A frequent contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Hudson Review, critic Susan Balée is the author of Flannery O'Connor: Literary Prophet of the South (1994), as well as biographical essays for Scribner's British Writers series. She teaches at Temple University.
Actress Annette Bening has received Academy Award nominations for her performances in The Grifters (1990), American Beauty (1999), Being Julia (2004), and The Kids are All Right (2010). An active arts advocate, Bening served on the California Arts Council from 2004-2008.
Dana Gioia is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon 2001) won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004). In 2015, he became the California State Poet Laureate.
A travel writer and novelist, in 1995 Pico Iyer was named by the Utne Reader as one of the 100 visionaries worldwide who could change your life. Born in England, he was educated at Oxford and Harvard universities. A writer for Time magazine since 1982, his many books include Abandon: A Romance (2003), The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (2008), The Man in My Head (2012) and The Act of Stillness (2014).
Novelist Bret Lott is the author of many novels, including The Man Who Owned Vermont (1987), Jewel (1991), The Hunt Club (1998) and Letters and Life (2013) as well as many widely anthologized short stories. From 2003 to 2008 he served as the Editor of The Southern Review. Lott teaches at the College of Charleston.
Aimee Mann is a Grammy-winning and Academy Award-nominated singer-songwriter. She co-founded the band 'Til Tuesday, best known for its 1985 album Voices Carry. After the group disbanded, she began a successful solo career, catapulted by her work on the soundtrack to Magnolia (1999), that has included acclaimed albums such as The Forgotten Arm (2005), @#%&*! Smilers (2008) and Charmer (2016).
Marilynne Robinson grew up in northern Idaho, where her family has lived for generations. Her first novel, Housekeeping (1981), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Gilead (2004), her second novel, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of nonfiction works and the novels Home (2008) and Lila (2014).
Musician Jim White grew up in Pensacola, Florida. He studied film at New York University. After a series of careers that included cab driver, fashion model, and professional surfer, White first recorded his rootsy, experimental music for his debut album, Wrong-Eyed Jesus! (1997). Other recordings include No Such Place (2001), Transnormal Skipperoo (2007) and Where it Hits You (2012).