2019 Artists

D.M. Aderibigbe

D.M. Aderibigbe's first book, How the End First Showed won the 2018 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and the 2018 Florida Book Award Silver Medal for Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Nation, Poetry Review, Callaloo, jubilat, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. He's received fellowships from The James Merrill House, Banff, OMI International Arts Center, Ucross Foundation, Jentel Foundation and Boston University where he received his MFA in Creative Writing as a BU fellow, and also received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. Born and raised in Nigeria, he is currently a first year PhD student at Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Neil Alday

Making his second appearance at Word of South, Neil Alday's songs are wonderful earworms. As the front man of socialburn, he brought national attention to the music scene in Tallahassee. He has played as a solo act since 2012, opening for the Old 97s, Lucero, American Aquarium, Blackberry Smoke, Chris Knight, and Drivin N’ Cryin. He is recording at Indianhead Factory in Tallahassee for an upcoming release on Eversouth Records. Born in Houston and raised in Altha, Florida, Neil currently resides in Orlando.

Dan Ames

Dan Ames is a USA TODAY bestselling crime novelist, living in Estero, Florida. He is originally from Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism.

Dan’s stories include mysteries, thrillers, westerns and a novel set in Italy during World War II, based on a true story.

His novels have topped bestselling categories both at home and abroad, and his first book of poetry, FEASTING AT THE TABLE OF THE DAMNED, was a finalist in the GoodReads Choice Awards.

You can learn more about Dan at





Colette Bancroft

I was the kid whose mother said, “Put down that book, go outside and play.” I grew up in Tampa, earned degrees in English at the University of South Florida and the University of Florida, and taught literature and writing for more than a decade. Then I switched to journalism, working for the Arizona Daily Star and, since 1997, for the Tampa Bay Times as an editor, reporter, and critic. In 2007, I became the Times’ book editor, writing reviews, interviewing authors and helping to direct the annual Times Festival of Reading. I served two terms on the board of the National Book Critics Circle. I live in St. Petersburg with my dog, Marlowe, and cat, Isabel. When I’m not reading (about 150 books each year), I’m traveling or painting.

Robert Olen Butler

Robert Olen Butler has published sixteen novels and six volumes of short fiction, one of which, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His most recent novel, Paris in the Dark, was published in 2018. He has also published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream. He was the 2013 recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. Among his many other accolades are the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, and two National Magazine Awards in Fiction. He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor Florida State University, where he teaches creative writing. He’ll be appearing at Word of South in 2019 with the author Spencer Wise.

Ryan Calejo

Ryan Calejo was born and raised in south Florida. He graduated from the University of Miami with honors. He’s been invited to join both the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Golden Key International Honour Society. He’s taught swimming to elementary school students, chess to middle school students, and writing to high school students. Having been born into a family of immigrants and growing up in the so-called “Capital of Latin America,” Ryan knows the importance of diversity in our communities and is passionate about writing books that children of all ethnicities can relate to. His first novel was Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows.

Camp Green Lake

Camp Green Lake was formed in late 2016 by Kent Carson (guitar/vocals), Zach Coursey (bass), and Michael Small (guitar). The first show the trio played together was at 3AM on a cold December morning with Small on the drums. Coming back into the scene during spring of 2017, Rhett Legendre joined CGL on drums and solidified the 4-piece. In the quiet four months, the band released "Demo" in February 2017 with songs "Myself, Myself" and "Gainesville Winters”.

After months of making noises, the band released a split in January 2018 with the late Junior College Honor Roll. Continuing into the year, they were signed by Cat Family Records, put out the single "Teen Angst", and focused on honing in their sound with influences from You Blew It!, Death Cab for Cutie, and Everyone Everywhere.

Towards the end of 2018, Tiffany Vaughn (guitar/vocals), Ryan Marowski (drums), and David Thorpe (bass) joined Carson and Small to finalize the group.

The Como Mamas

The Como Mamas is made up of three women from the small town of Como, Mississippi. The gospel voices of Ester Mae Smith and sisters Angela Taylor and Della Daniels are a modern twist on the gospel harmonies of yesteryear with a pop southern influence. Produced by Daptone Records their most recent album, Move Upstairs, is a powerful album that showcases only their voices with no instrument accompaniment.

Ron Cooper

Ron Cooper’s latest novel, All My Sins Remembered (Goliad Press), is the 2018 Silver Medalist in the Florida Book Awards general fiction category. A native of South Carolina, Cooper moved to Florida in 1988 and has taught philosophy at the College of Central Florida since 1995. He is the author of three other novels, and the Washington Post called his novel Purple Jesus (Bancroft Press) “a literary event of the first magnitude.” Ron Rash said that Cooper’s Hume’s Fork (Bancroft Press) was “one of the funniest novels I’ve read in a long time.” Steve Yarbrough said that “The Gospel of the Twin is beautifully written, smart, gripping, and richly textured.” Cooper’s first book was a philosophical study entitled Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience (Ohio University Press), which was highly praised by both its readers. Cooper has also published poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews, and is an amateur bluegrass musician who challenges anyone to play and sing worse than he does.

Tom Coyne

Tom Coyne is the author of the novel A Gentleman’s Game, which was named one of the best 25 sports books of all time by The Philadelphia Daily News. He wrote the film adaptation of the novel, which starred Gary Sinise, Philip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, and Mason Gamble. His second book, Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros was released June 2006, and was an editor’s pick in Esquire Magazine and USA Today, and a summer reading selection in The New York Times. His third book, A Course Called Ireland: A Long Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint, and the Next Tee, was published by Gotham Books in February 2009, and it chronicles his quest to walk and golf the whole of Ireland. The book was a New York Times, American Booksellers Association, and Barnes & Noble bestseller, and won a silver medal from the Society of American Travel Writers in the category of Best Travel Book of the Year.

His anticipated follow-up to A Course Called Ireland was released by Simon & Schuster in 2018: A Course Called Scotland was an instant New York Times bestseller and chronicles Tom’s quest to play every links course in Scotland, searching the highlands for the secret to golf and a tee time in the oldest championship in sports.

Tom is a senior writer at The Golfer’s Journal and has written for Golf Magazine, Golfweek, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and numerous other publications. He is also a host and writer for the travel television series, “Golfing the World.” Tom earned an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Notre Dame, where he won the William Mitchell Award for distinguished achievement. He lives outside Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters, and he is an associate professor of English at St. Joseph’s University.

The Currys

Brought together by family ties and a shared appreciation for folk, rock, and roots music, The Currys are an Americana trio featuring brothers Jimmy and Tommy and cousin Galen Curry. Like many family groups, their songs are anchored by the sort of elastic, entwined harmonies that only seem to exist among kin. On their second record, West of Here, their songwriting chops match those interlocking voices, with all three members contributing songs to an album that deals with the constant search for home.

For their third album, This Side of the Glass (2019), The Currys provide the organic, lived-in feel of roots music, but the album aspires to a greater variety of form and orchestration than earlier releases. This Side of the Glass is an insightful and satisfying new chapter from a band with many more stories to tell.

Steven Cooper

Steven Cooper is the author of the Gus Parker and Alex Mills series of mysteries. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls "Dig Your Grave," his latest novel: "First-rate entertainment." A former investigative reporter, Steven has won multiple Emmy Awards and nominations, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow award and numerous honors from the Associated Press. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Steven has lived a bit like a nomad, working TV gigs in New England, Arizona and Orlando, Florida, and following stories around the globe. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with fellow southern mystery writer Roger Johns.

Jack E. Davis

Jack E. Davis is a professor of history specializing in environmental history and sustainability studies and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (2017). The Gulf was a New York Times Notable Book for 2017 and made several other “best of” lists for the year, including those of the Washington Post, NPR, Forbes, and the Tampa Bay Times. In addition to winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History, The Gulf was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and winner of the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction. With his former student Leslie Poole (UF Ph.D. 2012), Davis is currently editing a new edition of Wild Heart of Florida, a collection of personal essays and poems about natural Florida. In January 2018, he signed a contract with the publisher of The Gulf, Liveright/W.W. Norton, to write a new book, employing the working title “Bird of Paradox: How the Bald Eagle Saved the Soul of America.”

The Deer

The sound of Texas folk music heavily influences The Deer, a music group who adds tranquil and vivid dream-pop sounds into the folk music genre. The Austin musicians are comprised of Grace Roland, Park, Jesse Dalton, Michael McLeod, Alan Ackert, and Noah Jeffries. The group formed in 2012 under the name Grace Park & The Deer, but after the loss of a dear friend and band member in 2013, the band renamed itself The Deer. Their most recent album from 2016, Tempest and Rapture, combines their folk sound with moody southern gothic. In 2018 the band won an American Music Award for Best Performing Folk Band. The band has played at a variety of festivals including Folk Festival, the Oregon Country Fair and South by Southwest. Currently, The Deer is touring and recording a new album.

Timothy Duffy

Timothy Duffy is a renowned photographer and Founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Timothy has been recording and photographing traditional artists in the South since the age of 16, when he became interested in ethnomusicology. After earning a BA from Friends World College and MA from the Curriculum in Folklore at the UNC, Timothy and his wife Denise founded Music Maker Relief Foundation in 1994 to assist traditional musicians in need. As a photographer he edited and took many of the photographs for Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America, and was the sole photographer for the nationally touring exhibitions: We Are the Music Makers! & Our Living Past. Both exhibits received support from the NEA. Timothy Duffy’s photographs were published by 21st Editions in a monograph entitled BLUE in 2017 — his current project is a monograph published by UNC Press in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art entitled Blue Muse: Timothy Duffy’s Southern Photographs. Works from Blue Muse will be premiered in a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in April 2019. Timothy will appear at Word of South with Chuck Reece and Jontavious Willis.

The Eyrie

The Eyrie is Tallahassee Community College's award-winning student art and literary magazine, which publishes original poetry, prose, art, and photography. The magazine also provides students enrolled in Literary Magazine Production at TCC with the experience of magazine production, from the evaluation of materials to blue-line copy. The Eyrie (the nest of a bird of prey) was founded in 1981 by two students, and with the motto of “quality, good taste, and creativity.” The magazine is published annually and distributed free to all College personnel and students, and to the public upon request. For the Word of South event, the Eyrie will host a reading of prose and poetry, as well as a showcasing of art and photography, from students published in the 2019 edition.

Steve Forbert

The recognizable sound of Steve Forbert’s folk music is known by the blend of his harmonica, blues guitar, and the twang of his vocal harmonies. Although he found commercial success in New York City, he is originally from Meridian, Mississippi. At the beginning of his career he was busking on the streets of New York, but eventually rose to headlining at venues such as The Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways. Forbert considers himself lucky enough to have found early success with a string of critically acclaimed albums including, Alive on Arrival, and Jackrabbit Slim. He has written and recorded 18 studio albums to date, and in 2018 released a memoir co-written with Therese Boyd entitled, Big City Cat: My Life in Folk Rock.

Jacqui Germain

Jacqui Germain is a published poet, freelance writer, and contributing Arts and Culture writer with ALIVE Magazine based in St. Louis, MO. She is a 2016 Callaloo Fellow and author of "When the Ghosts Come Ashore," published in 2016 through Button Poetry and Exploding Pinecone Press. She has performed on multiple national stages and been featured on Huffington Post, St. Louis Public Radio, and Ploughshares Journal as part of their Activist-Poet Spotlight Series. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, The Offing, Connotation Press, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and elsewhere, in addition to Sundress Publications' 2015 Best of the Net Anthology and "Crossing the Divide," an anthology of St. Louis poets, published in 2016 by Vagabond Books. Her essays have been published in The New Inquiry, The Establishment, Salon, Feministing, Blavity, and elsewhere.

Sidney Gish

Sidney Gish is a singer-songwriter and full-time student with a wry sense of humor in Boston, Mass. where she's been recording and releasing her own work since 2015. She dropped her first album, Ed Buys Houses, in December 2016 and No Dogs Allowed this year.

Shakey Graves

Shakey Graves is the stage name for Alejandro Rose-Garcia. His music has been described as the fusion between blues, folk and rock. Born in Texas, Rose-Garcia was involved in his high school drama club, and decided to move to LA, where he began his career as an actor appearing in movies like Spy Kids 3 and landing a recurring role on Friday Night Lights. He later decided to produce music, and was inspired by the sound of Bob Log III. In 2011 he released his first album Roll the Bones, and has continued to produce music since. He has appeared on late night shows such as Conan, the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Late Show with Seth Meyers. In 2015 he received the Best Emerging Artist Award from the American Music Awards. Most recently, in 2018 he released his EP Sleep, and is releasing a full length follow up album in May of this year.

Barbara Hamby

Barbara Hamby is a poet, fiction writer, editor, and critic. Her latest collection is the critically-praised On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems. Says the New York Journal of Books, "Get ready for a wild ride when you dive into Barbara Hamby's On the Street of Divine Love. You'll soon be roaring down avenues of the alphabet with a poet who is dazzled by-and a master of-our lingo... The effervescent and all-encompassing nature of Hamby's poems give the reader a sense of discovery and vitality." She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband, David Kirby, and teaches creative writing in the English Department at Florida State University. Barbara’s new book, Bird Odyssey, is all about travel. She’ll be interviewed at this year’s Word of South by NPR critic Ken Tucker.

Michael Harrell

Michael Harrell received his BFA in graphic design from the University of Georgia and immediately became a freelance illustrator for Mastercard, American Express and Paramount Pictures. At the same time, he began exhibiting with the Society of Illustrators at the Museum of American Illustration, the North American Marine Arts Society and others. His work is now exhibited in galleries from Connecticut to South Carolina to Florida.

Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table. She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida, The Book of the Everglades, and Between Two Rivers. Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of a man who swam inside the planet - Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley is a New York Times Best Selling author, editor, playwright and screenwriter. She grew up in rural Idaho, but currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Some of her most recent novels are the adult fantasy novels Magonia and Aeria. She also wrote the international bestselling memoir, The Year of Yes, and has worked with Neil Gaiman editing his book, Unnatural Creatures. Her essays have been widely published, appearing in The New York Times and Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard.


HEAL stands for Humanism Evolving through Arts and Literature. A venue for creative expression, HEAL is produced by students and faculty at the Florida State University College of Medicine. Through nonfiction, poetry, and art, medical students share their growth and development, faculty impart their knowledge gained from experience, and members of the community express how health and healing have impacted their lives. HEAL strives to bridge the growing gap between patients and their providers while producing a meaningful creative outlet for those who participate in the publication of its quarterly digital issues and annual print journal. Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community are encouraged to submit their art and literary works. At Word of South, members of the HEAL team will read from the latest issue of HEAL. The performance will also include a number of musical acts.

Matt Hendrickson

Matt Hendrickson has more than 25 years of experience in magazine and digital journalism. Currently, he’s a Contributing Editor at Garden & Gun, a position he’s held for the past 12 years, overseeing the music coverage for the magazine. He began his career at Rolling Stone, serving as a writer and editor for 12 years, penning cover stories on Green Day and Rage Against the Machine, among others, as well as covering the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. From 2005-08 he held a three-year visiting professor position at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. For the past 15 years, Matt has also had his own media consulting company, Big Swede Media, where his client list includes Fast Company, AT&T, Ford, Volvo, and Cadillac. He’s based in Athens, Ohio where his wife is a journalism professor at Ohio University and he’s valiantly trying to educate his nine-year-old daughter that there’s more music to explore other than Ariana Grande.

Bertie Higgins

Bertie Higgins grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where he learned how to play the drums at age 14. After college, he joined Tommy Roe’s Band, The Roemans, and they toured world alongside other well-known artists including The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and Tom Jones. He decided to the leave the band and return home, and began playing guitar and writing music. He became a highly demanded player throughout the state of Florida. His first major single, Key Largo, was released in 1981 by Kay Family Records, and it reached number one on the U.S. Music Charts. For the past several years he has been touring the globe with his band, The Band of Pirates. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and is displayed in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon. Currently he supports national charity organizations like The American Cancer Society and the Boy and Girls Club of America, and he also works with zoologists to protect wildlife in Florida. Bertie will be appearing at Word of South as part of his induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box. His second novel, Horns, was made into a feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe; his third, NOS4A2, is forthcoming as a TV series from AMC. His book of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, won the Bram Stoker Award and British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. He’s appearing at Word of South with the musician Matthew Ryan.

Mark Hinson

Columnist Mark Hinson, who is a fifth generation North Floridian, has written for the Tallahassee Democrat and, both part of the USA Today Network, for more than 25 years. He has covered the arts and entertainment scene in the Capital City for the same amount of time. Over his long career, Hinson has interviewed and written about such musical figures as Mavis Staples, Philip Glass, George Clinton, Ella Fitzgerald, Renée Fleming, Jim White, Bo Diddley, Sam Moore, Alan Parson, Billy Preston and many more. He’ll be pulling two gigs at Word of South in 2019: interviewing the author Tom Piazza, and moderating a discussion with the music writers Matt Hendrickson and Hilary Saunders.

Bruce Horovitz

Bruce Horovitz is an award winning journalist an entrepreneur with extensive experience in the non-profit and business communities of Northeast Florida. He is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Public Communication and a former reporter with the Jacksonville Journal newspaper. “Gamble Rogers, A Troubadour’s Life” is his first book. Bruce lives in Jacksonville , Florida where he serves on several non-profit boards while pursuing his musical interests by playing in two bands.

Erin Hoover

Erin Hoover’s debut poetry collection, Barnburner, was selected by Kathryn Nuernberger as winner of the Antivenom Poetry Award and published by Elixir Press in 2018. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, and in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Pleiades. Hoover has served as past editor of the Southeast Review, volunteer for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and co-founder of the literary organization Late Night Library. Originally from Pennsylvania, she earned a Ph.D. from Florida State University and now lives in Tallahassee.

Ravi Howard

Ravi Howard received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence in 2008 for his novel LikeTrees, Walking, a fictionalized account of the true story of the 1981 lynching of a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama. His novel Driving the King is the story of Nat King Cole told through his driver, and explores race and class in 1950’s America. A television producer as well as an author, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He’ll be interviewing the writer and musician Nate Marshall at this year’s Word of South.

The Iguanas

Since 1993, The Iguanas have been making Americana music with the same four band members; Rod Hodges, Joe Cabral, Rene Coman, and Doug Garrison. The band has been based out of New Orleans for over two decades, and takes pride in the fact they’ve been able to stay together for so long. Collectively, the members of the band have played or recorded with other musicians such as Charlie Rich, Willie DeVille, and Allen Toussain. The group has produced eight studio albums, and their most recent album, Juarez, was released in 2014.

Roger Johns

ROGER JOHNS is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, and the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books: Dark River Rising (2017) and River of Secrets (2018). He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee, a finalist for both the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural and the 2019 Frank Yerby Fiction Award, and he is the 2019 JKS Communications Author-in-Residence. His articles and interviews on writing and the writing life have appeared in Career Author, Criminal Element, Killer Nashville Articles, and the Southern Literary Review. Roger belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Along with several other crime fiction writers, he co-authors the MurderBooks blog at You can visit him at and on Twitter at @rogerjohns10. Roger will be appearing at Word of South with fellow southern mystery writer Steven Cooper.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, a native of Saginaw, Michigan, now makes his home on Longboat Key Florida with his wife, Linda Gross Brown, a professional artist. Before moving to Florida, Michael practiced law for many years in Cleveland, Ohio, and has long been selected to Best Lawyers in America. Although he no longer practices law, he still provides services as an arbitrator in commercial and health care disputes. He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University (Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, summa cum laude), and of the George Washington University Law School, where he was a member of the law review.

The Company of Demons is Michael’s first novel, and he is currently working on a thriller set during WWII. Although writing has always been an important part of his life, he was able to focus on learning the craft after he retired from the active practice of law. He has no regrets about that decision!

David Joy

Currently living in the North Carolina mountains, David Joy is widely recognized for his exceptional work in fiction and nonfiction. His short stories and essays have been published in Time, The New York Times Magazine, and The Bitter Southerner. His novel, Where All the Lights Go, was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2015. In 2011 his memoir, Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and Ragan Old North State Award. Most recently, he published a novel in 2018 entitled The Line that Held Us. David is appearing at Word of South with the musician and artist Abe Partridge.

Joseph Keckler

Recently described as a "major vocal talent whose range shatters the conventional boundaries... with a trickster's dark humor" by The New York Times, Joseph Keckler is a singer and writer who playfully stretches accounts of everyday life towards the mythic. His live shows have recently been seen at Centre Pompidou, The Adult Swim Festival, PEN American Center and Lincoln Center, where he also made his off-Broadway debut. This year he has original theater works premiering with Prototype Festival and FringeArts/Opera Philadelphia. A collection of his writing, Dragon at the Edge of a Flat World was published by Turtle Point Press in 2017. He is currently working on new music, videos, and TV projects. Joseph is appearing at Word of South with the author Maria Dahvana Headley.

Gilbert King

Gilbert King is the author of three books, most recently, Beneath a Ruthless Sun. His previous book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2013. A New York Times bestseller, the book was also named runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction and was a finalist for both the Chautauqua Prize and the Edgar Award. King has written about race, civil rights, and the death penalty for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic, and he is a contributor to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. King’s earlier book, The Execution of Willie Francis, was published in 2008. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the writer Diane Roberts.

Kathleen Laufenberg

Kathleen Laufenberg is a self-proclaimed passionista of dark chocolate, blue skies and animals of all kinds. She’s worked as a journalist, science writer, editor, high-school teacher, waitress and (most recently) yoga instructor. In her spare time, she’s the Chief Idea Officer at the Tallahassee bureau of Laufenberg & Spriggs, where it’s rumored she’s working on a YA novel.

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book, Victor LaValle's DESTROYER. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Whiting Writers' Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award, an American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens. He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

Kim Frances Lee

Kim Frances Lee is a native Floridian and author of Animal March, Lost In the Okefenokee Swamp, and Beach Treasure, A Rhyming, Riddling Scavenger Hunt. She resides near the Capitol of Florida where farfetched stories occur regularly. Kim has been writing about Florida and the ecosystems connected with the state since her college days at Florida State University. Growing up in central Florida, she spent many hours in the Ocala National Forest and along the Gulf Coast near Crystal River. Her characters and stories are taken from these environments and point out the beauty and the problems that tend to go hand-in-hand in a state with so many ecosystems and people. She writes her stories at her home away from home on the Forgotten Coast with the waves of the Gulf of Mexico as background music and the inspiration that keeps her focused.

Eric Litwin

Eric Litwin is a song singing, guitar strumming, # 1 New York Times Best Selling author who brings early literacy and music together. He is the original author of the Pete the Cat series as well as the author of The Nuts and Groovy Joe. Eric's books have sold over 12.5 million copies, been translated into 17 languages, and won 26 literacy awards including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award. He’ll be appearing twice this year at Word of South: once on the Lyric Stage, and later in the Story Fort.

Local Forecast

Local Forecast covers arrangements from classic hits to modern pop with their own style. Singer Jackson Henry belts tasteful vocals overlaid by the saxophone harmony of Nolin Cividanes. Guitarist Bryson Gonzalez commands both lead and rhythm guitar with his Stratocaster sound. Michael Murray both masters licks while adding another dimension to the sound with different voices on his keyboard. At the foundation of the band, bassist Aaron Taylor and drummer Mason Tarmey lock in to a groove while also showcasing their unique talents.

Kimberly Lojewski

Kimberly Lojewski's story collection, Worm Fiddling Nocturne in the Key of a Broken Heart, was a Florida Book Awards gold medalist. She is a native Floridian with an MA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University and an MFA in in fiction from University of Massachusetts Amherst's Poets and Writers Program. Her stories have been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, won Best of the Net, and have appeared in PANK, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Ocala, FL. Worm Fiddling is her first book.

Bob Malone

Born and raised in New Jersey, Bob Malone was classically trained on the piano, and later earned his degree in jazz. Since then he has refined his sound to be a unique combination of rock, blues, and New Orleans R&B. Bob has had a very successful solo career, playing the keyboard around the world for two decades. Since 2011, he has been playing keyboard with Jake Fogarty. During his career he has accompanied many artists including Bruce Springsteen, and Jimmy Buffet. His most recent album, “Mojo Deluce”, was ranked number one on the Independent British Blues Broadcast Radio Chart. Bob will be appearing at Word of South with Michael Rothenberg and the Ecosound Ensemble.

Nate Marshall

Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. A well-accomplished poet, his first book, The Wild Hundreds, received the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. He has also released his own rap album, Grown. He starred in the award-winning documentary, Louder Than a Bomb, about Chicago high schoolers preparing for the world’s largest youth slam. He was also featured on the HBO original series, Brave New Voices. He received his BA at Vanderbilt University, and later received his MFA from the University of Michigan. He has performed poetry at venues across the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. Currently, he is the editor of BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and he also works with organizations such as Young Chicago Authors and InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit, teaching young artists.

Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernández

Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernández is an historian, university professor, author and public speaker, whose fields of expertise include Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino / Hispanic culture and society. Currently, he teaches at the University of Central Florida and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Council for History Education.

His books include: Revolutionary Cuba: A History, widely acclaimed as the most comprehensive and systematic study on the subject ever written, Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean and, Key to the New World: A History of Early Colonial Cuba, recipient of Florida Book Awards’ 2018 Bronze Medal in General Nonfiction.

He served as trustee of the College Board (2009-2015) and in numerous professional, editorial, and community boards, among them the Cuban Studies journal, the South Atlantic Humanities Center, Hispanic Young Professionals, the Community Advisory Board of WMFE (Central Florida's NPR station), and the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Central Florida. In 2005, he founded the annual Latin American Cultural Festival of Orlando.

Tara Lynn Masih

Tara Lynn Masih grew up in the harbor town of East Northport, Long Island, and her first publication was a poem in her high school literary magazine. She went on to receive an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston. Her award-winning anthologies include The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays. Her fiction publications include Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories and multiple chapbooks from the Feral Press that are archived in such universities as Yale and NYU. She founded the Intercultural Essay Prize and The Best Small Fictions series. Masih, who recently moved to St. Augustine, received a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, an Inspirational Woman in Literature Award from AITL Media, and several national book awards including an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award. My Real Name Is Hanna is her first novel.

Gale Massey

Gale Massey’s stories and essays have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Walking the Edge, Sabal, Seven Hills Press, Connotation Press and other places. She has received scholarships and fellowships at The Sewanee Writers Conference and the Eckerd College conference Writers in Paradise. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her novel, The Girl From Blind River, debuted as a featured selection for the Book of the Month Club. Set in rural New York, it is a coming of age story revolving around family dysfunction, illegal gambling and small-town corruption. Massey started writing as an angsty teenager with a chip on her shoulder but got her start by attending writing conferences around the south. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, she lives there now with her family.

Maybe April

The country American group, Maybe April, formed during the summer of 2012 at a music industry camp in Nashville, Tennessee. The two members, Katy Dubois, from Arkansas, and Alaina Stacey, from Illinois, met at the camp and realized how well they complemented each other musically. The pair began creating country folk music, blending their voices into beautiful harmonies and playing their guitars as accompaniment. Since 2013 the group has been based in Nashville and has played hundreds of shows, including at a Grammy week event, the Pilgrimage Music Festival and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. Maybe April will be joined by Kate Lee and Forrest O'Connor

Joseph McSpadden

Joseph McSpadden has been a roots music enthusiast since the late 60s. His love for folk, blues, and country rock led him to start writing for In 2014 he was selected by No Depression for the launch of the ND Live feature, and for two years reported on live music from the famed Birchmere listening room in Arlington, Virginia. In 2015 he moved to Richmond where he has continued to write for The Flame and No Depression. His work has also appeared in Style Weekly. He has interviewed rock, folk and blues artists including Hall of Famer Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna, and blues men John Mayall, Guy Davis and Grammy nominee Eric Bibb, amongst others. He currently is a regular contributor to okra.magazine.

Tift Merritt

Tift Merritt seemingly came out of the woodwork in 2002 with her acclaimed debut album, Bramble Rose. Despite her sudden success, Tift Merritt has been working in the music industry for most of her life. During her childhood, Merritt’s family moved from Texas to North Carolina and with the help of her father she began to sing harmonies and learn the guitar. She found herself drawn to different styles of music, including punk, acoustic, but ultimately settled on the alt-country scene of North Carolina. Merritt began her career with the band, Two Dollar Pistols, singing duets with the lead singer, John Howle, and playing rhythm guitar. In 1998 she formed her own band, The Carbines, and became a featured artists of the North Carolina club scene. Since her debut album she has collaborated with many other artists including pianist Simone Dinnerstein for their album, Night. She also worked with Andrew Bird and his band, The Hands of Glory, and appeared on their 2014 album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of.... Most recently, Merritt has released her seventh studio album, Stitch of the World.

Tia Mitchell

Tia Mitchell is a local government reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. Last fall, she was assigned to cover the campaign of and elections issues raised by Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Prior to joining the AJC, Tia served as Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Florida Times-Union newspaper and covered politics and government with a focus on Northeast Florida. She is also a former member of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Statehouse Bureau. Tia is a graduate of Florida A&M University.




Carol Hair Moore

Carol’s warm and loving story of her animal friends’ relationships reflects her life-long love of animals and her years of living on a farm and spending her days at St. Teresa Beach. She raised her family in the North Florida country with the animal friends, and others, presented in her stories. Each of the five books in her series, I Wish You Ice Cream and Cake, is designed to educate and instill in her readers a desire to be kind and compassionate. Marvin the Magnificent Nubian Goat, Busy Bumble Bee Rides the Waves, Ruby Kate’s Scrumptious Tea Cake Party, Papa Mole’s Secrets of Happiness, and her newest book, Friends Who Sparkle Like the Stars, are all beautifully illustrated by Michael Harrell.

With a B.S. in Elementary Education from Florida State University, Carol taught second grade and now spends her time coordinating school visits, book festivals and caring for her loving family. Carol lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, Edgar Murray Moore, Sr. They have three married children, six grandsons and one granddaughter.

Of her passion for writing children’s books, Carol says, “If I have encouraged children in some small way to be loving, honest, kind, and to treat others with compassion, then I have done what God has guided me to do.”

Allison Moorer

Allison Moorer is a writer in every sense of the word. Since her debut in 1998, she’s released nine albums and had five singles reach the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and her songs have appeared in movies ranging from “The Rookie” to “Moonshiners” to “The Horse Whisperer.” She and her sister, Shelby Lynn, released a collaborative album in 2017 entitled “Not Dark Yet,” an album of stunning sibling harmonies. More recently, Moorer has been writing a memoir and contributing prose to various publications, including The Bitter Southerner.

Kristina Neihouse

Kristina Neihouse moved from Portland Maine to Key West in 1995. She won The Studios of Key West 2014 Writes of Spring competition and placed 2nd in the 2018 Tennessee Williams Short Story Contest. In 2017 she was awarded an Anne McKee Artist Fund Grant to publish her first novel Knowing When to Leave. In 2018 this debut novel won a silver medal in the Florida Book Awards Young Adult category. She is currently working on the second book in the series When the Time Comes. Kristina is a full-time librarian who spends her time reading, writing and talking about writing. She serves as Secretary of the Key West Writers Guild, and spends Saturday nights in the Monroe County Detention Center talking with female inmates about writing and other life choices.

Colleen Nixon

Colleen Nixon is Tallahassee, Florida’s home grown wild flower who was told she was singing before she was speaking. With a deep love of music and years of voice lessons, Colleen moved to Nashville, TN and received her Bachelor’s Degree from Belmont University in Commercial Voice with a Music Business emphasis. It was there Colleen’s gift of songwriting blossomed as well as honing the craft of singing in many different styles—from Classical to Rock and Pop but with Jazz being her favorite. In the pursuit to share her heart through song, she has released two albums featuring her original music, “Love Is in the Details (2009)” and “Lake Ella’s Sky (2013)” which were recorded and produced by, Grammy Award Winner, Mitch Dane. Her full-length album, “Lake Ella’s Sky,” is an ode to her beloved hometown and features her song called “Tallahassee” on the project. Her original music which falls in the Folk/Pop/Jazz genre has an “easy listening" vibe to it and her style and clear, “angelic” voice are often compared to the likes of Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Sara Bareilles, and every so often a Disney princess! Colleen’s music though, has been said to be for young and old listeners alike because it is “beautifully arranged and is seamlessly complementary with her vocals but her songs balance a care-free feeling with a depth of heart expressed by gratitude for the good things in life.” She has been coming to the Word of South Festival since its inception and is honored to be making her debut on the Lyric Stage this year at 12:45 on Saturday April 13th, with some of the best musicians in town making her songs come to life: Joshua Cossette on keys, Anthony Casolari on bass and Michael Bakan on drums. You can hear Colleen Nixon on Spotify or on her website,, and to see her sing her songs and Jazz around town, follow her music page on Facebook @colleennixonmusic.

North Mississippi Allstars

North Mississippi Allstars is an American southern rock blues band founded in 1996. The band is composed of two brothers, Luther Dickinson and Cody Dickinson. The Allstars' first release, Shake Hands with Shorty, was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Blues Album". Since then, 51 Phantom and Electric Blue Watermelon have received nominations in the same category. Their eighth studio album, Prayer for Peace, was released on June 2, 2017 via Sony Legacy, and featured the title track and a rendition of an R.L. Burnside track, "Long Haired Doney". The album was self-produced by the Dickinson Brothers. The album reached number one on the Billboard Blues Albums Chart in June 2017.

Iheoma Nwachukwu

Iheoma Nwachukwu is a Nigerian writer. Nwachukwu played professional chess for ten years. He has won fellowships from the Michener Center for Writers, and the Chinua Achebe Center for Writers. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous journals, including The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, Electric Literature, and Prism International. He’s at work on a novel set in Trump’s America and a Nigeria caught under the boot of terror. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the Nigerian musician Tosinger.

Legendary Longineu Parsons

Legendary Longineu Parsons is a classically trained trumpeter who plays in a wide variety of styles including jazz, blues, jazz fusion and classical. He is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and heads small independent label Tribal Records. Parsons played for Nat Adderley, Cab Calloway, Doc Severinsen, Herbie Mann, Archie Shepp Sun Ra, Branford Marsalis and many more. He appeared in the national production of Satchmo. He was a featured soloist in the Great Performances special "Three Mo' Tenors.” He will join in The Ecosound Ensemble featuring Michael Rothenberg and Bob Malone at the festival on April 14.

Abe Partridge

Abe Partridge’s raspy vocals, combined with his acoustic guitar, brings to mind the sound of a modern troubadour. An Alabama native, his music references both the area and the style, mixing a southern drawl with the blues. Music performance was not Partridge’s first profession, but soon became his passion when he realized how much he loved songwriting and live performances. After completing divinity school and also serving with the U.S. Air Force in Qatar during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Abe Partridge has plenty of history to pour into his songs. His second and most recent full length album, Cotton Fields and Blood for Days, is a musical collection of many of his past life experiences. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author David Joy.

Tom Piazza

After receiving his undergraduate degree from Williams College and receiving an MFA from Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Tom Piazza has published 12 books on various subjects. Some of his stories take place during historical moments of time, such as in City of Refuge, which focuses on two New Orleans families during and after Hurricane Katrina. He is also recognized for his writing about music, receiving a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey. His pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Bookforum. He was also a principal writer on the HBO drama series, TREME.

Open Mike Eagle

Novelist Tom Robbins once said, “Humor is both a form of wisdom and a means of survival.” These words are the artistic ethos of Robbins fan and acclaimed Los Angeles-based rapper Michael Eagle II, better known as Open Mike Eagle. Like a good comedian, he couches uncomfortable truths in hilarious punchlines. Like the greatest comedians, he knows when to forsake a joke entirely, when to lay pain bare so he and his audience can find catharsis and continue.

On albums like Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017) and Dark Comedy (2014), Eagle’s sharp humor, along with the musicality of his verses and his ear for forward-thinking production, have received praise from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, NPR, and more. In addition to headlining solo shows around the world, he regularly performs at festivals such as the 2018 Pitchfork Festival and the inaugural Adult Swim Festival. Of late, he’s taken his passion for comedy beyond the studio. Together, Eagle and comedian Baron Vaughn created The New Negroes, a standup-meets-music variety show that explores and expands perceptions of blackness. Following months of lauded shows at venues like LA’s Upright Citizens Brigade, Comedy Central commissioned the show for a full season, which will air in 2019.

Eagle’s forthcoming EP, what happens when i try to relax, once again strikes a brilliant balance between the insightful and the comedic. Turning his gaze inward, he weighs his recent successes against the many sociopolitical failures of the present. For Eagle, this is the sound of catharsis, the music he needs to make to continue.

Make sure to stay up-to-date on all things Open Mike Eagle with his new shows. Catch “Live from WZRD” hosted by him and Dani Fernandez. Don’t miss the premiere of “The New Negroes” on April 19 with Eagle and Baron Vaughn on Comedy Central and BET.

Chuck Reece

Chuck Reece is the editor of The Bitter Southerner, an online magazine that tells the stories of the new South - pieces about bartenders, musicians, cooks, designers, farmers, scientists, innovators, writers, thinkers and craftsmen - showing the reader the spots that make the South a far better place than most folks think it is. Chuck will be emceeing the Bitter Southerner Stage at 2019’s Word of South, as well as appearing with the writer Timothy Duffy and the musician Jontavious Willis

Diane Roberts

If you are a fan of the FSU Seminoles or a resident of Florida, you know – or should know – about the writings of Tallahassee’s own Diane Roberts. Her latest book, Tribal, a comic, critical analysis of a Southern intellectual’s love of FSU football and distaste for the excesses that go with it, made several Best of Book lists in 2015. Dr. Roberts is a professor of creative writing at Florida State who received her undergraduate degree at FSU and doctorate at Oxford University in England. The author of four books, she is known for her spot-on interpretations of Southern culture and her sardonic sense of humor. She writes op-ed articles for major newspapers and has been a commentator for NPR and the BBC. Diane will be appearing at Word of South with Eliza Borné, the publisher of the Oxford American.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross, from Ocala, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 1989. After graduation, Jim worked for 18 years at the St. Petersburg Times before moving to the Ocala Star-Banner, where he is now managing editor. He also has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications for the past 12 years. Jim has won awards for column writing and business reporting from The Florida Society of News Editors and last year was named the Wilton F. Martin Individual Communicator of the Year by the Ocala chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. His essays have been published in several literary journals, and two of those pieces have been listed as notable essays in the annual Best American Essays series. In Spring 2018, the University Press of Florida published "In Season," a Florida-themed essay collection that Jim edited and contributed to. The book includes essays from a number of writers and was recently awarded the Silver Medal in the 2018 Florida Book Awards' Florida Nonfiction category.

Michael Rothenberg
& the Ecosound Ensemble

Three years ago, Michael Rothenberg, co-founder of the global arts movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change, moved to Tallahassee from California where his life's work had been one of intimate collaboration with the original Beat writers. As a friend and editor to many of these legends, Rothenberg learned directly from the source about collaborative performance with music and poetry, and in his own work, he has pushed the boundaries of that form into a new realm and manifestation, evidenced by his work with the recently organized Ecosound Ensemble. Ecosound Ensemble includes special guest, Bob Malone, who is described by New Yorker Magazine as a “keyboard wizard,” and Tallahassee’s own Longineu Parsons. Malone, performing courtesy of FSU Libraries as a celebration of the installment of Rothenberg as FSU Libraries’ Poet in Residence, has recently sessioned for Ringo Starr and is currently touring with John Fogerty. Ecosound Ensemble also includes an all-star lineup of Tallahassee's most dynamic musicians, Michael Bakan (drums and percussion), Brian Hall (upright bass), Vivianne Asturizaga (flute and piccolo), Joel Johnson (guitar), and Bradley White (didgeridoo). Rothenberg has been writing and performing poetry for nearly 40 years. He has published over 20 books of poetry. As recipient of the Creative Work Fund Grant he has performed his poetry with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Johnny Lee Schell (Bonnie Raitt), Debra Dobkins (Richard Thompson), John B. Williams (Freddy Hubbard), Joe Sublette (Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton), and Marty Ehrlich (Anthony Braxton, John Zorn).

Mary Frances Rudnick

Mary Frances Rudnick is best known for her whimsical watercolors that feature the coastal communities and wildlife that she loves so much. As a young girl growing up in Tallahassee, Mary’s mother encouraged her to follow her passion and look closely at her surroundings. Mary’s passion led her to an art major at Florida State University. She spends much of her spare time at the coast working on her art and is often participating at shows around the North Florida area.

Kim and Mary have been friends for over twenty years and have just completed their first book together: Beach Treasure, A Rhyming Riddling Scavenger Hunt. Beach Treasure will be released on April 1, 2019. The book encourages families and friends to work and play together while learning about marine life found along shores all over the world.

Matthew Ryan

Matthew Ryan is experiencing a kind of noisy renaissance. It began in 2014 with the release of Boxers, a fevered and smart rock ‘n’ roll record about the working class, produced by Kevin Salem. May 2017 will see the follow-through with Hustle Up Starlings, a heart-on-the-sleeve collection of silvery anthems that further illustrate Ryan’s reinvigorated love of language, noise, and cinema. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Joe Hill.

Safari Man

Rodger Tripp, the SafariMan, has a BS Degree in Child Development from Florida State. He is a Music Enrichment Teacher, an Educational Entertainer. Rodger was commissioned by The Florida Department of Health to develop a children's music CD called “Give me 5 a day!” The CD has 4 original fruit and vegetable songs written, sung and all instruments played by Rodger Tripp, the Singing SafariMan. The CD was developed to encourage children to be more physically active, dance, play and move, and to encourage eating fruits and vegetables. Over 277,000 copies have been distributed to children in Florida. He also has created several CD’s for young children. Two of his songs are children and preschool favorites on the Whole Child Leon CD “Catching Smiles,” which is a wonderfully uplifting CD that goes home with newborns from Tallahassee Hospitals.

Hilary Saunders

Hilary Saunders is the Managing Editor of No Depression, the quarterly print journal on roots music. No Depression began in 1995 and became one of the leading voices in alt-country music journalism. After a brief online-only stint, No Depression returned to print in Winter 2015. Hilary assumed this role in November 2017, after years with Paste Magazine and clips in ESPN, MTV, Next City, the Jewish Daily Forward, and more. Find her across the internet at @hilary_saunders.

The Sea, The Sea

Chuck E. Costa and his wife Mira Costa are the musicians in the indie folk-pop duo, The Sea, The Sea. The Huffington Post has given high complements to the blended sound of their two vocals. Originally from Troy, New York, the band created their first album, Love We Are We Love, which received praise from the radio show NPR as well as the music magazine American Songwriter. In 2016, their EP, In the Altogether, was featured by Apple Music as Best of the Week and A-List Singer/Songwriter. Most recently, the duo has released their album, From the Light, in 2018.

John Sebastian

John Sebastian began his career in the 1950s as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, playing guitar, harmonica, and autoharp. He left the group and formed his own band, The Lovin’ Spoonful, in the 60s. His goal was to create a uniquely American counter rock revolution. The first seven singles of the band landed on the Top 10 Chart. He later left this group as well and performed at Woodstock. Sebastian also wrote music for Broadway and films, most notably the movie What’s Up Tiger Lily. His 1976 theme song for Welcome Back Kotter topped music charts. In 2000 he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and recently he has become a member of a delegation of songwriters in Washington, DC, who campaign on behalf of the National Music Publishers Association.

The Secret Sisters

The beautiful and haunting harmonies from the Secret Sisters is reminiscent of the music from their home in Alabama. Lydia and Laura Rogers released their debut album, “Secret Sisters,” in 2010 and have toured with artists like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon. After the release of their second album, they revitalized their music with the release of their most recent and third album entitled, “You Don’t Own Me Anymore.” This album is the sisters’ passion project; their most personal and creative music project yet.

Minton Sparks

Minton Sparks travels extensively, performing at various universities, clubs, and music, poetry, and storytelling festivals to share her unique brand of performance poetry and creative writing workshops with audiences nationwide. This past year, Sparks appeared at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series alongside Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash, and was a featured performer at the Jonesborough International Storytelling Festival.

Ruckus Films recently featured Sparks in the provocative, brilliant, one-woman show, Open Casket, alongside world-class musicians: veteran Bob Dylan guitarist John Jackson, blues pianist Steve Conn, guitar and mandolin virtuoso Pat Flynn, and Irish singing sensation Maura O'Connell.

In her most recent CD, Gold Digger, Sparks' riveting spoken word guides listeners into the soul's dark struggle with moments of poignant comic relief. Drawing listeners into her world with charming familiarity and heart-breaking candor, Sparks picks the lock on her family's hidden stories and pulls each character up into her arms for a memorable dance across the stage.

The Jerry Thigpen Trio

In 2013 North Florida regional favorites Jerry Thigpen, Pete Winter, and Jimmy Bone combined their talent and experience toward creating a new musical synergy. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2016 with an encore album anticipated in late spring 2018.

Known for their engaging live performances, the Trio's straight-forward and relatable songwriting showcases strong vocals musically seasoned by blues, rock, British invasion and Americana influences. Reminiscent of other high energy trios (Cream, Police, ZZ Top) the Jerry Thigpen Trio delivers the goods like a band twice its size.


Based in Atlanta, Tosinger creates music that blends AfroJazz, folk, and soul. The Nigerian singer incorporates Yoruba sayings and folklore into the lyrics of her songs. She has performed across Africa, Europe and North America. Not only does she play at a multitude of festivals across these continents, but she has also performed in vocal ensembles of select Broadway musicals like “Godspell” and “Rent.” She released her first EP in 2012, and in 2015 independently produced and released her debut album Organically Singing. She’ll be appearing at Word of South with the writer Iheoma Nwachukwu.

Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. A cultural critic, he has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications. Tucker is the author of Scarface Nation: The Ultimate Gangster Movie and Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About Television. He’ll interview the poet Barbara Hamby at this year’s Word of South.

Lu Vickers

Lu Vickers is the author of one novel and several books on Florida history, including Weeki Wachee, Thirty Years of Underwater Photography, and Cypress Gardens, America’s Tropical Wonderland, both of which received Florida Book awards: She has also received three Individual Artists Grants from Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs for fiction. In 2014, as she was in the final stages of writing her last book, Remembering Paradise Park: Tourism and Segregation at Silver Springs, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for excerpts from a novel in progress.


Vundabar is an American indie rock band from Boston, Massachusetts that released its first full length album, Antics in 2013, followed by Gawk in 2015 and Smell Smoke in 2018. One of the few American bands to receive a French art subsidy, the band has earned praise from outlets as diverse as NPR, Spin and Pitchfork. They describe themselves as the “Coen Brothers of rock: funny and dark and morbid and silly.”

Bill Wharton

Florida swamp-funk slide guitarist Bill Wharton has been a musician for over a half a century. On his 1989 New Years Eve gig, Sauce Boss splashed a bottle of his Liquid Summer Hot Sauce into a huge pot of simmering gumbo, feeding the entire audience. The rest is history. 200,000 bowls later, he’s still feeding the masses for free at his shows. The Sauce Boss show is a soul-shouting picnic of bluesy, rock and roll brotherhood. The Sauce Boss is the only personality that’s been featured in “Living Blues”, “GQ”, AND "Gourmet Magazine".

John Paul White

John Paul White is an American singer-songwriter and a former member of the duo The Civil Wars, which won the 2012 Grammy Awards for the best Folk Album and Country Performance by a Duo or Group and recorded four albums. A co-owner of "Single Lock Records," a local indie label that has released records by some of the Yellowhammer State’s finest, including Dylan LeBlanc, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and legendary singer and songwriter Donnie Fritts, his new album, "Beulah", was released in 2016. His latest album, The Hurting Kind, appears in stores the Friday of Word of South, and he’ll be closing out this year’s festival on Sunday.

Jontavious Willis

Jontavious Willis grew up singing gospel with his grandfather at their Baptist church in Greenville, Georgia. In 2014 he decided he wanted to be a blues musician and began mastering as many blues instruments he could, including the guitar, harmonica, banjo and the cigar box. In 2018, he was an opening act for blues musician, Taj Mahal. Currently Willis is finishing his undergraduate studies in sociology at Columbus State University, and on weekends he plays at small house venues.

Spencer Wise

Born along the North Shore of Massachusetts, Spencer Wise pursued his undergraduate degree at Tufts University. He later moved to New York City and worked for Time Out NY and Sports Illustrated. Hard pressed for success, he pursued his masters degree in creative writing, studying at the University of Texas, Austin, and later received a PHD at Florida State University, here in Tallahassee. His fiction, nonfiction and poetry have been published in journals such as Narrative Magazine, Gulf Coast, and The Cincinnati Review. This past year he received a Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction, as well as published his first novel, The Emperor of Shoes. He’ll be appearing at Word of South with the author Robert Olen Butler.