Amina Gautier is winner of a PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and the author of three award-winning short story collections: The Loss of All Lost Things, Now We Will Be Happy, and At-Risk. She has won the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and has published over 100 stories in many esteemed journals. Gautier was born and raised in Brooklyn and currently lives in Chicago and Miami.
Jennine Capó Crucet is the author of three books and is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. Her novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice book, the winner of the 2016 International Latino Book Award, and was cited as a best book of the year by NBC Latino, the Guardian, and the Miami Herald; it has been adopted as an all-campus read at over thirty American universities. Her book of nonfiction, My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education, is forthcoming this September. Her short stories have been honored with the Iowa Short Fiction Award, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, and other awards. Raised in Miami, Florida, she is an associate professor in the Department of English and the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Kwame Dawes has authored 35 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and essays, including, most recently, Bivouac (Akashic Books, 2019) and City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern, 2017). Speak from Here to There (Peepal Tree Press), co-written with Australian poet John Kinsella, appeared in 2016. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. He is also a faculty member in the Pacific MFA Program. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Jennie Melamed is author of Gather the Daughters, named a best book of 2017 by The Guardian and Booklist, and was short-listed for the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award. A psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse.
Kassandra Montag is author of the novel After the Flood. An award-winning poet, fiction writer, and freelance medical journalist, her work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Midwestern Gothic, Prairie Schooner, and Mystery Weekly Magazine. She holds an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Creighton University. After the Flood will be translated into 17 languages and has been optioned for television by Chernin Entertainment.
Ángel García is the author of Teeth Never Sleep, winner of the 2018 CantoMundo Poetry Prize and finalist for the PEN Open Book Award. A PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Ángel has an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. His work has been published in the American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, Huizache, and The Good Men Project. He has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers-Squaw Valley and Vermont Studio Center. In addition to his creative work, Ángel is also the cofounder of a non-profit organization, Gente Organizada, that works to educate, empower, and engage communities through grassroots organizing.
Sarah McKinstry-Brown is the author of the poetry collection This Bright Darkness and has been published everywhere from West Virginia’s standardized tests to literary journals such as RATTLE and Green Mountains Review, along with a number of poetry slam anthologies. In 2011, she received the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry for her debut collection, Cradling Monsoons. Sarah lives in Omaha with Nebraska’s State Poet, Matt Mason, and their two wicked-smart daughters.
Aisha Sharif is the author of To Keep from Undressing and is a Cave Canem fellow. As an African American Muslim woman, her work explores how racial, gender, and religious identities align, separate, and blend. Aisha’s poetry has also appeared in journals like Rattle, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, and Calyx. Aisha teaches English at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri. She is married to David Muhammad and is the mother of two wonderful daughters.
Carson Vaughan is a freelance journalist from Nebraska who writes frequently about the Great Plains. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Paris Review Daily, Outside, Pacific Standard, Slate, the Atlantic, VICE, In These Times, and more. Zoo Nebraska is his first book.
Andrea Wilson is the founder and Executive Director of the Iowa Writers’ House and the creator of the Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship, a program to support immigrant and bicultural voices in Iowa. In 2018 she edited and published the states’s first bicultural story collection, We the Interwoven: An Anthology of Bicultural Iowa, and in summer of 2019 added the next book in the series. We the Interwoven Volume 2 features seven stories, two of which she co-wrote alongside the storyteller. Andrea grew up in Columbus Junction, a small Iowa farming community experiencing a cultural shift from the meat-packing industry and seasonal agricultural work.
Sam Slaughter is author of Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum and Other Cocktails for ‘90s Kids and God in Neon. A Food & Drink Editor for the men’s lifestyle magazine The Manual, he received his BA from Elon University and his MA from Stetson University. His spirits work has been published in Maxim, Bloomberg, The Bitter Southerner, Thirsty, and elsewhere. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of places, includingMidwestern Gothic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Heavy Feather Review.
Sarah Elgatian is a second-generation Armenian American with a lot of questions. Her paternal grandparents came to the United States through Ellis Island, barely escaping the Armenian genocide. She was born and raised in the Quad Cities and later moved to Chicago and Seattle before returning to Iowa. As a writer, she primary writes nonfiction and lyrical essays focusing on survival. Her writing has been published in Beholder Magazine, CrabFat, and more. She lives in Iowa City, and works at the Midwest Writing Center and the International Writing Program.
Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, adult fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her books include Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, A Beautiful Poison, and The Impossible Girl. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children.
Matt Mason is the State Poet for Nebraska and has run poetry programming for the State Department in Nepal, Romania, Botswana and Belarus. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for his poem “Notes For My Daughter Against Chasing Storms” and his work can be found in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. His books include Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know and The Baby That Ate Cincinnati.
Ilana Masad is an Israeli-American author and critic who has published fiction and nonfiction in The New Yorker, Guardian, VICE, McSweeney’s, and the LA Times, among many others. A PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ilana hosts The Other Stories podcast series and in 2020 Dutton Books will publish her debut novel, All My Mother’s Lovers, about a young queer woman’s quest to understand who her deceased mother was after discovering five letters addressed to men who are not her father.
Timothy Schaffert. Omaha Lit Fest founder and director-emeritus. Timothy Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska and now lives in Omaha. He is the author of The Swan Gondola as well as four previous critically acclaimed novels, which have been among Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selections, Indie Next Picks, and New York Times Editor’s Choices. Schaffert teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Liz Kay is the author of the novel Monsters: A Love Story and has had her poetry appear in Willow Springs, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Nimrod, among others. Liz is the co-founding editor of Sparkwheel Press and burntdistrict, and coordinates the Creative Writing Forum as director of the Creative Writing Program at Metro Community College.
Zedeka Poindexter is a North Omaha born and raised artist. She is Omaha’s first and only woman of color slam champion. Zedeka is a two time Omaha Entertainment and Arts award winner for best performance poet, a fellow with the Union of Contemporary Art, and former Omaha Poetry Slam slammaster. Her work has been published by the online literary magazine The New and Alight: Best Loved Poems from the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam.
Saddiq Dzukogi is a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is an Othmer Fellow. He is the author of Inside the Flower Room, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. His recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Best American Experimental Writing, and Verse Daily. He was a fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency.
Todd Robinson. Emcee of main event. Todd has published two books of poetry, most recently Mass for Shut-Ins (Backwaters). His writing has appeared in such venues as Prairie Schooner, Superstition Review, Canopic Jar, A Dozen Nothing, and Sugar House Review. He has conducted community writing workshops with The Seven Doctors Project, The Naturalist School, Nebraska Warrior Writers, Nebraska Writers Collective, and, this summer, in Athlone, Ireland, with the CÚRAM center for research in medical devices. He is an Assistant Professor in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Theodore Wheeler is co-director of Omaha Lit Fest and the author of three books, including the novels Kings of Broken Things (2017) and In Our Other Lives (March 2020). A graduate of Creighton’s MFA program, his short fiction is regularly featured in national magazines and he has participated in literary events from Port Townsend, Wash., to Key West, Fla., to Lisbon, Portugal, and Stuttgart, Germany. He teaches creative writing at UNO and Creighton University, and is a bookseller for the Dundee Book Company roving bookstore.
Nicole Wheeler is co-director of Omaha Lit Fest, Vice-Chairperson on the board of directors for ModeShift Omaha, and has served on the boards of Yahoo Employee Foundation, Yahoo Women in Tech, and Felius. She works in advertising and media for Hudl, has over a decade of experience in the Omaha business community, and is active in creating a connected Omaha as an advocate for multi-modal transportation issues and making offline connections around town through the Dundee Book Company roving bookstore.
Drew Justice is assistant director of Omaha Lit Fest. A graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Creighton University, he co-hosts of the immensely popular Pageturners Lit Pub Quiz series. He is a fiction and screenwriter, and his most recent script is currently a semi-finalist for the BlueCat Half-Hour Pilot contest.