Official Panelists

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Katie Blount

Katie Blount

Katie Blount became director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History February 1, 2015. Blount began her career at MDAH in 1994 in the public information section. She went on to serve as deputy director for communication, overseeing the department’s strategic planning process and working with the team that planned the...

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, ...

Lonnie G. Bunch III

Lonnie G. Bunch III

Historian, author, curator, and educator, Lonnie G. Bunch, III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, who was appointed in June 2019. Prior to assuming this position, Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American...

Adam Clay

Adam Clay

Adam Clay is the author of To Make Room for the Sea (Milkweed Editions, 2020), Stranger (Milkweed Editions, 2016), A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012), and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). A fifth book of poems, Circle Back,...

Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and six picture books (including Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on...

James Dickson

James Dickson

James Dickson teaches English and Creative Writing at Germantown High School, just outside of Jackson, MS. An MFA graduate from the Bennington Writing Seminars, he is the recipient of Mississippi Arts Commission fellowships, was named High School Literary Magazine Advisor of the Year by the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, and...

Saddiq Dzukogi

Saddiq Dzukogi

Saddiq Dzukogi's poetry collection Your Crib, My Qibla (University of Nebraska Press, 2021) was named one of the 29 best poetry collections by Oprah Daily. His chapbook Inside the Flower Room was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. His...

Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz...

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly, a 2020 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, is the former 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....

Gregg Harper

Gregg Harper

First elected to Congress in 2009, Gregg served five terms representing Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. During his time in Congress, he served as a member of the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce which has jurisdiction over a broad swath of the economy including healthcare, energy, transportation, and telecommunications....

Kiese  Laymon

Kiese Laymon

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kiese Laymon, Ottilie Schillig Professor in English and Creative Writing and the University of Mississippi, is the author of the novel Long Division, the memoir Heavy, and the essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America<...

Candice Millard

Candice Millard

Candice Millard is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic. Her book Hero of the Empire was named Amazon's number one history book of 2016. She lives in Kansas City with her husband...

Joshua  Nguyen

Joshua Nguyen

Joshua Nguyen is the author of Come Clean (University of Wisconsin Press), winner of the 2021 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, and the chapbook, "American Lục Bát for My Mother" (Bull City Press, 2021). He is a Vietnamese-American writer, a collegiate national poetry slam champion (CUPSI), and a...

Catherine Pierce

Catherine Pierce

Catherine Pierce is the author of four books of poems: Danger Days (2020), The Tornado Is the World (2016), The Girls of Peculiar (2012), and Famous Last Words (2008), winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Each of her last three books received the Mississippi Institute...

Robert  St. John

Robert St. John

Robert St. John is the author of eleven books and owns the Crescent City Grill, Mahogany Bar, Tabella, Ed's Burger Joint, The Midtowner, and El Rayo Tex-Mex in Hattiesburg Mississippi. For twenty years, St. John has written a weekly syndicated newspaper column and has been named Mississippi's top chef numerous...

Anthony Thaxton

Anthony Thaxton

Anthony Thaxton has won awards as a painter, an educator, and a television producer and filmmaker. He produced the acclaimed documentary Walter Anderson: The Extraordinary Life and Art of The Islander with Robert St John and wrote/designed the companion book. Anthony's vibrant paintings have been featured on television and...

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated writer, poet, and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. For her seminal work The Color Purple, Ms. Walker won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer...

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