Conference Faculty, Presenters, Panelists

Nancy Barton (agent – panelist, queries/critiques)

Derek Berry (workshop, panel) is the author of the poetry chapbooks Glitter Husk      and Buggery, winner of the 2020 BOOM Chapbook Prize, as well as the novel Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County. They are also the recipient of the Broad River Prize for Prose, Emrys Poetry Prize, & KAKALAK Poetry Award. Their recent work has appeared in Raleigh Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Yemassee, Gigantic Sequins, Taco Bell Quarterly, & elsewhere. They live in Aiken, South Carolina where they work in an historic curation facility. 

Alexa Bigwarfe (workshop and panelist) is a wife, mother, proud veteran, a USA Today Best-Selling author, author coach, publisher, and podcaster. Her writing career began after her infant daughter passed away at 2 days old and she turned to writing for healing, which led to self-publishing. Now she guides other authors through the publishing and marketing process in her company Write|Publish|Sell ( and publishing houses Kat Biggie Press, Purple Butterfly Press, and Chrysalis Press. She is also the founder and host of the Women in Publishing Summit, She founded a nonprofit, Sunshine After the Storm, after the loss of her infant daughter, to support grieving mothers and help them through their worst moment through support activities and healing retreats. A spirited activist, Alexa enjoys bringing light to topics surrounding marginalized voices, particularly as they pertain to women and children. She lives in Columbia, SC with her husband, three living children destined to be activists too, and her dog.

Belle Boggs (keynote) is the author of The Gulf: A Novel; The Art of Waiting; and Mattaponi Queen: Stories. The Art of Waiting was a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and was named a best book of the year by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, the Globe and Mail, Buzzfeed, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Mattaponi Queen, a collection of linked stories set along Virginia’s Mattaponi River, won the Bakeless Prize and the Library of Virginia Literary Award and was a finalist for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Orion, the Paris Review, Harper’s, Ecotone, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is an associate professor of English at North Carolina State University, where she also directs the MFA program in creative writing.

Michelle Buckman (workshop)

Anna Edmonds (workshop, panelist – publishing, critiques) has accomplished a lot in the short time since she raised her kids into functioning adults. A 2009 layoff from her office administration job sent her back to college for a B.A. in English from Columbia College with a focus in media writing. During her tenure as a student, she garnered several awards, including an S.C. Press Association Award for a Free Times cover story in 2012, attended the 2012 Republican National Convention as a member of the press, was a runner-up in the 2012 Washington Post Magazine Humor Writing Contest and was awarded two grants to conduct research on art by Holocaust survivors. She graduated magna cum laude in 2013. Immediately following graduation, Anna worked as a copywriter for Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance and freelanced as a dissertation editor for international doctoral students and a journalist and assistant editor for the Free Times. She later served as the managing editor of Columbia Living Magazine. Anna currently freelances as a copywriter/content writer, book editor and writing coach at 2 Red Pens, and is now focused on growing the The F-Suite, a magazine for female entrepreneurs, which she launched in 2019. 

Barbara Evers (workshop) began storytelling at the age of four.  She couldn’t read, yet, so she roped others into taking dictation for her.  She works as a professional trainer, speaker, and freelance writer/editor, and has taught effective business and technical writing techniques for over twenty years. Although, Barbara enjoys the training aspect of her life, she’s thrilled that she’s had several opportunities to contribute her skills in teaching to the creative writing community. In her spare time, she pursues her first passion—writing—and is currently working on an urban fantasy. Barbara is an award-winning author and a Pushcart Prize nominee whose short stories and essays have appeared in several anthologies. In addition, she’s judged several writing contests, been a slush pile reader, and contributes to multiple blogs, including two of her own. She is the chapter leader for the SCWA Greenville chapter and served on SCWA’s Board of Directors from 2008-2010 and as President of the Board in 2009. Barbara lives in Greer, SC with two of her grandchildren, her husband, Bruce, and a rescue dog named Roxy. For more information, visit her website,, or her two blogs: and

Craig Faris (workshop)

Sasscer Hill (workshop, panelist – fiction)

Robert Lackey (workshop)

Cayce LaCorte (slushfest reader)

Jonathan Haupt (panelist – Writing in SC) is the executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the founding director of the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, and the former director of the University of South Carolina Press. In 2013, Haupt established USC Press’s acclaimed Story River Books fiction imprint, edited by the late Pat Conroy and named by Garden & Gun magazine as one of the top ten things to love about the South. He is coeditor (with Nicole Seitz) of the award-winning anthology Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy. Haupt’s articles, book reviews, and author interviews have appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier, Beaufort Lowcountry Weekly, Beaufort Lifestyle magazine, Pink magazine, Shrimp, Collards & Grits magazine, Fall Lines, Southern Writers magazine’s Suite T blog, and the Conroy Center’s Porch Talk blog. He serves as an associate producer and consultant to the SCETV author interview program By the River, on the board of directors of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the Friends of South Carolina Libraries, on the American Writers Museum affiliates steering committee, and on the South Carolina Humanities advisory committee.

John Jeter (workshop, panelist – nonfiction) is winner of Converse College’s Above & Beyond Award in 2017. He is a journalist, novelist, playwright, and entrepreneur. In the Upstate, Jeter is best known as co-founder of The Handlebar, a concert venue he owned and operated with his wife, Kathy Laughlin, for 20 years. As a nationally published author, his books include Rockin’ A Hard Place, a Hub City Press memoir based on his experience as the Greenville club’s talent buyer; The Plunder Room, his debut novel from St. Martin’s Press; and The Lucifer Genome, a co-authored thriller from Brigid’s Fire Press. Jeter is also a contract stringer for The New York Times. He spent a month in Italy for a writing residency to work on his stage play, The Last Lynching. He has traveled to Europe, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Central America, Mexico and Canada, the Caribbean, southern Africa, the Middle East and throughout the United States. Jeter has appeared on Oprah! and in newspapers and radio, as a contributor and a subject.

Len Lawson

Ray McManus (panelist – Writing in SC) is the author of ­­Driving Through the Country Before You Are Born, Left Behind, Red Dirt Jesus, which won the Marick Press Poetry Prize. His latest collection, Punch, published by Hub City Press in 2014, won the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award. McManus has recently co-edited an anthology with USC Press called Found Anew. He is an associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina in Sumter and the director of the Center for Oral Narrative housed in the Division of Arts and Letters. He is Writer in Residence at the Columbia Museum of Art, and the Chair for the South Carolina Academy of Authors. McManus is the founder of Split P Soup, a creative writing outreach program that places writers in schools and communities in South Carolina, and former director of the creative writing program at the Tri-District Arts Consortium. His current outreach project is Re:Verse, a teaching initiative that works with teachers and administrators on developing effective strategies for bringing creative writing back to standard education.

Duncan Murrell (panelist and critiques) is an editor of academic books, monographs, articles, and other projects. He also edits fiction and nonfiction intended for general audiences. As an acquisitions editor at Algonquin Books, he acquired and published dozens of books, including several bestsellers. As a freelance editor, he’s edited three New York Times bestselling novels, consulted with the University of Georgia Press on natural history books, and has worked on books on everything from sailing to parasitic zoonoses. He is also a writer living in Pittsboro, North Carolina. He is currently a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, The Oxford American magazine, and The Normal School. He also writes for The Highline @ The Huffington Post, The New Republic, Men’s Journal, Our State Magazine, and Southwest Magazine. His work has been recognized in Best American Essays and he’s been a resident at Yaddo. He has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing (fiction) from Bennington College. He likes to run.

Alexia Paul (panelist – publishing) is the founder of Alexia Paul Editorial.  She began her career at the Joy Harris Literary Agency in New York, where she sold books to publishers such as Random House and Little Brown.  Since moving to Charlotte in 2005, she has helped over a hundred authors perfect their work through editing and writing collaborations. Alexia has worked with numerous professionals – from psychologists to lawyers to financial planners to ivy league college professors – write non-fiction books that demonstrate their expertise.  Her most recent writing has appeared in Elysian Magazine. Alexia lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two children. Find out more at:

Dana Ridenour (panelist – fiction) is a retired FBI agent.  She is the author of two FBI undercover novels: Behind The Mask, Beyond The Cabin, and Below the Radar. Ridenour earned her Juris Doctor in 1992 from Chase College of Law. Over the years, she has been employed in a  variety of jobs including first mate on a tour boat, lawyer, and Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She entered on duty with the FBI in November of 1995 and retired in April of 2016 after over twenty years of service. Ridenour was assigned to four different FBI Field Divisions and had the opportunity to work a wide variety of cases to include narcotics investigations, domestic sex trafficking of minors, and violent crime. The highlight of Ridenour’s career came in 2003 when she attended and passed the FBI’s prestigious undercover school, thus allowing her to work as an undercover agent.  This certification opened the door for Ridenour to work a series of long term, deep cover cases focusing on domestic terrorism. It was Ridenour’s mother who encouraged her to keep a journal while working as a Special Agent with the thought that one day a novel would materialize from the experiences. Her fiction is a reflection of her career and life experiences. An award winning author, Ridenour lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her wonderful husband. She is currently writing her fourth novel.She is on the Board of Directors of SCWA.

Susan Sloate (workshop, panelist – publishing) is the author of more than 20 award-winning published books, including the 2013 bestseller STEALING FIRE, named a Quarter-Finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (top 5%). It went to #2 in its category on Amazon in its first 48 hours and was a Hot New Release for its first 90 days. In 2014, it was honored in the Readers’ Favorite Literary Competition (Women’s Fiction). FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION is a re-edited version of the original 2003 time-travel thriller that became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned for film production by a Hollywood company. ​REALIZING YOU, published in September 2013, launched a new genre: the self-help novel, and has received laudatory reviews from both critics and readers. Susan has also written 17 published young-adult fiction and nonfiction books, two produced stage plays (which she co-directed in their world-premiere performances) and two optioned film works. In 2009, she appeared on The History Channel in a Mystery Quest special on Alcatraz, in support of her book, MYSTERIES UNWRAPPED: THE SECRETS OF ALCATRAZ. Her children’s biography, RAY CHARLES: FIND ANOTHER WAY! won a silver medal in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards competition.  Susan has managed two recent political campaigns and founded a local authors festival in 2007 to promote literacy among students in local schools. She also founded the Writers Workshop in 2014, to bring together actors and directors to work with playwrights of unfinished plays. The staged readings and direct, candid feedback from all participants results in greater clarity and better finished scripts. She also undertook, in 2019, to finish three major book projects and completed all three. She also coaches authors, one on one, in all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing their work. Her latest project is the TALK JAM podcast, on topics ranging from the Bible to history to conspiracy, which she co-hosts with fellow best-selling author Kelly Fitzgerald Fowler. It’s available on Buzzsprout, Stitcher and iTunes. She has appeared in multiple volumes of WHO’S WHO AMONG AMERICAN WOMEN, WHO’S WHO IN ENTERTAINMENT and WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA. Susan lives outside Charleston, SC. 

Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., (workshop, panel) is a six-time Pushcart Prize-nominated author of 16 books and audio programs of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, as well as a TEXx speaker, a blogger for the Huffington Post blogger, and a columnist for Literary Mama. As Andi Buchanan, the author of the memoir, The Beginning of Everything, attests, “Cassie Premo Steele writes with poetry and power, managing to enlighten and educate even as she explores emotional depth. As insightful as it is lyrical, her work is not to be missed.” She works as a writing coach with people from around the world, combining mindfulness and innovative stress reduction techniques for a unique coaching experience, and she also offers an affordable weekly audio coaching program called JOYWORK at her website,

Candace Thompson (workshop) is a dynamic speaker on a mission to unlock the artist within you. She is an IT professional with a concentration in Learning and Development. With a BA in Psychology from the University of South Carolina, she has spent over 10 years studying human behavior and self-identity. She is the Founder of ​Canvases With Candace, LLC; ​a mobile paint event company. Utilizing her expertise in technical training and psychology, she offers a “soul therapy” session for the artists; guiding the artists, through a journey of self discovery. As a workshop facilitator for goal accomplishment, creating an action based mindset, and overcoming obstacles. As a published author of ​#ImpressYourself,​ she uses these principles to teach individuals how to climb an upward spiral.

Amber Wheeler Bacon (workshop) is a writer, teacher and literacy specialist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Epiphany, Post Road, New Ohio Review and Crazyhorse. You can also find her writing online at Ploughshares, CRAFT, Fiction Writer’s Review and New South. She is the recipient of the 2018 Breakout 8 Writers Prize sponsored by The Author’s Guild and a Katharine Bakeless Nason Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. Her short story, “North Toward Loris,” appearing in the current issue of Witness, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is also Assistant Fiction Editor at Four Way Review. She has a Master’s degree in Teaching from the University of Louisville and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She grew up in the Atlanta area and now lives on the South Carolina coast, working as an instructional coach at a public Montessori school and as an adjunct English instructor. She is currently at work on a story collection and novel. She is on the Board of Directors of SCWA.

Estelle Ford Williamson (workshop) reported for UPI in Atlanta and later wrote and edited for non-profit agencies. She became a management trainer and career advisor in several corporations before using those skills on herself to transition to novel writing. Abbeville Farewell: A Novel of Early Atlanta and North Georgia was nominated for the Townsend Fiction Prize. She wrote Seed of South Sudan: Memoir of a ‘Lost Boy’ Refugee with Majok Marier about his experiences fleeing war in east Africa. She arrived in South Carolina with Hurricane Matthew, joined SCWA, and is seeking a publisher for her novel, Rising Fawn.