2020 Presenters

Naomi Shihab Nye (credit Ha Lam)
Photo Credit: Ha Lam

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. Her books of poetry for adults and children include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (a finalist for the National Book Award), A Maze Me: Poems for Girls, Red Suitcase, Words Under the Words, Fuel, Transfer, You & Yours (a best-selling poetry book of 2006), Mint Snowball, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners, Come with Me: Poems for a Journey, and Honeybee (awarded the 2008 Arab American Book Award in the Children’s/Young Adult category). Her newest book of poetry is The Tiny Journalist. Her fiction for young people include Habibi, Going Going, There Is No Long Distance Now, and The Turtle of Oman. Her next book will be Cast Away: Poems for Our Time (Greenwillow, February 2020). Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets, a laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature, and in 2017 the American Library Association presented Naomi Shihab Nye with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. In 2019 she was named Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.


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rubyheadshot1A National Book Award Finalist, Laura Ruby writes fiction for adults, teens and children. She is the author of the Printz Medal Winning novel BONE GAP, as well as her latest release, THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL. Other works include the Edgar-nominated children’s mystery LILY’S GHOSTS, the ALA Quick Pick for teens GOOD GIRLS (2006), a collection of interconnected short stories about blended families for adults, I’M NOT JULIA ROBERTS (2007), and the YORK trilogy. She is on the faculty of Hamline University’s Masters in Writing for Children Program.


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Poet & publisher Kevin Coval is the recipient of the 2018 Studs Terkel Award & the 2017 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award & the author of over a dozen books including; A People’s History of Chicago, editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, & the play, This is Modern Art, co-written with Idris Goodwin, which premiered at Steppenwolf Theater. Coval is the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, which won a MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions, & the founder of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, the world’s largest youth poetry festival, now in more than 19 cities around the world. He co-hosts the podcast The Cornerstore on WGN Radio & his work has appeared on The Daily Show, 4 seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, CNN.com, Poetry Magazine & Fake Shore Drive. His newest collection, Everything Must Go, was released in September through Haymarket Books.


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Mark Oshiro is the Hugo-finalist (in the Fan Writer category) creator of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where they analyze book and television series unspoiled. They were the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015 with Foz Meadows. Their first novel, Anger is a Gift, is a YA contemporary about queer friendship, love, and fighting police brutality, out now with Tor Teen. It was winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for 2019 in the Young Adult category; it was also nominated for the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category in the 2019 Lammy Awards. When they are not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters, or ruining lives at conventions, Mark is busy trying to fulfill their lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.


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matt_muse-3A rapper & producer from Chicago, Matt Muse burst onto the Chicago music scene with his performance at the 2016 “AAHH Fest!” alongside J. Cole, Common, Vic Mensa, The Roots & more. With a bold presence, dynamic lyricism, & a one of a kind live performance, Matt Muse has become a mainstay in Chicago Hip-Hop. In 2016 Matt was a featured speaker and the NIU TedX event where he delivered a Ted Talk entitled “Hip-Hop Heaven” that discussed the importance and impact of Hip-Hop music to both his life and the genres expansive listeners worldwide, the motivation behind his blossoming musical journey.


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Mary Fons


Mary Fons is a writer, quilter, editor and lecturer with experience creating original content across a variety of media. She’s lived in New York City and in Washington, D.C., but she belongs in Chicago and is never leaving.



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Faisal Mug

Faisal Mohyuddin is the author of The Displaced Children of Displaced Children (Eyewear, 2018) and the chapbook The Riddle of Longing (Backbone, 2017). His work has received an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, a Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Sexton Award, and commendations from the Poetry Book Society and the Foward Arts Foundation. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Shrew, Pleiades, and the anthologies The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books) and New Moons: Contemporary Writing by North American Muslims (Red Hen Press). He serves as an educator advisor to the global not-for-profit Narrative 4 and teaches English at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago. Learn more at his website: www.faisalmohyuddin.com


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Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: The Wrong Way To Save Your Life, Once I Was Cool, and Everyone Remain Calm. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Poets & Writers, The Believer, Longreads, Tin House, Guernica, Catapult, LitHub, Buzzfeed Reader, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, Radio National Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Goodman Theatre, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill.



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Kevin Andrew Prchal is a Chicago area singer/songwriter whose newest release, Love & Summer, is out now. You can read more about the album HERE.



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JC Brooks is the frontman of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, a group that has been described as Otis Redding fronting the Stooges, a reference to the group’s explosive garage, funk, and soul sound.




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A teen librarian by day and a writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. When she finds that 25th hour in the day, she might indulge in a bit of Netflix and Hulu, nourish her undying love of vampires, superheroes, and a certain high-functioning sociopath detective. She hails from the far off galaxy of the Chicago suburbs where she resides with her two amazing kids and three little devils disguised as cats.


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BeccaThamHeadshotRaised suburbs and living city, Chicago comedian Becca Nix Tham has a friendly grit that she has tuned into from 7 years of improv, stand up, writing, and comedic acting. Although very sweaty, she has performed at the Laugh Factory Chicago, iO Theater, Second City Chicago, Annoyance Theatre, and more. Becca tickles the keys with classic stand up haha’s about the mixed-race viewpoint, the dating dilemma with manboys (boymans?), and the way she found many dads— all around the Windy City! On January 19th at 3 pm, she will perform “Millennial Sounds, a solo show” at her debut invite to the Chicago Sketch Comedy Fest 2020. Follow her and her ok hair on social media @beccahasokhair.

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