Alissa Lukara is the author of the novel Secrets of the Trees, set in Latvia. She is a first generation American. Her family escaped Latvia during WWII and were refugees for five years. She speaks and writes Latvian and traveled there three times to research the novel. Her memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul (Silver Light Publications), was called by the Midwest Book Review “a transcendental story about the immeasurable powers of redemption and compassion.” Alissa has been a professional writer and writing coach for more than thirty years and founded Transformational Writers. She teaches workshops and speaks on writing as a transformational journey. She is also co-author of NightDancin' (Ballantine Books). Watch an interview with her about her creative process, research into family and Latvian history  and ancestral healing that inspired her novel, Secrets of the Trees here.


Dennis Sampson was born and raised in South Dakota. His seven volumes of poetry include The Double Genesis, Forgiveness, Constant Longing, Needlegrass, and For my Father Falling Asleep at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Within the Shadow of a Man, and The Lunatic in the Trees. The recipient of grants from The Virginia Council on the Arts and The North Carolina Arts Council, Sampson’s poems have appeared in such magazines as The American Scholar, The Ohio Review, The Hudson Review and many others. He has taught as Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, as the Visiting Poet in the M.F.A Program in Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington, at Wake Forest University. and the University of Tennessee. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his dog.


Robert McDowell is the author of the novel, Emily & Virginia, soon to be published by Homestead Lighthouse Press, and publisher of Homestead Lighthouse Press. He is a poet, performer, social activist for the advancement of women and women’s rights, storyteller, public speaker, educator, editor, and author of 19 books, including Poetry as a Spiritual Practice (Free Press/Simon and Schuster). His book, The World Next to This One (poetry), was published in 2014 by Salmon Press, Ireland.

He is also the coauthor of two volumes of literary theory, co-translator of a collection of stories by Ota Pavel in the Eastern European Penguin Classics Series, and editor of three anthologies.

McDowell’s poems, stories, nonfiction, blog content, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of anthologies and periodicals around the world, including Best American Poetry, Poetry, The NEW Criterion, London Magazine, Sewanee Review, Poets & Writers, and The Hudson Review.  

McDowell cofounded (with Lysa McDowell and Mark Jarman) and served as publisher of Story Line Press for 22 years, and he coedited (with Mark Jarman) The Reaper magazine for a decade.

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