A distinctive feature of the Young Writers’ Conference, made possible by our partnership with the famous Sewanee Writers' Conference and the Sewanee School of Letters, is the impressive lineup of major authors who come to the conference, give a reading, answer students' questions, and often visit morning workshops. Every summer, Sewanee Young Writers engage in exciting conversations with Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and other literary celebrities. And to make sure they have something to talk about, we ask our participants to read a book by each of our visitors before arriving in Sewanee.

When our visitors arrive in the second week, they are greeted by a well-informed audience, prepared to ask good questions and make the most of the opportunity.

Pictured at the right: Lucy Alibar, a Screenwriter and Playwright as well as a former participant at the SYWC, best known for the Oscar-nominated screenplay of the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.

To learn more about this year's special guests click on the names below.

David Haskell, Creative Nonfiction

SYWC-GuestAuthors-DavidHaskellDavid Haskell’s work integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world. His first book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (Viking Penguin, 2012), was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013 and a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. The book was the winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature, and was runner-up for the 2013 PEN E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. A profile in The New York Times said that Haskell “thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist” (http://ow.ly/ojNZo). His latest book, The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors examines the many ways that trees and humans are connected. According to Pulitzer winner Deborah Blum, “David Haskell may be the finest literary nature writer working today. The Songs of Tress – compelling, lyrical, wise – is a case in point.” Professor of Biology at Sewanee, Haskell holds degrees from the University of Oxford and from Cornell University. In 2014, the Guggenheim Foundation named him a Fellow in Creative Arts and Science Writing. His scientific research on animal ecology, evolution, and conservation has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the World Wildlife Fund, among others. Haskell’s classes have received national attention for the innovative ways they combine science, contemplation, and action in the community. In 2009, the Carnegie and CASE Foundations named him Professor of the Year for Tennessee. The Oxford American featured him in 2011 as one of the most creative teachers in the south, and his teaching has been profiled in USA TodayThe Tennessean, and other newspapers. He also explores natural history, science, and literature on his Ramble blog and on twitter @DGHaskell. To learn more about David Haskell visit: https://dghaskell.com.

Lucy Alibar, Playwriting and Screenwriting

Lucy Alibar is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and novelist, who attended the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference as a teenager in 1999. She co-wrote the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was based on her play, Juicy and Delicious. The film, for which Alibar received an Oscar nomination, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah; at Cannes, where it was given a 15-minute standing ovation, it scored the Caméra d’Or prize for best first feature. Her new comedy, “Troupe Zero,” is headed into production in 2018, and she recently adapted The Secret Garden, reimagining the classic novel. Alibar is also writing another film, “Bat Kid,” and worked on the 2016 Election public service announcement “We Trump Hate.” In television, she recently sold an original series to FX. Last fall, Alibar performed an evening of her stories at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. She is currently penning a book for Scribner and mentors new writers at various universities across the country. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Joe Biden.

Wyatt Prunty, Poetry

SYWC-GuestAuthors-WyattPruntySince 1980 Wyatt Prunty has published eight books of poetry, including The Run of the HouseSince the Noon Mail StoppedA Lover’s Guide to Trapping, and Unarmed and Dangerous: New and Selected Poems, which, in the words of X. J. Kennedy, “affords a clear view of Prunty’s high stature in contemporary American poetry.” His most recent collection, Couldn't Prove, Had to Promise, was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2015. Prunty is also the author of the acclaimed critical book “Fallen From the Symboled World”: Precedents for the New Formalism; a second volume of criticism, Rationed Compassion: Poetry since World War II, is forthcoming. His poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, the New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, and the YaleSouthernSewanee, and Kenyon Reviews, among other places. He has been honored as the recipient of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Johns Hopkins Fellowship, and a Brown Foundation Fellowship. Prunty has taught at the Johns Hopkins University (where he held the Elliot Coleman Chair), Washington and Lee University, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; currently he serves as Carleton Professor of English at the University of the South, where he also directs the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. 

Kevin Wilson, Fiction

SYWC-GuestAuthors-KevinWilsonWilson's stories have appeared in such magazines as Ploughshares, Tin House, One Story, and A Public Space, in four volumes of New Stories from the South, and in his acclaimed 2009 book Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. That book, praised by The New York Times Book Review for its "fabulous twists and somersaults of the imagination," won the Shirley Jackson Award and the National Library Association's prestigious Alex Award (which recognizes books written for adults that also have a special appeal to teens). Wilson's best-selling novel, The Family Fang, has been praised by People as "a wacky wonderful debut" and by the Wall Street Journal for covering "complex psychological ground." "Wilson's inventive genius never stops for a rest break," adds National Public Radio. A movie based on the novel—starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, and Jason Bateman—premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. His new novel, Perfect Little World, appeared in early 2017, earning strong reviews. "Wilson's 'perfect little world' of a novel pretty much lives up to its title," offered Maureen Corrigan of NPR.  "It's a novel you keep reading for old-fashioned reasons," added John Irving in the New York Times, "because it’s a good story, and you need to know what happens. But you also keep reading because you want to know what a good family is. Everyone wants to know that."  A new short-story collection, No Joke, This Is Going To Be Painful, is forthcoming in 2018. Once a dorm counselor for the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference, Wilson received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University and his M.F.A. from the University of Florida. He lives in Sewanee, where he serves as Associate Professor of English and coordinator of the creative writing program. For more about Kevin Wilson, visit his website: www.wilsonkevin.com.

Guest Author Quote