Meet the Speakers!

Hugh Cook is emeritus professor of English at Redeemer University and earned an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. His poetry has been published in Canadian literary journals such as Quarry, Canadian Poetry, The Canadian Forum, Folio, and The University of Windsor Review. His stories have appeared in literary journals such as The Malahat Review, NeWest ReView, Wascana Review, Descant, Fiddlehead, and The Antigonish Review. His long works include the award-winning Heron River, The Homecoming Man, and Cracked Wheat. Hugh received the Leslie K. Tarr Award for outstanding contribution to Christian writing. 

Linda Nemec Foster has published twelve collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk, Talking Diamonds, and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book). Her work appears in magazines and journals such as The Georgia Review, Nimrod, New American Writing, North American Review, Verse Daily, and the 2022 Best Small Fictions Anthology. She has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and awards from Arts Foundation of Michigan, National Writer’s Voice, Dyer-Ives Foundation, The Poetry Center (NJ), Fish Anthology (Ireland), and Academy of American Poets. Her 2021 book, The Blue Divide, was published by New Issues Press. A new collection of flash fiction, Bone Country, is forthcoming in 2023. The first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan (2003-2005), Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

Debra Freeberg, a director, playwright, and scholar, has worked to build empathy and understanding through creative arts. Her children's plays have dealt with literacy, bullying prevention, and belonging. Her adult plays have dealt with the aftereffects of trauma, divorce, and racism. Debra's recent work for the church includes modern adaptations of the parables. Debra is a professor emerita of communication at Calvin University, where she taught for twenty-nine years and served as director of Calvin's theater program. She holds MA and PhD degrees in theatre from the University of Pittsburgh. 

Amanda Hope Haley has a bachelor of arts in Religious Studies from Rhodes College and a master of theological studies in Hebrew Scripture and Interpretation from Harvard University. She is a lover of the Bible–its God, its words, its people, and its history. She writes and podcasts as the Red-Haired Archaeologist, bringing readers and listeners on her journeys to understand artifacts that can contextualize Scripture. She contributed to The Voice Bible as a translator, writer, and editor; and she has been a content editor and ghost writer for popular Christian authors. Amanda and David live in Tennessee with their always-entertaining basset hound, Copper.

Kathleen Kerr is an editor, writer, speaker, and nonfiction agent. As an acquisitions editor for the nonfiction division at Harvest House Publishers, she works with new and bestselling authors, working to refine their messages and build their careers. Previously, she acquired children’s and tween books at Zondervan Publishing House, and worked as a bookseller at an independent bookstore. A graduate of Calvin University, Kerr speaks regularly at conferences around the country.

Daniel Nayeri fled his home country of Iran as a young boy with his sister and his mother. After finding asylum in Oklahoma, 12-year-old Khosrou, who later became Daniel, entered the educational system as a refugee and the target of bullies. Following his education, Nayeri served as a publisher at Odd Dot, a children’s publishing group at McMillan Publishers. In a 2021 interview, Nayeri said, “I’ve been lucky enough to edit books in almost every category of publishing. Literary fiction, history, crime drama, pop nonfiction, memoir, coffee table books, fashion, cookbooks, YA novels, Sci-Fi Fantasy, middle grade, picture books, graphic novels, sticker books, novelty projects, and toys.”

His award-winning 2020 autobiographical novel Everything Sad Is Untrue has been on several “best book” lists, including those of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (aka Neal Plantinga) is a Christian writer, speaker, and preacher. Formerly President of Calvin Theological Seminary in Michigan, he is now Senior Research Fellow in the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Three of his six books have been named Book of the Year by Christianity Today. He is ordained in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Andy Rogers has been in the book industry since 2008. He has served as an acquisitions editor and marketing manager at Harper Collins and Zondervan. Most recently, he founded Elwood House where he offers services in collaborative writing and publishing. He is the author of four books and an award-winning short story writer. His writing has been published in Splickety Magazine, on DailyScienceFiction.com, and on ElectricLiterature.com. Find more musings about what he reads and writes on Instagram @ALRstories.

Kevin Washburn. Ed.D. is a writer, runner, coach, and educator. He created the Foundations & Frameworks instructional reading program and the Writer's Stylus instructional writing program. Kevin is also the author of The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain. Living with his wife Julia, a fine art photographer, he finds joy in cycling, swimming, weight workouts, architecture, music, bookstores, and live theater. His latest book, Uprise: Building Resilience in Ourselves & Others, will be released in May, 2024.

Vinita Hampton Wright has a thirty-year career as a book editor and author. She has presented retreats on creativity, writing, Ignatian spirituality, and prayer. An author of three novels and numerous nonfiction, she serves as a freelance editor and a spiritual director. Her work includes The Soul Tells a Story (InterVarsity Press) and The Art of Spiritual Writing (Loyola Press). Her latest book is Set the World on Fire: a 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church (Ave Maria, 2022).