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Staff

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    Lydah Pyles DeBin

    Executive Director

    Lydah Pyles DeBin

    Executive Director

    Lydah’s passion for books and reading has guided her career. Prior to joining The Center for Fiction in 2023, she held leadership positions at Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon. During her decade-long tenure—first as Director of Development & Marketing before rising to Deputy Director—the organization became the fastest-growing literary nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest, with Lydah as a key driver of sustainable resource development to support an inclusive and bold vision for a thriving creative community. Prior to her time at Literary Arts, Lydah worked in sales roles for Penguin Young Readers Group, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. She is excited to be living in Brooklyn and ready to take on the challenge of raising her twin eight-year-old boys as city kids.

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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 BA 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

    Senior Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement

    Celeste Kaufman

    Senior Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement

    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 classes 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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    Majo Restrepo

    Development Associate

    Majo Restrepo

    Development Associate

    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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    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

    Director of Writing Programs

    Randy Winston

    Director of Writing Programs

    Randy Winston, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, is a 2016 graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at The New School. He is the creator of Milkshake Scholar, an online milkshake interview series, and Secretary on Orion Magazine’s Board of Directors. Randy also served as Fiction Editor at Slice Literary Magazine for six years and is currently working on his first manuscript of fiction and a memoir. Prior to his MFA, Randy served as editor-in-chief of The Peak, Kennesaw State University’s, formerly Southern Polytechnic State University’s, online and print publication in Atlanta. Randy sits on the board for WriteOn, a fellowship program led by New School Fiction Coordinator and author, Helen Schulman. WriteOn connects students at George Jackson Academy, the only need-blind upper elementary and middle school in Manhattan for gifted boys from low-income families, with New School MFA students. He holds a Bachelors in English & Professional Communication from Southern Polytechnic State University, now Kennesaw State University, where he was the first student ever to deliver a commencement address. He has published work at Medium, alongside interviews with musician Benjamin Lazar Davis; visual artist Hugo McCloud; New York Times bestselling authors Zakiya Dalila Harris, Tomi Adeyemi, and Morgan Jerkins; and Tiziano Terzani International Literary Prize Winner Mohsin Hamid.

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    Melanie Wu

    Membership Assistant

    Melanie Wu

    Membership Assistant

    Melanie Wu is an artist and filmmaker from Miami, FL who recently graduated from the New School with a BA/BFA in Screen Studies and Fine Arts. During her studies, she worked at the college’s library where she developed an interest in archives and cataloging which have shaped her video and sculpture practice. When she’s not wearing her artist cap she enjoys bouldering, reading, and organizing public film screenings.