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Marilynne Robinson is a renowned American novelist and essayist. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, the 2012 National Humanities Medal, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. In 2016 she was named in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. The author's work is noted for its thematic depiction of both rural life and faith, and she is most known for her best-selling novels Housekeeping (1980) and Gilead (2004). The subjects of her essays have spanned numerous topics, including the relationship between religion and science, nuclear pollution, John Calvin, and contemporary American politics. Robinson taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop from 1991 until her retirement in the spring of 2016.

Marilynne Robinson


Cristina Henríquez is the author of The Book of Unknown Americans, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2014 and one of Amazon’s Top 10 Books of the Year. It was the Daily Beast Novel of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, an NPR Great Read, and was chosen one of the best books of the year by BookPage,, and School Library Journal. It was also longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Henriquez is also the author The World In Half (a novel), and Come Together, Fall Apart: A Novella and Stories, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. Cristina earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Chicago.

Cristina Henriquez


Silas House is the nationally bestselling author of six novels – Southernmost, 2018; Clay's Quilt, 2001; A Parchment of Leaves, 2003; The Coal Tattoo, 2005; Eli the Good, 2009; and Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani) 2012 – as well as a book of creative nonfiction – Something's Rising, co-authored with Jason Howard, 2009; and four plays: False Face, 2018, The Hurting Part (2005), This Is My Heart for You (2012), and In These Fields, with Sam Gleaves, 2016.

His work frequently appears in The New York Times and Salon. He is former commentator for NPR's “All Things Considered”. His writing has appeared in Oxford American, Narrative, Blackbird, Newsday, as well as in anthologies such as Best Food Writing, 2015 and New Stories From the South, The Year's Best: 2004. House serves on the fiction faculty at the Spalding MFA in Creative Writing and as the NEH Chair at Berea College.

He is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the recipient of three honorary doctorates, and is the winner of the Nautilus Award, an EB White Award, the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Jesse Stuart Award, the Lee Smith Award, and many other honors.

Silas House


Jason Howard is the author of A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music (2012), and co-author of Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Oxford American, The Nation, Equal Justice Magazine, No Depression, Paste, and The Louisville Review, among others. Howard was a finalist for the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award, and he received the 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from the Kentucky Arts Council. He earned a B.A. in political communication from The George Washington University, an M.A. in history from the University of Kentucky, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Howard is the Editor of Appalachian Heritage and has been a Lecturer of General Studies at Berea College since 2013.

Jason Howard


A. Van Jordan is the author of four collections: Rise (2001), M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (2005), Quantum Lyrics (2007), and The Cineaste: Poems (2013). His awards include a Whiting Writers Award (2004), the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award (2005), a Pushcart Prize (2006), a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2007), and a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry (2015).  Jordan was born in 1965 in Akron, Ohio. He earned a BA in English from Wittenberg University, an MA in organizational communications from Howard University, an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College, and an MFA in Film from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He currently is Collegiate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan and distinguished visiting professor at Ithaca College.

A. Van Jordan


The Root online magazine listed Laurie Jean Cannady's Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul as one of the best nonfiction books by black authors in 2015. Kirkus Reviews described Crave as a “bold, honest, and courageous memoir.” Foreword Reviews listed Crave as an Indiefab Book of the Year 2015 finalist in the autobiography/memoir category. Additionally, Crave was named a finalist for the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction.

Cannady has published personal essays on poverty, domestic violence, and military sexual trauma in The Rumpus and Good Housekeeping. She has presented talks, lectures, and workshops at the KGB Literary Bar, Girls Write Now, The Women’s Initiative, and West Point Military Academy.

Laurie Jean is the Mellon Foundation Endowed Chair of the English and Foreign Languages Department at Hampton University and a creative writing faculty member in the Wilkes University low-residency Creative Writing Program.

Laurie Jean Cannady


Tom Baker is a U.S. Army combat veteran from the Vietnam war. He was a grunt with the 101st in Nam, a parachute rigger, and he spent most of 1968 and early 69 as a doorgunner for the 1st of the 9th 1st Cav. Tom has been a forester and logger in Western North Carolina for over forty years.

Tom Baker

Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers' Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband, and her dog, Pepper. The Abolitionist's Daughter is her debut novel.

Diane McPhail

Bryant Simon is a professor of history at Temple University. He is the author of Boardwalk of Dreams, Everything but the Coffee, and The Hamlet Fire (The New Press). His work and commentary have been featured in the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and numerous other outlets. He lives in Philadelphia.

Rebecca Gayle Howell


Ricardo Nazario-Colon is a Puerto Rican poet, language teacher, former Marine, a co-founder of the Affrilachian poets, and the Chief 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, 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. 

Ricardo Nazario-Colon


Michael Croley was born in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Literature in 2016, his work has appeared in a number of publications. His debut collection of stories, Any Other Place, will appear in 2019. He teaches creative writing at Denison University.

Michael Croley


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