Southern Writers
Justin Cronin
Bestselling Author │ Novelist

Justin Cronin, author of the bestselling, genre-bending novels The Passage and The Twelve, has been called “an unlikely heir to America's genre-fiction throne” (The New York Times). A graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Cronin won a PEN/Hemingway Award for his book Mary and O'Neil . Both Mary and O'Neil and his 2004 novel, The Summer Guest, exemplify the kind of delicate yet deliberate writing and memorable character portraits that readers have come to expect from award-winning literary fiction. With 2010's blockbuster The Passage, however, Cronin turned to darker, more gripping fare: a post-apocalyptic world plagued by vampires whose supernatural skills result from a Bolivian virus gone badly awry. The Twelve, the sequel to The Passage, was released in 2012. In contrast to Cronin's first two novels, The New York Times reports, “The Passage and The Twelve vibrate with a different kind of energy: louder, wilder, more unkempt.” Cronin makes his home in Houston, Texas, where he taught for more than a decade at Rice University. The City of Mirrors, the third volume of his bestselling trilogy, is set to release Spring 2016.

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Richard Ford
Novelist │ Short Story Writer │ Pulitzer Prize Winner

Ford's is a distinctive southern voice, built on the tradition of Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, and William Faulkner. His novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day, The Sportswriter, The Lay of the Land and Pulitzer Prize finalist Let Me Be Frank With You) and story collections are “filled with breathing characters and genius-crafted dialogue” (Houston Chronicle). The first author to simultaneously win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, Ford is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has taught at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, Williams, Northwestern, and Ole Miss. His novel Canada was one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2012 and The Washington Post’s Best Books of 2012 and the winner of a Carnegie Medal.  Ford’s latest, Let Me Be Frank With You, is comprised of four novellas narrated by Frank Bascombe and set against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Granta, Le Monde, and The New Yorker.

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Connie May Fowler
Bestselling Author │ Novelist │ Memoirist

Set in the lush landscape of her native South, Fowler’s gritty fiction (The Problem with Murmer Lee, Before Women Had Wings) examines the conflict between traditional and contemporary cultures and how people navigate difficult relationships. Fowler is also the author of the bestselling memoir When Katie Wakes, and her novel Before Women Had Wings was made into an Emmy Award-winning movie by Oprah Winfrey. She has been a professor of creative writing, and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the London Times, the International Herald Tribune, and elsewhere. Her latest novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, is “a huge-hearted, ebullient novel,” populated with “an exuberant cast of unruly characters”.

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Sue Monk Kidd
Bestselling Author │ Novelist │ Essayist

Novelist and essayist Sue Monk Kidd gained fame with her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, a blockbuster bestseller which is considered a modern classic (and adapted into a feature film in 2008). She is also the author of The Mermaid Chair and, more recently, an inspiring memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates, which she wrote with her daughter. Ms. Kidd is also highly regarded for her groundbreaking work in the field of feminine spirituality and feminist theology (God’s Joyful Surprise, When the Heart Waits, and Dance of the Dissident Daughter). Her inspirational lectures explore the themes and meanings of her work; the impetus for her stories and characters; “Southern-ness” in literature; and the intersection of writing, creativity, and soul). Her newest novel, The Invention of Wings chronicles the thirty five-year bond between real life abolitionist Sarah Grimke and one of her family’s slaves. Oprah Winfrey called the book “a conversation changer” and selected it for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Selected Books: The Secret Life of Bees, Traveling with Pomegranates, The Invention of Wings

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Christopher Phillips
Bestselling Author │ Founder, Constitution & Socrates Cafés │ Social Entrepreneur 

Christopher Phillips, The New York Times bestselling author of Socrates Café, Six Questions of Socrates, and Socrates in Love, has a passion for inquiry. A foremost specialist in the Socratic Method, he reminds us that we ought to ask questions—as Socrates put it in Plato’s the Republic, “about the way one should live.” Phillips’s inquiries reveal surprising points of intersection between classical philosophy, modern life, and the intellectual richness of diverse societies. Energized by the initial optimism surrounding Obama’s presidency and concerned with the increasingly fierce nature of the partisanship infecting Congress, Phillips’s latest project is Constitution Café, an effort to engage everyday Americans in constructive dialogue and debate about the nature of our government, the meaning of citizenship, and our most important political documents. Phillips has taught at New York University and is the founder and executive director of the Constitution Café and the Society for Philosophical Inquiry (SPI).  He is a Network Fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics and the first Senior Fellow at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and is at work on his next novel, What to Expect When You’re Childing: A Philosophy of Human Flowering.

Selected Books: Constitution Café, Six Questions of Socrates, Socrates Café.

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Jesmyn Ward
Author │ Novelist │ Memoirist

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for her novel Salvage the Bones, the story of a poor black family in the days immediately surrounding Hurricane Katrina. Ward, herself a survivor of Katrina, grew up and still makes her home in DeLisle, Mississippi, a town she fictionalized in both Salvage the Bones and her eloquent debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds. Heralded by the Library Journal for her “fearless, toughly lyrical language,” Jesmyn Ward is a fitting heir to the rich literary tradition of the American South. She confronts poverty, racism, natural disaster, and community devastation with gravitas and grace. Her memoir, Men We Reaped, deals with the loss of five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Lauded as a “modern rejoinder to Black Like Me [and] Beloved,” (Kirkus Reviews) Men We Reaped is a beautiful and painful homage to Ward’s past, her ghosts, and the haunted yet hopeful place she still calls home. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, it has been named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, NPR, Kirkus Review, New York Magazine and Time Magazine. Ward currently teaches creative writing at Tulane University.

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