BookFest Gwinnett, a celebration of diversity sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club, will be held on Saturday, June 15, 2019
Ron Aiken is the former president of the Atlanta Writers Club, and a member of its Board of Directors. His debut novel, Death Has Its Benefits, was a Kirkus Reviews “recommended new release.” A retired attorney, Ron enjoys playing in a community band and teaching chess to kids.
Nigerian-born Afolabi Ashiru is part of UltraStudios, designers of a series of comic books called Tales of Conquest. He started writing in 1996 after he finished secondary school. His first works were comic stories written for a friend, Scot Mmobuosi, who is an Atlanta-based graphic artist. His first published work was Curse of the Kings which was published in 2004. In 2005, he published My People’s Past. Both books were self-published. He also has a short story “Amphibian Attack” in the Sci-fi Anthology Lagos 2060. He lives in Atlanta.
Dr. Daniel Black is an award-winning novelist, professor, and activist. His published works include They Tell Me of Home, The Sacred Place, Perfect Peace, Twelve Gates to the City, The Coming, and Listen to the Lambs. In 2014, he won the Distinguished Writer’s Award from the Mid-Atlantic Writer’s Association. The Go On Girl! National Book Club named him “Author of the Year” in 2011 for his novel Perfect Peace. Perfect Peace was also chosen as the 2014 selection for “If All Arkansas Read the Same Book” by the Arkansas Center for the Book at the Arkansas State Library. The novel has been reprinted more than ten times and is being heralded as an American literary classic. Dr. Black has also been nominated for the Townsend Literary Prize, Ernest J. Gaines Award, Ferro-Grumbley Literary Prize, Lambda Literary Award, and Georgia Author of the Year Prize.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Dr. Black spent his formative years in rural Blackwell, Arkansas, Dr. Black graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) where he earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship and studied at Oxford University. He was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University where he studied with poet laureate of the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez and earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies. Dr. Black is Professor of African American Studies at his alma mater Clark Atlanta University.
Dr. Black lives in Atlanta and is the founder of the Ndugu-Nzinga Rites of Passage Nation, a mentoring society for African American youth.
Dr. Regina N. Bradley is an alumna Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellow (Harvard University, Spring 2016) and an Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. Her expertise and research interests include post-Civil Rights African American literature, hip hop culture, race and the contemporary U.S. South, and sound studies. Dr. Bradley earned a B.A. in English from Albany State University (GA), an M.A. in African American and African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in African American Literature from Florida State University.
Dr. Bradley’s current book-length project, Chronicling Stankonia: OutKast and the Rise of the Hip Hop South (under contract, UNC Press), explores how Atlanta’s hip hop duo OutKast influences conversations about the Black American South after the Civil Rights Movement. Chronicling Stankonia stems from her critically acclaimed series OutKasted Conversations, a YouTube dialogue series about the impact of OutKast on popular culture. She is also the editor of a forthcoming collection of essays about OutKast for the University of Georgia Press. Dr. Bradley’s work on popular culture and race is published in south: an interdisciplinary journal, Meridians, Comedy Studies, ADA, Journal of Ethnic American Literature, Palimpsest, and Current Musicology. Dr. Bradley’s public scholarship is featured on a range of news media outlets including Washington Post, NPR, NewsOne, SoundingOut!, and Creative Loafing Atlanta.
In addition to her scholarship, Dr. Bradley is an acclaimed fiction writer. Her first short story collection, Boondock Kollage: Stories from the Hip Hop South, was recently published by Peter Lang press. Dr. Bradley’s short story “Beautiful Ones” was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee in short fiction. Her other stories have been featured in Obsidian, Transition, and Oxford American. Dr. Bradley’s fiction has been supported by the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the Tin House Summer Workshop. She is currently working on her first novel based on the short story “Beautiful Ones,” The Ghosts Come Home, about the disappearance of a Black teenage boy in Southwest Georgia.
Michael K. Brown is the author of three published novels: Promise of Silver (2014), Promise of the Hills (2015), and Somewhere a River (2014). For the latter, he was named the 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in literary fiction by the Georgia Writers Association. He had had articles published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Gwinnett Daily News, and an OPED in the Wall Street Journal. A former President of the Atlanta Writers Club, he presently serves on the Board as an Officer Emeritus. A graduate of the University of Alabama (BS and MS in Industrial Engineering), Mike lives in Loganville, Georgia, with his wife, Judy.
Tony Cade has been a comics and games retailer since 1994 and is the owner of Challenges Games and Comics. He founded Terminus Media, a comics publisher and animation studio, and functions as its editor-in-chief. He is also the organizer of The Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo.
Georgia native Shae Connor comes from a family full of writers. Her mother won over a dozen awards for her newspaper writing, her grandmother was an award-winning poet, and her great-uncle was a lifelong newspaperman better known by his pseudonym, Poke McHenry. Today, Shae edits for a large government agency by day but spends her evenings writing sweet-hot romance featuring diverse casts of characters.
A member of the Romance Writers of America, Shae was first published in 2010 and has a lineup of short stories, novellas, and novels published and a host of anthology appearances, most notably in Playing Ball, which won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Anthology/Collection. Her novel Unfortunate Son was a 2015 Rainbow Award finalist for Best Gay Erotic Romance. Her novella Graphite & Glitter was a finalist in the 2018 Southern Magic RWA Award of Excellence, and her novella Tongue & Groove was a finalist in the 2017 Kathryn Hayes When Sparks Fly Contest of the NYC RWA chapter.
When she’s not chained to her laptop, Shae enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, reading voraciously, giving and receiving hugs, and wearing tiaras. In her copious spare time, she volunteers as director and editor of the Dragon Con on-site publication, the Daily Dragon.
Valerie Joan Connors is the author of four novels, A Better Truth (Deeds Publishing, 2016), A Promise Made (Deeds Publishing, 2015), Shadow of a Smile (Deeds Publishing, 2014) and In Her Keeping (Bell Bridge Books, 2013).
Valerie credits her association with the Atlanta Writers Club for the fact that her four novels were both written and published. She has served on the AWC Board since 2011 in nearly every capacity, including as AWC President from 2013 to 2015. She continues to serve as the VP of Programming and Officer Emerita.
During business hours, Valerie is the CFO of an engineering firm. She is a dog person, and supports lion, tiger, and elephant conservation efforts, and hopes to raise awareness through her writing. Valerie lives in Atlanta with her husband and rescue dog, and is working on her next novel.
Jill Cox-Cordova holds an MFA from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She worked as a journalist for 21 years at such media outlets as CNN.com, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, WSB-TV, and she freelanced for Essence magazine. As a creative writer, her publications include flash fiction in an anthology. Parks and Points also published her creative nonfiction piece about growing up in a national park, which also placed second in the publication’s essay contest.
She conducts in-person and online workshops for authors who want to promote themselves to the media, plus she offers services as a manuscript and book proposal developmental editor for first-time and established authors. She sits on the board of the Atlanta Writers Club in the role of Volunteer Coordinator and co-hosts with her husband, “I’m Right. I’m Right,” a podcast about relationships.
Tara Y. Coyt is a writer, editor, author coach, award-winning marketing strategist, and entrepreneur. She collaborated on NBA All Star Joe Barry Carroll’s award-winning Growing Up…In Words and Images, and Black American Voices: Shared Culture, Values, and Emotions. Tara also wrote a self-help book for NBA All-Star Sidney Moncrief, a memoir for Death Row Records photographer Simone Green, a parenting book, and a book on dental hygiene. Her articles and editorials have covered politics, culture, entertainment, and healthcare and have appeared in Entrepreneur, Validation Times, Atlanta Magazine, Rolling Out, and Newsmakers Journal. Tara also launched “The Write Author Coach,” which provided guidance and resources to aspiring authors. Her first solo book, Real Talk About LGBTQIAP: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual was released in March 2019 by Joe Barry Carroll Publishing.
Tara founded Coyt Communications, a marketing and communications company that received the Atlanta Business League Super Tuesday Award. Her marketing and advertising career includes developing strategies and tactics for TCI (the world’s largest cable operator at that time), Disney, General Mills, HBO, McDonalds, NBCUniversal, Porsche, and WBEZ.
She has been a requested speaker on topics including black history, marketing, and book development. Tara also hosted Newsmakers Live, a political talk show in Atlanta, GA and led community discussions for the Public Square in Chicago, IL.
L. M. Davis
L. M. Davis is a YA/MG author who writes about shapeshifters, aliens, immortals, and witches. She is the author of Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, Posers: A Shifters Novel, and Skinless. Forgers, the third book in her Shifters Novel series, is forthcoming.
She is a scholar of African American and Native American literatures and cultures, with particular interest in the speculative production of these communities. She has spent more than a decade studying these cultures. Finally, L. M. Davis has worked as a background actor on a variety of sci-fi/fantasy projects including Black Panther, The Gifted, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Sleepy Hollow.
L. M. Davis was born in the south, raised in the north. She doesn’t like to admit it, but she may have something of a “shifter” fetish. She has finally gotten her cat. She’s not black, like she imagined, but grey and white, with blue eyes. She’s a little devil.
Phillippe Diederich is the author of the novels Playing for the Devil’s Fire (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016), which was named the 2017 Best Young Adult novel by the Texas Institute of Letters and 2017 Young Adult Library Services Association Best Fiction for Young Adults; and Sofrito (Cinco Puntos Press, 2015).
He is also the author of the Dexter Vega mysteries The Last Breath (2018), and The Last Girl (2017), both written under the pen name Danny López and published by Oceanview.
His short fiction has been published in national literary journals including Quarterly West, Acentos Review, Burrow Press, Hobart and others. In 2017 he was awarded the PEN Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. His short fiction has been nominated for 4 Pushcart Prizes. He is the recipient of the Chris O’Malley Prize for Fiction from the Madison Review, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, and a John Ringling Towers Grant in Literature from the Sarasota County Artist Alliance.
The son of Haitian exiles, Diederich was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. During the 1990’s he worked as a photojournalist, covering news and feature assignments in the U.S. and Latin America for national publications.
Anjali Enjeti is an award-winning journalist, critic, and MFA professor in creative writing at Reinhardt University. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newsday, The Nation, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Al Jazeera, and elsewhere. She is currently serving as Vice President of Membership for the National Book Critics Circle and her debut collection of essays is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press.
Anju Gattani is a fiction author, freelance journalist, fiction writing instructor, blogger and former newspaper reporter. Anju was born in India but grew up in Hong Kong. She has also lived in Singapore, Australia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and finally dug her roots in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two dashing boys, and a rebel lion-head rabbit.
Anju was first published at the age of seven in Hong Kong’s English language newspaper, The South China Morning Post. She pursued her passion for writing, earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and is certified in creative writing/journalism from Australia. Anju continued to be published in cover stories, fiction, feature, news, interviews, travel, perspective pieces and more, in publications across Hong Kong, India, Singapore, and the U.S.
Her debut novel Duty and Desire in the Winds of Fire series is slated for release in 2019. Anju hopes her books will Bridge Cultures and Break Barriers.
Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, An American Marriage; Silver Sparrow, chosen for the NEA’s Big Read Library; The Untelling; and Leaving Atlanta.
An American Marriage has been a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection, an instant New York Times bestseller, and a National Book Award finalist, with over 600,000 copies in print. This story of a marriage torn apart by a wrongful conviction has been called “haunting . . . beautifully written” (the New York Times Book Review) and “brilliant and heartbreaking . . . unforgettable” (USA Today). It was included on dozens of best-of-the-year lists, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, USA Today, and more.
Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She has received fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute For Advanced Studies, United States Artist Foundation, and Black Mountain Institute. She lives in Atlanta, where she is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.
Soniah Kamal is an award-winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan Is an Amazon Best Books pick, a Library Reads pick, a People Magazine pick, and NPR called it “thought-provoking and deliciously readable.” Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub and more. Her TEDX talk is about second chances.
Aruni Kashyap is a writer and translator. He is the author of the novel The House With a Thousand Stories (Viking, 2013). He has also translated from Assamese and introduced celebrated Indian writer Indira Goswami’s last work of fiction, The Bronze Sword of Thengphakhri Tehsildar, for Zubaan Books (2013). He won the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship for Creative Writing to the University of Edinburgh in 2009. His short stories, poems, and essays have appeared or forthcoming in The Oxford Anthology of Writings from Northeast, The Kenyon Review, The New York Times, The Guardian UK, the Hindu, Evergreen Review, Karthika Review, Juked, Sin Fronteras Journal, Stonecoast Review, The Atticus Review, and others. He is an Assistant Professor Creative Writing at University of Georgia, Athens.
Dr. Aleron Kong is a physician by day, best-selling author of LitRPG—literature that includes narrative within video role-playing games—by night based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Best known for his series “The Land”, Aleron has published seven titles in the last two years, and continues to write passionately, with a goal to continue the series to fifty books and a movie or TV series. The acknowledged Father of American LitRPG, he hopes to break the mold of SciFi writers, bringing more diversity to the genre.
Dr. Al, as his patients fondly refer to him, has a lifetime goal of leaving the world a better place than he found it. He has worked to raise over $55,000 for charities including The Water Project, Able Gamers, Texas Blue Armor Brotherhood, and recently helped to raise funds for those impacted by Hurricane Irma. He also has donated books to the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade as well as various Pediatric hospitals. His charitable works in progress include a Women’s Health Initiative, as well as plans for a Breast Cancer Fundraiser.
When Aleron isn’t saving lives or writing, he is working hard to help the genre of LitRPG and the authors within it, to grow. He has created countless resources for new authors in the genre, and continues to mentor those entering the field. He hopes to inspire continued growth and recognition of LitRPG.
Alison Law is an unapologetic book pusher, author enabler, and host of the Literary Atlanta podcast. She frequently interviews authors and moderates live literary discussions.
As a professional writer, publicist, and marketing and media consultant, Alison has represented authors, publishers, agencies, and other professionals in the publishing industry. She has served as associate program director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival and currently volunteers on the festival’s programming committee. She’s also an advisor for the Georgia Center for the Book.
Alison is a proud alumna of Georgia State University, where she earned her master’s degree in English in 2015. She helped Georgia State launch the Lost Southern Voices Festival in 2016 and has taught writing and literature at Georgia State University Perimeter College.
Bernard N. Lee, Jr.
Bernard N. Lee, Jr. is the oldest son of a career veteran of the US Army. Together with his family, he traveled throughout the United States and Europe during his childhood. The places he traveled, the people he met, and the stories he remembers are shared in his memoir series, A Look Back in Time: Memoir of a Military Kid in the Fifties. These “stories of a military kid in the fifties,” took place during his dad’s tours of duty in the USA and Germany.
Bernie attended Cameron Junior College in Oklahoma and Howard University in Washington, D.C. While at Howard, Bernie joined the Army ROTC Program, obtained a private pilot’s license, earned a regular army commission, and retired as a Captain from the Army Reserves. After graduating from Howard with a BSEE, Bernie joined AT&T where he worked until retirement in 2003.
Following his retirement, Bernie obtained a Master of Arts in Education, and taught high school classes at Somerset Vo-Tech. He also led a Program for the Acceleration of Minority Careers in Engineering (hosted at Rutgers University) for students pursuing college STEM programs.
Atlanta-based host and producer, John Lemley, has been a mainstay of Atlanta’s media scene for well over two decades. For 18 of those years, John hosted and produced a number of news and arts programs for Atlanta’s NPR station, WABE. John currently serves as an investigative reporter and occasional newscast anchor for Nancy Grace’s new Sirius XM satellite radio program, “Crime Stories,” for which he investigates and reports on open and unsolved cases in the headlines.
A man of many passions, John is also fulfilling a life-long history buff’s dream by writing a column called “A Sprig of Moss,” focusing on Gwinnett County, Georgia’s historic cemeteries for Our Town Gwinnett magazine. He’s also the anchor for an online TV news roundtable program based out of Peachtree Corners called Momentum that addresses topics impacting the greater metro-Atlanta area.
Lemley has garnered a number of accolades and awards. He was named “Best Drive-Time DJ” by the staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for his work as host of “All Things Considered.” Atlanta Magazine chose Lemley and his program, “City Café” as “Best of the Dial.” Lemley is also a recipient of a GLAAD media award and last October, he accepted an award from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters for his work on “City Café.” John lives in Lilburn, GA with his husband, Mike Selk.
Kenny Leon is a Tony Award-winning Broadway and television director. His Broadway credits include the upcoming American Son starring Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale, the revival of Children of a Lesser God, the Tupac musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington (Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival of a Play), The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, Stick Fly produced by Alicia Keys, August Wilson’s Fences (which garnered ten Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Play), Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf, as well as A Raisin in the Sun starring Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Phylicia Rashad, and Audra McDonald. He also directed Smart People for Second Stage. Leon’s television work includes “Hairspray Live!”, and “The Wiz Live!” on NBC. He is the recipient of the 2016 Mr. Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing and the 2010 Award for Excellence in Directing from the Drama League. Mr. Leon serves on the board of New York’s Public Theater and is Artistic Director of Atlanta’s Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company.
Prior to co-founding True Colors Theatre Company, he served 11 years as Artistic Director of The Alliance Theatre, where he produced the premieres of Disney’s Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky and Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Other directorial credits include Alicia Keys World Tour, Toni Morrison’s opera Margaret Garner, the world premiere of Flashdance The Musical, and the complete August Wilson Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center. Leon is a sought after motivational speaker that has done acting and theatre workshops at universities and corporate offices around the country, South Africa and Ireland. He has directed in the UK, and extensively throughout the US, including Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Boston’s Huntington Theatre, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group and New York’s Public Theatre. Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta and is an honorary Ph.D. recipient of Clark Atlanta and Roosevelt Universities and has served as the Denzel Washington Chair at Fordham University.
Georgia McBride is the owner of Georgia McBride Media Group, home of Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. She is also the founder of #YAlitchat. Georgia McBride Media Group titles have sold to Audible, Blackstone, ListenUP!, and Tantor Media, and have been licensed by Scholastic Book Fairs and Junior Library Guild. Some titles have sold to Korea, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and China. Georgia McBride Media Group titles have received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal, and a few have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize.
Susan Puckett, the former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has written or collaborated on a dozen cookbooks during her nearly 40-year food writing career. Her book, Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South (UGA Press, 2013), was named one of 10 Books All Georgians Should Read by the Georgia Center of the Book. She co-wrote Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen (Rux Martin/HMH Books, 2018) with Taqueria del Sol chef Eddie Hernandez, and coached Miller Union chef Steven Satterfield on Root to Leaf (Harper Wave, 2015), which earned a James Beard Foundation nomination. Her next book, The Deep End of Flavor: Recipes and Stories from New Orleans’ Premier Seafood Chef, with Stone Mountain native Tenney Flynn of the acclaimed GW Fins restaurant in the French Quarter, will be published by Gibbs Smith in August. Susan has judged many national cookbook and food-writing competitions, writes a weekly cookbook review column for the AJC, consults with food-based companies on their storytelling, and coaches aspiring cookbook authors at every stage of the process.
Creator, writer, and editor-in-chief Kyle Puttkammer works every day to inspire new readers and create comics that appeal to all ages. Leading a band of young & legendary artists, Kyle is building an exciting shared universe of titles. He is the writer of Hero Cats and Midnight Over Stellar City. He has also created and inked Galaxy Man & Cosmic Girl comics. Kyle currently lives in Georgia with his family and four cats.
Clayton H. Ramsey is a native of Atlanta and a ninth-generation Georgian. He is a graduate of The Westminster Schools, Princeton University, and Emory University. He most recently worked with a research group in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the School of Medicine at Emory. He was also a two-term president of the Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) and serves as Officer Emeritus and VP of Contests, Awards and Scholarships on the AWC Board of Directors. Clay has moderated author panels at the Decatur Book Festival, and worked on the reading committee for the Townsend Prize for Fiction. He is a regular contributor to Georgia Backroads magazine, and has been published in The Chattahoochee Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Mash Stories, Fickle Muses, and an anthology of Atlanta writers entitled The Treasure Trove, among others. Clay has been honored by the Atlanta Writers Club, the Georgia Writers Museum, and The Writer magazine for his work. He has appeared on National Public Radio and Georgia Public Broadcasting, and lives in Decatur.
Chika Unigwe is the author of amongst others, On Black Sisters Street (Jonathan Cape, 2011, Random House, 2012) and Night Dancer (Jonathan Cape, 2013). Her latest short story is in Lagos Noir (Akashic Books, 2018).
She was a 2016 Bonderman Asst. Professor of Lit. Arts at Brown University. She is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Emory University. Her new collection of short stories will be published by Cassava Republic in 2019.