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2023 Authors

2023 Carolina Mountain Literary Festival Participating Authors


Keynote Speaker and Author, Jason Mott

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jason Mott lives in southeastern North Carolina. He has a BFA in Fiction and an MFA in Poetry, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His poetry and fiction have appeared in various literary journals. He was nominated for a 2009 Pushcart Prize award and Entertainment Weekly listed him as one of their 10 “New Hollywood: Next Wave” people to watch.

He is the author of two poetry collections: We Call This Thing Between Us Love and “…hide behind me…” He is the author of three novels: The Returned, The Wonder of All Things, and The Crossing.

The Returned, Jason’s debut novel, was adapted by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, in association with Brillstein Entertainment and ABC. It aired on the ABC network under the title “Resurrection.”

Jason’s fourth novel, Hell Of A Book, was released in the summer of 2021, and received the 2021 National Book Award. It’s a story that goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole. Photo: Michael Becker

Author website: https://authorsunbound.com/jason-mott/


Memoirist Anne E Tazewell is an award-winning advocate for the environment and adventure lover. A married mother of three children and grandmother of one, Anne has imported handicrafts from South America and Southeast Asia, opened a vegetarian restaurant in Virginia, and been a textile artist in Key West, Florida. For twenty-plus years (17 at NC State University), she served as a clean energy expert focused on increasing efficiency and expanding renewable energy use. Anne has a BA in Environmental Studies from Florida’s New College and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. She lives in Carrboro, North Carolina. Anne’s compelling memoir A Good Spy Leaves No Trace: Big Oil, CIA Secrets, And A Spy Daughter’s Reckoning is part ghost story, part secret political history, part call to action, and part family memoir. 

Author website: http://www.annetazewell.com/


Brent Martin is the author of George Masa’s Wild Vision: A Japanese Immigrant Imagines Western North Carolina, winner of the 2022 Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize, and The Changing Blue Ridge Mountains: Essays on Journeys Past and Present.  He is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry and served for two years as the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the West. He lives in the Cowee community of Western North Carolina, where he serves as Director of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy and where he and his wife Angela Faye Martin own and operate Alarka Institute, a nature and place based business that offers a wide variety of river trips and outings.

Author website: https://www.alarkaexpeditions.com/


Corban Addison is the international bestselling author of four novels, A Walk Across the Sun, The Garden of Burning Sand, The Tears of Dark Water, which won the inaugural Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, and A Harvest of Thorns, and one work of nonfiction, Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial. His books have been published in more than twenty-five countries and address some of today’s most pressing issues of justice and human rights. 

Author website: http://corbanaddison.com/


Darren Farrell is an award-winning author and illustrator. His newest book, Give This Book Away! (Knopf) isn’t destined for a pile in your bedroom. It won’t gather dust on a bookshelf. This book is for you to read and enjoy and then to give away – yes away!

Mr Farrell has written and illustrated a number of books for children, including Thank You, Octopus, an NPR Best Book of the Year, Dandelion Magic, a 2022 Imagination Library pick and Letter Town, which inspired the Audible Original show Letter Town Detective. Mr Farrell lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Author website: http://darrenfarrell.com


Denise Kiernan is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. Her books have been translated into seven languages worldwide. Her spouse, Joseph D’Agnese, is an author, journalist, and ghostwriter who has won awards for his writing in three different genres: short mystery fiction, children’s books, and nonfiction science writing. The pair live in Asheville with three goldfish, a frisky puppy, and a Roomba.

Author website: denisekiernan.com   |   josephdagnese.com


Dr. Benjamin Gilmer is a family medicine physician in Asheville, North Carolina. He is an International Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life and associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill and at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). A former neurobiologist turned rural family doctor, Dr. Gilmer has lectured widely about medical ethics, rural health, and the intersection of medicine and criminal justice reform. He is a passionate teacher of medical education and leads MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative, a program to inspire and train students to pursue rural medicine and advocacy. 

His recently published book, The Other Dr. Gilmer (Ballantine/Penguin Random House) and feature film project currently in development (Concordia Films) both highlight the injustice of mass incarceration of people with mental illness. Both projects are based on a 2013 This American Life podcast (“Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde”), a collaboration between Benjamin and Sarah Koenig (“Serial”) which has had more than 20 million listeners. His book has been recognized by the New York Times, Washington Post, People Magazine and was one of the “Best books of 2022” by the NYC Public Library.

Author website: https://benjamingilmer.com/


Dr. Michael Frierson is a Professor in Media Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He served as Co-Producer on Up from the Streets (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2020), a documentary on New Orleans music.His other documentary work includes an hour-long film documentary on New Orleans photographer Clarence John Laughlin and FBI KKK, a personal documentary about his father Dargan Frierson who was an FBI in Greensboro during the civil rights struggles in the 1960s. He teaches film/video production and editing, and has shot and edited short films for Nickelodeon, Children’s Television Workshop, MSN Video, and AT&T Blueroom. Dr Frierson’s  recent documentary Fred Chappell:  I am One of You Forever  tells the story of novelist and poet Fred Chappell, and his journey from mountain farm boy to North Carolina poet laureate.

Author website: https://www.michaelfrierson.com


Erica Abrams Locklear is a professor of English and the Thomas Howerton Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of North Carolina Asheville. She is the author of Appalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People (University of Georgia Press) and Negotiating a Perilous Empowerment: Appalachian Women’s Literacies (Ohio University Press), as well as various essays about food culture and literature in the South and Appalachia. She is a seventh-generation Western North Carolinian with roots in Buncombe, Madison, and Yancey counties.

Author website: https://www.unca.edu/person/erica-abrams-locklear/


Hilda Downer is the author of four collections of poetry. Wiley’s Last Resort was published in 2022. Her second book, Sky Under the Roof, was a Nautilus Golden Poetry Winner and published 35 years after her first book, Bandana Creek, in 1979. When Light Waits For Us was released in 2021. Retired from teaching English at ASU and from psychiatric nursing, she is a long-term member of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative with an MFA from Vermont College. She grew up in Bandana in Mitchell County.

Author website: https://www.facebook.com/hilda.downer


Hope Larson is the multiple Eisner-winning, New York Times bestselling author of numerous graphic novels for young readers, including A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, Salt Magic, the Eagle Rock series (All Summer Long, All Together Now, All My Friends), and the forthcoming YA hybrid book, Be That Way. She lives in Asheville, NC.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/despairlarson/


Kenneth Chamlee is the author of If Not These Things (Kelsay Books, 2022) and The Best Material for the Artist in the World, a poetic biography of 19th century American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023). His poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Cold Mountain Review, The Worcester Review, Ocean State Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, and The Ekphrastic Review, among other places. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Brevard College in North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Ken served as the 2022 and 2023 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the western region of the North Carolina Poetry Society’s mentorship program.

Author website: http://www.kennethchamlee.com/


Kyle R. Thomas is a writer from Tennessee.  His passion for theatre began at a young age when he first discovered his father’s cast album of The Phantom of the Opera. He fed that passion as a performer in high school and community theatre productions. His love of history inspired his first screenplay, The First Debate, about the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He wrote several more screenplays – being dubbed a “writer to watch” by The Black List – before returning his writing energy to his first love: the stage. He adapted his screenplay Portrait of a Young Man into a monologue, which was selected for the 2022 Rogue Theatre Festival in New York City. After performing the monologue himself at The Players Theatre, it was also produced at The Walnut House in Murfreesboro, Tenn. His play, This House Is Not a Home, received its premiere by Murfreesboro Little Theatre earlier this year, and his most recent play, Clocks Are Likes Angels, is being featured in the 2023 Appalachian Playwriting Festival. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Thomas lives with his wife Collette and children Jacob, Anna Grace and Jeremiah in Murfreesboro.


Lauren Yero is a Cuban American writer and teacher who writes speculative, near-future stories of resistance, adventure, and first love that question the structures our world is built upon. Born in Florida, she received her BA from Davidson College and her MA in Literature and Environment from the University of Nevada Reno. Her desire to connect more deeply with her Cuban roots led her to study and work throughout the Spanish- speaking world—including Chile, where she drew inspiration for her debut YA novel Under This Forgetful Sky. She lives with her family in Marshall, NC.

Author website: https://www.laurenyero.com


Dr. Len Lawson is the author of Negro Asylum for the Lunatic Insane (Main Street Rag, 2023), Chime (Get Fresh Books, 2019), and the chapbook Before the Night Wakes You (Finishing Line Press, 2017). He is also co-editor of The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry (Blair Press, 2021) and Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race (Muddy Ford Press, 2017). South Carolina Humanities awarded him a 2022 Governor’s Award for Fresh Voices in the Humanities.  He has received fellowships from Tin House Summer Workshop, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Callaloo Barbados, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts among others. His poetry appears in African American Review, Callaloo, Ninth Letter, Verse Daily, Poetry Northwest, and has been translated internationally. Dr. Lawson earned a Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Born and living in South Carolina, he is currently Assistant Professor of English at Newberry College.

Author website: www.lenlawson.co


Dr. Lori Leachman just retired as an Emerti Professor of economics from Duke University. She never had an aspiration to write creatively, however, when her father died in 2012, she knew she had a story that deserved telling. Writer friends assured her that the story was compelling, and that she needed to be the one to write it. Over the course of the next few years she let the story percolate. In 2015, while vacationing in France she began writing vignettes. Within a few months she had an outline of the story. Within two years The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen was complete.

Author website: http://www.lorileachman.net/


Maia Toll is the award winning author of the Wild Wisdom series, The Night School, and Letting Magic In. After pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and a master’s at New York University, Maia apprenticed with a traditional healer in Ireland where she spent extensive time studying the growing cycles of plants, the alchemy of medicine making, and the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. She is the co-owner of the retail store Herbiary, with locations in Asheville, NC and Philadelphia, PA.

Author website: https://maiatoll.com/


Marcie Cohen Ferris, author of The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region and Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South, is professor emerita of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Author website: https://www.ediblenc.com/


Award-winning author and educator Marjorie Hudson was born in the Midwest, grew up in Washington, DC, and now lives in rural North Carolina. Her debut novel Indigo Field uses the voices of trees, the spirits of the dead, and a community of present-time characters to confront issues of justice and past crimes against Black and Indigenous people in the South. Her story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas explores the lives of newcomers encountering the South, and her creative nonfiction mosaic Searching for Virginia Dare digs into the disappearance of America’s first colony through research, travelogue, interview, and memoir. Her work raising awareness of enslaved poet George Moses Horton earned her the Sarah Belk Gambrell Artist-Educator Award. Hudson lives with her husband Sam and dog DJ on a century farm in Chatham County, where she mentors writers and reads poetry to trees.

Author website:  https://www.marjoriehudson.com


Chef & Farmer = CheFarmer Matthew Raiford for the past decade has been at Gilliard Farms, the sixth-generation farming land that has been in his family since 1874, Matthew has worked to make it a mission to work alongside farmers and chefs to bridge the gap between the seed and the table.

After a military career, then attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and attended the UC Santa Cruz Center for AgroEcology and Sustainable Food System.

Matthew currently sits as Board Chair for Georgia Organics, and is the co-founder alongside his wife, Tia, of Strong Roots 9, a lifestyle brand which is dedicated to creating products and experiences for Americans to reconnect with the nation’s natural heritage, from the perspective of the people whose ancestors helped build it.

Author website: https://www.strongroots9.com/


Maureen Oehler DuRant’s cousin in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, died a few years ago at 102, and her Aunt Mary in Belfast, Northern Ireland was two weeks from her 100th birthday when she died, so she believes, perhaps, there is still time, after all, to be a poet. Maureen earned an MFA in Creative Writing with her patient husband’s GI Bill at Queens University of Charlotte and her poetry has appeared in Crosstimbers, Red River Review, Westview, and The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology. She is the co-author of Postcard History Series: West Point, published by Arcadia Press in 2007. Press 53 published her first poetry collection, Skirmishes on the Okie-Irish Border, on April 1, 2022. She currently serves as the country’s loudest librarian at Lawton Public School’s Life Ready Center. She also teaches creative writing and communications at Cameron University.

Author website: https://www.press53.com/maureen-oehler-durant


Meagan Lucas is the author of the award-winning novel, Songbirds and Stray Dogs (2019) and the forthcoming collection, Here in the Dark (July 2023).  Meagan’s short work can be found in places like Still: The Journal, Bull Magazine, and Pithead Chapel. Meagan is Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Derringer nominated; Songbirds and Stray Dogs was NC’s selection for the Library of Congress Center for the Book’s 2022 Route 1 Reads program. She teaches at Robert Morris University and is the Editor-in-Chief of Reckon Review. Raised on a small island in Northern Ontario, Meagan now calls Western North Carolina home.

Author website: http://meaganlucas.com/


As drummer for the rock band Uncle Green, Peter McDade spent fifteen years traveling the country in a series of Ford vans. While the band searched for fame and a safe place to eat before a gig, he began writing short stories and novels. He went to Georgia State University when the band went into semi-retirement, earning an MA in History. His first novel, The Weight of Sound, was published in 2017 and the Georgia Author of the Year Award for best debut; his second novel, Songs By Honeybird, was published in 2022. He lives in Atlanta with his family.

Author website: http://peterjmcdade.com/


Robert Gipe won the 2015 Weatherford Award for outstanding Appalachian novel for his first novel Trampoline. His second and third novels, Weedeater (2018) and Pop (2021) were Weatherford finalists. All three novels are published by Ohio University Press. In 2021, the trilogy won the Judy Gaines Young Book Award. From 1997 to 2018, Gipe directed the Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College Appalachian Program in Harlan. Gipe is founding producer of the Higher Ground community performance series, and served as a script consultant for the Hulu series Dopesick. Gipe resides in Harlan County, Kentucky. He grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee.​

Author website: http://www.robertgipe.com/


Scott Gould is the author of the novels, The Hammerhead Chronicles and Whereabouts; a memoir, Things That Crash, Things That Fly; as well as the story collection, Strangers to Temptation. He is a multiple winner of the S.C. Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in Prose, the S.C. Academy of Authors Fiction Fellowship, a 2022 Memoir Prize for Books, an Independent Press Award, an IPPY Award for Southern Fiction and the Larry Brown Short Story Award. He lives in Sans Souci, South Carolina and teaches creative writing at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities. 

Author website: www.scottgouldwriter.com


Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir, two books of poetry, the collage novel The Life & Times of American Crow, and the hybrid collection, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision. Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State, a book of nonfiction, came out from Red Hen Press in 2020. His latest nonfiction book, In & Among, is due out from Red Hen Press in spring 2025. He lives with his family in Asheville.

Author website: sebastianmatthews.com


Shuly Xóchitl Cawood’s recent books include the poetry collection, Something So Good It Can Never Be Enough (forthcoming from Press 53) and the flash essay collection, What the Fortune Teller Would Have Said, winner of the 2022 Iron Horse Literary Review Prose Chapbook Competition. Her other books include a memoir, a short story collection which won the Independent Publisher Bronze Medal for Short Fiction, and a poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning, which won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Shuly’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, and Brevity. She loves teaching writing workshops, hiking, and eating dark chocolate. 

Author website: shulycawood.com


A prolific painter, renowned watercolorist Wyatt Waters is the author of The Watercolor Road, Painting and Writing through the American South. Drawing on the influences of masters such as John Singer-Sargent, Edward Hopper, and William Hollingsworth, Waters works solely on location – preferring the challenges that both plein air and watercolor present. His philosophy is “if it is interesting to see, it can be a painting.” This approach has led to the publication of seven very successful books including Another Coat of Paint, Painting Home, An Oxford Sketchbook, and in collaboration with Mississippi restaurateur, Robert St. John, A Southern Palate, Southern Seasons, An Italian Palate, and A Mississippi Palate. Additionally, Wyatt can be found on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s television series, Palate to Palette, with St. John — a traveling culinary and art series set in Italy and Mississippi.

Author website: wyattwaters.com