Presenting Authors 

Richard Ford, fiction

Richard Ford graduated from with his B.A. from Michigan State University and his M. F. A. from the University of California. Ford wrote short stories for EsquireThe Paris Review, and The New Yorker before completing his first novel, A Piece of My Heart, in 1976. He has published six novels and four collections of stories, including The Sportswriter, Independence Day, A Multitude of Sins and, most recently, The Lay of the Land. Independence Day was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the first time the same book had won both prizes.

Winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, Ford had been adjunct professor at the Oscar Wilde Centre with the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where he taught on the master’s program in creative writing. Ford assumed the post of senior fiction professor at University of Mississippi in 2011, replacing the late Barry Hannah. His latest novel, Canada, was published in 2012. He is now the Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Professor of the humanities and professor of Writing at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In 2013 Richard Ford was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction.

Patricia Smith, poetry

Patricia Smith, lauded by critics as “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” is the author of six acclaimed poetry volumes. Blood Dazzler, which chronicles the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. 

Smith’s book, Teahouse of the Almighty, was a National Poetry Series selection and winner of the first-ever Hurston/Wright Award in Poetry. Her other poetry books are Close to Death; Life According to Motown; Big Towns, Big Talk. Life According to Motown was recently re-released in a special twentieth anniversary edition. She is the winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize; the Chatauqua Literary Journal Award in poetry; and two Pushcart Prizes, for the poems "Laugh Your Troubles Away" and "The Way Pilots Walk.” In 2013, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year.

Smith's work has been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and other literary journals/anthologies, including Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. She has performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival, the Bahia Festival, the Schomburg Center, the Sorbonne in Paris and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. A four-time individual champion on the National Poetry Slam—the most successful slammer in the competition’s history—Smith has also been a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and has performed three one-woman plays, one produced by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott.

She has served as a Cave Canem faculty member, a Bruce McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech University, distiguished writer-in-residence at both the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Sierra Nevada College, and a fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. During a ceremony at Chicago State University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Center, Smith was inducted into the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. In 2008 she was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, Texas.

Dorianne Laux, poetry

Dorianne Laux’s most recent books of poems are The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Facts about the Moon, recipient of the Oregon Book Award and short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and Smoke. Her work has received three “Best American Poetry” Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2001, she was invited by late poet laureate Stanley Kunitz to read at the Library of Congress. She teaches poetry and directs the MFA program at North Carolina State University and she is founding faculty at Pacific University's Low Residency MFA Program.  The New Times says, The Book of Men "is a bold raid by a female poet…. (who) dares to parse her life through the prism of men who’ve passed through it." The poet Tony Hoagland says of Laux, "Her poems are those of a grown American woman, one who looks clearly, passionately, and affectionately at rites of passage, motherhood, the life of work, sisterhood, and especially sexual love, in a celebratory fashion." 

Joseph Millar, poetry

Joseph Millar grew up in western Pennsylvania and was educated at Penn State and the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned an MA in poetry writing. He worked as a commercial fisherman and telephone repairman for more than 20 years, and his accessible narrative poems, influenced by the work of poets Philip Levine and James Wright, often take working life as a means of engaging themes of class, family, and romantic love. In a 2009 interview for Pirene’s Fountain with Charles Morrison, Millar stated, “We must have the ambition for our poems that they reach toward the sublime, that they speak from our own true selves and are grounded in the experience of our daily lives, including our dreams and hopes.”

Sarah Kay, poetry/spoken-word

Sarah Kay is a poet from New York City who has been performing her spoken word poetry since she was fourteen years old. She was a featured poet on HBO’s “Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry Jam” in 2006, and that year she was also the youngest poet to compete in the National Poetry Slam. Since then, Sarah has shared her poetry on six of the seven continents, and is currently yearning for Antarctica. She is perhaps best known for her talk at the 2011 TED conference, which garnered two standing ovations and has been seen over three million times online. Sarah holds a Masters Degree in The Art of Teaching from Brown University and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Grinnell College. Her first book, “B” was ranked #1 Poetry Book on Amazon. Sarah is the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to encourage people to engage in creative self-expression in schools and communities around the world. For more,

Rick Moody, fiction/non-fiction

Rick Moody is the author of numerous novels, collections of short fiction, a memoir, and a book of essays. His debut novel, Garden State (1992), was the winner of the 1991 Editor's Choice Award from the Pushcart Press. The Ice Storm (1994) was published in twenty countries and released by Fox Searchlight as a film directed by Ang Lee in 1997. His collections of short fiction include The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven (Little, Brown & Co., 1995), the title story of which was the winner of the 1994 Aga Khan Award from The Paris Review, and Demonology (2001), which was also published in Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions (Little, Brown & Co., 2001) was a winner of the NAMI/Ken Book Award, and the PEN Martha Albrand prize for excellence in the memoir. His collection of essays, On Celestial Music, was published by Back Bay Books in 2012. His short fiction and journalismhave been anthologized in Best American Stories 2001, Best American Essays 2004, Year's Best Science Fiction #9, and, multiply, in the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

 Moody is the recipient of the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim fellowship. 

 Moody is a member of the board of directors of the Corporation of Yaddo. He is the secretary of the PEN American Center, and he co-founded the Young Lions Book Award at the New York Public Library. He has taught at the State University of New York at Purchase, the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the New School for Social Research. Rick Moody was born in New York City. He attended Brown and Columbia Universities.

Elissa Schappell, fiction/publication

Elissa Schappell is an American novelist, short story writer, editor and essayist. Her first book of fiction, Use Me a collection of ten linked short stories, was published in 2000 by William Morrow, and was runner up for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She is the co-founder of the literary magazine Tin House and Editor-at-Large. She was previously a Senior Editor at The Paris Review Schappell has co-edited two anthologies of essays The Friend Who Got Away, published in 2005 by Doubleday and Money Changes Everything, published in 2007 by Doubleday. She is a Contributing-editor at Vanity Fair, and author of the "Hot Type" book column. A second book of fiction, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. It was chosen as a "Best Book of the Year" by The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal. Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and O Magazine.

Schappell graduated from New York University with an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Josip Novakovich, fiction

Josip Novakovich emigrated from Croatia at the age of 20. He has published a novel, April Fool's Day (in ten languages), three story collections (Infidelities: Stories of War and Lust, Yolk and Salvation and Other Disasters) and three collections of narrative essays as well as two books of practical criticism, including Fiction Writers Workshop. His work was anthologized in Best American   Poetry, the Pushcart Prize collection and O. Henry Prize Stories. He has received the Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Ingram Merrill Award and an American Book Award, and in 2013 he was a Man Booker International Award finalist. Novakovich has been a writing fellow of the New York Public Library and has taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Die Freie Universitaet in Berlin, Penn State and now, Concordia University in Montreal.

Steve Sherrill, fiction

Steven Sherrill has been making trouble with words since 8th grade, when he was suspended from school for two weeks for a story he wrote. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade, ricocheted around for years, eventually earning a Welding Diploma from Mitchell Community College, which circuitously led to an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  

Now, Steven is an Associate Professor of English and Integrative Arts at Penn State University, Altoona, where he teaches, paints, and captains the Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir. He has three novels and a book of poems in the world.  He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Fiction in 2002.  His first novel, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, is translated into 8 languages and was recently released as an audio book by Neil Gaiman Productions. His second novel, Visits From the Drowned Girl, published by Random House (and nominated by them for the Pulitzer Prize), US, and Canongate, UK, was released in June of 2004. The Locktender’s House, novel #3, was released by Random House in Spring 2008.  And in November 2010, CW Books released the poetry collection, Ersatz Anatomy.

There are other books in the works, much musical silliness underway, seventeen ukuleles in the house, and 375 vintage wooden crutches in my basement.

Kathryn Walat, playwriting 

Kathryn Walat is a playwright with an interest in the details and rhythms of contemporary life, as she explores beyond the norms of dramatic structure and language. Her recent play Creation – about music, obsession, and the artistic process – was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center/National Playwrights Conference, and premiered at the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, for which she was nominated for an LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Playwriting. Her play Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen premiered Off-Broadway at the Women’s Project, and was published in New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 1997 (Smith & Kraus); and her politically resonant Bleeding Kansas premiered at the Hangar Theatre (Ithaca) and received a Francesca Primus Citation (American Theatre Critics Association). She is also the co-librettist, with composer Gregory Spears, of the chamber opera Paul’s Case, adapted from the Willa Cather story.

She is a regular contributor to AMERICAN THEATRE magazine and The Brooklyn Rail, and her articles on theater have also appeared on TDF Stages, TheaterMania and in Time Out New York. Her plays are published by Samuel French and by Playscripts, including three plays for young audiences. 

Walat received her BA from Brown University, and her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. She is a Professor of Performing Arts and Dramatic Writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and splits her time between Savannah and New York.

Mark Ari, fiction/poetry

Acclaimed “A true original,” by Kirkus Reviews, Mark Ari publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His novel, The Shoemaker’s Tale (Zephyr Press), earned high praise from Kirkus, the New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, and others.  He also authored Deathfoot Ha Ha, a collection of writings and drawings (Stroker/Lionsong), and Bloodshot and Blue, a volume of poems (SMFP).  Ari’s paintings have been exhibited internationally with significant solo shows at The Westbeth Gallery (NYC) and Broome Street Gallery (NYC); The Southern Vermont Art Center (Manchester Vermont); and The Giralda Center (Seville, Spain).  Several of his images are represented by Getty Images (USA) and the Bridgeman Art Library (UK).  As a singer songwriter, Ari has released four albums:  The Florida Sunshine Tapes, At the Legendary Folkway Coffee House, Live at 90 in the Shade, and That’s A Lot of Freakin’ Cowboys; and he has written and performed the one-man shows Flatbush Serenade (premiered at the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown, MD), Blue Babies (premiered at the Paramount Theater in Wilkes-Barre, PA,” and Songs for the Waste Laboratory (premiered at The Living Theater in NYC).

Born in Brooklyn, Ari has peddled newspapers, operated a manual chucker machine, tested switches, hauled sheetrock, slung hash, sold smoke detectors door-to-door, managed a warehouse in the rag trade, served as Brooklyn Correspondent for Stroker Magazine, and earned an MFA at Brooklyn College, and is currently a multi-award winning teacher of creative writing at the University of North Florida.  He has sung in auditoriums, theaters, clubs, cafes, bars, assorted joints, parks, hobo camps, and street corners all over the world.

Billy Merrell, poetry

At 22, Billy Merrell was the youngest author to date published by the Push Imprint of Scholastic Inc.  Merrell, who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, began writing poetry around eighth grade.  He had a better grasp of rhyme and meter than the other students in his classes, and as a result, the teacher began giving him more challenging poetry assignments rather than less expressive work.  It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that Merrell began to write about his own feelings, and recognized writing poetry as a liberating activity.

Merrell is graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English.  Merrell is the author of talking in the dark, a poetry memoir.

Sarah Blackman, fiction

Sarah Blackman is the Creative Writing Instructor for The Fine Arts Center in Greenville, S.C. Blackman is a poet, fiction and creative non-fiction author originally from Washington D.C. She graduated from Washington College, summa cum laude, with a BA in English, minor Creative Writing, and earned her MFA from the University of Alabama in 2007 with a primary concentration in fiction and a secondary concentration in poetry. Prior to coming to the Fine Arts Center, she taught at the University of Alabama where she also served as the fiction editor for the Black Warrior Review. Sarah’s poetry and prose has been published in a number of journals and magazines, including The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry ReviewConjunctions, Oxford American Magazine and The Fairy Tale Review among others. She has been anthologized in the Orpheus: Fifty New Myths (Penguin), Poets Against the War Anthology, Best New American Voices, 2006 and Metawritings; Toward a Theory of Nonfiction, published by University of Iowa Press. Her story collection Mother Box was the winner of the 2011 Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize and will be published by FC2 in September, 2013.

Eve Samples, journalism

Eve Samples is a local news columnist at Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Stuart, Fla., where she writes three columns a week on topics ranging from state politics to human-interest tales.

Eve started her career in 2000 as an intern at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in a city where people flawlessly pronounced her Polish maiden name. That never happened in her hometown of Miami. Eve is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has covered business, local government, the arts and crime. She has won several news-writing awards, including first place in 2012 for General Interest columns (50,000 circulation and less) from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

When she's not writing, Eve and her Alaska-bred husband spend lots of time assembling Legos with their 5-year-old son.

Tim Gilmore, fiction

Tim Gilmore is the author of Stalking Ottis Toole: A Southern Gothic (2013), Doors in the Light and the Water: The Life and Collected Work of Empty Boat (2013), This Kind of City: Ghost Stories and Psychological Landscapes (2012) and Ghost Compost: Strange Little Stories, illustrated by Nick Dunkenstein (2013). He is the creator of Jax Psycho Geo ( His two volumes of poetry are Horoscopes for Goblins: Poems, 2006-2009 and Flights of Crows: Poems, 2002-2006. His audio poetry album Waiting in the Lost Rooms is available at He teaches at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Will Ludwigsen, fiction

Will Ludwigsen's
short fiction has appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales, and many more. Publishers Weekly called his collection In Search Of and Others "hauntingly beautiful" and "a timeless classic for those seeking asylum from formulaic prose." He teaches creative writing at the University of North Florida, specializing in genre fiction.

Brad Lauretti, songwriting

Brad Lauretti is the principal songwriter from the alternative folk-rock group This Frontier Needs Heroes, and the founder of the Jacksonville Songwriter Residency.

This Frontier Needs Heroes have spent the past 10 years playing shows all over the world.  Just Brad and Jessica with a guitar and a tambourine, and their voices, logging thousands of miles in their car, touring the greatest cities of North America and Europe, selling one record at a time, making one fan at a time. This determination and DIY ethos brought them on an epic journey around the world, playing in clubs, houses, and festival stages.  The name of the band is a reference to Woody Guthrie’s famous WWII-era guitar graffiti “This Machine Kills Fascists” it didn’t just apply to its core members Brad and Jessica Lauretti, but it’s also an invitation for everyone to become a hero in their own right!