Gene Luen Yang, Keynote Speaker

Gene Luen Yang, Keynote Speaker

Gene Luen Yang began making comics and graphic novels in the fifth grade. In 2006, his book American Born Chinese was published by First Second Books.  It became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album.

In 2013, First Second Books released Boxers & Saints, Yang’s two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion.  Boxers & Saints was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. Gene has done a number of other comics, including Dark Horse Comics’ continuation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and DC Comics’ Superman!

In addition cartooning, Gene teaches creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. He teaches alongside amazing authors like Anne Ursu, Gary Schmidt, Laura Ruby, Matt De La Pena, and more.

In January 2016, the Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader, and the Children’s Book Council appointed Gene Luen Yang the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

M. Molly Backes

M. Molly Backes

M. Molly Backes is the author of the young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa (Candlewick Press, 2012), which was named Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Fiction for Teens (2013), Forever Young Adult’s Best YA Books of 2012, and was a finalist on NPR.org’s Best-Ever Teen Novels list in 2012. Her work has appeared in The Prairie Wind, Human Parts, The Rumpus, and the anthology Good Dogs Doing Good. She has performed her personal essays at reading series including Essay FiestaFunny Ha-HaIs This a Thing? and Sunday Salon, and is a frequent guest at writing conferences and festivals across the country.

Franky Frances Cannon

Franky Frances Cannon

Franky Frances Cannon is a writer and artist currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonfiction and book arts at Iowa Writers Workshop, teaching literature and creative writing at the University of Iowa, and working as an editorial assistant to The Iowa Review. She has recently published two books of poetry: Tropicalia with Vagabond Press, and Uranian Fruit with Honeybee Press. She also has a graphic memoir forthcoming with Gold Wake press, and work forthcoming in Poetry magazine.

DARRIN CROW

DARRIN CROW

Darrin Crow is a storyteller from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Storytelling has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, whether it was listening to his aunts, uncles and grandparents talking about farming and coal mining in Iowa or immersing himself in Jules Verne and Tolkien up in his tree house. As a high school student he began volunteering at a living history museum. Here he found that he could use his love of telling stories to put people in touch with their heritage in a way they had not experienced before. In college he studied interpretive speech, and after college he worked as an actor and itinerant storyteller in Pennsylvania and Florida. In 1999 he returned to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has been telling stories ever since. Over the last decade he has honed his craft by telling stories across the area in settings from church basements to major outdoor festivals.

Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards is the author and illustrator of many books for children, one book for adults, and nearly one hundred essays and cards for knitters. Michelle grew up in Troy, New York, and now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she shares, with her husband, a house full of books, yarn, and the artifacts of their three daughter’s childhoods. In her spare time,  Michelle enjoys talking about her books, writing, illustrating, and on occasion, knitting, in schools and community venues throughout the US and beyond.

Jamie Lee

Jamie Lee

Jamie Lee attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing and a minor in Performing Arts. She enjoys dancing, working with children, and writing poetry. Jamie has two cats named Blaze and May.  She lives in a small town called Center Point. It is neither centered nor pointy. Jamie is the author of the Sofia the Dragon series.

Stephen Lovely

Stephen Lovely

Stephen Lovely was born in Dallas, Texas and spent most of his childhood in Ohio. He attended Kenyon College, where he majored in English and made his first awkward forays into fiction writing. After graduating from Kenyon he moved to Boston and spent two years working on the editorial staff of Cell. He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop from 1990-92 and studied with Deborah Eisenberg, Margot Livesey, Ethan Canin, and Frank Conroy. Stephen then worked for seven years as a night clerk in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He began writing Irreplaceable during this time. In 2005 he became the Director of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, a summer, residential creative writing program for high school students. He currently lives in Iowa City with his wife and their three dogs and three cats.