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Staff

The Center's Staff

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    Traci Lester

    Executive Director

    Traci Lester

    Executive Director

    Traci joins The Center after an extensive career in the nonprofit sector. Most recently she was Executive Director of National Dance Institute (NDI) an arts education organization founded by legendary dancer Jacques d’Amboise in the belief that every child should have access to learning in and through the arts. Prior to NDI, she held other leadership roles most notably as the Executive Director of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, an early literacy, school readiness program.

    Traci has been recognized as a Cultural Leader in New York City by the Manhattan Borough President. She is the recipient of the American Association of University Women’s Selected Professions Fellowship and was named to TheGrio’s 100 List as an African-American history maker and industry leader in the field of education. She serves on the boards of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable and the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance, as well as on the Education Committee of the Board of the New York Philharmonic. She is also a member of the Greater New York Association of Fundraising Professionals and Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration.

    She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a Master of Business Administration from Rutgers University, a Master of Public Administration from California State University and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University’s Institute for Nonprofit Management.

    Photo Credit: Melanie Einzig

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    Adina Applebaum

    Development Manager

    Adina Applebaum

    Development Manager

    Adina spent six years at the Whiting Foundation, where she worked on programs including the Whiting Award and Creative Nonfiction Grant. She was born and raised in Michigan and is a proud graduate of Barnard College. An avid zine maker, she is on a lifelong quest to bake the perfect pie.

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    Eliana Cohen-Orth

    Event Production Coordinator

    Eliana Cohen-Orth

    Event Production Coordinator

    After growing up in NYC, Eliana received her BA in English and Theater at Princeton University. Recently, she held the role of Artistic Director for Princeton Summer Theater—a professional nonprofit organization—and now serves on their advisory board. In her free time, she loves to crochet, bake challah, and take long walks. Eliana is thrilled to join The Center for Fiction—and to return to her hometown!

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    Allison Escoto

    Head Librarian & Education Director

    Allison Escoto

    Head Librarian & Education Director

    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 reviews books for Booklist and serves on the ALA RUSA Notables committee. From 2017-2020, she was the Associate Editor for Newtown Literary Journal, a publication dedicated to featuring writers from her beloved Queens.

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    Melanie Fleishman

    Bookstore Buyer

    Melanie Fleishman

    Bookstore Buyer

    Melanie has worked in bookstores and publishing since 1971, including the dearly departed independents WordsWorth in Cambridge, The Chinook Bookshop in Colorado Springs, and Endicott Booksellers in Manhattan; and at Random House, Soho Press and Picador USA. She is also a partner in and buyer for Arcadia Books in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

  • Kristin Henley

    Kristin Henley

    Managing Director

    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.

  • Matt Kafoury

    Matt Kafoury

    Art Director

    Matt Kafoury

    Art Director

    Born and raised in St. Louis, Matt Kafoury received his B.A. in Communication from Trinity University in San Antonio. After graduating, he taught English at an elementary school in Madrid for one year before moving to Portland, Oregon in 2014. After four years as a graphic designer in Portland, he relocated to Brooklyn and joined The Center. Matt is an avid reader, filmgoer, and doodler.

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    Celeste Kaufman

    PR & Marketing Manager

    Celeste Kaufman

    PR & Marketing Manager

    Celeste Kaufman spent the decade prior to joining The Center for Fiction working in communications for nonprofits, arts organizations, and community programming. She enjoys the breadth of this work that has included teaching writing and arts class at a women’s shelter, a stint as a sex health educator for Planned Parenthood, launching a community arts space, producing a podcast for writers, curating exhibitions at a Chelsea gallery, rebranding a 120 year-old organization, and more. Celeste has a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and writes fiction and nonfiction. She is also a freelance journalist primarily covering the arts and culture.

  • Melanie McNair

    Melanie McNair

    Senior Director of Public Programming

    Melanie McNair

    Senior Director of Public Programming

    Melanie McNair is a writer who first found her love for the literary world at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in her home town of Asheville, NC. In her first iteration as a New Yorker, she worked in the director’s office at the Brooklyn Museum and discovered the magic that is The Center for Fiction in a writing workshop at the old midtown location. After a hiatus from the city to earn her MFA from Rutgers University and spend some time with family in NC, she is thrilled to call Brooklyn home again.

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    Linda Cicely Morgan

    Development Director

    Linda Cicely Morgan

    Development Director

    Linda came to The Center for Fiction from PEN America, where she was the director of planning and 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 in the Vaucluse and Beaux Gestes: A Guide to French Body Talk.

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    Majo Restrepo

    Administrative Assistant

    Majo Restrepo

    Administrative Assistant

    Born in Palmira, Colombia and raised in Queens, New York, María José recently completed an MA in Columbia University’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies program. Concurrently she was a Production Assistant at Unarthodox, where she curated an immersive space for blind-sculpting and intuitive painting. Before that she taught English at two elementary schools in Paris, where her love for art, reading, and teaching converged. A staunch believer in cheese for dessert and an admirer of green, Sundays consist of snacking at Socrates Park, book in hand, or a bike ride to MoMa P.S.1.

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    Erich Slimak

    Help Desk & Administrative Assistant

    Erich Slimak

    Help Desk & Administrative Assistant

    A former library assistant at The Center’s old outpost on 47th Street, Erich was born and raised in Deep Queens™ but possesses an abiding love for Cleveland, his second home. Erich attended Kenyon College and went on to receive his MFA in Poetry Writing from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as Assistant Poetry Editor of Ninth Letter and was the recipient of the Hobart L. and Mary Kay Peer Memorial Award, selected by Joshua Bennett. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Spectacle, I-70 Review, and others. When not maintaining constant vigilance at The Center’s front desk, Erich can be found singing (loudly), soliciting the affection of strange cats, or with his nose in a good video game.

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    Jory Southurst

    Bookstore Manager

    Jory Southurst

    Bookstore Manager

    Jory has worked in independent bookstores since moving to New York from Australia four years ago and deciding to fulfill his childhood dream of working in a bookstore. He started as a bookseller before moving to manager and then general manager of a number of Manhattan bookstores. Prior to that he worked as a journalist and a copy editor. He spends his free time cycling, swimming, and reading. He particularly enjoys meandering books about nothing, and matriarchal family sagas.

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    marcus scott williams

    Bookseller & Inventory Manager

    marcus scott williams

    Bookseller & Inventory Manager

    marcus scott williams, born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, is a writer and artist whose main influences are the friends he surrounds himself with. An avid reader and consumer of anime, some of his favorite things are Neon Genesis Evangelion, books by Percival Everett and N.K. Jemisin, and Hip Hop, which he contends is the best writing around.

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    Scott D. Williamson Jr.

    Café & Bar Manager

    Scott D. Williamson Jr.

    Café & Bar Manager

    Scott’s mom bought him a yearlong membership to The Center for Fiction as a Christmas gift in 2013. He may not have a novel in him (yet), but figures it near fiction that he found the job of running our Café & Bar. After waiting tables in Williamsburg (Virginia) during college, managing Pisticci up in Morningside Heights, and then Collegetown Bagels over in Ithaca, Scott’s thankful for the chance to bring coffee, conversation, beer, banter, wine, spirit, spirits, thoughtful food, and space to writers & readers in Brooklyn. Outside of work, you can look for Scott in the forest, or typing out poems in t9 on his flip phone.

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    Randy Winston

    Writing Programs Manager

    Randy Winston

    Writing Programs Manager

    Born and raised in Southwest Atlanta, Randy Winston received his MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from The New School, where he also served as MFA Events & Readings Coordinator. He is the Fiction Editor at Slice Literary Magazine, an Advisory Board Member at WriteOn NYC, former Awards Juror for the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and Awards Selection Committee Member for the 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize. Randy has also participated in a variety of events with various literary organizations in New York City as host, moderator, reader, and guest speaker. In May 2014, he became the first student in school history to deliver the commencement address at Southern Polytechnic State University, now Kennesaw State University. He is working to fill pages 15-20 of his passport and hopes to one day own a complete Le Creuset cookware set.