Critically Acclaimed Novelist J.T. Ellison to Keynote Clarksville Writers Conference

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The Clarksville Arts & Heritage Development Council is partnering with the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at APSU and the Tennessee Arts Commission to once again bring acclaimed authors to town for the 17th Annual Clarksville Writers Conference.  

The event will be held Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20, at the Art + Design Building on the campus of Austin Peay State University.

J.T. EllisonNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 25 novels and EMMY Award-winning co-host of the Nashville literary television series A Word on Words, will deliver the keynote address at the conference’s banquet the evening of Thursday, May 19, at F&M Bank’s The Franklin Room, overlooking the Cumberland River and featuring an incredible view of Historic Downtown Clarksville.  

Ellison is this year’s recipient of the Patricia Winn Award for Southern Literature, named for the conference’s founder.  With millions of books in print, J.T.’s work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, been optioned for television, and has been published in 28 countries and 16 languages. Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original, while her novels Field of Graves and Where All the Dead Lie were each a RITA nominee for Best Romantic Suspense.  

This year’s conference offers fifteen presentations and workshops for writers and avid readers.  Authors scheduled to speak include the following:

Sharon Cameron is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Dark Unwinding (2012), A Spark Unseen (2013), Rook (2015), The Forgetting (2016), The Knowing (2017), The Light in Hidden Places (2020) and Bluebird (2021), all from Scholastic Press.  Her books have won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, the Westchester Fiction Award, earned starred reviews from Booklist, SLJ and Kirkus, and have been chosen for numerous lists including Indie Next Top Ten, YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild Gold Standard and Audible Best Books. The Light in Hidden Places was a 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and has sold in 18 foreign countries.

Dana Chamblee Carpenter is the author of the award-winning Bohemian Trilogy.  The first book in the series, Bohemian Gospel, won the 2014 Killer Nashville Claymore Award and was short-listed for YALSA’s 2016 Alex Award, with Publisher’s Weekly calling it “a deliciously creepy debut.”  Her second book, The Devil’s Bible, won the 2017 Silver Falchion Award for Best Novel, while the final book in the series, Book of the Just, was a finalist for this year’s Silver Falchion in Sci Fi/Fantasy and called “a wickedly good read” by Chapter 16.     

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, resides in Qualla, North Carolina. She holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary.  Her debut novel, Even As We Breathe (UPK 2020), was a finalist for the Weatherford Award, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020, and received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award (2021). Clapsaddle’s work appears in Yes! Magazine, Lit Hub and The Atlantic.  She teaches secondary English and Cherokee Studies, is an editor for the Appalachian Futures Series (UPK), and serves on the board of trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network.

Tammy Hall inherited her penchant and love for storytelling from her late father.  Utilizing call-and-response, percussive instruments, costumes and other props, and sometimes just simply her voice, Ms. Hall is known to mesmerize her audiences. Her craftsmanship and advocacy for literature have taken her around the world, where she has collected the folklore of diverse cultures from the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.  Ms. Hall’s first storytelling CD, Tales of Black Heritage From Around the World, was released in 2015.  In 2017, she was sought out for her storytelling talent to be featured as part of the United States Postal Service commemoration ceremony that launched The Snowy Day Forever Stamp.

Bren McClain‘s critically acclaimed debut novel, One Good Mama Bone, won the 2017 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction and was named Pulpwood Queen 2017 Book of the Year, a 2017 Great Group Reads by the Women’s National Book Association and a Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) Okra pick.  Most recently, the French translation (retitled Mama Red) was selected for the 2021 Prix Maya, an award given for the novel that best honors animals.  Bren also is a contributing essayist in Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy.  Her next novel has already received acclaim, the gold medal for the William Faulkner Novel-in-Progress.

Michael Shoulders has published 23 books for children, including V is for Volunteer: A Tennessee Alphabet, now in its 16th edition, and his novel Crossing the Deadline, which follows a boy’s journey through the Civil War.  His latest release, The Legend of the Christmas Pickle, has proven popular with children of all ages, answering the question, “Why does Santa hide pickles in Christmas trees?”  Mike has spoken at International Literacy Association conferences in Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta and Boston and has keynoted six of that organization’s state meetings.  In non-Covid years, he visits nearly 80 schools and conferences across America and Europe, spreading the message that Reading IS Magic!

Shana Thornton is the author of four works of fiction, Ripe for the Pickin’ (2022), The Adventures to Pawnassus (2019), Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel (2015) and Multiple Exposure (2012), and co-author of Seasons of Balance: On Creativity and Mindfulness (2016).  Shana has written a historical stage play, countless magazine and newspaper articles, blogs and interviews with artists, musicians, authors and activists, and she is the founder of the Clarksville Montgomery County African American Legacy Trail (2019), a free community publication in print and online.  In 2012, she opened Thorncraft Publishing, an independent publisher of literature, novels and creative nonfiction by individual authors, as well as the BreatheYourOMBalance® yoga book series.

S.M. Williams is the author of the historical romance trilogy All Would Be Kings, which includes The Winter ProphecyHigh Treason and Rosemary.  Sarah is also the author of Chinquapin: The Last Great Hope, a novel of historical fiction set during the Siege of Atlanta.  At present, she has two works in progress: Kelidaire, a romantic fantasy, and Across The River, a historical fiction novel that follows the post-war life of a Confederate spy and the lost Confederate Treasury.  Born and raised in southeast Alabama, she wrote her first short story manuscript at the age of fourteen and, since that time, her creative writings have produced over 800,000 words, not including articles and columns for various community magazines and newsletters.

In addition to the scheduled presentations and workshops, free critique circles with Cardinal Rule Press Acquisitions Editor Adam Blackman are available to conference participants, where up to five participants per session will offer and receive tips on how to improve their manuscripts.  As Acquisitions Editor at Cardinal Rule Press, Adam acquires realistic fiction picture books that help children grow into kind, empathetic adults.  As a writer of picture books and middle grade, he aims right for the intersection of heart and humor.

Closing out this year’s conference is TOBACCO HANDS: the Habits of Mutuality, a 24-page installation of creative nonfiction relaying the narratives of four multi-generational, dark-fired tobacco families living in Montgomery County.  Immediately following the final session, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm on Friday, May 20, participants are invited to join collaborators Cynthia Marsh and Marnie Powers-Torrey in the lobby of the Art + Design Building to celebrate these stories with homemade pies and sweet tea.  This event is free and open to all.

A complete package including all conference activities is offered, as well as “a la carte” options.  Discounted rates are available for early registration, which is postmarked on or before May 5.  Late registration is postmarked between May 6 and May 12.  Visit the conference website at for author bios, the conference schedule, registration information and more.

The 2022 Clarksville Writers Conference is made possible in part through the generous support of the Clarksville Arts & Heritage Development Council, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Arts Commission, City of Clarksville, Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at APSU, and the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center.  Additional sponsors include Drs. Dave & Jennie Beth Johnston, Jacqueline & Ned Crouch, Dee Boaz, Sarah H. Darnell, Joan R. Harris and Laurina Isabella Lyle.  The conference was developed in 2005 by Patricia Winn.

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