Festival of Books 2012

Kick-Ass Women: About the Panelists

Dinah Lenney, a working actor, wrote Bigger than Life: A Murder, A Memoir (American Lives, University of Nebraska Press), and co-authored Acting for Young Actors (Random House). Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, The Kenyon Review Online, Agni, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, Water-Stone, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and elsewhere. Dinah teaches in the Rainer Writing Workshop, the Bennington Writing Seminars, and the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, and regularly blogs at the Gamut.

Allison Engel wrote the play, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, with her twin sister Margaret Engel. The play had its premiere in Philadelphia in 2010, starring Kathleen Turner as Molly Ivins, where it broke the 35-year box office record for the Philadelphia Theatre Company. It then went on to record-setting runs at the Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas, and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, where Kathleen Turner reprised the role for the West Coast premiere. Allison Engel has been a reporter for the Des Moines Tribune, San Jose Mercury and Pacific News Service, and was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. She was also a speechwriter and aide for former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and lieutenant governor Sally Pederson. She has been a food columnist for Saveur, an architecture columnist for Renovation Style and co-wrote three editions of Food Finds: America’s Best Local Foods and the People Who Produce Them for Harper Collins. The book later became a show on the Food Network, where it ran for seven years. Allison Engel recently spent five years as director of communications at USC before becoming the associate director of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities at the university. She received an M.A. in screenwriting from USC in 2009.

Karen Karbo, whose first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year.  Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books.  Her 2004 memoir, The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was a New York Times Notable Book, a People Magazine Critics’ Choice, a Books for a Better Life Award finalist, and a winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction.  Her short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, salon.com and other magazines. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award.  

She is most well known for her best-selling “Kick Ass Women” series, the most recent of which is How Georgia Became O’Keeffe, published in 2011. How to Hepburn, published in 2007, was hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “an exuberant celebration of a great original.” The  number 1 ebook best-seller, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel, appeared in 2009.  Next up: Julia Child Rules, will appear in May 2013.  

Karen grew up in Los Angeles California and lives in Portland, Oregon where she continues to kick ass.

M.G. Lord is the author of the recently published book, The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice. Lord is also the author of Astro Turf, a family memoir about aerospace culture during the Cold War and Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. Since 1995, she has been a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and that paper’s Arts & Leisure section. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Discover, Travel + Leisure, Vogue, ARTNews, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Hollywood Reporter and The New Yorker. She has been interviewed on The Today Show, NBC Dateline, CBS This Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, and PRI’s Studio 360. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lord was a syndicated political cartoonist (based at NY Newsday) for twelve years. An honors graduate of Yale University, she has been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation science-writing grant, as well as resident fellowships at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and other venues.