WAJAHAT ALI is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, a TV host, and a consultant for the US State Department. Previously, Ali helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream, a daily news show. Ali is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans, post-9/11—which was published by McSweeney’s and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. Currently, with Dave Eggers, Ali is writing a television show about a Muslim American cop in the Bay Area. In 2012, Ali worked with the US Department of State to design and implement the “Generation Change.” His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Salon. He regularly appears on CNN to discuss politics and current affairs.
JERICHO BROWN is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry anthologies, Buzzfeed, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. His first book, Please, won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is director of the Creative Writing Program and associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University.
THI BUI was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, was named a 2018 Caldecott Honor Book. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.
ZINZI CLEMMONS was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father. In 2011, she co-founded the literary journal Apogee, and she currently serves as associate editor at The Believer and contributing editor to Literary Hub. Her debut novel, What We Lose was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize. Zinzi was a 2017 National Book Award 5 Under 35 Honoree. She teaches writing at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
DAVE EGGERS grew up near Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. In 2002, he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit youth writing and tutoring center in San Francisco’s Mission District. Sister centers have since opened in seven other American cities under the umbrella of 826 National, and like-minded centers have opened in Dublin, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Birmingham, Alabama, among other locations. Eggers’s work has been nominated for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, France’s Prix Médicis, Germany’s Albatross Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the American Book Award. Eggers lives in Northern California with his family. His novels include The Circle, A Hologram for the King, and Heroes of the Frontier. His new book, The Monk of Mokha, is an unblinking account of a San Francisco-based Yemeni American’s success story.
BEN EHRENREICH is the author of two novels, Ether and The Suitors, and one book of journalism, The Way to the Spring, which is based on his reporting from the West Bank. His essays and stories have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The London Review of Books, The Believer, and many other outlets. In 2011, his work was honored with a National Magazine Award and in 2012 with a PEN Center USA Literary Award. Raised in the New York suburbs, he has over the last five years lived in Los Angeles, Ramallah, Joshua Tree, and now Las Vegas, where he is currently a Diana L. Bennett Fellow at the Black Mountain Institute.
JEAN GRAE is a polymath, and you know her from many things. Since the mid 1990s, Grae has been breaking the boundaries of what a multi-hyphenate and independent artist should look like. From comedy, to voiceovers, to hosting her own live talk show, to running a… we really don’t have time. Writing, directing, editing, scoring, producing, composing and arranging music? Mmhmm. Being a better rapper than all other rappers? Yes, the list is still going. Being the minister of her own non-denominational church? This is a lot, you guys. Punching Deadpool in the face? That happened. There’s too many things to list in this small amount of space, so just know to be up on whatever she’s doing. Or else.
MOHSIN HAMID is the author of four novels, Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West, and a book of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations. His writing has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into over thirty-five languages. Born in Lahore, he has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.
JOHN HODGMAN is a writer, comedian, and actor. He is the author of three books of fake facts and invented trivia, all of them New York Times bestsellers. His writing has also appeared in The Paris Review, This American Life, The New Yorker, The Believer and Mad Magazine. After an appearance to promote his books on The Daily Show, he was invited to return as a contributor, serving as the show’s “Resident Expert” and “Deranged Millionaire.” This led to an unexpected and, frankly, implausible career before the camera, becoming the “Personal Computer” in a series of commercials for Apple, and, more recently, playing recurring roles in FX’s Married, HBO’s Bored to Death, and Cinemax’s The Knick. He has performed comedy for the President of the United States, at the TED conference, and in a crypt in Green-Wood Cemetery. His apocalyptic comedy special Ragnarok is available on Netflix, and his one-man comedy shows have sold-out many nice theaters around the United States and in Canada.
NICK HORNBY is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and award-winning author. He has written seven novels—Funny Girl, Juliet Naked, A Long Way Down, Slam, How to be Good, About A Boy, and High Fidelity. His nonfiction books include 31 Songs and Fever Pitch. The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of his columns in The Believer magazine, for which he continues to write. He edited the collection of short stories, Speaking With The Angel. Nick received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay he adapted from Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn. He also adapted Cheryl Strayed’s memoir for the film Wild and was Oscar and BAFTA-nominated for his screenplay adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir An Education. Most recently, he adapted Nina Stibbe’s memoir, Love, Nina, for the BBC television series.
LESLIE JAMISON was born in Washington DC and grew up in Los Angeles. Since then, she has lived in Iowa, Nicaragua, New Haven, and Brooklyn. She’s worked as a baker, an office temp, an innkeeper, a tutor, and a medical actor. Leslie currently teaches at the Columbia University MFA program, where she directs the nonfiction concentration and leads The Marian House Project. Her new book, The Recovering, was released April 2, 2018. Leslie is the author of the novel The Gin Closet, and a collection of essays, The Empathy Exams. Her work has appeared in places including The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Oxford American, A Public Space, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Believer. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Academy Award–winner BARRY JENKINS was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Jenkins’s feature-film debut, Medicine For Melancholy, was hailed as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times and received several Independent Spirit and Gotham Award nominations. Jenkins, along with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his second feature Moonlight, which won numerous awards, including Best Picture at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. In 2017, Jenkins was named one of TIME magazine’s “Most Influential People.” His upcoming projects include an adaptation of National Book Award-winner Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad for television, which he will write and direct. He’s also writing a drama based on the life of the first American Female Olympic boxing champion, Clarissa “T-Rex” Shields. Jenkins is a curator at the Telluride Film Festival and a United States Artists Smith Fellow. He lives in Los Angeles.
MORGAN JERKINS is the author of the New York Times bestseller This Will Be My Undoing, and the forthcoming books, Why We Get Out and Caul Baby. Her short-form work has been featured online in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, ELLE, and New York Magazine, among many others. She holds a Bachelor’s in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is based in Harlem.
JAVON JOHNSON is an assistant professor and director of African American & African Diaspora studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A renowned spoken word poet, he is a three-time national poetry slam champion, a four-time national finalist, and has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, The Steve Harvey Show, and the United Shades of America with Kamau Bell on CNN. His first scholarly book, Killing Poetry: Blackness and the Making of Slam and Spoken Word Communities, brings critical attention to the complexities of performance poetry spaces. His second book was The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape. Dr. Johnson has also published in Text & Performance Quarterly, Liminalities, QED: A Journal of Queer Worldmaking, The Root, and The Huffington Post, and others.
TAYARI JONES is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a United States Artist Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and a Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. An American Marriage is a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection.
HEIDI JULAVITS is the author, most recently, of the New York Times Notable Book, The Folded Clock: A Diary. She co-edited the bestselling Women in Clothes, and is the author of four novels, among them The Vanishers, winner of the PEN New England Fiction Prize. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, and other places. She’s a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a founding editor of The Believer magazine. She teaches at Columbia University.
RACHEL KUSHNER’s new novel, The Mars Room, will be published on May 1st, 2018. Kushner is also the author of The Flamethrowers, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times Top Five Novel of 2013. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. A collection of her early work, The Strange Case of Rachel K, was published by New Directions in 2015. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Paris Review. She is the recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2016 Harold D. Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
After breaking in the ’80s with ’Til Tuesday, AIMEE MANN has gone on to become one of the most prominent singer-songwriters of her generation. Her solo career has spanned several critically acclaimed albums, including the soundtrack for the film Magnolia, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Her latest album, Mental Illness, received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album.
APARNA NANCHERLA started out doing comedy in her hometown of Washington DC and now resides in New York City. In 2016, she was featured in ELLE’s Women in Comedy Issue as one of the most exciting new voices to hit the comedy scene. She is a series regular in the debut season of Comedy Central’s Corporate and has reprised her role in season two of HBO’s Crashing. Aparna is also featured in the second season of Netflix’s The Standups. Other television credits include Netflix’s Master of None and Love, HBO’s High Maintenance, Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, Dave’s Unspun with Matt Forde, and Hulu’s I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman. In 2018 she makes her feature debut in the Paul Feig movie A Simple Favor. Her TV writing credits include NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. She is also an alumna of the NBC Stand Up for Diversity program and headlines throughout the world. She can regularly be seen at the Upright Citizen’s Brigades in LA and NYC. Her debut album, Just Putting It Out There, was released in July 2016 by Tig Notaro’s label Bentzen Ball Records and hit #4 on Billboard Comedy Charts.
JOSÉ ORDUÑA was born in Córdoba, Mexico, and immigrated to Chicago when he was two years old. He received an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. His work explores the ways power has determined his and others’ existence as racialized subjects of the United States. His first book, The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement was published in 2016 by Beacon Press. In 2017, he joined the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Author of Vogue 3:16, a collection of her poetry, VOGUE ROBINSON was recently named Clark County’s second-ever Poet Laureate. She is an advocate for arts in the Vegas valley, a four-time national competitor for the Las Vegas Battle Born Slam, and has been the champion of several noted poetry competitions. A former cast member of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, she also serves as guest co-director for the theater company Don’t Even Tripp Productions in Oakland, CA.
JOSHUA WOLF SHENK
Essayist JOSHUA WOLF SHENK is the executive and artistic director of the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute and editor-in-chief of The Believer. He is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Lincoln’s Melancholy and Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity, a national bestseller. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, GQ, Riverteeth, and An Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. A founding advisor to The Moth, Shenk played a lead role developing The Moth Radio Hour, which now airs on more than 400 stations worldwide. His book-in-progress, which is called The Question Man -Or- The Exploding Story of Wm G. Wilson, Author, Alcoholics Anonymous, was pre-optioned by Page 1 Productions.
KANCHANA UGBABE is an Indian-Nigerian writer and scholar who teaches creative writing at Fordham University in New York City. She is a PEN America-supported Writer at Risk. Kanchana writes about cross-cultural negotiations and about ethno-religious conflict in the city of Jos, Nigeria. She spent a year as a Scholar at Risk at Harvard University, and many years as professor of English at the University of Jos.
Believer co-founder VENDELA VIDA is the award-winning author of five books, including the novels Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. She is the editor of The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers, and the co-editor of Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence: The Best of the Believer Music Interviews. She co-wrote the screenplay to the Sam Mendes film Away We Go, and has served on the board of 826 Valencia for fifteen years. She is currently the Lurie Fellow at San Jose State University, where she teaches creative writing.
AYELET WALDMAN is the author of the novels Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and Daughter’s Keeper, as well as the essay collection Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. With her husband, Michael Chabon, she edited Kingdoms of Olive and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation. Her most recent book is A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Ayelet was a federal public defender and taught a course on the legal implications of the War on Drugs at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
LAWRENCE “REN” WESCHLER
LAWRENCE “REN” WESCHLER worked for twenty years as a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. He went on to direct the NY Institute for the Humanities at NYU for almost fifteen years. His nearly twenty books include Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (about the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA), Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (about artist Robert Irwin), Vermeer in Bosnia, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, and Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (a McSweeney’s publication that won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism). A veteran of both McSweeney’s and The Believer (where he wrote a column called “Pillow of Air”), Weschler is currently completing a memoir of his years serving as a beanpole Sancho to Oliver Sacks’s capacious Quixote.
MEG WOLITZER is The New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.