Noreen Tomassi | Executive Director


Noreen Tomassi became Director in 2004 and spearheaded the organization's transition from the Mercantile Library, a small membership library, to The Center for Fiction, a nationally known literary center. She came to the Center from Arts International where she worked for 16 years, first as a program director, then as associate director, and then as director. Prior to that she directed the Literature and Theater programs at NJSCA and she began her career in Play Development at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Her books include American Visions/Visiones de las Americas: Artistic & Cultural Identity in the Americas and she was co-creator, with Jane Alexander and Birgitta Trommler, of What of the Night, a play based on the life and work of Djuna Barnes that was premiered by MCC at the Lucille Lortel in 2005. She earned her BA at Skidmore College.



Kristin Henley | Managing Director


Kristin Henley spent several years working at nonprofits and in the publishing industry before joining the staff of The Center for Fiction in 2006. She has worked on events, programs, and the website for the Center, and is now Managing Director. She received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She likes to take credit for the fact that so many poets have been hired at The Center for Fiction. 





Jo Steffens| Director of Public Programs


Jo Steffens has many years experience in devising and producing public programs that feature, fortify, and mobilize excellence in the literary arts. She is the former director of the Municipal Art Society of New York’s, Urban Center Books where she co-founded The Independent Booksellers of New York City. As executive and artistic director of Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival, she received the Rozsa Award for Innovation in Arts Management in recognition for broadening the audience for literary programming. She is the creator and series editor of Unpacking My Library, Yale University Press and editor of Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, Princeton Architectural Press. Originally from Berkeley, California, she studied writing and literature at California College of the Arts. 



Allison Escoto | Head Librarian


New Yorker by way of New Orleans, Allison Escoto received her BA in Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz and closed out the 90s as a bookseller in Greenwich Village. After several years in publishing, she pursued and received her MLS from Queens College. Since then she has worked as a librarian for 15 years in various libraries in and around NYC and has been moonlighting as a poet and copywriter. She is the Associate Editor for Newtown Literary Journal, a publication dedicated to featuring writers from her beloved Queens. 





Linda Morgan | Development Director


Linda has recently come to the Center for Fiction from PEN America, where she was the director of planning & development for 13 years.  She particularly enjoyed working with PEN World Voices, the international writers’ festival, founded by Salman Rushdie in 2005. Prior to that, she served as the managing director of development at WNYC New York Public Radio for 12 years and before that as planning & development director for the French-American Foundation. That position came about as a result of coordinating international conferences and at Harvard University for such professors as Lawrence Wylie, author of Village inthe Vaucluse and Beaux Gestes: A Guide to French Body Talk.



Sara Batkie | Writing Programs Director


Sara Batkie hails from the midwest where she received her BA in English from the University of Iowa in 2008. She left for the big city soon after to pursue her Masters in Creative Writing at New York University and graduated from the Fiction program in 2010. Her stories have been published in various journals, received mention in the 2011 Best American Short Stories anthology, and honored with a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her story collection Better Times was the winner of the 2017 Prairie Schooner Prize and published by University of Nebraska Press in September 2018. She can be found online at




Carla Cain-Walther | PR & Marketing Manager 


Prior to joining the Center for Fiction, Carla Cain-Walther held several marketing and digital media roles at a variety of companies, including a victims’ rights law firm and a private online community for women. She earned her BA in English Lit from Williams College, completing a fiction thesis under the advisement of Jim Shepard. Born in NJ, raised in PA and now living in Brooklyn, Carla has zero plans to leave the east coast. 




Benjamin Rybeck | Bookstore Manager


Benjamin Rybeck comes to Center Books from Brazos Bookstore (in Houston), where he worked for five years, first as marketing/events director, then as general manager. Prior to that, he taught writing at the University of Arizona, where he also received his MFA. His writing has received special mention in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and his work appears in Electric Literature, Guernica, Houston Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, Lit Hub, Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, The Seattle Review, The Texas Observer, and elsewhere. In 2016, Unnamed Press published his debut novel, The Sadness.



Iris Mahan | Development Associate


Iris Mahan is a writer with the head of a development specialist and the heart of a poet. She received her BA in English from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and her MFA from Adelphi University, where she was the recipient of the Robert Muroff Scholarship in Creative Writing. She is the co-founder of Village of Crickets, an online literary community that hosts readings, panels, and literary events in New York City, and the co-editor of the anthology Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism from O/R Books. 





Gwen Ruelle | Digital Media Manager


Gwen Ruelle received a BFA in 2010 from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied writing and oral history. She is a freelance designer and oral historian, and is co-designer for Runaway Parade Games. Gwen grew up in the mountains in Vermont and now lives in Brooklyn.






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