2020 Festival Presenters

The Pat Conroy Literary Festival’s list of scheduled presenters is subject to change without notice, but every effort will be made to announce changes through the this festival’s website and Facebook feed

Donna Keel Armer

Donna Keel Armer has traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Africa. But it was on her first trip to Italy that she fell in love with a country and its people. It became her heart place and she made it her mission to return as often as possible. Solo in Salento: A Memoir tells the story of her sojourn in Otranto, Italy. Donna has published numerous articles and photographs on travel, food, human interest, and home and garden in South Carolina magazines. She also teamed up with the Sons of Italy in Columbia, SC, to produce Bella Cucina Italiana, a cookbook featuring her photography. She and her husband Ray live in beautiful Beaufort, SC where she loves volunteering at the Pat Conroy Literary Center and Hunting Island State Park. Learn more at https://donnaarmer.com.

Cinelle Barnes

Cinelle Barnes is a memoirist, essayist, and educator from Manila, Philippines, and is the author of Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir and Malaya: Essays on Freedom, and the editor of A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-one Writers of Color on the New American South. She earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Converse College. Her writing has appeared in Buzzfeed Reader, Catapult, Literary Hub, Hyphen, Panorama: A Journal of Intelligent Travel, and South 85, among others. Her work has received fellowships and grants from VONA, Kundiman, the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund, and the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant. Her debut memoir was listed as a Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 by Bustle and nominated for the 2018 Reading Women Nonfiction Award. Barnes was a WILLA: Women Writing the American West Awards screener and a 2018-19 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards juror, and is the 2018-19 writer-in-residence at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC, where she and her family live. Learn more at www.cinellebarnes.com.

Vivian Bikulege

Vivian I. Bikulege holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and is a columnist for the Lowcountry Weekly published in Beaufort, SC. Her 2018 essay “Cuttings” won the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the Petigru Review (TPR). In 2020, she was awarded a scholarship in memoir to the Glen Workshop. In 2019, she was awarded a poetry scholarship to Tinker Mountain Writers. Currently, she is a board member for the South Carolina Writers Association (SCWA) and editor for poetry and non-fiction for TPR. She hosts the Open Mic for the Pat Conroy Literary Center and SCWA every month.

Rebecca Dwight Bruff

Rebecca Dwight Bruff heard the story of Robert Smalls on her first visit to South Carolina. She was so captivated that she left her job and moved across the country to research and write this novel. Bruff earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Texas A&M and a master’s and doctorate in theology at Southern Methodist University. In 2017, she was a scholarship recipient for the prestigious Key West Literary Seminar. She volunteers at the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, South Carolina. She’s published non-fiction, plays a little tennis, travels when she can, and loves life in the lowcountry with her husband and an exuberant golden retriever. Learn more at https://rebeccabruff.com.

Lisa Anne Cullen

Lisa Anne Cullen is the author or editor of eight children’s books and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She holds a master of fine arts degree in writing for children and pairs this passion with her love of illustration, art, photography, and screenwriting.

Emily Davis Fletcher

Emily Davis-Fletcher earned her BFA in creative writing from Stephens College and her MA in women’s studies from the National University of Ireland Galway. Her poetry has been published in Southword, Crannóg Magazine, the Irish Examiner, and The High Window, among other journals. She has taught creativity and poetry workshops at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Pat Conroy Literary Center. In 2018, Emily was selected to read at the Cork International Poetry Festival Introductions Reading; and, most recently, her poem ‘Sow Calling’ was a finalist in the Sublingua Prize for Poetry 2019.

Pam Durban

Pam Durban is the author of two short story collections, Soon and All Set About with Fever Trees, and three novels, The Laughing Place, So Far Back, and The Tree of Forgetfulness. Her fiction and non-fiction has been published in many magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike, and The Pushcart Prize. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and a Whiting Writer’s Award. Her novel, So Far Back, was the winner of the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Fiction.

Before Stephanie Austin Edwards returned to the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and to her love of writing, she had a twenty-two-year career in New York Theater. She now writes fiction and non-fiction, facilitates writers groups, teaches writing workshops, and consults with authors. She is the author of the award-winning novel What We Set in Motion and a contributing writer to Our Prince of Scribes, an anthology about her high school friend, Pat Conroy, and has contributed stories to Short Story America VI. Edwards is honored to be part of forwarding the mission of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, where she volunteers and leads writing workshops.  www.stephanieaustinedwards.com

Connie May Fowler

Connie May Fowler is a bestselling author of eight highly acclaimed books. Her latest, the memoir, A Million Fragile Bones, was published to critical acclaim in April 2017 and was a finalist for the 2018 Clara Johnson Award in Women’s Literature. Her novels include How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, The Problem with Murmur Lee, Remembering Blue (recipient of the Chautauqua South Literary Award), 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), River of Hidden Dreams (recipient of a Florida Individual Artist Grant), and Sugar Cage.

Drew Geyer

Andrew Geyer’s ninth book, the story cycle Lesser Mountains (Lamar University Press, 2019), won a 2020 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) for U.S. South – Best Regional Fiction. His other individually authored books are Dixie Fish, a novel; Siren Songs from the Heart of Austin, a story cycle; Meeting the Dead, a novel; and Whispers in Dust and Bone, a story cycle that won the silver medal for short fiction in the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Awards and a Spur Award for short fiction from the Western Writers of America.

He is the co-author, with Jerry Craven and Terry Dalrymple, of the hybrid story cycle Dancing on Barbed Wire. Geyer also co-authored Parallel Hours, an alternative history/sci fi novel; and Texas 5X5, another hybrid story cycle from which one of his stories won a second Spur Award for short fiction. He co-edited the composite anthology A Shared Voice with Tom Mack. A member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the South Carolina Academy of Authors Literary Hall of Fame, Geyer currently serves as English Department Chair at the University of South Carolina Aiken and Fiction Editor for Concho River Review.

Latria Graham

Latria Graham is a journalist and fifth generation South Carolina farmer. Her work stands at the intersection of food, social justice, sports and culture. She’s written longform pieces about everything from farming to NASCAR. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and later earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School in New York City. She is a three-time Best American Sports Writing notable for her stories on athletes in places of tension—primarily Standing Rock, ND, and Flint, MI. She received a Bronze level CASE Award for her reporting on immigration policy that stemmed from 2017’s Executive Order 13769, often referred to as the “travel ban.” Her work has been featured in the NYT, LATimes, The Guardian, espnW, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun. She is also a contributing essayist to A Measure of Belonging: 21 Writers of Color on the New American South. Learn more at LatriaGraham.com.

Jonathan Haupt is the executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the founding director of the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, and the former director of the University of South Carolina Press. He serves on the boards of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the Friends of South Carolina Libraries and on the advisory board of the South Carolina Humanities and the affiliates steering committee of the American Writers Museum. Haupt’s book reviews and author interviews have appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier; Lowcountry Weekly; Fall Lines; Shrimp, Collards & Grits magazine; and the Conroy Center’s Porch Talk blog. He is coeditor with Nicole Seitz of Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy.

Gary Jackson

Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in numerous journals including Callaloo, Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, Crab Orchard Review, and he’s been published in Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology. He was featured in the 2013 New American Poetry Series by the Poetry Society of America and is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship. Jackson is a contributing essayist to A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-one Writers of Color on the New American South. He joined the Department of English at the College of Charleston in 2013, currently teaches in the MFA program as well as undergraduate creative writing, and is the associate poetry editor at Crazyhorse.

Holly Jackson is the director of content and operations at ETV Lowcountry in Beaufort, South Carolina. She is the host of the TELLY Award-winning By The River, a southern author interview program now in its third season. A graduate of the USC School of Journalism, Jackson also spent several years as a local television reporter in both Savannah and Tampa. With her husband Brian and their four daughters, she lives in Bluffton. Learn more at https://video.scetv.org/show/river.

Miho Kinnas is a Japanese-born writer and translator, and the author of the poetry collection Today, Fish Only. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Miho conducts haiku workshops at many locations including Shanghai International Literary Festival, Pat Conroy Literary Center, local libraries, and schools. She holds an M.F.A. from City University of Hong Kong. She and her husband live on Hilton Head Island.

Len Lawson

Len Lawson is the author of Chime and co-editor of Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Weymouth Center for the Arts, and others. His poetry appears in Callaloo, African American Review, Ninth Letter, Verse Daily, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. Len is also a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, earning the 2020 IUP Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. He has taught English in South Carolina higher education for ten years. Learn more at www.lenlawson.co.

USC Beaufort writer in residence and professor of English Ellen Malphrus is the author of the novel Untying the Moon and also a contributor to Our Prince of Scribes. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Southern Literary Journal, Review of Contemporary Fiction, William and Mary Review, Georgia Poetry Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and the anthology Essence of Beaufort and the Lowcountry. She is deputy director of the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival. www.ellenmalphrus.com

Robin Prince Monroe has been writing since she was very young. She received her first manuscript rejection when she was nine from a kind editor that wrote, “Keep writing” and she did. Many years later her first book was published.

Robin enjoys nature, reading, art and kayaking. She lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband, Merlin, and a little Yorkie named Ripley.

Joe Palmer

Joe Palmer is an award-winning former newspaper reporter and longtime columnist, whose folksy column, Cup of Joe, ran for ten years in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader with a large and enthusiastic following. He’s written investigative reporting and feature stories for the Bradenton Herald, Macon Telegraph and News and the Florida Times-Union. A Navy veteran and medical corpsman, he went on to work as a surgeon’s assistant at St. Vincent’s Medical in Jacksonville, while attending college for this BA from the University of North Florida. He parlayed his investigative experience into a twenty-year career as an investigator for the Federal Public Defender’s Office. A sailor, he got the idea for his debut novel while working on an antique sailboat that he and his wife painstakingly restored. A Mariner’s Tale is his first novel. Learn more at www.joepalmerauthor.com.

Author of the Delta and Jax mysteries, The Sea Island’s Secret and The Sea Turtle’s Curse, Susan Diamond Riley is an award-winning author and editor. She has worked in the fields of publishing, journalism, and education for more than 30 years, and has taught and tutored writing at the middle-school, high-school, and college levels. She holds a master of arts degree in children’s literature, and she is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, the South Carolina Writers Association, and the Island Writers Network. Learn more at www.susandiamondriley.com

Elizabeth Robin

Elizabeth Robin, a retired high school teacher living on Hilton Head Island, has two collections of poetry through Finishing Line Press: Where Green Meets Blue and Silk Purses and Lemonade. A poet of witness and discovery, she relates both true and fictional stories about her Lowcountry present and world-traveling past. Also published in fiction and nonfiction, her work appears most recently in Blue Mountain Review, The Broadkill Review, i am not a silent poet, Good Juju, The Fourth River, Foliate Oak, and Reflections. Robin emcees a monthly open mic, and beginning in 2021 the April Kick-Start Poetry Month event for the Island Writers’ Network. In 2019 she began a partnership with BO Art to bring monthly literary programs to Hilton Head Island. Learn more: www.elizabethrobin.com

Dana Ridenour is an award-winning author and retired FBI Special Agent. During her twenty-year career she was assigned to four different FBI Field Divisions and had the opportunity to work a wide variety of cases to include multi-faceted narcotics investigations, domestic sex trafficking of minors, and violent crime. She spent most of her career as an FBI undercover operative. Dana’s first novel, Behind the Mask, won numerous literary awards and was named one of the Best Indie Books of 2016. Her second novel, Beyond the Cabin received the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Thriller or Suspense Novel. Ridenour latest book, Below the Radar is scheduled for release on August 13, 2019. www.Danaridenour.net

Valerie Sayers is the author of a collection of stories, The Age of Infidelity, and six novels, including her most recent, The Powers. Who Do You Love and Brain Fever were both named New York Times “Notable Books of the Year, and a film, “Due East,” was based on her novels Due East and How I Got Him Back. Sayers’s stories, essays, and reviews have appeared widely, in such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, Commonweal, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, and have been cited in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays. Her literary prizes include a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship and two Pushcart Prizes for fiction. She is honored to be a member of the South Carolina Academy of Authors.

Dorothy St. James

Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series and Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, is writing about her first love—books. The Beloved Bookroom Mysteries combine her love of libraries, small town Southern charm, and a heaping helping of intrigue. Dorothy was raised in the South and currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina within shouting distance of her neighborhood library, a dream come true.

Brad Taylor

New York Times bestselling novelist Brad Taylor was born on Okinawa, Japan, but grew up on 40-acres in rural Texas. Graduating from the University of Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry. Brad served for more than 21 years, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. During that time he held numerous Infantry and Special Forces positions, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.

His final assignment was as an assistant professor of military science at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. He holds a Master’s of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. In 2011, Brad published his debut novel, One Rough Man, which was an immediate success and launched the Pike Logan series. Now with more than 13 installments and more than 2 million copies sold, the series has consistently hit the New York Times bestseller list. When not writing, he serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats for various agencies. He lives in Charleston, SC with his wife and two daughters.
Learn more at https://bradtaylorbooks.com.

Mary Whyte

Mary Whyte is an American figurative artist known internationally for her watercolors of contemporary people. Her works are in private, corporate, university and public collections nationwide, and have been featured in numerous media outlets including CBS Sunday Morning, PBS and NPR. In 2013, Whyte was one of ten artists worldwide invited to travel to China and exhibit her watercolors at the Nanning Art Museum in Nanning, Guangxi. Learn more at www.marywhyte.com.