Kristen Arnett is The New York Times best-selling author of Mostly Dead Things, as well as other queer fiction and essays. She won the 2017 Coil Book Award for her debut short fiction collection, Felt in the Jaw, and was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction. Kristen is a bimonthly columnist for Literary Hub, where she writes about all the weird and wacky things she sees as a librarian. Her writing has appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Electric Literature, Bennington Review, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Kristen is an expert on all things Florida, libraries and 7-eleven. She is a social media pro and owns way too many pets.
Barnaby Bright are an alt-Americana duo with electronic leanings, as if The Lumineers met Imogen Heap during the Civil Wars. They come from the deep tradition of American folk singer-songwriters but with diverse and contemporary influences that reflect their geographical journey from Brooklyn to Nashville to Kansas – with a little bit of London thrown in for good measure. Nathan and Becky Bliss (real names) create harmonies that only family can sing. Classically- and jazz-trained, based in the mid-West, they’ve spent several years touring and crafting self-releases, garnering praise and a core following. BB are raw in industry terms but remain a truly honed talent. After some years of diligent creative work and touring, they have made a huge leap forward in the shape of this recent ‘Barnaby Bright’ album, with a slew of new songs soon to follow.
“Barnaby Bright” had a tortuous provenance: the duo made a pop-country collection with a name producer, raising the budget via Pledge Music. But shortly after this, the duo fell into a period of difficult soul-searching as they realized the sound “just wasn’t us.” Cut to 3 years later and they have lovingly restored their vision: culled songs, written new and vital tracks (including the latest single “Fight or Fly”), reimagined some and re-recorded others from scratch. Now their production certainly sounds like who they are, and it’s been well worth the wait. If Fleetwood Mac started out now and were not at each other’s throats, they might just have released this record!
Released in September of 2018, Mother of My Children was the debut album from Black Belt Eagle Scout, the recording project of the Swinomish-Iñupiaq Native American Katherine Paul. Heralded as a favorite new musician of 2018 by the likes of NPR Music, Stereogum, and Paste, the album was also named as a “Best Rock Album of 2018” by Pitchfork, and garnered further end-of-year praise from FADER, Under The Radar and more. Arriving just a year after that debut record, At the Party With My Brown Friends is a brand new full-length recording from Black Belt Eagle Scout. Where that first record was a snapshot of loss, landscape, and of KP’s standing as a radical indigenous queer feminist, this new chapter finds its power in love, desire, and friendship.
Multi-instrumentalist Randall Bramblett may be known as a Southern Rock Legend for playing on stage with rock heroes like Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers Band, Steve Winwood and Widespread Panic. Respected for his songwriting – he penned the title track for the Grammy nominated Blind Boys of Alabama’s album, adding to a long catalog of songs covered by Raitt, Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett, Hot Tuna, Delbert McClinton, Chuck Leavell and more. But it’s Bramblett’s own career as frontman, creating 11 albums, where his artistry is in full display. Deep into his self-described second act of his storied solo career, Bramblett’s talents are repeatedly praised by musicians, critics and fans. With a commitment to the necessary mutation of music, Bramblett has kept his career as fresh as the day it began. Randall will be appearing at Word of South with the author Janisse Ray.
Ross Burach is an author and illustrator with a degree in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts. Ross has focused on designing characters and backgrounds for animation studios within children’s media. He has always loved combining words and pictures to create humor and has since found the perfect blend for a career in children’s books.
Ross hopes to one day have a pet giraffe. There’s a Giraffe in My Soup is his first book and it’s been followed by The Very Impatient Caterpillar, I Am Not A Chair!, Truck Full of Ducks, and others.
Chuck Cannon says he:
- was born in greenville, sc
- moved to north sc
- moved to myrtle beach, sc
- picked up baseball
- found girls
- put baseball down
- picked up guitar
- found girls who were more fun
- moved to franklin springs, ga
- moved to nashville, tn
- picked up songwriting
- married wrong girl
- laid down songwriting
- divorced wrong girl
- picked up songwriting again
- married right girl
- had 3 awesome kids
- wrote hits with over 25 million plays at radio
- quit trying to do that again
- started making up songs for myself
- songs got way better
- made 4 cds
- started performing way better songs
- feels better now
The chorus to the title track on the new Hayes Carll album, What It Is, is a manifesto. What it was is gone forever / What it could be God only knows.
What it is is right here in front of me / and I’m not letting go. He’s embracing the moment. Leaving the past where it belongs, accepting there’s no way to know what’s ahead, and challenging himself to be present in both love and life. It’s heavy stuff. It also rocks. With a career full of critical acclaim and popular success, Carll could’ve played it safe on this, his sixth record, but he didn’t. The result is a musically ambitious and lyrically deep statement of an artist in his creative prime.
Hayes Carll’s list of accomplishments is long. His third album, 2008’s Trouble In Mind, earned him an Americana Music Association Award for Song of the Year (for “She Left Me for Jesus”). The follow-up, KMAG YOYO, was the most played album on the Americana Chart in 2011 and spawned covers by artists as varied as Hard Working Americans and Lee Ann Womack, whose version of “Chances Are” garnered Carll a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. 2016’s Lovers and Leavers swept the Austin Music Awards, and was his fourth record in a row to reach #1 on the Americana Airplay chart. Kelly Willis and Kenny Chesney have chosen to record his songs, and his television appearances include The Tonight Show, Austin City Limits, and Later w/Jools Holland. Carll is the rare artist who can rock a packed dancehall one night and hold a listening room at rapt attention the next.
Marie Cochran was born and raised in Toccoa, GA in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. As a self-described cultural pollinator, she uses visual art to convene partnerships that continue beyond the creation of exhibitions and programming. Cochran received degrees from the University of GA, Lamar Dodd School of Art (BFA) and the School of the Art Institute Chicago (MFA). She has been an art faculty member at colleges and universities in GA, MD, NJ and NC. As a visual artist in her own right, her work has been exhibited widely. Selected venues include the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library & Museum, Austin, TX; the former Center for African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; and the Studio Museum of Harlem, NYC. Most recently, her work is included in the exhibition “Appalachia Now!” as part of the inaugural reopening of the Asheville Art Museum (Nov 2019). Cochran is included in the publication, Southern Women: More Than 100 Stories of Innovators, Artists, and Icons (Harper Collins, publication Oct 2019). Cochran is the founding curator of the Affrilachian Artist Project, which celebrates the intersection of cultures in Appalachia and nurtures a network of those committed to the sustainability of a diverse region. She will be appearing at Word of South with Chuck Reece, Dom Flemons, Timothy Duffy and others.
Rita Coolidge, “The Delta Lady,” has been a force on the music scene ever since she graduated from Florida State University with an art degree in the 1960s. Coolidge began as a backup singer who toured and recorded with many of the rock stars of the 1970s. Friends say she actually wrote the piano solo at the end of Eric Clapton’s hit Layla, not a former boyfriend who took the credit. Coolidge and her former husband, Kris Kristofferson, teamed up for a number of hits and were twice named Country Duo of the Year. In the late 70s, Coolidge went solo and recorded a number of hits on the pop charts. Part Cherokee, Coolidge devoted herself to native American issues from the 1990s on and won several awards for her work in behalf of American Indians. Her memoir, Delta Lady, was published in 2016. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and as a part of this year’s Word of South will speak and sign books in connection with her induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Jill Criswell is a writer of young adult fantasy. Born and raised in the swamps of northeastern Florida, she received degrees in English and Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. Her greatest passion, besides reading and writing, is traveling the world—she’s been to fifty countries across six continents, falling in love with places like Namibia, Cambodia, and Iceland. She is also the author of Beasts of the Frozen Sun, the first book in the Frozen Sun Saga.
Through a steadfast dedication to justice and service to others, Benjamin Crump has established himself as one of the nation’s foremost attorneys and advocates for civil rights and social justice. His legal acumen as both a litigator and advocate has ensured that those most frequently marginalized in American society are protected by their nation’s contract with its constituency. He has successfully battled to protect constitutional rights at the local, state, and federal levels, using his advocacy skills and the high profile of the cases to provide a voice to those long silenced and hope to those pushed to the outside. Crump is the principal and owner of Ben Crump Law. His book Open Season was published in 2019.
Brought together by family ties and a shared appreciation for folk, rock, and roots music, The Currys are an Americana trio featuring brothers Jimmy and Tommy and cousin Galen Curry. Like many family groups, their songs are anchored by the sort of elastic, entwined harmonies that only seem to exist among kin. On their second record, West of Here, their songwriting chops match those interlocking voices, with all three members contributing songs to an album that deals with the constant search for home. For their third album, This Side of the Glass (2019), The Currys provide the organic, lived-in feel of roots music, but the album aspires to a greater variety of form and orchestration than earlier releases. This Side of the Glass is an insightful and satisfying new chapter from a band with many more stories to tell. The Currys will be appearing at Word of South with the Southern Living video host/food maven Ivy Odom.
Timothy Duffy is a renowned photographer and Founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Timothy has been recording and photographing traditional artists in the South since the age of 16, when he became interested in ethnomusicology. After earning a BA from Friends World College and MA from the Curriculum in Folklore at the UNC, Timothy and his wife Denise founded Music Maker Relief Foundation in 1994 to assist traditional musicians in need. As a photographer he edited and took many of the photographs for Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America, and was the sole photographer for the nationally touring exhibitions: We Are the Music Makers! & Our Living Past. Both exhibits received support from the NEA. Timothy Duffy’s photographs were published by 21st Editions in a monograph entitled BLUE in 2017 — his current project is a monograph published by UNC Press in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art entitled Blue Muse: Timothy Duffy’s Southern Photographs. Works from Blue Muse premiered in a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in April 2019. Timothy will appear at Word of South with Chuck Reece and others.
Eric Eggers is a longtime Tallahassee resident who is a proud graduate of Florida State and Lincoln High School. Eric spent a decade as a local radio personality before taking a job with a local research non-profit. Now a writer and tv and film producer, Eric loves helping people tell their stories, and was honored to help Bob and Gail Knight with theirs.
The Eyrie is Tallahassee Community College’s award-winning student art and literary magazine, which publishes original poetry, prose, art, and photography. The magazine also provides students enrolled in Literary Magazine Production at TCC with the experience of magazine production, from the evaluation of materials to blue-line copy. The Eyrie (the nest of a bird of prey) was founded in 1981 by two students, with the motto of “quality, good taste, and creativity.” The magazine is published annually and distributed free to all college personnel and students, and to the public upon request. For the Word of South event, the Eyrie will be unveiling its 2020 edition.
GRAMMY Award Winner, Two-Time EMMY Nominee, 2019 WAMMIE Award Winner- Dom Flemons is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area. He is known as “The American Songster” since his repertoire of music covers over 100 years of American folklore, ballads, and tunes. Flemons is a music scholar, historian, record collector and a multi-instrumentalist. He is considered an expert player on the Banjo, Fife, Guitar, Harmonica, Jug, Percussion, Quills, and Rhythm Bones. Dom will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Elnora Spencer and others.
Back for the second time at Word of South, the Fried Turkeys, based in Tallahassee, Florida, combine a surprising blend of truly original music and a uniquely eclectic selection of covers that will have you dripping in greasy, hippy, roots-country music. Soulful pedal steel, soaring vocal harmonies, a thumping rhythm section, dixieland piano lines, and a wooden Americana sound will have you tapping your feet and singing along.
Michael Harrell received his BFA in graphic design from the University of Georgia and immediately became a freelance illustrator for Mastercard, American Express and Paramount Pictures. At the same time, he began exhibiting with the Society of Illustrators at the Museum of American Illustration, the North American Marine Arts Society and others. His work is now exhibited in galleries from Connecticut to South Carolina to Florida.
Caroline Herring is an internationally-acclaimed American singer/songwriter who lives in Decatur, Georgia. She has recorded eight albums, including two recordings for children, and has performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe for the past 20 years. These performances included: the Newport Folk Festival, MerleFest, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bumbershoot in Seattle, Strawberry Folk Festival in California, Blue Highways in The Netherlands, Tonder Festival in Denmark, Kilkenney Festival in Ireland, Shrewsbury Folk Festival in England, and Celtic Connections in Scotland. Herring has participated in many collaborative projects such as the Eudora Welty at 100 program with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Cecil Sharp Project, a UK-based musical program based on Appalachian song collector Cecil Sharp, in which the group made an 18-song recording and toured throughout England and Scotland to much acclaim. Herring has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, BBC Radio 3 and NPR All Things Considered Weekend. She has received extensive critical acclaim and multiple awards for her recordings including: Best New Artist at the Austin Music Awards, Top 10 Folk Albums of the year by NPR (Lantana), The Boston Globe (Golden Apples of the Sun), Top 50 Texas Albums, Top 50 Texas Songs from Texas Music Magazine (Twilight and Mistress, respectively), two Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awards, Atlanta Creative Loafing singer/songwriter of the year critics’ choice award, Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s 100 Best Southern Songs of all time (Mistress), and Songlines International Music Magazine Top Ten Albums of the Year (Camilla). Herring also co-founded Thacker Mountain Radio Show, a live-audience radio program based in Oxford, Mississippi that airs weekly on Mississippi and Alabama Public Radio. She’ll be performing two sets at Word of South: one with author Susan Rebecca White, and the other a children’s program at Story Fort.
King Solomon Hicks grew up in Harlem “around a lot of great musicians.” That certainly shows on HARLEM, an 11-song salute to those roots — and how the 24-year-old guitarist and singer has turned them into his own fierce and distinctive style over the years. The set, produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Kirk Yano (Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Mariah Carey), showcases Hicks as a writer, player and interpreter. Hicks has built a reputation on the scene that began to spread outside of the New York area — while his home turf expanded to venues such as the Iridium, the Red Rooster, Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, Terra Blues and more. After high school Hicks began playing in Europe, opening for Jeff Beck and Ringo Starr, playing festivals in Spain and France, as well as at the Cotton Club in Tokyo, and being booked on KISS Kruise V in 2017 and on this year’s Joe Bonamassa Blues Alive at Sea Cruise. He’s shared stages with the likes of Tony Bennett, Beth Hart, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Mavis Staples, Paul Shaffer and others.
Stephen Hodges plays acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, octave mandolin, tenor banjo, and upright and electric bass in a variety of styles, including Old-Time, Celtic, Swing, Jazz, Bossa Nova, and Pop. He has played and recorded with numerous bands and musicians including Aisha Ivey, Meabh’s Mavericks, Old Tallahassee, Sligo Line, Tanager, Blue Velvet, and the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. He has played gigs and sessions as a sideman with a number of well-known musicians, including Vassar Clements, Howdy Forrester, James Kelly, James Keane, Lisa Ornstein, and Johnny Tillotson, among others. Stephen also does sound design and musical direction for theatrical productions in Tallahassee in addition to performing, recording, and teaching, and studies jazz guitar with Perry Osborn, Corey Christiansen, and Steve Allee. Stephen will be appearing at Word of South with the musician and poet Ken Waldman.
Jamestown Revival is an American rock duo featuring Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay. The childhood friends from Magnolia, Texas, write songs about everyday life that are a combination of harmonies which merge Southern country, Americana, and Western rock music. Their first album, Utah, was originally self-released in early 2014 and then re-released by Republic Records later the same year. iTunes named Utah Best of 2014: Singer-Songwriter Album of the Year. They followed this accomplishment with a more rock-oriented album, The Education of a Wandering Man, in 2016, which eventually led to their most recent album, San Isabel. Jamestown Revival has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, covered in the Wall Street Journal, and has played major venues around the world.
JigJam is a multi-award winning quartet from the heart of the midlands in Ireland. Blending the best of traditional Irish music with bluegrass and Americana in a new genre which has been branded as ‘iGrass’, their onstage energy along with their virtuoso musical ability has captivated audiences throughout the world. All multi-instrumentalists, JigJam interchanges banjos, guitars, fiddles, mandolins and double bass onstage, which creates an experience which is pleasing to both the eye and the ear. “Here’s an Irish band that’s going to impact the world as hard as Clancy Brothers or U2 if they get only half a chance.”
Caleb Johnson is the author of the novel Treeborne— an honorable mention for the 2019 Southern Book Prize. He grew up in rural Alabama and currently lives in North Carolina, where he teaches creative writing at Appalachian State University. Caleb has received fellowships and grants from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Jentel Artist Residency, and the University of Wyoming. His work can be found in The Bitter Southerner, The Paris Review Daily, Southern Living and other publications. Caleb is appearing at Word of South with the musician Lee Bains III.
Eleven-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson is “one of the greatest country singers of our time,” according to the Washington Post. He is one of only a few people in the history of country music to win two Song of the Year Awards from both the CMA and ACMs.
His 2008 album, That Lonesome Song, was certified platinum for 1 million in sales, and his 2010 ambitious double album, The Guitar Song, received a gold certification.
In addition, he won two Song of the Year Trophies, for “Give It Away” and “In Color,” both from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. He has received tremendous praise from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal and other publications, many of which have hailed his albums as masterpieces.
One of the most admired, genre-bending artists to breakthrough in the last decade, June’s music blends southern sounds, African rhythms and ambient atmospherics into something altogether futuristic and new. Her 2017 release The Order of Time appeared on numerous ‘best of’ lists and received near universal acclaim from a broad array of international media including: Rolling Stone, New York Times, NPR, The Guardian, Vice Noisey, New Yorker, ELLE, Nylon, Garden & Gun, Okayplayer, MOJO, UNCUT, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Exclaim!, Newsday, Afropunk, CLASH, Glide, Financial Times, American Songwriter, MTV News and many more. Her solo tour features both brand-new songs and fan favorites. She is currently working on her highly anticipated new album.
The Kenny Hill Band consists of Kenny Baldauf, with Brian and Jennifer Hill, from the Big Bend of Florida, performing a blend of acoustic music styles including bluegrass, cajun, folk and Irish, to blues, classic country, western swing, and classic rock. Brian and Kenny, formerly of Cypress Creek Band, have performed together for over 30 years – since the day Kenny moved to Tallahassee from Chicago. Jennifer added her soulful voice and solid bass playing to create the trio in 2010. The band’s signature features are its tightly blended three-part harmonies paired with instrumental arrangements that feature guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, pennywhistle, accordion, and acoustic bass. You are sure to enjoy listening to the unique, fun and soulful music of the Kenny Hill Band! The band will be appearing at Word of South with the music and food writer Ronni Lundy.
David Kirby is a poet, critic, and scholar. Influenced by artists as diverse as John Keats and Little Richard, Kirby writes distinctive long-lined narrative poems that braid together high and popular culture, personal memory, philosophy, and humor. “One thing that I want to do in the poems is to portray the mind as it actually works,” he stated in a 2007 interview with Craig Morgan Teacher. Kirby is the author of more than two dozen volumes of criticism, essays, children’s literature, pedagogy, and poetry. His numerous collections of poetry include: The Ha-Ha (2003), short-listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, The House on Boulevard Street: New and Selected Poems (2007), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Florida Book Award and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award, and his most recent, More Than This. Since 1969 he has taught at Florida State University, where he has received several teaching awards. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, poet Barbara Hamby. David will be appearing at Word of South with the music critic Ann Powers.
Bob Knight was born and raised in Miami. He moved to Tallahassee in the Fall of 1975 as a Freshman at FSU. Bob started his photography company in 1976 as a way to pay for college. Gail Knight grew up in Dayton Ohio and moved to Tallahassee in 1978 where she met Bob, and received her accounting degree in 1982. She moved to Miami to work as a CPA in 1982 before returning 18 months later to marry Bob Knight and help lead the fledgling photography company.
That photography company, Bob Knight Photo, grew to be the largest event photography company in the world. What started out as a party pic business taking pictures of sororities at FSU grew to be a $100,000,000 firm shooting more than 2.5 million graduates and 55 million images annually. Their book, Married To It, is the story of how Bob and Gail, as pioneers of the graduation photography market invented new protocols and technologies that would shape the industry in ways that are still felt today. Their heartfelt, professional and hilariously irreverent story is a must read for anyone interested in business, marriage, entrepreneurship, and balancing a healthy family life, both in business and at home.
Mark Kurlansky is the author of 31 published books, spanning fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. His work includes The New York Times best-sellers Salt and Food of a Younger Land. His book Cod, also a best-seller, won the 1999 James Beard Award for Food Writing and the Glenfiddich Award. Mark’s career as a writer began as a playwright in the early 1970’s, followed by more than a decade as a journalist. Mark has written on history, the environment, travel, and food for numerous publications, including The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, and Bon Appetit. Mark has been a guest lecturer around the world and in 2007 taught a 14-week course titled Journalism and the Literary Imagination. His books have been translated into 25 languages and he often illustrates them himself.
John Kurzweg is a multi-platinum record producer and multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter who first became known for his work with successful post-grunge band Creed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Three of Creed’s records, which Kurzweg produced & mixed, were certified multi-platinum and helped Creed achieve worldwide popularity as well as producing other popular rock artists such as Puddle of Mudd, Godsmack, and Eagle Eye Cherry.
Kurzweg, who in the late 80’s signed with Atlantic records as a solo artist, continues recording & performing his own brand of rock music and can often be found playing various venues around the Santa Fe, NM area (and FL in the winter!).
John still finds time on the other side of the glass producing & mixing for various current artists and still living the studio life.
John will be appearing at Word of South with the writer Michael Farris Smith, and doing a separate performance at Proof Brewery.
Dylan Leblanc is an American original. In early 2010, LeBlanc released his first album Paupers Field. The song If the Creek Don’t Rise features Emmylou Harris. In support of the album, LeBlanc toured with and opened for acts such as Lucinda Williams, the Civil Wars, George Ezra and Calexico. LeBlanc’s second album, Cast the Same Old Shadow, was released in August 2012. Following its release, LeBlanc played with Bruce Springsteen, First Aid Kit, The Drive By Truckers, and the Alabama Shakes. The Guardian review of Cast the Same Old Shadow called its songs, “as beautiful as they are bleak,” and the album, “eerie rather than unsettling”. LeBlanc’s third studio album, Cautionary Tale, was released January 15, 2016, on Single Lock Records. His fourth studio album, Renegade, was released June 7, 2019.
Lee Bains hails from Birmingham, a city torn apart by some of the South’s most tragic events, and the singer isn’t shy about expressing the area’s shortcomings and flaws, while also delivering a dose of don’t-forget-where-you’re-from pride. One thing is certain, this band likes to rock. Lee Bains and the Glory Fires wrap commentaries and reflections in what they call “real Alabama rock ‘n’ roll.” The band currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. Lee will be appearing at Word of South with the author Caleb Johnson, and separately later that day with the Glory Fires.
Royce Lovett is a Motown Records recording artist who has toured internationally. In 2019 he was a contestant NBC’s “The Voice,” progressing to the “Knockout Round,” and is a TEDx speaker. He lives in Tallahassee.
Ronni Lundy, the award-winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes (Clarkson Potter, 2016), has been writing about the food, music and culture of the southern Appalachians and the American South for more than 30 years. Born in Corbin, Kentucky and raised in Louisville with strong ties to the mountains, she often writes from the perspective and about the experience of the Appalachian diaspora.
In 2017, Victuals, received the coveted James Beard Award for Book of the Year, as well as best American Cookbook honors from both the Beards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The book was also shortlisted for The Art of Eating Prize and reached the Elite Eight in the annual Piglet competition. Ronni’s other nine books, include Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken(Atlantic, 1990), named by Gourmet as one of the six essential cookbooks on Southern food, Butter Beans to Blackberries (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999) and Sorghum’s Savor, (University Press of Florida, 2015). Lundy was also the editor of Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South. (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
Ronni will be appearing at Word of South with the musical group the Kenny Hill Band.
Kimmery Martin is an emergency medicine doctor, born and raised in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. A lifelong literary nerd, she reviews books, interviews authors, and works extensively with the library foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three young children. Kimmery will be appearing at Word of South with the authors Karen White, Colleen Oakley and Beatriz Williams, and the musician Del Suggs
Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes across multiple genres, including post-apocalyptic, historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy. While her settings may change, you can always count on Mindy’s books to deliver grit, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us.
Carol’s warm and loving story of her animal friends’ relationships reflects her life-long love of animals, her years of living on a farm, and her days at St. Teresa Beach. She raised her family in the North Florida country with animal friends, and others, presented in her stories. Each of the five books in her series, I Wish You Ice Cream and Cake, is designed to educate and instill in her readers a desire to be kind and compassionate. Marvin the Magnificent Nubian Goat, Busy Bumble Bee Rides the Waves, Ruby Kate’s Scrumptious Tea Cake Party, Papa Mole’s Secrets of Happiness, and her newest book, Friends Who Sparkle Like the Stars, are all beautifully illustrated by Michael Harrell. With a B.S. in Elementary Education from Florida State University, Carol taught second grade and now spends her time coordinating school visits, book festivals, and caring for her loving family. Carol lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, Edgar Murray Moore Sr.. They have three married children, six grandsons, and one granddaughter. Of her passion for writing children’s books, Carol says, “If I have encouraged children in some small way to be loving, honest, kind, and to treat others with compassion, then I have done what God has guided me to do.”
Allison Moorer is a writer in every sense of the word. Since her debut in 1998, she’s released nine albums and had five singles reach the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and her songs have appeared in movies ranging from “The Rookie” to “Moonshiners” to “The Horse Whisperer.” She and her sister, Shelby Lynn, released a collaborative album in 2017 entitled “Not Dark Yet,” an album of stunning sibling harmonies. In 2019, Moorer released her memoir, Blood, and album of the same name. She’ll be appearing at Word of South on both Saturday and Sunday.
Fresh out of high school, T. Hardy Morris caught his first show at the historic Georgia Theater in Athens. “A lot of southern artists who might not feel quite right in their hometowns migrate to Athens. Drawn here by the sound of a weird Southern heart, I guess,” Morris said. “I knew I had to live there.” At its heart, Morris’ third solo-record, “Dude, The Obscure,” released via the New West Records imprint Normaltown Records, captures the Athens songwriter contemplating the paradox of everyday life. In captivating songs, Morris sheds the traps of ambition and nostalgia and uncovers the strange satisfaction of living in the moment. On Dude, The Obscure, Morris deftly side-steps the nostalgic, storytelling perspective in his adored solo-debut, Audition Tapes, a collection of songs inspired by defining moments growing up on the edge as America’s modern opioid epidemic struck the rural South.
Colleen Oakley is the critically acclaimed author of Before I Go, Close Enough to Touch, and the recently released You Were There Too. Colleen’s novels have been longlisted for the Southern Book Prize twice and shortlisted for the French Reader’s Prize. Her books have been translated into 18 languages, optioned for film, and have received numerous accolades. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with the writers Kimmery Martin, Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and the musician Del Suggs.
Ivy Odom is a Recipe Tester/Developer at Meredith Corporation’s Meredith Food Studios in Birmingham, Alabama. Outside of recipe development and testing, Ivy hosts the Southern Living digital video series, Hey Y’all, among other instructional digital videos for Meredith’s food and lifestyle brands. Ivy is also the host of The Southern Living Show, a television series produced by Meredith Corporation for its local media markets all over the United States. She has passed the level one sommelier course through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Ivy is a proud graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.S.F.C.S. in Consumer Journalism and a B.A. in Spanish. She graduated first in her class from the culinary arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and currently resides in Birmingham, AL with her dog, Basil. Ivy will be appearing at Word of South with the musical group The Currys.
Paul Peavy was working on his Stand-Up Comedy career when his oldest daughter started pre-school. It was then he decided to become America’s favorite Stand-Up Storyteller, creating his own lively, interactive stories such as The Whine-Asaurus, The Big Lipped Fahooga, and Looking For (A Frog Named) Respect. In his day job he is a licensed psychotherapist so maybe his goofy stories even have deeper meaning and insights. Maybe. All we know is whenever Paul Peavy performs it is definitely a “No Bore Zone!”
Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him “the most destructive force on campus.” Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998, he has covered environmental issues for Florida’s largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, winning state and national awards. He is the author of five books, including The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World’s Most Beautiful Orchid, which is the only book ever classified as “True Crime/Gardening,” and Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, which won the gold medal for Florida non-fiction from the Florida Book Awards. His fifth book, Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther, published in January, has been hailed by Lauren Groff as “a witty and passionate reminder that nature is robust–it wants to live!” He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.
Ann Powers is NPR Music’s critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR’s music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR’s newsmagazines and music programs. Powers served as chief pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 2006 until she joined NPR. Prior to the Los Angeles Times, she was senior critic at Blender and senior curator at Experience Music Project. From 1997 to 2001 Powers was a pop critic at The New York Times and before that worked as a senior editor at the Village Voice. Powers co-wrote Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, with Amos, which was published in 2005. In 1999, Power’s book Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America was published. She was the editor, with Evelyn McDonnell, of the 1995 book Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Rap, and Pop and the editor of Best Music Writing 2010. In August 2017, Powers published the book Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music. She’s appearing at Word of South with the poet and music writer David Kirby.
Wendy Rawlings is the author of Come Back Irish, winner of the 2000 Sandstone Prize for short fiction, and The Agnostics, winner of the Michigan Literary Award. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Kenyon Review and many other publications. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships at the BreadLoaf Writers Conference, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. Her most recent book is a story collection, Time for Bed, out in 2019. She teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama, and will be appearing at Word of South with the writer Diane Roberts.
Ray is an American writer whose subject is often nature. She is author of five books of literary nonfiction and a volume of eco-poetry.
She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, where she was the William Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer 2014. She is a 2015 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. She won the 2017 Southern Environmental Law Center Award in journalism for her piece on coal ash, published in The Bitter Southerner: “From Ashes Such as These, What Can Rise?”. In 2018 she was the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. and in 2019 won the Georgia Author of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Writers Association.
She holds two honorary doctorates, from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. and Unity College in Unity, Maine.
Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, is a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast. This piece was a New York Times Notable Book and was chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read. Ray’s most recent book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, looks at heirloom seeds. The book has been translated into Turkish and French and it has won numerous awards.
Janisse Ray was born in southern Georgia, where she returned to live, on an organic farm near the confluence of the Altamaha and Ohoopee rivers.
Janisse will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Randall Bramblett.
Chuck Reece is the editor of The Bitter Southerner, an online magazine that tells the stories of the new South – pieces about bartenders, musicians, cooks, designers, farmers, scientists, innovators, writers, thinkers and craftsmen – showing the reader the spots that make the South a far better place than most folks think it is. Chuck will be moderating the Bitter Southerner stage over the weekend, including leading a panel discussion with Marie Cochran, Elnora Spencer and Dom Flemons.
The Retrograde runs the spectrum of music genres. With a mix of originals and covers, this young band puts their spin on the songs and makes them their own! Fronting the band with amazing axe skills is Joe Fox. Joe has a wide range with his vocals and brings power to each song. His guitar skills are way beyond his years. On keys is Michael Murray. Michael glues the band together with his keyboard and synthesizer mastery. Aaron Taylor, bassist, keeps the band thumpin’ with his old soul artistry. On drums is Carson Degner. Not many words describe his incredible skill and talent. He’s the conductor that keeps this train on the tracks! To add to the already tight group, Nolin Cividanes showcases his mad saxophone prowess. Singers Mya Barber and Sophie O’Donnell add that special touch to make this group beyond fun to listen to! The group is rounded out with the very talented trumpet player, Dawson Tucker and trombone player, Taylor Haworth, to make The Retrograde’s show one to remember.
Jason Reynolds is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author. Jason’s many books include: Miles Morales: Spider Man, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor, and Look Both Ways, which was a National Book Award Finalist. His collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, is forthcoming in March 2020. Jason has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and CBS This Morning. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.
If you are a fan of the FSU Seminoles or a resident of Florida, you know – or should know – about the writings of Tallahassee’s own Diane Roberts. Her latest book, Tribal, a comic, critical analysis of a Southern intellectual’s love of FSU football and distaste for the excesses that go with it, made several Best of Book lists in 2015. Dr. Roberts is a professor of creative writing at Florida State who received her undergraduate degree at FSU and doctorate at Oxford University in England. The author of four books, she is known for her spot-on interpretations of Southern culture and her sardonic sense of humor. She writes op-ed articles for major newspapers and has been a commentator for NPR and the BBC. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Wendy Rawlings.
Songwriter, Mike Rychlik has been singing, writing, and performing in the north Florida panhandle for almost fifty years. During this time he has written and co-written several hundred songs. Since 1972 every band he has played with has performed a majority of original material. A songwriter with eclectic influences, Mike writes jazzy blues tunes, funky country pop ditties, and beautiful ballads. His lyrical approach is steeped in storytelling, history, and humor. Since the early 70s, Mike has been a fixture in Tallahassee, playing in groups such as Labamba, Flipside, Muffin Men and Harvest Gypsies.
Guitarist Warren Sutton has been a singer/songwriter in the Capital City since 1973 when he moved from Michigan to become a founding member of Labamba. When that popular jazzy pop band broke up after almost ten years, Warren became a founding member of Riverbreeze, which was hands-down the most popular jazz fusion group in north Florida for 25 years.
Over the last five years, these two old friends have been appearing as an acoustic duo, exploring new material, along with some Labamba, Flipside, and Riverbreeze staples.
Peter Schweizer is a five-time New York Times bestselling author, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book Secret Empires, and the President of the Government Accountability Institute. From 2008-2009 he was a consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the White House, and served as a member of the Ultraterrorism Study Group at the U.S. government’s Sandia National Laboratory, and is a former consultant to NBC News. His books, which include Clinton Cash—The Untold Story of How Foreign Governments and Businesses made Bill and Hillary Clinton Rich and Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, have been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes and have been translated into eleven languages. He lives in Florida with his wife Rhonda and his children.
Michael Farris Smith is the author of The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France, and his essays have appeared with The New York Times, Bitter Southerner, Writer’s Bone, and more. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters. Michael will be appearing at Word of South with the musician John Kurzweg.
Elnora Spencer was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and began singing at the age of four. Music was a family affair, as Elnora was strongly influenced by her mother who was a noted gospel singer in the 1950s, a talented grandfather, and two aunts who performed on a local television morning program. At 12, she was performing with Roscoe Robinson.
Elnora made a name for herself by taking first place in a singing competition at Jefferson State College in 1981. Her vocal talent has led to numerous awards and accomplishments in the field of music. She was a background singer on the documentary Gees Bend Quilt Makers as well as singing with B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton, Johnny Taylor, Percy Sledge, Millie Jackson, Shirley Brown, Tyrone Davis, Bobby Womack, The Drifters, Benny Latimore, Floyd Taylor, Lenny Williams, Denise LaSalle, and many more. She has sung with the Alabama Symphony and was honored to sing the National Anthem for the 2007 Bass Master Classic Opening Ceremony.
Among her awards, she was named Best Female Vocalist of 2002 by the Birmingham Weekly and was nominated for Birmingham Jazz Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame as a Master of Blues Artist. Elnora will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Dom Flemons and others.
Del Suggs is an original. Del is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from the beaches of North Florida and is considered by many to be one of the founders and pioneers of “Trop Rock” (tropical rock) music. Del began to perform in a similar style, which he called “Saltwater Music,” drawing on his experiences growing up along the gulf coast in Panama City, Florida. Del has released five solo albums: Living Deliberately, LIVE, Floating On The Surface, Wooden Boat, and Saltwater Music. He has also been a featured artist on seven compilation albums, including Tallahassee Selects, Music From The Rascal Yard, The Prime Meridian, The Cascades Collection, and A Cascades Christmas. His continued success is a reflection of the broad appeal and timelessness of his music. Del is one of those individuals who comes on stage as a stranger, and leaves it as a friend. Del will be appearing at Word of South with the writers Kimmery Martin, Karen White, Colleen Oakley and Beatriz Williams.
Jeff VanderMeer grew up in the Fiji Islands and currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida. His critically acclaimed New York Times-bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy has been published in 20 countries, and the Paramount Pictures film of the first book in the trilogy, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, was released in 2018. Jeff’s subsequent fiction, Borne, The Strange Bird, and Dead Astronauts, has been optioned for television by AMC. VanderMeer’s nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Atlantic, Washington Post, the Guardian, and many more. Jeff will be appearing at Word of South with the poet Vanessa Angélica Villareal.
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal is the author of the collection Beast Meridian, a 2019 Whiting Award recipient, a Kate Tufts Discovery Award finalist, and winner of the John A. Robertson Award for the Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work in Poetry has been recognized with a 2019 Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and has also appeared in the New York Times, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Buzzfeed Reader, and elsewhere. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and is pursuing her doctorate in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she is raising her son with the help of a loyal dog. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Jeff VanderMeer.
Ken Waldman is an author and musician. A former college professor with an MFA in Creative Writing, he’s been a visiting writer at nearly 100 colleges and universities, a visiting artist at over 230 schools in 33 states, and has led workshops from Alaska to Maine. His nine CDs of old-time Appalachian-style string-band music include two for children. His nine books consist of seven full-length poetry collections, a memoir about his life as a touring artist, and a volume of acrostic poems for kids. As a performer, he’s played from the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage to Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage, occasionally as a soloist, more often as leader of one of his ever-changing troupes of nationally recognized musicians. Ken will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Stephen Hodges.
It’s no secret that great art comes from the margins. From those who are either pushed to create from inner forces, or who create to show they deserve to be recognized. Los Angeles-based street singer, guitarist, and roots music revolutionary Sunny War has always been an outsider, always felt the drive to define her place in the world through music and songwriting. Her new album, With The Sun, out on Hen House Studios, is the culmination of years of burning curiosity as an artist, the result of many wandered paths to find some new way to speak her heart. For the first time, she’s writing songs first and crafting the guitar work second, focusing on her own poetry and trying to tell her own story. She’s an outsider artist in the truest sense, living on the margins of the establishment and fueled only by her own creative genius.
For singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalists Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, the Watkins Family Hour has long been an oasis from the rigors of the road, a laboratory where they can try out new material or master beloved cover songs. Their monthly show at L.A.’s famed venue, Largo, has been hailed as a convivial, communal event where they welcome an impressive array of musician friends old and new. While it’s true that fans who aren’t lucky enough to be in L.A. and score a coveted ticket can check out the proceedings via YouTube or on the podcasts the Watkins siblings have created, the fun of these evenings is really in being there as the unscripted show unfolds. The Watkins Family Hour is always full of surprises, unexpected guests, one-of-a-kind match-ups; serendipity plays as much of a role as virtuosity. Fiona Apple often joins them, and recent guests have included Dawes, Jackson Browne, Nikka Costa, Booker T. and actor-singer John C. Reilly, as well as comedians Paul F. Tompkins, Nick Kroll and Pete Holmes.
Now Sara and Sean have decided to take their Family Hour format on the road — a kind of musical pop-up shop, if you will — to clubs and concert halls around the country. To mark this undertaking, this summer they are releasing the first-ever Watkins Family Hour LP on their own Family Hour Records imprint. The album, recorded live over three days in the studio of their friend and producer-engineer Sheldon Gomberg, beautifully captures the freewheeling spirit of the shows. It features Apple and the stellar players who have become a de facto house band: drummer Don Heffington, pedal steel and dobro player Greg Leisz, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and keyboardist Benmont Tench, each of whom take a vocal turn at the mic. The Watkins Family Hour is an all-covers affair; tracks include Sara doing Lindsey Buckingham’s “Steal Your Heart Away,” Sean essaying Roger Miller’s wistful “Not In Nottingham,” from Disney’s 1973 animated Robin Hood, and Apple singing “Where I Ought To Be,” originally performed by Skeeter Davis.
Whatley & Co. is a family band consisting of a father, three sons, and some other folks along the way. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, the band has been playing great Americana music for years, with their most recent album titled “Grandstand”. They’ve opened for Jamey Johnson in venues across the country
With almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages, Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a graduate of the American School in London and has a BS in Management from Tulane University. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She has two grown children and currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two spoiled Havanese dogs. Karen will be appearing at Word of South with the authors Beatriz Williams, Colleen Oakley and Kimmery Martin, and the musician Del Suggs.
Susan Rebecca White is the author of four novels: Bound South, A Soft Place to Land, A Place at the Table, and We Are All Good People Here, all published by Simon & Schuster. Her essays and nonfiction have been featured in The Huffington Post, Tin House, Salon, The Bitter Southerner, and Atlanta magazine. A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program at Hollins University, Susan has taught creative writing at Hollins, Emory, SCAD, and Mercer University. An Atlanta native, Susan lives in Atlanta with her husband and son. Susan will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Caroline Herring.
Beatriz Williams is the bestselling author of ten novels, including The Summer Wives, A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Certain Age, and The Golden Hour. A native of Seattle, she graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA in finance from Columbia University, then spent several years in New York and London as a corporate strategy consultant before pursuing her passion for historical fiction. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Beatriz will be appearing at Word of South with the authors Karen White, Colleen Oakley and Kimmery Martin, and the musician Del Suggs.
Birthed from a series of casual Southern Alabama songwriter-in-the-round jam sessions, Willie Sugarcapps is an organic outgrowth of the chemistry between five distinct musicians. Within these sessions, among the pot luck dishes served and a stage built to resemble a back porch, a connection brewed between Kimbrough, Crawford, Lee, Capps, and Hughes. Individually, these musicians have written, recorded, and toured throughout the US, with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Kate Campbell, Dwight Yoakam, and Steve Winwood, to name a few. The collaboration of such songwriting expertise inspired a repertoire of material that became their 2013 self-titled debut album, which was awarded “Americana Album Of The Year” by the Independent Music Association. Willie Sugarcapps went on to build a solid following, and performed on such lauded programs as Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, NPR’s Mountain Stage and Music City Roots. They released their sophomore effort, Paradise Right Here, in April of 2016, recorded at FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals via Baldwin County Public Records to rave reviews. The desire for more recordings and tour dates is a common conversation amongst the band, much to the desire of their loyal and devoted fanbase.
Rick Wilson is a longtime Republican strategist, infamous negative ad-maker, and commentator. Since 2015, he’s been a leading conservative critic of Donald Trump. Rick’s work has been published in The Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, The London Spectator, Rolling Stone, The New York Daily News, USA Today, and others, and his book Everything Trump Touches Dies was a national bestseller. His sharp-edged and witty political insights have earned him invitations to appear on CNN, MSNBC, and he’s a frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Rick began his 30-year career in politics as part of the campaign for George H. W. Bush. He continues today providing strategic counsel to candidates, SuperPACS, state parties, the national campaign committees, and other clients nation-wide. His new book Running Against the Devil, was released in January 2020. Rick lives here in Tallahassee with his wife, too many dogs, and a nameless cat.