Former Keynote Speakers
Charles Wright (October 2017), a native East Tennessean, served as the Poet Laureate of the United States form 2014 to 2015. With a rich and full career as a writer, his collection Country Music: Selected Early Poems earned the National Book Award in 1983, and his Black Zodiac (1998) won the Pullitzer Prize. A former Fulbright Scholar, Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Ishion Hutchinson (April 2017) published two poetry collections, Far District and House of Lords and Commons, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Hutchinson moved to the U.S. in 2006 for graduate studies. He's the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, a Lannan Writing Residency, and the Larry Levis Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Ilya Kaminsky describes him as "without a doubt one of the most gifted poets of my generation." He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University.
Lisa Alther (April 2016) is the author of six novels--Kinflicks, Original Sins, Other Women, Bedrock, Five Minutes in Heaven, and Washed in the Blood. She has also written a memoir (Kinfolks), a novella (Birdman and the Dancer), a collection of short stories (Stormy Weather and Other Stories) and a narrative history of the Hatfield-McCoy feud (Blood Feud). These books have been published in seventeen languages and have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide. Alther was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, in 1944. She currently lives in Tennessee, Vermont, and New York City.