Book Group Leaders

Liz Epstein

Founder, Literary Masters

My two most important accomplishments (well, technically, they are still works in progress) are my amazing daughters.  When they were much younger, I enrolled in graduate school part-time.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made; I found it to be a mind-altering experience.  After my classes, I would come home and we would all do our homework together, which made the work fun for me.  I get nostalgic thinking of those days…

I earned a Master’s degree in English Literature.  My thesis, entitled “Mind the Gap,” is a Lacanian reading of three of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels: The Great GatsbyTender is the Night, and The Love of the Last Tycoon.  Let me know if you’re interested in reading it.

I have taught English at both the college level (in a state prison) and at the high school level, two very different and incredibly rewarding experiences.  I love teaching, but even more, I love learning!  I approach my book groups with this attitude: let’s exchange our ideas and thoughts and see what we can learn from each other.

I lived in England for a time, and it remains one of my favorite places in every respect, including its literary heritage.  I love Jane Austen~for many reasons~and occasionally I run a “Jane Austen Literary Salon,” in which we read all six novels.  This is one of my most popular book groups; stay tuned for the next one!


Alison Engel

I am a reader. I read a lot all of the time, sometimes even when I am drying my hair. Like Liz, I have two daughters whom I regard as my biggest accomplishments. I read to both of them almost all of the way through their middle school years, and was susceptible to bribes of backrubs in exchange for reading “one more page” or “one more chapter.”

For someone who loves to read, it may be odd that my graduate degree is in television. It is officially a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, which, as my parents predicted, I never used. My career ended up being in advertising at several agencies both in San Francisco and New York so I spent a lot of time thinking about effective communication.

Whenever I can get myself into my desk chair and offline these days, I like to write fiction, both short and long form. I have taken a number of creative writing classes at the UC Berkeley extension. Through writing, I have come to appreciate good books, whether for children or adults, even more. I know how hard it is to create them!


Kathy Moore

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I am a lifelong word lover! For the past fifteen years, I have signed every email with this message, “words matter,” because they do. The words we read, the words we write, the words we speak, and those words that are unspoken – they all have weight and meaning. My passion is literacy, and I believe in promoting social justice through sharing books and ideas. My doctoral work was focused on looking at poetry and language as a way to better understand mathematics. I have an enormous collection of books – more than 4,000 copies line the shelves in every room of my house.

I have facilitated numerous book clubs and writing groups;  when my youngest daughter was in elementary and middle school I hosted a Mother-Daughter Book Group out of our local bookstore. I love talking about books almost as much as I love reading them. Probably my favorite thing in the whole world is sitting in the backyard for uninterrupted hours, lost inside a good book while the birds sing in the treetops.

I had a long and happy career in education working with teachers in support of literacy.  I continue to teach poetry workshops and am an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s College. In addition, I had the honor of serving three terms as the City of San Ramon’s Poet Laureate. My greatest joy in life has been raising four daughters who are now grown. My husband Bob and I also have four grandchildren with whom we share a love of books and stories.


Courtney Rodgers

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So many books so little time. For too long now I have lamented over my busy teaching schedule keeping me from reading all the books on my ever-growing list. No more. I’ve recently concluded a 16-year-long chapter in my life when I retired from teaching this past June. A favorite part of my work was serving as the reading specialist at Ross School, a K-8 public school in Marin County, California where I worked with learners of all ages to further elevate literacy and the joy of reading. Our reading program at Ross School earned the International Literacy Association’s exemplary program award for California. While at Ross School I also served as the learning specialist, instructional coach, library teacher, middle school humanities teacher, enrichment project developer, and director of educational technology.

I grew up in San Marino, California and attended public schools all the way through high school graduating as a San Marino High School Titan just like my mom, dad and 3 siblings. For undergraduate work, I attended SMU, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas, and graduated in 1997 with a BA in Spanish and minors in art history, creative writing, and Latin American Studies. I later attended the University of San Francisco to obtain my K-8 teaching credential as well as a MA in teaching, 2001. I also hold Gifted and Talented certification from USC and a secondary CA Clear Reading Certificate.

My husband Matt, also a SMU graduate, our 8 year old daughter Quinn and 6 year old son Fletcher and I are moving east this summer to settle into a new home in Franklin, Tennessee. Starting in January 2019 I hope to begin new book club groups amongst a new set of book loving people. My goal as a Literary Masters Facilitator is to spark your children’s curiosity for story because today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders.


Mary Steele

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My love of stories and reading has been life-long, but the intensity of my curiosity
about a broad range of literature has escalated in recent years. Reading provides
me with a reprieve from my obligations and an opportunity for new learning. And
best of all, I can choose what alternate vantage I’d like to explore. I also find that
talking about what I’ve read deepens my enjoyment immensely. I can share my
perspective and learn of previously hidden pearls that others found. As such, I am
thrilled to be joining the Literary Masters team.

When I am not reading, I am a pediatrician with a special interest in working with
children who have neurodevelopmental differences (such as autism). I have also
been involved in a range of community organizations, and am particularly proud of
my past involvement in The Reading Tree (now part of Good Samaritan Family
Resource Center) – a local San Francisco non-profit focused on early childhood
literacy. My biggest priority in my personal life is my family, including my husband
and our two teenage daughters.

As a parent, reading together has been one of the most rewarding ways to engage
with my daughters. The opportunity to snuggle close, share an experience, and
then follow with a conversation about a picture, a character, a choice, an idea, a
place we’d like to visit, or whatever is sparked by the narrative is truly priceless.
And, reading is something you never outgrow – so this has continued to be a way to
delve into important topics in a safe and meaningful way as my girls have aged. Join
me, and we’ll explore together!


Carol Loflin

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. Growing up, reading was modeled for me by my parents. Most nights they would both sit in our living room reading and discussing their books with each other.   I loved to join them with my own books and was so proud the day that I was able to read some of “their” books.

In my work as an educator for the past 39 years I realize that I always seemed to find a way to be involved in some sort of book club within my role. As an elementary and middle school teacher, I encouraged students to read the same books as others so they could share and discuss what they were reading. Then, as an elementary school principal in the San Ramon Valley (SRVUSD),  I had the opportunity to lead various types of book clubs, ranging from the Breakfast Book Club, held with students who were interested an hour before school started to the “Books of the Month” clubs, where the teachers and I read the same book to students each month. Book lists and questions were provided to parents and guardians to encourage their discussions with the children around these same books at home. Both kinds of clubs became staples in the schools and continue to this day.

For the past six years, I served as Director of Instruction, and then Executive Director of Elementary Education, for SRVUSD.  There, I had the opportunity to lead book studies with professionals with whom I worked. So, how fitting that I now have joined the Literary Masters team in this first year of retirement!


Sheekha Dewan

Reading and teaching young ones how to read has a special place in my heart.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of completing a novel and parting with the characters, which often times feels like saying good bye to a friend (or “see you later” in the case of a multi-part book / sequel). I have early memories of staying up late (well past my bedtime!) to sneak in a few additional pages. As a child, books were the vehicles that transported me to faraway places and connected me with enchanting characters.

As a Montessori teacher for the past 13 years in Toronto, London and New York, and as a literacy coach, I have always wanted to share the love I have for learning and reading with my students. Instilling a love and appreciation of literature in both my own children and students is extremely important to me. It is one of the reasons I went through Writing Workshop, Reading Workshop and Literacy Coaching training at Columbia University’s Teachers College.  Reader’s Workshop has always been my favorite part of my teaching day.

Our home has more books than toys – I am raising two little readers (our 5-year old daughter’s latest obsession is reading to our 2-year old son). Reading is something we do throughout the day together – we read voraciously. The children watch me read, they read their own books independently, but our favorite family activity is reading together.