Past Red Clay Speakers

2016 Red Clay Speakers

Phillip DePoy–Keynote Speaker

Phillip DePoy began his work as a writer in 1965 with the Actors and Writers Workshop. Ten years later he had become a published poet and acquired a Master’s degree in performance art. Soon thereafter he became a writer in residence for the Georgia Council for the Arts and a nationally reviewed performance artist. In the 1980s he was the composer in residence for the Academy Theatre. In the 1990s he was the Artistic Director of Theatrical Outfit, a professional, Equity theatre. Since then he has served as the director of several university theatre programs. Fiction publications include Flap Tucker mysteries published at Dell (one was a Shamus finalist), seven Fever Devilin novels and a stand-alone called THE KING JAMES CONSPIRACY from St. Martin’s, and a non-fiction THE TAO AND THE BARD from the Arcade house. There have also been forty-two productions of plays he’s written, including the Edgar Award winning EASY, best mystery play of 2002. Most recent theatrical achievements include the award-winning EDWARD FOOTE at the Alliance Theatre and the twentieth national production of APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING. Coming in 2016: two new fiction series, one featuring Christopher Marlowe in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and the other concerning Foggy Moscowitz, a Jewish car thief from Brooklyn working for Child Protective Services in 1970s Florida.


Raymond Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia, where he is an instructor of English at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. He lives on the banks of the Etowah River in an old house with a patient wife and a fat dog. His hobbies include people-watching, reading, and watching movies that have no hope of ever achieving credibility. His first novel, The Front Porch Prophet, was published by Medallion Press in 2008 and was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, Sorrow Wood, was published by Medallion Press in 2009. His third novel, Camp Redemption, was released by Mercer University Press in 2013 and was awarded the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction and the 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. His fourth novel, Sweetwater Blues, is a Townsend Prize nominee. South of the Etowah, his first creative non-fiction book, was released by Mercer University Press in March of 2016. Learn more about him at


Carol Crawford

Carol Crawford is an independent editor and the owner of, who has been teaching creative writing for two decades. She is author of The Habit of Mercy, Poems about Daughters and Mothers, and has been published essays, poems and stories in the Southern Humanities Review, Appalachian Heritage, the Concho River Review, the Chattahoochee Review, the Journal of Kentucky Studies and others. She has been program coordinator for the annual Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference since its inception in 1996 and holds a degree in journalism and English from Baylor University. Originally from Texas, she now lives in the north Georgia mountains with her husband and two rescue dogs of good heart but little brain.


Angela DeCaires

Angela DeCaires is the Publishing Director at BookLogix. In her role with the Atlanta-based publisher, she oversees marketing communications and the departments that make up BookLogix’s publishing process. Angela’s background includes experience in public relations, writing, broadcasting, and journalism. She holds a degree in Communication/Journalism from St. John Fisher College.


Ann Hite

Ann Hite is a wife, mom, grandmother, and book junkie. At age 51, she became a published novelist. Her debut novel, Ghost On Black Mountain, won Georgia Author Of The Year and was a Townsend Prize Finalist in 2012. She has published four novels and a novella that are set in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Where The Souls Go, her latest novel, is a finalist for the IndieFab Awards 2015. Being a city girl most of her life, she now writes each day in her home office that looks out on a decent clutter of trees.


Sally Kilpatrick

Sally Kilpatrick is the author of The Happy Hour Choir and Bittersweet Creek, two novels published by Kensington Books in 2015. She holds a Master of Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University and is a member of several writing organizations including Romance Writers of America, Georgia Romance Writers, Georgia Writers Association, and the Atlanta Writers Club. The Happy Hour Choir won the “Duel on the Delta” and was a finalist for the Maggie Award and 2012 Golden Heart Awards. Sally’s third novel, Better Get to Living (June 2016), was a 2013 Maggie finalist. Sally lives with her husband and two children in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Visit her author website at


K.B. Kincer

K.B Kincer was awarded both an MFA and a PhD in creative writing from Georgia State University. Her work has appeared in The Healing Muse, Poet LoreAtlanta ReviewDappled ThingsRed River ReviewTouch: The Journal of Healing, The Examined Life and elsewhere. She directs and co-hosts melodically challenged, a nationally syndicated weekly radio show devoted to poetry and alternative music that airs on college radio stations and Public Radio stations throughout the country. Her debut chapbook, After the Transplant, will be published by La Vita Poetica Press in June.


Christopher Martin

Christopher Martin is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Everything Turns AwayA Conference of Birds, and  Marcescence: Poems from Gahneesah, which is co-authored with David King. His work has appeared in Shambhala SunWaccamaw, drafthorseStill: The JournalBuddhist Poetry ReviewPilgrimageTown Creek Poetry, and elsewhere, including the anthologies including The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. The founding editor of Flycatcher, a contributing editor at New Southerner, and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Chris recently won the 2015 Will D. Campbell Award in Creative Nonfiction. His book, The Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith will be published in 2017 by Mercer University Press. You can find more info about Chris and his work at .


Rona Simmons

Five years ago, Rona Simmons launched her second career drawing on the writing, analysis, and research skills acquired over the thirty-years she spent in corporate America. Since then, she’s acted as ghostwriter for the biography of a prominent Atlanta businessman and wrote magazine articles, a collection of short stories, and two novels. The novels, The Quiet Room and Postcards from Wonderland, were published by Deeds Publishing of Athens, Georgia. Both were set outside the south, yet she considers herself a southern writer. Both were historical fiction, yet she thinks of them as stories that just by happenstance took place in the past. For her next novel, a work in progress, she’s picked a topic ripped from today’s headlines and set in the present day South. In between her very active marketing efforts, Rona also “slow blogs” about women in the creative arts (WomenatWord), her favorite writing tips at (Write, Write, Write), and her other passion–travel (Bristlefish).


Cheryl Stiles

Cheryl Stiles has published poems, essays, and reviews in journals such as Poet LoreThe Atlanta ReviewGARGOYLEStorysouth, SLANTPlainsongsPilgrimageSouthern Women’s Review, and POEM. She won the 2009 poetry prize at the annual Agnes Scott Literary Festival and in 2010 received a Pushcart Prize nomination. A Hambidge Fellow and a member of the Georgia Writers Registry, she works as a librarian at KSU.  She is pursuing a doctorate at Georgia State University is an alumnus of KSU’s Master of Arts in Professional Writing Program. In 2005 she founded La Vita Poetica Press, a small press dedicated to the production of limited edition, handcrafted chapbooks.


Renea Winchester

Renea is a multiple-award winning author who has penned three books and several short stories. Her latest work, Walking in the Rain: A Short Story About a Sacred Place, debuted as number one in the Nature category. She is passionate about helping emerging authors and is a sought-after speaker for civic groups and book clubs. One of the authors who submitted their work at a previous Red Clay Critique Session secured a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Renea is the Atlanta Pen Women Author of the year and has belonged to a multi-genre critique group for over 15 years. Many authors in her critique group have gone on to see their work published by traditional presses. Renea is represented by Mercer University Press and serves on the Georgia Writers Board. Learn more about her at or contact her at


2014 Red Clay Speakers

Lynn Cullen, Keynote

Picture This: The Making of a Historical Novel

3:45 – 4:45 PM

The following bio was taken from Lynn Cullen’s website, which can be found here.

Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the fifth girl in a family of seven children. She learned to love history combined with traveling while visiting historic sites across the U.S. on annual family camping trips. She attended Indiana University in Bloomington and Fort Wayne, and took writing classes with Tom McHaney at Georgia State. She wrote children’s books as her three daughters were growing up, while working in a pediatric office and later, at Emory University on the editorial staff of a psychoanalytic journal. While her camping expeditions across the States have become fact-finding missions across Europe, she still loves digging into the past. She does not miss, however, sleeping in musty sleeping bags. Or eating canned fruit cocktail. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband, their dog, and two unscrupulous cats.

Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist. Her newest novel, Mrs. Poe, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of poet Francis Osgood.

Renea Winchester

Creating Memorable Characters Through Dialogue

9:30 – 10:30 AM

“One of the best gifts any author possesses is creating characters that stay with readers long after the last page. Words are power. Talented authors use dialogue to create images of characters that do not require physical description.” Using a combination of handouts, writing prompts, and discussion, Renea Winchester will offer valuable techniques that will help writers discover ways to strengthen their story and create memorable characters through dialogue.

Renea is a multiple-award winning author who has penned three books and several short stories. She is passionate about helping emerging authors and is a sought-after speaker for civic groups and book clubs. She is the Atlanta Pen Women Author of the year and has belonged to a multi-genre critique group for over 15 years. Many authors in the group have gone on to see their work published by traditional presses. Renea is represented by Mercer University Press. Learn more about her at

Elaine Drennon Little

Southern Sense of Place

9:30 – 10:30 AM

Elaine Drennon Little spent more than thirty years as a piano teacher, lounge musician, and public school music educator before retiring to the life of a writer. She has written for journals and magazines about music education. Earning a 2010 MFA from Spalding University as a middle-age gift to herself, she currently lives in North Georgia with hundreds of books and her three-legged cat, Ahab. Her book, A Southern Place, was the finalist in the 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel.

Dr. Paul Wakeman

Flannery O’Connor’s Analogical Imagination and Vision

10:45 – 11:45 AM

Flannery O’Connor expressed concern for the “impoverished imagination” of the modern mind and presented the analogical imagination as a necessary tool for the poet, or the writer of stories. This presentation explores her concern while also providing some relevant new biographical information that will be coming out in a biography by local scholar and O’Connor’s friend, William Sessions.

Paul Wakeman earned his doctorate of English at Marquette University and teaches at Southern Polytechnic State University. He is currently editing Dr. William Sessions’ upcoming book “Stalking Joy: Flannery O’Connor, Her Life and Her Times.” His own research examines the imagination as a source of luminous intelligence, especially as this idea relates to O’Connor’s works.

Jenny Sadre-Orafai and Cheryl Stiles

Poetry Panel

10:45 – 11:45 AM

Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of PaperCottonLeather and four chapbooks. Recent poetry has appeared in LinebreakRedivider, Eleven Eleven, Thrush Poetry Journal, PANK, Rhino, Sixth Finch, ILK, iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, and Poemeleon. Recent prose has appeared in The Rumpus, The Toast, and Delirious Hem. She is co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.

Cheryl Stiles has published numerous poems, essays, and reviews in journals such as Poet Lore, 32 Poems, The Atlanta Review, Storysouth, SLANT,Plainsongs, Southern Women’s Review, and POEM. Her work has received the Agnes Scott Literary Festival Prize and a Pushcart nomination. She works as a university librarian in Atlanta and is completing a doctoral degree in English at Georgia State University. In 2005, she started La Vita Poetica Press, a small press devoted to producing limited-edition, handcrafted chapbooks and broadsides.

Ann Hite and William Rawlings

Historical Fiction and Nonfiction: Writing About Family

1:15 – 2:15 PM

This panel discusses the problem of writing family stories. How do you tell the truth and not bring Mama down on your head? What is the difference between truth and facts? These are just a few of the questions authors Ann Hite and William Rawlings will answer from their personal experiences with historical fiction and nonfiction, respectively.

Ann Hite‘s debut novel Ghost On Black Mountain was a Townsend Prize Finalist and winner for Georgia Author of the Year in First Novel in 2012. Her personal essays and short stories have been published in numerous national anthologies. In 2013, The Storycatcher, her second Black Mountain novel, was released by Gallery Books, and Lowcountry Spirit, an eBook novella, is available from Pocket Star. Both Gallery Books and Pocket Star are imprints of Simon & Schuster. Ann is an admitted book junkie with a library of over a thousand books. She lives in Smyrna, Georgia, with her husband and daughter, where she allows her Appalachian characters to dictate their stories.

William Rawlings was born, raised, and still lives on the family farm in Sandersville, Georgia. A practicing physician, he is the author of five novels set in the rural South. His fascination in the convoluted history of the state’s small towns led to his exploration of the infamous Rawlings-Tarbutton murder of 1925, which resulted in his book, A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff: The Great Recession and the Death of Small Town Georgia, the finalist in the Georgia Author of the Year Award in History. Rawlings is currently finishing his seventh book, a non-fiction account of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, to be published in 2015 by Mercer University Press.

Iraj and Parviz Omidvar and Nancy Stephan

Memoir Panel

1:15 – 2:15 PM

Iraj Omidvar is an associate professor of English and director of the University Honors Program at Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, Georgia.  Iraj has lived in Iran, Germany, and the United States.  In spring 2007, he was a Fulbright Fellow in Tunisia.  Among his publications are Muslims and American Popular Culture (Praeger, February 2014) and Historic Engagements with Occidental Cultures, Religions, Powers (Palgrave MacMillan, October 2014), both of which he edited with Anne Richards.  Modern Iranian poems he translated with his father, Parviz Omidvar, have appeared in several literary journals in the United States and abroad. Iraj and his father are currently working on Parviz’s memoir.

Parviz Omidvar has lived most of his life in Iran. He and his wife moved to the United States more than a decade ago in order to be closer to their children.  In Iran, Parviz has published a number of books from English into Persian. Iranian poems he translated with his son, Iraj Omidvar, have appeared in literary journals such as Poetry ReviewNew LettersThe Spoon River Poetry ReviewPuerto del Sol, and Poetry International.  Four lines from a translated poem originally published in Poetry Review have been carved in stone for permanent display in the city center of Slough, United Kingdom. Parviz and Iraj are currently working on Parviz’s memoir.

Nancy enjoys writing both poetry and prose. Her work has been published online and in print. Her first book, The Truth About Butterflies, was published in June 2011 in both paperback and Kindle eBook and was the winner for Memoir, Georgia Author of the Year in 2012.  Nancy has earned a B.S. in Speech Communication, M.A. in Professional Writing with concentrations in poetry and applied writing, and holds graduate certification in Ethics. She graduated Cum Laude from Kennesaw State University and was inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the Golden Key International Honor Society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Nancy was born in Gary, Indiana, and currently resides in Atlanta.

Raymond Atkins

Recipe For Fiction: Making a Novel from What You Have Laying Around

2:30 – 3:30 PM

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia, where he is an instructor of English at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. He lives in a 110-year-old house with a patient wife and a fat dog. His hobbies include people-watching, reading, and watching movies that have no hope of ever achieving credibility.

His first novel, The Front Porch Prophet, was published by Medallion Press in 2008 and was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. Midwest Book Review called it “an intriguing and clever tale, highly recommended for community library fiction collections.” His second novel, Sorrow Wood, was published by Medallion Press in 2009. His third novel, Camp Redemption, was published by Mercer University Press in 2013. It was awarded the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction and won the 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. His fourth novel, Sweetwater Blues, was released by Mercer University Press in September 2014. “Raymond Atkins is a marvel. As one of Georgia’s most talented authors, he magically weaves complex stories from believable characters. You know the people he writes about; they are flawed, complicated, and real. From the first page to the last, Sweetwater Blues takes the reader on a journey filled with consequences, courage, and redemption. Using his remarkable wit and masterful gift of storytelling, Atkins brings us full circle. When you close this book you will wonder, what else has he written? Then you will rush out to buy his other award-winning books.”

Chris Ward, Peter Bowerman, and Ahmad Meradji (CEO and Founder of BookLogix)

Self-Publishing Panel

2:30 – 3:30 PM

Kennesaw State Webmaster, Christopher Ward, joined KSU in April 2002. As webmaster he designs and maintains the top levels of as well as multiple academic and administrative department sites. Chris graduated in 1995 with a B.S. in Political Science and in 2011 with a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Chris has published three books of poetry, Seventeen DaysRico, and Man Poems: From Beers and Gears to Grills and Girls. When not writing or working, he enjoys watching sports, playing video games, and obsession over the minutiae of the Star Wars universe.

Peter Bowerman, veteran commercial writer, is the self-published author of the three award-winning “Well-Fed Writer” titles (, how-to standards on lucrative “commercial” freelancing. He chronicled his self-publishing success (now, 70,000 copies of his books in print and a full-time living since 2001) in the acclaimed 2007 release (and its triple-award-winning 2014 revised edition), The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time
In 2010, he launched The Title Tailor, his book-titling specialty ( He’s had 300+ articles published, speaks regularly on writing and publishing, and is a professional coach for commercial freelancing and self-publishing ventures.

Ahmad Meradji has over 25 years of experience in publishing and on-demand printing. Born in Iran, Ahmad came to the United States to attend college in Boston, receiving an architectural degree. He later found himself working in the print industry, taking a position with Xerox in the ‘80s. He obtained his Masters and was a senior manager with Xerox. He was involved in setting up the first digital book publishing and on-demand printing models at Xerox, later serving as a consultant in the publishing industry.

In 2003, Ahmad accepted a position as Sr. Vice President with RSM McGladrey, an H&R Block Company. In 2007, Ahmad fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening his own business, co-founding Apex Book Manufacturing. As Apex grew, Ahmad and his business partner, Akash Mangru, saw a growing need for a resource for authors who wanted to self-publish their books, and BookLogix was created.

Ahmad is passionate about helping authors publish their work, and sharing his extensive knowledge of self-publishing and on-demand printing. He is a frequent public speaker on the topic of self-publishing, sharing his insights at a number of universities, conferences, and community events.

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