2023 Keynote Speaker

Critically acclaimed novelist Chris Bohjalian uses his gripping fiction to explore contemporary social issues and how they play out in the lives of ordinary people, as well as to shed light on some of the most important moments in history. His writing delves into such topics as domestic violence, global climate change, gender identity, genocide, adultery, animal rights, adoption, homelessness, mental illness, and human trafficking with equal facility. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of some two-dozen books, and his work has been translated into over 35 languages.

Midwives, an Oprah’s Book Club selection and a #1 New York Times bestseller, is a contemporary classic whose central questions of individual and societal responsibility remain just as pressing today as when the book was first published. Among Bohjalian’s many standout titles since then have been the New York Times bestsellers The Guest Room, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Sandcastle Girls, in which Bohjalian tackles the weighty topic of the Armenian genocide in an “intricately nuanced romance” that Julie Kane of Library Journal called “simply astounding.”

Another bestseller, The Flight Attendant came out in 2018 to rave reviews. In this “expertly turned thriller” (USA Today), a flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, next to a dead manwith no idea what happened. The Washington Post, which named it one of the ten best thrillers and mysteries of the year, said, “Filled with turbulence and sudden plunges in altitude, The Flight Attendant is a very rare thriller whose penultimate chapter made me think to myself, ‘I didn’t see that coming.’” The book was adapted into a streaming series, starring Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman, T.R. Knight, Rosie Perez, and Zosia Mamet. The “fizzy, dark and funny mystery” (NPR) debuted on HBO Max to soaring praise and garnered two Golden Globes nominations and nine Emmy nominations, including Best Comedy Series.

Bohjalian returned to a familiar genre with the New York Times bestselling The Hour of the Witch, “historical fiction at its best” (The Washington Post) about a young Puritan woman who faces allegations of witchcraft as she attempts to divorce her abusive husband. “A grab-you-by-the-throat suspense read that both historical fiction fans and thriller lovers will devour” (Real Simple), The New York Times noted “in the hands of a master storyteller like Bohjalian, [Hour of the Witch] is an engrossing tale of a woman who insists upon the right to navigate her life, and the consequences when she does.”

His latest is The Lioness, named one of the best books of 2022 by the Washington Post, is a blistering story of fame, race, love, and death set in a world on the cusp of great change. In Tanzania 1964, a luxurious African safari turns deadly for a Hollywood starlet and her entourage when a kidnapping gone wrong turns deadly. A “brilliant whydunit” that “is not to be missed” (Publisher’s Weekly–starred review–who included it on their Best Books of 2022 list), Bohjalian’s instant bestseller already has a television adaptation in the works.

“Bohjalian’s masterful plotting evokes a magician who distracts his audience to look this way, not that way…. Fans of Bohjalian know to expect the unexpected and, thanks to his creativity and cunning, readers usually get walloped by one heck of a plot twist by book’s end.”

—USA Today

Bohjalian is also a playwright and screenwriter. His first play, Wingspan, premiered at the 59 East 59th Theatres in New York City directed by Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris, and was released as an eBook by Vintage. His adaptation of Midwives had its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse in early 2020, an “engrossing… unforgettable” production (Broadway World).

Bohjalian’s books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Hartford Courant, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Bookpage, and Salon. Bohjalian has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press from 1992 to 2015.

His awards include the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, the New England Book Award, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian genocide, the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, and other honors. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bohjalian graduated from Amherst College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer.

For more information about Chris Bohjalian, please visit him on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, or at chrisbohjalian.com.

2022 Keynote Speaker

Percival Everett

The May 2020 New York Times headline reading “Percival Everett Has a Book or Three Coming Out” deftly describes the magnitude of Percival Everett’s distinguished career.

Highly praised for his storytelling and ability to address the toughest issues of our time with humor, grace, and originality, Everett is the author of more than thirty novels and story collections, including The Trees (2021), which won the 2022 Ainisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction; Telephone (2020), which was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in fiction; So Much Blue (2017); Glyph (2014); Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (2013); I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009); and Erasure (2001), all published by Graywolf Press.

His most recent novel, Telephone, has three different endings, depending on the version you read—and you can’t know ahead of time which ending you will get. It is a deeply affecting story about the lengths to which loss and grief will drive us: a Percival Everett novel that will shake you to the core as it asks questions about the power of narrative to save. In a recent interview about the variable endings, he stated, “I’m interested not in the authority of the artist, but the authority of the reader.”

Everett has won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, Dos Passos Prize, the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, The 2010 Believer Book Award, the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, a Creative Capital Award, BS the Academy Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

His stories have been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories, and they are often featured on Selected Shorts, a radio program aired on NPR from Symphony Space in NYC.

Percival Everett was born in 1956 and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating from the University of Miami, he began a philosophy degree at the University of Oregon, then transferred to a master’s program in fiction at Brown, where he wrote his first book, Suder. In 1989, he was invited to address the South Carolina State Legislature, but during his speech refused to continue because of the presence of the Confederate flag, thus touching off a controversy that ended with the flag being removed from the Capitol building some years later. He was inspired by this experience to write his powerful and funny story “The Appropriation of Cultures.”

Everett is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles.

2021 Keynote Speaker

Mark Spragg

He is the author of Where Rivers Change Direction, a memoir that won the 2000 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers award, and the novels, The Fruit of Stone, An Unfinished Life, and in 2010, Bone Fire.  All four were top-ten Book Sense selections and An Unfinished Life was chosen by the Rocky Mountain News as the Best Book of 2004.  Spragg's work has been translated into fifteen languages.  He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Virginia, with whom he wrote the screenplay for the film version of his novel, An Unfinished Life, starring Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman, and released in 2005.  

For more information on Mark, please visit his website