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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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    Eliyana Abraham

    Development Assistant

    Eliyana Abraham

    Development Assistant

    Originally from Pennsylvania, Eliyana joined The Center for Fiction team after a year of teaching and storytelling in New York City. She received her BA from Princeton University in 2023, where she studied Neuroscience and Theater. She is passionate about fiction in all its forms, and is excited to be part of a diverse storytelling community. In her free time, she can be found directing new plays, singing, dancing, and playing with her adorable (but strange) orange cat, Funyun.

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    Awura Ama Barnie-Duah

    Bookseller

    Awura Ama Barnie-Duah

    Bookseller

    Born and raised in the Bronx, Awura Ama has always fostered a passion for great books from a very young age. She is a graduate of St. John’s University in Queens, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and double-minored in Africana Studies and Creative Writing. She went on to work at Big Five publisher Simon & Schuster in their Associates Program for almost two years, as well as completing publishing internships at Writers House Literary Agency, Melville House Publishing, and HG Literary Agency. She is interested in a wide range of genres including literary/upmarket fiction, coming-of-age, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, essay collections, and stories with strong, distinct characters and work from marginalized voices. She aspires to one day be either a literary agent assistant or an editorial assistant working on both adult fiction and nonfiction, and eventually becoming a book editor or literary agent bringing more work by underrepresented authors into the world. When not at the Bookstore, she works part-time at Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency as an office assistant. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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    Leah Bronstein

    Bookseller

    Leah Bronstein

    Bookseller

    Leah comes to The Center from the far reaches of Upper Manhattan. It’s a worthwhile trek that gives her a lot of time to read—mostly genre and nonfiction these days. When not at the bookstore, she’s working on a degree in Literature and Linguistics at The City University of New York.

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    Nicole Caplain Kelly

    Writing Programs Manager

    Nicole Caplain Kelly

    Writing Programs Manager

    Nicole Caplain Kelly is a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She won the fellowship in her final semester of the graduate Writing program at Columbia University where she was nominated for the Henfield Prize and earned her MFA. Nicole studied English Literature as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, where she also taught at-risk teens for Tutor the Nation and was a volunteer for The Borgen Project. She continues to teach for UC Berkeley’s Certificate Creative Writing Program, and is at work on her first novel.

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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 & Director of Reading Programs

    Allison Escoto

    Head Librarian & Director of Reading Programs

    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.

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    Arti Gollapudi

    Website & Operations Administrator

    Arti Gollapudi

    Website & Operations Administrator

    Arti Gollapudi hails from the great state of New Jersey (Whitney Houston, pork rolls, The Sopranos, etc.) and is a longtime bookstore worker amongst many other things. She enjoys reading books about neurotic women in strange places, writing very long emails to people she loves, and trying new snacks. If you see her around, remind her not to drink caffeine past 1pm.

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    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.

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    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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    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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    Denisse Griselda Reyes

    Bookseller

    Denisse Griselda Reyes

    Bookseller

    Denisse Griselda Reyes (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. Suspended between tragedy and pleasure, they use humor as a performative strategy to process the grief and absurdity that comes with recreating transhistorical subjects. They love reading theory and philosophy for their research on Latinx ontology and fiction about memory, identity, and death. Their films and work have been exhibited at White Columns, A.I.R. Gallery, Artforum, NoBudge Films, Film Diary NYC, Lenfest Center for the Arts, The Wallach Art Gallery, Velvetpark Media, MODA Critical Review, and internationally. Before joining The Center for Fiction, they received an MFA in Visual Arts (New Genres) from Columbia University and a BA in Art History from Wesleyan University. They are currently an A.I.R. Gallery Fellow and live and work in Brooklyn, NY.

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    Ann Rollins

    Children's Bookseller

    Ann Rollins

    Children's Bookseller

    Ann is a born-and-raised Brooklynite, from Williamsburg to Crown Heights, who has worn many hats in her career: retailer, personal shopper, reading/writing tutor, and after-school teacher. She loves books and being a bookseller. (Seeing a child’s face light up at their favorite book or author is priceless.) Ann fell in love with books in elementary school when one of her favorite teachers introduced her to Langston Hughes, and now she is never without a book or two (and it’s not unusual for her to be reading two at the same time). Ann is always looking for a good-to-great story that can keep her turning a page till the last one. As a reading/writing tutor and after-school teacher for K-12 students, she has been able to share stories of her own and wonderful books with children who enjoy reading or are just getting started. Ann believes a good book is a piece of great art and her favorite genre is Mystery. She studied English and Professional Writing at Medgar Evers College

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    Grace Shields

    Team Host for Community Events

    Grace Shields

    Team Host for Community Events

    Grace Shields grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee with a book in her hand. A recent graduate of the New School’s MFA program, she joined The Center for Fiction as an intern in 2021 and has been there ever since. You can often find her reading literary fiction or narrative memoirs, and she will gladly discuss whichever book she has in her backpack that day with you. In her spare time Grace is also a writer who hops between essays, short stories, and graphic memoir pieces. Her work has been featured in the Sun magazine and the Rumpus, among others.

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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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    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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    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.

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    Melissa Wyse

    Director of Development

    Melissa Wyse

    Director of Development

    Melissa has centered her career in nonprofit leadership, with a particular love for the arts and literature. Prior to joining The Center for Fiction, she held leadership roles in arts and educational nonprofits, most recently as the Chief Advancement and Communications Officer for The Quad Preparatory School, where she drove increased funding for neuroinclusive learning. She is the author of Artists in Residence: Seventeen Artists and Their Living Spaces, from Giverny to Casa Azul from Chronicle Books. She has held fellowships and residencies at MacDowell, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. She is the recipient of an Individual Artist Ruby Grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and the Myra Sklarew Award for fiction. In addition to reading and writing, she enjoys adventures in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Staff Directory

Eliyana Abraham
Development Assistant

Awura Ama Barnie-Duah
Bookseller

Leah Bronstein
Bookseller

Nicole Caplain Kelly
Writing Programs Manager

Eliana Cohen-Orth
Event Production Coordinator

Lydah Pyles DeBin
Executive Director

Rebecca El-Saleh
Barista/Bartender

Allison Escoto
Head Librarian & Director of Reading Programs

Melanie Fleishman
Bookstore Buyer

Arti Gollapudi
Website & Operations Administrator

Abbie Greenbaum
Barista/Bartender

Kristin Henley
Managing Director

Ceara Hennessey
Senior Barista/Bartender

Matt Kafoury
Art Director

Maxime Louissaint
Facilities Assistant

Sebastian Mazza
Program Administrative Assistant

Melanie McNair
Senior Director of Public Programming

Judith Ohikuare
Membership & Marketing Manager

Tanya Pessoa
Rentals Coordinator

Denisse Reyes
Bookseller

Jacob Rogers
Bookseller

Ann Rollins
Bookseller

Henri Seguin
Bookseller

Becca Shapiro
Barista/Bartender

Grace Shields
Team Host for Community Events

Jory Southurst
Bookstore Manager

Mirian Varela
Facilities Assistant

marcus scott williams
Bookseller & Inventory Manager

Scott D. Williamson, Jr.
Café & Bar Manager

Melanie Wu
Membership Assistant

Melissa Wyse
Director of Development