Gail Godwin (Saturday Keynote) is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including Publishing, a memoir, and the novels Flora, Father Melancholy’s Daughter, and Evensong. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Woodstock, New York. You can follow her blog on her website, www.gailgodwin.com. Photo credit: Dion Ogust
Michael W. Twitty (Friday Banquet Speaker) is a culinary and cultural historian and the creator of www.Afroculinaria.com, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacy. He has been honored by the website First We Feast (www.firstwefeast.com) as one of twenty greatest food bloggers of all time, and named one of “Fifty People Changing the South” by Southern Living. He’s also been honored as one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by TakePart.Com. Twitty has appeared on NPR’s The Splendid Table and Morning Edition and has written for the Guardian, Ebony, Local Palate, and the Washington Post. He’s given over 300 talks in the U.S. and abroad, including audiences at the Smithsonian, Yale University, The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in England, and the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. He was a 2014 Smith Symposium Fellow of the Southern Foodways Alliance and a 2016 TED fellow and speaker, and was recently honored by Taste Talks with their first Culinary Pioneer Award. Twitty’s blog, Afrioculinaria, was honored with both the readers’ and editors’ choice awards from Saveur for the best food and culture blog. Twitty is also a Judaics teacher and writes on Jewish cultural issues. He is the also first Revolutionary in Residence at Colonial Williamsburg. His book, The Cooking Gene, was published by Harper Collins in 2017 and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. BREAKING NEWS! Mr. Twitty has just won the 2018 James Beard Awards for Best Food Writer and Best Book !
Kane Smego is a National Poetry Slam finalist, international touring spoken word poet and Hip Hop Artist, and educator. He has performed and taught poetry and Hip Hop programs across the country and abroad on five continents. Kane was featured on Grammy Award-winner King Mez’s debut album alongside production by J. Cole and Soundtrakk, and topped the Spotify Viral 50 billboard in May 2017 featuring on the song North Cack with G Yamazawa. The music video for the song appeared on BET Jams, and went on to win Best Music Video at the Hip Hop Film Festival in Harlem, NY. Kane is an artist alumnus and current Site Director of Next Level, a cultural diplomacy program that sends American hip-hop artists around the world to use music and dance to promote cultural exchange, entrepreneurship, and conflict prevention. He has performed and facilitated programs at colleges and K-12 schools across the country, has been a TEDex presenter, and performed at the Shriver Report Live hosted by Atlantic Magazine. A native of Durham, NC, Kane currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Leah Weiss is a bestselling author born in North Carolina and raised near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her debut novel If The Creek Don’t Rise was released in August 2017, and was selected as an Indie Next, Okra Pick and Library Read. It was nominated for the 2018 Southern Book Prize and is a finalist in the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award. Her short stories have been published in The Simple Life Magazine, The Serving House Journal, Every Day Fiction and Deep South Magazine. In 2015, she retired from a 24-year career as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. She lives in Virginia with her husband and writes, travels and hikes, and enjoys speaking to groups and book clubs. You can follow her at leahweiss.com
Formerly a park ranger, factory worker, and seller of cemetery plots, Joni Tevis is the author of two books of essays, The Wet Collection: A Field Guide to Iridescence and Memory, and The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse, both published by Milkweed Editions. Her essays have appeared in Orion, Oxford American, Poets & Writers, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and elsewhere. She serves as the Bennette E. Geer Associate Professor of English at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
Bryant Simon is professor of history at Temple University. He is the author of Boardwalk of Dreams, Everything but the Coffee, and The Hamlet Fire. His research and scholarship has earned awards and honors from the Fulbright Commission, Humboldt Foundation, Urban History Association, Organization of American Historians, and the Smithsonian Institution. His work and popular commentary have been featured in the New Yorker, Washington Post, Raleigh News and Observer, and numerous other outlets. Over last five years, Simon has lectured around the world and taught at the National University of Singapore, University of Tubingen, and University of Erfurt, and has served as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.
Sam Barbee’s poems have appeared Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Potato Eyes, Georgia Journal, Main Street Rag, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection, and The Blue Hour. His Second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press), has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD, received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch,” and is a Pushcart nominee. Sam lives in Winston-Salem with his wife and is the current President of the NC Poetry Society.
Sidney Wade’s seventh collection of poems, Bird Book, was published by Atelier26 Books in September 2017. She has served as President of AWP and Secretary/Treasurer of ALTA, and she taught workshops in Poetry and Translation at the University of Florida’s MFA@FLA program for 23 years. Her translation with Efe Murad of selected poems of Melih Cevdet Anday won the Meral Divitci Prize and was published by Talisman House in April 2017. She served as poetry editor for the literary journal Subtropics for many years, and her poems and translations have appeared in a wide variety of journals, including Poetry, The New Yorker, Grand Street, The Paris Review, as well as many other literary publications.
Christopher Swann is a graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. He earned a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University, an M.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. His debut novel Shadow of the Lions was a SIBA Okra Pick and bestseller, an Amazon Pick of the Month in August 2017, and one of Southern Living’s Best Southern Books of 2017, and is a finalist for Georgia’s 2018 Townsend Prize for Fiction.
Harriet Tomlinson Hill, a native of Alabama, has lived in Raleigh over 50 years with her husband, Jim. Two sons and their families reside in the same area. She earned a Bachelor of Music from Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC, has done extensive volunteer work in her community and is the author of two books. She spent over three years collaborating with her co-author, H’Yoanh Buonya, to write Escaping Viet Nam – H’Yoanh’s Story, a narrative that underscores the cost of freedom. Mrs. Hill’s second book, For the Love of Robert (in its second printing) relates the account of their third son’s tragic fatal accident and provides insight into the power of spiritual strength and family closeness. H’Yoanh Ksor Buonya and her husband, Y’Jim, (both naturalized citizens) were brought to the United States from Viet Nam in 1986 by Lutheran Family Services and our Special Forces. They were settled in Raleigh, NC. Since 1990, they have lived in their Habitat for Humanity house and have raised five children, all college educated. Their oldest daughter is an attorney in Arlington, VA. H’Yoanh is finishing her GED so that she may also pursue higher education. Her riveting memoir recounts her journey with other Montagnards into the Central Highlands of Viet Nam to escape persecution by the North Vietnamese Communists. It was 1975, after Saigon fell, and she was 16-years old. For 11-years, they encountered danger, starvation and death. H’Yoanh’s determination, defiance and deliverance are testaments to her faith.
Brothers Like These is comprised of stories and poems by Vietnam combat veterans and is also collected in a book of the same name, published by St. Andrews University Press, and is its current best-seller. It was performed twice as a staged reading at Asheville Community Theater and also at Appalachian State University. Brothers Like These evolved from the creative writing program that began in 2014 in a basement room, Classroom B, at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, where the Brothers gathered every Wednesday – and where that work still continues. The sessions were directed by Joseph Bathanti, a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State and Dr. Bruce Kelly, a primary care physician at the VA. Those sessions yielded extraordinary writing, an enduring testimony to the veterans’ sacred sense of community, love, and brotherhood. These are stories and poems, large and small, funny and heartbreaking, that only these men can relate in their own inimitable styles – stories and poems not just invaluable to succeeding generations of soldiers, but to every citizen of our country, and beyond. A handful of the Brothers will deliver readings from Brothers Like These.
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of five full-length collections of award-winning poetry, including Becoming the Blue Heron (Press 53, 2017), which was a recent Finalist for Poetry in the International Book Awards. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the 2013 Poet’s Market, Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Journal of the American Medical Association, Literary Mama, NASA News & Notes, North Carolina Literary Review, storySouth, The Christian Century, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and many others. Her articles, columns, and essays have appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal and Winston-Salem Journal West, PainPathways Magazine, Land Rover Monthly, Broad Street Review, Maria Shriver’s Architects of Change, O.Henry Seasons Style & Design Magazine, and others. She has taught poetry workshops in libraries, high schools, universities, churches, medical centers, and other venues, and was an instructor in the continuing education program at Salem College in Winston-Salem. Terri Kirby Erickson was also chosen as the 2013 Leidig Keynote Poet at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Among her many awards are the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, Gold Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, The “Poetry For Their Freedom”Award, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in Pfafftown, North Carolina, with her husband of twenty-six years, surrounded by poetry books and artwork, including a painting of their late and beloved cat, “Buddy,” done by her daughter when she was in elementary school, and works by her uncle, North Carolina artist Stephen White. For more information about her work, please visit www.terrikirbyerickson.com or www.Press53.com.
Daren Wang was born in Buffalo, New York. In 1971, his parents bought the Willis property in Town Line, New York and made the family home in the converted barn and rented out the main house. He is the founding Executive Director of AJC Decatur Book Festival, now in its twelfth year. As a public radio producer, he produced and or hosted several series including The Spoken Word, Porches: The South and Her Writers, Circle of Friends, Between the Lines, ArtVoice, and Atlanta Forum. His writing has appeared in Paste Magazine, Five Points Magazine, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, AJC Travel, The Saporta Report, and others. He published the short-lived audio magazine Verb:An Audioquarterly. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is his first novel. He is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in Decatur with his wife Eva.
Daniel S. (Dan) Pierce is the author of Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Mountain Community (Great Smoky Mountains Association, March 2017) an exploration of one of the most iconic watersheds in the Southern Appalachian region, focal point of the infamous Road to Nowhere controversy, research subject for Horace Kephart’s classic work Our Southern Highlanders, and the haven of legendary moonshiners, trout fishermen, and bear hunters. Hazel Creek was a 2017 Finalist for the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. He is also the author of The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park (UT Press, 2000), of Corn From a Jar: Moonshining in the Great Smoky Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2013), and the first truly comprehensive history of early NASCAR, Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France (UNC Press, 2010). He has also recently collaborated with renowned Nashville, Tennessee poster artist Joel Anderson to produce the Illustrated Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His work has been published in The New York Times, Southern Cultures, Smokies Life magazine, and numerous encyclopedias including the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He served as curator for the Western North Carolina Historical Society’s museum exhibit “Hillbilly: Myth and Reality of Appalachian Culture”(2014). He has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, The History Channel, CMT, HBO Canada, North Carolina People with William Friday, North Carolina Bookwatch, and the South Carolina ETV Emmy Award winning program Take on the South. He is NEH Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and resident professional hillbilly at the University of North Carolina-Asheville where he teaches courses in Appalachian, North Carolina, Southern, and Environmental History. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee where he worked with distinguished southern historian James C. Cobb.
Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of the memoir, The Going and Goodbye (Platypus Press, 2017) and a poetry and prose chapbook, None of Them Home (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). She has an MFA from Queens University, and her writing has been published in The Rumpus, Zone 3, Fiction Southeast, Cider Press Review, and The Louisville Review, among others. Her website is www.shulycawood.com.
Abigail DeWitt is the author of three novels: LILI (WW Norton), DOGS (Lorimer Press), and NEWS OF OUR LOVED ONES (forthcoming from Harper this year). Her short fiction has appeared in Five Points, Witness, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has been cited in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, nominated for a Pushcart, and has received grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, the McColl Center for the Arts, and the Michener Society.
Amy Willoughby-Burle grew up in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, North Carolina. She studied writing at East Carolina University and is now a writer and teacher living in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and four children. She writes about the mystery and wonder of everyday life. Her contemporary fiction focuses on the themes of second chances, redemption, and finding the beauty in the world around us. Sara Gruen says of The Lemonade Year, “When life gives you lemons, read this book. It’s a delicious glass of humor, heart, and hope.” Amy is the author of a collection of short stories entitled Out Across the Nowhere and a contributor to a number of anthologies.
Chantel Acevedo, called “a master storyteller” by Kirkus Reviews, is the author of Love and Ghost Letters, A Falling Star, The Distant Marvels, which was a finalist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and most recently, The Living Infinite, hailed by Booklist as a “vivid and enthralling tale of love and redemption.” Her essays have appeared in Vogue and Real Simple, among others. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Miami, where she teaches in the MFA program.
Jodi Lynn Anderson is the bestselling author of several critically acclaimed books for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel, Midnight at the Electric, is a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year, a Southern Book Prize nominee, and a Junior Library Guild and Indie Next selection. She lives in Asheville with her husband and son.
Mary Ann Claud grew up in Lancaster, South Carolina and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in music from Converse College. She began writing after moving to Tryon N.C. in the early 70’s. In 1976, she was offered a job writing a front page Sunday column for the Hendersonville (N.C.)Times News. During the ten years she continued to work as a columnist, she attended week-long writers’ workshops at Virginia Commonwealth University and at Duke University, dedicating herself to the writing of fiction. In 2014 she published her first novel, The Dancin’ Man. It chronicles the lives of a prominent Southern textile family caught in the industry’s decline. Two years later, she published a sequel, featuring the Ward/Brunson clan once again. Titled Whirlygig, The Dancin’ Man’s Daughter, it rejoins the family a decade later. She is presently working on the third volume of the Dancin’ Man trilogy, Alex Dances. With guidance and help from her editors at Lystra Books, Claud took a break from fiction in 2015. In her third book, Blue Ridge Pilgrimage, she revisits some of her favorite columns, first published in the Times–News, describing the many charms of the Southern Appalachian region where she makes her home.
John Carroll Whitener is the author of Don’t Ask and I Will Tell: Finding Myself in Vietnam, which chronicles the year he served in an Army clinic in Vietnam. Using diary entries written between 1966-1967, he explains from today’s perspective how fifty years on some things never change while others have evolved beyond what he could have imagined. During his 23-year career in the military the constant was his search for peace and self-acceptance as a closeted gay soldier. He credits the American War in Vietnam as the catalyst for his activism and second career in public health. Dr. Whitener graduated from Illinois College of Optometry and received a master’s degree in public health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His activism for gay rights began at UNC where he was one of the founders of the Carolina Gay Association. He was a community AIDS activist in the Washington, D.C. area serving on boards to promote AIDS education in public schools and health services in local health departments in Arlington, VA, and later in Asheville, NC. He is a member of Asheville First Congregational United Church of Christ and has served as a Deacon, Sunday school teacher, and Moderator of the Executive Board. He and Tony Saldana, his partner of 33 years, were married in Canada in 2008.
Lillah Schwartz, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, Iyengar trained, ran her own studio in Asheville, NC, from 1981-2013. Based on her personal experience with back pain, she became a trailblazer in this field and is now well respected for her therapeutic application of yoga. She will teach a breakout session at the 2018 IAYT Conference this June called “Healing Our Backs with Yoga: Proven & Practical Guidelines for Teaching Therapeutic Back Care Classes.” Through her three endorsed and nationally distributed therapeutic yoga DVDs and her 2016 book, Healing Our Backs with Yoga, Lillah offers the science and spirit of yoga to thousands who have become pain-free from her alignment-based, heartfelt instruction. For more information: LillahSchwartzYoga.com
Mallory McDuff teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College, where she lives on campus with her two daughters. She is the author of two books: Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth (OUP, 2010) and Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers, 2012), and co-author of “Conservation Education and Outreach Techniques” (OUP, 2015). She has published more than 50 essays and op-eds, which have appeared in The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, Sojourners, USA Today, Literary Mama, Full Grown People, US Catholic and more.
John Kessel’s speculative fiction includes the recently published Pride and Prometheus, the novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space, Corrupting Dr. Nice, and Freedom Beach (with James Patrick Kelly), and the collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. With James Patrick Kelly he edited the anthologies Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, The Secret History of Science Fiction, and Kafkaesque. Kessel teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University where he helped found the MFA program in creative writing and served twice as its director. He lives with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, in Raleigh.
Debra Frasier is the author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books including On the Day You Were Born, and Miss Alaineus, A Vocabulary Disaster. In addition to her well-known talks on creative process, Debra’s innovative “Book Events” build a community’s creativity through projects that start with a story. Visit debrafrasier.com to see how a parade of words can make you laugh, how the alphabet can transform a school carnival into a Word Event, or how a talking dog can make your heart swell and teach first-person writing at the same time!