Director and Final Judge
Lorian Hemingway is the author of three critically acclaimed books: Walking Into The River, Walk On Water and A World Turned Over. She was nominated for the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award for Fiction for her novel Walking Into The River. Her nature essays have been widely anthologized in Uncommon Waters, A Different Angle, Headwaters, The Gift of Trout, and Randy Wayne White’s Ultimate Tarpon Book, among others. Her work has also appeared in GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Westchester Magazine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Times, Scholia Satyrica, The Key West Citizen, The Waterfront Review, Cutthroat…a Journal of the Arts, and numerous others. She is the only woman to have received The Conch Republic Prize for Literature — other recipients include Russell Banks, John Updike, James Dickey and Harry Crews — for her dedication to encouraging the work of new writers of fiction.
Naomi Benaron’s debut novel Running the Rift won the 2010 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers Pick, and was selected as one of the best books of 2012 by O Magazine, Seattle Times, Kansas City Star, and BookBrowse Review. Her short story collection, Love Letters from a Fat Man, won the 2006 Sharat Chandra Prize for Fiction. She has taught at UCLA Writers’ Extension, Pima Community College, and various other educational and community venues. Before receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, she had a long career in geophysics and oceanography.
Dr. Rob Merritt
Dr. Rob Merritt, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Bluefield College. Dr. Merritt is the author of The Language of Longing, Landscape Architects and the critical book Early Music and the Aesthetics of Ezra Pound. His poetry and essays have appeared in the journals Kestrel, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, and The Asheville Poetry Review, among others and the collections The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. VII: North Carolina, Wild Sweet Notes II: Contemporary West Virginia Writers and Coal: An Anthology. He offers workshops on the healing power of expressive writing and is currently researching connections between Chinese poetry and contemporary Appalachian writers.
Brandi Reissenweber’s fiction has appeared in The Drum, Willow Springs, The Briar Cliff Review, Los Angeles Review, and other journals. She was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a writer-in-residence at the Kerouac Project of Orlando. She has served as an Editorial Assistant at Zoetrope: All-Story and a Contributing Editor at The Writer.
Brandi, an Assistant Professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, teaches creative writing. About the writing process she says: “Cultivate a willingness to experiment in your writing. Take risks, try new techniques, and gravitate toward what feels exciting, even if it also seems daunting (especially if it seems daunting). Find fiction that you love and read it closely. Approach it first as a reader, giving yourself over to the world the writer has created, and then as a writer, asking questions about the author’s choices. By doing all of this, you will learn about the craft of writing, and about your strengths and limitations as a writer. You’re also bound to expand and refine your ability to dwell in uncertainty, an essential practice for sorting through the complexities of the human experience.”