RWA2020 logo

Featured Speakers

We're so excited to announce our stellar lineup of featured speakers for the RWA2020 virtual conference, August 28-30!


Saturday Keynote Speaker: Xio Axelrod

Xio Axelrod Xio Axelrod is a USA Today bestselling indie author, an award-winning singer and songwriter, and a passionate advocate for romance fiction. She writes what she likes to call “strange, twisted tales.” 

A completely unapologetic, badge-wearing, fic-writing fangirl, Xio finds inspiration in everything around her. From her quirky neighbors to the lyrics of whatever song she currently has on repeat, to the latest clips from her favorite TV series, SKAM, Xio weaves her passions into her books. (And if you’re curious about SKAM, ask her about it. Just be prepared to settle in for the long haul.)

Xio grew up in the recording industry and began performing at a very young age. As a result, her knowledge of popular music is nearly encyclopedic. Seriously, look her up on quiz night. She might even be up for some karaoke! Xio is a former voting member of the Recording Academy and loves Grammy season because she always discovers great new artists.

A 2018 recipient of the RWA Service Award, Xio is quick to step in where needed. When she isn’t working on the next story or advocacy project, she can be found behind the mic in a studio, writing songs in her bedroom-turned-recording-booth, or performing on international stages under a different, not-so-secret name. 

Xio lives in complete denial of the last five minutes of Buffy with one very patient, full-time, indoor husband, and several part-time, supremely pampered, outdoor cats. Her print debut is expected from Sourcebooks in early 2021.

Sunday Keynote Speaker: Shirley Hailstock

Shirley Hailstock began her writing life as a lover of reading. She likes nothing better than to find a quiet corner where she can get lost in a book, explore new worlds and visit places she never expected to see. As an author, she can not only visit those places, but she can be the heroine of her own stories.

The author of more than thirty novels and novellas, including her electronic editions, Shirley has received numerous awards, including the Borders Bestselling Romance Award and Romantic Times Magazine's Career Achievement Award. Shirley's books have appeared on Blackboard, Essence Magazine, and Library Journal Best Seller Lists. She is a past president of Romance Writers of America.


Librarians Day Speaker: Virginia Kantra

New York Times best-selling author Virginia Kantra is the author of thirty novels. Her stories have earned numerous awards including two Romance Writers of America's RITA® Awards and two National Readers' Choice Awards. 

Meg and Jo, her debut women’s fiction novel, received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the American Library Association’s Booklist and was praised by People Magazine. 

Virginia is married to her college sweetheart, a coffee shop owner who keeps her supplied with caffeine and material. They make their home in North Carolina, where they raised three (mostly adult) children. She is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.   

Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.