Charles Frazier (Saturday Keynote) grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Cold Mountain (1997), his highly acclaimed first novel, was an international bestseller, won the National Book Award in 1997, and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film by Anthony Minghella in 2003. Charles’s second novel, Thirteen Moons (2006), was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His third novel, Nightwoods (2011), also a New York Times bestseller, is a critically acclaimed literary thriller set in a fictional Western North Carolina town in the early 1960s. Charles’s latest novel, Varina, an instant New York Times bestseller released in April of 2018, is a fictional reimagining of the life of Varina Howell Davis before, during, and after the American Civil War.
Charles received a B.A. from the University of North Carolina, an M.A. from Appalachian State University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina. He taught English at University of Colorado Boulder and at North Carolina State University. Photo Mark Humphrey / AP
Marlin Barton is from the Black Belt region of Alabama. His most recent book is Pasture Art, a collection of short stories. He has published two novels, The Cross Garden and A Broken Thing, and two previous collections, The Dry Well and Dancing by the River. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories. He has also been awarded the Truman Capote Prize for short fiction. He teaches in, and helps direct, the Writing Our Stories project, a program for juvenile offenders created by the Alabama Writer’s Forum, and he’s been teaching in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College since 2010.
Lena Epps Brooker was born in Lumberton and grew up in the rural community of Saddletree in Robeson County in eastern NC. She attended Magnolia School, a public school for American Indians, and was the first American Indian (and first person of color) to graduate from Meredith College, Raleigh. She lived in Raleigh for 26 years, taught school, and worked for NC State Government, including the Commission of Indian Affairs, the Department of Employment and Training, and The Women’s Center. She was the corporate diversity consultant for a multi-state financial institution. Brooker’s volunteer activities in Raleigh included board member of the city’s Human Relations Council, the Arts Council, and the Triangle Native American Society. She served on the boards of NC Council of Women, NC American Civil Liberties Union, and the administrative board of Hayes Barton United Methodist church. She is a certified lay minister for the Western NC Conference of the United Methodist Church. Brooker’s honors include the Lights of Hope Award from the Wake Public Schools, Woman of Achievement Award from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of NC, Who’s Who in the South, and the Distinguished Woman Award from American Indian Women of Proud Nations. Lena is married to Jim Brooker and lives north of Asheville on a mountainside overlooking Reems Creek Valley. In addition to enjoying time with their two children, she also gardens and plays tennis.
Wayne Caldwell, a native of Asheville NC, is the author of two novels, Cataloochee (2007) and Requiem by Fire (2010), as well as several prize-winning short stories. He has won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the WNC Historical Association and the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is at work on another novel and a collection of poems.
Jacqui Castle is a local author and freelance writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville. Castle has been an active voice in the community for several years, having contributed to a variety of local publications, including Mountain Xpress, WNC Woman, Asheville Grit, and Explore Asheville. Castle is also an associate producer on Asheville FM 103.3 WordPlay Radio, which airs each Sunday at 3pm. Her dystopian science-fiction novel, The Seclusion, was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Sci-Fi Book of September 2018, and was called a “must-have for all libraries and fans of sci-fi ” by School Library Journal.
Tyree Daye is a poet from Youngsville, North Carolina. He is the winner of the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize for his book River Hymns (APR, 2017). Daye is a 2017 Ruth Lilly Finalist and Cave Canem fellow and longtime member of the editorial staff at Raleigh Review. He received his MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Daye’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, New York Times, Nashville Review. Daye recently won the Amy Clampitt Residency for 2018, the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award, the 2019 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellowship and the 2019 Diana and Simon Raab Writers-In- Residence. He is a finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Award.
Mylène Dressler is the author of four novels, including her latest, The Last To See Me, praised as a “bewitching, gorgeous mystery” by Kirkus Reviews and as “chilling” and “unforgettable” by Booklist. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Creative Nonfiction, The Massachusetts Review, Literary Hub, and The Washington Post, among others. She is a professor of creative writing at Guilford College, where she directs the Sherwood Anderson Creative Writing Program.
Georgann Eubanks is the author of the three volume North Carolina Literary Trails series of guidebooks commissioned by the NC Arts Council and published by UNC Press. Her latest book is The Month of their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods Through the Year (UNC Press, 2018), named one of Garden and Gun magazine’s 18 Must Reads for September, 2018. Georgann has published poetry, fiction, profiles, reviews, and essays in many magazines and journals, including Southern Cultures, South Writ Large, Our State, and Oxford American. Since 2000 she has been a principal with Donna Campbell in Minnow Media, LLC, an Emmy-winning multimedia company that primarily creates independent documentaries for public television. Eubanks has taught creative writing and the power of story to nonprofit leaders, UNC undergraduates, public school students, and adult writers in many contexts. Georgann is director of the Table Rock Writers Workshop, held at Wildacres in Little Switzerland, NC, and a founder of the North Carolina Writers Network. She is the current president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.
Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors’ Choice; A Southern Living Best Book of 2018; An Amazon Editors’ Best Book of 2018; A Refinery29 Best Book of 2018; A New York Post Most Unforgettable Book of 2018, and more. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Essays about the sideshow won the 2016 AWP Intro Award in Nonfiction, and have appeared in The Rumpus, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Autre, and elsewhere. Other work can be found in Glamour, The Believer, LitHub, FSG’s Works in Progress, Creative Nonfiction, The Normal School, DIAGRAM, [PANK], Brevity, and elsewhere. She’s received awards and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Taft Nicholson Center, Writing by Writers, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and taught for the New York Times summer journeys as well as founding a Salt Lake City Writers in the Schools program. She currently lives in South Carolina with her fella and pup.
Dr. L.S. Gardiner is the author of Tales from an Uncertain World: What Other Assorted Disasters Can Teach Us About Climate Change. She creates educational experiences about weather and climate for blogs, websites, museum exhibits, and classrooms at the UCAR Center for Science Education, which is affiliated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. She is a fan of interdisciplinary projects that utilize art and story in order to communicate science. Gardiner is the author of two and the illustrator of nine books about science for children and the creator of numerous science comics. Before her education career, Gardiner was a scientist studying fossils in the Bahamas. She holds a PhD in geology from the University of Georgia, a BA in geology and marine science from Smith College, and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College. When she’s not writing books and creating science education resources, L.S. can be found caring for a herd of goats at an urban farm in Boulder, Colorado.
Jaki Shelton Green is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate. She teaches Documentary Poetry at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies where she is a past Duke University Teaching for Equity Fellow. Awards: 2019 Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award, 2018 Tar Heel of the Year Finalist, 2018 Indies Arts Award, 2018 R. Hunt Parker Award, 2018, Phi-Beta Kappa Award, 2017-2018 Duke University Faculty Travel Grants, 2017 Kingdom of Morocco Ministry of National Education Certification of Teacher Excellence, 2016 Kathryn H. Wallace Award for Artists in Community Service, 2014 NC Literary Hall of Fame Inductee, 2014 Pushcart Prize Nominee, 2009 NC Piedmont Laureate Appointment, 2007 Sam Ragan Award, 2003 NC Award in Literature. Publications: Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song (Carolina Wren Press/Blair Publishers), Feeding the Light, I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press). Her poetry has been published in over eighty national and international anthologies, journals, and magazines. She is the owner of SistaWRITE providing writing retreats for women writers in Sedona Arizona, Ocracoke NC, Agadir Morocco, and Tullamore Ireland.
Jacquelyn Dowd Hall Jacquelyn Dowd Hall was the founding director of the Southern Oral History Program and is the Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History Emerita at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching, and coauthor of the prize-winning Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. She helped to found the modern field of women’s history, spark a thriving scholarship on southern labor history, and turn the study of the civil rights movement in new directions. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association and founding president of the Labor and Working Class History Association. She was awarded a National Humanities Medal for “recording history through the lives of ordinary people, and, in so doing, for making history.” She resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
For nearly two decades and while traveling to ten countries, Jim Herrington created a portrait series of early-to-mid 20th Century mountain climbing legends. The result of this is The Climbers, a collection of sixty black-and-white photographs that document rugged individualists, including the likes of Royal Robbins, Reinhold Messner, Yvon Chouinard and Riccardo Cassin. Between the 1920s and 1970s these determined men and women used primitive gear along with their considerable wits, talent, and fortitude to tackle unscaled peaks around the world. In these images, Herrington has captured their humanity, obsession, intellect, and frailty. The book received both the Grand Prize and the Mountaineering History Award at the 2017 Banff Film & Book Festival. Herrington co-produced the Jerry Lee Lewis episode for the HBO/Cinemax series Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus that premiered September 2017. Herrington’s photography has been exhibited in solo and group gallery shows in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Nashville, Milwaukee and Charlotte, and is in numerous private collections. Herrington is a photographer whose portraits of celebrities, including Benny Goodman, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, Cormac McCarthy, Morgan Freeman and Dolly Parton, have appeared on the pages of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Outside, and The New York Times, as well as on scores of album covers, for more than three decades. He has photographed international ad campaigns for clients such as Thule, Trek Bikes, Gibson Guitars and Wild Turkey Bourbon.
Michael Hettich’s most recent book of poems, To Start an Orchard, was published this year by Press 53. Other books include Bluer and More Vast: Prose Poems (Hysterical Books, 2018), The Frozen Harbor (Red Dragonfly Press, 2017) and Systems of Vanishing (University of Tampa Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in such journals as Orion, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and Poetry East. His awards include three Florida Artist Fellowships, a Florida Book Award, the David Martinson/Meadowhawk Prize (for The Frozen Harbor) and The Tampa Review Prize. A frequent collaborator with visual artists, musicians and fellow writers, his website is michaelhettich.com, and his email address is email@example.com.
Britt Kaufmann is a founding planner of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival who still creates the annual bookmarks and posters. She has had two plays produced by Parkway Playhouse and her poetry and prose have appeared in The Mennonite Literary Journal, Kakalak Poetry Anthology, WNC Magazine, Now & Then, WNC Woman, and The Pedestal Magazine among others. She works as a tutor in the local schools and lives with her husband and three teenage children just outside Burnsville, NC. brittkaufmann.com
Mendy Knott is a poet/writer who lives on a small farm in Busick, NC between Burnsville and Spruce Pine. Her book, A Little Lazarus, is a memoir in poetry form. Her cookbook, Across the ArkLaTex, is a written legacy to the women cooks in her family. She has been published in many anthologies and literary journals, including The Asheville Poetry Review, A Different Season hospice booklet, and Creative Nonfiction’s Southern Sin. She won second place in the international screenplay competition One In Ten for her screenplay titled Men Only!! Mendy has performed in venues across the South, taught dozens of writing workshops, and hosted a popular poetry open mic in every town or city in which she has lived for the past 18 years. This is the accomplishment of which she is most proud, encouraging others to write and share their work. Her current open mic takes place in Micaville, NC at Maples Cafe every third Thursday of each month.
In his 35 years as a journalist, Andrew Lawler (Friday banquet keynote) has written more than a thousand articles for more than two-dozen publications. He has covered space shuttle disasters, interviewed remote peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, and investigated the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Along with his work for National Geographic, he is a long-time contributing writer for Science and Archaeology magazines, and has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Discover, Audubon, and Columbia Journalism Review among others; his work has appeared twice in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Lawler also twice won the Gene S. Stuart award for archaeology reporting, and was awarded the MIT Knight Science Journalism and the Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown fellowships. Lawler started his career with The Futurist magazine in Washington, and fell into a job covering NASA just two weeks before the space shuttle Challenger blew up during launch. For the next decade, he reported on every aspect of the American, Russian, Indian, and Chinese space programs before moving to Science, where he covered Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. During his fellowship at MIT, he met an archaeologist who invited him to Baghdad in 2001. That led him to excavations across the Middle East, where he also chronicled the subsequent destruction of cultural heritage sites across the region. He subsequently expanded that beat to include Afghanistan and other Central Asian and East Asian nations. In 2014, Simon & Schuster published his book, Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. Shortly after that, he met Mark Horton of the University of Bristol, who was digging on Hatteras Island off the North Carolina coast. That led to his article in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic on the search for the Lost Colony. Doubleday published his second book, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the same month. The book made the national bestseller list and was in the top five in Southern independent bookstores; The Economist called it “lively and engaging” while The Washington Post declared it “just plain fascinating.” The paperback was published in June 2019.
Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated with the attitudes, social policies and changes in China each times she visits. Jennie lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two boys. She is a member of SCWBI and the Historical Novel Society. Girls on the Line is a Junior Library Guild Selection and received an honor mention with the Freeman Book Awards which recognizes books that contribute meaningfully to the understanding of East and Southeast Asia.
A native of Asheville, Michael McFee has taught in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1990. He is the author of eleven books of poetry and two collections of essays, The Napkin Manuscripts: Selected Essays and an Interview (University of Tennessee Press) and Appointed Rounds: Essays, published by Mercer University Press last year. He has received the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association. Governor Cooper presented him with the North Carolina Award for Literature last November.
Mesha Maren is the author of the novel Sugar Run (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, Oxford American, Crazyhorse, Southern Cultures, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution.
Jamie Mason was born in Oklahoma City and grew up all over the Washington, DC area. She’s most often reading and writing, but in the life left over, she enjoys films, Formula 1 racing, football, traveling, and, conversely, staying at home. Jamie lives with her husband and two daughters in the mountains of western North Carolina. She is the author of Three Graves Full, Monday’s Lie, and most recently, The Hidden Things, from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books.
Scott Mason is a broadcast journalist with 35 years of television experience. Today, Scott is known as the Tar Heel Traveler. His Monday-Thursday feature series on WRAL takes viewers along the back roads of North Carolina. Scott has published four books about his television adventures, including Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys across North Carolina (2019). Scott graduated in 1984 from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where he majored in Journalism and Communications. He earned his MFA degree in creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte in 2015. Scott lives in Raleigh with his wife and three children.
Appalachian heritage is the common thread binding Valerie Nieman’s wide range of writing, from science fiction to mainstream to horror novels, and both lyric and narrative poetry. Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, was published in fall 2018, with work that has appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, and other journals. Her fourth novel, To the Bones, a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, was a spring 2019 release from West Virginia University Press. Her writing has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. She has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.
Stacy R. Nigliazzo is the award-winning author of Scissored Moon and Sky the Oar. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Ilanot Review, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. She reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing and the Bellevue Literary Review. She lives in Houston, Texas and has worked as an emergency room nurse for the past thirteen years.
Barbara O’Connor is the author of seventeen novels and biographies for children. Drawing on her Carolina roots, Barbara’s novels have a distinctly Southern voice. Her books have received many distinctions, including ALA Notable, NCTE Notables and Parents Choice Gold Awards and have been nominated for young readers’ choice awards in 38 states.
Elaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of Swimming Between Worlds, A Different Sun, two scholarly books, and the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria. Learn more at www.elaineneilorr.com.
Joanne O’Sullivan: Bio and headshot coming soon
Sandy Parks’ thrillers are award winning. Repossessed received a 2013 Kiss of Death Daphne du Maurier Mainstream Mystery/ Suspense Award, a 2013 Maggie Award for Novel with Strong Romantic Element, and a HOLT Award of Merit. Off the Chart won a 2017 Maggie Award for Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance. Flying and science are evident themes in Sandy’s manuscripts. She is a hydrogeologist by training with an MS in geological sciences and has taken additional graduate engineering course work. She has taught at a university, worked on a military project for the Air Force Flight Test Center, worked as a design engineer for a civil engineering firm, and done computer modeling and field studies as a hydrogeologic consultant. Keeping up with her two sons, she also learned how to fly and dive and survived sparring for fifteen years as a black belt in kenpo karate. She has studied in England and Italy, traveled to South Africa, Egypt, Asia, and South America, and still travels to places of interest all over the world so she can make her stories richer.
Bobbie Pryon was born in Hollywood, Florida and spent her growing up years up in the panhandle, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and dreaming of being a mermaid. She has degrees in Psychology and Anthropology, and a Masters degree in Library Science, and worked as a librarian for over twenty-five years.
Her first book, a novel for teens titled The Ring (WestSide Books), was published in October of 2009. Her second book, A Dog’s Way Home (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books), was published to starred reviews in March of 2011. The Dog Writers Association of America awarded Bobbie the Maxwell Medal of Excellence and the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. It was also named a Banks Street Best Books of the Year. The critically acclaimed The Dogs of Winter (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), came out in 2012. The Dogs of Winter was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Kirkus Best 100 Children’s Books of the Year, and a Bank Street Best Book for 2013, and Utah Book Award finalist. Lucky Strike (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic 2015) received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Her new book, A Pup Called Trouble (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), entered the world February, 2018 to starred reviews. Her next book, Stay, due out summer 2019, explores the issues surrounding families experiencing homelessness.
Bobbie lives in Mars Hill, NC with her husband. When she’s not writing, she can be found on high mountain trails following her dogs. You can visit her on her website www.bobbiepyron.com
Lisa Sturz has been a professional puppeteer for over forty years. She is is the Artistic Director of Red Herring Puppets, a national touring company specializing in curriculum-based performances. They have earned a California Emmy and an UNIMA citation, the highest honor in American puppetry.
Red Herring Puppets have been featured at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, the Puppet Showplace in Brookline, Massachusetts, and the 1st International Puppet Fringe Festival in NYC. Their adult production of “My Grandfather’s Prayers” has been taped to air internationally on JLTV.
She has worked with Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Imagineering, Jim Henson Productions, NBC, PBS, the Ice Capades, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Asheville Symphony, UNCTV, JLTV and many more. She has taught puppetry at CalPoly and Warren-Wilson College and conducts residencies and teacher trainings. Lisa has fabricated figures for Silver Dollar City, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Harrah’s Casino and many theatrical productions.
Film and TV credits include: Murphy Brown, Puzzle Place, Elmo in Grouchland, Muppets from Space, Howard the Duck, the Flintstones, Ninja Turtles III, Roger Rabbit, Gremlins II, RoboCop and Batman Returns.
Terry Roberts’ direct ancestors have lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina since the time of the Revolutionary War. His family farmed in the Big Pine section of Madison County for generations and is also prominent in the Madison County town of Hot Springs, a consistent setting in his novels. Among his forebears are prominent bootleggers and preachers but no one who, like Jedidiah Robbins, from The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival, combines both occupations. His debut novel, A Short Time to Stay Here, won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, and his second novel, That Bright Land, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award as well as the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South. Both novels won the annual Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, given to the author of the best novel written by a North Carolinian. Born and raised near Weaverville, North Carolina, Roberts is the Director of the National Paideia Center and lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife, Lynn. He has three children: Jesse, Margaret, and Henry.