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Keynote Speakers


Amy Bloom is the author of two novels and three collections of short stories. Her New York Times bestselling novel Away was called a "literary triumph" by the Times, while The Washington Post declared it, "desperate and impassioned, erotic and moving, absolutely hypnotic." Her first novel, Love Invents Us, was called "an unsettling tale of desire." Bloom's short fiction includes Where the God Of Love Hangs Out (Random House, 2010), also a New York Times bestseller; Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; and A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her first nonfiction book was Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops and Hermaphrodites with Attitudes, now a staple of university sociology and biology courses. Her work has been translated into 15 languages. She is the University Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University.


Nick Flynn is the author of two memoirs, The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Bewilderment (Norton, 2010) and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Norton, 2004), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir and has been translated into fifteen languages. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City has been made into a film, Being Flynn, starring Robert DeNiro as Flynn's father, Julianne Moore as his mother, and Paul Dano as Nick. He is also the author of three books of poetry, The Captain Asks For a Show of Hands (Graywolf, 2011), Some Ether (Graywolf, 2000), which won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and Blind Huber (Graywolf, 2002). He has been awarded fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, The Amy Lowell Trust, and The Fine Arts Work Center. Some of the venues his poems, essays and non-fiction have appeared in include The New Yorker, the Paris Review, National Public Radio's "This American Life," and The New York Times Book Review. One semester a year, he teaches at the University of Houston and spends the rest of the year elsewhere.

Kevin Young is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation, one who finds meaning and inspiration in African American music, particularly the blues, and in the bittersweet history of Black America. His many books of poetry include Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Knopf, 2011); Dear Darkness (Knopf, 2008); and For the Confederate Dead (2007). Young was a 1993 National Poetry Series winner for Most Way Home, which also received the John C. Zacharis First Book Award of Ploughshares magazine. Other collections include To Repel Ghosts: Five Sides in B Minor (2001), a poetic tribute to painter and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets; and Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His awards include a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. He is currently Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English, and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.

Seminars, Workshops and Craft Sessions

Kathleen Aguero's poetry collections include Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth, Daughter Of, The Real Weather, and Thirsty Day. She has also co-edited three volumes of multi-cultural literature for the University of Georgia Press. She is the winner of the 2008 Firman Houghton Award from the New England Poetry Club and a recipient of grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Elgin-Cox Foundation. She teaches at Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, Mass., in both the undergraduate and low-residency M.F.A. programs and in Changing Lives through Literature, an alternative sentencing program.


Lashonda Katrice Barnett is the author of a short fiction collection and editor of I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters On Their Craft (2007) and Off The Record: Conversations with African American and Brazilian Women Musicians (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). She recently completed her debut novel, Jam!, a work of historical fiction. Visiting Scholar at Brown University, she divides her time between Rhode Island and Manhattan. www.lashondabarnett.com


Richard Blanco was made in Cuba, born in Madrid, and raised and educated in Miami. His acclaimed first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American, and received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, won the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center for its continued exploration of the universal themes of cultural identity and homecoming. A third collection, Looking for The Gulf Motel, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2012.


A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Mary Cappello is the author of four books of literary nonfiction, including Called Back: My Reply to Cancer, My Return to Life (which won a Foreword Book of the Year Award, and Independent Publishers Prize), and Awkward: A Detour (a Los Angeles Times Bestseller). Her numerous essays and experimental prose appear in such venues as The Georgia Review, Salmagundi, and Cabinet Magazine. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Salon.com, The Huffington Post, NPR, MSNBC, in guest author blogs for Powells Books, and on five separate occasions as Notable Essay of the Year in Best American Essays. A recipient of The Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination from Teachers and Writers Collaborative, and the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, Cappello is a former Fulbright Lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute (Moscow), and currently Professor of English and creative writing at URI. Based on her most recent book, Swallow, she has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at U/Penn's Grand Rounds in Otolaryngology, as Presidential Lecturer for the ABEA, and as co-curator of the newly refurbished Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection in Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.


Tina Chang Brooklyn Poet Laureate, is the author of the poetry collections Half-Lit Houses (2004) and Of Gods & Strangers (2011). She is also co-editor of the Norton anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond. Her poems have been published in journals such as American Poet, McSweeney's, The New York Times, and Ploughshares. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Poets & Writers, among others. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and she is also a member of the international writing faculty at the City University of Hong Kong, the first low-residency MFA program to be established in Asia.


Peter Covino is a poet, translator, editor, and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island. His new book of poetry, The Right Place to Jump, is forthcoming from New Issues Press in 2012; he is the winner of the 2007 PEN America/Osterweil Award for emerging poets and also the author of Cut Off the Ears of Winter (New Issues, 2005) and the chapbook Straight Boyfriend (2001), winner of the Frank O'Hara Poetry Prize. His co-edited volume, Essays on Italian American Literature and Culture will be published by Bordighera Press, CUNY (2011). Recent poems have appeared, or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, LIT, and The Yale Review among other venues. Covino is also a founding editor of Barrow Street Press and poetry editor for VIA: Voices in Italian Americana.


Richard Florest is senior associate at the New York based agency, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. Prior to this, he was at the Open Road Integrated Media, where he has been Director of Acquisitions, Author Brands. Among his ebook projects at Open Road are the works of literary icon Hubert Selby, Jr. and New York Times bestselling horror writer Robert R. McCammon. Florest started his publishing career at the Kneerim & Williams literary agency in Boston before assuming editorial roles at Penguin Group, Miramax, and The Weinstein Company. He published critically acclaimed and bestselling fiction and nonfiction including Tan Twan Eng's Man Booker Prize-nominee The Gift of Rain, Sergei Lukyanenko's internationally bestselling Night Watch series, and Tom Folsom's New York Times bestseller The Mad Ones.

Amity Gaige is the author of two novels, O My Darling (2005) and The Folded World (2007). In 2007, The Folded World was named Foreword Book of the Year, best book of fiction in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and one of the year's Favorite Books by the Chicago Tribune. Amity is the winner of a Fulbright Fellowship, a McDowell Colony Fellowship, and in 2006, she was recognized as one of "5 Under 35" outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation. She lived and taught in Rhode Island for many years before moving to Amherst, Massachusetts in 2006. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at Mt. Holyoke College.


Richard Hoffman is author of the celebrated memoir Half the House; the short story collection Interference and Other Stories; and three poetry collections: Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the 2007 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club's Sheila Motton Book Award; and most recently, Emblem. His new memoir, Love & Fury, will be published by Beacon Press in 2014. He teaches at Emerson College and currently serves as chair of PEN New England.

Robert Leuci is an adjunct professor in the University of Rhode Island English department. He has written seven crime novels, translated into four languages and has most recently published a memoir with Harper Collins, All The Centurions. He has also written a television play for the Arts And Entertainment network show "100 Centre Street" and has done a radio play, "Brooklyn Roofs," for German radio. In 1999 he received the South County Center For the Arts literary prize. He lives in Saunderstown, Rhode Island.


Jody Lisberger, PhD, MFA. Jody Lisberger's story collection, Remember Love (Fleur-de-Lis Press, 2008), was nominated for a National Book Award. Her stories have appeared in Fugue, Michigan Quarterly Review, Thema, Confrontation, and The Louisville Review. She has won fiction prizes from American Literary Review and Quarterly West, and her story "Crucible" was nominated for a Pushcart Award. She is on the fiction faculty at the brief residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky. She has taught fiction, creative nonfiction, literature, and feminist theory at Brown, Harvard, Tufts, Holy Cross, Boston University, and University of Rhode Island, where she is currently the Director of Women's Studies. She has also recently published creative nonfiction essays on pharmaceutical marketing ("Why Women Should Take Heed"), gender issues in the workplace ("The Politics of Data"), and worked as a journalist, editor, and grant writer.


David McGlynn story collection, The End of the Straight and Narrow, won the 2008 Utah Book Award for Fiction and was named an "Outstanding Achievement" by the Wisconsin Librarians' Association. His memoir, A Door in the Ocean: A Memoir, will be released in the summer of 2012. His stories and essays have appeared in Men's Health, The Huffington Post, Best American Sports Writing, and numerous literary journals. He received his MFA and PhD from the University of Utah, where he also served as the managing editor of Western Humanities Review, and currently teaches at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.


Patrick Madden is the author of Quotidiana, finalist for the PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and winner of Independent Publisher and ForeWord Reviews book of the year awards. His essays have appeared recently in Fourth Genre, The Iowa Review, The Normal School, and in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies. He teaches at Brigham Young University and Vermont College, and curates www.quotidiana.org, an online anthology of classical essays.


Carrie Pestritto joined Prospect Agency in 2011 after working as an assistant at Writers House. With a B.A. in English from Amherst College, she has experienced all sides of the publishing industry, having worked as a ghostwriter, freelance writer, and in the editorial acquisitions department of the Greenwood Publishing Group. As an agent, she loves the thrill of finding new authors with strong, unique voices and working closely with her clients to develop their ideas and manuscripts. For Carrie, extraordinary fiction and non-fiction share the abilty to transport readers to new and exciting places. As a history and mythology buff, she is intrigued by books that introduce her to another culture or time period. She is looking for description and detail that will make her feel like she is inside the story and interest her in a subject she never thought she would want to read about or, conversely, introduce her to startling facts about something or someone she believed she already knew everything about.


Russell Potter was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio; he attended Goddard College and The Evergreen State College, and earned his Ph.D. in English from Brown University. He's the author of nonfiction books on topics as varied as the history of Hip-hop and British Arctic exploration, and appeared in Arctic Passage, an Emmy-nominated episode of PBS's NOVA in 2006. His debut novel, PYG: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig, is based on the career of an actual "learned" pig that toured England in the 1780's. Toby's performances consisted of answering questions from the audience by spelling out his answers using cards on which individual letters of the alphabet were written. The pig's ability to reply to all manner of inquiries amazed all who saw him, prompting the poet Robert Southey to declare him "a far greater object of admiration to the English nation than ever was Sir Isaac Newton." PYG was originally published in the UK by Canongate Books in 2011, and will be published in the US as a paperback original by Penguin Books in August of 2012. He lives in Providence and is Professor of English at Rhode Island College.


Kristin Prevallet is a consulting hypnotist certified through the National Guild of Hypnotists and a Integral Life Coach certified through the International Association of Counselors and Therapists. She is the author of four books of conceptual and documentary poetics including the critically acclaimed I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time. This spring, The Belladonna Collaborative will be publishing her most recent book, Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn: Another Four Quartets. She edited and introduced the critical edition of Helen Adam's work, A Helen Adam Reader (National Poetry Foundation) and recent writing has appeared in Spoon River Review and Fourth Genre: Adventures in Nonfiction as well as in the anthologies Rhythm of Structure: Mathematics, Art, and Poetic Reflection and I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women. She has received residencies and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, PEN America, the Poetry Society of America, George Mason University, and Spalding University. A former professor of investigative poetics at Naropa Institute, Pratt University, and Eugene Lang College, she currently directs the Center for Mindbody Studies where she leads workshops and works with private clients. She frequently writes about hypnosis and mental strategies on trancepoetics.com and her popular e-book On Reacting is the first book in the Critical Rewiring Series: Return To Who You Want To Be.


Martha Elena Rojas is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Program in Literature and the Sea at the University of Rhode Island. Her first book entitled Diplomatic Letters: Becoming a Nation Among Nations in Early America is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press, and she is currently at work on a study of the coastal imagination.


Author, blogger and book writing coach, Lisa Tener specializes in helping authors write and publish a compelling nonfiction book--and takes them step-by-step through her unique process. She teaches on the faculty of Harvard Medical School's CME publishing course and at other conferences.She has been on ABC World News, PBS TV and been quoted in USA Weekend, The Boston Globe, Providence Journal and much more. Her book writing and book proposal clients have signed 5- and 6-figure publishing deals with Random House, Simon and Schuster, Charles Scribner's Sons, Prometheus Books and many other publishers, as well as self-publishing. Visit Lisa online at www.LisaTener.com.


Padma Venkatraman is the author of two critically acclaimed novels - Climbing the Stairs and Island's End - and has had over 100 nonfiction articles published in American, Indian and European journals. Her debut novel, Climbing the Stairs, was released to starred reviews and won the Boston Authors Club award and the ASTAL RI Book of the Year award, in addition to being shortlisted for several state awards and receiving numerous other honors such as a Booksense Notable citation, an ALA BBYA, a New York Public Library best book for teens, a CCBC/NCSS notable, a Bank Street college of Education best book, a Boolinks best books of summer, a Booklist Editor's Choice Best Book of the Year, a PW Flying Start, a Capitol Choices selection and more. Her second novel, Island's End, was released to starred reviews in Kirkus, Bookslist, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and is listed on several "best books of 2011" lists: Kirkus, Booklist, ALA, YALSA, Amelia Bloomer and CCBC. Padma Venkatraman lives in Rhode Island and teaches scientific writing at URI.


Crystal Wilkinson is the author of two volumes of short stories, Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street. She is a winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature and has been a finalist for both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Wilkinson is from the Knobs region of Kentucky and teaches in the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Morehead State University and the MFA in Writing program at Spalding University. She and her partner Ron Davis edit Mythium Literary Journal. They also own The Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington, KY.