Rebecca Gayle Howell
Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author of American Purgatory, which was selected by Don Share for the 2016 Sexton Prize. Her debut collection, Render /An Apocalypse, was a finalist for Foreword Review’s 2014 Book of the Year and received wide critical acclaim, most notably by David L. Ulin for the LA Times, who called the collection “remarkable.” Howell is also the translator of Amal al-Jubouri’s verse memoir of the Iraq War, Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation, which was named a 2011 Best Book of Poetry by Library Journal and was shortlisted for Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award. Among Howell’s honors are fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Carson McCullers Center, as well as a Pushcart Prize; she has also been awarded sustaining support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women throughout her career. Since 2014, she has edited poetry for the Oxford American, publishing a new profile of Southern poetics. Howell lives in Knott County, Kentucky, where she serves as James Still Writer-in-Residence at the Hindman Settlement School.
Alecia Whitaker grew up with a big imagination on a small farm in Kentucky, which was worlds away from where she currently resides in fast-paced New York City. She knows more about cows, tobacco, frog gigging, and carpentry than the average girl, and she applies the work ethic and common sense she learned from her southern upbringing to the way she now navigates her career and family life in the big city. Although she graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BFA in Theatre and a BA in Advertising, she’s always been a writer. She won the Soil Conservation Essay contest in the 4th grade, was selected as a Governor’s School for the Arts student in Creative Writing in the 10th grade, and then in college, she was a Top Ten Finalist in the US Southeast Region for a Ten Minute Playwriting competition at James Madison University. Since then, she has been in loads of commercials, as well as on stage in a few small theatrical productions and poetry slams. She appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show numerous times, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and has been a contestant on the gameshows Deal or No Deal and Let’s Ask America. She was the host of a weekly web show called The Baby Book, which chronicled her real life experiences of being a mom in New York City. Her personal essays have been published in the anthology Blink: Fiction in the Blink of an Eye and several times in Underwired Magazine. She co-wrote the popular one act play Becoming Woman with a grant from The Kentucky Foundation for Women. The Queen of Kentucky was her first novel with movie rights being optioned by Unbridled Films and being produced by Permut Presentations. Wildflower, the first novel in her three book series about a young girl’s rise to country music stardom, recently won the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award from WKU Libraries. Whitaker now lives on Long Island, NY with her husband, two sons, and daughter.
Gary Leising’s poems have appeared in many literary journals, including The Cincinnati Review, Connecticut Review, Quarterly West, Blackbird, and Sou’wester; his fiction has appeared in River Styx. His piece, “Toenails Diary,” won the 2008 Indiana Review 1/2K Prize. Gary’s reviews and essays have appeared in The James Dickey Newsletter, Pleiades, and Chicago Review, as well as in the book The Way We Read James Dickey: Critical Approaches for the Twenty-first Century. Professor Leising is Chair of the English Department. He teaches beginning and advanced creative writing courses, “Forms and Art of Poetry,” and contemporary American poetry; advises Ampersand, UC’s journal of art and literature; and has travelled abroad with UC students on the London Learning Experience.