2017 Artists

Jan Godown Annino

Jan Godown Annino delights in talking about the real SEMINOLES who lived in North Florida, before the collegiate kind arrived.

Seminole Tribe of Florida leader Betty Mae Tiger Jumper authorized Jan to share with children about alligator wrestling days, and a great deal more.

Milton Biggham and the Georgia Mass Choir

The Reverend Milton Biggham, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, has been a force in gospel music for forty years, including as a music producer at Savoy Records. In 1983 he founded the Georgia Mass Choir, which has performed in several movies and at the 1996 Olympic Games. The Choir has received two Grammy nominations and is the winner of a Gospel Music Workshop of American music awards.


Originally from Birmingham, AL, Banditos is a group - more like a gang, actually - of six 20 somethings, nowadays operating out of Nashville, close to, and simultaneously very far away from, the gleaming towers and industry hustle of Lower Broad and Music Row. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2015, and they’ve just released a new one, Visionland. Please welcome Banditos, to kick off Word of South 2017!

The Bones of J.R. Jones

Jonathon Linaberry is a blues singer and multi-instrumentalist who incorporates elements of old-time folk into the all-encompassing persona of The Bones of J.R. Jones. His latest album, Spirit’s Furnace, a crisp nine-track effort that bubbles with barroom dust and hard-won wisdom, finds the musician expanding the scope of his musical vision while stripping away the excess. “I’m a little clearer on the message that I’m trying to put out into the world,” says the singer, who has effectively blurred the line between his own life and The Bones of J.R. Jones character. What has continued to define The Bones of J.R. Jones is the musician’s hypnotic live show. He operates as a one-man band — playing guitar, drums, and singing in unison, creating the feeling of a raucous blues band with more immediacy.

Eliza Borné

Eliza Borné is the editor of the Oxford American, a national magazine dedicated to featuring the best in Southern writing and art, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the region. Best known for its annual Southern Music issue, the OA has won four National Magazine Awards and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The OA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and the magazine’s offices are located in Little Rock’s South Main neighborhood. Eliza was born and raised in Little Rock and received a B.A. in English from Wellesley College. She has also served as associate editor, managing editor, and interim editor of the OA. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference, is on the Arts & Culture Commission of the City of Little Rock, and is on the talent committee of the Arkansas Literary Festival.

Eliza is appearing at the festival with the writer Harrison Scott Key.

The Broomestix

The Broomestix are an R&B/Soul/Funk Jam Band out of the Nashville area; an exceptional group of musicians with an irresistibly funky rhythm section, stand-out vocalist, and tight, in-your-face, 5 piece horn section whose sound engages their audiences with irresistible rhythms and provides a unique introduction to emerging, right-now talent. Please welcome to Word of South, Broomestix!

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, Perfume River, was published in 2016. 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.


CAP 6 is a Lyricist Collective based out of Florida. Through admirable wit and poetic devices, they bring a new organic flavor to listeners’ ears. The CAP 6 Collective Members are CRIMSON, IntricateTheAlmighty, Donny Blot, Rob Ohtis, Hakeem Furious, and DJ Nove.

Allison Clarke

Allison Clarke is a singer-songwriter living in Nashville, TN. Growing up in Tallahasse, music for Allison has always been more than just a groove or rhyme, it’s been a way to reach deep and communicate truth. Her soulful pop style draws influences from artists like Colbie Caillat, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Holcomb. Her melodies and lyrics engage her audience as she shares songs inspired by her faith. Allison recently released her single “Holding My Heart” and will release her first studio EP in the Spring of 2017.

Greg Cowles

Gregory Cowles is an editor at The New York Times Book Review.

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.

It’s been years since The Currys played their first songs together as teenage boys, swapping tunes during family reunions in the Florida panhandle. West of Here pays tribute to that history while simultaneously pushing the band forward, with one foot in the folksy sound of The Currys’ early writing and the other pointing toward something new. Like its title suggests, West of Here is the sound of a band on the move.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her new book, Return Fire, is the sequel to the high-stakes, action/adventure story Moving Target. Christina’s books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book, the International Reading Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award, and the ALA Quick Pick for Young Adult Readers. Reviewers from publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, The Miami Herald, School Library Journal and The Washington Post have called her novels engrossing, compelling and inspirational.

Tim Dorsey

Tim Dorsey was born in Indiana, moved to Florida at the age of 1, and grew up in a small town about an hour north of Miami called Riviera Beach. From 1983 to 1987, he was a police and courts reporter for The Alabama Journal, the now-defunct evening newspaper in Montgomery. He joined The Tampa Tribune in 1987 as a general assignment reporter. He also worked as a political reporter in the Tribune’s Tallahassee bureau and a copy desk editor. From 1994 to 1999, he was the Tribune’s night metro editor. He left the paper in August 1999 to write full time. He lives in Tampa.

Tim has since published nineteen novels in several languages: Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, Triggerfish Twist, The Stingray Shuffle, Cadillac Beach, Torpedo Juice, The Big Bamboo, Hurricane Punch, Atomic Lobster, Nuclear Jellyfish, Gator A-Go-Go, Electric Barracuda, When Elves Attack, Pineapple Grenade, The Riptide Ultra-Glide, Tiger Shrimp Tango, Shark Skin Suite and Coconut Cowboy. His twentieth title, Clownfish Blues will be released in January.

The Dustbowl Revival

The Dustbowl Revival is a nine-piece band from Los Angeles that serves up a great smorgasbord of music, from bluegrass to blues to swing to rock and roll. Sporting horns, a tuba, a washboard, accordion, fiddle and guitar, this group has been dubbed L.A.’s best live band, and that’s saying something. Please welcome to Word of South and the FSU Spring Game weekend, The Dustbowl Revival!

Faking Jazz

Faking Jazz was formed in the Southeastern college town of Tallahassee, Florida in early 2016. Amber Phillips and Nicholas Kielbasa met in school and began writing, producing, and performing music together shortly after. Pulling together an eclectic mix of tastes, Faking Jazz touches on genres such as R&B, hip-hop, funk, and soul mixed with electronics, drum machines, and “twinkly” guitar work.

Melissa Farrell

Melissa is one of three co-authors who worked together to create Saints of Old Florida, a beautiful keepsake book that captures the essence of real life in the Florida Panhandle, in other words, not the stuff that goes in brochures. Melissa opened Joseph’s Cottage, a lifestyle store, in 2002 in Port St. Joe. For her, connecting with others who shared their stories and love for this area was the most meaningful aspect of creating Saints of Old Florida.

Adrian Fogelin

Adrian Fogelin is the author of eight books for middle readers (grades 4-7), six of which make up her popular Neighborhood Series. Adrian’s writing has won numerous awards and been included on multiple lists of top books around the country. Her work is inspired by real situations in her real neighborhood, including circumstances around economics, class, and race that kids so often deal with. Eight years ago, Adrian, unwilling to part with her father’s house after his passing, established the Front Porch Library in the neighborhood she shared with her dad. You can find Adrian at the Library every weekend, reading and engaging in learning activities with any kids and parents from the neighborhood who wish to participate. Adrian will present her workshop for young writer’s, Think Like an Author, to festival attendees on April 9, 2017. The workshop is free but has limited seats. You can fill out the required registration form here:

Schuyler Ford

Linda "Schuyler" Ford is a Master Storyteller who grew up in Sleepy Hollow, NY, listening to tales from her Dutch-German ancestors. It's no wonder she became a storyteller! (For several years, she performed The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Washington Irving's graveside)

Today, Schuyler entertains children and families in schools, libraries and museums. Locally, she hosts popular storytelling house concerts featuring nationally acclaimed storytellers, facilitates storytelling classes, and produces story slams.

She is also a therapeutic story practitioner, offering story-based support groups, workshops and keynote addresses for health care professionals and hospice workers, throughout the country. Her rich repertoire encompasses folk, literary and personal stories for all ages. Schuyler is a member of the National Storytelling Network, Northeast Storytelling League, and the Connecticut Association of Therapeutic Recreation Directors. She serves on the board of the Florida Storytelling Association.

Future Thieves

From festivals like Bonnaroo, Summerfest, and Forecastle to standing room-only shows across the U.S., Future Thieves thrive in a live setting. Paste, American Songwriter, and several other outlets have spotlighted the group. The band regularly packs venues from Los Angeles to New York City to their home base, Nashville. Though each band member followed a different route musically, the synergy between them sparked from the moment Future Thieves formed in October 2013.

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 will be appearing at Word of South as part of our “In-the-Round” event with the poet Jimmy Kimbrell, the writer-musician Laura Minor and the musician Del Suggs.

Adam Haslett

Adam Haslett is the author of three works of fiction: the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist; the novel Union Atlantic, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize; and his most recent, the novel Imagine Me Gone, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. Haslett has been awarded the Berlin Prize by the American Academy in Berlin, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the PEN/Malamud and PEN/Winship Awards. In 2016, he received the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Yale Law School, he has been a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Columbia University. He lives in New York City. Adam will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Darius Jones.

Tameka Bradley Hobbs

Tameka Bradley Hobbs is an Assistant Professor of History, Interim Chair of the Department of Social Sciences, and University Historian for Florida Memorial University, the only Historically Black University in South Florida. She earned her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University, and her doctoral degree in United States History, and Historical Administration and Public History from Florida State University.

Her book, Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida, was published by the University Press of Florida and has been awarded bronze medal for the 2015 Florida Book Award for Florida Nonfiction., and the 2016 Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Award from the Florida Historical Society. In the work, Hobbs uses a combination of primary source documents and oral testimonies to bring the voices of African American witnesses and survivors into the retelling of these incidents. Beyond that, the work also attempts to place the four lynchings examined in this study within the context of the overall arc of the “lynching era” in the United States, normal dated between 1882 and 1930, as these instances of extralegal violence became more sporadic.

Joshilyn Jackson

New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of seven novels and a novella: The Opposite of Everyone, Someone Else’s Love Story, Gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and the novella My Own Miraculous. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, and three times been a #1 Book Sense Pick. She’s twice been selected Georgia Author of the Year, and three times been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. Joshilyn will be appearing at Word of South with the author and musician Lydia Netzer.

Darius Jones

Darius Jones is an extraordinarily gifted alto saxophonist and composer. He joined the New York music community in 2005, after living and studying in Richmond, VA. During his time in New York he has amazed and inspired musicians and audiences from widely divergent backgrounds with his meticulously honed musical gifts. Soul-power is at his foundation; forward-looking expression always at the core. Darius' 2012 release, Book of Mæ'bul (Another Kind of Sunrise) was listed among NPR's Best Top 10 Jazz Albums of that year. Darius will be appearing at Word of South with the author Adam Haslett.

Harrison Scott Key

Harrison Scott Key is the author of The World's Largest Man, winner of the 2016 Thurber Prize in American Humor. His nonfiction and humor have appeared in The New York Times, Outside, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Best American Travel Writing, Southern Living, Salon, Reader's Digest, Image, Creative Nonfiction, Gulf Coast, and Oxford American, where he serves as a contributing editor. He teaches writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, where he lives with his wife and three children. Online, you can find him at and On Twitter, he's @HarrisonKey.

Harrison is appearing at the festival with the editor Eliza Borné.

James Kimbrell

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, James Kimbrell received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia and a PhD from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is the author of The Gatehouse Heaven (1998), which was chosen by poet Charles Wright for the Kathryn A. Morton Prize from Sarabande Books, My Psychic (2006), and Smote (2015). He and artist Yu Jung-yul co-translated the collection Three Poets of Modern Korea: Yi Sang, Hahm Dong-Seon, and Choi Young-Mi (2002). In 2016 he was named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. James will be appearing at Word of South as part of our “In-the-Round” event with the poet Barbara Hamby, the musician Del Suggs and the writer/musician Laura Minor.

David Kirby

David Kirby is a poet, critic, and scholar. Influenced by artists as diverse as John Keats and Little Richard, Kirby writes distinctive long-lined narrative poems that braid together high and popular culture, personal memory, philosophy, and humor. “One thing that I want to do in the poems is to portray the mind as it actually works,” he stated in a 2007 interview with Craig Morgan Teacher. Kirby is the author of more than two dozen volumes of criticism, essays, children’s literature, pedagogy, and poetry. His numerous collections of poetry include The Ha-Ha (2003), short-listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and The House on Boulevard Street: New and Selected Poems (2007), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Florida Book Award and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award. Since 1969 he has taught at Florida State University, where he has received several teaching awards. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, poet Barbara Hamby. David will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Ben Sollee.

David Leavitt

David Leavitt’s published fiction includes the short-story collections Family Dancing (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award), A Place I've Never BeenArkansas and The Marble Quilt, as well as the novels The Lost Language of CranesEqual AffectionsWhile England Sleeps (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize), The Page TurnerMartin BaumanThe Body of Jonah Boyd and The Indian Clerk (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award).

He is a member of the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Florida as well as the founder and editor of the literary journal Subtropics.

Lisa Loeb

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb started her career with the platinum-selling Number 1 hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. Loeb has successfully parlayed her talents into a multi-dimensional career encompassing music, film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings.

Today, Loeb continues to grow as an artist and to push herself and her career forward with a creative zeal and an inner drive not often seen. While becoming a mom of two, she is also in the process of releasing her second children’s book Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Moving and Shaking, and another adult studio album, No Fairy Tale. Forever the fearless performer, Lisa Loeb is constantly exploring her creativity and telling original stories; whether by writing a book, producing a TV show, or continuing to develop her acting career.

Lonely Heartstring Band

Nourished by deep roots in the expansive canon of traditional American music, the Lonely Heartstring Band embodies the modern American condition—an understanding and reverence for the past that informs a push into the future. This multi-talented group of musicians is a classic Bluegrass quintet—always far greater than the sum of its parts.

Combining soulful instrumental virtuosity with soaring three-part harmonies, their growing repertoire of original songs and compositions showcases not only their considerable talents, but a dedication to meaningful roots-conscious music.

Lost Bayou Ramblers

Lost Bayou Ramblers was formed in 1999 by brothers Andre and Louis Michot, performing the roots Cajun music they learned as members of Les Frères Michot, the family band their father and uncles formed in the 80's. The brothers quickly began playing clubs and festivals around Louisiana, and taking the traditional music they were raised with to new levels of rhythmic energy and spontaneity.

In 2012, with 5 albums under their belt, including a Grammy nomination for their 2007 release Live a la Blue Moon, the band released its most progressive and sonically experimental record to date, Mammoth Waltz. Mammoth Waltz acts as an invitation for all music lovers to tune in to the hypnotic Cajun rhythms the Lost Bayou Ramblers have been known for since their inception in 1999. Lost Bayou Ramblers’ contribution to the score of Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012 brought them further international recognition.

Acree Macam

Acree (Graham) Macam is the author of The King of the Birds and Senior Copywriter at PitchMaps. Previously an independent copywriter, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Highest Honors from Emory University's creative writing program, where she was awarded the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts for her writing. The King of the Birds, written by Acree and illustrated by Natalie Nelson, is a picture book inspired by the life of Flannery O’Connor. It is, according to Booklist, a “quirky-but-true story is nothing short of charming.”

James McBride and his band

James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on The New York Times bestseller list for two years, and is considered an American classic. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was translated into a major motion picture directed by American film icon Spike Lee. James wrote the script for Miracle At St. Anna and co-wrote Spike Lee's 2012 Red Hook Summer. His novel The Good Lord Bird, about American revolutionary John Brown, won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction. His most recent book is Kill “Em and Leave, about the musician James Brown.

James toured as a saxophonist sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott, among others, and will appear at Word of South with his band. He has also written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, Gary Burton, and even for the PBS television character 'Barney.' He did not write the 'I Love You' song for Barney but wishes he did. He received the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award for his musical Bo-Bos co-written with playwright Ed Shockley.  His 2003 Riffin’ and Pontificatin’ Musical Tour was captured in a nationally televised Comcast documentary.

Christina McDermott

Christina McDermott is one of three co-authors of the charming keepsake book, Saints of Old Florida. Christina fell in love with Old Florida over the course of many beach vacations with her daughters and today she calls Port St. Joe home. Christina has an enthusiasm for biking and exploring local beaches and the coast. Her enthusiasm and fresh perspective helped make the book truly unique.

Wendy Mills

Award-winning author Wendy Mills writes for both teens and adults. Her latest young adult novel, All We Have Left, has earned starred reviews, is the winner of both the 2016 Florida Book Award and the 2016 Book Browse YA Award, and has been named as one of the best books of the year by both Amazon and Kirkus Reviews. Wendy lives with her family on a tropical island off the west coast of Florida, where she spends her time writing and dodging hurricanes.

Laura Minor

Laura Minor is the recipient of the 2016 Emerging Writers Spotlight Award at Florida State University, chosen by D.A. Powell. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Berfrois, Queen Mob's Tea House, Hobart, and Spring Gun Press. She was a Teacher’s College Fellow at Columbia University, the recipient of the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Award, and a finalist for Steel Toe Books & Pudding House Press. She will be on the 2017 AWP panel, 21st Century Troubadours, alongside internationally celebrated poets: Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Robert Pinsky. A celebrated singer-songwriter, Minor is also currently working on a third record (forthcoming in spring 2017) while she finishes her debut book of poems as a doctoral candidate in poetry at Florida State University.

Laura will be appearing at Word of South as part of our “In-the-Round” event with the poets Barbara Hamby and Jimmy Kimbrell and the musician Del Suggs.

Gary Monroe

Gary Monroe, a native of Miami Beach, is professor of fine arts at Daytona State College. He has photographed throughout Brazil, Israel, Cuba, India, Trinidad, Poland, and Egypt, among other international destinations. He is best known for his long-term photographic involvements with the elderly’s old world culture of South Beach, Haiti during the end of the Duvalier regime and foray into democracy, and tourism as a rite of passage. He has received various honors and distinctions for his work, including two National Endowments for the Arts, four Florida Humanities Council Fellowships, a State of Florida arts fellowship, and two Fulbright Foundation fellowships.

Mr. Monroe came to writing for publication at mid-career to better understand the aesthetics of Outsider art. He is the author of the acclaimed book, The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, and three other books on the Highwaymen artists. He has written nine books, most of which acknowledge unrecognized self-taught Florida artists, including the definitive book about the state’s Outsider artists, Extraordinary Interpretations: Florida’s Self-taught Artists. His most recent book, E. G. Barnhill: Florida Photographer, Adventurer, Entrepreneur, highlights the artist’s stunning hand-colored photographs made as “tourist art” in the early 1900s.

Mount Moriah

The North Carolina-based band Mount Moriah—composed of Heather McEntire (lead vocals, guitar), Jenks Miller (lead guitar, keys), and Casey Toll (bass, keys)—seem insistent to grow. If Mount Moriah’s self-titled debut showed them standing with sea legs, determined to dream their way free from the dark crevices and corners of alt-country’s stiff template; and if Miracle Temple, their second album, called that darkness by its Southern name and met it with fire; then their latest collection of songs, How to Dance, is a devotion to the cosmic light itself: moving towards it, moving into it, becoming it.

Mount Moriah’s third full-length album sees them stretching further to explore their collective interest in the intangible fringes of fate and synchronicity. With How to Dance, the band presents new themes of symbolism, mysticism, alchemy, universality, sacred geometry. There is color, confidence, self-direction, joy. There is also darkness, but only to show you how it found its light

Natalie Nelson

Natalie Nelson is an illustrator and collage artist who draws, paints, bikes, and eats in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work has appeared in publications large and small. Her first picture book, The King of the Birds, was published Fall 2016 with Groundwood Books. It was illustrated by Nelson and written by Acree Macam.

Her forthcoming picture book, Uncle Holland, written by Sidewalk Flowers' author JonArno Lawson, will be published in April 2017. 

Lydia Netzer

Lydia Netzer’s debut novel Shine Shine Shine was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012, an Amazon Spotlight Book of the Month, a Target Book Club Pick, and was shortlisted for the LA Times Book Prize in Fiction. Her most recent book, How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky, is about fate and determinism, science and faith, and asks the question: what is love? Lydia will be appearing at Word of South with the author Joshilyn Jackson.

Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Okorafor’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, the New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”. Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and Le Prix Imaginales for Best Translated Novel), Akata Witch (an Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her adult novel The Book of Phoenix (a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award) was released in 2015 and her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Akata Warrior will be released in Fall 2017. 

Joan Osborne

Joan Osborne, a native Kentuckian, burst onto the music scene in the late 1990’s with her hit single “One of Us,” featuring the now-iconic line, “What if God is One of Us?” Since then she’s released seven albums, including her most recent, “Love and Hate.” She’ll perform a special set of Dylan songs at Word of South, “Joan Osborne sings the songs of Bob Dylan.”

Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay delivers a powerful punch as a renowned, Platinum-selling, hit songwriter and dynamic performer. Paslay has celebrated five No. 1 hits including “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (Eli Young Band), “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” (Jake Owen), “Angel Eyes” (Love & Theft), “Rewind” (Rascal Flatts) and “Friday Night,” the smash lead single from his critically acclaimed self-titled debut album. The Temple, Texas native is a recent GRAMMY nominee (first as a recording artist) in the Best Country Duo/Group category for “The Driver,” performed by Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, featuring Eric and Dierks Bentley, and a current “Song of The Year” nominee for “She Don’t Love You” at the upcoming ACM Awards on April 3. He’ll perform as part of the FSU Block Party on Friday April 7 at Klemen Plaza.

Christine Poreba

Christine Poreba's book Rough Knowledge won the 2014 Philip Levine Prize. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Recent honors include The Florida Review’s 2015 Editors’ Prize, a Florida Individual Artist’s Grant, and a nomination for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Originally from New York City, she currently lives in Tallahassee with her husband and their young son.

Sarah Potenza

Sarah Potenza writes and sings roots rock n’ roll music. Rolling Stone describes Potenza as “Janis Joplin-Aretha Franklin hybrid with a mic ... but a Lucinda Williams-Bonnie Raitt hybrid with a pen.” She was introduced to many as a contestant on season 8 of The Voice. Her critically praised debut album, Monster, was released in 2016.

Padgett Powell

Padgett Powell is the author of six novels, including Edisto, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and two collections of stories. His writing has appeared in the New YorkerHarper's, and the Paris Review, as well as in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Sports Writing. He has received a Whiting Writers' Award, the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Padgett lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches at MFA@FLA, the writing program of the University of Florida.

Emily Raffield

Emily is a St. Joseph’s Bay native who’s lived other places, but always managed to find her way back home. A lover of boats, raw oysters, and quiet mornings watching the sun brighten the day are some of the simplicities she loves about Old Florida life. Working with Melissa and Christina to create Saints of Old Florida has allowed her to experience her home in a deeper way and share what she’s learned in the pages of their beautiful book.

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. And every now and then, it gives you a peek at the oddities that seem to happen only down here. Chuck will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Marshall Ruffin.

John Shelton Reed

John Shelton Reed is a writer and lecturer who lives in Chatham county, North Carolina. He has written or edited twenty books, including 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the South and Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, both written with his wife, Dale Volberg Reed. He belongs to the Fellowship of Southern Writers and served recently as that organization's Chancellor.

He taught for some years at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, retiring in 2000 as William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of sociology and director of the Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. He was founding co-editor of the quarterly Southern Cultures and helped to found the university's Center for the Study of the American South.

He serves as Éminence Grease of the Campaign for Real Barbecue (

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.

Marshall Ruffin

Marshall Ruffin is a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Atlanta whose musical style mixes blues and rock. Ruffin also plays gospel in church on Sundays. He has recorded two EPs and a new album that will be on sale during his performance at Word of South. Ruffin has performed and recorded as the guitarist and backing vocalist for Lonnie Holley, another 2016 festival artist, with whom he recently toured Europe. His song “Light The Way” was featured during their appearance in London on BBC Radio 6. Ruffin was the winner of the 39th Eddie’s Attic Songwriter Shootout in 2013. Marshall will be appearing at Word of South with the writer and editor Chuck Reece.

Mary Jane Ryals

Mary Jane Ryals won a Florida Book Award and a President's Book Award with Florida Publishers Association for her 2010 novel Cookie & Me. As well, she won the Chapbook Contest for Florida Poets in 2006. She's currently working on a second novel in a series of mysteries set in the Florida Panhandle and teaches at Florida State University.

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.


Mark Demont, Dickie Hosford and Ray Wiley have been picking and grinning and singing for years, while at the same time running businesses and doing that family thing. Join them in their appearance as Stagecoach at this year’s Word of South.

Nic Stoltzfus

Nic Stoltzfus is a writer and photographer at Live Oak Production Group. A graduate of the Florida State University Communication Program, Nic has always appreciated the art of storytelling.

His first script, Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast, was nominated for a Suncoast Emmy in the writing category and won People’s Choice for the 2014 Telly Awards. Along with the script, Nic also wrote a companion coffee table book which won the Gold Medal (Visual Arts) in the 2015 Florida Book Awards.

His next project was writing a script for Apalachicola River and Bay: A Connected Ecosystem, which was nominated for a Suncoast Emmy in the writing category. He has recently written the script and coffee table book for The Great Florida Cattle Drive: Unbroken Circles project.

Bob Shacochis

Bob Shacochis is one of America’s most provocative and accomplished writers. His story collection Easy in the Islands won the National Book Award, and his novel Swimming in the Volcano was a National Book Award finalist. His most recent novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, was the winner of the Dayton International Literary Peace Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His most recent work is a collection of his travel and adventure essays, Kingdoms in the Air, published in 2016. He lives in Florida and New Mexico, and teaches at Florida State University.

Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope is an American folk duo from Charleston, South Carolina composed of husband and wife Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. Combining threads from their individual solo careers, Shovels & Rope blends traditional folk, rock and roll and country rock. Their fifth album, “Little Seeds,” was released in 2016.

Chef Art Smith

Chef Art Smith loves the idea of bringing people together through food. It’s partly what made him the success he is today. He is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, Art and Soul, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, LYFE Kitchen restaurants, 1500 Southat the Naples Bay Resortand his latest restaurant Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Art Smith has received the culinary profession's highest awards and has cooked for some of the world's most famous celebrities. In 1997, Smith became the personal, day-to-day chef to Oprah Winfrey, a position that lasted ten years. Smith now coordinates and cooks for special events all around the world.

Smith lives in Chicago and Florida with his husband Jesus Salgueiro, their four children Zumy, Zuky, Brando and Angel, and of course three dogs, seven cats, 15 fish and a couple of turtles.

Ben Sollee

Kentucky-born cellist and composer Ben Sollee likes to keep moving. He kicked off 2014 with the release of his score for the documentary film Maidentrip. If you’ve seen him perform, you know it’s not to be missed. Over the six years following the release of his debut record, Learning to Bend, Sollee and his rugged cello, Kay, told an unconventional story. Seeking a deeper connection to communities on the road, Ben packed his touring life on to his bicycle in 2009. Since then he has ridden over 4,000 miles! He has been invited to perform and speak on sustainability at a number of festivals, including South by Southwest Music (2011) and TEDx San Diego (2012). It’s Ben’s quality of narrative and presence on stage that unifies his musical influences. Ben will be appearing at Word of South with the poet David Kirby.

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, Sin Sick, 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.

Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks is the rock project by songwriter and producer Tim Showalter. Hard Love, Showalter’s latest release as Strand of Oaks, is a record that explores the balancing act between overindulgence and accountability. Recounting Showalter’s decadent tour experiences, his struggling marriage, and the near death of his younger brother, Hard Love emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.”

Del Suggs

Del Suggs is an original. Del is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from the beaches of North Florida and is considered by many to be one of the founders and pioneers of "Trop Rock" (tropical rock) music. Del began to perform in a similar style, which he called "Saltwater Music," drawing on his experiences growing up along the gulf coast in Panama City, Florida. Del has released five solo albums Living Deliberately, LIVE, Floating On The Surface, Wooden Boat, and Saltwater Music. He has also been a featured artist on seven compilation albums, including Tallahassee Selects, Music From The Rascal Yard, The Prime Meridian, The Cascades Collection, and A Cascades Christmas. His continued success is a reflection of the broad appeal and timelessness of his music. Del is one of those individuals who comes on stage as a stranger, and leaves it as a friend. Del will be appearing at Word if South as part of our “In-the Round” event with the poets Barbara Hamby and Jimmy Kimbrell and the writer/musician Laura Minor.

Up From Here

Up From Here is a pop punk band from Tampa, Florida. Initially conceived as an acoustic duo in 2014, Up From Here became a full pop punk band in January of 2015. In 2016 they have shared the stage with Hawthorne Heights, The Ataris, Handguns, Norma Jean, Johnny Craig, Famous Last Words, Austin Jones, I Set My Friends On Fire, Set It Off, Ice Nine Kills, Secrets, as well as many others, in addition to making their first east coast tour. They released their first studio EP, Better Ways To Escape, on June 11th, 2016.


Vandaveer is the song-singing, record-making, globetrotting project penned and put forth by Kentucky-based tunesmith Mark Charles Heidinger. With poignant, everyman narratives and striking, folk-based harmonies, Vandaveer loosely falls under the Americana umbrella, but the band regularly elbows their way into wider spaces with a kaleidoscopic assortment of sounds. Vandaveer shapeshifts from stage to studio and back with a host of accomplished characters, most prominent among them Rose Guerin, offering up the loveliest harmonies heard this side of Eden.

These days the band is rounded out by a trio of gifted Kentuckians and long time collaborators—masterful multi-instrumentalists J. Tom Hnatow and Justin Craig and Robby Cosenza on drums. It was with this unit that Vandaveer entered the studio once again to begin work on LP #5, their first for Sony/RED imprint WhiteSpace Records. What emerged—2016’s The Wild Mercury—is musical alchemy.

Matthew Logan Vasquez

Matthew Logan Vasquez, front-man for Delta Spirit, will be appearing as the lead act before Shovels and Rope Sunday at the festival.

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.

Brad Watson

Brad Watson is the author of two collections of stories and the novel The Heaven of Mercury, which was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award. His fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Granta, Ecotone, Electric Literature, and the Idaho Review, among other publications. He teaches at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. Since 2002, Brad had been trying to write a novel inspired by the difficult life of his maternal great-aunt Mary Ellis (nicknamed Jane) Clay, 1888-1975. The book, Miss Jane, was released by W.W. Norton on July 12, 2016, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. Watson lives south of Laramie, Wyoming with his wife, writer and horse trainer Nell Hanley. Brad will be appearing at Word of South with the musician Randall “Big Daddy” Webster.

Randall “Big Daddy” Webster

Randall “Big Daddy” Webster’s ministry of blues reaches deep into the collective soul. He's an accomplished singer-songwriter penning tunes for both himself and artists around the world. There’s an undeniable musical connection between Webster’s blues and his audience. Says Big Daddy, “The tradition of playing music from the soul (Ceol Dan Anum in Irish) is much the same overseas as it is here in America and people really tap into that. It's all about reaching people’s primal core with music.” Big Daddy will be appearing at Word of South with the author Brad Watson.

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," his new album, "Beulah", was released in 2016.

Mark Woods

Mark Woods is Metro columnist for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla. In 2011, he won the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship, an award given to one writer in America each year. The fellowship allowed him to take a sabbatical and spend one year working on a project about the future of the national parks. During that year, Woods lost his mother, turning the project and a subsequent book into something much more personal. “Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks” was published by Thomas Dunne Books in June 2016, a month before the centennial of the National Park Service.

Thomas Wynn & The Believers

Thomas Wynn & The Believers personifies rugged, yet uplifting spirited rock, sprinkled with southern soul R&B. Tunes brutally honest & heartfelt, the themes go beyond years of drugs, heartbreaks & hypocrisy to deliver a message of hope.

A combination of blistering rock and southern soul, this fiery ensemble has been playing the Orlando, Florida original music circuit for the last three-plus years and have quickly garnered local celebrity status. Hailing from a musical family, the band is heavily influenced by Thomas and Olivia's father, Tom Wynn, who was the drummer for Cowboy. Throughout the 1970’s, Cowboy toured with the Allman Brothers Band, and released four albums on the legendary Capricorn Records. Thomas’ spirit-moving vocals are uniquely supported by sister Olivia Wynn’s engaging and captivating voice and presence.

Known for their powerful LIVE performances, TWTB have delighted audiences of all sizes, including festival goers at Bear Creek, Orlando Calling, Magnolia Fest, Bear Creek, Orlando Calling, Blackwater Music Festival, BamaJam, Tropical Heatwave, Antiwarpt, Pojo Music Fest and FMFs. The group has also shared the stage with national acts Gov't Mule, Blackberry Smoke, The Dirty Guv'nahs, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Drivin' N' Cryin', Leon Russell, Drive-By Truckers, Donna the Buffalo, Leftover Salmon, JJ Grey & Mofro, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Honey Island Swamp Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, The Lee Boys, Charlie Daniels, and many more.

TWTB are gratefully sponsored by Gibson, D'Addario, and Drilley's Shoes.

Gary Yordon

Gary Yordon writes for the Tallahassee Democrat, hosts the political WCTV program “The Usual Suspects” and is the president of The Zachary Group. His novel Driving the Road of Life...with a Flat Tire was published in 2016.