Revealed as the voice behind the TheRumpus.net’s beloved “Dear Sugar” column, Cheryl Strayed has been hailed by The New Republic as “the ultimate advice columnist for the Internet age, remaking a genre that has existed, in more or less the same form, since well before Nathanael West’s acerbic novella ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’ first put a face on the figure in 1933.”
Strayed is the author of the acclaimed memoir, Wild. At age 22, Strayed finds herself shattered by two major life events: her mother’s sudden death from cancer and the end of her young marriage. To cope, Strayed uses drugs and sex before she hits rock bottom and decides to confront her emotional pain by attempting to trek over 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild tells the amateur hiker’s tale, peppered with the colorful characters she encounters along the way, and she struggles to find inner peace and stability. Wild is the inaugural selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, an interactive, multi-platform reading club that harnesses the power of social media, bringing passionate readers together to discuss inspiring stories.
Cheryl’s own struggle and survivor story motivates and inspires crowds. A dynamic speaker, her moving rhetoric resonates with audiences of sizes. Strayed is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Torch, a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award. Her stories and essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Allure, and The Best American Essays.
She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She’s a founding member of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts, and serves on their board of directors. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed now lives in Portland, Oregon.
In “After Angels,” a profile of Tony Kushner published in The New Yorker, John Lahr wrote: “[Kushner] is fond of quoting Melville’s heroic prayer from Mardi and a Voyage Thither (“Better to sink in boundless deeps than float on vulgar shoals”), and takes an almost carnal glee in tackling the most difficult subjects in contemporary history – among them, AIDS and the conservative counter-revolution (Angels In America), Afghanistan and the West (Homebody/Kabul), German Fascism and Reaganism (A Bright Room Called Day), the rise of capitalism (Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr. Browne), and racism and the civil rights movement in the South (Caroline, or Change). But his plays, which are invariably political, are rarely polemical. Instead Kushner rejects ideology in favor of what he calls “a dialectically shaped truth,” which must be “outrageously funny” and “absolutely agonizing,” and must “move us forward.” He gives voice to characters who have been rendered powerless by the forces of circumstances – a drag queen dying of AIDS, an uneducated Southern maid, contemporary Afghans – and his attempt to see all sides of their predicament has a sly subversiveness. He forces the audience to identify with the marginalized – a humanizing act of the imagination.”
Born in New York City in 1956, and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kushner is best known for his two-part epic, Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. His other plays include A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs!, Hydrotaphia, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline, or Change, the musical for which he wrote book and lyrics, with music by composer Jeanine Tesori. Kushner has translated and adapted Pierre Corneille's The Illusion, S.Y. Ansky's The Dybbuk, Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Sezuan and Mother Courage and Her Children, and the English-language libretto for the children’s opera Brundibár by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols’ film of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg’s Munich as well as Spielberg's movie Lincoln. His books include But the Giraffe: A Curtain Raising and Brundibar: the Libretto, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. His latest work includes a collection of one-act plays, entitled Tiny Kushner, featuring characters such as Laura Bush, Nixon’s analyst, the queen of Albania and a number of tax evaders, and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (which premiered at the Guthrie Theatre in May 2009, opened in New York in May 2011). During the 2010-2011 season, a revival of Angels in America ran off-Broadway at the Signature Theater in New York, winning the Lucille Lortel Award in 2011 for Outstanding Revival.
Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Oscar nomination, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Mid-Career Playwright, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and a Cultural Achievement Award from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, among many others. Caroline, or Change, produced in the autumn of 2006 at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, received the Evening Standard Award, the London Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Olivier Award for Best Musical. In September 2008, Tony Kushner became the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the largest theater award in the US. He was also awarded the 2009 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement. He is the subject of a documentary film, Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner, made by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.
Ed Bok Lee (http://www.edboklee.com/) is the author of two books of poetry, Real Karaoke People, winner of a PEN/Open Book Award, and an Asian American Literary Award (Members' Choice), and Whorled, winner of a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry and a 2012 American Book Award. He also writes plays and fiction.
Lee has worked as a journalist, phys ed instructor, bartender, and translator. He holds an MFA from Brown University, and has shared his work in journals, anthologies, and on stages across North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as on public radio and television, and MTV.
Other awards he has received include grants and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Joshua Tree Highlands Artists Residency, and Anderson Center for the Arts, among others.
Dorothy Allison was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and makes her home in Northern California. Her first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, was a finalist for the National Book Award and became an award-winning movie. Allison’s second novel, Cavedweller, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, won the Lambda Literary Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the Lillian Smith Prize. It was also adapted for the stage and screen. She is currently working on another novel, She Who.
Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. His debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. It was also named a New York Times Notable Book, a best book of the year by The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and one of the best debuts of the year by The Guardian. His novel Absurdistan was published in 2006 and was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by New York Times Book Review and Time magazine, as well as a book of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications. Recently, Shteyngart was recognized as one of today’s top fiction writers on The New Yorker’s prestigious “20 Under 40” list. His latest book is Super Sad True Love Story.
His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He is also a contributing editor to Travel & Leisure magazine. One of his travelogues is included in the Best American Travel Writing of 2006 anthology.
Shteyngart earned a degree in politics from Oberlin College in Ohio and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College, where he has previously taught. He is currently teaching creative writing at Columbia University and Princeton University and lives in New York City.
Nick Flynn(http://nickflynn.org/) is the author of three memoirs, The Reenactments (Norton, 2013), The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Bewilderment (2010) and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir and has been translated into fifteen languages. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City has been made into a film, Being Flynn, starring Robert DeNiro as Flynn's father, Julianne Moore as his mother, and Paul Dano as Nick. He is also the author of three books of poetry, The Captain Asks For a Show of Hands (Graywolf, 2011), Some Ether (Graywolf, 2000), which won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and Blind Huber (Graywolf, 2002). He has been awarded fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, The Amy Lowell Trust, and The Fine Arts Work Center. Some of the venues his poems, essays and non-fiction have appeared in include The New Yorker, the Paris Review, National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” and The New York Times Book Review. He worked as a “field poet” and as an artistic collaborator on the film Darwin’s Nightmare, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best feature documentary in 2006. One semester a year, he teaches at the University of Houston and spends the rest of the year elsewhere.
Mary Jo Bang is the author of six books of poems, including The Bride of E (2009), Elegy (2007), The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (2004), The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans (2001), and Louise in Love (2001). Her first book, Apology for Want (1997), was chosen by Edward Hirsch for the 1996 Bakeless Prize. Both Louise in Love and Elegy received the Poetry Society of American's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress. Elegy also received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award and was listed as a 2008 New York Times Notable Book. Her translation of Dante's Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, was published by Graywolf Press in 2012.
Bang’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Believer, Paris Review, and elsewhere. Her work has been chosen three times for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a "Discovery"/The Nation award, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She has an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, a BA in Photography from Westminster University in London and a BA and MA in Sociology from Northwestern University. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she is Professor of English at Washington University.
Richard Bausch -- Past Chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers -- currently serves as the Moss Chair of Excellence in the Writing Program at the University of Memphis. A Georgia native, he is the author of 11 novels, including Rebel Powers, In The Night Season, Hello To The Cannibals, Thanksgiving Night, and Peace, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His stories have been collected in Spirits, Someone To Watch Over Me, The Stories of Richard Bausch, Wives & Lovers: 3 Short Novels, and the most recent Something is Out There. Bausch has won two National Magazine Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Writer's Award and the 2004 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.