2021 Rising Star Award Final Round Judges



Elaine Spencer is a senior agent at the Knight Agency, where she started her career in 2005. Over the last fifteen years, she has represented a dynamic client list of bestselling and award-winning authors and has sold the rights to over 1,000 projects in a wide range of categories. Elaine is currently looking for new women’s fiction stories (particularly those with dual timelines or points of view), historical fiction with a focus on female-relationships (family, friends, romantic), unique cozy mysteries, and light-hearted, commercial, cross-over contemporary romances. In each of these genres she’s excited about finding new and unheard voices from authors with experiences reflecting the breadth of our society and life experiences’. Elaine’s favorite stories are those that teach her something about history, culture, or another person’s perspective. She also always loves unexpected characters, sharp and witty voices, emotional rollercoasters, and realistic insights that make the reader feel intimately acquainted within the story itself.


Ann Leslie Tuttle joined DG&B in 2017 after working for 20 years at Harlequin Books, where she most recently was a Senior Editor. At Harlequin, she was fortunate to work on an extensive and varied list of bestselling and award-winning titles in romance and women’s fiction. She is actively acquiring women’s fiction, especially beach reads and historical fiction, contemporary romance, rom coms, historical romance, Southern Gothics, thrillers, mysteries, narrative nonfiction, and Middle Grade. She received her B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from the University of Virginia. Finding and nurturing talented new and established writers has always been Ann Leslie’s passion.



Gina Panettieri is the founder of Talcott Notch Literary Services, a 5-member literary agency based in Connecticut. She has worked in publishing for more than 30 years as an agent, freelance editor and writer. She's excited by flawed, authentic and multi-dimensional characters, engrossing storytelling and a polished voice. Some of her upcoming titles include High Yella A Memoir of Racial Identity, by former NBC producer, Steve Majors; Under Color of Law, the debut Trevor Finnigan Mystery by Aaron Philip Clark; The Hiding Place, A Mercy Carr Mystery by Paula Munier; and Rogue Asset, a WEB Griffin Presidential Agent thriller, by Andrews & Wilson.

Erin Niumata has been in publishing for almost three decades. She was an editor at Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins as well as Editorial Director of Avalon Books. She has edited many authors including Leon Uris, Stuart Woods, Erica Jong, Brenda Maddox, Lawrence Otis Graham, Joan Rivers, and more. She has represented NY Times bestselling cowboy romance writer Carolyn Brown, Discovery Channel’s Fast N Loud, and Cash Cab; TLC’s The Cake Boss, Diesel Brothers, and Extreme Couponing; Animal Planet’s Too Cute, Finding Bigfoot, River Monsters, NASA's Above and Beyond; Science Channel’s How It’s Made; Smithsonian Institute’s The Red Planet, inspirational speaker Josh Shipp, viral content creator Tyler Merritt, skin care expert and co-founder of SoKo Glam Charlotte Cho, Hello Fears internet sensation Michelle Poler, Average People Problems founder Sam Matt, humorist Jen Lancaster, humorist Jennifer Mann, blogger Anna Lind Thomas, and many more. She’s worked on multiple NY Times Bestsellers. Erin also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Middlesex University in London. She represents Women’s Fiction Romance, mystery, and a selection of non-fiction projects.


Barbara Rosenberg is an agent with 20+ years experience in the publishing industry, working first as an editor with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, eventually founding her agency The Rosenberg Group. She represents romance and women’s fiction, with an occasional foray into realistic YA. She also represents trade nonfiction by authors with a strong platform, and has a unique specialty working in the college textbook arena.





Alternate Judges


Jennifer Harrington started her career on the editorial side of publishing with Kensington Books Publishing’s Lyrical Press imprint and an internship with Entangled Publishing. She has also worked as a freelance editor for independent authors. After an internship at a New York agency, she joined the Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in 2020. Jennifer is currently building her own list and is interested in representing middle grade, YA, and adult fiction. She’s especially open to BIPOC and LGBTQ voices in the mentioned categories. Jennifer lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, three sons, and two dogs.



Sonali Chanchani is an agent at Folio Literary Management, where she represents character-driven literary fiction, upmarket women’s fiction, and narrative nonfiction. In fiction, she’s particularly interested in smart, funny novels about identity and coming of age; braided narratives of friendship and family; nuanced psychological suspense; and elevated crime fiction. Across the board, she loves books that center female voices and blend emotional depth with sharp, witty insights. Sonali earned her degree in English and Narrative Studies from the University of Southern California and began her career in publishing at Kaya Press. A fierce advocate of authors from marginalized communities, she’s keen to represent a diversity of voices.