2014 Oxford Conference for the Book Guest Speakers
*Subject to change
To see the times speakers will present, please visit the schedule page.

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, and The End of Everything. Her novel, Dare Me, was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is soon to be a major motion picture. Her latest novel The Fever will be published in June 2014.  Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She is the 2013 John Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss.

Ace Atkins is the New York Times Bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the forthcoming The Broken Places and Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland, both out from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in May 2013. A former journalist who cut his teeth as a crime reporter in the newsroom of The Tampa Tribune, he published his first novel Crossroad Blues at 27 and became a full-time novelist at 30. Last year, he was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the bestselling adventures of Boston’s iconic private eye, Spenser.

Harry Brandt Ayers is chairman and publisher of The Anniston Star, twice named by Time “one of the best small newspapers in the United States.” Ayers had written articles for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Southern Living, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post and writes the syndicated column entitled “Out Here” carried by some thirty newspapers. He has received numerous awards including the Alabama Academy of Honor recognizing the accomplishment of 100 living Alabamians; a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University; a Gannet Fellowship at Columbia University and was awarded the Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Alabama.

Ben Bradlee, Jr. is the author of three previous books. He spent 25 years at The Boston Globe as a reporter and editor. As Deputy Managing Editor, he oversaw many critically acclaimed stories, including the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in 2002. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sister Liz Brown, CSJ, is the Executive Director of Excel Commons Family Community Center in Okolona, Mississippi.  Excel Commons works to further education, promote community building, encourage community services, and foster healthy lives.

Bill Cheng is the author of Southern Cross the Dog.  He received a BA in creative writing from Baruch College and is a graduate of Hunter College’s MFA program.

Drew Daywalt Ever since his childhood in one of Ohio’s most haunted houses, writer director Drew Daywalt has been writing escapist fantasy and building worlds of his own. With a degree in Creative Writing and a concentration in Children’s Literature from Emerson College in Boston, he set off to Hollywood where he spent years writing for Disney and Universal and where his animated series The Wacky World of Tex Avery garnered an Emmy nomination. With an eye toward picture book writing, His first book, The Day The Crayons Quit, debuted on the New York Times Best Seller’s List in June 2013, and has since become a No. 1 Best Seller.  

Kevin Dean is the Executive Director of Literacy Mid-South. He received his Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Memphis in 2002.  In 2009, he completed his Masters Degree in Executive Leadership from Christian Brothers University and in 2011, was named one of Memphis’ Top 40 Under 40 by Memphis Business Journal.  He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth J. Colvin and Frank C. Laubach Award for Excellence in Community-Based Adult Literacy from ProLiteracy.

William Dunlap has distinguished himself as an artist, arts commentator, and educator since receiving his MFA from the University of Mississippi in 1969. His work can be found at museums across the nation and at United States embassies throughout the world. Dunlap, the book about his work, won the 2007 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award.

Amy Einhorn, Vice President and Publisher of Amy Einhorn Books, has been in publishing for over 20 years.  Some of the books and authors that she has published include Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters, Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress, David Gillham’s City of Women, Amy Sedaris’ I Like You, and Robert Hicks’ The Widow of the South .

Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA program at Ole Miss, where she was named the 2011 Outstanding Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the N.E.A., United States Artists, and a Fulbright to Brazil. She has published three books of poetry and one of nonfiction, all with W.W. Norton. She recently co-authored A Tilted World with her husband, Tom Franklin. They live in Oxford with their three children.

Michael Garriga Born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Garriga comes from a long line of noted Creole outlaws and tall-tale tellers. His whole family’s big and anchored in and around Biloxi. He has held jobs as a sound man at Proud Larry’s, a shrimp picker, and a bartender, but for the last ten years he’s been teaching writing, and is currently an assistant professor at Baldwin Wallace University. He holds degrees in English from the University of Mississippi (BA), where I worked with Barry Hannah, who was his next door neighbor; the University of Louisville (MA); and Florida State University (PhD). He’s been married to Megan Garland Garriga for ten years, and they live as smiling ex-pats with their two boys–Jaume and Pax–in Berea, Ohio.

Luke Geddes’s fiction has been published in Mid American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Conjunctions, and other journals. His short story collection I am a Magical Teenage Princess, which Publishers Weekly praised as “a rewarding and unusual collection,” was published in 2012. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati.

Amy Greene is the author of the national best seller Bloodroot. She was born and raised in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her new novel, Long Man, will be published by Knopf in February.

Adam Gussow is an American scholar, memoirist, and blues harmonica player and is the author of Mister Satan’s Apprentice, the story of an unlikely musical partnership, the blues, and race in America. He is currently an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi.

Françoise N. Hamlin is the Hans Rothfels Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies at Brown University. Born and raised in London, England, an exchange year in Clarksdale, Mississippi changed her path from a projected career in law to a scholar activist and teacher. She is the author of Crossroads at Clarksdale: The Black Freedom Struggle in the Mississippi Delta after World War II (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), which won the 2012 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize and the 2013 Lillian Smith Book Award. Hamlin’s new research focuses on young people, trauma and activism.

Derrick Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s worked as assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and The Cream City Review and has taught community writing workshops for individuals of all ages, including senior citizens. A two-time Pushcart Nominee, Harriell’s poems have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. Cotton (Aquarius Press-Willow Books 2010) is his first collection of poems.

Electro-Fi recording artist Fruteland Jackson is a History Maker ( He is an author, storyteller and oral historian, who grew up in Chicago. He is a three-time Blues Music Award Nominee and a recipient of the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award. Fruteland performs Americana; acoustic blues, folk traditional and singer-songwriter styles around the world. Fruteland Jackson created the award winning *All About the Blues Series- Blues in the School Programs. Fruteland plays acoustic guitar with a focus on pre-war and post-war blues ranging from Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy to Elizabeth Cotton, plus his personal interpretations. He studies mandolin, lap steel and the banjo, and has published an instructional book on Delta Blues for Beginners with Alfred Publishing.

Deborah Johnson’s first novel, The Air Between Us, received the Mississippi Library Association Award for fiction.  She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where she attended a Catholic girls’ school.  She went on to attend Lone Mountain College, which now forms part of the University of San Francisco.  She lived for nearly two decades in Rome, Italy, where she worked as a translator and an editor, as well as at Vatican Radio.  After returning to the United States, she became executive director of a small charitable foundation in the South.  She now lives and writes in Columbus, Mississippi.

Greg Johnson has served as Associate Professor and Curator of the Blues Archive in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Mississippi since 2002. He received his Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2002, where he also received a Bachelor of Music in history and literature in 2000. He is the co-author of the recently published 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own.

Denise Kiernan has been working as a writer for nearly 20 years. She has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Discover and many more publications. She has authored several popular history titles including Signing Their Lives Away, Signing Their Rights Away and Stuff Every American Should Know. Her most recent book, The Girls of Atomic City, is a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and NPR Bestseller. She was recently named to the board of the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

John Langston has worked at the University Press of Mississippi for 30 years. His
titles have included book designer, production manager, art director, and assistant
director. His designs for Mississippi writers and artists have been crucial to the
development of the Press’s regional publishing program.

Kiese Laymon is a black southern storyteller, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of the novel, Long Division, and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Laymon is a contributing editor at His work has appeared in Esquire, ESPN, NPR, Gawker, the Best American series, Guernica, Truthout, TheFeministwire, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, Mythium and Politics and Culture. Laymon is currently an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Vassar College.

Laura Lippman is the author of the new novel After I’m Gone (William Morrow, Feb. 11, 2014. She began her career as a journalist; she was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve at The Baltimore Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime, publishing seven Tess Monaghan books before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her Tess books, eleven in all, have won virtually every major mystery prize. Her novel Every Secret Thing, optioned by Academy Award-winning actor Frances McDormand, is now in post-production. She lives with her husband David Simon, and their daughter. They split their time between Baltimore and New Orleans.

Deborah Luster is best known for her long-term documentary series, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana (1998–2003, with poet C. D. Wright), a photographic archive of portraits of prisoners from three Louisiana prisons, including the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola; and Tooth for an Eye: a Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish (2008–2011), a photographic archive of cityscapes documenting locations in New Orleans where homicides have been committed. Twin Palms Publishing has issued monographs of both collections.

Susan Minot is an award-winning novelist and short story writer, whose books include Monkeys, Folly, Lust & Other Stories, and Evening. She lives with her daughter in both New York City and an island off the coast of Maine.

Jonathan Odell is the author of the novels, The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2012) and The View from Delphi (Macadam/Cage 2004) His short stories and essays have appeared in Stories from the Blue Moon Café (Macadam/Cage 2004), Men Like That (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Letters of the Twentieth Century (Dial Press, 1999), Breaking Silence (Xanthus Press, 1996), Speakeasy Literary Magazine, and the Savannah Literary Journal. He has also written for Commonweal Magazine and has had his work featured in the Utne Reader. He is currently at work on a book of personal essays entitled Growing Up As A Gay, Fundamentalist, Southern Baptist in Mississippi, or God, What Were You Thinking?

Nancy Opalko earned her BA in English from the University of South Carolina-Coastal Carolina, her MA in English from the University of Mississippi and her MLIS in Library Science from the University of Alabama. She has been the Children’s Librarian and the Assistant Head Librarian at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library for sixteen years. She loves working with children of all ages and connecting them with books, and her love of books extends into her work as president of the  Lafayette County Literacy Council.

Ted Ownby has a joint appointment in History and Southern Studies, and is the director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He is the author of American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture, 1830-1998 and Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865-1920. He is editor of the Gender volume of The New Encyclopedia for Southern Culture, and The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. He is the co-editor of the Mississippi Encyclopedia and writes and teaches classes on the social and cultural history of the American South.

Jack Pendarvis has written three books of fiction as well as numerous articles, columns, short stories and essays. He is the staff writer for the television show Adventure Time.

Tom Rankin is Professor of the Practice of Art and Documentary Studies at Duke University where he directs the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts.  For the past 15 years he was director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke.  He is a graduate of Tufts University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Georgia State University. His books include Sacred Space:  Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993), which received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Photography; Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre:  Photographs of a River Life  (1995); Faulkner’s World:  The Photographs of Martin J. Dain (1997); and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (2000).   His most recent book is One Place: Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia.(2013)

Steve Scafidi is the author of four poetry collections: Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, For Love of Common Words, The Cabinetmaker’s Window and To the Bramble and the Briar. He works as a cabinetmaker and lives in Summit Point, West Virginia.

Maude Schuyler Clay was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. After attending the University of Mississippi and the Memphis Academy of Arts, she assisted photographer William Eggleston. She received the Mississippi Arts and Letters award for photography in 1988, 1992, and 2000, and the Mississippi Art Commission’s Individual Artist Grant in 1998. She published her monograph Delta Land in 1999. (U. Press of MS ) She was the Photography Editor of the literary magazine The Oxford American from 1998-2002. Her work is in museum collections, including: The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The National Museum for Women in the Arts. Delta Dogs, will be published by the Univ. Press of MS June 2014, with a foreword by Brad Watson and essay by Beth Ann Fennelly.

Aurelie Sheehan is the author of four books of fiction, most recently Jewelry Box: A Collection of Histories (BOA Editions, Ltd.). Her work has appeared in journals including Conjunctions, Epoch, Fence, New England Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. She teaches fiction at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

David Skolkin is a partner in the design firm of Skolkin + Chickey in Santa Fe, New Mexico which specializes in the design and production of hi-quality art books. He is also Founder and Production Director for Radius Books. An award winning book designer, he works with many publishers and museums around the country. His awards include AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers, International Center of Photography Infinity Award, American Association for Museums Design competitions, Pubwest Design Awards, and LMP Award (Literary Market Place) for individual achievement in Design &Production.

Obert Skye is the author and illustrator of the three books in The Creature from My Closet series—Wonkenstein, Potterwookiee, and Pinocula. He has also written the bestselling children’s fantasy adventure series Leven Thumps and Pillage.

Robert St. John has spent more than three decades in the restaurant business. Twenty-five of those years have been as the owner of the Purple Parrot Café, Crescent City Grill, Mahogany Bar, Branch and Tabella in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. St. John, a restaurateur, chef, columnist, and author, writes a weekly syndicated food column for newspapers and has written nine books. His latest book, An Italian Palate, his third collaboration with watercolor artist, Wyatt Waters is in its second printing. In 2009, St. John founded Extra Table, a non-profit organization that delivers healthy foods to soup kitchens and mission pantries.

Tess Taylor has received writing fellowships from Amherst College, the American Antiquarian Society, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. Her chapbook, The Misremembered World, was selected by Eavan Boland and published by the Poetry Society of America. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker. She lives in El Cerrito, California, where she reviews poetry for NPR’s All Things Considered and other venues. Her book of poems, The Forage House, is published by Red Hen Press.

George F. Thompson joined the Johns Hopkins University Press in 1984 as an acquisitions editor. After founding and directing the Center for American Places, he founded his own imprint, George F. Thompson Publishing, based in Staunton, Virginia. Books that he has published have won more than 100 of the top book awards, including multiple ‘best-book’ honors in thirty-one professional fields of study. He is also the editor and author of five books, including Landscape in America (Texas, 1995), which was designated a Notable Book in 1995 by Harper’s magazine, and Ecological Design and Planning. Born in Colorado, raised in Connecticut, and educated at the universities of Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Wisconsin-Madison, George has lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia since 1983 with his wife, Cynthia, and daughter, Haley.

Elizabeth Triplett earned a degree from the Mississippi University for Women and is the co-founder and Director of the Itawamba Learning Center.

Wyatt Waters is a watercolor artist who received the lifetime achievement at the 2010 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts.

David Wharton is Assistant Professor of Southern Studies and Director of Documentary Projects at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. His most recent book of photographs, Small Town South, was published in 2012. In 2013, he was honored as a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award winner for photography. He is almost finished with a book-length project titled The Power of Belief: Spiritual Landscapes from the American South, which examines the visual impact of traditional spirituality through landscape photography.

Curtis Wilkie graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963. He was a national and foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe for 26 years. Wilkie is the author of Dixie: A Personal Odyssey through Events That Shaped the Modern South, and The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer, and co-author of Arkansas Mischief: Birth of a National Scandal. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Oxford where he teaches journalism and is a fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss.

Ed Williams is author of Liberating Dixie: An Editor’s Life, from Ole Miss to Obama, a collection of work from his 50 years as a newspaperman. An Ole Miss graduate, he edited the Daily Mississippian then was a reporter for the Clarksdale Press-Register and (Greenville) Delta Democrat-Times. After a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, he joined The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and for 25 years was editor of its editorial pages. His commentaries were part of two Observer projects that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. In 2012 he was inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Marylyn, live in Charlotte.

Snowden Wright is the author of the novel Play Pretty Blues (Engine Books, 2013). He has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, Salon, and the New York Daily News. Recipient of the Summer Literary Seminar’s 2012 Graywolf Prize for best novel excerpt, Wright can be found online at

Kevin Young is the author of seven previous books of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of a 2012 American Book Award, and Jelly Roll, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the editor of eight other collections, most recently The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink. Young’s book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award,. He is the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English, curator of Literary Collections and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.

Past Conference for the Book Authors 1993-2013