Learn from the best with us
We've done everything we can to bring in the best writers, editors, publishers, agents, and musicians available for a variety of discussions and panels.
2021 Conference presenters
Click on a presenter's name for their bio.
Steve Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. After many failed attempts, Almond finally managed to write a debut novel, All the Secrets of the World, which will publish in April 2022.
Andrea Askowitz is the author of the memoir My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy. She’s written for The New York Times, Salon, Glamour, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, The Writer, NPR and PBS, where she’s currently nominated for an Emmy. Andrea hosts the podcast Writing Class Radio and is at work on a new memoir.
Julianna Baggott has published over 20 books, including two New York Times Notable Books of the Year: Pure and Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders. Her work has been widely published in such places as Agni, Poetry Magazine, Best American Poetry, Tor.com, Washington Post, and on NPR. She also works in film/TV, with current projects optioned by Disney+, Warner Brothers, and Lionsgate. She teaches screenwriting at Florida State University’s Film School. Her new story collection I'd Really Prefer Not to be Here with You is forthcoming from Blackstone.
Lynne Barrett’s story collection Magpies received the Florida Book Awards gold medal. Her recent fiction and essays appear in Orange Blossom Review, New Flash Fiction Review, The Hong Kong Review, Necessary Fiction, Mystery Tribune, River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things,” The Southern Women’s Review, One Year to a Writing Life, and Grabbed: Poets and Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment, and Healing. She’s the editor of Making Good Time: True Stories of How We Do, and Don’t, Get Around in South Florida and wrote the writers handbook What Editors Want. She’s received the Edgar Award for best mystery story, and teaches Creative Writing at Florida International University.
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and # 1 internationally bestselling author of novels Those Who Save Us, The Stormchasers, and The Lost Family. Her latest book, memoir Woodrow on the Bench, about her beloved black Lab’s last seven months of life and what they and he taught her, is available from HarperCollins October 26, 2021. Jenna is one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers and is the co-founder/CEO of literary social media marketing company A Mighty Blaze. Jenna earned her MA at Boston University in Creative Writing and has taught writing workshops at Grub Street Writers for over 20 years. She interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and is a professional public speaker, traveling nationally and internationally to speak about her work. Jenna is based in downtown Boston, where she lives across from Woodrow’s bench and is currently a dog mom to her black Lab puppy Henry Higgins.
To learn more about Jenna, please follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. She is the Interim Executive Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of Chlorine Sky (2021), Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice (2020), Black Girl Magic (2020), Woke Baby (2018), and Kissing Caskets (2017). Browne is also the founder of Woke Baby Book Fair (a nationwide diversity literature campaign); and as an Arts for Justice grantee, is completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, investigating its impact on women and children. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
John Dufresne is the author of two short story collections, The Way That Water Enters Stone and Johnny Too Bad, the novels Louisiana Power & Light, Love Warps the Mind a Little, both New York Times Notable Books of the Year, Deep in the Shade of Paradise, Requiem, Mass., No Regrets, Coyote, and I Don’t Like Where This Is Going and four books on writing, The Lie That Tells a Truth, Is Life Like This?, Flash! Writing the Very Short Story, and Storyville: an Illustrated Guide to Writing Fiction. His stories have twice been named Best American Mystery Stories. He's written the screenplays for The Freezer Jesus, To Live and Die in Dixie, Driftless, and for the web series Lucky Jay and two stage plays, Trailerville and Liv and Di.
Beth Ann Fennelly
Beth Ann Fennelly, a 2020 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, was the poet laureate of Mississippi from 2016-2021 and teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi. She’s won grants and awards from the N.E.A., the United States Artists, a Pushcart, and a Fulbright to Brazil. Fennelly has published three books of poetry and three of prose, most recently, Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, which was a Goodreads Favorite and an Atlanta Journal Constitution Best Book. She lives with her husband, Tom Franklin, and their three children In Oxford, MS.
A long-time educator, a creator of safe spaces, and an initiator of difficult conversations, M.J. Fievre, B.S. Ed., spends much time building up her students, helping them feel comfortable in their skin, and affirming their identities. Her close relationships with parents and students led her to look more closely at how we can balance protecting a child’s innocence with preparing them for the realities of adult life. M.J. wrote Raising Confident Black Kids and the widely acclaimed, best-selling book series for young adults, Badass Black Girl. A frequent keynote speaker, M.J. helps others write their way through trauma, build community and create social change. She works with veterans, disenfranchised youth, cancer patients and survivors, victims of domestic and sexual violence, minorities, the elderly, those with chronic illness or going through transition and any underserved population in need of writing as a form of therapy — even if they don’t realize that they need writing or therapy. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, M.J. moved to the United States in 2002. She currently writes from Winter Garden, FL.
Tod Goldberg is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen books, including The Low Desert, Gangsterland, a finalist for the Hammett Prize, Gangster Nation, The House of Secrets, which he co-wrote with Brad Meltzer, and Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His essays and book reviews appear regularly in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Alta, and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards and been selected for Best American Essays. He is the co-host of the popular podcast Literary Disco, named one of the top literary podcasts by the Washington Post, and is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, where he founded and directs the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts. His next book, Death of a Gangster, will be out in 2023.
Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry London, and Zyzzva. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.
For over twenty years, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been lifting her voice on issues of Black culture, racism, American history, and gender through the medium of writing. Her most recent collection, The Age of Phillis (2020) was long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry and nominated for the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. She is also the author of The Gospel of Barbecue (2000); Outlandish Blues (2003); Red Clay Suite (2007); and The Glory Gets (2015). Jeffers is also the author of the novel The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (2021). She is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, and the Tennessee Williams’ Scholarship in Fiction from the Sewanee Writers Conference. She was also the winner of the Emerging Fiction Fellowship from the Aspen Summer Words Conference and recently was honored with the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Literary Distinction, a lifetime achievement award. She is a Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.
Allison Langer is a Miami native, University of Miami MBA, retired photographer, writer, and a single mom to three children, ages 11, 14 and 16. She is a private writing coach, taught memoir writing in prison, and has been published in The Washington Post, Mutha Magazine, Scary Mommy, Ravishly, She‘Said’ and Modern Loss. Allison's stories and her voice can be heard on Writing Class Radio, a podcast she co-produces and co-hosts.
A native of New Hampshire, Joyce Maynard began publishing her stories in magazines when she was thirteen years old. She first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale. Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and many more. She is a longtime performer with The Moth.
Joyce Maynard is the author of eighteen books, including the New York Times bestselling novel, Labor Day and To Die For (both adapted for film), Under the Influence and the memoirs, At Home in the World and The Best of Us.
Her latest novel, Count the Ways —the story of a marriage and a divorce, and the children who survived it— was published by William Morrow in July, 2021.
She is currently at work on a book about her return to Yale University two and a half years ago as an undergraduate, forty-eight years after dropping out at age 18.
Maynard is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She is the founder of Write by the Lake, a week-long workshop on the art and craft of memoir, held every year since 2001 at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Benjamin Percy is the author of five novels — most recently, The Ninth Metal (Mariner Books) — three story collections — including Suicide Woods — and a book of essays titled Thrill Me that is widely taught in creative writing classrooms. He co-wrote the feature film Summering with director James Ponsoldt. Produced by Sony's Stage 6 and Bleeker Street, it will be released in 2022. He writes both Wolverine and X-Force for Marvel Comics. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men's Journal, Outside, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Ploughshares, Tin House, McSweeney's, and the Paris Review. His honors include the Whiting Award, an NEA fellowship, the Plimpton Prize, the iHeartRadio Award for Best Scripted Podcast, two Pushcart Prizes, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, and Best American Comics.
Christopher Schelling is a literary agent whose list spans a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including New York Times bestselling memoirist Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, This Is How), science fiction visionary Kim Stanley Robinson (The Ministry for the Future, Red Mars) and bestselling YA novelists Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, The Simon Snow Trilogy) and Cinda Williams Chima (Shattered Realms, The Heir Chronicles). Schelling has been representing writers since 1997, and started his own agency, Selectric Artists, in 2011. Prior to being an agent, he held Executive Editor positions at Dutton and HarperCollins.
Darin Strauss's most recent book, The Queen of Tuesday, came out in August, 2020, and was a Washington Post best book of the year, among others. He's also the author of the bestselling novels Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, More Than It Hurts You, the NBCC-winning memoir Half a Life, and a bestselling comic-book series, Olivia Twist. These have been New York Times Notable Books; and Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon, Chicago Tribune and NPR Best Books of the Year, among others. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award, an American Library award, and numerous additional prizes, Strauss has been translated into fourteen languages and published in nineteen countries. In addition, Darin has collaborated on screenplays with Gary Oldman and Julie Taymor, and is a Clinical Professor of Fiction at New York University. In 2020, he was a finalist for the Joyce Carol Oates Award.