for the Center, most recently chairing the center development committee. Mr. Wolf coordinated board officer nominations for some years as well. He is a retired attorney, having worked most of his career in the Office Of General Counsel at HUD in both litigation and grant advisory capacities. His non-professional life has been devoted to volunteer activities ranging from Town service to serving on boards of numerous organizations, including Round House Theatre. Mr. Wolf has received awards from the U.S. Congress, the State of Maryland, Montgomery County and the Town for his many years of volunteer efforts. He worked for Montgomery County as a part time Senior Fellow assigned to create an international Sister Cities program. Originally from Austin, MN ("Spamtown USA"), Mr. Wolf has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and J.D. from St. John's University.

Wilson W. Wyatt, Jr.

Wilson is a published writer and photographer. He is a founder and the editor of The Delmarva Review literary journal and has led several writing initiatives in Maryland, including the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference and Eastern Shore Writers Association. He is a former journalist at The Courier-Journal, in Kentucky, and was the senior communications officer of three corporations. He published YOSEMITE – Catching the Light, in 2011, and Chesapeake Views – Catching the Light, in the fall of 2013. He serves on the board of The Writer's Center and lives on the Eastern Shore. Blog:


Washington D.C. native Morowa Yejidé’s novel Time of the Locust was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, longlisted for the PEN/Bingham award, and a NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Literary Work. Her short stories have appeared in the Adirondack Review, the Istanbul Review, and others. Her short story "Tokyo Chocolate" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, anthologized by Britain's best of the Willesden Herald, and praised by the Japan Times. She received her M.F.A. from Wilkes University and is currently a PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools author.

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