2017 Oxford Conference for the Book Guest Speakers
*Subject to change
To see the times speakers will present, please visit the schedule page.
Beth Batton has directed the Oaks House Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, since July 2014. She worked for the Mississippi Museum of Art for eleven years, most recently as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow for Mississippi Byways and as curator of the collection. Her work in community arts began in 1998 on staff at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, an award-winning arts organization in Port Gibson, and she was the arts-based community development director at the Mississippi Arts Commission from 2001 to 2005.
Lee Boudreaux is vice president and editorial director of Lee Boudreaux Books. She joined Little, Brown in 2014 after nine years as editorial director of Ecco, a division of HarperCollins. Over the course of her career, Boudreaux has published a broad range of writers, including Daniel Bergner (Sing for Your Life), Patrick DeWitt (The Sisters Brothers), Ben Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Affinity Konar (Mischling), Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles), Elizabeth Poliner (As Close to Us As Breathing), Ron Rash (Serena), Jennifer Senior (All Joy and No Fun), Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep), Adriana Trigiani (The Shoemaker’s Wife), and David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle). Her books have become New York Times and national bestsellers, Oprah Book Club selections, and her authors have won or been nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the Orange Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and numerous PEN awards.
Carolyn J. Brown is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. She attended Duke University and then the University of North Carolina-Greensboro for her master’s degree and PhD. A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty was her first book, which won the Mississippi Library Association’s Award for Nonfiction in 2013 and was selected by the Mississippi Library Commission to represent the state of Mississippi at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., in 2012. She published her second biography, Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker, in November 2014. Brown’s most recent work is The Artist’s Sketch: A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark, published by the University Press of Mississippi. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, with her husband and two sons.
Ed Croom of Oxford, Mississippi is president of Croomia Botanical Scientific and Regulatory Consulting, and he previously was a full-time faculty member at the University of Mississippi. His work has appeared in the books Herbal and Magical Medicine, Taxol: Science and Application, and Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, as well as in other plant science and chemical journals. His photography has been exhibited at the University of Mississippi and has appeared in USA Today, the Scientist, and the Saturday Evening Post.
Recently earning national attention (or notoriety, depending on your viewpoint) for his “Liberal Redneck” series of viral videos, Trae Crowder has been performing his particular brand of southern-fried intellectual comedy in the Southeast and beyond for the past six years. Crowder is also a writer and is currently a member of NBC Universal’s Talent Infusion Program after being invited to their prestigious Late Night Writer’s Workshop in 2015. He’s currently on the WellRed Comedy Tour with Drew Morgan and Corey Forrester.
Beth Ann Fennelly teaches poetry writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, which she directed until 2016 when she was named Mississippi Poet Laureate. She’s won grants from the NEA, United States Artists, and a Fulbright to Brazil. She has published three books of poetry (Open House, Tender Hooks, and Unmentionables) and one book of nonfiction (Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother), all with W.W. Norton. In 2014 she coauthored a novel, A Titled World, with her husband, Tom Franklin. They live in Oxford with their three children.
Ann Fisher-Wirth’s fourth book of poems, Dream Cabinet, was published by Wings Press in 2012. Her other books of poems are Carta Marina, Blue Window, and Five Terraces, and the chapbooks The Trinket Poems, Walking Wu-Wei’s Scroll, and Slide Shows. She coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology, published by Trinity University Press early in 2013. Her poems appear widely and have received numerous awards, including a Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, the Rita Dove Poetry Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters poetry award, two Mississippi Arts Commission fellowships, and thirteen Pushcart nominations including a special mention. She teaches poetry workshops and seminars, twentieth-century American literature, and a wide range of courses in environmental literature at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the minor in environmental studies.
Corey Forrester has been writing and performing stand up comedy since the age of sixteen…before he could legally work in a comedy club. His North Georgia roots have given him an affinity for southern wit and storytelling. He may often wear a PBR hat, but don’t assume there is anything blue collar about him. Corey has thoughts on everything from race to religion, politics and gender. He’s currently on the WellRed Comedy Tour with Trae Crowder and Drew Morgan.
Chris Grabenstein published his first novel in 2005. Since then he has written novels for both adults and children, the latter often with frequent collaborator James Patterson. Winner of all sorts of awards, hewrites fast-paced and fun page-turners for children and adults. He’s also a playwright and screenwriter not to mention a former advertising executive and improvisational comedian. Sometimes he sleeps.
Ted Geltner is a writer, editor, and journalism educator who specializes in biography, sports writing, and the history of sports journalism. His book Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews is the first full-length biography of the legendary novelist and journalist Harry Crews. He has written extensively about sports journalism history, authoring articles and giving presentations on subjects such as the history of Sports Illustrated magazine and literary journalism in sports. Geltner is an associate professor at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, where he teaches courses in reporting, literary journalism, magazine journalism, and photojournalism. His work has been published in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, among others.
George Gibson is executive director at Grove Atlantic publishers in New York City.
Peter Heller is the bestselling author of The Painter and The Dog Stars. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in both fiction and poetry. An award-winning adventure writer and a longtime contributor to NPR, Heller is a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Kook, The Whale Warriors, and Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Carolyn Hembree was born in Bristol, Tennessee. Her debut poetry collection, Skinny, came out from Kore Press in 2012. In 2016, Trio House Books published her second collection, Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague, selected by Neil Shepard for the 2015 Trio Award and by Stephanie Strickland for the 2015 Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, the Journal, Poetry Daily, and other publications. She has received grants and fellowships from PEN, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and the Southern Arts Federation. An assistant professor at the University of New Orleans, Carolyn teaches writing and serves as poetry editor of Bayou Magazine.
Rodney Jones is the author of eleven books of poems. His many honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Harper Lee Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Award, and he has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize. Village Prodigies, his new book, has been described by Richard Russo as both a novel and a book of poems. Jones teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program at Warren Wilson College and lives in New Orleans and Southern Illinois.
Hari Kunzru is the author of four previous novels. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages, and his short stories and journalism have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, the Guardian, and the New Yorker. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library, and the American Academy in Berlin. He lives in Brooklyn.
Born and raised in rural South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is an associate professor and certified wildlife biologist in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Clemson University. While he is widely published in his scholarly field, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature will be his first book for a general audience. He lives in Seneca, South Carolina.
Lisa Lucas is the executive director of the National Book Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as the publisher of Guernica, a nonprofit online magazine focusing on writing that explores the intersection of art and politics with an international and diverse focus. Prior to that she served as director of education at the Tribeca Film Institute, on the development team at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and as a consultant for the Sundance Institute, the San Francisco Film Society, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and ReelWorks Teen Filmmaking. Lucas also serves on the literary council of the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Beth Macy is the author of the New York Times bestseller Factory Man, which won a Lukas Prize from the Columbia School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers and the Roanoke Times, where her reporting won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for journalism at Harvard. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
Sharon Monteith is professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham and founding codirector of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights. She has published widely on southern cultural history, literature, film, and media, including serving as co-volume editor, with Allison Graham, of the Media volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. She was a Rockefeller Humanities Fellow at the University of Memphis, where she researched issues of race and gender in the Mississippi Delta. Her most recent book is The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the American South, and her forthcoming book is SNCC’s Stories: Narrative Culture and the African American Freedom Struggle in the 1960s South. She was recently awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to write The Civil Rights Movement: A Literary History.
Hailing from rural East Tennessee, Drew Morgan draws on his experiences as a small-town son of a preacher man and former public defender who has lived in South Africa, Australia, Miami, Boston, and (currently) New York City. Weaving his stories together with observations on culture, religion, and identity, he’s currently on the WellRed Comedy Tour with Trae Crowder and Corey Forrester. He is a good dancer.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Fish (2011), At the Drive-in Volcano (2007), and Miracle Fruit (2003). Her newest poetry collection, Oceanic, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon and her nature essay collection, World of Wonder, is due out from Milkweed, both in 2018. She is poetry editor of Orion and is the Grisham Writer in Residence in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Tin House.
Alison Pelegrin is the author of four poetry collections, includingy Waterlines, and Hurricane Party, Big Muddy River of Stars, which won the 2006 Akron Poetry Prize. The recipient of fellowships from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, Pelegrin’s poems have appeared in Poetry, the Southern Review, Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, and Barn Owl Review. Pelegrin earned her MFA degree at the University of Arkansas where for two years she was the director of the Arkansas Writers in the Schools Program. She teaches English at Southeastern Louisiana University and lives in Covington, Louisiana, with her family.
Jay Satterfield, special collections librarian at Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College, is author of The World’s Best Books: Taste, Culture, and the Modern Library (2000). His essays have appeared in numerous journals and edited collections, including The History of the Book in the West: 1914–2000 and The Oxford Companion to the Book. Satterfield’s curating work includes nine major exhibitions at Dartmouth University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Iowa. Two of these exhibitions were accompanied by published collection guides under his editorship.
David Shirley is the co-author, along with Nancy Webster, of The Making of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Local Community Reclaimed and Transformed the New York City Waterfront (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Fix It, Leroy! Adventures in Misfit Music (VOX Press, 2017). He has written more than a dozen books for juvenile and young adult readers, and his articles on music and popular culture have appeared in Option, Spin, Rolling Stone, New York Press, Chicago Review, Oxford American, and The Brooklyn Rail.
Michael Farris Smith is the award-winning author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers. Rivers was named in numerous best books of the year lists and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Library Association’s author award for fiction. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, Catfish Alley, Writer’s Bone, and elsewhere. His latest novel is Desperation Road, and he is at work on his next novel, The Fighter. Both books are with Lee Boudreaux Books, a specialty fiction imprint with Little, Brown. Smith lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.
Toni Tipton-Martin’s love affair with African American cooks and their recipes began more than thirty years ago when she was a food and nutrition writer for the Los Angeles Times. As president of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s board of directors she refined her study of African American women’s culinary history and led a recognition banquet for the women who cooked in hidden kitchens for the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama. She has co-authored three cookbooks, and shared her passion for cooks and the community as a freelance writer and contributing editor to numerous magazines. She also teaches cooking and nutrition classes, give talks on African American culinary history, and founded a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that uses cultural heritage, food, and nutrition to improve lives.
Since 1992, Tom Thurman has produced and directed numerous independent documentaries on film, music, and literary figures, including Nick Nolte, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Harry Crews, Jerry Wexler, Tod Browning, John Ford, Hunter S. Thompson, and Sam Peckinpah. His film Harry Crews: Guilty as Charged is an intimate portrait of the controversial, Georgia-born author featuring candid and exclusive interviews with Crews and his friends and consorts. As a producer/writer for Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington, Thurman directs documentaries for the series Kentucky Muse, a showcase for artists with Kentucky roots. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife and two children.
Annette Trefzer teaches American literature and literary theory and is co-owner of Bozarts Gallery in Water Valley, Mississippi. She is the author of Disturbing Indians: The Archaeology of Southern Fiction and the coeditor with Ann J. Abadie of several volumes of critical essays on William Faulkner. Trefzer is also co-curator, with James G. Thomas, Jr., of Lasting Impressions: Restoring Kate Freeman Clark, an exhibition that pays tribute to the prodigious and prolific artist from Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Chris Van Dusen was born in Portland, Maine, on St. Patrick’s Day, 1960. One of five boys, Chris spent most of his spare time drawing pictures. He kept drawing through elementary, middle, and high school, and in 1982 he graduated with a BFA from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. After working as an art director for a magazine and then for a greeting card company, he turned to freelance illustration in 1988. He soon realized the work he enjoyed most were the illustrations he produced for kids. In the early 1990s he came up with an idea for a children’s book. That story became his first book, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee, which was published in 2000. Since then, he has written and illustrated seven books, including If I Built a Car, and illustrated ten more for other authors.
David Wharton is the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s director for documentary studies and an assistant professor of Southern Studies. His first book, The Soul of a Small Texas Town: Photographs, Memories, and History from McDade, was published in 2000, and he published his second book of photographs, Small Town South, in 2013. Wharton’s most recent book is The Power of Belief: Spiritual Landscapes from the Rural South, published in 2016. Photography from The Power of Belief will be on display in the Center’s Gammill Gallery in Barnard Observatory during the conference.