Advisory Board


Phaedra Hise (Advisory Board Chair) is an entrepreneurial writer, editor and author. She loves telling smart stories for high-level readers with diverse interests. As a writer and journalist, her award-winning articles and cover stories have been anthologized, and have appeared in national publications including the Washington Post, Inc, Fortune, Forbes, CNN Money, the WSJ, Popular Mechanics and Salon. She has written five books for mainstream publishers, including two collaborations with expert co-authors. Phaedra has also run print and digital publications including Edible Richmond, Colloquy and Colloquy India. Phaedra is currently the food editor for Virginia Living. When she’s not writing, or eating, she’s riding her mountain bike on Richmond’s amazing trail system.
Susann Cokal is the author of two critically praised novels, Mirabilis and Breath and Bones, and of short stories that have appeared in numerous journals. She holds two PhD's: one from Berkeley in comparative literature and one from Binghamton University in creative writing. Susann has published critical work on writers such as Jeanette Winterson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Georges Bataille and currently reviews fiction for The New York Times Book Review. She moved to Richmond in 2004 to teach creative writing and contemporary literature at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Constance Costas is editor of skirt! magazine's Richmond edition. A former staff writer for Self magazine, she has also covered health, fitness, medical, and parenting topics for Redbook, Health, Fitness, Shape, Ladies Home Journal, Working Woman, and Harper's Bazaar. Constance's essays have appeared in skirt!, where she has also been a contributing editor and columnist.
Kirk Ellis won two Emmys, a Golden Globe, a WGA Award, a Peabody, and the Humanitas Prize for his work on the HBO miniseries John Adams and won the WGA Award and Humanitas Prize for the ABC miniseries Anne Frank, which he wrote and co-produced. His other miniseries — Into the West, Life With Judy Garland and The Beach Boys: An American Family — all received multiple Emmy nominations. A graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television, Kirk began his professional career as a film critic for The Hollywood Reporter.
William C. Hall, Jr. is vice president of corporate communications and community affairs for Dominion. A native of Danville, he received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Richmond in 1975. Prior to joining Virginia Power as senior media representative in 1983, he served as managing editor of the Danville Register. William moved up in the company, serving as assistant treasurer for Virginia Power and then for Dominion before joining corporate communications in 1997 and assuming his current position in September 2006.
Dean King is the nationally bestselling author of Unbound: A True Story of War, Love, and Survival and eight other works of non-fiction, including the Daily Telegraph book-of-the-year Patrick O'Brian: A Life. The subject of a two-hour History Channel documentary, his book Skeletons on the Zahara is currently being developed as a feature film. Dean's writing has appeared in Esquire, Garden & Gun, Granta, Men's Journal, National Geographic Adventure, and the New York Times.
Jon Kukla aims to present first-rate historical scholarship to a general readership. His recent books, Mr. Jefferson's Women and A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America, were selections of the History Book Club and the Book of the Month Club. Born in Wisconsin, Kukla was graduated from Carthage College and took his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He lives and writes in Richmond, where he is working on a fresh narrative of the American Revolution under contract with Simon and Schuster.
Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, was chosen as an Indie Next Pick by the Independent Booksellers Association. Carolyn See in The Washington Post called it “intricate and fascinating;” Annie Dillard said it’s “a strong, beautiful, deep book;" and Robert Olen Butler named it “a major work by a splendid writer.” Virginia has published award-winning short stories in literary magazines. Her essays can be found in The Rumpus and The New York Times Opinionator blog. Interviews with her are on line at The Nervous Breakdown and The Huffington Post. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. She is a three term past chair of James River Writers and currently serves on the JRW Advisory Board. Please visit her at
David L. Robbins was born in Richmond and received his undergraduate and Juris Doctorate degrees from the College of William & Mary. He has been writer-in-residence and visiting professor of creative writing at W&M, and now teaches advanced creative writing for the VCU Honors College. David has published nine novels and is working on his tenth, The Devil's Waters, about Somali piracy. His first play debuts in April 2012 and his first screenplay is currently in production. David is a founding co-chair of JRW and co-founder of The Podium Foundation, which supports the teaching and practice of writing in Richmond's high schools.
David B. Robinson, CPA is an extremely well-rounded accountant whose greatest strength is that he has actually done and participated in things about which most other CPAs only talk, consult and advise. In 2005, after selling a large 1,300 client firm which he started in 1990 with five clients, he formed a new firm – Custer Robinson, LLC – that specializes in providing tax preparation and business strategy services to individuals engaged in media and the performing arts. He also accepts periodic employment contracts to be chief financial officer of emerging and evolving entities.
Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the director of content and community for Riot New Media Group, where she writes for and edits Book Riot and Food Riot and oversees social media strategy. Prior to joining RNMG, Rebecca wrote about books, publishing, and the reading life at her popular literary site The Book Lady’s Blog for four years. She is also a cofounder of the Bookrageous Podcast.
Kirk T. Schroder is a partner in the Richmond-based law firm of Schroder Fidlow, PLC. A nationally recognized lawyer in the field of entertainment and art law, he is a lecturer in entertainment law at the University of Virginia School of Law and is currently the Chair of the American Bar Association Entertainment and Sports Law section. Kirk was named to the 2008 edition of The Best Lawyers in America® in the field of entertainment law. His clients in the entertainment field come from all over the United States and the world.
Ron Smith is writer-in-residence at St. Christopher's School and teaches in the Master of Liberal Arts Program at the University of Richmond. He is the author of two books of poems, Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery and Moon Road. A winner of the Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry, Ron is now one of the curators for that prize. His essays and poems have appeared most recently in The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Poetry Daily, and Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature.
Sandra Treadway is director of the Library of Virginia. She previously served as deputy director of the library and headed its publications program. Sandra is a graduate of Manhattanville College and holds a doctoral degree in American history from the University of Virginia and a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Tennessee. Sandra is the author of Women of Mark: A History of the Woman's Club of Richmond, 1894-1994 and has edited several other volumes on southern and Virginia history. She is a frequent speaker on Virginia and women's history topics.
John Ulmschneider is university librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is past-president and board member of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, co-chair of the Legislative Committee of the Virginia Library Association, and president of the Richmond Academic Library Consortium. John previously held positions at North Carolina State University, the College of William and Mary, and the National Library of Medicine. He holds a BA from the University of Virginia and an MS in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Board Members

Phaedra Hise, Advisory Board Chair
Gigi Amateau
Ellen F. Brown
Susann Cokal
Constance Costas
Kirk Ellis
Lee Gimpel
Dean King
Jon Kukla
Virginia Pye
David L. Robbins
David B. Robinson, CPA
Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Kirk T. Schroder
Maya Payne Smart
Ron Smith
Sandra Treadway
John Ulmschneider