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Authors Guild Foundation Elects New Board President

New York: The Authors Guild Foundation, the charitable and educational arm of the Authors Guild, announces Marie Arana as the new president of the organization, replacing the outgoing Laura Pedersen, who served more than five years. Roxana Robinson was elected the new secretary and several new members joined the board in March.

Arana is a prizewinning Peruvian American author, book critic, and former literary director of the Library of Congress. Throughout her career, Arana has been entrusted with leadership roles and significant oversight of cultural institutions, including serving as a judge for the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes, working as an executive for two major publishing houses, a visiting columnist for the New York Times and, for many years, editor in chief of Book World at The Washington Post. She is a member of the board of PEN America, PEN Faulkner, and The American Writers Museum; a governor of Northwestern University Libraries; and vice president of the 150-year-old Literary Society of Washington. She has also served on the advisory council of SOUTHCOM, the U.S. Department of Defense’s command in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. In 2020, Arana was the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for her lifetime work in literature.

“Working with Marie on the Foundation board has been a pleasure, and I am thrilled she has taken this next step to lead our board,” said Lynn Boulger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild Foundation. “I have learned so much from her already—she is a consummate professional, so knowledgeable, erudite, sophisticated and, let me say, really fun.”

Arana’s most recent book is Silver, Sword, and Stone, a sweeping history of Latin America, chosen by the American Library Association as the top nonfiction book of 2019. Among her other books are: National Book and PEN/Memoir Award finalist American Chica, a memoir about growing up in two languages and cultures; the novels Cellophane and Lima Nights; and the biography Bolívar: American Liberator, winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her next book, LatinoLand: A Portrait of America’s Largest and Least Understood Minority will be published by Simon & Schuster in February 2024. 

“I have long admired the work of the Authors Guild,” Arana said. “Knowing the literary landscape and Washington, D.C., as well as I do, I’m aware of the essential work the Guild has done to preserve the rights and advance the prospects of one of the country’s most precious treasures: the American writer. I look forward to working with CEO Mary Rasenberger and Council president Maya Shanbhag Lang to advance these goals.”

Arana’s deep connections to the literary world, her industry knowledge, as well as her writerly contributions to the profession, position her to champion the interests of authors while leveraging her experiences to enact meaningful change within the literary world.

Roxana Robinson, who has served in many capacities at the 111-year-old institution, including past president of the Authors Guild council, was elected the new secretary of the Foundation, replacing author Sherri Burr. Robinson is the author of ten books: six novels, three collections of short stories, and a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books and two as New York Times Editors Choice picks. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harpers, Best American Short Stories, Tin House, and elsewhere. Her work has been widely anthologized and broadcast on NPR. Her books have been published in England, France, Germany, Holland, and Spain. She is the recipient of many awards, the most recent the Barnes & Noble “Writers for Writers” Award from Poets & Writers. She teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College.

New board members include Neal Cohen, Taryn Leavitt, Meredith Lesher, Ben Sevier, and Karyn Schoenbart. 

Neal M. Cohen is president of Aperture Communications LLC, a strategic communications company focused on crafting client messages that have impact, stories that resonate and are memorable, and results that benefit both reputation and the bottom line.

Taryn Leavitt is the founder of Taryn Leavitt in Gold, an artisanal fine jewelry atelier. She began her working life as a news reporter for United Press International Radio in London, then spent her on-air career with Financial News Network and CNBC, before becoming a local news reporter with Channels 9 and 5 in New York City.

Meredith Lesher is a board member of the Lesher Family Foundation (LFF) and is active with Class 67 of Leadership Tulsa, a city-wide program designed to build leadership skills and to create deeper connections to the Tulsa community through service. After seventeen years working as an ethics and political compliance attorney for a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., she retired in 2020 and volunteers as a lawyer to prepare asylum applications.

Ben Sevier is executive vice president and publisher of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group. He oversees the acquisition and publication of the approximately 350 titles per year on Grand Central Publishing’s list. Mr. Sevier is responsible for all aspects of publishing activities for its imprints, including Grand Central, Balance, Forever, Legacy Lit, and Twelve.

Karyn Schoenbart is the co-founder and managing director of Duo Partners Consulting, LLC, a New York-based consulting and investment firm. Passionate about coaching others to greater levels of achievement, Karyn wrote Mom.B.A: Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next as a practical guide on everything from effective first impressions and workplace politics to relationship development, work/life balance, skill-building, and achieving balance between work and family. 

Read more about Arana, Robinson, and the new members of the board here.

About the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation

With more than 13,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression, and authors’copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, as well as organizing public events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors who contribute to it.