Lit Fest 2024: Visiting Authors at a Glance-Nonfiction

Lit Fest 2024: Visiting Authors at a Glance—Nonfiction

Check out the summaries below to learn more about this year's all-star lineup of nonfiction instructors.

Steve Almond

"As a writer, I've always believed in pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and questioning everything. My work often combines personal narratives with a broader commentary on our shared society and culture. I strive to shine a light on the unseen, the overlooked, and the misunderstood. I hope my words, like a lens, can offer you new perspectives."
Steve is the author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, including New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football, and the forthcoming Truth is the Arrow, Mercy is the Bow, a book on the writer's craft (to be celebrated at Lighthouse in March). After many failed efforts, his debut novel, All the Secrets of the World, came out in 2022. The book has been optioned by 20th Century Fox, and based on an excerpt, Almond was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Almond co-hosted the Dear Sugars podcast with his pal Cheryl Strayed for four years, and teaches Creative Writing at the Neiman Fellowship at Harvard and Wesleyan.

At Lit Fest, Steve is teaching The BS Detector, a weeklong short prose workshop on writing as decisionmaking.

We asked him a few questions to give you the inside scoop on his classes. 

What has been inspiring you lately in your work? "My students! True story. Not just making that up. I often get stuck in my own head, with its achingly familiar anxieties and complaints. The best way to get out of my head is to experience the creative process of someone else. And that’s what happens (on the good days) in my classes. My students are so thrillingly alive, curious, eager to get at the meaning of their lives. They write such beautiful, heartfelt pieces. And I totally get re-inspired. Like, I start to remember why I was drawn to writing. Which is ironic, because my job is the light the fire within them—not the other way around."

What’s your workshop style, and what can people expect at Lit Fest? "I’d say my vibe is: wildly enthusiastic and kind of intense. I’m a big believer in getting to the rock bottom truth as quickly as possible. But to do that, especially in a workshop, everyone has to feel safe. They have to KNOW that the other writers, and the teacher, understand what they’re trying to do, and recognize where they’re doing it well. We spend a lot of time praising the writer’s best decisions, because the whole goal is to bring all the writing up to that level. Criticism can only be heard as constructive if it feels like it’s offered from a place of respect, admiration, and inspiration."


Emily Rapp Black

"The thing about resilience that I find fascinating is that it's really about breaking in order to bend, so there's a real vulnerability inside of the word." - Emily Rapp Black, Time Magazine
Emily Rapp Black is the author of four books of nonfiction: Poster Child; The Still Point of the Turning World, which was a New York Times bestseller, Editor's Choice, and a finalist for the PEN USA award; Sanctuary, a New York Times Editor's Choice; and Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Jentel, Yaddo, the Fine Arts Work Center, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Bucknell University. She has published fiction and essays in The Sun, VOGUE, O the Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, and many other publications and anthologies. She is professor of Creative Writing at the University of California-Riverside, where she also teaches in the School of Medicine. She lives in Southern California with her daughter Charlie, a cat called Meatball, and a bearded dragon called Hilda. 

At Lit Fest, Emily will be teaching Mapping the Memoir, a weeklong advanced nonfiction workshop on the structure, style, and voice of the memoir.


Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar is a writer and journalist. He was born in Ara, and grew up in the nearby town of Patna, famous for its corruption, crushing poverty and delicious mangoes. He has published several works of nonfiction and three novels. His most recent title, The Blue Book: A Writer's Journal, is a collection of drawings and journal entries. Kumar's writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, Harper’s, Guernica, The Nation and several other publications. He has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and residencies from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Lannan Foundation. His novel Immigrant, Montana was on the best of the year lists at The New Yorker, The New York Times, and President Obama’s list of favorite books of 2018. His new novel A Time Outside This Time was described by The New Yorker magazine as “a shimmering assault on the Zeitgeist.” Kumar is a professor at Vassar College in upstate New York. 

At Lit Fest, Amitava is teaching How to be Authentic, a weeklong advanced prose workshop focused on breathing real life into our work.


T Kira Māhealani Madden

"Above all else, I'll be a student of words for the rest of my life. The writing is never as big, or as important, as what's already there for you in the books." - T Kira Māhealani Madden
T Kira Māhealani Madden is a hapa-Kanaka Maoli writer, photographer, and amateur magician. She is the Founding Editor of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art, and has received fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Tin House, DISQUIET, NYSCA/NYFA, and Yaddo. Her debut memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, and a finalist for the LAMBDA Literary Award for lesbian memoir. Her debut novel, Whidbey, is forthcoming with Mariner, HarperCollins. Winner of the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award, she teaches at Mount Holyoke College, and will serve as Distinguished Writer in Residence at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2024.

At Lit Fest, T Kira will be teaching The Self, the Selves, a generative, weeklong advanced nonfiction workshop about nontraditional chronologies.

We asked T Kira about her workshop style and what people can expect at Lit Fest.

What has been inspiring you lately in your work? "Community organizing and community organizers. Which is to say, I'm thinking a lot about the collective; not only how we nurture and feed ourselves through our art, but how, in turn, we feed each other. I'm more and more interested in literary genealogies and constellations. How we speak to those before us, and pave way for those of the future. On a technical level, this means thinking more about the first person plural 'we' and narrative choruses."

What’s your workshop style, and what can people expect at Lit Fest? "Anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you I'm most interested in play. Ways to trick the mind into finding new pathways through memory, through the line and paragraph, through the work as a whole. Too, I'm sentence obsessed, and always after the beauty of the line, the sonic resonance. With me, you should expect to write the same paragraph in several different styles, with different rhythms, in order to witness how the music changes everything." 


Beth Nguyen

Beth Nguyen also goes by Bich Minh Nguyen. Her essay in The New Yorker explains why she has two names. Please call her Beth.
She is the author of four books, most recently the memoir Owner of a Lonely Heart, published by Scribner in 2023. Owner of a Lonely Heart was a New York Times Editors’ Choice pick and was named a best book of 2023 by NPR, Time, Oprah Daily, and BookPage. Nguyen’s three previous books, the memoir Stealing Buddha's Dinner and the novels Short Girls and Pioneer Girl, were published by Viking Penguin. Her awards and honors include an American Book Award, a PEN/Jerard Award from the PEN American Center, a Bread Loaf fellowship, and best book of the year honors from the Chicago Tribune and Library Journal. Her books have been included in community and university read programs around the country. Nguyen's work has also appeared in numerous anthologies and publications including The New Yorker, The Paris ReviewThe New York Times, Literary Hub, Time Magazine, and The Best American Essays.

At Lit Fest, Beth will be teaching Nonfiction Think Tank, a nontraditional advanced workshop about any and all forms of nonfiction.


Meghan O'Rourke

Meghan O’Rourke is a bestselling author, poet, and speaker, working at the intersection of health, illness, and social psychology, with the goal of helping people think and feel better. She is the author of the poetry collections Sun In DaysOnce, and Halflife, as well as the memoirs The Invisible Kingdom and The Long Goodbye. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and the inaugural May Sarton Poetry Prize, among her many other awards, O’Rourke writes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and is the editor of The Yale Review. O’Rourke resides in Brooklyn, where she grew up, and Marfa, TX.

At Lit Fest, Meghan will be teaching Writing the Messy Past, a weekend nonfiction intensive on the material that haunts and troubles us and the things we don't yet know how to feel about. 

What has been inspiring you lately in your work? "My main focus right now is just trying to be at my desk every day! But as ever, reading great new work—lately, Teju Cole's Tremor, Robyn Schiff's Information Desk—is inspiring."

What’s your workshop style, and what can people expect at Lit Fest? "I like to look at new work as an editor might, diving in to talk about the macro and micro issues of a given piece, l always start by asking students to describe a piece's formal choices and its main themes, so we really lay the object on the table the way a critic might. Often it's this simple act of describing the work back to the writer that proves most illuminating to them."