Bios

Janell Walden Agyeman is a lifelong book lover whose passion for reading and writing, as tools for human uplift and expansion, led her to careers as an editor and literary agent.  Her professional experience includes editorial posts at Doubleday Publishing Company and Howard University Press, where she also administered the Howard University Press Book Publishing Institute.  Janell has broad experience in acquisition, editing and guiding book projects through the publishing process. She has worked with authors of fiction and nonfiction books for adults and children. In her new consulting business, Next Steps Literary Services, she continues applying her industry knowledge and experience to help writers become published authors. Janell joined Marie Brown Associates as an agent in 1993.  In this role, among her accomplishments, she helped launch the book publishing careers of critically acclaimed authors Sharon M. Draper, Tananarive Due, Nnedi Okorafor, Leonard Pitts, Jr., and Trice Hickman. She has appeared as a presenter or critique team member for several writers’ conferences and literary events including the Atlanta Writers Conference, SpringMingle Conference (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), Florida Writers Conference, and the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians.  She and her husband, Akwasi, now reside in the westernmost portion of Cherokee County, North Carolina.   

 

Lisa Soledad Almaraz is a native Texan that has called the Appalachian mountains home for over 20 years since arriving via Santa Barbara, California in 1998. She is a poet, multimedia producer, passionate gardener and founder of Eartheart Network. Her work explores ways to honor all life and engage conversations that expand love in our communities while creating a culture of earth stewardship. Through creativity and inspired activism, Lisa has helped bring many projects to life in various formats over several decades, creating thousands of hours of original top-rated radio content, television shows, live broadcasts, and music albums. Currently, she is the Multimedia Director of Living Web Farms, producing educational material teaching about growing organic food and resilient living, continuously adding to the voluminous library of more than 600 videos online. She also hosts Eartheart Network Radio weekly, discussing the connections between our soil, personal and planetary health as well as weekly expert organic gardening advice. Lisa shares gardening and seeds with anyone that is interested and has helped seed many community gardens. She seeks to plant the seeds of earth stewardship and gardening in as many people’s hearts as possible to encourage them to grow food and joyfully connect to nature and their community while living their own personal passion.

Alyse Bensel  is the author of Rare Wondrous Things, a poetic biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, April 2020). Her poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly ReviewBlackbirdPleiades, Puerto del SolRuminateWest Branch, and elsewhere. Her fiction and nonfiction have been featured at The BoilerEntropy, and Pithead Chapel. She is also the author of three poetry chapbooks, most recently Lies to Tell the Body (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018). Alyse served as the Book Reviews Editor for The Los Angeles Review, a literary journal from Red Hen Press, from 2013-2018. Her reviews have appeared in or are forthcoming in AGNI,Colorado ReviewPrairie SchoonerLiterary MamaTinderbox, and many other journals. Her scholarly work has been published in Journal of Creative Writing Studies and the International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation. She currently serves as section editor for Theory, Culture, and Craft for the Journal of Creative Writing Studies (JCWS), an open access, peer reviewed journal. Submissions to the journal are open year-round. She is also a Senior Poetry Reader for Cherry Tree. Alyse is an assistant professor of English at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference. Questions regarding the conference can be directed to lgrwc [at] brevard [dot] edu.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is an Asheville-based clinical psychologist specializing in mindfulness-based therapy and education. Born and raised in the United States, he maintains dual US-Italian citizenship, which connects him to his Sicilian heritage and love of Italy. Larry is the Director of Education of Mindfulness Travels, an educational organization that provides mindfulness-oriented retreats in inspiring locations throughout the world with leaders in the fields of mindfulness and mindful movement. Larry was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and service in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. He is a co-author of a book entitled, A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices. His work on mindful movement was presented at the 11th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.  In addition to his involvement in the profession of psychology, Larry is an instructor of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong who teaches weekly classes in Asheville.  He is also a musician and performance artist.

Meta Commerse teaches in the ancient modality of Story Medicine.  She was born and raised in Chicago where she grew up in the heart of the movement for justice.  She has been a resident of Asheville for the past ten years. She’s an educator, author, healer, and performer.  She earned her M.F.A. in the Creative Writing Program at Goddard College in Vermont. Her second poetry collection, “Blues Doula:  Poems by Meta Commerse,” is now available.

Julyan Davis is an English-born artist and writer. In 1988, he traveled to the United States on a painting trip that was also fueled by an interest in the history of Demopolis, Alabama and its settling by Bonapartist exiles. Since then, he has made the American South his subject.  Davis is based in Asheville, North Carolina. His work is exhibited internationally, and is in many public and private collections. Davis’ current projects include: ‘The Mermaid Storm’, a collaboration with poet Glenis Redmond; “Dark Corners: The Appalachian Murder Ballads’, a touring museum show with accompanying lectures and musical performances; and ‘A History of Saints’, a comedic novel set in Montford during the recession of 2008.  ‘Days of Exile’, a documentary about his paintings of Demopolis and the town’s recent Bicentennial will be premiered this Spring.

Aaliyah Swimmer is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians residing in the Waynesville area and a member of the Wolf Clan.
I’m currently a student at Western Carolina University.
English Professional Writing Major and Cherokee Studies Minor.
I’ve written research on MMIW as well as written poetry.
I’ve also written and spoke briefly about my experience as a biracial member of the Eastern Band who didn’t grow up on the reservation and had to learn about my culture a lot while at WCU.  I’m a member (and secretary) of Digali’i (WCU Native Student Organization) I’ve also participated in the diversity discussion WCU holds about what it means to be Appalachian and being Appalachian while being a student at WCU. I also participated in an art project where I was a paper doll and people could dress it in traditional clothing to educate about Cherokee clothing and stereotypes and controversial images of native women. I also participated as the model for the Mount Oglethorpe Trail of Tears Memorial.

Cara Forbes is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a member of the Deer Clan residing in the Birdtown Community of the Cherokee Qualla Boundary. She currently works as the North Carolina Tribal Liaison for UnitedHealthcare. She is an alumni of the Generation Indigenous National Native Youth Network and a writer for Natives In America, an online literary space for Native American, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian writers who share what it means to be proudly Indigenous in the 21st century. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville with her Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in U.S. Ethnic Studies in 2019.

Arvis Locklear Boughman is the son of Charles Boughman, whose family has lived in the Appalachian foothills for over 300 years, and Adelaide Boughman, whose family has lived in the swamps and lowlands of present-day southeastern North Carolina for perhaps thousands of years. Arvis is a member of the Lumbee tribe. Arvis also had an opportunity to become friends with elders such as Ray Littleturtle, Pete Spotted Turtle Clark, Herman and Loretta Oxendine, Welton Lowry, and Earl Carter. While he lived in Robeson County, he witnessed the anguish and strife that the Lumbee people felt concerning their 100-year failed quest for federal recognition. After leaving Robeson County, Arvis came to work with many Eastern Band of Cherokee children as an educator in Swain County. Arvis has written/co-written three books about the Lumbee culture which are: Herbal Remedies of the Lumbee Indians, Chicora and the Little People: The Legend of the Indian Corn, and Legends of the Lumbee and Some that Will Be. Arvis enjoys storytelling, woodworking, playing the Indian flute, attending stomp dances and powwows. 

 

 

Sara Eisenberg, MS is a healer, herbalist, activist and elder. A life-long learner, Sara draws on her many years of questioning, practice, training, and experience as a guide, facilitator and educator in community, academic, and spiritually-based settings. She is the founder of A Life of Practice, her online home where she integrates her work in Nondual Kabbalistic Healing, Herbal Medicine and Radical Inquiry with A Life of Practice©. She meets with clients and teaches in her Baltimore office and online.

Lori Horvitz‘ short stories, poetry and personal essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including Chattahoochee Review, The Guardian, Bustle, Redivider, South Dakota Review, Southeast Review, The MacGuffin, The Monarch Review, Hotel Amerika, Thirteenth Moon, Tusculum Review, The Chariton Review and Quarter After Eight. Her essays have been included in two Seal Press anthologies: P.S.: What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends and Dear John, I’m in Love With Jane. In her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, she has organized and participated in many literary readings at local venues, including UNC Asheville, The Flood Gallery, Malaprop’s, The Mothlight and The Black Mountain College Museum. She has been awarded writing fellowships from Brush Creek, Fundación Valparaiso, The Ragdale Foundation, Yaddo, Cottages at Hedgebrook, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Blue Mountain Center. Horvitz is Professor of English at University of North Carolina at Asheville, where she teaches courses in creative writing, literature, and women, gender and sexuality studies.

 

Jenna Emilie Jaffe was born in Philadelphia to a family of artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and other interesting people of Ashkenazi descent. At the age of 12 she moved to Los Angeles County where she continued school and studied drama, singing, and began to compose music on the piano. At age 17 she moved to Santa Barbara to further her education exploring many areas of interest. She was accepted into UC Berkeley for both the Rhetoric and Linguistics Program but decided to pursue music and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a Bachelors of Music Degree in Vocal Performance with Honors. She was very active with the university locally and regionally, performing jazz, gospel, opera, and middle eastern music. Though accepted into two Masters of Music Programs in Third Stream Studies and Classical Voice at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Jenna remained in Santa Barbara to focus on starting a family, teaching voice and piano in her private music studio, and performing regularly. She now resides in Asheville, North Carolina continuing to perform, teach and compose music, create art, as well as teach ESL at Asheville Buncombe Community College. She is committed to healing Mother Earth and all its inhabitants through creative disciplines. Her other passions include trans/gender vocal and life coaching, peer counseling (NCCPSS), phonetic and drama coaching, and applying spiritual therapies in her trades. Jenna is a Reiki I certified healer. In addition to serving others, Jenna is dedicated to creating art within several disciplines including: multimedia, photography, jewelry, dance, and more. You can see and hear Jenna performing in the Asheville area. Visit Jenna at her art studio upon appointment.

Trevor Lewis is the author of  Thriving as an Empath: Empowering you highly Sensitive Self. Trevor has had a lifelong passion for expanding consciousness, his own and others’. He originates from London, England, and after 38 years in corporate I.T., he nowtrains empaths and other sensitives how to integrate their abilities into their life. One of Trevor’s missions on the planet is now empowering other empaths, to help them turn what many consider a curse into being a blessing.

Marlisa Mills is a mental health, addiction, and grief therapist, “retired” from hospice work and presently the co- owner and founder of Blue Lotus End of Life Services. She has spent years leading grief groups that focused on storytelling as the means for handling loss and bereavement. She works with children, adolescents, adults, and seniors in looking at life through the lense of death and loss and finding joy through the gratitude practice of narrative medicine.

Juan Sanchez Martinez is originally from the Andes (Bakatá, Colombia). He dedicates both his creative and scholarly writing to indigenous cultural expressions from Abiayala. His book of poetry, Altamar, was awarded in 2016 with the National Prize Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia. Altamar is a tribute to the grandfathers and grandmothers, activists and writers who have protected, with their own lives, the pure water of their territories. He joined UNC Asheville in Fall 2016 as Assistant Professor for the departments of Languages and Literatures, and American Indian and Indigenous Studies. He collaborates and translates for the trans-indigenous online publication Siwar Mayu, A River of Hummingbirds. http://www.siwarmayu.com/

Rev. DeBorah Ogiste asks us to remember this: “You are OK where you are, and if you want to experience more in life, and accept more in life, or release more in life, and to feel safe within yourself, then it’s time to come into a community of non-judgment, where God will meet you where you are and bring you from that place into all you can be.” Since moving to Asheville, Rev. DeBorah has been a minister at Unity Church of Asheville for three years. Currently she is an interfaith wedding officiate, does energy work to help people walk through their pain and release trauma from the past, and guides groups in spiritual discussion.

Tania Rochelle holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She has taught writing for 20 years and uses the writing process therapeutically with clients who struggle with PTS and/or addiction. She is the author of two poetry books, Karaoke Funeral and The World’s Last Bone, both published by Snake Nation Press.

Eric Tran is from San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. He is the author of the Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer (Autumn House Press, 2020) and the chapbooks Revisions (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018) and Affairs with Men in Suits (Backbone Press, 2014). His work appears in Iowa Review, 32 Poems, Pleiades, Missouri Review Poem of the Week, has been reprinted in Poetry Daily and Best of the Net, and has received recognition from New Delta Review, Indiana Review, and Tinderbox Poetry. He is on staff at Orison Press. He is a resident physician in psychiatry at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. He graduated from the University from North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine, where he received the Alan C. Cross Award and the Heusner Pupil Award. He holds an MPH from UNC Chapel Hill and an MFA from UNC Wilmington.

Lisa Sarasohn is a poet, essayist, musician, and movement educator. Her books include Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood, Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine, and Moving Images: Witnessing This Body of Knowledge. lisasarasohn.com

Isabelle Serene My name is Isabella Serene, and I am a young local writer an environmental activist. I am applying in the geopoetic category. Any time of day on either day works fine for me. As a young person (newly 18) I am heavily impacted by climate change. It is my future that has been jeopardized by the acts of the past, and it is my generation that is going act to fix it. I feel the weight of the problem of climate change very personally and heavily. I see all the creatures, habitats, environments, and lives being destroyed around me, and I know that because we are all inexorably interconnected that this damage will harm and is harming us all. These experiences and this knowledge drives me to act. I do this activism in two ways. The first is by being a part of the local hub of Sunrise Movement: a youth led social organization that believes in using nonviolence, the power of story telling and community building, and people power to fight the intersectional justice issues of climate change for good jobs and a livable future. The second, and more relevant way, is by writing.  I believe deeply in the power of stories. I have been using stories, both written and told, to relate to, understand, and expand the world around me for as long as I can remember. Most recently, I’ve been using this power to fight for climate justice. Climate change is not some far off, esoteric, scientific problem that you need to have a biology or ecology degree to understand or work on. It is an issue that is affecting all of us, though some more directly and severely than others, and in turn takes all of us to solve. I started an online journal called (art)Work for Change that is meant to provide a platform for social and environmental justice through art. As the lead journalist/story writer, I have been collecting stories through interviews from people whose lives are being directly affected by climate change, and then using my skill and love of writing to spread these stories to the general public. These stories are meant to provide a greater understanding of and connection to the problem and its affects. Without a true awareness of a problem or a way to relate or connect to it, it is impossible to solve it. I believe the most effective tool of change is education and community connection and building. Through writing about these large scale, complicated issues from a personal, emotional, and experiential perspective, I am able to ground and personalize them for the reader. Making these issues more relatable and understandable is the only way we can get everyone to do their part, and getting people to understand and care is my mission as an environmental writer.

Judith Toy was ordained by Zen Master and mindfulness author Thich Nhat Hanh as a core member of his order in 1997. She served as associate editor for The Mindfulness Bell, the international quarterly for English-speaking students of Thich Nhat Hanh. Toy is author of Murder as a Call to Love, available on Amazon, and has often made her living as a non-fiction writer and columnist. She has been included in three Shambala anthologies, including Best Buddhist Writing 2006. She has received numerous grants and awards in the arts, including the Dylan Thomas Poetry Award at the New School, NYC; a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; she has written and produced a play, created a graduate workshop for teachers on how to teach writing through the visual arts, has taught poetry to children from kindergarten through graduate school, worked with homeless teens and prisoners, is currently writing a “blogel,” a novel in blog editions, is working as a freelance book editor, and leads mindfulness practice. She has lived for four years in an eco-community in East Tennessee after residing 17 years in Black Mountain.

Andy Weatherly has been an initiated Quipaquies in a Nahua tradition of the highlands of central Mexico for ten years. He is honored to work with weather and natural elements for his community in Asheville. He is a published poet who finds inspiration in fire, dead trees, beautiful flowers, rivers, the weather, and humans.

Lisa Wagoner is the creator and writer of the blog “Witch, Indeed” on Patheos, a lifelong witch, and an ordained member of the clergy team at Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville, North Carolina. In addition to her writing, she leads workshops, offers readings and consultations, and is a certified Reiki Master. Her book, Positive Pagan will be released by Llewellyn in 2021. She is also a contributor to the books The Witch’s Altar and My Wandering Uterus.