Festival Authors & Panelists

Patricia Gaitely grew up in England and came to the United States as a graduate student in 1995.  She attended the University of Alabama for her MA and the University of Louisiana – Lafayette for her Ph.D. where she also developed a love for the people and the culture of Louisiana.  She now teaches English and Folklore at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.  Her love of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels began in 1994 when, at a friend’s recommendation, she first read one and wanted to read more.  Twenty novels later, her book published in August 2016, Robicheaux’s Roots provides a cultural context for Robicheaux’s character and explores different aspects of the sense of place established in Burke’s novels.  She is looking forward to talking about the folk roots of Dave Robicheaux at the Dave Robicheaux Hometown Literary Festival.  When not working, Gaitely enjoys exploring thrift shops and birding, and she shares her home with five feathered companions.

ULL Academic Symposium panelist, Saturday, April 1st, 10:00 a.m. – noon at Iberia Parish Library Main Branch, 445 E. Main Street.

John “Pudd” Sharp is a folklorist and documentary filmmaker who joined the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2009. Since 2012 he has held the title of Assistant Director for Research at CLS. Born in Alabama, Sharp earned a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University and a Masters of Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  He has implemented several field research projects and serves as the primary contact for the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore. He works with film and video restoration and digitization and assists in grant writing.  He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Louisiana Folklore Society, where he has served as treasurer since 2010. In 2012, Sharp won the Louisiana Filmmaker award from Louisiana Economic Development for his film, Dancehalls of South Louisiana (in production). Sharp also served as writer, producer and photographer for the 2012 documentary film, Water on Road, which presents the story of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, a small island community of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Houma Indian tribes in Terrebonne Parish.

ULL Academic Symposium panelist, Saturday, April 1st, 10:00 a.m. – noon at Iberia Parish Library Main Branch, 445 E. Main Street.

Becca Begnaud’s training as a Reiki Master, Healing Touch Practitioner, and in Trauma First Aide, has built upon that mind-body-spirit connection and personal experience. Her education in Anthropology (she holds a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) gives her the grounding to pull all the meaning together. As the initiator and founder/director of Healthcare for Musicians (a division of Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center), Becca has served as a leader. She is a champion of medical care for this unique, underserved population of Cajun, Zydeco, and other local, folk music performers who are working, but cannot afford insurance or health care services. Her own talents as a singer, musician, author, newspaper columnist, and storyteller are known throughout Acadiana (Cajun Country) and add to her abilities as a presenter. Her volunteerism includes speaking engagements with cancer recovery groups for both children and adults – groups whom she describes as having a collective experience that is “much bigger than my own.” She is also recognized by hundreds of thousands as the French-speaking announcer/translator on stage at the annual Festival International, a francophone event named one of the top ten festivals worldwide by “National Geographic Magazine.” But it is her gift and endowment as a French-Speaking Traditional Cajun Traiteur that has currently thrust her into the limelight.

ULL Academic Symposium panelist, Saturday, April 1st, 10:00 a.m. – noon at Iberia Parish Library Main Branch, 445 E. Main Street.

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Margaret Wrinkle was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and is the author of the novel Wash, which reexamines American slavery in ways that challenge contemporary assumptions about race, power, history and healing. Published by Grove/Atlantic, Wash is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an O, The Oprah Magazine top ten books to pick up now and a People magazine 4-star pick. It has been short listed for the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and nominated for the Crook’s Corner Prize for debut Southern novel. Wrinkle has earned a BA and an MA in English from Yale University and has also studied traditional West African spiritual practices with Malidoma Somé. Wrinkle is the 2013 recipient of Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail of Mobile Griot Award for outstanding contribution as storyteller of diverse cultural heritage. Her award-winning documentary broken ground, made with Chris Lawson about the racial divide in her historically conflicted hometown, was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and was a winner of the Council on Foundations Film Festival. She has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and lives in rural New Mexico.

Southern Writer featured with a panel to discuss her novel, Wash on Saturday, April 1st from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 119 Jefferson Street.

Dr. Phebe Archon Hayes is a native and resident of New Iberia, LA. She is married to Harold George Hayes and they are the parents of Dr. Matthew E. Hayes and Dr. Claire Hayes-Watson.  Hayes retired from UL-Lafayette as a Professor and academic dean after 26 years.  Dr. Hayes is a member of the Vermilionville Living History Museum’s board of directors.  Her passion is documenting the history of Blacks in Iberia Parish (and surrounding areas) and creating opportunities for community-wide conversations about that history.

Panelist for Wash discussion on Saturday, April 1st from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 119 Jefferson Street.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck is a native of Senegal, holds a doctoral degree in History.  The Director of Research at The Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, LA, Dr. Seck is also an Assistant Professor of History at Tulane University and Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal.  His research focus is primarily on the historical and cultural connections between West Africa and Louisiana with special emphasis on the period of slavery in Louisiana. Dr. Seck has also served as consultant to the St. Martinville Creole Museum.

Panelist for Wash discussion on Saturday, April 1st from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 119 Jefferson Street.

Mr. Jari Honora is a native and resident of New Orleans and is a genealogist.  He holds a B.A. degree from Tulane University in History.  Honora serves as Historian for the New Orleans’ Free People of Color Museum (Le Musee de F.P.C.).  He is also the founder of the blog Creolegen.  Honora is a much sought after speaker and researcher on topics related to Black history and genealogy in Louisiana.

Panelist for Wash discussion on Saturday, April 1st from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 119 Jefferson Street.

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Theresa Harvard Johnson has loved creative writing since childhood. She fell in love with poetry in first grade after her teacher recited a poem in homeroom by Langston Hughes. She later developed a reading obsession with included Nancy Drew mystery stories, which motivated her to pursue a career as a professional print​ journalist which spanned nearly two decades. She earned awards from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia School Bell Awards. ​She was also featured in Charisma Magazine for her innovative evangelistic ministry. Today, Theresa leads The Scribal Conservatory Arts & Worship Center in Metro Atlanta​ and The School of the Scribe. She also teaches on The Scribal Anointing (the ministry of the biblical scribe and prophetic writing) nationally and internationally. She has authored more than 14 books on this subject, and hundreds of blogs​. She also enjoys writing just about anything, performing spoken word poetry focused on healing and social justice, and drawing with charcoal and pastels. Theresa and her husband of 22 years, Leonard, have three children and two beautiful grandchildren. She is a 2017 Master’s of Divinity candidate in Biblical Studies at Liberty University, and currently resides in McDonough, Georgia.

Workshop presented Friday, March 31st from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Sliman Theatre, 129 E. Main Street. Also, a panelist for Light of the World Author-Publisher Panel, Saturday, April 1st from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. at Sliman Theatre, 129 E. Main Street.

Steve Spillman will be speaking on the realities of publishing, marketing, and the never-ending promotion and responsibilities of the author, whether they choose to self-publish (and what that really means) or contract with an international publisher. Steve Spillman, is the founder of True Potential, Inc., a media company with business units in publishing, digital media and marketing. Also, he is a published author with titles that include, Breaking the Treasure Code: The Hunt for Israel’s Oil. True Potential’s unique combination of creating beautiful products and marketing across diverse platforms allows authors to reach the world with their message faster and more effectively than traditional publishing and product distribution channels. He is the creator and editor of several popular websites including www.OilinIsrael.com. Through his wide entrepreneurial experience, Spillman has ‘reached the world’ with stories of his own, his authors and his clients. True Potential and its subsidiaries have sold more than a million books. Spillman and his wife Elaine make their home on a small mountaintop above a quiet valley in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is one of six children of internationally known author, evangelist and Christian educator James R. Spillman.

Workshop presented Friday, March 31st from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Sliman Theatre, 129 E. Main Street. Also, a panelist for Light of the World Author-Publisher Panel, Saturday, April 1st from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. at Sliman Theatre, 129 E. Main Street.

Stanley Dry will be speaking as a published author and editor specifically from a periodical perspective, one of the ancillary options for creative writers to monetize their craft. Stanley Dry writes the Kitchen Gourmet column for Louisiana Life magazine and is author of The Essential Louisiana Cookbook and The Essential Louisiana Seafood Cookbook and co-author of Gulf South. Formerly senior editor of Food & Wine and founding editor of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine, his articles have appeared in Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Boston Magazine, and Acadiana Profile, among others. Earlier in his career he was a staff writer for Encyclopaedia Britannica and Associate for Publications at the Harvard Program on Technology and Society. He lives in New Iberia and blogs at recipesoptional.com.

A panelist for Light of the World Author-Publisher Panel, Saturday, April 1st from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. at Sliman Theatre, 129 E. Main Street.