For Writers

Meet the Presenter: Brendan Kiely

I first met Brendan Kiely on Twitter. I knew of his work, notably the New York Times Bestselling All American Boys, which he co-wrote with Jason Reynolds. But when I saw him getting out of an elevator in in Rochester, New York (I was there moving my oldest into a dorm room), I was too shy to say hello. So I did what shy writers do: I tweeted him.

And he was gracious and kind and told me that the next time we crossed paths, I should say hello. Little did I know how soon that next time would happen: I met him for real at the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program, where I was an MFA candidate and he was a new faculty member, teaching Writing for Young Adults.

In the short time I’ve known Brendan, I’ve been consistently awed by his enthusiasm for words, for writers and for people. He’s excited to talk about writing and books, he’s eager to encourage writers to work on their projects, and he’s willing to have conversations about subjects silly and serious. He’ll be leading two sessions at our Writers Conference: Writing for Young Adults and Writing Place, both on Friday, Nov. 18. 

Brendan has been quoted as saying, "...for me, writing fiction is an act of social engagement. I want my work to participate in relevant cultural conversations." That commitment is evident in his most recent book, The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. In addition to being on the faculty of our Writers Conference, Brendan will be in conversation with local student Tahraji Milsap on Thursday, Nov. 17. We invite both students and parents to attend.

More about Brendan, via his official bio:

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), Tradition, The Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His most recent book is The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. His work has been published in over a dozen languages, and has received the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Meyers Award, and ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. A former high school teacher, he is now on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program. He watches too much basketball and reads too many books at the same time, but most importantly, he lives for and loves his wife and son.

Learn more about Brendan on his website or follow him on Twitter.

-- written by Lisa Allen, adult services information specialist

Meet the Presenter: Steven Kolbe

The mystery genre has been around for approximately 181 years, with Edgar Allen Poe's The Murders In The Rue Morgue commonly attributed with creating the first literary detective. Whether there's a body found in the library, a gritty crime scene marked off by caution tape or a prized artifact found stashed away, mystery stories of all shapes and sizes are here to stay.

Steven J. Kolbe is no stranger to a mystery — after all, he writes mystery novels, reads and reviews mystery novels, and teaches folks how to write a good mystery. His most recent novel, How Everything Turns Away, features a suspended FBI agent who stumbles upon a grisly murder and seeks to find the victim justice before the killer strikes again.

Steven studied at NOCCA and LSU in Louisiana before moving to Kansas to attend Kansas State University, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in English.  Before calling himself a writer, he was a student worker for the prestigious literary journal The Southern Review. According to Steven, if you received a formal rejection letter in the mid-2000s, he probably sealed the envelope.

When he's not writing, Steven spends time with his wife and three children in their home in Southwest Kansas. An avid library supporter and fan of mystery novels, Steven also enjoys blogging about his traveling adventures as well as sharing writing tips.

Steven will be sharing his expertise at this year's Writers Conference. He will present a session titled "Abnormal Psychology in Fiction,” lead a workshop on how to add tension to a scene and sit on a panel about rejection and critique.        

Learn more about Steven at his website.

-- written by Jesseca Bear, adult services information specialist

Meet the Presenter: Ethan Zolotor

I first met Ethan Zolotor during the summer of 2009 in one of the more unlikely places: summer school. Well, summer gym to be more precise. Summer gym was an eclectic mix of incoming freshmen who wanted to get their physical education credit out of the way and upper classmen who neglected to take P.E. classes until the very last minute. We were incoming freshmen who lucked out and were in a class whose instructor just wanted to be called “Coach,” play dodgeball and all its variations, and most of all ignore the syllabus. It was great to have Ethan as a familiar face in the hallways of a large, 6A high school.

Ethan went on to become an engineer who made formula-e cars, laser systems and hybrid-electric boats. If that is not impressive enough, Ethan did all this in addition to staying up late to work on his own stories. Ethan grew up surrounded by books from his family’s library and always carried around handwritten stories on stacks of loose paper. He was constantly writing and drawing, taking inspiration from fantasy literature, manga and western comics. All of this brought the world of Hyperborea to life; the first book Severed Legacy, published in 2019, and the sequel Traitor’s Path which was released this year!

The Conference Planning Committee is thrilled to have Ethan Zolotor join the faculty for the 2022 Writers Conference, giving presentations on world building, finding and working with an illustrator, and sitting on the revision panel.

You can find his books on Amazon:

Also check out @hyperboreabooks on Instagram!

-- written by Kathryn “Katt” Cooper, adult services information specialist

Meet the Presenter: Amber Logan

It often feels like we’re living in shapeshifting times, where the familiar unpredictably morphs into something strange. Chaos is the one certainty we have and speculative fiction allows us to look at our reality in a new way to gain new perspectives on our lives.

These days I find myself turning more and more to speculative fiction to comfort me and help me navigate through life. Dr. Amber A. Logan is an expert tour guide through the uncanny and familiar-but-strange times we live in not only as a writer of speculative fiction but also as someone with a background in Psychology, Liberal Arts and International Relations, as well as the recipient of a PhD in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

Amber believes in creating a meaningful journey for characters and she is dedicated to creating an immersive world for characters and readers to meet and play. Her debut novel, The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn, takes readers to Kyoto, Japan where past intermingles with the present as the main character Mari discovers ghosts and hidden truths of her own life.

While Amber isn’t writing, she’s teaching as a university instructor, working as a freelance editor and hanging out with her husband and two children. She also enjoys trips to Japan, exploring unusual vegetarian foods and reading fellow speculative fiction writer Haruki Murakami. If you’d like to know more about Amber, you can find her on Twitter (@AmberAnnLogan).

We’re ecstatic that Amber is joining us this year for our Writers Conference as a research panelist, as well as a presenter for two classes: Personalized Tools for Your Writer’s Toolbox: Words to Watch and Beloved Materials List and a class on “rounding out” flat characters.

-- written by Jesseca Bear, adult services information specialist

Meet the Presenter: Jim Cosgrove

Jim Cosgrove lives in a quiet suburb of Kansas City with his wife, Jeni, their two daughters, and a handsome rescued mutt. If his name sounds familiar to you, then chances are you have some kiddos at home who love to move and groove to the music of Mr. Stinky Feet, Jim’s other alias.

Having performed over 4,500 high energy shows at home and abroad, in addition to his music videos racking up 2.3 million views online, it is no wonder Jim has been decorated with a dozen national parenting awards for his nine family albums. Three of his popular songs, Sullen Sally, Bop Bop Dinosaur, and Hark! It’s Harold the Angel, have also been turned into children’s books (Ascend Books, 2020)!

Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove is not just an author and entertainer for the kids, he has written two titles for adults as well: Ripple: A Long Strange Search For a Killer (Steerforth Press, 2022), a true-crime memoir, and a collection of essays from his time working at the Kansas City Star as a parenting columnist, titled Everybody Gets Stinky Feet (Mighty Mo Productions, 2017). Jim has also worked for the Albuquerque Journal as a staff writer and for Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards, Inc. as an editor.

We are thrilled to have Jim join the faculty for the 2022 Writers Conference. He will be giving lectures on grammar and writing for children and will also participate in two panel discussions, one on research and the other on rejection and critique.

-- written by Kathryn "Katt" Cooper, adult services information specialist

Meet the Presenter: Justin Nogy

Justin Nogy is a graphic designer and tattoo artist from Fayetteville, Arkansas. A tattoo artist? At a writers conference? Yes, and we think you’re going to love him!

He recently graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BFA in Graphic Design with a specialization in research design. His research focuses on the destigmatization of tattoos and the tattoo community through historical analysis of tattoo traditions and widespread education.

In addition to sitting on a panel about research with Jim Cosgrove and Amber Logan, Nogy will lead us in writing exercises from our conference book, Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways. He’ll also describe the long and rich history of notable authors who have experienced tattoo culture first-hand, and best of all, he’ll sit for open office hours with Sarah Stein Greenberg, author of our conference book.

Come meet Justin at the Writers Conference Kick-Off on and get your own temporary tattoo!

Meet the Presenter: Anne-Marie Oomen

I first met Anne-Marie Oomen on an idyllic college campus in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The campus was a quiet spot in a small suburb of Boston, cold, as Januarys in Boston tend to be.

But Anne-Marie was warm: her smile, her hug, her willingness to sit to talk even before we really got to know each other. I’m writing this from a place of memory, of course, which means I’m curating the experience to share what I cannot forget. I’d come to learn that from Anne-Marie in workshops, the fact that memory is faulty and truth is personal and that emotional truth is what drives us to the page time and time again. While listening to her read excerpts from her own compelling memoirs, I learned that writing creative non-fiction requires both precision and permission: precision in emotional truth, permission to find—and write—it in our own unique way.

Anne-Marie is also sharp, as in whip smart, driven, determined, and persistent. She has won awards, she writes poetry and prose and plays, she has hosted a podcast. She is a teacher, a mentor, a working writer, and an active, kind participant in the literary landscape.

She’ll join Johnson County Library as faculty at our annual conference, where she will lead a workshop, teach sessions, and read from her newest memoir, the award-winning As Long As I Know You: The Mom Book.

She’ll also lead three sessions for us in September and October, all virtually. On Tuesday, Sept. 27, she’ll be in conversation with memoirist and professor Ames Hawkins; on Wednesday, Sept. 28, she’ll deliver a craft lecture centering on ekphrasis; and on Saturday, Oct. 1, she’ll lead a 2-hour workshop on ekphrasis. We hope you’ll sign up for all three events, and then join us at the conference to welcome Anne-Marie to Kansas.

-- written by Lisa Allen, adult services information specialist

Author Anne-Marie Oomen


Official Bio: Anne-Marie Oomen’s forthcoming book As Long as I Know You: The Mom Book won AWP’s Sue William Silverman Nonfiction Award (University of Georgia Press, September, 2022). Others titles include The Lake Michigan Mermaid (co-authored with poet, Linda Nemec Foster, Michigan Notable Book 2019), Love, Sex and 4-H, (Next Generation Indie Award for memoir); Pulling Down the Barn and House of Fields, (Michigan Notable Books)—all focused on rural culture; An American Map: Essays, and a collection of poetry, Uncoded Woman (Milkweed Editions). She edited Elemental, A Collection of Michigan Nonfiction (Michigan Notable Book), and Looking Over My Shoulder: Reflections on the Twentieth Century (A Michigan Humanities Council Project). She has written seven plays, including award-winning Northern Belles (inspired by oral histories of women farmers), and Secrets of Luuce Talk Tavern, winner of the CTAM contest. She is founding editor of Dunes Review, former president of Michigan Writers, Inc., and serves as instructor at Solstice MFA in Creative Writing at Lasell University (MA) and at Interlochen College of Creative Arts. She appears at conferences throughout the country. She and her husband, David Early, built their own home on wild acreage near Empire, Michigan, and their beloved Lake Michigan. 

Art for Impact: How We Got Here

Planning for our annual Writers Conference began with us thinking about how art impacts our world. We thought about what it means to put our writing into the world, how art transforms our stories and the stories of people we love. We thought about how art creates community; how it fosters relationships, challenges assumptions, and provokes conversations.   

We learned about Patricia Streeper’s work and thought about how she was using her art to educate us all about women who've made unmistakable impacts in history. We know some of the names, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Harriet Tubman. But others we might not: Edna Lewis, Makota Fujishiro Huthwaite, Ruth Wilson Gilmore. And the founder of Johnson County Library, Kay Robeson (portrait shown here). 

Then our librarian Helen found the book Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways. This book is full of 2-3 page scenarios and exercises that ask questions, challenge assumptions, and inspire new ways of thinking. We immediately knew we wanted everyone to have this book.  

And then, the rest started to come together: Sarah Stein Greenburg of the Stanford Design School and editor of Curious Acts for Curious People, agreed to join our faculty. So did Anne-Marie Oomen, who just published an award-winning memoir and is currently at work on an ekphrastic project with a renowned artist. So did Brendan Kiely, whose most recent book challenges us to think and act differently.  

Jim Cosgrove, a beloved children's entertainer and author whose first book for adults, Ripple: A Long, Strange Search for A Killer has topped the holds list for months, agreed to teach. So did Jessica ConoleyEthan ZolotarJustin Nogy, and many other talented, passionate writers. We’re so excited to introduce you to each faculty member and presenter, and we’ll be doing so right in this very space. So come back often!