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2009 Southern Women Writers Conference

Speaker Bios

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, and now makes her home in Georgia. She works in multiple genres including poetry, fiction, young adult fiction, and essays, some of her most noted titles including A Love Story Beginning in Spanish:  Poems (2005); Call Me Maria (2006), a young adult novel; The Meaning of Consuelo (2003), a novel; Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writer (2000), a collection of essays; An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio (1995), a collection of short stories, and Silent Dancing; A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood  (1990), a collection of essays and poetry.  In addition her works have appeared in many prestigious journals and anthologies.  Cofer’s incisive and lyrical writing has garnered her numerous awards and honors.  Most recently, in 2005, The Latin Deli was selected for the Georgia Center for the Book’s Georgia Top 25 List, a reading list composed of books set in Georgia or written by a resident or former resident of the state.  She is currently the Regents' and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.  She lives in Athens, Georgia and Louisville, Georgia with her husband, John Cofer, a fellow educator. This will be her second appearance at the Southern Women Writers Conference.





Allison Hedge Coke, Cherokee (Tsalagi), Huron (Oendat), French Canadian, Metis, Creek, English, Irish, French, and Portuguese descent, grew up in North Carolina, Canada, and on the Great Plains. Hedge Coke is a noted poet, memoirist, and anthologist. Her fifth book, Blood Run (2006), a poetry/verse play, won the Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award.  An earlier volume of poems, Dog Road Woman won the 1998 American Book Award, and her compelling if sometimes harrowing memoir Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer was an AIROS Book-of-the-Month selection. Among her seven edited collections, They Wanted Children, is a poetry anthology of coping from American Indian, Sudanese, Latino, and African American high school students; two volumes of new Indigenous American poetry, Ahani (Univ. of Az.) and Effigies (Salt Pub.) are forthcoming. Hedge Coke is especially noted for working with incarcerated youth; representing ethnic, underclass and working-class situations; acknowledging Indigenous mound cities; and seeking to define relationships with human beings and nature, in particular with Sandhill Cranes. Currently, she is the endowed Paul and Clarice Reynolds Chair of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.





Natalie Daise is best known, with her husband Ron, for bringing South Carolina Sea Island Gullah culture to national and international television audiences through the Nickelodeon program "Gullah Gullah Island." Daise is an actor, singer, storyteller, songwriter and a craftsperson; her Gullah gifts and handcrafts have been featured on HGTV’s Country Style and in the magazine Coastal Living. Her performances, writings and recordings with Ron have validated and celebrated the rich history of the Gullah people for numerous audiences for nearly a decade, and they have been awarded South Carolina's prestigious Palmetto and Folk Heritage Awards.





Thulani Davis is a writer and an interdisciplinary artist who creates text in a wide range of forms including journalism, fiction, poetry and spoken word, memoir, drama, and the opera libretto.  Born in Virginia, Davis began her career in both spoken word performance and newspaper writing in San Francisco.  When she returned to New York City in the 1970s, she continued her performance art and went to work for the Village Voice, eventually rising to the position of senior editor.  In 1992 she published her first novel 1959, a compelling coming-of-age story set in Turner, Virginia, during integration, which garnered accolades as both a work for adults and for young adults.  Her most recent book-length work is My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots (2006), a memoir which explores her black and white roots in American during and after the Civil War.  Davis is also noted for her work for the stage and opera.  She penned the librettos for Amistad, which enjoyed a successful run at this past year’s Spoleto Festival, and X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X; a number of her plays have been produced by such noted directors as George C. Wolfe and Kenny Leon.  Davis has striven as well to incorporate Buddhist practice into her work, such as 1998’s Dark Passage, a multimedia documentary on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  She currently teaches playwriting at New York University.





Connie May Fowler is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including River of Hidden Dreams (1994), The Problem with Murmer Lee (2005), Remembering Blue (2000), which was awarded the Chautauqua South Literary Award, and Before Women Had Wings, recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Buck Award from the League of American Pen Women. Three of her novels have been Dublin International Literary Award nominees. She adapted Before Women had Wings for the Emmy Award-winning film produced by Oprah Winfrey and starring Ms. Winfrey and Ellen Barkin.  Her essays have been published in The New York Times, The London Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Japan Times, Oxford American, Best Life, and elsewhere.  Her work has been translated into 15 languages and is published worldwide. A native of Florida, she has held numerous jobs, including bartender, food caterer, nurse, television producer, TV show host, antique peddler, and construction worker. In her memoir, When Katie Wakes(2002), she recounts her descent into and escape from an abusive relationship. From 1997-2003 she directed the Connie May Fowler Women Wings Foundation, an organization dedicated to aiding women and children in need.





Sarah Gordon is one of the foremost experts on the life and work of Flannery O’Connor.  She is professor emerita of English at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. She was for many years the chair of her university's internationally renowned symposia on O'Connor. In addition she was the editor of the Flannery O'Connor Bulletin and the founding editor of the Flannery O'Connor Review. Her scholarly works include Flannery O'Connor: The Obedient Imagination (2004), and Flannery O'Connor: In Celebration of Genius.  Her most recent book is A Literary Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia (published in 2008 by UGA Press and co-edited by Craig Amason, with photographs by Marelina Martin).  All proceeds from the sale of Flannery O’Connor‘s Georgia will be donated to the Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation.  Dr. Gordon will give the Barbara and Buzz McCoy lecture. 




Melissa Fay Greene is a native of Macon, Georgia.  Her family moved to Ohio when she was in her youth but she returned to Georgia in 1975 to work for the Savannah office of Georgia Legal Services and was a witness to most of the events about which she later would write in her first book, Praying for Sheetrock (1991), about the political awakening of the isolated African-American community of coastal McIntosh County.  A finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award, it won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Lillian Smith Award among others.  Her second book, The Temple Bombing (1996), also a National Book Award finalist and winner of numerous awards, is about the attack by segregationists on an Atlanta synagogue in October 1958.. Her most recent book is There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey To Rescue Her Country’s Children (2007).  Greene is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine and Good Housekeeping. She also writes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Readers Digest, Newsweek, Life, The Washington Post, Ms, and Parenting. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and seven children. 





Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/ Tennessee mountains, among them New York Times Best Sellers She Walks These Hills (1995) and The Rosewood Casket (1996), as well as The Ballad of Frankie Silver (1991), and The Songcatcher (2002). Her novel St. Dale, The Canterbury Tales in a NASCAR setting, won a 2006 Library of Virginia Award as well as the AWA Book of the Year Award. Ghost Riders, an account of the Civil War in the mountains of western North Carolina,won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature given by the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Audie Award for Best Record Book.  Crumb’s novels have been translated into ten languages, including German, Dutch, Japanese, and Italian. She has lectured on her work at Oxford University, the University of Bonn-Germany, and at the Smithsonian Institution, taught a writers workshop in Paris, and was named a“Virginia Woman of History”in 2008 for Achievement in Literature. A film of her novel The Rosewood Casket is currently in production, directed by British Academy Award nominee Roberto Schaefer.  Her most recent novels are The Devil Amongst the Lawyers (Thomas Dunne Books 2010) and Faster Pastor (High Country Press, 2010), a comic racing novel set in a small mountain town, co-authored by NASCAR driver Adam Edwards.





Marsha Norman, one of the South’s most revered playwrights, is a native of Louisville, Kentucky  She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for ‘night, Mother, which also was awarded the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Dramatists Guild Hull Warriner Award, and the Drama Desk Award.  She also wrote the Tony Award-winning The Secret Garden (1992) and Getting Out, which won numerous theatre awards. Her other dramatic works include Third and Oak; The Laundromat; The Poolhall; The Holdup; Traveler in the Dark; Sarah and Abraham; Loving Daniel Boone; and Trudy Blue. Most recently, Norman penned the libretto for the Broadway musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.  Her television and film credits include Face of a Stranger, starring Gena Rowlands and Tyne Daily. She has received grants and awards from such institutions as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ms. Norman serves on the Dramatists Guild Council and has co-directed Julliard’s Playwrights Program since 1994.




Mab Segrest is currently Fuller-Matthai Professor of Gender & Women's Studies and
Chair of Gender and Women's Studies Department at Connecticut College. After completing her Ph.D. in at Duke in 1979, Segrest worked in academia for a time, but left to pursue full-time work in social justice movements in North Carolina.  Her activism with lesbian-feminist political and social movements resulted in her pioneering collection My Mama’s Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays in Southern Culture (1985).  She help to found North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence and worked in that organization from 1983 to 1990 to rally citizens of the state against virulent neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan activity and an epidemic in hate violence. Segrest’s 1995 book, Memoir of a Race Traitor, narrates this experience. It was named an Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America and was Editor’s Choice for the Lambda Literary Awards.  Her more recent works include Born to Belonging: Writings on Spirit and Justice (2002) and Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray: Feminist Strategies for a Just World  (co-editor, 2003).  Segrest has founded, served on the boards of, and consulted with a wide range of social justice organizations over the past twenty-five years.  She returned to academia in 2002 when she joined the faculty at Connecticut College.





Natasha Trethewey is the author of three highly acclaimed collections of poetry, including her most recent book, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize,  Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), which was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association; and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000), which was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Her poems have appeared in such journals and anthologies as American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Poetry 2000 and 2003. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, she lives in Atlanta where she holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.  This will be her second appearance at the Southern Women Writers Conference.


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