Lizzie Stark bio photo
Photo Credit: J.R. Blackwell

Lizzie is the author of two nonfiction books. The most recent, Pandora’s DNA (October 2014), explored the history and science of the so-called ‘breast cancer genes’ and was named an ALA Notable Book of 2015. Her first book, Leaving Mundania (2012), investigated the subculture of live action roleplay, or larp, which is essentially make believe for grownups. Her journalism and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, the Daily Beast, The Today Show Website, io9, Fusion, the Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere.

She holds an MS in journalism from Columbia University and an MFA in fiction writing from Emerson College. She has been a resident at the Yaddo colony in 2013 and 2015, and in 2016 she was named a Wallace Foundation Resident there.


Lizzie has given keynotes, talks, and workshops related to both larp and BRCA. She’s spoken to college classes throughout the US, including at Duke, Harvard, Northeastern, Penn State, University of Utah, and Columbia Medical School; at conferences throughout the US and Nordic countries; and to institutions such as Dana Farber Cancer Center, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology, as well as museums and other cultural groups.

In April 2016, she gave a TEDx talk titled “Not Your Average Patient” at the College of William & Mary. She’s also appeared on the Today Show, HuffingtonPost Live, The Brian Lehrer Show, and All In with Chris Hayes.

Hereditary Breast Cancer

In 2010, at age 28, Lizzie cut off her healthy breasts to reduce her astronomical chances of developing breast cancer, since she has a harmful BRCA mutation that carries with it high risks for breast and ovarian cancer.

In Pandora’s DNA she uses her family’s experience to frame a larger story about the so-called breast cancer genes, exploring the morass of legal quandaries, scientific developments, medical breakthroughs, and ethical concerns that surround the BRCA mutations. Drawing from more than 200 documentary sources, and more than 40 interviews with patients, family members, and experts, Pandora’s DNA relates the troubling history of prophylactic surgery, the storied origins of the boob job and the landmark lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, which held patents on the BRCA genes every human carries in their body until the Supreme Court overturned them in 2013.

Pandora’s DNA earned starred reviews from KirkusLibrary Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly and accolades for its rendering of science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Guardian, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Participation Design

Lizzie has been designing, researching, and writing about participation design since 2008. She has served as a consultant to New York-based theater groups, theater teachers, museums, and major cultural institutions. Her research interests include community-building, inclusion, and psychological safety in roleplaying games. She also designs short, realist experiences aimed at letting you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Her games have been played all over the world.

She’s organized numerous conventions and experiences across the US. Her most recent work is as a programming coordinator for Living Games Austin, and as co-editor and contributor for the #Feminism anthology, which collects 34 nano-games written by feminists from eleven countries.

You can read more about her designs and writing on her games page.


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