Melissa Pichetto – Track Director

MelPichettoMelissa is a lover of all things nerdy including books, science, fanfiction, art, gaming, and most importantly Dragon Con. After a stint as a staffer for the Art Show, Melissa joined the Young Adult Literature track as a volunteer staffer in 2009. She served as Assistant Track Director for 7 years and in 2018 became our second ever Track Director. In addition to her nerdy loves, Melissa also enjoys music, theatre, and her work as a neonatal nurse practitioner. She lives just outside of Atlanta with her husband Nick, their two kids, Aidan and Olivia, 2 crazy pups and an evil overlord cat.

Three Questions Answered

1. First Science Fiction or Fantasy book? A Wrinkle in Time. My science teacher in the 6th grade saw the spark and told me I would enjoy the book. I was hooked from the first page when, as a 6th grader, I could easily relate to the nerdy Meg Murray!

2. Favorite books of all time? There are so many that listing them all would be exhaustive so I will include two all time faves and a new fav: The Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (+ the Hobbit of course!), and Warcross.

3. Why YA? My love for YA is multifactorial. I love the rich world building that accompanies so many YA novels as I have always loved the feeling of being absorbed into the world and just getting lost inside. I have also found that over time, YA books have become more willing to confront important topics that lots of teens (and adults!) struggle with –  there are life lessons to be learned in the pages!

Casey Fiesler – Assistant Track Director

caseyCasey has been part of the Young Adult Literature volunteer staff since 2010 (after returning to Atlanta for graduate school) and in 2018 became the Assistant Track Director.  Now she lives in Colorado, where she works as a professor, teaching about and studying the cool things that people do online. She’s on the legal committee of the Organization for Transformative Works (she can tell you all about why fan fiction really is legal!), and considers hersef an “aca-fan” even if she thinks the term’s a little weird. She also writes some fiction when she’s not writing academic work; she’s a graduate of the Clarion writing workshop, and occasionally sells short stories for less money than she spent on coffee while writing them. She’ll love you forever if you let her pitch YA book ideas at you.


Three Questions Answered

1. First Science fiction or fantasy book? The first ones that really hooked me as a kid were Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. I still have equal scifi-fantasy loyalties.

2. Favorite book(s) of all time? Besides those above – Good Omens by Neil Gaim and Terry Pratchett, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and of course, Harry Potter. Though I could go on and on…

3. Why YA? Good stories are timeless and ageless. I think YA calls to writers because it has the power to reach those at a really important stage in their lives, and with some of the best writers out there in this genre, how can you not love it?

Jennifer Clack – Staff

JenniferWhen Jennifer is asked what she does, she just responds “Professional Geek”. She has been involved in conference planning since 2005 and is pretty sure she is addicted to it. In the muggle world, she is an Esthetician and Election Coordinator in her hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you see her randomly crying this year, it’s because her daughter is leaving for college in the fall and she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. She loves working with the YA Lit staff and authors and can’t wait for another awesome year of DragonCon.



Three Questions Answered

  1. First Science Fiction or Fantasy book? The Hobbit – My Dad was a fan of Tolkien and had very well loved copies of his books. I think he was relieved I was reading that in addition to the “Sweet Valley High” books I insisted on buying.
  2. Favorite books of all time? That’s just an impossible question to answer. Of course, I will always love the Harry Potter books – so many people dear to me came from that fandom. There are so many authors who mean a lot to me. I better not start. I might never stop.
  3. Why YA? There is such a wide range of worlds and characters in YA Lit. I feel like much more is explored in this genre. It gives me hope for the future that young people are emulating the bravery and cleverness that YA protagonists portray. I also think we have the coolest authors out there.

Tara Hall – Staff

1798143_10100948576252658_5673219362452021179_nTara started out volunteering at Dragon Con in Information Services in 2012, before joining the Young Adult Literature Track in 2013. She’s been an insatiable reader her whole life, and an especially big Harry Potter fan since the beginning. She likes to spend her time playing with her daughter, watching anything on Bravo, working out, playing video games, and reading (science fiction and fantasy, of course!). Outside of Harry Potter and other Young Adult Literature, she loves Doctor Who, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy (X was her favorite), & Game of Thrones.


Three Questions Answered

1. First Science Fiction or Fantasy book? The Chronicles of Narnia, which, now that I think about it, explains my life. I love to find the intersection of fantasy and faith – stories are the best way we learn about truth.

2. Favorite books of all time? Oh man. The Harry Potter series for sure. The Ender series rocked my world. Blue Like Jazz. Summer Sisters. Even though there’s so many more, I’ll leave it at that because those are the ones that have left the biggest mark on my life.

3. Why YA?  Storytelling is so fundamentally human, and I truly believe it’s the absolute best way to get to know a person or a topic. I think all adults should be reading YA literature. We wrestle with really big issues like self-identity, depression, and the nature of good when we read YA books, and these are issues we have to work through in order to grow up.

Natalie Simpson – Staff

Natalie has been volunteering  on the Young Adult Literature Track since 2014, which the young HP fan in her still squeals about. She works in Public Policy in Atlanta and spends more time than she cares to admit watching Netflix and reading all the YA she can find. When not at work or reading a book, she can usually be found walking her two crazy rescue dogs with her husband or in the gym or at the craig, rock climbing. Natalie also writes YA fantasy and volunteers for Leviosa.



Three Questions Answered

1. First Science Fiction or Fantasy book? Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch (and the Witchlands Series)
2. Favorite books of all time? Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe
3. Why YA?  I love YA because I never want to stop growing up and seeing the world with hope and excitement.

Matt Hall – Staff

Matt has been an official member of the volunteer staff Young Adult Literature track since 2017, but he’s been unofficially volunteering on the track since 2014.   He works with college students, reads YA, plays JRPGs, advocates for social justice, and loves to learn.




Three Questions Answered

  1. First science fiction or fantasy book?  Everyone else is saying A Wrinkle in Time and The Chronicles of Narnia (understandable, since they are both classics), but mine was probably The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupéry, which is still one of my favorites to this day.
  2. Favorite books of all time?
    1. YA choices: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois and The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
    2. Non-YA choices: And Then There Were None (mystery) by Agatha Christie, Gödel, Escher, Bach (nerdy nonfiction) by Douglas Hofstadter, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies (religious pondering) by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, and A is for Activist (bedtime story for my one-year-old) by Innosanto Nagara
  3. Why YA?  It is so important to me that people learn about, explore, imagine, and engage with others who are different from themselves, especially from a young age.  YA allows young (or not-so-young!) readers to place themselves in someone else’s struggles, successes, and story and to be surprised by the similarities or differences that they may not have expected, hopefully learning and gaining empathy in the process.