Meet the Representation Readers
Laura Hope-Gill coordinates the Creative Writing Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She is an NC Arts Fellow, Poet Laureate of the Blue Ridge Parkway, an Okra Pick Award winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Association for The Soul Tree, winner of two North Carolina Society of Historians Awards for her architectural history books, and the first recipient of the Harlan Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities Programming from the North Carolina Humanities Council for Asheville Wordfest. Recently named the 2020 Bost Distinguished Scholar, she is also the founder of the Narrative Healthcare Program at Lenoir-Rhyne. She founded Asheville Wordfest, a multicultural community festival centered around writing and voices in 2008. Laura’s poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in Xavier Review, Cincinnati Review, Fugue, Parabola, North Carolina Literary Review, and elsewhere. For Laura, the poet and writer walks among community as witness and storyteller. Her memoir about deafness and worse silences, The Deaf Sea Scrolls, forthcoming from Pisgah Press in 2021, embodies this practice.
Shannon Purdy Jones
Shannon Purdy Jones is a bisexual writer and bookseller from Greensboro. She has worked for Scuppernong Books as a bookseller since 2015, serving as the children’s and young adult buyer since 2017 and store manager since 2019. She writes short and long fiction focusing on queer characters and performs LGBT+ sensitivity reads on a freelance basis and for small presses, including Scuppernong Editions. Her personal reading net casts wide to include literary fiction, sci-fi, young adult novels, scientific nonfiction, and occasional poetry, which she loves even when she wrestles with it. She is happy to provide sensitivity reads for middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction. She enjoys helping authors craft and refine dimensional queer and trans characters that eschew stereotypes for authentic representation in their works. In addition to her work in the publishing world she holds a BS in Biology from Appalachian State University and can often be found hiking and exploring Greensboro’s green spaces with her partner and children.
African American, Islam
Ilari Pass holds a BA in English from Guilford College and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University. She writes primarily poetry, creative nonfiction, essays, the occasional flash fiction and short stories. She currently is a poetry consultant for the literary journal Free State Review. Her new endeavors: to serve as a Representative Reader for the African American culture; introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families by offering them an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works, such as picture and chapter books, middle grade and young adult. She’s a 2021 Allen Ginsberg Editor’s Choice Poetry Awards recipient from Paterson Literary Review, a two-time Editors’ Prize for Poetry recipient and a finalist for the 2019 Ron Rash Award in Poetry in Broad River Review; an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Spring Issue of JuxtaProse Magazine; an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest; the 2020 Cream City Review Summer Poetry Contest finalist, and a Runner-up for the 2020 Doug Draime Poetry Award in The Raw Art Review. Her work appears or forthcoming in Brown Sugar Literary Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, Winning Writers, Red Fez, Unlikely Stories, Triggerfish Critical Review, Rigorous Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, Drunk Monkeys, The Daily Drunk, Free State Review, Common Ground Review, and others.
J. E. Sills
African American, gender
J. E. Sills is a former journalist and writing teacher living in New York City. Her work is forthcoming in Joyland Magazine and has appeared in McSweeney’s, Auburn Avenue, and upstreet. She is the recipient of writing fellowships and residencies including Kimbilio, Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Conference, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Ernest J. Gaines Center). Her writing, reading, and editing interests include works of fiction and nonfiction of the African Diaspora, especially Black American life; feminism; and gender roles.
African American, Native American
Phyllis Utley has fifteen years of editorial experience, and ten years as a Communications Professor. She also is a Racial Equity Leader with Racial Equity Institute and a Southeast Wise Women Facilitator, of African American and Native American ancestry.