Stay tuned for the remaining links to our Presenters'  special content for Words & Music 2020. Scroll down to find information on each one.

Christopher Louis Romaguera has curated A Conversation with Niyi Osundare on Thursday, November 19, at 11:15 am.

Christopher Louis Romaguera is a Cuban-American writer who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born in Hialeah, Florida and graduated from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Romaguera has been published in The Daily Beast, Curbed National, Peauxdunque Review, New Orleans Review, PANK Magazine and other publications. He is a monthly columnist at The Ploughshares Blog. He has an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. You can find him on Facebook at Christopher Louis Romaguera. Or on Instagram and Twitter @cromaguerawrite

Dr. Michael White is an accomplished, multi-faceted New Orleans-based clarinetist, bandleader, composer, musicologist, jazz historian, and educator widely regarded as one of the leading authorities and culture-bearers of traditional New Orleans jazz music. He has performed in over two dozen foreign countries, played on over 50 recordings, received countless awards, made multiple national television appearances, and beenfeatured in major media publications.

With a career now spanning over three decades, Michael White continues to grow his musical legacy as one of the authoritative figures on New Orleans Jazz Music, and one of the finest clarinetists to walk the streets of the crescent city.

Learn more at 

Jason Berry will discuss City of a Million Dreams on Thursday, November 19, at 12:30 pm CST.

Jason Berry is the author most recently of City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300 (2018), which the Wall Street Journal called “an indispensable history.” Jason has produced a documentary film based on the book, which uses jazz funerals as a lens on the city’s evolution, scheduled for release in 2021.

Jason Berry achieved renown for his landmark reporting on the Catholic church crisis in Lead Us Not into Temptation (1992), Vows of Silence (2004), and Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, which received Investigative Reporters and Editors 2011 Best Book Award. He is often interviewed in the media.

Among his honors are the 2010 Moses Berkman Memorial Journalism Award given for career achievement by Trinity College of Hartford. He received NEH and Guggenheim fellowships for his New Orleans cultural research, and an Alicia Patterson journalism fellowship for his reporting on Louisiana demagogues.

His other works include Up from the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II and a novel, Last of the Red Hot Poppas. A native New Orleanian, he is a graduate of Georgetown University. Find out more at

Antoinette de Alteriis will lead Publishing 101 and will moderate A Long Way from the Strawberry Patch: The Life of Leah Chase on Thursday, November 19, at 1:30 pm.

Antoinette de Alteriis joined Pelican Publishing as promotion director in early 2011. In 2019 she transitioned to the Arcadia Publishing group as publicity director for the ninety-four-year-old Pelican Publishing imprint handling the roles of public relations, marketing, and publicist). Believing in industry mentorship, she refined and obtained certification for the Pelican internship program which she still coordinates under Arcadia.

Prior to relocating to New Orleans in June of 2005, de Alteriis worked for Waldenbooks for thirteen years as a sales leader, training manager, and event coordinator. Her more than twenty years of experience in all facets of the book industry make her uniquely qualified to speak on publishing. Adding in her background in business administration, organizational behavior management, and brand development, gained through years as a successful business consultant in her own firm, de Alteriis brings a wealth of information to the table.

Leah Chase biographer Carol Allen will speak about her new YA Book based on Chase's life at A Long Way from the Strawberry Patch: The Life of Leah Chase on Thursday, November 19, at 1:30 pm.

After a career in public education, spanning the roles of teacher, principal, university professor, and superintendent, Carol Allen pursued an MFA degree in Writing for Children at Vermont College, a degree she received in 2009. Carol lived in France for twenty-three years, and it was there she published numerous freelance articles including a profile of Ernest Gaines, published in The Writers’ Chronicle, and articles in The Washington Post, Epicurean Magazine, and others.

Carol’s most recent book, a young reader fictional biography of Leah Chase, is scheduled for release in August 2020 from Pelican Publishing Company. A Long Way From the Strawberry Patch; The Story of Leah Chase.

Carol’s other books are: Plain Weird, and Other Weird and Wacky Poems, Dilettante Press, 1989; They Only Laughed Later: Tales of Women on the Move, EuroPublic Press, 2000; and Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This, Pelican Publishing Company, 2002. Her newest young adult historical novel, Fever, is under contract with Pelican.

Edgar "Dook" Chase IV will speak about his grandmother's life and legacy at A Long Way from the Strawberry Patch: The Life of Leah Chase  on Thursday, November 19, at 1:30 pm.

Edgar “Dook” Chase, IV, is the grandson of Chef Leah Chase; he assumed the reins as Executive Chef at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, in 2019. Edgar is also Owner/President of Chase Concessions, LLC, a partner in Chase North, the premier food and beverage operator and management concessionaire at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, and the proprietor of two of their concepts, Leah’s Kitchen and Dook’s Burgers. Chase Concessions also operates concepts in Boston Logan airport.

Edgar has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. After studying Economics and Finance at Dillard University in New Orleans, Chase received his Masters of Business Administration from University of New Orleans, and went on to receive his culinary degree, from Le Condon Bleu Paris. In addition to his formal training, he spent many of his years learning the craft from his grandmother, while working in his family’s flagship restaurant, Dooky Chase’s in Treme. Edgar’s newest concept, Leah’s Kitchen, is a tribute to his grandmother’s legacy of service and hospitality, featuring dishes inspired by her classic Creole cuisine.

Edgar is active in his community and civically involved on a number of non-profit boards and commissions; he sits on the boards of New Orleans Covenant House, the Finance Authority of New Orleans, the New Orleans African-American Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the UJAMAA Economic Development Corporation. Edgar resides in New Orleans with his wife, Gretchen, and two kids, Sidney and Edgar “Vito” Chase, V.

David G Spielman will discuss his book "When Not Performing: New Orleans Musicians" at When Not Performing on Thursday, November 19, at 2:45 pm CST.

David G. Spielman’s photographic career has spanned more than four decades. Assignments have taken him to six of the seven continents and throughout the United States. His portfolio includes corporate, industrial, editorial, books and many varied personal projects. The recently published “New Orleans Portrayed” is his fifth book. Previous publications featured “Southern Writers”, two books about Hurricane Katrina and his book of musicians called “When Not Performing.”

His wide and varied interests keep him motivated and always looking for distinct images. His gallery in the heart of the Garden District is a destination for those who want to see and hear about New Orleans and its characters.

John Boutté will discuss life and music at When Not Performing on Thursday, November 19, at 2:45 pm CST.

John Boutté was born into a 7th Ward Creole family in New Orleans. Exposed to the local culture such as Mardi Gras parades and jazz funerals since childhood, Boutté also grew up listening to R&B music of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the like.He played trumpet and cornet in marching bands in his junior high and high school days. During this time, he also formed an a cappella group and sang on the streets.

Boutté studied business at Xavier University of Louisiana where he was in ROTC. After he graduated, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army where he served for the next four years. When he returned, he started to work for a credit union instead of entering into the music industry. When he met Stevie Wonder, he started to seriously consider becoming a professional singer. Wonder acknowledged his talent and recommended him to pursue career in music. He soon joined Lillian on her tour to Europe, and his professional career started.

He was featured on Lillian's live album, Gospel United, released in 1994. In 1993, he released an album under his own name titled Through the Eyes of a Child.

He was the featured guest vocalist on Cuban group Cubanismo!'s Mardi Gras Mambo, recorded in New Orleans.

In the recent years, Boutté has been working with ex-Cowboy Mouth guitarist and singer, Paul Sanchez which led to a collaborated effort Stew Called New Orleans released in 2009. Boutté was also featured on John Scofield's 2009 album, Piety Street, singing the lead on three tracks.

Don Vappie will discuss life at music at When Not Performing on Thursday, November 19, at 2:45 pm CST.

Don Vappie, musician / composer / educator, is highly regarded as jazz banjoist and has received awards for his contributions to the preservation of New Orleans creole culture through music and film. He has produced 7 of his own albums, co-produced and starred in a PBS documentary, performed as a featured artist with orchestras and in movie and television soundtracks, as well as concerts and festivals around the world. Vappie’s highly regarded unique and original tenor banjo style is equal only to his love of his Creole heritage and tradition.

Choosing to stay in his hometown, New Orleans, was the choice Don Vappie made in 1974. Immediately after filling in on a gig with the great Peggy Lee, she offered him the guitar chair. He politely declined. So, she wrote and gave him an open invitation signed on the hotel stationary, "if you ever want to play ...” “Looking back, I think that was a defining moment in my life,” says Vappie. Though at the time, as he played in cover bands performing the popular music of that period, he evolved an interest in the rich history of music and tradition in Southeast Louisiana, particularly New Orleans.

Vappie was born into an extended family of musicians, some of whom are quite prominent. He began piano lessons at 6 years of age and played trumpet in school bands starting in fifth grade. By high school his desire was to play bass. It was 1 year later when the band they’d formed lost the guitar player that Don started guitar. “I’d watched those guys play and remembered some of the shapes. So, I sat down at the piano and figured out the notes in the chords and then looked at how I could play those notes withiin the reach of my left hand on the fret board of the guitar.” That’s how Vappie explained it to the great Dr, John during a recording session for DIsney’s remake of their classic movie, Jungle Book.

After 2 years of college as a music major studying bass, Don left to become a full time musician. By the end of the 1970s he had lost interest in participating in a democratically formed top 40 band and quit playing music for three months only to start back by waking up every morning and playing along with the Kenny Burrell record. It was during this break that he was introduced to the banjo, a sound that reminded him of the muted Guitar lines of the Soul/Funk styles. This was the beginning of a period of working with some of the most well-known jazz musicians in New Orleans including trumpeter Teddy Riley, drummer Bob French, bassist Lloyd Lambert, trumpeter Wallace Davenport, banjo/guitarist Danny Barker, saxophonist Clarence Ford, drummer/bassist Placide Adams and his brothers guitarist Justin Adams and bassist Gerald Adams. There are more names to mention but the important point is that these New Orleans musicians, who lives exemplified the Creole cultural traditions, became the important mentors for Vappie.

Vappie's first public performances as a banjoist found him tuning the banjo as the top four strings of the guitar, sometimes called ‘Chicago tuning”. Quickly becoming one of the more desired banjoist in New Orleans, he was approached by a representative of Preservation Hall to sub for banjoist Father Al who was part of the Tuesday/Friday band at that venue. It was at the conclusion of that first night that drummer, Freddy Coleman, shouted out, "hey Vappie, are you gonna be here Friday?" Don answered he didn't know and Coleman responded in a loud voice, "I sure hope so”, a sign of approval so that management would get the message. That began a decades long stent as a regular member of that band. However, Vappie was never satisfied constantly playing the same things the same way and his desire to evolve as a musician kept him involved in his own projects like the Creole Jazz Serenaders and being a regular guest with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center. To this day the Creole Jazz Serenaders continue to be a staple at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival for over 20 years and counting.

As a recording artist, Vappie's first self produced album was in 1986. Produced as a vinyl long play album, it preceded the advent of the compact disc and was titled "Papa Don’s New Orleans Jazz Band". Three of the members of this group had played together since their garage band days. “In New Orleans there were neighborhood bands every few blocks from each other. They tended to stay together. It was more than just a band, it was a social connection,” says Don. So, it's not a surprise that once Vappie chose his sidemen for the Creole Jazz Serenaders, the members exhibited that sense of mutual loyalty as was the tradition. CJS went on to record 4 CDs, the last 2 released the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Overnight things changed and Don began doing what he could to help the recovery by helping organize concerts and gigs to help musicians stay in New Orleans. The organization he helped form, “Bring It On Home”, raised money through donations from around the world and helped fund work for musicians in New Orleans well into the summer of 2006. At that point, priorities began to shift because businesses were opening so, the organization became more creative producing small shows like MOVIE NITE where musicians would play to a silent movie as was done a century before. In the following years Vappie became more of an independent artist, touring as a guest with bands in different parts of the world. The PBS documentary he and Milly Vappie co-produced, American Creole: New Orleans reunion, brought Creole culture to the forefront. Milly's Masters degree in American History and our experience as a researcher encouraged Don to dig deeper into the various cultural influences that made up the diverse culture of New Orleans, the Creole culture. Playing regularly at festivals in Europe enabled him to forge strong friendships with musicians he would not have met otherwise. His current band, Don Vappie and Jazz Créole, is made up of a bassist who lives in Paris and a guitarist and clarinetist who live in London. In a casual conversation during one of those trips Dave Kelbie, guitarist and producer, discussed with Don the possibility of doing a Creole themed album. There was immediate agreement and the result is “The Blue Book Of Storyville". This album allowed Vappie’s banjo to hold the lead instrument position as he had always conceived it was in the African griot tradition. The album has been praised by reviewers in the UK, Spain, France, Germany and others, as well as the US.

Don Vappie continues to compose and arrange music true to his heritage. As did his mentors who came before him, Vappie keeps the tradition alive and current so that the torch can be passed. As he says, "we are not here to preserve, we can only conserve and respect our past by living our culture and honoring the spirit of our traditions."

Photo Credit: David Spielman

John Rankin will discuss life and music at When Not Performing  on Thursday, November 19, at 2:45 pm CST.

John Rankin is a accomplished New Orleans musician and performer. He has been described as a New Orleans hybrid of Leo Kottke and Chet Atkins, but his expansive style covers many genres.

A versatile master of solo acoustic guitar, he blends New Orleans feel and charm with originals, jazz, classical guitar, folk, blues, rhythm and blues, and the American songbook.

He is also known as a powerful singer/songwriter with a wide array of songs, vocal and instrumental, that reflect his broad approach. His powerful harmonica playing, in sync with his guitar, adds a real impact to his songs and stories.

He has been a featured performer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since 1981. Although best known as a soloist, he performs with many ensembles, including the New Orleans Guitar Masters, the NOLA String Kings, and The Classic Jazz Trio. He was named a Jazz All-Star by New Orleans Magazine in 2007, and won two Big Easy Awards for Best Folk Music (1992 and 2002). He also was a winner of the 1985 American Finger-Style Guitar Festival.

He has taught guitar and songwriting at Loyola University New Orleans for over thirty years, as well as Tulane University, University of New Orleans, and Xavier University. He was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in Music Education award in 2012 by Offbeat Magazine for his commitment to teaching.

He currently has four CD’s available. In March of 2010 he produced, recorded, and released The Classic Jazz Trio, a CD of New Orleans traditional jazz with clarinetists Tom Sancton and Tom Fischer. In April 2008 he released the CD Last in April First in May, an original instrumental guitar album. His 2005 CD, Fess’ Mess, an eclectic mix with solos, duos, trios, and bands playing New Orleans jazz, R & B, and original vocals and instrumentals. In 2002 he released Guitar Gumbo, a solo guitar CD with a variety of New Orleans musical styles, which was voted a top ten Louisiana CD for 2002 by Gambit magazine and top 20 Louisiana CD for 2002 by The New Orleans Times Picayune States Item. He previously released an album of original music, Something I Ate.

Helen Gillet will discuss life and music at When Not Performing on Thursday, November 19, at 2:45pm CST. She will perform at Mid-Day Music: Helen Gillet on Friday, November 20, at 12:30 pm.

Belgian-born cellist, singer, composer, improviser and producer Helen Gillet grew up in Singapore, Chicago and Wisconsin before moving to New Orleans in 2002. Gillet has a B.A. in Music & Anthropology from Beloit College and a M.A. in Cello Performance from Loyola University in New Orleans. From 1998 to 2000, she studied with North Indian Hindustani cellist Nancy Lesh, sparking her deep interest in improvisation. Though Gillet had only just begun to experiment with jazz prior to her arrival, she quickly flourished into one of the most unique, talented, and beloved artists in the Crescent City. As trumpeter Michael Ray (Cool and the Gang, Sun Ra) noted after playing a late night jam session at a Marigny neighborhood coffee shop with her in 2004, "Helen, you've got big ears."

Gillet has performed at a wide array of venues all over the world including The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Festival International (Lafayette, LA), Copenhagen Jazz Festival and Hindsgavl Festival in Denmark, Nikodemuskirche Festival in Berlin, Mirano Oltre Festival in Italy, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and MONA Mofo festival in Hobart, Tasmania and Darwin Music Festival in Australia and Lincoln Center in NYC.

She has recorded, toured and performed with a wide array of musicians including Jason Marsalis, Kid Koala, Dr. John, Arcade Fire, Steve Earle, Iron and Wine, Marianne Faithful, Psychedelic Furs, Bill Summers, Cassandra Wilson, Johnny Vidacovich etc…

She’s known for her eclectic palette – which includes avant-garde jazz, French chansons, funk, alternative rock, and the bohemian flair of the Velvet Underground. Gillet’s solo performance is known for its enigmatic quality as she fabricates each song with a true mastery of live looping technology.

Brad Richard curated and will moderate Queering the South: LGBTQ+ Writers on Home, Love, and History  on Thursday, November 19, at 4:00 pm CST.

Brad Richard is the author of four collections of poetry–Habitations, Motion Studies, Butcher’s Sugar, Parasite Kingdom–and three chapbooks, The Men in the Dark, Curtain Optional, and Larval Songs. Recipient of numerous awards for his writing and teaching, he was named the 2015 Louisiana Artist of the Year. Retired chair of the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, he teaches for the Kenyon Review summer workshops and for New Orleans Writers Workshop. He lives and writes in New Orleans.

Megan Volpert will speak at Queering the South: LGBTQ+ Writers on Home, Love, and History on Thursday, November 19, at 4:00 pm CST.

Megan Volpert is author or editor of over a dozen books on popular culture, including two Lambda Literary Award finalists and an American Library Association honoree. She won Georgia Author of the Year for her newest work, Boss Broad (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019). Volpert has been teaching public high school English in Atlanta for over a decade and was 2014 Teacher of the Year. She writes for PopMatters and has edited anthologies of philosophical essays on the music of Tom Petty and the television series RuPaul’s Drag Race.

M'Bilia Meekers will speak at Queering the South: LGBTQ+ Writers on Home, Love, and History  on Thursday, November 19, at 4:00 pm CST.

With roots in Belgium and Sierra Leone, M'Bilia Meekers is a queer Black poet from New Orleans, Louisiana. With an MFA from New York University, she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Poets & Writers, and The Watering Hole. Her verse has previously appeared in the New Yorker, Best New Poets, Foglifter, Guernica, and more. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Matthew Draughter will speak at Queering the South: LGBTQ+ Writers on Home, Love, and History  on Thursday, November 19, at 4:00 pm CST.

Matthew Draughter is a poet, producer and filmmaker, born and raised from New Orleans. Through living in Paris, Chicago, and San Francisco, and Portland he has explored the world and uses those experiences to create stories and work that bring communities together. His work spans topics of race, sexuality, and masculinity often through queer, afro-centric lenses.

Kelly Harris-DeBerry will read from her new book, "Freedom Knows My Name" at Keynote & Reading with Jarvis DeBerry & Kelly Harris-DeBerry on Thursday, November 19, at 5:15 pm.

Kelly Harris-DeBerry received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Cave Canem. Some of her publishing credits include: 400yrs: The story of Black people in poems written from love 1619–2019, Words Beats & Life The Global Journal of Hip Hop, Angles in the Wilderness: Young and Black in New Orleans and Beyond, Torch Literary Magazine, The National Parks Service Centennial Commemoration publication with Sonia Sanchez, Yale University's Caduceus Journal, Southern Review, Say it Loud: Poems for James Brown and many more. Her podcast episode for About Place Journal called Congo Square: Sustaining the Sacred Post-Katrina highlights her talents as a producer and researcher. Kelly is a former guest poetry editor for Bayou Magazine at the University of New Orleans. She serves her literary community as the New Orleans Poets & Writers’ Literary Coordinator and on various community boards. Kelly is a cultural leader with business savvy.

Jarvis DeBerry will read from his new book, "I Feel to Believe" at Keynote & Reading with Jarvis DeBerry & Kelly Harris-DeBerry on Thursday, November 19, at 5:15 pm.

Jarvis DeBerry worked for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans from 1997 to 2019, first as a reporter and as an editorial writer and columnist for | The Times-Picayune. DeBerry was part of the team of journalists that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. DeBerry was awarded first prize for column writing in the annual contest sponsored by the Louisiana/Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors Association multiple years. In 2016 he won the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Award in commentary. Currently, he is the editor-in-chief of Louisiana Illuminator and the author of I Feel To Believe: Collected Columns published by UNO Press.

Megan Braden-Perry will interview Jarvis DeBerry and Kelly Harris-DeBerry at  Keynote & Reading with Jarvis DeBerry & Kelly Harris-DeBerry on Thursday, November 19, at 5:15 pm.

Megan Braden-Perry is a published author, award-winning freelance journalist, public speaker, photographer and multigenerational New Orleans native. Her books include Crescent City Snow: The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans Snowball Stands (UL Press, 2017) and Allen the Alligator Counts Through New Orleans: A New Orleans Kids’ Counting Book (2014).

Previously she was a news reporter and feature writer for | The Times-Picayune and for Gambit Weekly. She started at Gambit as an intern, and started a weekly greater New Orleans public transit travelogue, “Public Transit Tuesdays,” for which she won a 2013 Press Club of New Orleans Excellence in Journalism award. She won another for her work in the fashion and beauty pullout, CUE.

Her byline has appeared in Parents Magazine, Today Show, ApartmentTherapy, Essence, NY Daily News, Thrillist, Jezebel, The New Orleans Advocate, Very Local New Orleans, OffBeat, and Where Traveler. She’s covered everything, including New Orleans culture, food, crime, education, parenting, religion, Black culture, Creole culture, travel and politics.

In 2019, she was awarded the Jack Jones Literary Arts retreat Roxane Gay fellowship in prose, for her upcoming novel Greener Grass, Different Drummer. She’s on the board of 826 New Orleans and is a very proud product of Orleans Parish Public Schools (McDonogh 39, Lusher, Ben Franklin and McDonogh 35) and of HBCUs (Dillard University and Southern University). She’s also a graduate of Urban League of Louisiana’s ULEAD, Urban Leaders for Equity and Diversity, and she’s taught elementary through high school at New Orleans charter schools.

When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her son Franklin. Her best friend Jenny says she’ll “talk to the Devil for a sandwich,” and that is the most accurate biographical detail to date.

Alex Jennings will moderate Immortal Lives in Speculative Fiction on Friday, November 20, at 10:15 am.

Alex Jennings is a teacher, author, and performer living in New Orleans. His writing has appeared in, podcastle, The Peauxdunque Review, Obsidian Lit, the Locus-Award-winning Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, and in numerous anthologies including Stories for Chip, New Suns: Speculative Fiction by People of Color, and Spicy Slipstream Stories. His debut collection, Here I Come and Other Stories was released by Fight On! Publications in 2012. He also serves as MC and co-producer of Dogfish, a monthly literary readings series. He is a graduate of Clarion West (2003) and the University of New Orleans. He was born in Wiesbaden (Germany) and raised in Gaborone (Botswana), Paramaribo (Surinam), and Tunis (Tunisia) as well as the United States. Find out more at

Jamey Hatley will discuss Immortal Lives in Speculative Fiction on Friday, November 20, at 10:15 am.

Jamey Hatley is a Memphian obsessed with stories in ruin, at the very edge of being forgotten. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford American, Memphis Noir, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. She was a Prose Fellow for the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award Winner, and the inaugural Indie Memphis Black Screenwriting Fellow (selected by Barry Jenkins). She wrote, directed, and produced a short film based on her story-essay, “Always Open, The Eureka Hotel” which was an official selection of the 2019 Indie Memphis Film Festival and the Black Film Festival of New Orleans. Ms. Hatley is a member of the Writers Guild of America, East. 

Megan Giddings will discuss Immortal Lives in Speculative Fiction on Friday, November 20, at 10:15 am.

Megan Giddings is the fiction editor at The Offing and a senior features editor at The Rumpus. Her work has received a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund award for feminist fiction and been published in places such as Black Warrior Review, Catapult, The Iowa Review, and The Southeast Review. Megan's first novel, Lakewood, was published by Amistad in March 2020.

Melissa A Weber will lead a discussion about Writing Music on Friday, November 20, at 11:30 am.

Hailing from New Orleans, Melissa A. Weber serves as curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive, a division of Tulane University Special Collections, and is an adjunct professor in the College of Music and Media at Loyola University New Orleans. As a music researcher, historian, and educator who is pursuing her M.A. in musicology, she has presented papers related to popular music studies at various academic conferences. In her spare time and for the past two decades, she has hosted her "Soul Power" show on WWOZ FM community radio and, also under the artist moniker of DJ Soul Sister, has won awards for her live performances, and was featured in Nelson George's Finding the Funk documentary and the book Dust and Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting.

Joel Dinerstein will speak about Writing Music on Friday, November 20, at 11:30 am.

Joel Dinerstein is Professor of English at Tulane University in New Orleans and holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas. He is the author of Swinging the Machine (2003), a theory of early jazz and industrialization, American Cool (2014), and The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (2017), a cultural history of jazz, film, urban cool, existentialism, and African-American literature. He teaches classes on jazz, blues, and literature, and has published many articles about New Orleans music and culture. For a decade, he was a jazz DJ on WWOZ-FM in New Orleans, the city's global jazz and heritage station. He has served as a consultant for jazz and popular music for HBO's Boardwalk Empire, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Putumayo Records.

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson

Kyle DeCoste will speak about Writing Music on Friday, November 20, at 11:30 am.

Kyle DeCoste is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University. His writing broadly considers the intersections of race, gender, and class in popular music. He holds a BA in music and arts administration from Bishop’s University and an MA in musicology from Tulane University where his thesis applied an intersectional framework to the music of New Orleans’ only all-female brass band, the Original Pinettes. He is co-author with the Stooges Brass Band of Can’t Be Faded: Twenty Years in the New Orleans Brass Band Game (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). His articles have been published in Ethnomusicology, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and SEM Student News.

Tony Bolden will speak about Writing Music on Friday, November 20, at 11:30 am.

Tony Bolden is a former resident of New Orleans and received much of his intellectual foundation from the city. After moving from California to attend Dillard University he spent over a decade as a writer and actor in community-based black organizations. Bolden was the youngest member of Congo Square Writers Union whose members formed the core of BLKARTSOUTH and Free Southern Theater, led by Tom Dent, and included Kalamu ya Salaam, Quo Vadis Gex-Breaux, Felipe Smith, civil rights attorney Lolis Elie, and other local writers. Bolden later turned his attention to writing criticism. His publications include Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture, The Funk Era and Beyond: New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture, “The Funk Issue,” a book-length, guest-edited special issue of American Studies that includes eleven articles as well as poems, paintings, and photos on funk. Bolden is Editor of The Langston Hughes Review and his most recent work is Groove Theory: The Blues Foundation of Funk which will be published in November.

Randy Fertel holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University (1981) and is the author of two award-winning books: A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation which novelist Tim O’Brien called, “a stunner of a book – smart, jarring, innovative, witty, provocative, wise, and beautifully written;” and The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir, now in its 4th printing.

In 2018 Fertel founded of the annual Improv Conference New Orleans: A Festival of Ideas and serves as Creative Director. ( He is president of the Fertel Foundation and the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, named for his mother Ruth Fertel, founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. In 2003 he founded the Ridenhour Prizes for Courageous Truth-telling in honor of the My Lai whistleblower Ron Ridenhour ( A member of many boards, he is a Trustee Emeritus of the Kenyon Review.

He lives in New Orleans and New York.

Stephen Nachmanovitch performs and teaches internationally as an improvisational violinist, and at the intersections of multimedia, performing arts, humanities, ecology, and philosophy. He is the author of two books on the creative process, The Art of Is (2019) and Free Play (1990). Born in 1950, he graduated in 1971 from Harvard in psychology and in 1975 from the University of California, where he earned a Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness for an exploration of William Blake.

His mentor was the anthropologist and philosopher Gregory Bateson. He has taught and lectured widely in the United States and abroad on creativity and the spiritual underpinnings of art. In the 1970s he was a pioneer in free improvisation on violin, viola and electric violin. Nachmanovitch has presented master classes and workshops at many conservatories and universities, and has had numerous appearances on radio, television, and at music and theater festivals. He has collaborated with other artists in media including music, dance, theater, and film, and has developed programs melding art, music, literature, and computer technology. He has published articles in a variety of fields since 1966, and has created computer software including The World Music Menu and Visual Music Tone Painter. He has been a student and practitioner of Buddhism for over 40 years and integrates into his teaching a Zen approach to creativity. Nachmanovitch continues to teach, write, and perform, and ways to extend ideas about the ecology of mind into the 21st century. He lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Annell Lopez curated and will moderate a discussion of  Home and Haunting in contemporary fiction on Friday, November 20, at 4:45 pm CST.

Annell López is a Dominican immigrant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Hobart, New Orleans Review, Cagibi and elsewhere. Annell is an Assistant Poetry Editor for The Night Heron Barks. She is working on a collection of short stories. Follow her: @annellthebookbabe on Instagram and @AnnellLopez2 on Twitter.

Michael Zapata is a founding editor of the award-winning MAKE Literary Magazine. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction; the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award; and a Pushcart Nomination. As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing drop out students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans,Italy,and

Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family. His first novel, "The Lost Book of Adana Moreau," was published this year.


Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, born and raised in New Orleans, studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her most recent novel, The Revisioners, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and a George Garrett New Writing Award; was a California and Northern California Book Award finalist and a Willie Morris Award for Southern Writing finalist; was nominated for The 2020 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award and the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize; and was a national bestseller as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, won the Crook's Corner Book Prize, and was the recipient of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her work has been published in The Paris Review; O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times Book Review; and other publications. She lives in Oakland with her family.

Maisy Card is a writer and a public librarian. Her debut novel, These Ghosts are Family, was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and was longlisted for The Center For Fiction's First Novel Prize. Her writing has appeared in Lenny Letter, School Library Journal, AGNI, Lit Hub, Guernica and other publications. Her short story, "The True Death of Abel Paisley," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018.

Maisy was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, but was raised in Jamaica, New York. She earned an MFA from Brooklyn College, an MLIS from Rutgers University and a BA in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University. She is currently an instructor for Sackett Street Writers' Workshop.

Photo Credit Marian Calle

Robert W. Fieseler is the 2019 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association "Journalist of the Year" and the acclaimed debut author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation -- winner of the Edgar Award and the Louisiana Literary Award, shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Queer literary icon Andrew Holleran reviewed Tinderbox as "far more than just a history of gay rights," and Michael

Cunningham praised it as "essential reading at any time." Fieseler graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia Journalism School and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. He lives with his husband and dog in the Bywater.


Beth Ann Fennelly, a 2020 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, is the poet laureate of Mississippi and teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi. She’s won grants and awards from the N.E.A., the United States Artists, a Pushcart, and a Fulbright to Brazil.

Fennelly has published three books of poetry and three of prose, most recently, Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, which was a Goodreaders Favorite and an Atlanta Journal Constitution Best Book. She lives with her husband, Tom Franklin, and their three children In Oxford, MS.

Photo Credit: Maude Schuyler Clay

Sarah M. Broom is a writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, and O Magazine, among others. She is the recipient of the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book for her memoir, The Yellow House. A native New Orleanian, she received her Master’s in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004.

She was awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant in 2016 and was a finalist for the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in 2011. She has also been awarded fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in Harlem. 

TaRessa Stovall was born a Jazz Baby in Seattle, Washington when much of the country was racially segregated and her parents’ marriage was illegal in 16 states. Her new memoir, SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA, reveals how she grew up battling society—and sometimes her closest loved ones—to forge her identity on her own terms, was released in April 2020 by Alchemy Media Publishing.

An author from the age of seven, TaRessa has written several poems, books, and plays on various topics, including racial identity and the impact of colorism on People of Color.

TaRessa is an award-winning journalist whose works have been featured in USA Weekend, the Courier-Post, The Montclair (NJ) Times, The Defenders Online, and several other platforms. An official “Super Fan” of the OWN television series, “Queen Sugar,” TaRessa is the proud mother of a son and a daughter, both multi-talented Millennial writers and creatives. She lives in Atlanta and stirs things up on social media. Find her at, on Facebook as TaRessa Stovall, and on Twitter and Instagram @taressatalks.

Morris Ardoin lives in Manhattan, and Cornwallville, New York. He has spent his career working with nonprofit organizations focusing on health care, global migration, family poverty, and education. His first book, a compilation of immigrant stories for the global organization Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), provides first-person accounts of survivors of the Holocaust and other historic events that spurred migration to America.

His second book, "Stone Motel - Memoirs of a Cajun Boy" (April 2020 from University Press of Mississippi) started out as a short-story collection, but morphed into memoir after much soul-searching. He is working on a third book, "Fix Me a Plate - Food from 'Stone Motel - Memoirs of a Cajun Boy" and Other Recipes'. Cooking, writing, reading, painting, and travel keep him amused and excited to be alive. His blog, "(Parenthetically Speaking)" can be found at: 

A poet of the street Jane 'SpokenWord' Grenier represents the spoken word as it is meant to be experienced, raw, uncensored and thought provoking. Her résumé encompasses many distinguished artists including the founder of the Nuyorican poets cafe Miguel Algarin, Beat Poet John Sinclair, Avant-garde jazz poet Steve Dalachinsky, Improviser Albey 'onBass' Balgochian and a notable performance at The Whitney Museum of American Art with Avant-Garde Maestro Cecil Taylor which garnered All About Jazz's Best of 2016.

Combining the elements of spoken word, music, sound and rhythm "Like those of the Jazz poets, the Beats, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron and others - her partner Albey Balgochian ads double the gut-punch to Grenier's words with his moaning, groaning, rumbling contrabass." Grenier’s intention is to preserve the cultural heritage of wording to document life, and foster a broader collective community, from solos, to slams, duo's, and bands, she brings her poetry to a diverse set of venues including museums, festivals, libraries, slam lounges, art galleries, clubs, busking street corners and living rooms everywhere. She has authored two books of poetry with music by co-author Albey onBass, 'Word Against the Machine' and 'Tragically Hip' and is published in several anthologies: TV Baby A collection of Lower East Side artists - OHWOW, Shadow of The Geode - Bonsia Press, Stars in the Fire and Palabras Luminosas - Rogue Scholars Express and the National Beat Poetry Anthologies 2019 & 2020.

Justin Rogers will read at Poets, Presidents, and Pandemics: A Reading for These Times on Friday, November 20, at 8:00 pm CST.

Justin Rogers is a Black poet, educator, coach, and editor from Detroit, Michigan. Rogers shares poems surrounding living and praying as a Black man in America and explores fantasy through Pop Culture. He most recently has work published in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gramma Press, is author of micro-zine “Nostalgia as Black Matilda (Rinky Dink Press 2017) and released his chapbook Black. Matilda. in 2019 with Glass Poetry Press. He is the coordinator of InsideOut’s award winning after school program, Citywide Poets and is the active Literary Outreach Coordinator for Detroit through Poets & Writers.

Karisma Price (she/her) is from New Orleans, LA, and holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Four Way Review, The Southampton Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere.

She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and New York University and was a finalist for the 2019 Manchester Poetry Prize. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry at Tulane University.


Poet, teacher, and activist Lupe Mendez is the author of the poetry collection Why I Am Like Tequila (Willow Books, 2019), winner of the Texas Institute of Letters' 2019 John A. Robertson Best First Book of Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in Kenyon Review, Poetry Magazine, and Gulf Coast, among others. Lupe earned an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the University of Texas at El Paso and lives in Houston, where he has worked as an educator for more than 20 years.

Currently, he serves as Poets & Writers' Literary Outreach Coordinator for Houston and was recently named as Festival Coordinator for SIN MUROS, Houston's first Latinx Theatre Festival, for Stages Houston's 2020 - 2021 Season.

Tyehimba Jess is our featured reader at Poets, Presidents, and Pandemics: A Reading for These Times on Friday, November 20, at 8:00 pm CST.

Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and Olio. Olio won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005."

Learn more about Jess at

Learn more about his favorite literary organization, Cave Canem, at

Photo Credit: John Midgley

Quartez Harris will hold the Youth Poetry Workshop with Quartez Harris on Saturday, November 14, at 11:00 am. It will be broadcast during the Words & Music Festival.

Quartez Harris was born in Springfield, Ohio. he is the author of the debut full-length collection We Made It To School Alive , forthcoming from Twelve Arts Press and full-length poetry collection Nothing, But Skin published in 2014 by Writing Knights Press. he is the first recipient of the Barbara Smith Writer fellowship from Twelve Literary Arts. his work appeared in the “Garden of Black Joy” poetry anthology published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing. he was selected as a Baldwin House Fellow and featured reader for the 2019 Cleveland Drafts Festival. He was courted by Mckinnon Literary agency to produce his forthcoming Young Adult Novel. he is an educator and lives in Cleveland Ohio with his son. 

Maurice Carlos Ruffin will moderate Justice and Inclusiveness of Vision in the Modern Southern Periodical: Editors' Roundtable Discussion on Saturday, November 21, at 10:15 am.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of We Cast a Shadow, which was published by One World Random House. The novel was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. It was longlisted for the Center for Fiction Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The novel was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction and the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award for Novel-in-Progress. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Oxford American, Garden & Gun, and Kenyon Review. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. His next book The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You will be published by One World Random House in 2021.

Lovey Cooper is Managing Editor of Scalawag, a nonprofit journalism and storytelling organization that unsettles dominant narratives about the South. Lovey joined Scalawag in 2017, becoming its sole full time employee last year. This year, she guided the organization's transition away from its print magazine towards a reciprocal membership model.

Lovey has served as a contributing editor with 100 Days in Appalachia, and previously worked with various education and policy outlets and nonprofits in Washington, DC. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, Salon, Vice, and elsewhere. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, near her upbringings in rural Orange County.

Josina Guess will take part in  Justice and Inclusiveness of Vision in the Modern Southern Periodical: Editors' Roundtable Discussion on Saturday, November 21, at 10:15 am.

Josina Guess is the managing editor of The Bitter Southerner and she loves harvesting stories about the South in all its complexity. She was born in a yellow trailer at The Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Epes, Alabama, and grew up in Washington, D.C., where she attended D.C. public schools and regular protests. She has a bachelor's in art from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She lived in Philadelphia for 11 years before settling in rural northeast Georgia. Josina lives on 4 acres of land where she tends to family, animals, and some fruits and vegetables. Read more at Twitter and Instagram: Josina Guess.

Eliza Borné will take part in Justice and Inclusiveness of Vision in the Modern Southern Periodical: Editors' Roundtable Discussion on Saturday, November 21, at 10:15 am.

Eliza Borné is the editor of the Oxford American magazine. She has edited essays and stories that have been honored by the Best American series, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and elsewhere; in 2016, she accepted the OA’s National Magazine Award in General Excellence. She is the OA’s third editor in the magazine’s 28-year history.

Robin Barnes performs Mid-Day Music.

With a voice that is as powerful with a whisper as it is with a bellow, contemporary New Orleans jazz singer Robin Barnes is here to stun audiences.

Robin grew up surrounded by jazz sounds, as made evident by a #5 debut on the Traditional Jazz Albums Billboard charts in 2016, but her current sound, Robin Barnes & the Fiya Birds, is more Chaka Khan meets Ella Fitzgerald.

Cheryl Gerber is an award-winning documentary photographer working in her native New Orleans. She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times, the Associated Press, New Orleans Magazine, and Gambit for more than 25 years. Her book “New Orleans: Life and Death in the Big Easy” by UL Press is in its second edition.

Her new book “Cherchez La Femme: New Orleans Women” by the UPM was released January 2020.

Photo by Greg Miles


Leigh Wright is a writer, researcher, and explorer who uses ethnographic insights to support and promote underrepresented communities.

She is the winner of a Qualitative Research Consultants Association grant, a member of the Explorers Club, and an International Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2015, she founded the New Orleans branch of Travel Impact Alliance in connection with the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her travel research and writing have taken her from the American Southeast to Paris, Belize, Jamaica, and Cambodia.

Candice Detillier-Huber will be moderating Reimagining Memory:  Historical and Fantasy Fiction at 2:45 pm on Saturday.

Candice Huber (they/them) is a sixth generation New Orleanian who owns New Orleans’ premier geeky, queer, and progressive bookstore, Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop, named after their grandparents. Candice also serves on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Task Force for the American Booksellers Association and is a writing, editing, publishing, and virtual event consultant. In the before-times, they hosted The Writers’ Forum on WRBH Reading Radio, focusing on interviewing science fiction and fantasy authors. Candice established TALES Publishing in 2018, which has thus far published three books.

Marita Woywod Crandle will discuss Reimagining Memory: Historical and Fantasy Fiction on Saturday, November 21, at 2:45 pm CST.

Marita Woywod Crandle has always had a fancy for the magical side of life, making New Orleans, with its very creative atmosphere, a perfect match for this German transplant.

Marita enjoyed a successful career in Marketing while living in California. Her past positions include ad designer and staff writer for the Beverly Hills Courier Newspaper, Director of Marketing for George Elkins Company Real Estate, Director of Marketing for Coldwell Banker, President of Marketing for Home Savings of America, and Director of Marketing for Ashten Products.

Once she stepped foot in the French Quarter, her life changed, and she was drawn immediately to New Orleans, where she quickly became ingrained in the city.

Marita is married to Steven Crandle of New Orleans, and together they run the Boutique du Vampyre and a private vampire speakeasy - Potions. Marita has a passion for animals and has rescued over 650 dogs since she has moved to the French Quarter and has placed them all in fairytale homes. She and her husband currently live both in the French Quarter and in Lake Front with their German Shepherd Atlas and their rescued cockatiel, Voodoo.

Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the Vieux Carré. After graduating from the University of New Orleans, she spent many years in New York City and has worked all around the world since. One dreamy day in London, she started writing a story about her mystical hometown.

Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before it was acquired by Skyscape. The fourth book in the series, The Gates of Guinée, will be released January 19th , 2021. Her debut graphic novel: Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend will be released April 13th, 2021 (DC Comics.)

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Middle Grade historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, The Book of Lost Saints, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last Shot, and the award winning Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher, which won the International Latino Book Award and was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, the Mythopoeic Award, and named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

He is a lead story architect on the Star Wars cross platform initiative The High Republic. He co-wrote the upcoming graphic novel Death’s Day and writes the monthly IDW comic book series The High Republic Adventures. You can find more info and read about his decade long career as an NYC paramedic at

Stacey Balkun will moderate Heartbreak or Research?  Poets on the Writing Process at 4:00 pm on Saturday.

Stacey Balkun is the author of SWEETBITTER (Sundress 2021) and co-editor of Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry. Winner of the 2019 New South Writing Contest as well as’s 10th Annual Contest, her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2018 as well as other anthologies & journals. Stacey holds an MFA from Fresno State and teaches creative writing online at The Poetry Barn & The Loft. Visit her online at

Photo credit: Ben Aleshire

Elizabeth Gross is a poet/translator/teacher/artist in New Orleans. this body/that lightning show, her first full-length collection, was selected by Jericho Brown for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection of The Word Works, and came out in 2019.

DEAR ESCAPE ARTIST, a chapbook in collaboration with artist Sara White, came out from Antenna in 2016. She co-translated and produced a new adaptation of Euripides’ Bakkhai at the Marigny Opera House in 2015. Her poems have appeared in the Fairy Tale Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, New Orleans Review, and other journals. She teaches interdisciplinary humanities for the Honors Program at Tulane University and co-organizes The Waves Reading Series, showcasing LGBTQIA+ writers.

Melinda Palacio grew up in Huntington Park and now lives in Santa Barbara and New Orleans. She holds two degrees in Comparative Literature, a B.A. from Berkeley and an M.A. from UC Santa Cruz. She is a regular contributor to La Bloga.

Melinda is a 2007 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellow and a 2009 alum of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place 2009 award. Her novel, Ocotillo Dreams, received the Mariposa Award and a 2012 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. Her first full-length poetry collection, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press 2012), was a finalist for the Milt Kessler and the Paterson Prize and received First Prize in Poetry at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards . In 2015, her work was featured on the Academy of American Poets, Poem-a-Day Program. Melinda's new book is Bird Forgiveness (3: a Taos Press 2018).

Rebecca Morgan Frank is the author of Oh You Robot Saints!, forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon in February 2021, as well as Sometimes We're All Living in a Foreign Country (Carnegie Mellon 2017); The Spokes of Venus (Carnegie Mellon 2016); and Little Murders Everywhere (Salmon Poetry 2012), a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is the recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission Fellowship and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry Ireland, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The Southern Review, and elsewhere, and her collaborations with composers have been performed and exhibited across the U.S. She is co-founder and editor of the online magazine Memorious.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil will read at Heartbreak, or Research? : Poets on the Writing Process on Saturday, November 21, at 4:00 pm CST.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of a book of nature essays, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS, which was recently named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in non-fiction, and four poetry collections. Awards for her writing include fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Council, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her writing has appeared in NYTimes Magazine, ESPN, and Best American Poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

photo credit: Caroline Beffa Photography

Kim Vaz-Deville is a guest co-curator, along with Ron Bechet, of "Mystery in Motion: African American Spirituality in Mardi Gras" which opens in January 2021 at the Louisiana State Museum Presbytere unit. She is the editor of Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans, University Press of Mississippi, 2018, a celebration of a unique women's masking and marching tradition.

Vaz-Deville is also the author of "The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition" Louisiana University Press, 2013 and guest co-curator of "They Call Me Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition" presented by the Louisiana State Museum in 2013. She is a professor of education at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Gerber

Divine Prince Ty Emmecca will discuss Mystery in Motion: African American Spirituality in Mardi Gras on Saturday, November 21, at 5:15 pm CST.

Divine Prince Ty Emmecca is a Pan African Spiritualist, Practitioner, Advisor, Psychic Spiritualist, Voodoo Priest and Practitioner of ATR (African Traditional Religious Systems). The Divine Prince is also a local New Orleans Actor and Cultural Performer in Historic Treme. He is a long time member and advisor to Congo Square Preservation Society and is a masking New Orleans Black Carnival Indian (Maroon), as well as a licensed, registered Minister. He has been active in ministry for over 45 years, formerly serving as minister of Music in the Black Spiritualist and Apostolic Churches.

Divine Prince Ty is a daily internet Podcast Broadcaster: Blog Talk Radio! Host | Member since Dec 23, 2008

Peteh Muhammad Haroon will participate in Mystery in Motion: African American Spirituality in Mardi Gras on Saturday, November 21, at 5:15 pm CST.

Peteh Muhammad Haroon is a poet and spoken word artist, who shares empowering, inspiring messages in distinct rhythms. He was a founding member of New Orleans’ NOMMO Literary Society in 1995 and since then has practiced ongoing creativity with words, sounds and stories through numerous poems and poetry readings locally throughout New Orleans and nationally at private venues and universities. His work is published in the 2020 anthology, I Am New Orleans: 36 Poets Revisit Marcus Christian’s Definitive Poem and the 1998 anthology, From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets.

In 1996, Peteh moved to Chicago, the headquarters of The Nation Of Islam, as a registered Member. He has been serving in the capacity of a student in the Ministry of Art and Culture ever since, building with creatives across genres and demographics. For decades Peteh M. Haroon has been called upon to bring his poetry to numerous cultural, spiritual and community events. In 2018, Peteh was invited to compose a poem and perform a poetry reading to bless the kick off of an international tour of Peace Drums. In 2020 Peteh was called on to craft a tribute poem to Mr. Ellis Marsalis. He then recorded the piece to music he collaboratively composed and coproduced.

Peteh participates in the Black Masking Indian cultural tradition as Trail Chief with the Golden Feather tribe. In 2019, in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of artistic creation in music and the promotion of his African cultural heritage, Peteh Haroon was awarded the House of Notables Honorary Title of Chief Ilunga, Chief of Unity, by Queen Diambi of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Along with this honor, Peteh was also recognized with a Proclamation by all members of the New Orleans City Council.

Chief Shaka Zulu will participate in Mystery in Motion: African American Spirituality in Mardi Gras on Saturday, November 21, at 5:15 pm CST.

Chief Shaka Zulu is a practicing Black Masking Indian (aka Mardi Gras Indian) who is a lecturer on the rich history and folklore of this rich New Orleans tradition.

As co-owner of Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Gallery, he runs one of the most unique establishments in the city, featuring his Lecture Series for tourists visiting from around the world and locals as well. In addition to his entrepreneurial work Chief Shaka is a musician, travelling the world playing percussive instruments with his company Zulu Connection and many notable New Orleans Jazz musicians. An innovator in African traditions, Chief Shaka is also the first to Mask as a Mardi Gras Indian stilt dancer, 14’ in the air. Committed to the growth and educational prosperity of the youth of New Orleans, Chief Shaka also manages and is an instructor for the youth summer cultural enrichment camp of Better Family Life, Inc., New Orleans Chapter.

Chief Shaka Zulu has exhibited his suits both nationally and internationally at museums and festivals. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, his suits were exhibited at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum. In 2015 his New Suit was featured in Berlin, Germany at Sounds of the City, an exhibit featuring the culture of New Orleans. Most recently his suit, “Shango” is permanently housed in The Netherlands at the Africa Museum. His Suit “ Shago Volume II” is currently on exhibit at Xavier University in collaboration with the Nigerian batik and adire textile designer Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye. This summer several of his suits will also be exhibited at Martha’s Vineyard Activation, a New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Event. The “Egyptology Volume, II” suit is exhibited at The Ritz Carlton penthouse in New Orleans and the “Dragon of Dragons” suit is on permanent exhibit at The Better Family Life Cultural Center in St. Louis, MO.

Chief Shaka is co-producer of the touring production, New Orleans Voices of Congo Square, a vibrant historical narrative of New Orleans Magical music, colorful dance and mysterious Indian Culture – the Black Carnival Traditions of New Orleans.

John Warner Smith is the current state poet laureate of Louisiana. Smith has published four collections of poetry, most recently Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018). His fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes, will be released this year.

Smith earned his MFA at the University of New Orleans and is a fellow of Cave Canem. He is a 2020 recipient of a fellowship awarded by the Academy of American Poets and is the winner of the 2019 Linda Hodge Bromberg Poetry Award. Smith lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Carmin Wong will lead the workshop Playwriting for Teens with Carmin Wong on Sunday, November 8, at 1:30pm. This intimate, interactive workshop will be broadcast on Sunday, November 22, at 9:30 am CST.

Carmin Wong is a Guyanese-born poet, playwright, and scholar of literature. A proud graduate of Howard University, she is currently an MFA creative writing poetry candidate at the University of New Orleans. Wong’s poems are featured in or forthcoming by Antenna, Ellipses, The Quarry, and Xavier Review. She was awarded a 2020 “pet project” grant from Jeremy O. Harris and The Bushwick Starr as well as Honorable Mention for the 2020 Andrea Saunders Gereighty/Academy of American Poets Poetry Award at UNO. She was also awarded a Furious Flower Summer Legacy fellowship and a national ACLU summer advocacy fellowship. Wong has performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Scholastic Auditorium, and Lincoln Center, and her poems have been featured on-air for WRBH: Reading Radio. Additionally, her stage-play debut occurred at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

She has served as an associate poetry editor of Bayou Magazine, and as a juror for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the Scholastic national Art & Writing Awards. Along with her creative endeavors, Wong's scholarship has been accepted into conferences, including, the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA), College Language Association (CLA), Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers (GCACWT), and the Research Association of Minority Professors (RAMP). Her presentations have also been accepted into the Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit and Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Wong is the founder of What You Reading? The Series literary podcast.

Aye B. Diallo is part of the discussion Affirming Voices: Howard University Graduates on Black Intellectualism as Resistance on Sunday, November 22, at 10:00 am CST.

As a young Guinean child residing in Atlanta Georgia, Aye B. Diallo has seen the world from a different perspective than her peers. In a household where her parents were immigrants and had to apply for an American citizenship, Diallo became the only first-generation American amongst her two siblings. It was observing her parents’ citizenship process that indubitably sparked her interest in politics, as she went on to earn a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Economics from Howard University as a Gates Millennium Scholar.

Diallo’s love for international relations grew in college when she studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and San Jose, Costa Rica. Recently, she was an associate at Hamilton Place Strategies in Washington, D.C., where she used her insight on the global world to lead research efforts and national campaigns.

Since COVID-19, she has decided to return back to Atlanta, where she leads fundraisers for the local Guinean community. Diallo is currently open for work.

Sadiyah Malcolm will discuss Affirming Voices: Howard University Graduates on Black Intellectualism as Resistance on Sunday, November 22, at 10:00 am CST.

Sadiyah Malcolm is a doctoral candidate studying sociology at the University of Michigan. The Philadelphia native is a proud alumna of Howard University, where she earned undergraduate degrees in both sociology and Afro-American studies and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Sadiyah is the founder of SELaH (Sistas Elevating Learning and Healing), which was founded in 2010 with a foremost commitment to empowering girls through community building, literacy, and the arts. Through SELaH, she remains active in community engagement, developing mentoring and recreational programs such as the Black Girls Lit(eracy) Project, ‘Youths fi Learn’, and educational curricula for adjudicated teen girls. Her research places Black girls at the center, specifically examining matters related to emerging adulthood and the factors which shape the period of adolescence in the life course of young Black women. Sadiyah has been featured by NPR and Wallace House, and her research has been supported by the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, the Rackham Graduate School, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Institute for Social Research. Her current project is based in Downtown Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.

Tierra Jackson will discuss Affirming Voices: Howard University Graduates on Black Intellectualism as Resistance on Sunday, November 22, at 10:00 am CST.

Tierra Jackson is a CT native and corporate professional who is committed to seeing others reach their maximum potential. Currently, Jackson is the Senior Analyst on Comcast NBCUniversal’s Workforce DE&I team, where she develops and implements strategic initiatives geared towards creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment for the company’s employees.

Outside of work, she serves as the founder of 518 Rebirth, a platform that helps millennials identify their passions and encourages them to walk boldly in their God-given purpose. Just recently, Jackson started an Instagram Live series, #UnwindWednesday, where she converses with a diverse community of creatives and entrepreneurs and discusses key lessons in life, faith and business.

In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, she teaches women and men (ages 18+) dance routines in a variety of styles including, but not limited to: hip-hop, Jazz funk, heels, and dancehall with the company, LA Unbound.

When not working, you would be likely to find her serving at her local church, The Potter’s House of OneLA, or creating new experiences with her loves ones.


Skye Jackson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in RATTLE, Xavier Review, Rigorous, and elsewhere.

Her chapbook, A Faster Grave, won the 2019 Antenna Prize, and Poets & Writers recognized her as a New Orleans "Poet to Watch." Find her at or on Instagram at @skyeinthecity.

Rachel Ridgeway is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Rachel Ridgeway is a graduate of Dillard University with a Bachelors degree in Theatre. She is one of the first in her immediate family to graduate from college. Born and raised in the city of New Orleans, Rachel has always aspired to give back to her city while making her dreams come true. It wasn’t long before she started to put her skills to work. She serves as one of the Co-founders of her theatre company Cursive Art. Their company mission is to promote higher education, imagination, creativity and modern pieces of art. Cursive Art wants to reinstall morals and values into generations to come. She quotes, "The people of New Orleans have always been my foundation, so it is a must, that I give back to those, who have given to me". Rachel was fortunate enough to perform all over the city of New Orleans in arenas and theatres. She is a professional playwright, actress and singer who won't rest until the creative people in her city are granted more opportunities. She has a dream to perform all over the world and share the stage with different people from different cultures.

Lawrence J. Weber is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Lawrence J. Weber, Jr is an actor and native of New Orleans, LA. He is also a writer and director, Writing the short play Reunion for Infringe Fest and Directing a production of Zooman and the Sign for Dillard University. Recent credits include Pirates of Penzance, South Pacific, Peter Pan, Caroline, Or Change, and Ain’t Misbehavin’, the latter earning him a Big Easy Award for Best Ensemble. He would like to thank his family and friends for being the circle of support and love that every person should have in their lives.

Rodney Graham is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Rodney Graham is a professional actor by evening/day and a full time teaching artist by day/evening! He has been a part of several productions with No Dream Deferred, including String, 100 Plays for the First 100 Days, and most recently In the Red & Brown Water. Rodney is always looking to better his craft as an artist, and looks forward to continuing to do so with No Dream Deferred.

Angelo Cross is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Angelo Cross is originally from Chicago, IL. He is a graduate of Union College, Schenectady, NY (04’) and Lesley University, Cambridge, MA (‘08). It has always been a passion of his to bring stories to life. Some of his past theatre work has included SUCCESS by Becky Retz (Two for Tennessee Festival), The 24hr Play Festival, and Southern Rep's production of ALL THE WAY. He is excited about this opportunity to support No Dream Deferred Nola's mission of bringing culturally relevant work by marginalized playwrights to the forefront.

Brian Egland is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" , performed on Sunday, November 22.

Brian Egland is a Fall 2009 graduate and recipient of Outstanding Graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Performing Arts Department. As a playwright and creator his works have garnered him honors of excellence from Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region VI, have been Official Selections of the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, the D.C. Black Theatre Festival, micro development with The National Black Theatre as part of their I Am Soul Playwright’s Residency Program, placement in Southern Rep Theatre’s 4D program, and over sixty three thousand views across YouTube and IGTV with Workdays with Nijay, a web series he serves as co-writer. Also a performer of stage and film and a singer, Brain is excited to join No Dream Deferred in their collaboration with One Book One New Orleans.

Allyson Lee Brown is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" , performed on Sunday, November 22 at 12:00 pm CST.

A native of New Orleans, LA, Allyson Lee Brown received her MFA in Acting from the University of Washington School of Drama. She is also a proud graduate of the illustrious Spelman College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Drama. Her professional credits include Bulrusher (Intiman Theatre,) Citizen: An American Lyric (Sound Theatre/The Hansberry Project,) Skeleton Crew (ArtsWest Playhouse,) Milk Like Sugar (ArtsWest Playhouse) The Tempest (Seattle Shakespeare Company,) and the world premiere of Reparations (Sound Theatre/The Hansberry Project.) In addition to her passion for acting, Allyson enjoys mentoring, teaching and encouraging youth to tap into their greatness!

Adella Gautier is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Adella Gautier is an actor, storyteller, educator, cultural warrior, and mother. She tours as Adella Adella the Storyteller. She was Mrs. Williams in the original production of Ritual Murder. Gautier is the recipient of numerous awards, recognitions and fellowships; including the Big Easy Lifetime Achievement Award for Theater.

Brittany N. Williams is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Brittany N. Williams is an actress, singer, & writer. She is the 2019 Stage Door Idol and a New Orleanian by way of Baltimore, DC, Hong Kong, London, & NYC. Favorite credits: UNIVERSAL ROBOTS, MARGARET I, BOB MARLEY’S THREE LITTLE BIRDS, & her one-woman show MARY FULL OF GRAY. You can find Brittany on the web at & as @BrittanyActs on Twitter & IG.

Chakula cha Jua is a cast member of Tom Dent's "Ritual Murder" on Sunday, November 22, at 12:00 pm CST.

Chakula cha Jua is an actor, playwright and director of his own Chakula cha Jua Theater Company. A product of the historic Free Southern Theater, he has been an active participant in New Orleans community theater for more than forty years.