Autism through a Literary Lens Symposium

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The Writer’s Center presents a groundbreaking symposium addressing the subject of autism in literature and popular culture. This is the first event of its kind, offering free creative writing workshops followed by a panel discussion, featuring autistic and neurotypical writers. Featured writers include Eric Garcia, Hannah Grieco, Jen Malia, Shanon Lee, and New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Parkhurst. The symposium concludes with a reception for all attendees.

All events are FREE and open to the public. Limited space, registration required.

The Workshops | 1:30-3pm

Please note that separate registration is required for the workshops and the panel.

  • Writing, for the Neurodivergent | Workshop Leader: Eric Garcia
    Intended for autistic writers, this workshop will introduce reportage to nonfiction writing, as well as addressing how to best convey and portray autistic people in media.
    Click here to register »
  • Supporting Autistic Children: Your Stories | Workshop Leader: Hannah Grieco
    This workshop for neurotypical parents and other family members will explore writing respectfully and honestly about our experiences supporting our autistic loved ones.
    Click here to register »
  • Writing Autistic Characters, for Everyone | Workshop Leader: Jen Malia
    If you’re neurotypical, writing autistic characters credibly (e.g. with nuance) takes education. If you’re autistic, it takes practice. This workshop will introduce ways in which writers can create, with sensitivity and respect, authentic neurodivergent characters.
    Click here to register »

The Panel | 3:15-4:15pm

Please note that separate registration is required for the workshops and the panel.

  • Our workshop leaders are joined by New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Parkhurst, Shanon Lee and moderator Amy Freeman for a discussion on the way the literary community addresses autism, how we get it right, and where we need to do better. Reception to follow.
    Click here to register for the panel discussion »

Support the symposium!

This event can’t happen without the support of people like you.
Click here to contribute to our crowdfunding campaign »

The first $1,200 in donations will be matched by Maryland Humanities.

Panelists and Workshop Leaders

Eric Garcia is a Washington-based journalist and editor for The Hill who is also writing a book for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt about autism and public policy. Prior to that, he was a reporter for Roll Call, covering politics, as well as an economic policy reporter for National Journal. While at National Journal, Eric wrote a personal and reported essay about life as an autistic reporter for the print magazine, which earned him the Harriet McBryde Johnson Prize for Nonfiction Writing from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Prior to that, he was a financial regulation reporter for MarketWatch. Other bylines include The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, The American Prospect, Salon, and The Southern Political Report.

The mother of an autistic child, Hannah Grieco has a Master of Education from Marymount University and a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College, with a certificate in gifted instruction (James Madison University). Her bylines include The Washington Post‘s “On Parenting,” Huffington Post, First for Women, Motherly, Parenting Pod, Lunch Ticket, Barren Magazine, Hobart, Arlington Magazine, and several other publications. She is currently writing a guide to special needs parenting.

Shanon Lee is a Survivor Activist & Storyteller with features on National Geographic, HuffPost Live, The Wall Street Journal, TV One, and the REELZ Channel’s ‘Scandal Made Me Famous’. She is a Contributor for Forbes and The Lily at The Washington Post. Her work appears in publications including Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Good Housekeeping, ELLE, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and Redbook. Shanon is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert, and an official member of the National Speakers Bureau for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). She was recently named one of The Tempest’s 40 Women To Watch 2019.

Jen Malia is Associate Professor of English at Norfolk State University. Her debut children’s picture book, Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, will be published by Albert Whitman in 2020. Based on her own and her daughter’s experiences living with autism and sensory issues, her book is the story of an autistic girl who has to overcome her fear of sticky hands to participate in her second-grade slime experiment. She has written autism-related essays for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Catapult, New York Magazine, Woman’s Day, Self, and Glamour, among others. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and three kids. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @jenmaliabooks or visit her website at

Carolyn Parkhurst is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, including THE DOGS OF BABEL and HARMONY, as well as a children’s book. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and The Rumpus. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and children.

Amy Freeman divides her time between her role as Development Director for The Writer’s Center and freelance writing. Bylines range from The Washington Post to

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Maryland Humanities

This project was made possible by a grant from Maryland Humanities, through the support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Historical trust in the Maryland Department of Planning, and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Any views, findings, conclusions and recommendations included in this website do not necessarily represent those of Maryland Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Historical trust in the Maryland Department of Planning, or the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.


Naomi Cahn, Stephanie Grimm, W. Luther Jett, Marian Potter, Julia Tagliere, Sue Ellen Thompson, Adam Warshavsky