Critically acclaimed novelist Susan Beckham Zurenda to keynote 19th annual Clarksville Writers Conference, June 5 – 7

The Clarksville Arts & Heritage Council is partnering with the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at APSU and the Tennessee Arts Commission to once again bring acclaimed authors to town for the 19th Annual Clarksville Writers Conference.

The three-day event will be held Wednesday, June 5, through Friday, June 7, at the Art + Design Building on the campus of Austin Peay State University.

Susan Beckham Zurenda, critically acclaimed novelist of Bells for Eli and The Girl From the Red Rose Motel, will deliver the keynote address at the conference’s banquet the evening of Friday, June 7, at F&M Bank’s The Franklin Room, overlooking the Cumberland River and featuring an incredible view of Historic Downtown Clarksville.

Susan is this year’s recipient of the Patricia Winn Award for Southern Literature, named for the conference’s founder.  Her debut novel, Bells for Eli, was the Gold Medal winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021.  Her second novel, The Girl From the Red Rose Motel, was a finalist in the American Book Fest Awards and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

This year’s conference offers over twenty presentations and workshops for writers and avid readers.  Authors scheduled to speak include the following:

Andrew Aydin is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a National Book Award winner, a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Honoree, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. Andrew is creator and co-author of the graphic memoir series March and Run, which chronicles the life of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Co-authored with Rep. Lewis, March was the first comics work to ever win the National Book Award.

Linda Crenshaw currently serves as Professor of Languages and Literature at Austin Peay State University with a focus on American Literature and Southern Writers.  She will lead Thursday’s plenary session, delving into the lives of women found in Clarksville’s history.

Janis Daly, inspired by the discovery that an ancestor founded the Woman’s Medical College of PA in 1850, wrote her first novel, The Unlocked Path, celebrating pioneering women doctors at the turn of the 20th Century.  Its sequel, The Path Beneath Her Feet, honors the work of the American Women’s Hospitals in rural America during the 1930s.

Rick Gregory is a local historian who lives in Adams, Tennessee, the home of the Bell Witch Legend. Recently, the University of Tennessee Press published his book, The Bell Witch Legend: In Myth and Memory. He is presently writing a book on the Tobacco Night Riders in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Jeanne Hardt released her first novel, Marked, in 2014 and, to date,  has published thirty-two titles. In 2017 and 2018, Amazon ranked her as one of the top fifty, historical-fiction authors.  In addition, Jeanne is an editor for the publishing company, Jumpmaster Press, and she also works in that capacity with independent authors.

Ellen Kanervo, Austin Peay State University professor emerita of mass communication, has edited or co-edited five books dealing with Clarksville’s history, including The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams: A Southern Woman’s Story of Rebellion and Reconstruction, 1863-1890 and The Diary of Serepta Jordan: A Southern Woman’s Struggle with War and Family, 1857-1864.

Laurina Isabella Lyle, biologist, naturalist and writer, was the visionary and lead writer of a large, permanent exhibit at the Wade Bourne Nature Center in Clarksville.  Her latest publication is A Child’s First Bird Guide: An Interaction book of common birds in Eastern North America, co-authored with Karen Lyle.

Sharon Mabry, an award-winning mezzo-soprano soloist and recording artist, is the author of the humorous memoir, The Blue Box and Memories that Live in the Bones, and The Postmaster’s Daughter, a mystery novel set in East Tennessee which was a 2023 Finalist in the American Writing Awards (Best Debut Fiction) and a Finalist in the 2023 National Indie Excellence Awards (mystery).

Cynthia Marsh, founder of the Goldsmith Press at APSU, is a narrative artist who uses wood type and letterpress printing to begin conversations that take form as books, broadsides, and printed environments. Her artist books are in national collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LA County Museum, Bowdoin College, Emory University, Otis College of Art + Design, the University of Florida, Visual Studies Workshop, and Wellesley College.

Peggy O’Neal Peden is author of the mystery novel Your Killin’ Heart, 2016 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery winner and a finalist in both the Killer Nashville and William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing competitions. Gone Missin’ and Flyin’ Solo, both published in 2022, are also mysteries set in Nashville.

Adrian Rice is a Northern Irish poet who currently lives in Hickory, North Carolina. His first sequence of poems appeared in Muck Island, a collaboration with leading Irish artist, Ross Wilson, and copies of this limited edition box-set are housed in the collections of The Tate Gallery.   His first full poetry collection, The Mason’s Tongue, was shortlisted for the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Literary Prize and nominated for the Irish Times Prize for Poetry.

Shana Thornton is the author of four works of fiction, Ripe for the Pickin’, The Adventures to Pawnassus, Poke Sallet Queen and The Family Medicine Wheel and Multiple Exposure, author of the nonfiction book The Nudge: Writing Prompts, and co-author of Seasons of Balance: On Creativity and Mindfulness. Shana is also the Founder of the Clarksville/Montgomery County African American Legacy Trail.

Minoa Uffelman, Professor of History & Philosophy at Austin Peay State University, teaches the US South and Women.  Her publications include The Civil War Letters of Sarah Kennedy, The Diary of Serepta Jordan, and Nannie Haskins Williams: One Southern Woman’s Life of Rebellion to Reconstruction.

Amy Wright is a Professor of English at Austin Peay State University who strives through her teaching and writing to promote environmental sustainability and healing through meaning-making.  Author of three poetry books and six chapbooks, her nonfiction debut, Paper Concert, won the 2022 Nautilus Gold Award for Lyric Prose.

Ysabel Yates is a New York City-based comedy writer who grew up in Clarksville. Her humor writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, Reductress, and more. She’s the co-author of the book Jokes to Offend Men, which was featured in New York Magazine and named the #2 Comedy Book of 2022 by Vulture.

A complete package including all conference activities is offered, as well as “a la carte” options.  Discounted rates are available for early registration, which is postmarked on or before May 29.  Visit the conference website at for author bios, the conference schedule, registration information and more.

The 2024 Clarksville Writers Conference is made possible in part through the generous support of the Clarksville Arts & Heritage Council, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Arts Commission, City of Clarksville, and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at APSU.  Additional sponsors include Lawson & Beth Mabry, Patricia & Howard Winn, Dave & Jennie Beth Johnston, Dee Boaz, Joan R. Harris, Jan Hodgson, and Carmen Reagan.  The conference was developed in 2005 by Patricia Winn.