MEET THE 2019 TALENT

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kaveh akbar

Kaveh Akbar is the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017; Penguin UK, 2018). He is also the author of a chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry, 2017). Kaveh is the recipient of the Levis Reading Prize, Pushcart Prize, Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Kaveh is the founding editor of Divedapper, a home for interviews with major voices in contemporary poetry. Born in Tehran, Iran, he teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson. His poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry, PBS NewsHour, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, The New York Times, and elsewhere.


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Xenia Rubinos | Musical guest

Visionary singer, multi instrumentalist and songwriter Xenia Rubinos uses her soulful voice to lead a genre defying live band pulling from R&B to Hip-Hop to jazz influences, all delivered with a New York punk-funk abandon. Her second full length album Black Terry Cat, was released by ANTI- Records and garnered her wide critical acclaim. Her powerhouse vocals have been featured on albums by legendary sonic adventurers Deerhoof as well as labelmate Son Little. Rubinos tours internationally and is known for her captivating stage performances.

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heidi julavits

Heidi Julavits is the author of four novels and, most recently, a memoir, called The Folded Clock: A Diary. She co-edited the New York Times Bestselling book, Women In Clothes. In 2003, she co-founded The Believer magazine with some friends. A native of Portland, she lives in Manhattan and teaches at Columbia University. She still has a Maine driver’s license.

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Alexandra Styron

Alexandra Styron is an author, professor, and activist. Her latest book, Steal This Country: A Handbook for Resistance, Persistence, and Fixing Almost Everything is how-to book on social justice for young adults. Alexandra is also the author of the bestselling memoir Reading My Father, and All The Finest Girls, a novel. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. She lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn, New York.

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Steve Almond | HOST

Steve Almond is the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His short stories have been included in the Best American Short Stories and Pushcart anthologies, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere. He teaches at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and lives outside Boston with his wife, his three children, his anxiety, and his debt.

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dolen perkins-valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Wench. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. In 2017, HarperCollins released Wench as one of eight “Olive Titles,” limited edition modern classics that included books by Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, and Zora Neale Hurston. Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel Balm which was published by HarperCollins in 2015

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Gracia Bareti

Gracia Bareti is a junior at Westbrook High School and has been a writer at The Telling Room for two years— first in The Telling Room’s Young Writers and Leaders Program, and this year as part of the Ambassadors Program. Her personal narrative “Four Views of a Black Girl” was published in The Telling Room’s 2018 Anthology, Atomic Tangerine.

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Sean Mewshaw | Director

Sean Mewshaw is a film and theater director. He started in Los Angeles working in production on films such as Remember the Titans and Gangs of New York, while making his own short films and web series. On stage, Sean assistant-directed the Mark Taper Forum premiere of iWitness, helping create video sequences that won the LA Drama Critics Circle Award for Projection Design. He moved to Portland to direct a feature film written by his wife Desi Van Til: Tumbledown. It won awards for Best Film and Best Director at the Savannah Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the Napa Film Festival. Sean’s stage productions in Portland include Constellations, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Killer Joe, Speech & Debate, & the recent smash hit True West all at SPACE Gallery.