Writers' Workshop


Our renowned faculty provides rigorous instruction to participants in their selected genre and through special topic sessions, panels, and lectures.

Build your library by purchasing titles through Bookshop.org from our faculty using the book images below. Each purchase supports scholarships to the Workshop.


Crystal Wilkinson is the national award-winning author of Perfect Black (winner of a 2022 NAACP Image Award), The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street, and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from Yaddo, Hedgebrook, The Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in the The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, Oxford American, Story, and Agni.

Wilkinson identifies as a southern, feminist fiction writer, and grew up in the hills of Kentucky. She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program and Associate Chair of the English Department. She is a 2020 USA Artist Fellowship Recipient, a 2021 O. Henry Prize winner, and makes her home in Lexington, KY. Crystal, a fellow of the Academy of American Poets, was named the Poet Laureate for Kentucky in 2021. Her culinary memoir, Praisesongs for the Kitchen Ghosts is forthcoming from Clarkson/Potter Penguin Random House in 2023.



Neema Avashia

Neema Avashia, the widely celebrated author of Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place (WVU Press) and former attendee of the Workshop, is joining our faculty to lead the creative non-fiction section.

Avashia was born and raised in southern West Virginia to parents who immigrated to the United States. She has been a middle school teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003. Her book, Another Appalachia, examines both the roots and the resonance of Avashia’s identity as a queer desi Appalachian woman, while encouraging readers to envision more complex versions of both Appalachia and the nation as a whole. Her essays have appeared in the Bitter Southerner, Catapult, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere.

Angela Jackson-Brown

Angela Jackson-Brown is an award-winning writer, poet and playwright who is an Associate Professor in the creative writing program at Indiana University in Bloomington. She also teaches in the graduate program at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, KY. She is a graduate of Troy University, Auburn University and the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University. She has published her short fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and poetry in journals like The Louisville Journal and the Appalachian Review. She is the author of Drinking From a Bitter Cup, House Repairs, When Stars Rain Down and The Light Always Breaks. Her novels have received starred reviews from the Library Journal and glowing reviews from Alabama Public Library, Buzzfeed, Parade Magazine, and Women’s Weekly, just to name a few. When Stars Rain Down was named a finalist for the 2021 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and shortlisted for the 2022 Indiana Authors Award.

David Joy

David Joy is the author of When These Mountains Burn (winner of the 2020 Dashiell Hammett Award), The Line That Held Us (winner of the 2018 Southern Book Prize), The Weight of This World, and Where All Light Tends to Go (Edgar finalist for Best First Novel). His stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in New York Times Magazine, TIME, Garden & Gun, and number of other publications. He is the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey and a coeditor of Gather at the River: Twenty-Five Authors on Fishing. Joy lives in Tuckasegee, North Carolina.

Doug Van Gundy

Doug Van Gundy directs the low-residency MFA writing program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in many publications, including Poetry, The Guardian, and The Oxford American. He is co-editor of the anthology Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Contemporary Writing from West Virginia and the author of a collection of poems, A Life Above Water and two chapbooks, The October Poems and Pictures & Poems, a collaboration with photographer Matt Eich.

Marianne Worthington

Marianne Worthington is cofounder and poetry editor of Still: The Journal, an online literary magazine publishing writers, artists, and musicians with ties to Appalachia since 2009. Her work has appeared in Oxford American, CALYX, Chapter 16 among other places. She received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and artist grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship Program. She coedited Piano in a Sycamore: Writing Lessons from the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop and is author of a poetry chapbook. Her poetry collection is The Girl Singer (University of Kentucky Press, 2021), winner of the 2022 Weatherford Award for Poetry. She grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and lives, writes, and teaches in southeast Kentucky.

Mesha Maren

Mesha Maren is the author of the novels Sugar Run and Perpetual West (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays can be read in Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Crazyhorse, Triquarterly, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Sou’wester, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She was the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of English at Duke University and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.



George Ella Lyon

George Ella Lyon, a former Kentucky Poet Laureate, is the award-winning author of more than fifty books for children and adults. Among her poetry collections are Back to the Light, Voices of Justice, Many-Storied House, She Let Herself Go, Voices from the March on Washington (Cybils Award for Poetry), and Catalpa (Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year). Her poem “Where I’m From” is featured in the PBS series The United States of Poetry and has become a model for teachers around the world. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kim Michele Richardson

Kim Michele Richardson, the NEW YORK TIMES, LOS ANGELES TIMES, and USA TODAY bestselling author of five works of historical fiction and a memoir will join this year’s Workshop attendees virtually for a craft lecture and Q&A session.

Richardson’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a recommended read by Dolly Parton and has earned a 2020 PBS Readers Choice, 2019 LibraryReads Best Book, Indie Next, SIBA, Forbes Best Historical Novel, Book-A-Million Best Fiction, and is an Oprah’s Buzziest Books pick and a Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads selection.

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is an enrolled citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and resides in Qualla, NC with her husband, Evan and sons Ross and Charlie. She holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her debut novel, Even As We Breathe, was released by the University Press of Kentucky in 2020, a finalist for the Weatherford Award and named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. In 2021, it received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Her first novel manuscript, Going to Water is winner of the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium (2012) and a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (2014). Clapsaddle’s work has appeared in Yes! Magazine, Lit Hub, Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, South Writ Large and The Atlantic. After serving as executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Annette returned to teaching at Swain County High School for over a dozen years. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network.

Randal O'Wain

Randal O’Wain holds an MFA from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He is the author of Meander Belt: family, loss, and coming of age in the working class south (American Lives Series, 2019) and Hallelujah Station and other stories (Autumn House Press, 2020) His essays and short stories have appeared in Oxford American, Guernica, The Pinch, Booth, Hotel Amerika, storySouth, among others.

Melissa Helton

Melissa Helton serves as Director of Literary Arts for Hindman Settlement School and has attended the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop every year since 2015. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Bowling Green State University and Doctorate of Education from Eastern Kentucky University. She has done editing work for Mid-American Review, The Notebook, and various writers. Her poetry, essays, and book reviews have been published in Still: The Journal, Shenandoah, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Norwegian Writers Climate Campaign, Community College Humanities Review, and more. She has won various honors such as the George Scarborough Poetry Prize, Emma Bell Miles Essay Prize, Best of the Net nomination, and Kentucky Foundation for Women grant and residencies. Her chapbooks include Inertia: A Study (2016) and Hewn (2021).  

Stacy Jane Grover

Stacy Jane Grover grew up as a pastor’s kid in Southeast Ohio in a large farming family. Before becoming a writer, Stacy went to school for culinary arts & hotel/restaurant management and managed in the service industry for over a decade. She then earned an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Cincinnati. Stacy has written for a variety of print and online publications including Bitch Magazine and Belt Magazine.

Andrew Preston

Andrew Preston (AKA A.p. Harbor) is a songwriter and producer from Van Lear, Kentucky. His writing-experimental pop theatrics-is rooted in the deep wellsprings of folk music and his quirky live shows have become recognizable mainstays of central Appalachia’s burgeoning indie scene. His works have made their way into hundreds of performances through four countries, ten albums, and a feature in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Songwriter Showcase. Among his hallmarks: eclectic vocals, offbeat instrumentation, and literarily dense lyrics steeped in storytelling, all balanced by a healthy penchant for the surreal and absurd.

Clinton Waters

Clinton Waters, born and raised in Bowling Green, KY, holds a degree in Creative Writing from W.K.U. Their work has been featured in university publications from W.K.U. and the University of Regensburg. They are the lead writer/co-founder of Sundog Comics and their webcomic Variants.