Skip to main content

Keynote Speakers

Alison Bechdel is a graphic memoirist who has written, drawn, and syndicated for thirty years the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For. Bechdel gained wide recognition of her work with the publication in 2006 of her groundbreaking graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Fun Home was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, and in a great moment for graphic narrative, was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine. Bechdel also received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2012. A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, Bechdel is the author most recently of Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Alison Bechdel's Website

Charles Bernstein is a poet, theorist, and scholar who has, since the 1970's, published dozens of books, including poetry and essay collections. His innovative poetry and writing on poetics has been widely anthologized and translated, and appeared in more than 500 magazines and periodicals worldwide. Bernstein co-founded SUNY Buffalo's Poetics Program and Electronic Poetry Center, and University of Pennsylvania's poetry archive, PENNsound. Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006, and is a former Guggenheim Fellow; he is currently a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Charles Bernstein at the Electronic Poetry Center

Percival Everett is the author of more than twenty novels, three collections of short fiction, and two volumes of poetry. Everett is the recipient of the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a New American Writing Award, and The Believer Book Award for I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009). Everett's stories have been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories. He received his MFA from Brown University. Everett teaches fiction writing and critical theory, and is currently Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Percival Everett at Blue Flower Arts

Featured Master Classes

Ayad Akhtar is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and actor. His play Disgraced, has recently received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, along with the 2012 Jeff Equity Award for Best New Play. Disgraced, which examines identity and religion in the contemporary world, premiered at the American Theatre Company in Chicago, opened the 2012-2013 Lincoln Center's LCT2 Theater season this past fall, and is scheduled to premier at the Bush Theater in London in May. His novel American Dervish (2012), named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and Toronto’s The Globe and Mail, depicts a Pakistani-American boy’s coming of age in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the town where Akhtar grew up. Akhtar starred in and co-wrote the screenplay for The War Within, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay and an International Press Academy Satellite Award. He has been heralded as a "significant and formidable dramatic writer" (Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune). Ayad Akhtar's Website

Stephen Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor with eight published books, including two critical books on poetry and two poetry collections. His essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense (Graywolf Press, 2009) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Burt grew up around Washington, DC, and received an A.B. from Harvard in 1994 and a Ph.D. in English from Yale in 2000. He taught at Macalester College for several years before becoming a professor of English at Harvard University. The New York Times called Burt "one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation." His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the Believer, and the Boston Review. Stephen Burt's Website

Amity Gaige is the author of the novels O My Darling (2005), The Folded World (2007) named ForeWord Book of the Year and one of the best books of 2007 by the Chicago Tribune, and Schroder (2013). Schroder, “ a radiant meditation on identity, memory and familial love” (Publisher’s Weekly) and an “offbeat, exquisitely written novel” (Jennifer Egan), has been translated into 14 languages. Gaige’s honors include a Fulbright Fellowship, a Baltic Writers Residency, and fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. In 2006 she was named one of the “5 under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation. Gaige’s short stories, reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, O Magazine, One Story, The Yale Review and other venues. She is a founding Ocean State Summer Writing Conference workshop leader and is Visiting Writer at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Amity Gaige's Website

Seminars, Workshops and Craft Sessions

Susan Bee is a painter, editor, and book artist, living in New York City. Bee has had seven solo shows at A.I.R. Gallery, NY. She had a solo show of her early paintings at A.I.R. Gallery in April 2014. She also had a solo show, “Criss Cross: New Paintings,” at Accola Griefen Gallery, NY in 2013. Bee is the co-editor with Mira Schor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online. She has published many artists’ books including collaborations with Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, Susan Howe, Regis Bonvicino, Jerome Rothenberg, and Jerome McGann. Her artwork is in public and private collections including the Getty Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Yale University, New York Public Library, and the Harvard University Library. Her work has been reviewed in Art in America, Art News, The Forward, The New York Times, Art Papers, The New Yorker, and The Brooklyn Rail. Bee teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts.

Susan Bee’s website is at:


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,, 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.

Rob Cohen is a writer and director who has worked across the expanse of the movie and television business, and directed films around the world. He was the Executive Producer/Creative Director of the series NextWorld and FutureCar, produced by CBS and aired on the Discovery Channel. He has also created programming for the History Channel, NBC and USA Networks. For 3 consecutive years, he wrote and directed the John McEnroe US Open tv special. Prior to his work at CBS, Rob Cohen directed and produced the film The Longest River, which was part of the PBS series, Quest. He also directed the opening film for the Super Bowl. He has just finished directing/writing the documentary feature Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald. As a writer and director in advertising and corporate media, he has created films and television spots for the leading global brands including General Motors, Cisco, GAP, Sony, McDonalds, GE, and many others. Rob Cohen runs the production company Internal Combustion. He is currently under contract to write the new sitcom Wheels.


Peter Covino is a poet, translator, editor, and Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island. He is the author the poetry collections The Right Place to Jump (2012), recently featured on NPR, and on the Huffington Post, and Cut Off the Ears of Winter (2005) both from W. Michigan University Press, New Issues. His prizes include the 2007 PEN American/ Osterweil Award for emerging poets and the Frank O'Hara Poetry Prize for his chapbook Straight Boyfriend (2001). Recent poems appeared in such places as the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, The Journal, LIT, The Paris Review, The Yale Review, and The Penguin Anthology of Italian-American Writing, among others. He is also one of the founding editors of Barrow Street Press; since 2009 he's been the poetry editor of VIA: Voices in Italian Americana.

Edward J. Delaney is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker. His books include the novels Broken Irish and Warp & Weft and the short-story collection The Drowning and Other Stories. He was a 2008 National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellow, a winner of the 2005 PEN/Winship Award for Fiction, and a past winner of an O. Henry Prize for short story writing. His work has appeared regularly in The Atlantic Monthly and other magazines, and has appeared in Best American Short Stories. He is also the co-author of Born to Play, My Life in the Game, by Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. As a journalist, Delaney wrote for The Chicago Tribune Magazine, The Denver Post and other publications before beginning to write fiction.

Paul Di Filippo sold his first professional short story in 1977. Since then, he's had over thirty books of fiction and non-fiction published. His latest is Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010, co-authored with fellow critic Damien Broderick. He lives in Providence, RI, with his partner of some thirty-seven years, Deborah Newton. His official website is

Amy Hoffman's third memoir, Lies About My Family, was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in April 2013. She is the author of two previous, award-winning memoirs: An Army of Ex-Lovers, about the Boston weekly Gay Community News and the lesbian and gay movement of the late 1970s (UMass, 2007); and Hospital Time, about caring for friends with AIDS (Duke, 1997). Hoffman is editor of Women's Review of Books and teaches creative nonfiction in the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College. She has been an editor at Gay Community News, South End Press, the Unitarian Universalist World magazine, and The Public Eye. She taught writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts and Emerson College and served as development director for the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the Women's Lunch Place, a daytime shelter for homeless women. She has served on the boards of Gay Community News, GLAD, Sojourner, and Boston's LGBT History Project. Hoffman has a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She lives in Boston with her wife, Roberta Stone, and is currently working on a novel set in Provincetown, Massachusetts.


Robert Leuci is the author of the novels Doyle's Disciples (1984), Captain Butterfly (1987), Odessa Beach (1990), The Snitch (1991). Fence Jumpers (1993) -- described as a "A Mafia Opera worthy of Verdi" (Kirkus Reviews), Double Edge (1995), Blaze (2003). His publications include the memoir All The Centurions (2008) and several short stories. Leuci wrote a radio play for German radio, Brooklyn Roofs as well as television plays End Of The Month, for the Arts and Entertainment network show "100 Centre Street," and The Muster Room for Public Television. He has written and produced three television episodes for the national television news program "A Current Affair", exploring the problems in American Policing. In 2013, in collaboration with Rhode Island icon, Arlen Violet, Leuci has written a one act play, "The Centurion" based on his memoir; it is scheduled to be shown at the Manhattan Repertory Theater this coming August. Robert Leuci is an adjunct professor in the University of Rhode Island English department.


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.

Maria Mutch's essays, poetry and short fiction have appeared in Ocean State Review, Bayou Magazine, Literary Mama, The Malahat Review, Fiddlehead and Grain. Her memoir, Know the Night, is forthcoming in 2014 from Simon & Schuster and Knopf Canada. She lives in Rhode Island.


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 poet, performer, and hypnotherapist who is the author of five books including the critically acclaimed I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time (Essay Press). Recently published is Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn: A Four Quartets (Belladonna, 2012) and You, Resourceful: Tap Your Inner Resources to Restore Your Mind and Body (Wide Reality Books). Her writing appears in Fourth Genre, Stonecutter, Spoon River Review, and several anthologies including I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing By Women. An associate of Bard College's Writing and Thinking Program, in 2013 she is a visiting writer at Poet's House, Spalding University, and Naropa University.


Shauna Rossano is an Associate Editor at G. P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group where she has been lucky enough to work with many immensely talented authors and artists, including some of her own childhood favorites like Tomie dePaola and Jan Brett. Shauna works on books for readers of all ages-from picture books to young adult novels, and everything in between. She edited the Children's Choice Book Award winner, Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby, the IRA Children's Book Award winner, Wanted: The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton, and Kit Chase's adorable debut, Oliver's Tree. Some of the novels she has edited include the lyrical, futuristic tale Orleans by award-winning author Sherri L. Smith, the page-turning psychological thriller Forget Me by K.A. Harrington, and the charming middle grade foodie adventure All Four Stars by debut author Tara Dairman. While open to books for all ages, she is currently on the hunt for middle grade fiction with a strong voice (magical realism always welcome!), robust historical or fantasy-based fiction with a commercial hook, and young, funny/quirky picture books.

Shauna accepts submissions from conference attendees for up to 3 months after the conference date. Please send submissions to with the name of the conference in the subject line.

Elaine Sexton is the author of two collections of poetry, Sleuth and Causeway, both with New Issues (WMU). Her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in numerous journals including American Poetry Review, Art in America, Oprah Magazine, Pleiades and Poetry. She teaches text and image workshops at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute and has curated numerous site-specific events in New York. Her art work will be the subject of two exhibits in 2014. She has served as curator/board member of Q Avenue Press and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.


Nicole Walker is the author of the nonfiction book, Quench Your Thirst with Salt which won the Zone 3 creative nonfiction prize, released in June 2013 and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg (Barrow Street, 2010). She edited, along with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Nonfiction, published by Bloomsbury Press in 2013. She has given readings and lectures at The Center for Book Arts in New York City, at Associated Writing Programs in Chicago, New York, and Denver, at NonfictionNow, in Iowa City, as a guest speaker for the Environmental Humanities Conference in Salt Lake City, as an Emerging Writer and at the University of Wyoming. In 2007, she received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A graduate of the University of Utah’s doctoral program, she is currently Associate Professor of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Northern Arizona University, nonfiction editor of Diagram and editor of the artist/writer collaborative project “7 Rings” on the Huffington Post.


Wendy S. Walters is the author of two books of poems Troy, Michigan (2014) and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me (2009). Forthcoming projects include a book of essays to be released by Sarabande Books in 2015. Walters was a 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, and her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Bookforum, FENCE, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere. She has won a Ford Foundation Fellowship, a research fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution, a scholarship from Bread Loaf, and multiple fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She is a founder of The First Person Plural Reading Series in Harlem, a Contributing Editor at The Iowa Review, and Associate Professor of creative writing and literature at the Eugene Lang College of The New School University in the city of New York.


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. Island's End won the international South Asia Book Award and a Paterson Prize. Her third novel, A Time To Dance, is scheduled for release in February 2014 and she has been invited to speak at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York city this April. Padma Venkatraman lives in Rhode Island and teaches scientific writing at URI.