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Lafayette Youth
Arts Society

Daniel Handler
Known and loved as
Lemony Snicket
Past judges include...
Robert Hass
Former Poet Laureate of the United States, winner of a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize
Author of the best-selling book series, An Unfortunate Series Of Events
Esther Ehrlich


Chief Writing Judge - 2019
Alison Burke
Alison Burke was born in Berkeley and raised in Orinda. After graduating from Miramonte High School in 1970, she received a BA in English at Stanford before getting her teaching credential at UC Berkeley. She has taught Spanish and English for 24 years at Miramonte. She is married to Steve Burke and lives in Oakland.
Gary Crabbe

Wendy Duncan
Mrs. Wendy Duncan has been a fifth grade teacher at Happy Valley School in Lafayette, California for over 25 years. Raised in the SF Bay Area, she lived overseas with her family in both Saudi Arabia and Austria. While in Saudi Arabia she taught in the International School. Mrs. Duncan is married and has three grown children. She enjoys hiking, reading, traveling and socializing with her friends in her free time. Mrs. Duncan particularly enjoys teaching Math and Writing to her students. In her writing lessons she draws heavily from the New York Writing Project.
Tom Black 
Since retiring from the communications field a decade ago, Mr. Black has been active as an avid enthusiast photographer. His principal genre is Rural America, which he divides into two subject categories, Rustic Relics (old barns and such) and Rusted Relics (mainly old cars and trucks). He also does landscape and travel photography.His work has been shown in a number of local venues (cafes, libraries, galleries) and has been published internationally. Additionally, his photographs have graced the covers of magazines, calendars and even a Nashville-produced CD. He has won multiple awards in juried public competitions.One notable adventure in pursuit of Rusted Relics photo ops led him on a quixotic 4,200-mile solo cross-country road trip, starting in Lafayette and ending 12 days later outside Boston, where his daughter lives. A highlight was traversing what is left – not much – of the originalRoute 66 in northern Arizona. A native of Ohio, he has lived in California since 1971 and in the East Bay since 1998. His entire collection can be viewed at www.tfblackphotography.com Feel free to leave a comment. 
Spike Speicher
Writing Judges 
Preliminary Judge 
Preliminary Judge 
Preliminary Judge 

Photography Judges
Gary currently resides in Pleasant Hill, California, just outside San Francisco. Gary began taking pictures while attending Humboldt State University, where he received a Bachelors Degree in Social and Adolescent Psychology, and a Masters Degree in Directing, Acting, Writing, and Production for the Theater. His interest in photography began to grow after taking an elective class in Black & White, but he soon found his passion was the pursuit of color and form in nature.

After graduation, a twist of fate led Gary to the studio of World-Famous photographer Galen Rowell, where he managed the Stock Department of Mountain Light Photography for nine years. Known for his industry expertise and unwavering professionalism, Gary has worked with many of the world’s best-known advertising agencies, magazines, and publishers. He has been happy to offer his knowledge and opinions consulting with other photographers, and has been quoted several times in Photo District News, Wired Magazine, Mother Jones, and numerous other trade publications.


Esther Ehrlich is the author of Nest, a middle-grade novel. The book earned starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus, which called it “a poignant, insightful story of family crisis and the healing power of friendship.” Nest is an ALA 2015 Notable Children’s Book, School Library Journal Best Book of 2014, and Amazon Top 20 Children’s Book of 2014. Esther was born and raised in Boston and spent childhood summers on Cape Cod, where Nest takes place. A graduate of Vassar College, Esther lives in Wildcat Canyon in Richmond, California with her family. www.estherehrlich.com
Doug Birnbaum is an accomplished award winning photographer and filmmaker residing in Lafayette with his wife, Kate. He earned his BFA in film and television from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and his MFA in Fine Art Photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He has shot A-list celebrities, completed commercial projects for fortune 500 companies, and has been featured in prestigious photography shows and awards through the Artistic Photographers of America. He has also earned a scholarship from the American Photography Magazine, and has been featured in galleries such as Artshare LA and Monotone Gallery in Mexico City. Currently Doug owns and runs his production company, Branded Content Media, for photography and video projects.
Doug Birnbaum