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Language and Literature

Past Writers Read Author Events

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Sept. 14, 2017 – Local Author Sofia Samatar

Sofia SamatarSofia Samatar has an expansive imagination, a poetic and elegant style, and she writes stories so rich, with characters so full of life, they haunt you long after the story ends. A real pleasure.”
— Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames

March 23, 2017 – Non-Fiction Writer Katie Fallon

Katie Fallon
Katie Fallon, a lifelong resident of Appalachia, is a nature­-loving author who reflects this love in her writing. Her books of nonfiction include Cerulean Blue: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (2011) and Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird, scheduled for publication in March 2017. Much of Fallon’s writing is grounded in naturalism and conservation efforts, especially concerning raptors and other birds. She is also one of the founders for the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, Inc., a non­profit organization that strives to conserve wild birds.

In addition to her nonfiction nature books, Fallon’s essays have been featured in Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Ecotone, Bark Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Isotope, Fourth River, the Minnesota Review, and The Tusculum Review. She has received recognition from Best American Science & Nature Writing 2014 and was a finalist in Terrain’s 2011 essay contest for her essay entitled “Hill of the Sacred Eagles.”

Though Fallon grew up in Pennsylvania, she now resides in Cheat, West Virginia, where she works at West Virginia University.

March 14, 2017 – Lisa Yarger, folklorist and non-fiction writer

Lisa Yarger, author of Lovie: The Story of a Southern Midwife and an Unlikely Friendship, grew up in Raleigh, studied English at Wake Forest University and earned a master’s degree in folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She met Lovie Shelton in 1996 while working on an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History. Since 2005 she has lived in Munich, Germany, where she and her family own and operate the Munich Readery, an English-language secondhand bookshop. (Photo by Sabine Kueckelmann)

From 1950 until 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life, was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimely death of her husband and the murder of her son.

Lovie is a provocative chronicle of Shelton’s life and work, which spanned enormous changes in midwifery and in the ways women give birth. In this artful exploration of documentary fieldwork, Lisa Yarger confronts the choices involved in producing an authentic portrait of a woman who is at once loner and self-styled folk hero. Fully embracing the difficulties of telling a true story, Yarger is able to get at the story of telling the story. As Lovie describes her calling, we meet a woman who sees herself working in partnership with God and who must wrestle with the question of what happens when a woman who has devoted her life to service, to doing God’s work, ages out of usefulness. When I’m no longer a midwife, who am I? Facing retirement and a host of health issues, Lovie attempts to fit together the jagged pieces of her life as she prepares for one final home birth.

February 16, 2017 – Ken Yoder Reed, novelist

Ken Yoder Reed comes from a Mennonite background in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania where he attended Mennonite schools during his childhood. After his graduation from Lancaster Mennonite High School, Reed attended Eastern Mennonite College where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. He also attended the Japanese Language Institute in Sapporo, Japan.

Ken Yoder Reed’s career has taken him many places. After his schooling in Japan, he completed his military alternative service as an English teacher there. Some of his other early career moves include free-lancing for Mennonite publications in Lancaster. His works during this period include plays, short stories, and his first novel entitled Mennonite Soldier. Then, in 1991, Reed made the move to San Francisco where he founded an international business of high-tech firms where they made connections between China and Korea. Currently, Reed resides in San Jose, California. He now has a blended family that includes his wife, Patricia, and six adult children.

Reed’s publications also include He Flew Too High, and most recently, Both My Sons.

February 2, 2017 – Sarah Kennedy, poet and historic fiction writer

Sarah Kennedy
Sarah Kennedy has published seven books of poetry and more recently a series of novels. Her poetry collections include Double Exposure, which won the Cleveland State University Press Open Competition in 2003. Her volume Flow Blue won the Elixir Press Prize in Poetry. Her most recent collection, The Gold Thread (2013) is praised by the US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as “fierce, elegant poems” that comprise an “extended meditation on the quest for meaning…in a troubled world.”

Her love for historical fiction has spawned a series of novels called The Cross and Crown. This series of novels set in Tudor English traces the life of a former nun who has been displaced by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The third and most recent novel in the series is The King’s Sisters (Sept. 2015).

Originally from Indianapolis, Kennedy now lives in Staunton, Virginia, and works as a professor of English at Mary Baldwin University where she leads workshops in poetry and fiction and chairs the English department. She holds an MFA from Vermont College in poetry writing and a PhD from Purdue University in Renaissance poetry. Kennedy has received grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to support her creative work. To learn more about Sarah’s books, click here.

November 10, 2016 – Katherine Clay Bassard, essayist, author and professor

Katherine Clay Bassard
Dr. Kathy Bassard is a recognized expert in African American Literature. She examines poetry, novels, speeches, sermons, and prayers by African American women from Maria W. Stewart to Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, discussing how such texts respond as a collective “literary witness” to the use of the Bible for purposes of social domination. These Black women were both shaped and reshaped by the scriptures they appropriated for their own self-­representation. Her recent publications include Spiritual Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women’s Writing and Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible. She is the author of many outstanding essays on African American literature and on Christianity and literary theory and has presented numerous lectures and scholarly presentations.

Dr. Bassard has received numerous awards and grants for her teaching and research efforts, including recognition by the Center for Teaching Excellence, Honor’s College, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, as well as from the Pew and Ford foundations. In 2005, she was the recipient of the VCU’s prestigious Elske v.P. Smith Distinguished Lecturer award.

Dr. Bassard received her undergraduate degree in English at Wake Forest University, an MA in English at VCU, and her PhD in English at Rutgers University with a Graduate Certificate in Woman’s Studies. From 1992 – ­1999 Dr. Bassard taught at the University of California – Berkeley where she rose to the rank of Associate Professor. She returned to VCU in 1999 and was appointed professor of English in 2010, and now serves as senior vice provost for faculty affairs.

October 15, 2016 – Marci Rae Johnson, poet

Marci Rae Johnson
Marci Rae Johnson has published two collections of poetry and her work may be found in The Louisville Review, Minnetonka Review, Strange Horizons, and 32 Poems, among others. She is the founder of The Poetry Factory, a reading series in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Johnson has taught English at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Recently, she completed there a 4-­month seminar on the writing intensive classroom. While teaching at Valparaiso, she also created a class called Literary Editing and Publishing. With over a decade worth of experience in editorial work at a small press called WordFarm, she also serves as poetry editor of The Cresset. Currently she is teaching writing part­-time at Wheaton College in Illinois, where she earned first a BA in literature and sociology and then an MA in theological studies. Her MFA in creative writing and poetry is from Spalding University.

Johnson’s first collection of poems, The Eyes the Window, was published in 2013. It has received strong reviews from critics such as Brad Fruhauff, who describes it as a “fascinating collection that makes you feel at once a witness to intimate moments and a stranger outside of true intimacy.” It won the 2011 Powder Horn Prize for first books. More recently, Johnson published her second full-­length book of of poetry entitled Basic Disaster Supply Kit. This work includes a poem called “Jesus Cleanses a Leper” which was featured on the Englewood Book Review website in January 2016.

A featured writer at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in 2014 and at the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference in Oct. 2015, Johnson will be a panelist at the upcoming Midwest Conference of Christianity and Literature.

September 15, 2016 – Gary Dop, poet, playwright and comic

Gary Dop
A writer, actor, professor, and creative consultant, Gary Dop has delighted audiences at many universities and community gatherings with the performance of his works. In 2009, he was one of five poets in the US to qualify for a top rated performance poetry team. Before coming to Virginia, where he is an English professor at Randolph College, Dop served as writer-­in-­residence at North Central University in Minneapolis. He has worked extensively in the Midwest, advocating for creative writing in rural areas and working with gifted high school students in south central Nebraska. He serves on the editorial board of Spark News Press and enjoys working with the Twin Cities organization that publishes the Rain Taxi Review of Books and sponsors the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis.

Father, Child, Water, published in Spring 2015, is his first collection of poems. His work has been featured in Prairie Schooner, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Agni, Sugar House Review, burntdistrict, Green Mountains Review, and the Poetry Foundation’s syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry. In 2013 he won the Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize.

Gary Dop’s essays can sometimes be heard on public radio’s All Things Considered. He also writes for commercials, short films, documentaries, and his plays have been performed in small venues throughout the country. Over the years, Dop has also made a mark in acting, emceeing, and stand­up comedy. For more information, see

March 31, 2016 – Evie Yoder Miller, essayist and poet

Evie Yoder Miller
Evie Yoder Miller grew up in the small town of Kalona in southeastern Iowa in the 1940s and 1950s, immersed in a family unit of parents and three older siblings, a Mennonite church, and a rural community. In 1962 she graduated from Iowa Mennonite School, and four years later earned a college degree from Goshen College, with a major in English and a minor in physical education. After living in the Appalachia for nineteen years, she went back to graduate school to earn an M.A. (1994) and a Ph.D. (1998) from Ohio University.

Over the years, Yoder Miller has published stories, poems, and essays in small presses, but she says that the novel form is her writing preference. After working with historical material in Eyes at the Window, she has shifted to a contemporary setting in Everyday Mercies. Midwest Book Review gave high praises to Yoder Miller’s work: “A thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end, Everyday Mercies showcases author Evie Yoder Miller’s impressive storytelling talents with its deftly crafted characters in a superbly woven novel that holds the reader’s complete attention from first page to last.”

Miller’s interests in education continue even though she is now retired from teaching. She has worked in high school, community college, and university settings, most recently teaching composition and creative writing/fiction writing classes for ten years at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

February 4, 2016 – Martha Woodroof, writer and editor

Martha Woodroof has been many things throughout her life: a co-owner of restaurants, an actress, a magazine editor, a local TV talk show host, and a writer. Her debut novel, Small Blessings, published in August of 2014, has received strong reviews from critics and other writers. Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Harding, declared, “In Small Blessings, Woodroof displays a lovely gift for inventive plot turns and glittering moments. The novel brims with life and complexity and characters who never stop surprising themselves, and each other. This is a delightful and splendidly intelligent comedy.”

Woodroof has produced a solid body of writing in a variety of genres and publications. She has written for National Public Radio (Marketplace and Weekend America) and the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her essays have also appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Woodroof was born in Greensboro North Carolina but went to boarding school and college in New England. There she attended Mount Holyoke. After this, she spent some time in Texas and eventually she moved to Virginia, where she attended University of Virginia. Now she and her husband make a home in the Shenandoah Valley where she is well known to listeners of the local public radio station WMRA, from which she recently retired. One of her innovations at WMRA was a program called The Spark which was an exploration of creativity.

November 5, 2015 – Sheri Bailey, writer, editor and public speaker

Sheri Bailey is playwright who received her education from the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA. Bailey lives in Hampton Roads, where she works on many projects pertaining to writing, editing, theatre, and public speaking. Many of her works are focused on the subject of African American heritage in which she seeks to broaden awareness using “history that reaches across the oceans [and] back through the ages to connect the lessons of the past to today and tomorrow.” This work includes a festival company called “Juneteenth VA,” of which she has served as CEO for the past twenty years.

Her dramatic works include A Great and Dismal Swamp (1999) and Summer in Suffolk (2009). In Southern Girls (1996), her most often performed work, she and her co-author Dura Temple “bring a broader social context and a heightened urgency to their work, chronicling the boomer generation’s cycle through questioned injustice, fiery idealism and eventual frustration with the reality that change can never keep pace with expectation.”

Bailey has also taught at both University of Southern California and Old Dominion University. Working as an instructor in English and theatre programs for over 15 years, her goal has been to “build each student’s confidence about their particular story and to get it documented as words on a page.” From 2004-2008 she served as a school board member for Portsmouth City Schools. Through her work in theater and history, Sheri seeks healing for the wounds of racism in our society “without shame or blame.”

  • 1980-1992 3 NAACP “Best Playwright” nominations
  • 1993 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Artist Fellowship
  • 1986 Commission from Deja Vu Coffeehouse for Murder & Mayhem at the Red River Bar
  • 1999 Commission from Old Dominion University for A Great & Dismal Swamp
  • 2009 VA Commission for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship
  • 2011 “Southern Girls” voted “Best Play” for LSU production directed by Robert Alford

September 17, 2015 – Marjorie Agosín, poet and literary critic

Marjorie AgosnMarjorie Agosín is a poet, human rights activist, and literary critic; a scholar of Jewish literature and literature of human rights in the Americas, women writers of Latin America, migration, exile, identity, and ethnicity.

Agosín’s corpus of creative and scholarly work is founded on social justice as it remembers and memorializes historical events in the Americas and Europe. She has written about the holocaust, political repression in Chile, and the experiences of Bosnian women during the siege of Sarajevo in memoirs, scholarly books and articles, and bilingual collections of poetry. She has an international reputation for being a spokesperson for human rights and especially the plight and priorities of women in developing countries.

Agosín was born in Bethesda, Maryland to Jewish parents and at the age of three months her parents moved to their homeland, Chile. Her writing reflects a strong sense of her Jewish and Chilean identities as well as strong faith in life and the resilience of her Jewish ancestors. Together these form her connection to the whole of humanity. During the overthrow of the government by General Pinochet’s military coup, her family fled to the United States.

She is currently Luella LaMer Slaner Professor in Latin American Studies and Professor of Spanish at Wellesley College.

March 19, 2015 – George David Clark, poet and writer

Andrew Hudgins(Photo by Matthew Hoover) Andrew Hudgins describes George David Clark’s Reveille, winner of the Miller Williams Poetry Prize, as being "suffused with a fascinating postmodern sense of the sacred. In its elegant hesitations and lovely vacillations, this book stands on the side of revelation and reverence.” Steve Scafidi concurs: “Reveille seeks to wake us to the new world we find every morning—familiar somehow, but strange enough to fear. These poems point us to delight. To joy. They seek to guide us ‘like a compass locked on heaven.’ I trust this book. Clark is a poet of exquisite powers and Reveille is a pleasure and a pleasure and a pleasure.”

Clark has also published in the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Believer, Blackbird, Southwest Review, Yale Review as well as in a variety of anthologies and special series. Currently, he serves as a visiting assistant professor of literature and interdisciplinary honors at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana , where he held a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellowship from 2012-2014. His other honors include the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Poetry at Colgate University, the Guy Owen Prize of the Southern Poetry Review, the 30 Below Prize of Narrative Magazine, and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. The editor-in-chief of 32 Poems, he has also served on the staffs of Meridian, Virginia Quarterly Review, Iron Horse Literary Magazine, and the Best New Poets anthology.

March 12, 2015 – Vic Sizemore, fiction writer and essayist

Vic Sizemore is a writer of short fiction and novels in which characters wrestle with what it means for them to be Christians in all the human messiness of life. He is also a prolific essayist, contributing frequently to the evangelical channel of

Sizemore earned his MFA in fiction from Seattle Pacific University. His short stories are published or forthcoming in StoryQuarterly, Southern Humanities Review, Connecticut Review, Portland Review, Blue Mesa Review, Sou’wester, Silk Road Review, Atticus Review, PANK Magazine Fiction Fix, Vol.1 Brooklyn, and Conclave. Excerpts from his novel The Calling are published in Connecticut Review, Portland Review, Prick of the Spindle, Burrow Press Review, Rock & Sling, and Relief. His fiction has won the New Millennium Writings Award for Fiction, and been nominated for Best American Nonrequired Reading and a Pushcart Prize. Some of his short stories and chapters from The Calling are available on his blog.

Sizemore teaches at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg, VA.

February 5, 2015 – Mark Bauerlein, nonfiction writer

Dr. Mark BauerleinIn his 2008 book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future (or Don’t Trust Anyone under 30) Dr. Mark Bauerlein argues that despite unprecedented access to knowledge and information, the latest generation of Americans appears to be “no more learned or skilled than their predecessors, no more knowledgable, fluent, up-to-date or inquisitive, except in the materials of youth culture.”

Bauerlein is professor of English at Emory University and has taught there since 1989, with a two-and-a-half year break in 2003-05 to serve as the Director of the Office of Research and Analysis, at the National Endowment for the Arts. He has published numerous scholarly works, including a highly acclaimed account of a 1906 race riot in Atlanta (Negrophobia). In addition, his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, TLS, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, where his blog eloquently promotes the humanities. A recent essay (2012) in First Things narrates his turn from atheism to Catholicism.

In addition to his Writers Read presentation, Bauerlein will speak in chapel on Feb.5 and dialogue with faculty and students in varied settings on the importance and value of the humanities.

November 6, 2014 – Chris Bolgiano, nature writer

Chris BolgianoChris Bolgiano styles herself as a “mildly amusing nature writer.” Not born in Appalachia, she has made it her mission to become native to Appalachia by loving the mountains she has made her home. Much of her writing arises from this affection.

Among her six books (including two edited works), are Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology (2007) which won the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award, Silver, for Best Regional Non-Fiction and Living in the Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry (2002) winner of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment and the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association’s Excellence in Craft Contest Her most recent book is Southern Appalachian Celebration: In Praise of Ancient Mountains, Old-Growth Forests, and Wilderness published by University of North Carolina Press in 2011.

In addition to her books, she has also written innumerable nature and travel articles for The New York Times, Washington Post, American Forests, Sierra, Audubon, and many other publications.

Bolgiano is faculty emeritus at James at Madison University in Harrisonburg and lives in Fulks Run, VA.

September 24, 2014 – Evie Shockley, poet

Evie ShockleyIn one of the poems from her collection the new black Evie Shockley writes;
“i’ve never forgotten the charred bitter fruit of holiday’s poplars, nor will i :
it’s part of what makes me evie : i grew up in the shadow of southern trees,”

The power of home and place to shape who we are is one theme in Shockley’s work, a southern poet teaching in New Jersey. She is associate professor of English at Rutgers University (NJ) where she specializes in African American and African diaspora literature, especially poetry. She has authored a scholarly study of Black aesthetics entitled Renegade Poetics.

She has also published four collections of poetry: The Gorgon Goddess and a half-red sea were published by Carolina Wren Press in 2001 and 2006; 31 words * prose poems appeared in 2007 (Belladonna Books). Her most recent collection the new black (Wesleyan University Press, 2011) received the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry.

Shockley received the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize. She was awarded a residency at the Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers in 2003. Two of her poems were displayed in the Biko 30/30 exhibit, a commemoration of the life and work of anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko, which toured South Africa in 2007.

March 13, 2014 – Sorayya Khan, novelist

Sorayya KhanSorayya Khan is the author of two novels, Noor (2003) and Five Queen’s Road (2009). She was awarded a US Fulbright Research Grant to conduct research in Pakistan and Bangladesh for one of her novels and was awarded a Malahat Review Novella prize for a piece that was the starting point for her novel-in-progress. A few years ago, she received a Constance Saltonstall Artist Grant, which took her to Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the tsunami where she interviewed survivors. Over the years, she has been published in various literary quarterlies, including The Kenyon Review and North American Review, and several anthologies.

February 10, 2014 – Jim Minick, nonfiction writer

Jim MinickJim Minick is the author of The Blueberry Years, A Memoir of Farm and Family, and winner of the SIBA Best Nonfiction Book of the Year Award. Minick has also written a collection of essays, Finding a Clear Path, two books of poetry, Her Secret Song and Burning Heaven, and he edited All There Is to Keep by Rita Riddle. In 2008, the Virginia College Bookstore Association awarded Burning Heaven the Jefferson Cup for best book of the year. Minick has won grants, awards, and honors from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association, Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Appalachian Writers Association, Appalachian Heritage, Now and Then Magazine, and Radford University, where he teaches writing and literature.

November 14, 2013 – Jessica Penner, writer

Jessica PennerJessica Penner’s debut novel-in-stories, Shaken in the Water, was released by Foxhead Books this spring. Canadian Mennonite author Rudy Wiebe writes about the novel: “The reality of the world Jessica Penner creates in Shaken in the Water is never quite what it appears to be: love can so swiftly shift-shape into hatred, rage into compassion, understanding into rejection and longing. But for the reader there is always the Voice calling, ‘Herein!’ – ‘Come in!’” Penner has also been published in Bellevue Literary Review, Center for Mennonite Writing, Rhubarb, and the anthology Tongue Screws and Testimonies. She won an honorable mention for the short story, “Homebody,” in Open City’s RRofihe Trophy contest and an honorable mention for the essay, “Mustard Seed,” in Bellevue Literary Review’s Burns Archive Prize for Nonfiction. “Mustard Seed” was later nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Penner earned a BA at EMU and a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Currently she teaches English to international students at James Madison University.

September 19, 2013 – Frank X Walker, poet

Frank X WalkerMultidisciplinary artist Frank X Walker is a native of Danville, Ky., a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and completed an MFA in Writing at Spalding University in May 2003. Walker’s latest work is a collection of poems, Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride. As founder of the Affrilachian Poets, Walker is editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. He is the editor of America! What’s My Name? The “Other” Poets Unfurl the Flag (Wind Publications, 2007) and Eclipsing a Nappy New Millennium and the author of four poetry collections: When Winter Come: the Ascension of York (University Press of Kentucky, 2008); Black Box (Old Cove Press, 2005); Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York (University Press of Kentucky, 2003), winner of the 35th Annual Lillian Smith Book Award; and Affrilachia (Old Cove Press, 2000), a Kentucky Public Librarians’ Choice Award nominee. A Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Fellowship recipient, Walker’s poems have been converted into a stage production by the University of Kentucky Theatre department and widely anthologized in numerous collections; including The Appalachian Journal, Limestone, Roundtable, My Brothers Keeper, Spirit and Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art.

March 14, 2013 – Saloma Miller Furlong, memoirist

Saloma FurlongFurlong grew up in an Amish community in Ohio. Driven by her desire for freedom and more formal education, she broke away from her community — not once, but twice. Furlong graduated from Smith College with a major in German Studies and a minor in Philosophy. Her education included research on the Amish with Dr. Donald Kraybill and a semester abroad in Germany, where she studied at the University of Hamburg and participated in children’s literature classes in which she wrote a children’s book in German. Furlong writes a blog, About Amish, has published a memoir titled Why I Left the Amish, and has published short stories and essays, including in Calyx; A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (1997) and in Vermont Voices III: An Anthology of Vermont Writers (1999). She is currently co-writing, with her husband, David, a sequel to her memoir titled The Amish Daughter and the Yankee Peddler.

January 31, 2013 – Katie Fallon, essayist and nonfiction writer

Katie FallonFallon is author of the nonfiction book Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (Ruka Press, 2011). Cerulean Blues was recently named a finalist for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Reed Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment, and her essay “Hill of the Sacred Eagles” was selected as a finalist in Terrain ‘s 2011 essay contest. Fallon’s nonfiction has appeared in a variety of other magazines and literary journals, including The Bark, Fourth Genre, Ecotone, River Teeth, Isotope, Fourth River, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Rivendell, The New River Gorge Adventure Guide, and elsewhere. She has taught creative writing at Virginia Tech and West Virginia University.

November 1, 2012 – Joy Jordan-Lake, novelist

Joy Jordan-LakeDr. Jordan-Lake’s first novel, Blue Hole Back Home: A Novel (David C. Cook, 2008), won the 2009 national Christy Award for first novel and was selected as the 2009 Common Book for Baylor University. Blue Hole Back Home is increasingly being chosen as classroom and summer reading at various public and private high schools, middle schools, colleges and universities. Dr. Jordan-Lake has also authored Grit and Grace: Portraits of a Woman’s Life (Wheaton Library Series, 2000), Whitewashing Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe (Vanderbilt University Press, 2005), and Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith (Paraclete Press, 2007). She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Tufts University and currently teaches part time at Belmont University in Tennessee.

September 20, 2012 – Casey Clabough, nonfiction writer

Casey ClaboughCasey Clabough is the author of the novel Confederado, the travel memoir The Warrior’s Path: Reflections Along an Ancient Route, and five scholarly books on southern writers, including Inhabiting Contemporary Southern & Appalachian Literature: Region & Place in the 21st Century. Clabough serves as editor of the literature section of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ Encyclopedia Virginia and as general editor of the literary journal James Dickey Review. He lives on a farm in Appomattox County, Virginia and teaches at Lynchburg College.

February 23, 2012 – Lee Peterson, poet

Lee PetersonLee Peterson currently teaches creative writing courses full time at Pennsylvania State University, Altoona campus, where she held the position of 2004 “Emerging Writer-in-Residence.” She is the author of Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia, winner of the 2003 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. She gives readings and leads workshops nationally, including the 2007 Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Her poetry has been published in various journals, including North American Review, Runes: A Review of Poetry, Nimrod: International Journal of Prose and Poetry, and The Seattle Review.

January 26, 2012 – Diane Gilliam, poet

Diane GillamDiane Gillam is the author of several poetry collections, most recently, Kettle Bottom, which earned her numerous honors, including a spot on the American Booksellers Association Book Sense 2005 Top Ten Poetry Books list, the 2008 Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, and inclusion in The Pushcart Prize XXX anthology. In her review of Kettle Bottom, Catherine MacDonald gives the book high praise, “Set in 1920–21, a period of violent unrest known as the West Virginia Mine Wars, the poems in Kettle Bottom combine compelling narratives with the charged, heightened language of lyric poetry. It is an unforgettable combination, one that characterizes the very best contemporary verse.” Gillam has had her poems published in literary journals and magazines including Wind Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Shenandoah, Ploughshares, and The Spoon River Poetry Review.

October 13, 2011 – Sehba Sarwar, multidisciplinary artist and director of Voice Breaking Boundaries

Sehba SarwarSehba Sarwar is a writer, multidisplinary artist, and activist, currently based in Houston, Texas, where she serves as founding director of Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), and is an active voice at KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM. She continues to teach writing and multidisciplinary arts workshops at all levels, in both Pakistan and the US. She moves between the city of her birth Karachi, Pakistan, where she spent the first half of her life in a home filled with artists, activists and educators, and her adopted city, Houston, where she has recreated a community similar to the one in which she was raised. Her writings have appeared in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines in India, Pakistan, and the U.S., and her work (writings, installations and videos) explores displacement and women’s issues, moving between South Asia and the U.S. She is the author of the novel Black Wings, and her short stories have appeared in Muneeza Shamsie’s 2008 anthology of Pakistani women writers And The World Changed and in Neither Night Nor Day. Her essays have appeared in publications including The News on Sunday, The New York Times’ Sunday Magazine and Callaloo.

September 22, 2011 – G. C. Waldrep, poet

G. C. WaldrepG. C. Waldrep is an assistant professor of English at Bucknell University. He is the author of four full-length collections of poems: Goldbeater’s Skin (2003); Disclamor (2007); Archicembalo (2009), winner of the Dorset Prize; and, in collaboration with John Gallaher, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts. His work has appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Harper’s, The Nation, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, New England Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, and Tin House, as well as in Best American Poetry 2010. His work has earned prizes and residencies from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Campbell Corner Foundation. He was a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Literature. Waldrep is also the author of Southern Workers and the Search for Community, a historical monograph on the lives of Southern textile workers during the early twentieth century. At Bucknell he teaches creative writing, directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, and serves as Editor-at-Large for the Kenyon Review.

February 17, 2011 – Nathalie Handal, writer, poet and playwright

Nathalie HandalNathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and writer. She teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, most recently in Africa and at Columbia University in New York City. She is the author of the poetry collections, The NeverField and The Lives of Rain; the poetry CDs Traveling Rooms and Spell; the editor of The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (an Academy of American Poets Bestseller and winner of the Pen Oakland/Josephine Miles Award); and co-editor along with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008). Her forthcoming poetry book, Love and Strange Horses, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. “It’s late in the world when I finish reading this amazing book of Arab women’s poetry. I cannot put it down and wish to carry it with me everywhere, as a text for remembering how crucial poetry is for the survival of the soul. Each poem carries within it water, blood and the sound of a woman singing. There is sky and earth. I admire these Arab women poets who are makers of some of this world’s finest poetry. What a gift to find them all here together!” -Joy Harjo

September 30, 2010 – Todd Davis, poet and professor

Todd DavisTodd Davis, winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, teaches creative writing, environmental studies, and American literature at Penn State University’s Altoona College. He is the author of three books of poetry, The Least of These (Michigan State University Press, forthcoming), Some Heaven (Michigan State University Press, 2007) and Ripe (Bottom Dog Press, 2002), and co-editor of Making Poems: 40 Poems with Commentary by the Poets (State University of New York Press, forthcoming). His poems have been featured on the radio by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and by Marion Roach on The Naturalist’s Datebook, as well as by Ted Kooser in his syndicated newspaper column American Life in Poetry. “Rarely has gentleness felt so forceful or images been so deftly allied on the page. This book is a hymnal for anyone who loves nature and hungers for its surprising presence in heart and mind.” – Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Genius Loci and Science and Other Poems, Winner of the Walt Whitman Award

March 18 , 2010 – Julia Kasdorf, poet, essayist and professor

Julia Spicher KasdorfJulia Spicher Kasdorf has published two collections of poetry with the University of Pittsburgh Press, Eve’s Striptease and Sleeping Preacher, winner of Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and the Great Lakes College’s Association Award for New Writing. A third collection, Poetry in America is currently under submission. Her poems have been awarded a 2009 NEA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She also published a collection of essays, The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life, winner of the 2002 Book of the Year Award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature, and a biography, Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American. Most recently, she co-edited the restored text of Yoder’s 1940 local color classic, Rosanna of the Amish. She is also co-editor of the anthology, Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn, published by NYU Press. An associate professor of English and women’s studies at the Pennsylvania State University, she teaches in the MFA program in creative writing.

January 28, 2010 – Myra Sklarew, poet, essayist and nonfiction writer

Myra SklarewMyra Sklarew, former president of the artist community Yaddo and Professor Emerita of literature at American University, is the author of three chapbooks and six collections of poetry, including Lithuania: New & Selected Poems and The Witness Trees; a collection of short fictions, Like a Field Riddled by Ants; a collection of essays, Over the Rooftops of Time; a nonfiction work, Holocaust and the Construction of Memory; and her most recent publication, 1,111 Days in my Life Plus Four. Her poetry has been recorded for the Contemporary Poets’ Archives of the Library of Congress. Her poem “ Lithuania” won the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award from the Judah Magnus Museum: “a powerful, evocative book of selfless love. The award-winning title poem is a living testimonial to those who perished in the Kovno Ghetto, wholly heartfelt and viscerally honest.” – Azul Editions

October 8 , 2009 – Alice Wisler, novelist

Alice WislerAlice Wisler is an author, public speaker, advocate, and fundraiser. She graduated from Eastern Mennonite University in 1983 with a degree in social work and has since traveled the country in jobs that minister to people. Alice was raised in Japan and currently resides in Durham, North Carolina. Wisler’s first novel Rain Song was a finalist for the Christy Award. Her second novel How Sweet It Is was released in May 2009. “… an astonishing debut … Wisler writes with a tremendous amount of talent.” – Annabelle Robertson, “Written with a seasoning of Southern charm and populated with richly drawn characters” – Library Journal. “Alice Wisler tells this story of Rain Song in the slow, deliberate style of Southern tradition.” – Kim Ford,

September 10, 2009 – Charles Marsh, novelist

Charles MarshCharles Marsh is professor of religious studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia. His books include Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Last Days, God’s Long Summer, which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion; The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today; and Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity. Marsh is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and has written for The New York Times, Books & Culture, and Modern Theology. “Marsh makes us examine our concepts of “just war,” and urges us to move past cultural preconditions, take the teachings of Jesus seriously, and dare to apply them to the issues of contemporary society.” – Southern Reader

March 12, 2009 – Robert Morgan, writer, essayist and poet

Robert MorganRobert Morgan is the author of eight books, several essays, and poems. His latest book, Boone: A Biography won The 2007 Kentucky Literary Award for Nonfiction at the 10th annual Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Boone is a top 10 selection in a critic’s favorite books of 2007 by Jonathan Yardley from the Washington Post. “Robert Morgan carefully separates legend from reality in the life of the country’s most famous frontiersman.” Boone has also been selected as the 2008 title for Together We Read, the annual community-based reading project of Western North Carolina. Morgan was selected as finalist for the LA Times Literary Award in the biography category. The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, at its annual meeting in Asheville on November 10, 2007, for which Robert Morgan was the keynote speaker, honored him with the R. Hunt Parker Award “for Significant Contributions to the Literature of North Carolina.” (Source:

January 22, 2009 – Helon Habila, Nigerian prose fiction writer

Helon HabilaHelon Habila was born in Nigeria in 1967. He studied literature at the University of Jos and taught at the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, before moving to Lagos to work as a journalist. In Lagos he wrote his first novel, Waiting for an Angel, which won the Caine Prize in 2001. In 2002 he moved to England to become the African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. After his fellowship he enrolled for a PhD in Creative Writing. His writing has won many prizes including the Commonwealth Writers Prize, 2003. In 2005-2006 he was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College in New York. He is a contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review, and in 2006 he co-edited the British Council’s anthology, New Writing 14. His second novel, Measuring Time, was published in February, 2007. He currently teaches Creative Writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and two children. (Source: (photo by Tom Langdom)

October 23, 2008 – Maggie Anderson, poet

Maggie AndersonAnderson is the author of four books of poems, most recently Windfall: New and Selected Poems published in 2000. Her other books include Cold Comfort (1986) and A Space Filled with Moving (1992). Anderson is also the editor of the new and selected poems of Louise McNeill and co-editor of Learning by Heart: Contemporary American Poetry about School and A Gathering of Poets, an anthology of poems read to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the shootings of students in an anti-war protest at Kent State University in 1970. Recent poems have been published in The Alaska Quarterly, The Georgia Review, and The American Poetry Review. (Source: Kent State University website) (photo by Herb Ascherman)

September 18, 2008 – Ervin Stutzman, preacher, professor and author

Ervin StutzmanDr. Stutzman is a writer, speaker and a theological educator. He is a vice president at Eastern Mennonite University and serves as Dean and Professor of Church Ministries at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Stutzman was born into an Amish home as a twin in Kalona, Iowa. Two of his books – Tobias of the Amish and Emma – relate to his family of origin. A third book is entitled Welcome! It is a guide to welcoming new members into the church. (Source:

February 21, 2008 – Cheryl Denise Miller, poet

In I Saw God Dancing, the narrative poetry of Cheryl Denise gathers together her Canadian Mennonite roots, rural life, and her attachment to the people and mountains of West Virginia. Her poetry is rich in concrete detail, and many poems contain a storytelling quality. Subjects range from sheep farming to lusts and longings, biblical women, legs, old lovers and laundromats. Often humorous, she penetrates to the deep current of human relationship. Many people who don’t read poetry find themselves drawn to Cheryl’s truthful, clear style. (From a review on MennoLink Books and Music)

January 24, 2008 – Vigen Guroian, scholar and writer

Vigen Guroian is presently Professor of Theology at Loyola College in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Guroian’s many notable titles include Senior Fellow of the Center on Law and Religion of Emory University, Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum, and an ongoing Fellow of the Wilberforce Forum under the Prison Fellowship Ministries founded by the honorable Chuck Colson. He has published more than one hundred and fifty articles in books, journals, and encyclopedias on a range of subjects including Orthodox theology, marriage and family, children’s literature, education, politics, ecology, genocide, liturgy, and medical ethics. Dr. Guroian is the author of nine books in all, including Rallying the Really Human Thing: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature, and Everyday Life and How Shall We Remember?: Reflections on the Armenian Genocide and Church Faith. His most recent book, The Fragrance of God, chronicles not merely the changing seasons but the course of his own life as he and his family move from Maryland to a new home near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Read more on Dr. Guroian on his web site:

November 29, 2007 – Wayne Johnston, distinguished chair in creative writing at Hollins College

Wayne Johnston’s award-winning fiction includes The Story of Bobby O’Malley, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and The Navigator of New York. He wrote both the novel and the screenplay for The Divine Ryans and won Canada’s most prestigious prize for creative non-fiction for Baltimore’s Mansion. A native of Newfoundland, Johnston now holds the Distinguished Chair in Creative Writing at Hollins College. Read more on Mr. Johnson on his web site:

September 25, 2007 – Peggy Payne, novelist, journalist and editorial consultant

Peggy Payne’s research for her travel writing and novels has taken her to more than 25 countries. Her most recent novel, Sister India, is a New York Times Notable Book. She is author of the novel Revelation (screen rights sold to Synergy Films) and co-author, with Allan Luks of The Healing Power of Doing Good. She also wrote a book on a clothing firm, Doncaster: A Legacy of Personal Style. Her articles, reviews, or essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Travel+Leisure, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and many others. Read more on Peggy Payne on her official web site:

February 15, 2007 – Jane Kurtz, fiction writer

Award-winning children’s book author Jane Kurtz now lives in Hesston, Kansas, but she has lived and traveled all over the world. Many of her stories take place in East Africa, where she spent most of her childhood, but she has also written about surviving a flood in North Dakota, seat belts, grouchy days, the Oregon Trail, and several real-life heroes, including Frances Willard, Johnny Appleseed, and Barnum Brown. As a long-time teacher of writing at the elementary, secondary, and university levels, Kurtz has recently offered presentations for fellow-writers, teachers, librarians, and children in all but thirteen of the U.S. states, in several African and European countries, and in the Persian Gulf. She also teaches in the Vermont MFA program in children’s literature.

January 25, 2007 – Frederica Mathewes-Green, NPR commentator and essayist

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author whose work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, the Los Angeles Times, First Things, Books & Culture, Sojourners, Touchstone, and the Wall Street Journal. She is a regular columnist for the multi-faith web magazine, and she writes movie reviews for the National Review Online. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Her essays were selected for Best Christian Writing in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. She has published seven books, most recently Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy and First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey through the Canon of St. Andrew, and over six hundred articles.

Special Lecture November 17, 2006 – Gilbert Meilaender, philosopher

Gilbert Meilaender teaches at Valparaiso University (Ind.), where he holds the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics. Meilaender has published eleven books and numerous articles, including Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics; Faith and Faithfulness: Basic Themes in Christian Ethics; Bioethics: A Primer for Christians; Body, Soul and Bioethics; The Way that Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life; and Working: Its Meaning and Its Limits. He is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics and has served on the board of directors of the Society of Christian Ethics, as an associate editor of Religious Studies Review, and as an associate editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics. Dr. Meilaender is also a Fellow of the Hastings Center and has been a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics since it was established in January 2002.

Special Lecture November 2, 2006 – Yorifumi Yaguchi, poet

Yorifumi Yaguchi is a leading Mennonite poet, writing in both English and Japanese. He is best known in the West for his thirty poems in Three Mennonite Poets (Good Books, 1986), but his published work in English includes nearly 300 poems in five volumes. Yaguchi’s poetry bears witness to the evils of militarism from Shinto nationalism to Hiroshima and then extends to Vietnam and the aftermath of September 11, 2001. He is an international peace activist whose poetic and prophetic voice extends to his roles as professor, poetry editor and Mennonite pastor in Japan.

October 19, 2006 – Michael McFee, poet

Michael McFee has published seven collections of poetry, most recently Shinemaster (Carnegie Melon, 2005). His collection of essays, The Napkin Manuscripts: Selected Essays and an Interview, is forthcoming. He has also edited This is Where We Live: Short Stories by Twenty-five Contemporary North Carolina Writers (UNC Press, 2000), a companion anthology to his The Language They Speak is Things to Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets (UNC Press, 1994).

September 21, 2006 – Jean Janzen, poet

Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, and reared in the midwestern United States, Jean Janzen has lived in Fresno, Calif., since 1961, where she teaches poetry-writing at Fresno Pacific University. Her published collections of poetry are Words for the Silence, Three Mennonite Poets, The Upside-down Tree, and Snake in the Parsonage. She received an NEA grant in 1995, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies.

Special Lecture September 7, 2006 – Norman Wirzba, philosopher

Norman Wirzba is professor and chair of the philosophy department at Georgetown College (Ky.). He teaches courses in the history of philosophy, environmental ethics, and theology and is the author of The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age and Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight and editor of The Essential Agrarian Reader, The Art of the Commonplace, and The Phenomenology of Prayer.

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