The mission of the American Writers Museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.


Carey Cranston, President

Carey took on the role of President of the American Writers Museum in September of 2016. Prior to that Carey had been serving for 12 years as President of Fox College, a private career college in Chicago, and prior to that he was a Vice President at Hill & Knowlton, a global PR firm, where he led digital and web services with several major clients. He also served as Director of Technology and E-commerce at Kemper Lesnik Communications, a local PR firm in Chicago. Early in his career, Carey taught writing at UIC and DePaul and worked at both the DePaul University Library and at Kroch’s & Brentano’s Bookstore.

Carey earned a B.A. in English from DePaul University summa cum laude, a M.A in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a M.S. in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana..


Christopher Burrow, Director of Operations

Over his career Christopher has successfully managed business operations in several industries, including healthcare, hospitality, and educational training. He brings a vast amount of practical experience in addition to a great passion for the written word. Christopher is a poet and writer and his work has appeared in journals and magazines across the country. He has taught English abroad and holds a B.A. in English from Drake University.


Linda Dunlavy, Director of Development

Linda has been a professional fundraiser in Chicago for 24 years, previously with Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Chicago Architecture Foundation. She holds a B.A. in English and Art History from the University of Minnesota. Her creative writing has appeared in River Teeth Journal and Hippocampus.


Karie McGahan, Director of Marketing & Private Events

Karie brings over 15 years of experience in event management, marketing and public relations in the nonprofit arts and culture sector. Prior to joining the American Writers Museum, she was a business consultant for creative clientele. Karie earned a B.A. in English at the University of Iowa.


Allison Sansone, Program Director

After a decade as a newspaper reporter in Chicago and its suburbs, Allison became executive director of The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, which operates the Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum. She created the Foundation’s online presence, inaugurated its writing residency and coordinated the 17th Biennial Hemingway International Conference, a gathering of more than 300 scholars from around the world. She has authored and edited five books, including It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, a history of the groundbreaking college daily newspaper. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and numerous other publications.


Cristina Carrera, Facilities Supervisor

Cristina has dedicated her career working for nonprofit organizations in the areas of arts, education, and administration, previously at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Brookfield Zoo, and Openlands. She has taught in Spain and holds an M.F.A. in Writing from The School of the Art Institute and a B.A. in Anthropology from The University of Illinois at Chicago. She enjoys writing and painting in multidisciplinary forms.


Emily Decker-BessEmily Decker-Bess, Development & Special Projects Coordinator

Emily graduated from Pratt Institute with a double Masters degrees in Library Science and Art History in 2014, focusing on women and comic art. She previously worked at Marvel and wrote for online blogs including, The Rumpus. In addition to giving lectures on the history of comic books and women in comics at various schools and organizations, she has been on panels at Rutgers, WonderCon, and C2E2 and continues to be a professional nerd. She went into fundraising in 2016 at the Field Museum, then moved to the AWM in February 2019.


Nikki Geslani, Development & Membership Associate

Nikki joined the AWM team in April 2018. She graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Sociology. With a deep-rooted interest in diverse representations reflected in American society, Nikki is a dilettante artist, musician, and sometimes writer.


Catherine Ryan, Assistant Director of Marketing & Private Events

Catherine began her involvement with the American Writers Museum as the Administrative Assistant in June of 2015 after hearing about the museum in its early stages. She has been involved in general operations, event planning, and fundraising efforts, and is now the Assistant Director of Marketing & Events. She has a B.A. in Communication from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


Sonal Shukla, Assistant Director of Programming & Education

Sonal worked as a market researcher for various CPG companies prior to moving to Chicago from Mumbai, India. She volunteered at the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park where she streamlined the administrative functions and developed marketing strategies. Her involvement with the museum started in August 2016 where she began her work as an Intern looking at various marketing and programs. Sonal recently completed her MBA degree in Marketing and Information Systems from Roosevelt University. She is also a part of a local south asian theater group and has performed in various plays.


Nate King, Content & Communications Coordinator

Nate graduated from Ithaca College in 2014 with a B.A. in Journalism and a penchant for American literature. For three years he waited tables while developing a healthy writing habit, during which time he became a regular blogger for the AWM blog. His writing has also appeared in The Littleton Courier and The Ithacan, as well as the online magazine Ithaca Week. Originally from the mountains of New Hampshire, Nate moved to Chicago in 2015.


Ari Bachechi, Data Operations Coordinator

Ari started at the AWM as an intern involved in multiple aspects of the museum. She has since moved into data analytics and management of the AWM Affiliate Museum Program. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Anthropology in 2018. She previously interned at the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park.


Photo of Courtney BorjasCourtney Borjas, Storyteller

Courtney joined AWM in April 2017.  As a lifelong literature connoisseur and history buff, she could not pass up the opportunity to help share the contextual significance of American writing.  She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in History and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   When she is not reading, Courtney can be found engaging with America’s other cherished pastime, baseball.


Photo of Cassidy KearnsCassidy Kearns, Storyteller

Cassidy started working at the AWM shortly after it opened its doors in 2017. He graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. His short fiction has been published in Hair Trigger, and when not working at the museum he continues to work on his writing.


Photo of Zoe NymanZoe Nyman, Storyteller

Zoe has been working at the American Writers Museum since May of 2017, following the Museum’s grand opening. Initially an intern under events and programs, Zoe transitioned to the floor staff as a Gallery Attendant in 2018. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Zoe leads an interdisciplinary practice in art, writing, producing, and event hosting, now as the founder and director of the Backyard Series.


Photo of Jake TrappJake Trapp, Storyteller

Jake has worked with the museum since the opening in 2017, Jake recently earned a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He has been writing stories most of his life, and doesn’t plan on stopping soon. Otherwise, he enjoys playing bass and discovering new kinds of music and literature.