Please note, the list of participants is constantly being updated. Check back often for additions, changes and cancellations.

Natasha Sajé


Natasha Sajé, author of Vivarium, is the author of three books of poems, and a book of poetry criticism, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory. Sajé is a professor of English at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and a member of poetry faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Speaker's Website Genre: Poetry

Barbara D. Savage

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Barbara D. Savage, co-editor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women, is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. A UVa alum, she teaches African American history, religion, and media.

Speaker's Twitter Genre: Non-Fiction

William Schlesinger

Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change

Bill Schlesinger writes the blog Citizen Scientist and is co-author of the widely adopted textbook Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change. He is former dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Speaker's Website Genre: Non-Fiction

Susan Schmidt

Song of Moving Water (environmental novel)

Susan Schmidt, author of Song of Moving Water and Salt Runs in My Blood, is sailboat captain, gardener, Quaker naturalist, retired professor, and science-policy analyst. She currently works as a developmental editor. Her environmental novel is set in Virginia; in poems, she plays in boats and walks long trails.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Genre: Children/Youth, Fiction, Poetry

Robert Schultz

Ancestral Altars

Robert Schultz, author of Ancestral Altars, is the John P. Fishwick Professor of English at Roanoke College. His previous titles include We Were Pirates: A Torpedoman’s Pacific War (nonfiction), The Madhouse Nudes (a novel), and Winter in Eden (poems).

Speaker's Website Genre: Poetry

Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo

Jon Scieszka is the author of The New York Times bestselling Frank Einstein series. His books include Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger, Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, the Time Warp Trio and Spaceheadz series, and Battle Bunny with Mac Barnett. In 2008 Scieszka was named the inaugural National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Librarian of Congress, and he is the founder of Guys Read, a web-based literacy program for boys. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Twitter Genre: Children/Youth

Paula Seniors

Beyond Lift Every Voice and Sing: The Culture of Uplift, Identity, and Politics in Black Musical Theater

Paula Marie Seniors is the author of Beyond “Lift Every Voice and Sing:” The Culture of Uplift, Identity, and Politics in Black Musical Theater, which received the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize from The Association of Black Women Historians.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Vijay Seshadri

3 Sections

Vijay Seshadri is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 3 Sections. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the New York Times Book Review, and in many anthologies, including Best American Poetry.

Speaker's Website Genre: Poetry

Joanne Shenandoah


Joanne Shenandoah has had to cancel her participation in 2016. 

Ms. Shenandoah is a Grammy Award-winning musician who has produced 17 recordings and received multiple music awards, including a record 14 Native American Music awards. She has performed world-wide and garnered praise for her advocacy of universal peace and the rights of women and children.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Genre: Non-Fiction

Kevin Sherry

Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet

Kevin Sherry is an author and illustrator of children’s books, including The Yeti Files series. His work has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews and he has won an award from the Society of Illustrators.

Speaker's Website Genre: Children/Youth

Jeanne Siler

Jeanne Nicholson Siler has been involved with the Festival of the Book for most of its 22 years, alternately as moderator, driver, author and a variety of volunteer roles. Currently a staff member at VFH, she works with the Grants and Fellowship programs.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Ann Simpson

Little Rivers and Waterway Tales

Ann Cary Simpson, photographer of Little Rivers and Waterway Tales, is a consultant with Moss + Ross of Durham and interim director of NC Catch, a nonprofit supporting fishermen and local seafood. She has worked for The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, and Ducks Unlimited, and she is now president of the NC Coastal Land Trust.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Bland Simpson

Little Rivers and Waterway Tales

Bland Simpson is Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and pianist for the Red Clay Ramblers.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Kay Slaughter

Kay Slaughter is a retired attorney who worked at Southern Environmental Law Center for 24 years and served eight years on Charlottesville City Council with one term as Mayor. She spends her retirement in travel and writing both fiction and nonfiction.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Fran Slayton

When the Whistle Blows

Fran Cannon Slayton, a many-time participant in the Festival, has had to cancel her participation in 2016 due to a diagnosis of brain cancer. You may read about her unexpected journey, including how you can help, at her website.

Author of When the Whistle Blows, Slayton floated around Europe last summer teaching academic writing and working with college students as director of Semester at Sea’s Writing Center. She also recently received a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities fellowship and taught a children’s publishing course at UVa.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Genre: Children/Youth, Publishing

Ron Smith

Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poems about Thomas Jefferson

Ron Smith is the author of Its Ghostly Workshop as well as Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery (runner-up for the National Poetry Series Open Competition), Moon Road, and the forthcoming The Humility of the Brutes. He is the Poet Laureate of Virginia.

Speaker's Website Genre: Poetry

Lee Smith

Dimestore: A Writer's Life

Lee Smith, author of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, was born in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Va., and began writing stories at the age of nine. Since then, she has written seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and, most recently, Guests on Earth. She lives in Hillsborough, N.C.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Genre: Non-Fiction

Lisa Spaar

Monticello in Mind: 50 Contemporary Poems on Jefferson

Lisa Russ Spaar, editor of Monticello in Mind: 50 Contemporary Poems on Jefferson, has published ten books of poetry and essays. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. She is a professor at UVa.

Speaker's Website Genre: Poetry

Daphne Spain

Constructive Feminism: Women's Spaces and Women's Rights in the American City

Daphne Spain, author of Constructive Feminism, is James M. Page Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. Her previous books include How Women Saved the City and Gendered Spaces.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Vickie Spray

Crooked Letter i

Vickie Spray, co-author of Crooked Letter i, has a spiritual counseling practice in Florida and provides a video website for people who want to transform their world by sharing the positive knowledge they have discovered in their process of living.

Speaker's Website Genre: Non-Fiction

Martha Stafford


Martha Hester Stafford is the founder of the Charlottesville Cooking School. She graduated from Peter Kump’s Cooking School and was awarded the Blue Ribbon. Her school provides professional and amateur cooks with high quality cooking instruction and promotes the use of local, seasonal ingredients.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Bella Stander

Massachusetts & Rhode Island Lighthouses: Illustrated Map & Guide

Due to unforeseen circumstances Bella Stander has had to cancel her participation in 2016. 

She is the publisher of Bella Terra Maps and proprietor of Book Promotion 101. Stander has reviewed books for Publishers Weekly, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Wall St. Journal; and written eight lighthouse guides.


Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Speaker's Twitter Genre: Publishing

Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, is executive director of Equal Justice Initiative and a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government, and has been awarded 21 honorary doctorate degrees.

Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards, including the ABA Wisdom Award for Public Service, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award Prize, the Olaf Palme International Prize, the ACLU National Medal Of Liberty, the National Public Interest Lawyer of the Year Award, the Gruber Prize for International Justice, and the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Speaker's Twitter Genre: Non-Fiction

Mary Stockwell

The Other Trail of Tears: The Removal of the Ohio Indians

Mary Stockwell, author of The Other Trail of Tears, holds a PhD in American history. She has been a writer in the business world, a history professor and department chair, and a research fellow. Her history books for young people includes Massachusetts, Our Home, 2005 winner of the Golden Lamp Award for Best Book.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Speaker's Twitter Genre: Non-Fiction

Louis Sullivan

Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine

Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., author of Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine, is former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His autobiography has won an NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Award.

Speaker's Website Genre: Non-Fiction

Barry Svrluga

The Grind: Inside Baseball's Endless Season

Barry Svrluga, author of The Grind, has worked at The Washington Post since 2003 and is currently the national baseball writer. He previously reported on the Washington Nationals and is the author of National Pastime, about the franchise’s relocation from Montreal and first season in Washington.

Speaker's Twitter Genre: Non-Fiction

Earl Swift

Earl Swift is the author of five books of narrative nonfiction, including 2014’s Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream. The longtime journalist reported for The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk for 22 years, has written for Outside, Parade and Popular Mechanics, and has been a resident fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities since 2012.

Speaker's Website Speaker's Facebook Speaker's Twitter Genre: Fiction