The Kerouac Project

Board of Directors

Officers

President

Janna Benge

Janet (Janna) Benge has been on the board of the Kerouac Project since 2010 and president of the organization for four years.

Janna is a New Zealander who first came to the United States in 1984 and settled in Central Florida in 1993. In New Zealand, she was an elementary school teacher and has followed that up with a 35-year career (so far) as a writer. Working as a team with her husband Geoff, they have ghostwritten over 200 books and currently write two series of biographies geared toward the high school/young adult market. There are currently 80 books in these two series with sales of over eight million copies in 22 languages.

In addition to her own writing, Janna has a passion to encourage emerging writers and help them find their writing voice. She and her husband are also currently running online writing courses for high school-aged students.

Janna enjoys working with the Kerouac Project Board of Director and is excited to be part of the upcoming fundraising drive to raise money to cover the cost of maintenance and repairs to the 100-year-old Kerouac House, so it can continue hosting writers-in-residence through the next 100 years.

Vice President Residency Program

Geoff Benge

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Vice President Fundraising & Promotion

Mona El Alaoui

Mona El Alaoui’s professional experience includes both non-profit and private sector positions with such multinational and world-renowned organizations as UNICEF, Procter & Gamble, Beiersdorf, and Johnson Wax. She has lived in over 14 different countries and created sustainable, lasting relationships with men and women from over 75 countries as a true citizen of the world

Mona’s work with UNICEF provided her the opportunity to create marketing and business development strategies that heightened the organization’s profile and offerings on a global scale. In a 6+-year tenure with Procter & Gamble, her contributions as a Senior Brand Manager, Brand Manager, and Consultant resulted in dramatic sales and market share growth for key product offerings, as well as a substantial turnaround for a previously declining business.

Mona graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Her professional training is extensive, her business experience runs deep, and she brings a coach’s heart to the Kerouac Board!

Vice President Properties

Burns Hovey

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Treasurer

William Jones

William C. Jones is a commercial relationship manager at SunTrust and has over 25 years of Institutional and Commercial banking experience.

William is actively involved in the Orlando community, currently serving on the Advisory Board of the Rollins College – Hamilton Holt School. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer for the Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando, Inc.

William has previously served the community as Board Member for the Good Shepherd Catholic School Foundation, mentor for Orlando/Orange County COMPACT and a Board Member for the Florida Development Finance Corporation.

Secretary

Karen Price

Karen Price earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Cedarville University and a Master of Arts in English from the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.

Before moving to Florida, Karen was a book editor in New York for Avery Publishing Group, now a subsidiary of Penguin Putnam. She has extensive experience in publishing and has worked as a proofreader, copy editor, book editor, book and magazine designer, and magazine editor.

Under the name “Karen Price Hossell,” she is the author of more than forty nonfiction books and the editor of several anthologies. She has also created games for Scholastic. Karen is a Course Director in the English Department at Full Sail University and enjoys reading, watching movies, traveling, and spending time with her dog, Gunther, and her cat, Lucy.

Voting Directors

John King

John King is the host of the creative writing podcast, The Drunken Odyssey, as featured on “best of” lists by Book Riot and The Millions. He holds an MFA in fiction writing from New York University, and a doctorate in English from Purdue University. His novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame, was published by Beating Windward Press in 2019. John’s creative work also appears in the anthologies 15 Views of Orlando, Other Orlandos, and Condoms and Hot Tubs Don’t Mix, as well as in journals, such as Gargoyle, The Newer York, and Painted Bride Quarterly. His scholarly work has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature, Twentieth Century Literature, The Journal of Film and Video, and others. He has reviewed theatrical performances for Shakespeare Bulletin. He has worked on the editorial staffs of both Washington Square and Sycamore Review.

Brett Pribble

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Terry Ann Thaxton

Terry is a writer, teaching artist, and community activist who believes that poetry and storytelling are powerful tools that enhance literacy, self-confidence, self-awareness, and voice. She is a professor of English at UCF where, in 2003, she founded The Literary Arts Partnership, which provides creative writing workshops to marginalized community members. She trains college students to provide creative writing opportunities to marginalized people at various community sites. She and her students have taught workshops at foster care facilities, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and inner-city public schools. The creative writing workshops improve reading and writing skills of the participants, thus building their self-confidence, enabling them to recognize their own value as citizens, and increasing their chances of succeeding academically and/or gaining employment. She has published 3 books of poems and a textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide.

Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa Blakeslee is the author of three acclaimed books of literary fiction, Train Shots, Juventud, and most recently, Perfect Conditions, winner of the Foreword Reviews’ 2018 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award for Short Stories (Gold).

A native of Pennsylvania, Vanessa has lived in Central Florida for over twenty years. She is an alumnus of Rollins College, UCF, and Vermont College of Fine Arts where she earned her MFA in Writing, and subsequently served as Graduate Assistant for three residencies. From 2009-2011, she founded and directed Maitland Poets & Writers, a community organization which focuses on expanding the literary arts throughout Central Florida, as part of the Performing Arts of Maitland (PAM). Trained in the Amherst Writers & Artists’ method, she has led writing workshops in museums, high schools, and libraries, and is delighted for the opportunity to do so again for the Kerouac Project’s new quarterly “Write-In” series that will kick off in 2020. She has served as a judge for the Florida Review Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award as well as the Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Vanessa brings a wealth of expertise to our Board, having been awarded grants and residencies from Yaddo, Writers Omi, The Banff Centre, VCCA, the Ragdale Foundation, and many others. For more, please visit her website: www.vanessablakeslee.com.

Tom Lucas

Tom Lucas currently serves as Department Chair for the Creative Writing BFA degree program at Full Sail University. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Tom moved to Orlando in 2010.

As an active member of the local literary community, Tom has conducted independent writing workshops as well as participating in spoken word events around town.

Tom has been published in Ghost Parachute, The Orlando Weekly, Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Monthly Review, The South End, The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Orbit, Anthropomorphic, and U. Magazine. He is the author of the books Leather to the Corinthians and Pax Titanus.

Erik Deckers

Erik Deckers was the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House. He is a proud graduate of Ball State University, earning his B.S. in Philosophy and M.A. in College Student Personnel Administration.

Erik moved to Orlando in 2015, after spending his entire life in Indiana. He owns a content marketing agency and has worked in sales and marketing for nearly 27 years, as well as spending a couple of years handling crisis communication for the Indiana State Department of Health.

Erik has co-authored four books on social media marketing, including Branding Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media, as well as his first novel, Mackinac Island Nation, the first chapter of which was his submission for his Kerouac residency.

Erik is married to Toni, a local jazz singer and actor, and they have three children, Maddie, Emma, and Ben.

Barbara Fischler poses with the bust that she sculpted of writer Jack Kerouac

Barbara Fischler

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