Panelists and Speakers

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Fred Arroyo

Fred Arroyo is the author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and Belonging, published by the University of Arizona Press (2020) and chosen for the Stanford University Libraries’ shortlist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. He is also the author of Western Avenue and Other Fictions, and The Region of Lost Names. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity and the Natural World. Fred is working on a book of poems, Emigrant Creek and Other Songs, and collection of short fiction, The Book of Manuels.

Claudia Barnett

Claudia Barnett writes experimental plays about women and history and science, including Aglaonike’s Tiger and Kingdom (a play about Snow White and climate change). She’s a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University, where she coordinates In Process: A Creative Writing Event Series and teaches courses in playwriting and drama. Her collaboration with Pipeline-Collective, Outside of Here, a 12-hour play featuring three dozen performers, premiered as a live broadcast event in 2021. Her plays are published by Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Ezekiel Black

Ezekiel Black is the author of the poetry collection Letters from the Junta (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019). His poetry and reviews have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Fjords, Verse, Sonora Review, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere. He attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he received an MFA in Creative Writing, and is a Senior Lecturer of English at The University of North Georgia.

Jennifer Chesak

Jennifer Chesak is the author of the forthcoming book The Psilocybin Handbook for Women: How Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelic Therapy, and Microdosing Can Benefit Your Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Health (Ulysses Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster, June 6, 2023). She is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, editor, fact-checker, and adjunct professor with almost two decades of experience and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill. Her byline appears in several national publications, including The Washington Post.

Mike James

Mike James makes his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has published in hundreds of magazines, large and small, and has performed his poetry at universities and other venues throughout the country. He has been nominated for multiple Pushcarts, as well as for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His many poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.) Redhawk published his 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021 in April of 2022. In February 2023, he was named poet laureate for Murfreesboro His newest collection, Back Alley Saints at the Tikka Bar , is forthcoming in the spring of 2023

Jane Marcellus

Jane Marcellus is a writer whose published work includes literary nonfiction, critical analysis, and journalism. Her work was listed as “Notable” in Best American Essays 2018, 2019, and 2020. CNF awards include the New Ohio Review Editor’s Prize for Prose and the Betty Gabehart Prize from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference.

Cameron L. Mitchell

Cameron L. Mitchell is the first Actor Laureate, and the 2022 Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro. You may have seen him in Fences (Nashville Rep). Cameron has presented for arts organizations, high school graduations, regional and national Conferences such as PBS, The Jazz Museum in Harlem, NY, and TN Voices to name a few. He is a published poet seen in commercial work such as Uber, AT&T, and Life Way. Cameron has published a writing journal, “Metanoia: Changing the State of Mind.” Cameron is a native of Memphis whose poetic prowess and eclectic concepts blend together to create transformational experiences that inspire the community, and highlight mental health awareness.

Katie A. Nelson

Katie A. Nelson is the author of the young adult novel The Duke of Bannerman Prep and also writes short stories, middle grade novels, and picture books. She holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from California, Katie lives outside of Nashville with her husband, four kids, and two very spoiled dogs.

Julian Vaca

Julian R. Vaca is a first generation Mexican American and a first generation college graduate. He was a staff writer on season three of PBS's Reconnecting Roots, a nationally broadcast show that drew in millions of viewers over its first two seasons. The Memory Index is his debut, and The Recall Paradox is its sequel. A Nashville School of the Arts alumnus, Julian still lives in Nashville with his family.

Amie Whittemore

Amie Whittemore (she/her) is the author of the poetry collections Glass Harvest (Autumn House), Star-tent: A Triptych (Tolsun Books, 2023), and Nest of Matches (Autumn House, 2024). She was the 2020-2021 Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee and an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Her poems have won multiple awards, including a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and her poems and prose have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Nashville Review, Smartish Pace, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is the Reviews Editor for Southern Indiana Review and teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University, where she directs MTSU Write, a from-home creative writing mentorship program. Photo by Emily April Allen.