Meet Our Guests

2022 Festival

Elise Valmorbida – Headliner

Italian Australian author Elise Valmorbida has published journalism, poetry, short stories, three non-fiction books and four novels including The Madonna of the Mountains, which has been translated into several languages and in 2019 won Australia’s biggest literary prize for fiction. Elise is also an award-winning indie film producer and script consultant. Her latest work is The Happy Writing Book, an inspirational guide to creative writing and wellbeing, fuelled by her 20+ years of experience as writer-teacher.

Beth Miller – Masterclass and Lunchtime Reading

Beth Miller is the author of six novels, the most recent of which, The Woman Who Came Back to Life (2022), will be published in six languages. She has also published two non-fiction books: For the Love of Shakespeare (2016) and For The Love of The Archers (new edition out in 2022). She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brighton University, and teaches creative writing at various places including for Arvon. She also works as a writing mentor and book coach.

Michael Donkor – Taster Session

Michael Donkor studied English at Wadham College, Oxford, undertook a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and now teaches English Literature at St Paul’s Girls’ School in London. The Observer named him as one of 2018’s best debut authors for his first novel Hold (4th Estate) and in 2019, he was longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and selected by Scottish poet laureate Jackie Kay as one of the ten best BAME writers in the UK. He writes and reviews for the Guardian and the TLS, and has appeared on both Radio 3 and 4.

Photo credits: David Yiu

Neel Mukherjee – Lunchtime Reading

Neel Mukherjee is the author of three novels: A Life Apart (2010), which won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award for best fiction; The Lives of Others (2014), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Costa Best Novel award, and won the RSL Encore Award; and A State of Freedom (2017), which was one of New York Times ‘100 Notable Books of the Year’. His book for the Cahier Series, Avian, was published in May 2020. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and divides his time between London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo credits: Nick Tucker

Stephen Mooney – Lunchtime Reading

Stephen Mooney is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Poetry Coordinator at the University of Surrey. Amongst other things he co-runs the small poetry press, Veer Books. His practice varies across modes, but is often connected to gaming methodologies and mechanics as these collide with language and poetry, from visual to lexical to performative to sculptural to sound. His poetry collections are DCLP, Shuddered, The Cursory Epic, 663 Reasons Why and Ratzinger Solo. He is currently working on intra-lingual translations of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos poems, a series of Judge Dredd poems, and a collection of gamebook poems.

Chiara Fumanti – Panellist

Chiara is an Italian writer, actress and singer based in London. She holds a Level 6 Diploma in Musical Theatre, a BA in Theatre and is currently in her second year of her MA Creative Writing and loving every moment of it! In her writing, she loves to blend fiction and real-life stories, and takes much of her inspiration from her own experiences and from the people she loves. You can find some of her most recent work in High Salvage, which she is very proud to have also co-edited and co-designed. She is absolutely thrilled to be part of the Surrey New Writers Festival 2022 writing team, and to be joining the ‘Creative Brand Identity’ panel!

Sharon Green – Panellist

Sharron describes herself as a ‘poet of a certain age’ and shares poetry with elements of nostalgia, attempting to make sense of modern life and celebrate nature. She experiments with rhymes and poetic forms and has recently dabbled with free verse.
Sharron has had poems published in over ten international anthologies and produced two booklets. The most recent, ‘Viral Odes’, is a collection of pandemic poems published by Ink Gladiators Press and currently available via her website and online from most bookshops.
In 2021 she completed an MA in Creative Writing here at Surrey and has poems in ‘High Salvage’, a University of Surrey publication from Potential Books that is the subject of the ‘Creative Brand Identity’ panel that she looks forward to chairing at the festival.

Dara Kalima – Panellist

Dara Kalima, also known as The Community Poet, is a Bronx, NY resident who started writing at 9, dedicated herself to the craft at 16, and locked into her voice at 25. She holds both a BA and MA in theater. She is the founder of Black Authors Collaborative and serves as vice president of Poetix University, an international home for all poets. She co-hosts Word2Wordz a monthly poetry focused podcast. Kalima has performed on stages across New York and made her international debut in 2018 when performing in Scotland. She has also performed her poetry Off-Broadway. Kalima explores the concepts of love, equality, and healing all through lived experiences and personal observations. She has authored four books, Black Man, Black Woman, Black Child (2015), Casualty of Love (2017), Two X Chromosomes with an Extra Shot of Melanin (2019) and Still Laughin’ (2021).

Julia Armfield – Panellist

Julia Armfield is a fiction writer with a Master’s in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. She lives and works in London with her girlfriend who is fine and their cat who is garbage. Her work has been published in Granta, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and Best British Short Stories 2019 and 2021. She was longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Prize 2018 and was the winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award. Her debut collection, salt slow, was published by Picador in May 2019, and by Flatiron in the US. salt slow was longlisted for the Polari Prize 2020 and the Edge Hill Prize 2020 and was shortlisted for the London Magazine Prize for Debut Fiction 2020. Her story ‘Longshore Drift’ won a Pushcart Prize in 2020.

Sunny Singh – Panellist

Sunny Singh is Professor of Creative Writing and Inclusion in the Arts at the London Metropolitan University.

She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels Nani’s Book of Suicides (2000)With Krishna’s Eyes (2006) and Hotel Arcadia (2015), as well as Single in the City: The Independent Woman’s Handbook (2001), a groundbreaking exploration of single women in contemporary India, and Amitabh Bachchan (2017), a pioneering academic study of the Indian superstar.

Her essays, short stories, book chapters and columns are published worldwide in key journals, anthologies and media outlets. She is the founder and director of annually awarded Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize and the Jhalak Art Residency. Singh is currently finalising a collection of short stories examining aspects of armed conflict over the past century as well as a monograph on Indian cinema. In her various roles, Singh is a champion for inclusion across all aspects of society, advocating an intersectional, decolonising approach to building radical global solidarities. In her various roles, Singh is a champion for inclusion across all aspects of society, advocating an intersectional, decolonising approach to building radical global solidarities.

Angela Szczepaniak – Panellist

Angela Szczepaniak is the author of The Nerves Centre, Unisex Love Poems (an illustrated novel-in-poems), and The QWERTY Institute (visual fictions), which details the lives, inks, and deep-C adventures of a variety of fonts as they wade through awkward social situations. She is a Lecturer and Programme Director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey.

Lauren Foley – Panellist

Lauren Foley (she/her) is Irish/Australian and bisexual. Her stories are published internationally. She has Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and is chronically ill and disabled; the majority of her writing is dictated. In 2016, her story ‘K-K-K’ won the inaugural Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize with Overland Literary Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Short Story of the Year. She was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year in 2017; and nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Lauren was awarded a prestigious Next Generation Artist’s Award in Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland in 2018, and subsequent Artist’s bursaries. She is the recipient of two Varuna Fellowships, two Tyrone Guthrie Residencies and a Cill Rialaig Residency. Her creative nonfiction piece ‘I Don’t’ is published in, The Art of the Glimpse, 100 Irish Short Stories, ed. Sinéad Gleeson. She won the 2021 Los Angeles Review Literary Awards, nonfiction category. Lauren’s debut short story collection—Polluted Sex—is published by Influx Press.

Joelle Taylor – Panellist

Joelle Taylor won the T. S. Eliot Award in 2022 with C+NTO & OTHERED POEMS. Prior to the pandemic, she completed a world tour with her collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK national youth poetry slam championships, as well as the international spoken-word project Borderlines. She is widely anthologised, the author of 4 collections of poetry. She has received a Changemaker Award from the Southbank Centre, a Fellowship of the RSA, and her poem Valentine was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. She is a co-curator and host of Out-Spoken Live, a poetry and music club currently resident at the Southbank Centre; and the commissioning editor at Out-Spoken Press.

Ella McLeod – Panellist

Ella McLeod is a writer, poet, performer. She graduated first in her year at Warwick University. She won Shoot From The Lip spoken word poetry competition in 2017 and has since worked as a spoken word poet and actress, and as an Assistant Producer for Somethin’ Else, now part of Sony Music Entertainment. Ella also created and narrated Celina and the Spider, a series of three family-friendly storytime sessions with HOME Manchester. She is a proud South Londoner and lives in Peckham with her partner, Michael, and their cat, HRH Princess Persephone. She loves Hwa ramyun noodles, romantic faerie fiction, big dresses, Shakespeare and poetry from the Harlem renaissance. She has 14 tattoos. Her debut novel Rapunzella, or, Don’t Touch My Hair, will be published in July 2022.

Previous Guests:


Julia Armfield
Liz Bahs
Gillian Best
Ruth Brandt
Martha Cook
A.M. Dassu
Ben Dixon
Michael Donkor
Inua Ellams
Diana Evans
Nikita Gill
Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Rob Kiely
Collette Lyons
Roz Morris
Alex Reeve
Ally Sherrick
Paul Vlitos


Andy Brown
Lulah Ellender
Julie Evans
Peter Fiennes
David Gange
Kari Gillespie
Genevieve Grant-Thompson
Beth Miller
Jacq Molloy
Jane Puddicombe
Monica Suswin


Sophie Mackintosh
Erinna Mettler
Beth Miller
Jacq Molloy
Courttia Newland
Jeremy Page
Kate Potts
Alison Rumfitt
Stephanie Saulter
Azad Sharman
Monica Suswin
Keston Sutherland


Melissa Addey
Gemma Connell
Jonathan Crewe
Marek Czubala
Stewart Ferris
Jennifer Good
Catherine Graham
Peggy Hughes
Tom Jenks
Ellie Kerr-Smiley
Charlotte Ledger
Holly Luhning
Jeanette Lynes
Rachel Marsh
Steven O’Brien
Kylie Rolle
M.E. Rolle
Michael Roke
Broc Silva
Jas Smith
Paul Vlitos
Laura Williams
Lydia Yeoman