Paul J. Willis, Executive Director

Paul J. Willis, executive director, has over 16 years of experience in non-profit management. He earned a B.S. degree in Psychology and an M.S. degree in Communication. He started his administrative work in 1992 as the co-director for the Holos Foundation in Minneapolis. The Foundation operated an alternative high school program for at-risk youth. Paul has been the executive director for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival since 2004.

Karissa Kary, Director Communications & Marketing, Volunteer Coordinator

Karissa Kary has been involved with the Festival  for more than 10 years as a Director (Marketing/Communications), project consultant, and theater production and volunteer coordinator. An avid writer and theater and event producer (co-founder of both Greenlight Operations and The Bayou Playhouse), her travels and work have taken her to the Missouri Ozarks, Europe, Asia, South America and often find her in New Orleans.

J.R. Ramakrishnan, Associate Director of Programs and Development

J.R. Ramakrishnan works on development and the curation of the Festival’s programs. Her journalism has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Harper’s Bazaar and, amongst other publications. Her fiction was published by [PANK]. She has degrees from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Susan Larson, Vice-President for Literary Programming

Susan Larson is the vice president for literary programming for the Festival. She was the book editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988 to 2009. She hosts The Reading Life on WWNO, 89.9 FM, and is the book critic for Steppin’ Out on WYES-TV. She is the author of The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans, currently being updated for a new edition, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Robert Bray, Scholars Conference Chair

Robert Bray is the founding director of the Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference. He is also the founding editor of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review. Bray is the author of Tennessee Williams and His Contemporaries, Hollywood’s Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America (with R. Barton Palmer), and the upcoming Modern American Drama on Screen (also with Palmer). Bray is a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University.

Ellen Johnson, Festival Publicist

Ellen Johnson, Festival publicist for 19 years, formed One on One Productions, her public relations and marketing firm, in 1993, after serving as marketing director at the Contemporary Arts Center. With a focus mostly on the arts and other non-profits, she has worked with the New Orleans Film Society, Orleans Dollars for Scholars, Dag’s House, and New Orleans City Bark, among others, but says the national and international interest in the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival has provided the richest experience.

Ben Sines, Festival Assistant

Ben Sines coordinates the Festival’s writing contests, and assists with Festival development and production.  A native of Spokane, Washington, Ben graduated from Loyola University, New Orleans with a B.A. in English Writing.  After three years of teaching high school English and coaching Cross-Country and Track, Ben was accepted into the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop, where he is an MFA candidate in Poetry.

Taryn Vinet, Development Assistant

Taryn currently works in our development department where she assists with grant preparation, membership campaigns, social media, and research.  Taryn holds a B.A. in theatre from Northwestern State University and is working on her masters in Arts Administration from The University of New Orleans. A member of the Big Easy Awards Theatre Committee, Taryn is also a working local actor, stage manager and playwright.