Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is a fiction writer and journalist from Cherokee, North Carolina. Her most recent publication Undertow can be found in Carolina Mountain Literary Festival Anthology: Ten Years of Festivals. She earned degrees from both Yale and the College of William and Mary. Her first novel titled Going to Water was the winner of the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing, which she received from the Native American Literature Symposium in 2012. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction in 2014, and was Western Carolina University’s choice for this year’s One Book Program. She currently writes columns for Smokey Mountain Living twice a month, about all sorts of topics from memoirs to current events and spirituality. As well as a writer, she is also a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and served as the Cherokee Preservation Foundation Executive Director for two and a half years.
Jesse Donaldson is a fiction and nonfiction writer from Kentucky, who currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his family. His first and latest novel, The More They Disappear was released in 2016, which tackles the big issue of small-town drug abuse, and explores current social issues within in the Appalachian region. His work has been published in The Oxford American, The Greensboro Review, and Crazyhorse. As well as writing, he has been a gardener, teacher and maintenance man. As a student he attended Kenyon College and Oregon State University, and was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin Texas.
Tony Kushner is an Academy Award Nominated playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and nonfiction author from New York. He won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1993 for his play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and received the National Medal of Arts from Former President Barak Obama. Other than that he has received numerous awards for his work. He wrote the screenplay for the film Lincoln (2012), directed by Steven Spielberg and co-authored Munich in 2005. Both films received critical acclaim, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for best Adapted Screenplay. He is an advocate for public education and the arts, and is very active in modern politics. He is currently working on a nameless play that explores the political landscape of the United States today.
Lorraine Lopez is a fiction author of six novels who lives in Nashville Tennessee. Her latest work is The Darling (2015), a story about a woman trying to break free of traditional expectations of women through literature and exploration. She continues to be an advocate for women in literature. Lopez earned a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. She won the 2003 Independent Publisher Book award for multicultural fiction for her novel Soy la Avon Lady. In 2010 her collection of short stories titled Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize in fiction, and it was the winner of the Texas League of Writers Award for Outstanding Books of Fiction. She is currently a professor teaching Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
Michael McFee is a poet and essayist from Asheville North Carolina. His latest work is We Were Once Here, a poetry collection focusing on many of the underappreciated things in Appalachia and Appalachian culture. He earned a BA and MA in from UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a poet, he has published many collections of his poetry, which include The Smallest Talk, Shinemaster, Sad Girl Sitting on a Running Board, and Plain Air. During the 1980’s he acted as the poet-in-residence at both Cornell-University and Lawrence University, and he now works as a Professor of Creative Writing at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Much of his work deals with Appalachia and the region surrounding, where he grew up. His work shows a true passion for his homeland.
Rose McLarney is a poet from Asheville North Carolina. She has been published in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Missouri review and many other journals, and she is currently working on a poetry collection called Forage, which will be published by Penguin Books. She won the National Poetry Series for her most recent poetry collection Its Days Being Gone, also published by Penguin Books. As her works often focus on Southern life, she has received the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry. She has also held the positions of Poet in Residence at Frost Place, and Poet in Residence at the University of Mississippi. At this time she is also an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University and Co-editor in Chief and Poetry editor of The Southern Humanities Review.
Jim Minick is a fiction and nonfiction author of five books as well as a collection of essays and a collection of poems. His latest book Fire is Your Water (2017), which discusses big questions of faith in the rural South of the United States. He has also been published in Orion, Shenandoah, and Encyclopedia of Appalachia. He earned his MFA in fiction from UNC Greensboro, and has continued his work on Appalachian literature. As a poet, his poem I Dream a Bean was recently chosen by Claudia Emerson to be permanently displayed at the new Tysons Corner Metrorail Station. In addition he received the Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing and the Fred Chappell Fellowship at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor of English at Augusta University and Core Faculty at Converse College’s low residency program.
Ricardo Nazario-Colon is a Puerto Rican poet, language teacher, former Marine, a co-founder of the Affrilachian poets, and the Chief of Diversity Officer for Western Carolina University. He was born in New York, but moved to the south for school. He earned his B.A. at the University of Kentucky in Latin American studies and Spanish Literature, as well an M.A. from Pace University in Spanish Secondary Education. His most recent work was Of Jibaros and Hillbillies, published in 2011, connects Puerto Rican roots to the Affrilachian community through narrative poetry. He has worked to encourage diversity, leadership, and participation in community groups throughout the Appalachian region of the United States. In the past he has also worked to encourage diversity and provide opportunities at Morehead University.
Pat Riviere-Seel is a poet from Shelby, North Carolina, returning to our literary festival for a second year. She is the author of the two award-winning chapbooks “No Turning Back Now” and “The Serial Killer’s Daughter”, which explores the psyche of a serial killer through poetry. She is also a teacher at UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program, as well as a Coeditor of Kakalak. She has had many unique opportunities, such as being the Poet in Residence at the NC Zoo in 2012 and has become an active participant in the literary community of North Carolina. She will be presenting along with student poets from the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series. She currently lives in Asheville North Carolina.
Glenn Taylor is a fiction author from West Virginia. His most recent novel was A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, and his novel The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award. He has been published in The Guardian, GQ, Electric Literature, and most recently in The Oxford American. He received his MFA from Texas State, and now lives in Morganton with his family. He currently teaches at West Virginian University as an associate professor where he specializes in 20th century American writing, especially works from Appalachia. He draws a lot of inspiration from his real experiences living in Appalachia and is an advocate for other literature from the region.
Jessie van Eerden is a fiction and nonfiction writer from West Virginia. Her latest work is a collection of portrait essays entitled “The Long Weeping”, which discusses many issues facing the Appalachian region today in a historical context. She’s been published in The Oxford American, River Teeth, Precipitate, Bellingham Review, and many others as well as anthologies of Appalachian literature. Besides being an Appalachian native and a writer, she has been active in education. She taught in adult literacy programs for over 15 years, and currently directs the Low-residency MFA program at Western Virginia Wesleyan College. There she has been working to celebrate Appalachian life from as many different perspectives as possible, emphasizing the importance of the voices of the Appalachian region.
Frank “X” Walker is a poet from Kentucky. During his time at the University of Kentucky, he helped co-found the Affrilachian poets, advocating for African American poets and writers in the Appalachian region and helping their voices come through in art. He has published 5 collection of poetry and his most recent work About Flight, published in 2015, is a collection of poems that discusses the difficult issue of drug abuse in his community. His poetry collection Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York won the 2004 Lillian Smith Book Award. In 2016 he was the Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and became the first African American to hold that position. He has made it his mission to focus on issues of social justice and representation.
Dana Wildsmith is a nonfiction and poetry writer from Georgia where she is working to sustain her family farm. Her latest work is Jumping (2016), a fiction story tackling the topic of immigration in the United States and what it means to be human. She has been published in Yankee, The Kentucky Poetry Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. When she is not writing, she works teaching English to speakers of other languages as well as poetry in locations all across the United States. She earned her BA in Sociology from Virginia Wesleyen College, and in 1992 became a Poetry Fellow in South Carolina at the Academy of Authors. She often writes about issues of environmentalism and social justice, especially for immigrants. Recently she has begun experimenting with the world of narrative fiction.
Crystal Wilkinson is a fiction and nonfiction author from Kentucky who is especially active in the American Feminist and African American literary community. Wilkinson lends a strong voice to the group of Affrilacian poets, a community of African American poets from the Appalachian region. She has received the 2016 Earnest Gaines Fellowship for Literary Excellence, as well as the Sallie Bingham Award from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She is an advocate for conversation about many issues including mental illness and racism in her community. She has been published in The Oxford American, Southern Exposure, African Voices Magazine and many more. Her most recent work was The Birds of Opulence, which tackles issues of mental health, especially in the African American Appalachian community. She has become an important voice for the representation of African Americans in the South of the United States and offers her own bookstore (Wild Fig Books and Coffee in Lexington) as a platform for conversation on social issues.