5th Annual

Fall Literary Festival
October 7-9, 2021
Youngstown, Ohio

Conference Theme: “Our Shared Story”
Featured Writers: Jan Beatty (memoirist & poet), Teri Ellen Cross Davis (poet), Matt Forrest Esenwine (children’s author), Bonnie Proudfoot (novelist & poet), & Mike Geither (playwright)

Used Books

Since 2016, Lit Youngstown's Fall Literary Festival has been a celebration of the literary arts, with creative readings, workshops, craft talks, and panels on writing, understanding, publishing, editing, and teaching literary works. We have welcomed hundreds of presenters, including Lesley Nneka Arimah, David Giffels, Janet Wong, Denise Duhamel, Philip Metres, Robert Olmstead and George Ella Lyon. Daytime sessions take place at Youngstown State, and evening readings in downtown Youngstown.


Featured Writers

Image by Macau Photo Agency


October 7

7:00 - 9:00

Warm welcome, Fall Literary Festival attendees and presenters! Join us downtown for a cookie table (a Youngstown tradition!), an open mic and the start of a great conference.
The Concept Studio 217 W. Federal St.

October 8

Friday Session 1 9:45-10:45 AM

Creative Reading
Keith Castillo, Arya F. Jenkins, Luke McDermott, Barbara Marie Minney, Jimmy Sutman

Moderator Jonie McIntire
Keith Castillo: My two creative writing readings are from a book of short stories that I am completing for Honors college at Kent State. The stories are about Hamish, a newly adopted 9-year-old boy moving to the hometown of his adopted mother in West Virginia after living in Europe. “Don’t Pee on Electric Animal Fences” Hamish learns of his moving to West Virginia. “Fishing with Grandpa” deals with impoverished children living in rural Appalachia. Both stories bring attention to voices in our community that aren’t often heard, especially those of displaced and immigrant Appalachians.


Arya F. Jenkins will read her short story, “Winners,” about a queer teen’s coming of age during the pandemic quarantine. The story is from a forthcoming collection by the author, ANGEL IN PARIS & OTHER STORIES, scheduled for publication by NineStar Press in fall 2021.

Luke McDermott's poetry reading will explore the experience of growing up in a single-parent home with an alcoholic father. In struggling with his own addictions, the speaker tries to find ways to release the anger and other emotions he represses and attempts to find humor in his situation.

​Barbara Marie Minney will be reading from her first collection of poetry entitled If There’s No Heaven, which chronicles her first two years living as the woman that she was always meant to be after repressing her true gender identity for over 60 years. Barbara’s book was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and was named by the Akron Beacon Journal as one of the Best Northeast Ohio Books in 2020.

​Jimmy Sutman reads from his poems that explore developmental disabilities, mental health, alpacas, and the New Testament. Sparrows are important in his work. As is the city of Youngstown.


Sanctuary on the Page
Anne Elliot

Apprentice fiction writers are often told to create more danger on the page, in order to pressure characters to make plot-moving decisions. But what if danger is the status quo for a person or her community? For a character who is watchful or guarded, letting down that guard might be an important narrative moment. What if the catalyst for risk, intimacy, creativity, decision-making, etc. is not danger, but sanctuary? Examples from James Baldwin, Anne Frank, Han Kang, and Mohsin Hamid, followed by an exercise. 

Getting The Word Out: Publishing Your Work in Lit Mags, Zines, Poetry Videos, and More
Freesia McKee

Moderator Rikki Santer

Many writers want to begin sharing their work, but don’t quite know where to start. We will spend the first segment of this workshop demystifying the nuts and bolts of publishing in literary journals and then delve into a range of other “non-traditional” options for sharing your written work, including zines, video poems, blogging, Patreon, broadsides, postcards, and more. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these platforms so you can play to your strengths and begin finding your audience!

So You Want to Write a Memoir?
Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh, Eliese Colette Goldbach

Moderator Rebecca Moon Ruark
Maybe you have drafted a handful of chapters. Maybe you have an entire manuscript sitting on your desk. Maybe you already have the photo picked out for your book jacket. Now what? How do you put your story into the world? Come learn the ins and outs of the nonfiction industry with two writers who have recently planned, pitched, and published their own memoirs. Eliese Colette Goldbach and Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh will share details from their own journeys to help aspiring writers on the path toward publication. They’ll talk about strategies for landing an agent. They’ll reveal the secrets of a winning book proposal. They’ll discuss the difficult task of marketing your work, and they’ll tackle the emotions that arise when your personal tale is suddenly available on Amazon. As both of these authors know, finishing a memoir is the easy part. It’s then that the real work begins.

Finding Listeners & Readers at Any Age
Robert Case

Moderator Cherise Benton

An older writer copes with a mixed bag of blessings. Yes, you are blessed with a depth of experience. But, the succeeding generation comes up with improved technologies for creating content.
The program has three important takeaways:
a. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong to write your first draft in ink. (Ink is not just for tattoos)
b. Beware of anyone who suggests that you can’t complete a manuscript without the latest computer program, even if it takes dictation.
c. Beware of anyone who advises that no one will read your work until you have 1,000 Twitter followers.

Helping Writers Find Their Comedic Voice: A Bloom’s Taxonomy Approach
Matthew McKeague

Having taught comedy writing courses at the college level, the presenter will discuss his method of helping new writers find their comedic voice. Incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy, the presenter connects comedic writing structure to classroom techniques that enable students to begin to form their own unique style in writing funny narratives for books, television, film, and emerging media outlets.

The Prokope Collective: Cross-genre Artist Communities
Dawson Steeber

The Prokope Collective, an art collective based on the Greek concept of koinonia—a community of the generous sharing of ideas; a partnership of artists, craftsman, musicians, writers, thinkers, and seekers carving a groove in their own epoch. The hope here is to create an energetic space where, together, we can share works and ideas. A place where we can knock sparks off each other through lively discussion, writing on craft and theory, critique, discuss best practices, etc. This iteration of Prokope Collective also provides another platform from which to broaden networks and create more opportunities for collaboration—online and in the physical world.

Friday Session 2 11:00-12:00

Freedom Through Fences: A Conversation About Amplifying Voices of Incarcerated Writers
Da’Jon Carouthers, Christopher Dum, Jason Kahler, Hilary Plum, Zachary Thomas

Moderator Jonie McIntire
In an attempt to enhance writing opportunities for marginalized populations, activists have increased their outreach to those who are incarcerated. These efforts provide much-needed inclusion, while raising important questions the possible limitations of such endeavors. In this round table discussion, Kent State University professor and ID13 Prison Literacy Project co-founder Christopher Dum will moderate a conversation between formerly incarcerated writers, and educators who work inside correctional facilities. This session will tackle topics such as the needs and experiences of incarcerated writers, tools for success of prison writing programs, issues of representation, and engaging with public audiences.


Sheila-Na-Gig Editions Presents A Creative Reading & Book Signing

Barbara Sabol, John Bullock, Hayley Mitchell Haugen

Moderator Marion Starling Boyer
Barbara Sabol's fourth poetry collection, Imagine a Town, was awarded the 2019 Sheila-Na-Gig Editions Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Mezzo Cammin, Evening Street Review, and The Copperfield Review. Barbara’s awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

John Bullock has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Virginia. Mark Small: This is Your Life is his first novel. He teaches high school English in rural Ohio.

Hayley Mitchell Haugen is Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag is her first full-length poetry collection, and her chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To is from Finishing Line Press. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. 

Memoir Craft Talk: "Blood Ghosts: Finding Structure"
Jan Beatty

Moderator Diane Kendig
How do you find the structure for your memoir or book of nonfiction?

How do you even begin? As you dive into the past, how do you ground

yourself in writing while running into the blood ghosts of family memory?

I’ll talk about my memoir, American Bastard, and the strategy of a many-

sectioned, leaping, non-chronological structure. We’ll do some writing

about your true stories, and the need to tell them.

Dear Friend: An Epistolary Poetry Workshop
Pauletta Hansel

Moderator Jimmy Sutman

Poems as letters, letters as poems. The epistle is one of the oldest forms of literature, and epistolary poetry continues to inspire each new generation of poets to explore the intersection of the music and imagery of poetry and the intimate, often urgent, expression of self that both personal and public letters provide. In this workshop, we will read and discuss a range of letter poems, and write our own.

The Power of Story to Heal: Writing Workshops in Community Spaces
Wendy Brown-Báez

Moderator Cherise Benton

Writing and sharing stories activates the ability to find meaning after trauma, loss, or transition. We’ll explore ways to facilitate writing in community spaces, such as healing centers, libraries or prisons, with clients, in support groups, and for self-care, to both deepen your writing practice and your leadership skills. Wendy will share mindfulness practices and somatic techniques for assisting clients and oneself when experiencing emotional overwhelm and suggestions to support and guide participants who may not feel they are writers but have a story to tell.

Friday 1:00

“Speak a Powerful Magic: Encouraging New Voices in our Community”
David Hassler, Wick Poetry Center

Friday Session 3 2:15-3:15

A Woman’s Place: Rewriting Women into the Historical Landscape
Iris Dunkle, Hyejung Kook, Lizzie Tran, Tess Taylor, Athena Kildegaard

Moderator Sara Moore Wagner
What does it mean to imagine a new place from which we can speak and come to know our lives? Working from archives, historic places, homelands, and myth, five writers map landscapes both real and imagined to tell feminist stories. Ranging from Vietnam to the refugee camps of California, from the islands of the South Seas to the plowed-over Prairie and the epic land of Motherhood, these writings create new worlds with women at their centers. The readers will share research process and work.

Creative Reading
Betina Entzminger, Sally Rosen Kindred, MoPoetry Phillips

Moderator Chloe Martinez

Betina Entzminger: I met my great-aunt Rosalee only a few times. I remember visiting her once at the S.C. State Hospital on Bull Street with my mother and grandmother when I was about ten years old. Rosalee lived there with her middle-aged son, James, which I thought was nice for the two of them. As a child, I didn’t know why she had been sent to the asylum. She just seemed old, quiet, and, I assumed, crazy. Now I wonder how much a woman had to drink, how many men she had to bed, how violently and frequently she had to swear before a mental institution seemed the answer. This essay explores my feelings of mental and spiritual kinship with Rosalee. Although we share certain traits, changing attitudes about sex and mental health, as well as differing educational opportunities, led us to experience widely divergent fates.

Sally Rosen Kindred: This is a reading of poems, from the collection Where the Wolf, which offer a search for meaning, for exploring my interfaith family of origin, as well as what it means to be a white woman raising my sons, who are Latino teens, during this political moment. This exploration is defined dynamically in terms of both faith and science. What’s surprised me most about writing these poems is the way fairy tale narrative elements have arrived in them and flowered. These elements allow the poems to tell stories and raise questions I didn’t know I had.

Come join MoPoetry Phillips as her narrative poems tap into the African American oral tradition and delve deep into the experiences of African American women. Although activism is at her core, hope, love, encouragement, inspiration, and uplifting is her true methodology and tools.

​​Fiction Workshop
Bonnie Proudfoot
Moderator Cherise Benton

“in medias res” Definition: into the middle of a narrative; without, into the midst of things.  "Having begun his story in medias res, he then interrupts it."                (dictionary.com)


This hands-on writing workshop will discuss the process of writing fiction (either a novel or a short story, or even a memoir or play) by beginning in the middle and then working backward through flashback, as well as forward in time through narrative progression. In many ways, this is quite liberating, and it allows a writer to envision both a past and future for the characters, fleshing out a piece of writing by asking questions about that situation. Many famous examples of short stories, flash fiction, novels, epic poems (The Odyssey), films, memoirs, have that kind of structure, vivid dramatic opening, then flashback along with narrative progression. Examples will be provided, and time for writing and comparing notes about starting in the middle, then working backward and forward to uncover Who, What, When, How, and Why. My own process of writing my novel Goshen Road will be discussed as well.

Crafting the Story of Shared Trauma
Anne Elliott, Pam Goldman, Nancy Koerbel, Candace Walsh

Moderator Amber Robinson
This panel will explore the craft aspect of sharing stories of trauma or its aftermath. Panelists will consider public traumas (war, genocide, oppression, terrorism, disaster) as well as private traumas (domestic violence, rape). What authority is required to approach the subject of commonly-experienced trauma? Who is the intended audience—the experienced or the unenlightened? What are the tonal problems and traps of cliche? How can a writer harness or discover her rage in a productive way? And finally, how can a story of trauma move beyond catharsis and into mutual empowerment and community-building?

Start Publishing Your Short Works

McKayla Rockwell

Moderator Susann Moeller

This workshop is for writers new to the small literary publishing scene. Learn how to publish your short poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art in independent journals.

Femspec The Journal: Publishing as Gate-Opener

Batya Weimbaum & Narisa Chowdhury

Femspec's biannual publishing of literary and critical works concerning speculative genres that interrogate gender elicit passionate responses, often times accompanied by fervent discussion. The panlists will explain their historical process with the journal that has a history of publishing marginalized voices within the gernre: first founding the community, editing the publication for tweny years, and then finding unique niches such as proofreader, copy editor and newsletter editor.

Friday Session 4 3:30-4:30

Prose Reading
Matthew Ferrence, Gwen Goodkin, Margo Orlando Littell, Matthew McKeague

Moderator Allison Pitinii Davis
Matthew Ferrence: Large portions of Ohio and Pennsylvania are officially Appalachia, and we also carry labels applied by folks elsewhere. Flyover Country. Trump Country. Rust Belt. The labels are never positive. I’ll read from and discuss my memoir Appalachia North, which addresses our shared curious regional position, my own recovery from brain surgery, and how the geological history of our eroded landscapes offers a way to think differently about our future. I’ll also read from my memoir-in-progress (due in 2022 from Belt Publishing), about running for state office as a progressive candidate in deep red rural PA. Spoiler: I lost.

What impact does setting have on character and how does that, in turn, drive story? How does a character’s perception of place color our own view of it? Gwen Goodkin reads excerpts from stories in her collection, A Place Remote, to demonstrate the choices she made related to setting to influence a story’s mood and trajectory.

Award-winning author Margo Orlando Littell will read from her recent novel, The Distance from Four Points (University of New Orleans Press, 2020), about Robin, an affluent suburbanite forced to return to her Pennsylvania hometown to manage a group of rundown rental properties her late husband blew their savings on. Back in Four Points for the first time in decades, Robin sets out to renovate the properties as quickly as possible—before anyone exposes her secret past as a teenage prostitute. Robin must come to terms with left-behind regrets or risk repeating her greatest mistakes.

Matthew McKeague reads the first chapter of his comedic novel Andy Gets Conned: A Nerdy Novel. In a similar style to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and A Confederacy of Dunces, this book provides an absurd look at the world we live in as well as its popular culture.

Stone, Tree, Monument: Poets at the Intersection of History and Landscape
Sandra Beasley, Chloe Martinez, Molly Spencer

Moderator Marjorie Maddox
Our panel will discuss the connection between a poetics of place and one of identity and embodiment. Specifically, we will reference poems that consider how natural spaces intersect with personal and communal histories, and the ways caring for and feeling kinship within a shared “environment” shape us. We aim to draw particular attention to the institutionalized erasures of certain parts of the shared story belonging to those marginalized according to gender, race, and illness or disability. We will reflect on how these themes figure in our own work, with an emphasis on recent full-length collections, which may include illustrating readings.


Losing Control, Playwriting Workshop
Mike Geither

Moderator McKayla Rockwell

This generative workshop is designed for playwrights, writers new to playwriting, and those who've never tried it.  Through basic and advanced exercises we'll explore how eschewing narrative goals and various agendas allows us to stay present in our work and to encounter genuine surprise.  The principles in practice apply to any genre or hybrid work.  

Mana in Memoir: Harnessing the Power of Personal Objects
Kelly Ferguson

In this writing workshop, we’ll mine writers who use objects to focus their storytelling. We’ll examine examples from published work and engage in a few short writing prompts. Perfect for anyone seeking to harness the power of Proust’s cookie and Ralphie’s “official Red Ryder Carbine action, 200 shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time.”

Writing About Art: Beyond Ekphrasis
Diane Kendig

Moderator Susann Moeller
Diane Kendig believes it is all very well and good to write ekphrastic poetry, but what the hell does it mean if we are only discussing pretty pictures? Using poems by herself and other poets in reaction to the art of Maria Blanchard, Paul Klee, and Frida Kahlo, we will look at interrogating the art and the artists who created them for deeper, meaningful poems. Kendig will field questions about art permissions and markets.

St. John's Episcopal Church | 323 Wick Ave.

Free & Open to the Public

5:00 Mike Geither Reading The Body is the Best

A developmental reading of a solo performance that explores the intersection of grief and laughter, how our hardest laughs are often created by our darkest experiences.

6:00 Dinner & Jazz

7:00 Reading by Teri Ellen Cross-Davis & Bonnie Proudfoot

Centofanti Scholarship winner Jennifer Sperry Steinorth

Moderator Furaha Henry-Jones

Sponsored by the Centofanti Foundation, WYSU, St. John’s Episcopal Church & Sojourn to the Past


October 9

Saturday Session 1 9:45-10:45

Loose Narratives, Tight Language: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book
Matt Forrest Esenwine

Moderator Charlie Malone

This session will focus on the craft of writing for children using non-traditional narratives (2nd-person POV, chronological timeframes, etc.) rather than the standard, "First Billy did this, then Sally did that..." or the all-too-common "rule of 3's." Using his books Flashlight Night, Once Upon Another Time, I Am Today, and his upcoming The Thing to Remember About Stargazing as mentor texts, Esenwine will give examples of writing a children's book using poetic language but without worrying about things like traditional plot devices, character development, or conflict resolution.

The Play’s the Thing: Erasure as a Poetic Dialogue
Jennifer Sperry Steinorth

Moderator Cherise Benton

Plagued with isolation and grief, many writers feel blocked. Poetic erasure emphasizes the physicality of language and the illuminating power of improvisation; yielding to its constraints becomes an opportunity for freedom. Manipulating existing texts also allows a writer to externalize an interior dialogue with history, culture and loss. But what of the destructive nature of erasure? As readers, what ought we to ask of ourselves? As writers, teachers, editors, how might we evaluate? And when work is ready, how will it travel? Where will it live? Join us for a brief lecture with readings, discussion and experimental play.


Suturing the Wound: A Poetry Panel on Writing About Illness
Sean Thomas Dougherty; Marjorie Maddox; Molly Spencer

Moderator Molly Fuller

How and when should a poet write about illness? These three poets will present and moderate a variety of perspectives. Marjorie and Sean have written about the struggles with disease and unexpected conditions within their own families while Molly has written about her own struggles with long term chronic illness. Sean is also a Med Tech. And how does one approach writing about illness during a pandemic? How do we write about those we love without exploiting them? How do we write about our own bodies without making them a spectacle?


Creative Reading
Amber Robinson, Lynne Schmidt, Sara Moore Wagner, Jerry Wemple, John Gavin White

​Amber Robinson's creative reading will seek to explore the dichotomy of the Black voice—the vulnerability which seeks to explore the emotional toll faced by African-Americans and also the normalcy of being a 21-year-old African-American woman transitioning into different phases of her life. As a spoken word poet, English-majoring (linguistics) undergraduate, and 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee participant, Amber Ree Robinson crafts instances of intense and methodical wordplay to promote original narratives that are often underrepresented in literature and society as a whole.

Lynne Schmidt's Dead Dog Poems was the 2020 New Women’s Voices Award winner from Finishing Line Press. Featuring Best of the Net nominated poems, and 2019 PNWA Poetry Honorable Mentions, and Editor’s Choice Award winning poem, “Baxter,” the collection explores the loss of an emotion support animal – through the happy times, to terminal diagnosis, to the eventual loss, and recovering from the aftermath.

Sara Moore Wagner's reading will be a sample of poems from her chapbook forthcoming from Redbird Chapbooks. This chapbook uses fairy tale to explore the concept of a wife (and then single mother) in flux, what it means to be a woman who is split, to have a child who is split between two parents. It also addresses societal expectations for what a ‘good’ wife and mother is, deconstructing those expectations along with language.

Jerry Wemple reads a series of prose poems that explore the world of a mixed-race person growing up in rural Pennsylvania and newly desegregated south Florida. Through the use of second-person point of view, the poems challenge the idea of identity by asking the reader to become part of the narrative. The poems often relate historical events to the present day of the narrative, linking General Sherman’s Civil War battle campaign to a contemporary visit to South Carolina or the development of DNA sequencing with call and response chants.


John Gavin White draws inspiration from writer Zora Neale Hurston’s rendering of the “High John de Conqueror” folktale, the poetry and prose of “I, John de Conqueror: A New Spelling Of My Name,” the parlous intersection of the poetic as a lived philosophy and black male self-recovery.

​​Writing the Regional Convergence: Where the Midwest Meets Appalachia
Amanda Page

Moderator Janine Harrison

In this generative session, we’ll explore literature that describes or is set in the Appalachian Midwest, or Midwestern Appalachia. We’ll discuss traits of regional cultures, and the interesting places where they clash, and where they meet. In timed writing exercises, participants will write from prompts that speak to the convergence of Appalachia and the Midwest, which means the convergence of Appalachia and Ohio particularly, and in which Youngstown is uniquely situated.

Session 2 11:00-12:00

Creating Space for Our Stories: Building and Sustaining the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia
Christina Fisanik, James Charlesworth, Heather Moser, Donna Dzurilla, Damian Dressick

Moderator Barbara Marie Minney

As writers of the northern Appalachian region, which includes parts of New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, we struggled to find outlets for our work that celebrated our cultural contributions and welcomed our unique and diverse voices. Thankfully, all of that changed in fall 2019 at the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia. In our panel presentation, we will discuss our journey from idea to conference to growing an association with the hopes that other writers can learn from our missteps and leaps forward in seeking their own writing family.


Creative Reading
Amanda R. Howland, Arya F. Jenkins, Michael VanCalberg, Batya Weinbaum,  Laurin Wolf

Amanda R. Howland reads from two of her novels, Beasts and Creature and Don’t Fear the Night Duende. Both novels explore the frustration and messy beauty of living as an artist in a world that doesn’t value art. Addiction, mysticism, music and poverty shape the world of these novels, but the path of each protagonist is distinct. Margot Jones learns the power of unbounded love while tripping on mushrooms on a dirty Cleveland beach, and Mona Cost seeks wisdom and understanding in a dead-hot Canton attic with a shape-shifting teacher, who is both grotesque and seductive in the way of true fairies.


Arya F. Jenkins reads selections from her mixed genre novel, PUNK, DISCO, BOHEMIAN, a bicultural, queer coming of age story set mostly in Provincetown in the 70s.

​Michael VanCalbergh reads from his poetry that explores masculinity, fatherhood, class, and what it means to be slightly off-center and not unique.

Batya Weinbaum reads two poems and a short story ("The Next") which were written at the author's cabin retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One poem explores the life of an adjunct and the other marginalized Jewish identity. "The Next" explores the nature of retreats in nature, from the point of view of nature.

Laurin Wolf reads from new work and the chapbook Come Back Mother.


Back Down Memory Lane, Poetry Workshop
Teri Ellen Cross-Davis

Moderator Julie Moore

This generative workshop will explore family and ancestry through poetry. Using close readings of poems by Etheridge Knight, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Natasha Trethewey, and more, we will consider how the use of persona can examine, celebrate and/or reconsider history.

Worldbuilding 101: A Workshop Full of Imagination
Nikki Ericksen

Moderator Kelly Ferguson
Have you ever been writing a story and had to stop to research the color of a flower your character picks, or what kind of horse he rides, or maybe what is the name of a
memorable landmark where he stops? This hands-on worldbuilding workshop is for all levels of storytellers and will help you answer questions about seasons, government, and the ones listed above. I believe that helping writers build a solid foundation for their story prior to drafting can have a huge impact on the research and writing process. Creators of all ages and genres are welcome.




Saturday Session 3 1:15-2:15


Building Upon Your Natural Talent for Writing Prose or Poetry
Marion Starling Boyer

Moderator Barbara Sabol
Gregory Orr proposes that writers are born with a natural gift in one of four writing “temperaments.” Orr identifies these innate temperaments as Music, Structure, Story, and Imagination. Do you know which is your natural talent and how to develop it? In this session we will identify our own temperaments and discover ways to strengthen our writing by pairing our natural ability with a complementary temperament. For instance, if your gift is storytelling, you will learn which secondary temperament could enhance your prose or poetry. You will leave with practical ideas for making your writing more powerful, alive and memorable.


The Literary Intersection of the South and the Midwest: A Cross-Racial Reading Exposing and Dismantling Whiteness
Julie Moore, Angela Jackson-Brown

Moderator Pam Goldman

Recognizing that James Baldwin famously said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” we propose a reading that presents the stories of African Americans who have resisted and sought to dismantle whiteness as well as poetry that wrestles with white complicity and oppression. Award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist Angela Jackson-Brown will read from her new novel, When Stars Rain Down, which just made Parade’s list of “25 Most Anticipated 2021 Books by Women of Color.” Poet Julie L. Moore will read acclaimed poetry that both exposes the brutality of systemic racism and her struggle to recognize her own white fragility. Along with this cross-racial reading of their creative work, Jackson-Brown and Moore, both Indiana residents, will lead conversation about how writers can explore this complex, traumatic theme as they tell their stories in their own states.

Writing Culture and Family: A Workshop
Emily Jalloul

Moderator Anne Garwig

In this multigenre workshop, Emily Jalloul will lead writers in exercises that explore intersections of heritage, family, and culture. Drawing from their own work that explores their intercultural identities, Jalloul will also lead writers in a discussion about the benefits, pitfalls, and ethics of writing about family. In this workshop, we will write, share, and discuss. All genres and levels of experience are welcome!

Poetic Inventory of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Carrie George, Olivia Farina

Moderator Lindsay Sinkovich

The Wick Poetry Center is partnering with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park to conduct a Poetic Inventory of the park. Just as community members are able to contribute to the practice of vital science in the park through tracking plant and animal populations, such as annual songbird migrations, testing the waters of the Cuyahoga River, or listening to and counting the coyote calls at night, we believe our writing community can contribute to the ways in which we know this ecosystem. This workshop will touch briefly on the collaborative process of accumulating poems and creatures for the inventory. It will also offer specific writing prompts to lead in the investigation of species in and around the park. We welcome writers of all backgrounds, experiences, and familiarity with CVNP to write with us.

Poetry Reading
Cynthia Atkins, Pauletta Hansel, Diane Kendig, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth

Moderator James Charlesworth

Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure, and Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Rust + Moth, North American Review, Seneca Review, SWWIM, Thrush, Tinderbox, and Verse Daily. She teaches Creative Writing at Blue Ridge Community College.

Pauletta Hansel reads from Friend (Dos Madres Press, 2020). a book of poems written as letters to fellow poets during the present tense of the early days of our current pandemic. Cathryn Essinger calls it “a masterful collection that moves from the wildlife markets of Wuhan to the streets of Ohio.” Paula Lambert says, “Hansel asks difficult questions in these poems … Her willingness to explore the newly unfamiliar world’s responses is, ultimately, what gives us hope.”


Diane Kendig’s began writing these poems in 1986 when she read a funeral elegy by Federico Garcia Lorca for a Spanish painter who had just died. Now, 35 years later, Kendig reads from Woman with a Fan: On Maria Blanchard that came out in June, about the artist overlooked because of her disability and her gender. The book features ekphrastic and biographic poems, as well as essays, and also artwork from museums in Spain, France, and the U.S. The reading features slides of the art not available in the U.S.

Jennifer Sperry Steinorth: “Impish and beautiful, and dazzlingly subversive…” (Philip Metres), HER READ, A GRAPHIC POEM, is an artifact of erasure at once poetry and visual art. With correction fluid, scalpel, and embroidery floss, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth transforms a seminal text, The Meaning of Art by Herbert Read, into a first-person lyric that is “love suffused with iron”. From the voice of the male critic surveying male bodies of work, Steinorth excavates women’s voices, a reclamation of bodies framed in gilt and an homage to those whose arts remain unsung. Please join us for a multi-media reading and discussion of the work.


Session 4 2:30-3:30

Essential Understandings for Reading & Teaching Native American Literature
Jessica Jones

Moderator Barbara Marie Minney

This presentation will lay the groundwork for sensitively approaching Native literature. The slide show includes information from the Essential Understandings for Indian Education per the Montana Office of Public Instruction as well as the National Museum of the American Indian & Smithsonian. Photos are primarily from my own teaching on the Flathead Indian Rez and Blackfeet Rez as well as research in Hopi, Navajo and Pueblo lands. This overview, which will touch on forced boarding schools, removal & reservations, and cyclical trauma will help students understand the depth of suffering (and survivance) often present in NA literature. Discussion will also underscore the inseparability of land from culture and the significance of oral tradition among tribes with endangered languages. Following the slide show, I will share a handout with guidelines for reading Native Lit and allow participants to share in reading two poems by U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo.



The Golden Shovel: An Introduction and an Invitation to the Form
Sandra Beasley

Moderator Cherise Benton

Terrance Hayes’ 2010 collection Lighthead introduced the “Golden Shovel,” in which a poem utilizes another text to define its endwords. This nonce form, which has become widely taught in schools and has inspired an anthology’s worth of followers, is so named because his inspiration point was Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool.” We will do a close reading of Hayes’ work before expanding into our own experimentation. We’ll also think through the ethics surrounding the form as we consider how to expand beyond Brooks to utilize other texts. An in-class exercise will help you get started on your own Golden Shovel.




Into the World: Running a Writing Group & Reading Series
Laurin Wolf, Kayla Sargeson

Moderator Anne Elliott
This panel will showcase how to run a writing group from presenter Laurin Wolf who runs the Lima Writers’ Community weekly writing group and how to run a reading series from Kayla Sargeson who runs the White Whale bookstore’s Laser Cat series out of Pittsburgh. We will go over the details from organization, advertising, promotion, finances, and community outreach from a combined 20 years’ experience. We will begin the panel with a 15-minute writing prompt meant for all genres.

Anyone’s a Critic: How to Write and Publish Book Reviews
Zach Savich

Moderator Iris Jamahl Dunkle

This workshop focuses on how to write and publish book reviews for magazines, newspapers, and diverse online platforms. We’ll discuss common formats, publication venues, pitch letters, and what to expect from the publishing process. We’ll also consider how writing book reviews can support communities, conversations, and perspectives that matter to you—and creative ways for criticism and culture to meet. Participants should come with a book they’d like to practice writing about. They’ll leave with an outline for a review and concrete knowledge about the steps to publication.


Panel Discussion, “Our Shared Story”

Jan Beatty, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Ross Gay, Mike Geither, Bonnie Proudfoot

Soap Gallery | 117 S. Champion St.

Free & Open to the Public

7:00 Reading & Reception

Jan Beatty 

Lou Yuhasz Writing Award winner Anastasios Mihalopoulos

Moderator Sandra Beasley

"Ekphrasis!" Exhibit of YSU student and community artist work that responds to poems and stories by Festival presenters
Sponsored by the Centofanti Foundation & the Nathalie & James Andrews Foundation




Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure, and Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Rust + Moth, North American Review, Seneca Review, SWWIM, Thrush, Tinderbox, and Verse Daily. She teaches Creative Writing at Blue Ridge Community College.

Sandra Beasley is the author of Made to Explode; Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox; Theories of Falling; and Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir. She also edited Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Wendy Brown-Báez is the author of the inspirational writers’ guidebook Heart on the Page: A Portable Writing Workshop. Her poetry and prose appear in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Wendy leads writing for healing and memoir workshops in community spaces, such as prisons, libraries, schools, and healing centers.

Marion Starling Boyer is the author of four poetry collections, her most recent The Sea Was Never Far (Main Street Rag). A professor emeritus, Boyer has led workshops for Lit Cleveland, Lit Youngstown, Kalamazoo Poetry Fest, and Wisconsin’s Washington Island Literary Conference. She lives in Twinsburg, Ohio.

John Bullock has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Virginia. His stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Fifth Wednesday, Laurel Review, Prague Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and other journals. He teaches high school English in rural Ohio. Mark Small: This is Your Life is his first novel.

Da’Jon Carouthers is a 25-year-old writer who currently resides in Cleveland. The Cross You Bear is his first published book. A certified personal trainer and college graduate, Da’Jon has spent the last three years of his life incarcerated in which he has read numerous books of all genres and has written various forms of content including poems, short stories, and music. Da’Jon’s love for creative writing began in grade school where he enjoyed writing short fictional stories, poems, and essays.

Robert Case was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. His latest manuscript, Cycling Through Columbine, was inspired by a 2017 bicycle ride across the USA. His previous works include Icarus and the Wing Builder (2014), historical fiction/romance, and Daedalus Rising (2008). He studies creative writing at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, Colorado.

Keith Castillo is an Airforce Veteran and senior at Kent State pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English in the Honors College, where he is writing for his honors project The Adventures of Hamish in Appalachia.

James Charlesworth’s first novel, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill, was published in 2019. His fiction has appeared in Natural Bridge and was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. Originally from Pennsylvania, James attended Penn State University and Emerson College in Boston, where he currently lives.

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 18 books including Alongside We Travel: Contemporary Poets on Autism (NYQ Books 2019) and All You Ask for is Longing: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions 2014). His book The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions 2018) received both the Paterson Poetry Prize, and the Housatonic Book Award from Western Connecticut State University. He works as a Med Tech in Erie, PA.

Damian Dressick is the author of the novel 40 Patchtown (Bottom Dog Press 2020) and Fables of Deconstruction (CLASH Books 2021). A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, Dressick won the Harriette Arnow Award and the Jesse Stuart Prize. He co-hosts WANA LIVE! and teaches writing at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Christopher Dum is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Kent State University, and the co-founder of the ID13 Prison Literacy Project. Since 2016, he has been working with talented writers in Ohio prisons to amplify their voices. ID13 writers have appeared in Cleveland Magazine, and the book, Prison Reentry in the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives of Returning Home. Mr. Dum’s research has been published with Columbia University Press, and journals such as Critical Criminology, Journal of Experimental Criminology, and Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is an award-winning poet, literary biographer, and essayist. She has published four poetry books, including West: Fire: Archive, The Center for Literary Publishing, 2021 and the biography Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is Poetry Director at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

Donna Dzurilla is an MFA candidate in Carlow University’s Creative Writing Program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her fiction has appeared in the Backbone Mountain Review, Northern Appalachia Review, Voices from the Attic anthology volumes XXI, XXII, and XXV, Rune, and The Penny. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Anne Elliott is the author of The Artstars: Stories (Indiana University Press) and The Beginning of the End of the Beginning (Ploughshares Solos). Her short fiction can be found in Story, A Public Space, Crab Orchard Review, Witness, Hobart, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Maine.

Betina Entzminger was born and raised in Columbia, SC. The essay that she will read is part of her new book, The Beak in the Heart: True Tales of Misfit Southern Women, (Rivercliff Books and Media, 2021). She is an English Professor at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.

Nikki Ericksen is a children’s book writer, English Instructor, and book hoarder. Nikki has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults and a MA in English. She is also a dog person and loves watching her backyard wildlife.

Olivia Farina (she/her) is an undergraduate student at Kent State University who is majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. She has been interning at the Wick Poetry Center for two years. Some of her work can be found in Luna Negra Magazine.

Kelly K Ferguson is the author of My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself (Press 53). Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Cincinnati Review, mental_floss magazine, and other publications. In the past ten years she has moved from southern Louisiana to southern Ohio back to southern Louisiana to southern Utah back to southern Ohio, where she is Assistant Professor of Magazine Media in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Matt Ferrence lives and writes at the confluence of Appalachia and the Rust Belt. He is the author of All-American Redneck (2014) and Appalachia North (2019). A new memoir, about running for state office as a progressive in deep red rural Pennsylvania, is forthcoming from Belt Publishing in 2022.

Christina Fisanick is a writing professor at California University of Pennsylvania and the author of more than thirty books, including Public History as Digital Storytelling: A Guidebook for Educators (Routledge 2020). Fisanick is the president of the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia and the co-host of WANA LIVE! Reading Series.

Carrie George (she/her) is an MFA candidate for poetry at the Northeast Ohio MFA program. She is the graduate fellow at the Wick Poetry Center where she teaches poetry workshops throughout the community. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her work has appeared on Poets.org and in journals including Sidereal Magazine, The Emerson Review, and Gordon Square Review.

Pam Goldman’s fiction has been published in The Colorado Review, and she holds an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College. She has done legal and political work with and for LGBTQ+ persons, refugees, coal miners, political prisoners, people with AIDS, voters, battered women, and many others. She lives in Pittsburgh.

Gwen Goodkin is the author of the short story collection, A Place Remote, published by West Virginia University Press. She has won the Folio Editor’s Prize for Fiction as well as the John Steinbeck Award for Fiction.

Kari Gunter-Seymour is Poet Laureate of Ohio and founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project. Her current collection, winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, is available from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Serving, Yellow Chair Review Contest Runner Up. Her poems appear in Verse Daily, Rattle and The NY Times.

Pauletta Hansel’s eighth poetry collection is Friend, epistolary poems written in the early days of the pandemic; her writing has been featured in Oxford American, Rattle, Appalachian Journal, Still: The Journal and New Verse News, among others. Pauletta was Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate (2016-2018).

David Hassler directs the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State. He is the author or editor of nine books of poetry and nonfiction, including Speak a Powerful Magic: Ten Years of the Traveling Stanzas Poetry Project; and Red Kimono, Yellow Barn, which was awarded Ohio Poet of the Year 2006.

Hayley Mitchell Haugen is founding editor of Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Angela Jackson-Brown is an award winning writer, poet and playwright who teaches Creative Writing and English at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She is the author of Drinking From a Bitter Cup, House Repairs, and the soon to be released novel, When Stars Rain Down (Thomas Nelson/Imprint of HarperCollins, April 2021).

Emily Jalloul is a Lebanese-American poet and PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee where she serves as editor for Grist: Journal of Literary Arts. Her previous work has been published or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Gravel, Juked, Origins, The FEM, The Offing, as well as others.

Arya F. Jenkins is a Colombian-American poet and writer whose fiction has been published in many journals and zines. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a short story collection, Blue Songs in an Open Key (Fomite, 2018). Her mixed genre novel, Punk Disco Bohemian and her short story collection, Angel in Paris & Other Stories, have just been published by NineStar Press.

Jessica Jones (MA, University Montana) is full-time faculty at Kent State University at Stark, where she teaches poetry, creative writing, and composition courses that focus on social justice. She also regularly teaches on two reservations in Indian Country. Her book, Bitterroot (2018) can be found at Finishing Line Press.

Jason Kahler is a writer and teacher from Michigan. He served 29 months at FCI-Elkton, where he continued to teach and write. His poetry has recently appeared in Analog and The MacGuffin, and his short fiction was long-listed for the Janus Literary Prize. He’s currently finishing his first novel and writing about his experience as a teacher / scholar / prisoner.

Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh is the author of Here Be Dragons: A Parent’s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey, a memoir about the sweet and wonderful misery of raising children with someone you love. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with an assortment of dying houseplants and a marshmallow dog named Higgins.

Diane Kendig has authored six poetry collections, most recently Woman with a Fan. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently Valparaiso Review, Wordgathering, and Blue River Review. Currently she curates, “Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry,” with over 4,000 subscribers, for the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Athena Kildegaard is the author of five books of poetry and is the co-editor of Rocked by the Waters: Poems of Motherhood. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Lake Region Arts Council, from which she also received an Artist Fellowship. Kildegaard teaches at the University of Minnesota Morris where she is also the director of the Honors Program.

Sally Rosen Kindred’s third poetry collection is Where the Wolf, winner of the 2020 Diode Book Prize (Diode Editions, 2021). She is also the author of Book of Asters and No Eden from Mayapple Press. Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, and Kenyon Review Online.

Nancy Koerbel teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh, holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and is a former recipient of a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Her poems have appeared most recently in One, Redactions, and The Pittsburgh Poetry Review.

Hyejung Kook’s poetry has appeared in The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit, The Massachusetts Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, Verse Daily, the Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in The Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Hyejung was born in Seoul, Korea, grew up in Pennsylvania, and now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. She is a Fulbright grantee and a Kundiman fellow.

Margo Orlando Littell is the award-winning author of the novels The Distance from Four Points and Each Vagabond by Name (University of New Orleans Press), named one of fifteen great Appalachian novels by Bustle. Her novella, Traveling, is forthcoming from Summer Camp Publishing. Margo lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Marjorie Maddox—LHU English professor, assistant editor of Presence—has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, TransubstantiationWhat She Was Saying (prose), 4 children’s/YA books, Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. Forthcoming 2021: Begin with a Question (Paraclete)

and Heart Speaks Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts).

Chloe Martinez is a poet and a scholar of South Asian religions. She is the author of Corner Shrine (Backbone Press, 2020), and Ten Thousand Selves (The Word Works, forthcoming 2021). Her poems are published/forthcoming in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Common and elsewhere. She teaches at Claremont McKenna College.

Luke McDermott is a recent grad of the WVU MFA program, where he also taught writing. He is from Vandergrift, PA, and is working on a full-length manuscript that explores addiction, loss, illness, and, he hopes, the humor that lies beneath those experiences.

Dr. Matthew McKeague teaches media and communication courses as an Assistant Professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. In the past, he has worked as a film and video game reviewer, partnered YouTube content creator, production assistant, comedy writer, and video editor in Los Angeles. His research interests include comedic media, humour studies, and user generated content.

Freesia McKee (she/her) has published work in literary journals and other venues for more than a decade. She’s passionate about helping writers find their platform and teaches hybrid forms, micro-memoir, and poetry in Indiana. Freesia welcomes you to connect with her at freesiamckee.com or through Twitter at @freesiamckee.

Jennifer Militello is the author, most recently, of The Pact (Tupelo Press, 2021) and the memoir Knock Wood (Dzanc Books, 2019), winner of the Dzanc Nonfiction Award. She teaches in the MFA program at New England College.

Barbara Marie Minney’s work has been published in the 50th Anniversary Hessler Street Fair Poetry Anthology, Women Speak: Volumes 5 and 6: Women of Appalachia Project, and The Gasconade Review Presents: Ladies’ Night. Barbara’s first book of poetry, If There’s No Heaven (2020), won the Poetry Is Life Book Award and was published by Poetry Is Life Publishing. It was selected by the Akron Beacon Journal as a Best Northeast Ohio Book.


A Best of the Net and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s 2018 Book of the Year Award. Her poetry has appeared in African American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Image, New Ohio Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Daily. She is the Writing Center Director at Taylor University in Upland, IN, where she is also the poetry editor for Relief Journal.

Heather Moser is an adjunct instructor at Kent State University where she teaches courses in classical studies. She is a podcaster, writer, researcher, and show host for Small Town Monsters. Heather is a dedicated part of NAWA and loves preserving the stories and folklore of her home: the Appalachian region.

Amanda Page is a Columbus-based writer from southern Ohio. Her work appears in Belt Magazine, The Daily Yonder, and 100 Days in Appalachia. She is the editor of The Columbus Anthology from Belt Publishing and The Ohio State University Press, and founder of Scioto Literary. Follow her on Twitter @amandadashpage

MoPoetry Phillips is a certified poetry group facilitator and Appalachian poet. Publications include SOS Arts, The Voices Project, WordPress, and Equals Greatness which includes an autobiography that received an Association of Writers and Writing Programs: Intro Journals Project nomination. She is co-founder of Regal Rhythms Poetry LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hilary Plum is the author of the novel Strawberry Fields (2018), winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose; the work of nonfiction Watchfires (2016), winner of the 2018 GLCA New Writers Award; and the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (2013). She teaches at Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA program and is associate director of the CSU Poetry Center. Recent poetry, prose, and criticism have appeared in Granta, Fence, College Literature, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She volunteers with the ID13 Prison Literacy Project.

Amber Ree Robinson is a junior majoring in English and Economics at Florida International University. In 2020, she contributed to her first published postsecondary academic paper titled “Improving Spanish-Language Teacher Retention and Success among Black Spanish-Language Learners: An HSI-HBCU Collaboration.” When not writing, Amber enjoys performing socially-conscious spoken word.

McKayla Anne Rockwell is a born-and-bred Youngstown writer and editor, currently teaching composition at YSU and working as Managing Editor for Volney Road Review.

Barbara Sabol's fourth poetry collection, Imagine a Town, was awarded the 2019 Sheila-Na-Gig Editions Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Mezzo Cammin, Evening Street Review, and The Copperfield Review. Barbara’s awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

Kayla Sargeson is the author of the full-length collection First Red (Main Street Rag, 2016) and the chapbooks BLAZE (Main Street Rag, 2015) and Mini Love Gun (Main Street Rag, 2013). With Lisa Alexander, she co-curates the Laser Cat reading series. Sargeson lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University and the Community College of Allegheny County.

Zach Savich is the author of six books or poetry and two books of nonfiction. A former book review editor with the Kenyon Review, he is currently an editor with the Cleveland Review of Books and Rescue Press. He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Lynne Schmidt is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and mental health professional with a focus in trauma and healing. Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and others. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Molly Spencer is a poet, critic, and editor. She is the author of two poetry collections, If the House and Hinge. Her poems and critical work have appeared at The Georgia Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Rumpus, where she is a senior poetry editor.

For ten years Dawson Steeber taught first-year writing courses on a variety of campuses as a Senior Lecturer. He has LIFE Award from the University of Akron for his service and commitment to student success. He’s been published in a several places in various genres of writing. Dawson lives in Akron, OH.

Jennifer Sperry Steinorth is a poet, educator, interdisciplinary artist, and licensed builder. The author of Her Read A Graphic Poem (2021) and A Wake with Nine Shades (2019), she has received grants from Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers Conference, Community of Writers, and Warren Wilson College. Her poems appear in Black Warrior, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Plume, and TriQuarterly.

Tess Taylor is the author of five collections of poetry. She served as Distinguished Fulbright US Scholar at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University in Belfast, and has served as the poetry critic for All Things Considered for over a decade. In spring 2020 she published two books of poems: Last West, part of Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, at the Museum of Modern Art, and Rift Zone, from Red Hen Press. She teaches poetry and nonfiction at University of California, Davis.

Zachary Thomas is the Co-Founder and Program Director of Writers in Residence. The organization teaches creative writing to youth who are incarcerated to empower their voices and assist in their re-entry into society. Zach grew up in Dayton, Ohio and moved to Cleveland in 2014 to study creative writing, professional writing, and literature at John Carroll University. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration at his alma mater to become a successful executive.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Tran is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a Lambda fiction fellow, and the recipient of the Jeanne Cordova scholarship for Lambda fellows in 2017. She holds a B.A. from Rollins College, an M.Ed. from the University of California, San Diego, and an MFA in fiction from San Diego State University. Her book reviews, fiction, poetry, and essays have most recently appeared in Brickroad, Vien Dong, Little Saigon, Tayo Literary Magazine, Diacritics, and Foglifter.

Michael VanCalbergh currently lives in Normal, IL. When his child isn’t reading to him, he teaches at Illinois State University and shelves comics at his local comic book store. His work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Magazine, Gingerbread House, Per Contra, Post No Ills, as well as many other places.

Sara Moore Wagner is the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award, and the author of the chapbooks Tumbling After (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks, 2021) and Hooked Through (2017). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals including Beloit Poetry Journal, Rhino, Third Coast, Poet Lore, Waxwing, The Cincinnati Review, and Nimrod, among others. She has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart prize, and Best of the Net.

Candace Walsh (MFA, Warren Wilson) is a fiction PhD student at Ohio University and a fiction editor at New Ohio Review. Selected publications include Entropy, Craft, FWR, New Limestone Review, Brevity, Pigeon Pages, and Santa Fe Noir (Akashic Books), as well as the food memoir Licking the Spoon (Seal Press).

Batya Weinbaum spent her childhood in Terre Haute, Indiana. Along with thousands of other anti-war activists, Weinbaum participated in the Mayday 1971 protest in which over 7,000 were arrested in Washington, D.C. She lives in Cleveland Heights, founded and edits the journal Femspec, and teaches writing and literature at American Public University.

Jerry Wemple is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Artemas & Ark: the Ridge and Valley poems. He is co-editor, with Marjorie Maddox, of the anthology Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. Wemple teaches at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

John Gavin White, Newark, N.J., holds degrees in Philosophy and Women & Gender Studies; his research is centered in “the poetic of black male self-recovery in the U.S.” White has been featured on Apollo amateur night and performed or lectured at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad, including the University of Minnesota, Queen University Belfast in Ireland, and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. I, John de Conqueror: A New Spelling Of My Name, is his first collection of poems through Spuyten Duyvil Publishing.

Laurin Wolf has an MFA from Kent State University and BA from the University of Pittsburgh in poetry writing. Her chapbooks include Come Back Mother (Dancing Girl Press 2020) and about staying in (Finishing Line Press 2018). She teaches writing at Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio.

“I've made so many connections with writers that started with Lit Youngstown's Lit Festival, in particular.”