2017 Presenter Biographies and Session Details

author-joe-tennisJoe Tennis is the author of nine books, including “Southwest Virginia Crossroads,” “Virginia Rail Trails” and “Along Virginia’s Route 58.” He has released three ghost-tale collections; two pictorial histories; and a children’s book based on the Lost State of Franklin in Tennessee. He has won more than 20 awards for his work at the Bristol Herald Courier since 1993. He has also written for Appalachian Voice, Coastal Virginia Magazine, Carolina Mountain Life, Lake Anna Magazine, Hampton Roads Magazine, and Route 66 Magazine.

Workshop- Separating Fact from Fiction: Reality-based Storytelling

Join author Joe Tennis as he shares tales of hunting and gathering for facts and learn where to look for great nuggets to compile non-fiction stories. Who do you interview? How do you do research? Where are the juicy nuggets? Is there such a thing as a wrong question? Learn how photos, maps, postcards and other illustrations can complement your work. Learn also how to blend a fiction-style storytelling spirit into your work to really make it sing. Whether it’s family history or a narrative for a church bulletin, learn how to impress with your writing skills.


fence-photoRita Quillen’s new full-length poetry collection, THE MAD FARMER’S WIFE, is from Texas Review Press, a member of the Texas A&M Consortium of Presses. Her  novel HIDING EZRA,  published in March 2014 by Little Creek Books, has a chapter included in the scholarly study of Appalachian dialect, TALKING APPALACHIAN, published by the University of Kentucky Press. She has served on staff for many creative writing workshops across the South and as a visiting writer at many high schools and colleges, including  Bluefield College, Roanoke College, and University of the Cumberlands. One of six semi- finalists for the 2012-14 Poet Laureate of Virginia, she received a Pushcart nomination in both 2012 and 2015 and a Best of the Net nomination in 2012. Her previous poetry collections are COUNTING THE SUMS and HER SECRET DREAM, which received the Book of the Year award from the Appalachian Writers Association. Currently, she’s working on turning her poems into songs.

Workshop- Jumpstarter Prompts

Join Rita for her poetry workshop where you will be given lots of prompts to get those juices flowing and ready to create your own work.


unnamed_001Steven James is the critically acclaimed, national bestselling author of thirteen novels. With a Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he has taught writing around the world. His work has been optioned by ABC Studios and praised by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books, and many others. He’s a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest and the author of the groundbreaking book Story Trumps Structure and the guidebook used by thousands of novelists Troubleshooting Your Novel, both from Writer’s Digest Books. When he’s not working on his next book, he teaches novel writing intensives and master classes throughout the country.

Workshop- Busting the Myths of Writing:

When you focus on what lies at the heart of story—tension, desire, crisis, escalation, struggle, discovery—rather than plot templates and formulas, you’ll begin to break out of the box and write fiction that resonates with your readers. People are quick to lay down rules for writers, whether regarding outlining, the number of acts to include, or how to develop your first draft. This workshop will inspire you to write unforgettable fiction by breaking the rules.



unnamedJo Allison is the author of the Julia Nye Mystery Series, as well as a new series involving espionage in World War I. She lives in Bristol, Virginia. She does extensive research for her novels, with the first series set in 1910s St. Louis. The third book in that series was judged “Best Self-Published Novel” by the James River Writers (Virginia) in 2016. You can find more information on her work at joallisonauthor.com and oldunderwoodpublish.com. She also maintains a website about 1910 for students and other researchers, at 1910-stlouis-by-jallison.com.

Workshop- Writing the Third Rail

We often think of “arc” as the unfolding of action, the plot that moves a story along. But the last decade of neuroscience describing “your brain on story” may convince us to look first at the character arc, the emotional arc that feeds the need for story in all of us.

We will examine the emotional third rail and consider how it powers the train of plot. In the workshop, we will explore several exercises for developing a powerful third rail, and participants will take away a variety of techniques to try for themselves.



jackbeckJack Beck is a native of Scotland who has lived in Big Stone Gap VA for 12 years. Since the early 1960s he has been recognized as an authority on Scots traditional culture around the world. An honorary life-member of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland, his singing has been featured all over the US, Canada and Europe and he has many recordings to his name. He presents a weekly Celtic music program called Celtic Clanjamphry on WETSfm in Johnson City TN and WEHCfm in Marion VA.

Workshop- Porridge to Pokes

Scotland, Ireland, and the ‘Scotch Irish’, Geography and geopolitical/religious context, The movement of Lowland Scots to Ireland and then to Appalachia, The relationship of the Scots language to the English language, The importation of a distinct culture, including language to Appalachia, Vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and Highland Gaelic versus Lowland Scots in the New World



Lauvonda Lynn M. Young writes poetry, fiction, non-fiction; and memoir (including fact-based). Author of, Just A Woman, Lynn has begun note taking for a second book (non-fiction). She continues to harbor an interest in developing a cookbook (including family history). Lynn is a past president, secretary, and newsletter editor, of the Blue Ridge Writers Chapter; she also is a member of the Appalachian Authors Guild; and the James River Writers (all chapters of the Virginia Writers Club, Inc., where Lynn holds a membership). As a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, Lynn has been an avid volunteer in Society activities, including planning, and related tasks relating to the Society’s annual poetry contest and awards ceremony. She served as editor of the newsletter of Friends of the Fluvanna County Library (Palmyra, Virginia), where she held roles as Vice President; and Communications Chair. For a time, she authored a monthly article for the Senior Center (Charlottesville, Virginia), and she served as the Center’s Council Secretary. Her prose and poems have been published in various places, including The College Paper, Piedmont Virginia Community College. While at PVCC, her creative writing work also was published in Branches in My Hand; and Dreams and Other Bargains. Other sources of publication include: Skyline; Blue Ridge Anthology; The Nearest Poem Anthology; Shelter in the Storm; and A Poem for Your Thoughts (University Hospital, University of Virginia Health System). In 1990, Lynn received the “Who’s Who in Poetry Honors” for “Outstanding Achievement in Poetry,” for winning the “Golden Poet Award for 1989” (poem title: “Metempsychosis,” World of Poetry, Sacramento, California). The first poem Lynn wrote as a junior in high school, was published in Young America Sings, (National High School Poetry Anthology). Lynn has organized and presented, readings, workshops, and other writing events, sometimes planned in concert and conducted with others. One workshop was accepted on the program of the yearly Festival of the Book (Charlottesville, Virginia); another was presented at the Jefferson-Madison Library (Charlottesville). Among others, Lynn developed a panel program, and participated in the program with others, for the Virginia Writer Club, Inc., annual symposium. Lynn has been an avid volunteer through the years, including the development of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Community Medication Center, where she was a charter member, also serving as secretary and president. Most of Lynn’s work career was spent working in the legal field, and at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center (which includes the hospital and medical school); over the years, she worked in the Departments of Neurological Surgery, Neurology, Internal Medicine, and Emergency Medicine. Lynn recently has considered returning to Mary Baldwin College, to finish her last fourteen (or thereabout) hours, she needs to obtain her B.A., major English. (Lynn stopped classes when her first husband died in December 1996.). She resides in Palmyra, Virginia, with her husband, Larry Rubendall. Her only child, Andrew, lives in Charlottesville.​

Workshop- Your Book is Finished: Let’s Talk Publication

In this workshop, I propose to talk about (1) Query Letters; (2) Obtaining a Literary Agent; (3) Social Media for writers; (4) Small presses versus large presses; and (5) Self-publishing. I will have a slide presentation and handouts.


dylan2Dylan Pratt graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a minor in Marketing. After four years of playing college baseball, he was excited to enter the competitive and ever-changing business landscape. He got his first job working as a Retail Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. Though he didn’t relish the face-to-face sales aspects of the position, he was able to glean a number of key insights into digital and mobile media while working for the company. Given his background in business and marketing, he was able to combine his unique skill set to begin helping his father, Scott, sell his independently published novels beginning in November of 2012. Four years later, the pair have managed to sell close to two million copies of Scott’s books. They’ve also developed Scott Pratt into an internationally recognizable writer who has consistently been in the Top-100 Best Selling authors on Amazon since the beginning of 2015. Dylan lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Workshop- The Business of Writing

The presentation will be titled The Business of Writing. I’ll be telling the story of how Dad and I first entered the publishing business, how our approach to selling books has evolved with the changes of the industry, and where we find ourselves today. I’ll also discuss the future, trends in the business, and best practices.


michael-mcnultyMichael McNulty serves as Chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Program Director for its summer Governor’s School.  Previously Michael has worked as an artistic director for The Invisible Theater Company and a free-lance Director and Designer with more than 70 productions to his credit.   He has advanced training and interests in Voice, Movement, Puppetry, Mask work, clowning and has performed  as a professional magician for clientele including F.A.O. Schwartz, The Jelly Belly Candy Company, and Bush Gardens, Tampa.  Michael trained for three years in Voice work with Kristen Linklater and has performed professionally in Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Florida.   Michael has directed performing arts departments for two independent preparatory schools and taught theater at Carnegie Mellon and Towson Universities.  He has also served in a variety of consulting capacities in technical theater, design, performance, team-building and training.  Michael holds an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon and a BFA in acting from Emerson College.   Michael is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and sits on the board of the Pro Art association for which he previously served as president.   In addition to the arts, Michael enjoys Philosophy, Media-studies, and his foolish attempts at living an overly-idealistic life.

Workshop- Playwriting

The workshop will offer a conceptual introduction to the specific nature of playwrighting for the theatre and its development through performance including an overview of the aesthetic development of playwrighting historically, the basics of narrative structure, dramatic action in dialogue, character development, and the process by which a script is developed into a performance.


img_2920-cSaundra Kelley, storyteller and author, is a 7th generation Florida Cracker. Her story bag, filled with folklore from around the world includes the tales of natural North Florida, the folktales of Appalachia, personal narrative, original stories, and narratives from her travels in Korea, England, France and Ireland.

After earning an undergraduate degree in the Social Sciences at Florida State University, Saundra worked as a community relations specialist in the non-profit sector in Tallahassee and wrote community-based articles for the Tallahassee Democrat. Many years later the oral tradition took her to East Tennessee State University’s storytelling program. While living in Appalachia she was a features writer for Jonesborough’s Herald & Tribune and continued to write as the Tennessee Rambler for the Wakulla Area Times in Florida. After earning an MA in performance art she took to the road, traveling America’s highways, and back roads, collecting and sharing her love of that which makes us human – our stories.

Saundra is the author of three books, Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition; The Day the Mirror Cried: a Collection of Short Stories, Essays, and Poetry; Danger in Blackwater Swamp, a romantic suspense, and her CD, Legends of the Wild: Tales of North Florida.

Workshops include The Storytelling Element; Collecting Oral History; Build a Better Guild; The Perfect Emcee; How to tell Story; From Printed Page to Performance and Back Again, and Finding History in Our Stories.

Again, living in Tallahassee with her miniature poodle Geoffrey, her focus is on saving, preserving and protecting what makes this place so special – it’s natural and elemental beauty.