2018 Festival Author & Panelist participants are still in the process of being contacted, so please watch the web site for updates.

We are pleased to announce that Ernest J. Gaines will be featured as the Great Southern Writer.

Ernest J. Gaines is a world renowned novelist, short story writer, and teacher. He is among the most widely read and highly respected contemporary authors of African American fiction. Gaines was born in Pointe Coupee Parish in Louisiana. At age fifteen, he moved to California, joining his mother and stepfather there, because his Louisiana parish had no high school for African Americans.

After graduating high school and serving in the Army, Gaines enrolled in San Francisco State University where he began publishing stories in the university’s quarterly literary journal. These stories secured him a place in Stanford University’s graduate program for creative writing. After leaving Stanford, he settled in the San Francisco area.

In 1981, he accepted the position of Writer-in-Residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (formerly University of Southwestern Louisiana). Not long into his tenure, he published A Gathering of Old Men (1983) which was adapted for television. 1993 saw the publication of A Lesson Before Dying, which was also adapted for television in 1999 and is one of his most critically acclaimed novels.  In retirement, Gaines continues to write, and his latest book, The Tragedy of Brady Sims, was published in August 2017.

Before retiring in 2004, Dr. Gaines won numerous awards including the Louisiana Humanist of the Year and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1993. In 2000, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal and was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Saturday, April 7, 2018, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sliman Theater, Main Street, downtown New Iberia.


Mary Ann Wilson will lead the ULL Academic Symposium with the topic, “James Lee Burke, the Writer and his Milieu,” with a focus on the book “Tin Roof Blowdown.”   Dr. Wilson is Professor of English and a Fellow of the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette where she holds the James D. Wilson Endowed Professorship in Southern Studies. Her specialties are 19th and 20th century American women writers, southern literature, and women’s studies. She has published widely on American women writers, Louisiana writers Grace King and Rebecca Wells being the most recent. She was named a UL Distinguished Professor in 2001, and she received a Women Who Mean Business Award from the Lafayette Independent in 2010. Her current book project is Every Good Impulse: New Orleans Women’s Book and Culture Clubs 1880-1925.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Mary Ann has lived in Lafayette for 30 years. In the last few years, Louisiana life and culture have been her topics of research. Her essay “Redneck Feng-shui: Duck Dynasty and the Other Louisiana” will appear this fall from LSU Press in a collection called Small Screen Souths: Region, Identity, and the Cultural Politics of Television.   She teaches James Lee Burke’s 2007 novel Tin Roof Blowdown in her Louisiana Literature class every semester at UL. This novel seems especially timely in light of Louisiana’s vanishing coastline and the effects of Katrina on the economy and ecology of the state.


Saturday, April 7, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to noon, the Iberia Parish Main Library, Main Street, downtown New Iberia.

James Edmunds graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1973 with a B.A. in philosophy. During his junior and senior years at USL, he was a staff writer for the student newspaper, The Vermilion. Upon graduation, he was awarded a teaching assistantship and spent one year as a graduate student in USL’s creative writing program.

After traveling extensively throughout the U.S., he took a teaching post at Mt. Carmel High School in New Iberia, teaching English and other subjects. In 1977 he resigned his teaching post to pursue a career as a freelance writer and photographer. He has written for a wide variety of publications since then, including Newsweek, for whom he has been a frequent contributor, Louisiana Life, The Dallas Times-Herald, Figaro, Gris-Gris, The Baton Rouge Advocate and others. Through 1995-97, Edmunds made regular contributions of poems to La Vie magazine under his own standing section “Verse.”

In 1980, he and a partner founded The Times of Acadiana, a very successful weekly newspaper in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Edmunds served as the newspaper’s editor during its first five years, and as associate publisher during three years. He frequently contributed photographs and photographic essays to the newspaper, and as also active as a photo editor showcasing the work of the most talented area photographers of the time. In early 1985, he stepped down as editor to pursue freelance writing and other projects. He consulted extensively with The Nashville Scene in its successful conversion from a low-budget throwaway paper to a contemporary upscale urban weekly, and with Metropolitan Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain.

Edmunds’ other media experience include several years announcing radio and preparing and delivering radio commentary, as well as working with a variety of advertising and public relations firms writing, designing and executing creative projects.

From 1998 through 2013, Edmunds designed, created, produced and maintained World Wide Web Internet sites for a range of clients that included both for-profit and not-for-profit entities, including complex data projects that involved mapping.

From 1977 forward, Edmunds has been involved in a wide range of performing arts and theatrical production projects, including producing musical stage plays (including some for which he authored the libretto and/or song lyrics), an arena-scaled gala to observe the 100th anniversary of the founding of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and numerous other productions. From 1998 through 2010 he served variously as board member, treasurer, general manager and consulting manager for the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, a multi-discipline presenting organization in Lafayette, LA., where among other activities was involved in the design of commission projects to create new works.

Currently Edmunds’ portfolio includes consulting projects that involve performing arts and/or internet components. In addition, he has recently begun exhibiting photographs after a decades-long absence from the gallery scene. Since 2012 Edmunds has also returned to creating short films, which have found homes at various regional film festivals, including one short film nominated for Best Sci-Fi at the Snake Alley Festival of Film in Burlington, IA.

Saturday, April 7, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to noon, the Iberia Parish Main Library, Main Street, downtown New Iberia.

Sally O. Donlon was born and raised in downtown Lafayette, but has lived in California, New York, New Jersey, north Louisiana and New Orleans. She has traveled extensively and her interests range widely. She has a diverse educational past, as well. As an undergrad she studied English and history at the Universities of Louisiana at Lafayette and Monroe, and her graduate studies at the University of New Orleans were in sociology (urban studies and public policy). Donlon is ABD in cognitive linguistics with the erstwhile Institute of Cognitive Science at UL Lafayette, and she continues her doctoral studies in English (creative non-fiction).

Sally is a researcher, writer, editor, and activist who has visited almost every parish of the state, thanks to her work with organizations such as the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and the Louisiana Bar Foundation. She is currently an assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette. Through one of her consultancies–Good Reading Books–she has helped numerous writers and researchers successfully negotiate the vagaries of independent publishing, and through the other–Celtic Sallies–she has helped travelers unlock the mysteries of ancient and modern Ireland. She has one daughter who studied psychology at UL Lafayette and who is a competitive cyclist. Sally now lives in the epicenter of her hometown.

Saturday, April 7, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to noon, the Iberia Parish Main Library, Main Street, downtown New Iberia.


2017 Festival Authors & Panelists

Patricia Gaitely grew up in England and came to the United States as a graduate student in 1995.  She attended the University of Alabama for her MA and the University of Louisiana – Lafayette for her Ph.D. where she also developed a love for the people and the culture of Louisiana.  She now teaches English and Folklore at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.  Her love of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels began in 1994 when, at a friend’s recommendation, she first read one and wanted to read more.  Twenty novels later, her book published in August 2016, Robicheaux’s Roots provides a cultural context for Robicheaux’s character and explores different aspects of the sense of place established in Burke’s novels.  She is looking forward to talking about the folk roots of Dave Robicheaux at the Dave Robicheaux Hometown Literary Festival.  When not working, Gaitely enjoys exploring thrift shops and birding, and she shares her home with five feathered companions

John “Pudd” Sharp is a folklorist and documentary filmmaker who joined the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2009. Since 2012 he has held the title of Assistant Director for Research at CLS. Born in Alabama, Sharp earned a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University and a Masters of Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  He has implemented several field research projects and serves as the primary contact for the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore. He works with film and video restoration and digitization and assists in grant writing.  He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Louisiana Folklore Society, where he has served as treasurer since 2010. In 2012, Sharp won the Louisiana Filmmaker award from Louisiana Economic Development for his film, Dancehalls of South Louisiana (in production). Sharp also served as writer, producer and photographer for the 2012 documentary film, Water on Road, which presents the story of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, a small island community of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Houma Indian tribes in Terrebonne Parish.


Becca Begnaud’s training as a Reiki Master, Healing Touch Practitioner, and in Trauma First Aide, has built upon that mind-body-spirit connection and personal experience. Her education in Anthropology (she holds a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) gives her the grounding to pull all the meaning together. As the initiator and founder/director of Healthcare for Musicians (a division of Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center), Becca has served as a leader. She is a champion of medical care for this unique, underserved population of Cajun, Zydeco, and other local, folk music performers who are working, but cannot afford insurance or health care services. Her own talents as a singer, musician, author, newspaper columnist, and storyteller are known throughout Acadiana (Cajun Country) and add to her abilities as a presenter. Her volunteerism includes speaking engagements with cancer recovery groups for both children and adults – groups whom she describes as having a collective experience that is “much bigger than my own.” She is also recognized by hundreds of thousands as the French-speaking announcer/translator on stage at the annual Festival International, a francophone event named one of the top ten festivals worldwide by “National Geographic Magazine.” But it is her gift and endowment as a French-Speaking Traditional Cajun Traiteur that has currently thrust her into the limelight.



Margaret Wrinkle was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and is the author of the novel Wash, which reexamines American slavery in ways that challenge contemporary assumptions about race, power, history and healing. Published by Grove/Atlantic, Wash is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an O, The Oprah Magazine top ten books to pick up now and a People magazine 4-star pick. It has been short listed for the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and nominated for the Crook’s Corner Prize for debut Southern novel. Wrinkle has earned a BA and an MA in English from Yale University and has also studied traditional West African spiritual practices with Malidoma Somé. Wrinkle is the 2013 recipient of Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail of Mobile Griot Award for outstanding contribution as storyteller of diverse cultural heritage. Her award-winning documentary broken ground, made with Chris Lawson about the racial divide in her historically conflicted hometown, was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and was a winner of the Council on Foundations Film Festival. She has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and lives in rural New Mexico.


Dr. Phebe Archon Hayes is a native and resident of New Iberia, LA. She is married to Harold George Hayes and they are the parents of Dr. Matthew E. Hayes and Dr. Claire Hayes-Watson.  Hayes retired from UL-Lafayette as a Professor and academic dean after 26 years.  Dr. Hayes is a member of the Vermilionville Living History Museum’s board of directors.  Her passion is documenting the history of Blacks in Iberia Parish (and surrounding areas) and creating opportunities for community-wide conversations about that history.


Dr. Ibrahima Seck is a native of Senegal, holds a doctoral degree in History.  The Director of Research at The Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, LA, Dr. Seck is also an Assistant Professor of History at Tulane University and Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal.  His research focus is primarily on the historical and cultural connections between West Africa and Louisiana with special emphasis on the period of slavery in Louisiana. Dr. Seck has also served as consultant to the St. Martinville Creole Museum.


Mr. Jari Honora is a native and resident of New Orleans and is a genealogist.  He holds a B.A. degree from Tulane University in History.  Honora serves as Historian for the New Orleans’ Free People of Color Museum (Le Musee de F.P.C.).  He is also the founder of the blog Creolegen.  Honora is a much sought after speaker and researcher on topics related to Black history and genealogy in Louisiana.



Theresa Harvard Johnson has loved creative writing since childhood. She fell in love with poetry in first grade after her teacher recited a poem in homeroom by Langston Hughes. She later developed a reading obsession with included Nancy Drew mystery stories, which motivated her to pursue a career as a professional print​ journalist which spanned nearly two decades. She earned awards from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia School Bell Awards. ​She was also featured in Charisma Magazine for her innovative evangelistic ministry. Today, Theresa leads The Scribal Conservatory Arts & Worship Center in Metro Atlanta​ and The School of the Scribe. She also teaches on The Scribal Anointing (the ministry of the biblical scribe and prophetic writing) nationally and internationally. She has authored more than 14 books on this subject, and hundreds of blogs​. She also enjoys writing just about anything, performing spoken word poetry focused on healing and social justice, and drawing with charcoal and pastels. Theresa and her husband of 22 years, Leonard, have three children and two beautiful grandchildren. She is a 2017 Master’s of Divinity candidate in Biblical Studies at Liberty University, and currently resides in McDonough, Georgia.


Steve Spillman will be speaking on the realities of publishing, marketing, and the never-ending promotion and responsibilities of the author, whether they choose to self-publish (and what that really means) or contract with an international publisher. Steve Spillman, is the founder of True Potential, Inc., a media company with business units in publishing, digital media and marketing. Also, he is a published author with titles that include, Breaking the Treasure Code: The Hunt for Israel’s Oil. True Potential’s unique combination of creating beautiful products and marketing across diverse platforms allows authors to reach the world with their message faster and more effectively than traditional publishing and product distribution channels. He is the creator and editor of several popular websites including www.OilinIsrael.com. Through his wide entrepreneurial experience, Spillman has ‘reached the world’ with stories of his own, his authors and his clients. True Potential and its subsidiaries have sold more than a million books. Spillman and his wife Elaine make their home on a small mountaintop above a quiet valley in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is one of six children of internationally known author, evangelist and Christian educator James R. Spillman.


Stanley Dry will be speaking as a published author and editor specifically from a periodical perspective, one of the ancillary options for creative writers to monetize their craft. Stanley Dry writes the Kitchen Gourmet column for Louisiana Life magazine and is author of The Essential Louisiana Cookbook and The Essential Louisiana Seafood Cookbook and co-author of Gulf South. Formerly senior editor of Food & Wine and founding editor of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine, his articles have appeared in Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Boston Magazine, and Acadiana Profile, among others. Earlier in his career he was a staff writer for Encyclopaedia Britannica and Associate for Publications at the Harvard Program on Technology and Society. He lives in New Iberia and blogs at recipesoptional.com.