Pulitzer Prize finalist David George Haskell to keynote 18th annual Clarksville Writers Conference, June 8 and 9

The Clarksville Arts & Heritage 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 18th Annual Clarksville Writers Conference.  

The event will be held Thursday, June 8, and Friday, June 9, at the Art + Design Building on the campus of Austin Peay State University.

David George Haskell, writer and biologist whose book The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, will deliver the keynote address at the conference’s banquet the evening of Thursday, June 8, at F&M Bank’s The Franklin Room, overlooking the Cumberland River and featuring an incredible view of Historic Downtown Clarksville.

Haskell is this year’s recipient of the Patricia Winn Award for Southern Literature, named for the conference’s founder. His latest book, Sounds Wild and Broken, was selected by The New York Times as an “Editor’s Choice” and is finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His previous books, The Forest Unseen and The Songs of Trees, are acclaimed for their integration of science, poetry, and rich attention to the living world.

This year’s conference also welcomes back Bren McClain with a Master Prose Class on Thursday, June 8. Bren will select twelve writers to join her for this highly interactive daylong workshop designed to take their novel, short story or memoir to the next level. Selection is competitive and open to writers of prose: fiction or nonfiction (no poetry). To be considered, writers should submit up to 1,000 words electronically to writers@artsandheritage.us by May 8. A $40 nonrefundable fee is required at the time of submission.

Bren McClain’s critically acclaimed debut novel, One Good Mama Bone, has won numerous awards, and 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.

Additional authors scheduled to speak at eighteen presentations and workshops for writers and avid readers include the following:

David Alford, a native and resident of Adams, Tennessee (pop. 600), is a graduate of the Juilliard School for Drama. He was the founder and Artistic Director of Mockingbird Theatre in Nashville, and later Executive Artistic Director of Tennessee Repertory Theatre (now Nashville Rep). David’s writing credits include two historical plays produced annually in his hometown: Spirit: The Authentic Story of the Bell Witch of Tennessee and Smoke: A Ballad of the Night Riders. His book Living The Dream: The Morning After Drama School (with Brian Horner) is available through Kendall Hunt Publishing.

Mary Martha Greene has been described by Marlene Osteen, widow of Chef Louis Osteen, as “a seductive and skilled Southern storyteller”. A native of Beaufort, South Carolina, she’s the author of The Cheese Biscuit Queen Tells All, a food memoir recalling the stories and recipes of beloved family and friends that has sold over 5,000 copies. Since the publication of her first book, Mary has been featured in the Southern Cooking section of CKBK, an international on-line cookbook resource, and Cookbooks with Virginia with her culinary idol, Chef Virginia Willis. Her next book The Cheese Biscuit Queen: I Don’t Believe I’d Have Told THAT! is due out in May of 2024.

Rick Gregory lives in Adams, Tennessee, on a farm bordering the Red River. His doctoral dissertation at Vanderbilt University was entitled “Desperate Farmers: The Dark Tobacco Planters Protective Association, 1905-1915.” In 1996 he co-authored the bicentennial history of Robertson County, Tennessee, and in 2020 he co-authored the bicentennial history of Springfield, the county seat of Robertson County. His book, The Bell Witch Legend: In Myth and Memory will be published by the University of Tennessee Press in September. Rick is currently writing a book about the Dark Fired Planters’ Protective Association and the Tobacco Night Riders that came out of it.

Robert Gwaltney, a graduate of Florida State University, resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Robert is an active member of the Atlanta literary community, previously serving as Fiction Editor for The Blue Mountain Review and currently serving on the board of the Broadleaf Writers Association. His writing has appeared in Dead Mule School of Southern LiteratureSignal Mountain ReviewWorks in Progress: An Anthology, and Let Me Say This: A Dolly Parton Poetry Anthology. He is also recipient of the Fall 2022 Pat Conroy Writer’s Residency. The Cicada Tree, winner of the Somerset Award for Literary Fiction, is his debut novel.

Ellen Kanervo, Austin Peay State University professor emerita of mass communication, currently serves as executive director of the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Council. Since her retirement from APSU in 2007, she has edited or co-edited five books dealing with Clarksville’s history, including The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams: A Southern Woman’s Story of Rebellion and Reconstruction, 1863-1890 and The Diary of Serepta Jordan: A Southern Woman’s Struggle with War and Family, 1857-1864.

Laurina Isabella Lyle, as an author and contributing author of numerous books, articles and presentations, seeks opportunities to communicate about the natural world. Starting her career as a biologist, she found her greatest impact to protect and preserve the environment has been as an environmental writer. She has extensive experience in this arena. She was the lead writer of a large, permanent exhibit at the Wade Bourne Nature Center in Clarksville, Tennessee. The nature center opened in 2020. Currently, she is the chairperson of the Clarksville Writers Conference.

Sharon Mabry, author of The Postmaster’s Daughter published by Thorncraft Publishing, is an award-winning mezzo-soprano soloist and recording artist, who has premiered works by more than forty composers and made nine critically acclaimed recordings. From 1985 through 2009, she was a featured writer for the NATS Journal of Singing, the preeminent journal for singers and voice teachers, and her book reviews and featured articles on women composers have appeared in several major music journals. Sharon is also the author of two books about music, Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music and The Performing Life: A Singer’s Guide to Survival.

Cynthia Marsh is a narrative artist. She uses wood type and letterpress printing to begin conversations that take form as books, broadsides, and printed environments. Marsh founded the Goldsmith Community Press at Austin Peay State University to encourage community members to tell their stories and express their opinions. Since its inception in 1997, the Goldsmith Press has received 16 local, regional, and/or federal grants to support community and student-centered projects.

Alan Stuart Mearns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A poet, songwriter and classical guitarist, he fluidly shifts between the three forms to find lyrical expression of his thoughts and emotions.  His musical studies began with the classical violin at age five, switching to the guitar at age ten. Moving to the United States in his late teens, he studied classical guitar performance. To his credit, he has recorded three CDs of original songs and music — Yes the Raven: U2 Covered in LoveYes the Raven: Covered in Dust and Yes the Raven: Abilene — and, most recently, a critically acclaimed recording titled Sei Solo: Works by J.S. Bach.

Shana Thornton emphasizes the written word in life. In 2012, Shana opened Thorncraft Publishing, an independent publisher of literature, novels, and creative nonfiction by individual authors, as well as the BreatheYourOMBalance® yoga book series. Shana is also the author of four novels — Ripe for the Pickin’The Adventures to PawnassusPoke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel and Multiple Exposure — and co-author of the nonfiction book Seasons of Balance: On Creativity and Mindfulness. She is also editor-in-chief of Her Circle Ezine and founder of the Clarksville Montgomery County African American Legacy Trail.

Amy Wright served as the 2022 Wayne G. Basler Chair of Excellence at East Tennessee State University and was awarded two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, an Individual Artist Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She co-edited and introduced the Virginia volume of The Southern Poetry Anthology and has authored three poetry books and six chapbooks. Her nonfiction debut, Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round (Sarabande Books), won the 2022 Nautilus Gold Award for Lyric Prose.  

Susan Beckham Zurenda‘s debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press), has been selected as the Gold Medal (first place) winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. Her second novel, The Girl From the Red Rose Motel, will be published September 5, 2023, by Mercer University Press.

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 25. Late registration is postmarked between May 26 and June 3. Visit the conference website at www.artsandheritage.us/writers for author bios, the conference schedule, registration information and more.

The 2023 Clarksville Writers Conference is made possible in part through the generous support of the Clarksville Arts & Heritage Council, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Arts Commission, City of Clarksville, and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at APSU.  Additional sponsors include Charlie & Kris Foust, Sherri & Jeff Robinson, Dee Boaz, Joan R. Harris, Nick Nicholson and Laurina Isabella Lyle.  The conference was developed in 2005 by Patricia Winn.

David George Haskell

Brenda McClain

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