Camille Acker is a freelance writer with more than two decades of experience as an editor and writer. She holds a B.A. in English from Howard University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New Mexico State University. During the course of her writing career, she has attended workshops at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA), and Callaloo Writers Workshop, and was a resident at the Millay Colony for the Arts. She co-edited Dismantle: An Anthology from the VONA/Voices Workshop and co-founded the website by and for single women, The Spinsters Union. She is a founding member of the Chicago Artists Month featured writing and performance group, VoCL (Voices of Chicago Literati). Her work has appeared in Vice, Fusion, DAME Magazine, and NewCity, among others. In Fall 2018, her short story collection, Training School for Negro Girls, will be published by The Feminist Press.


Tara Betts is the author of two poetry collections—Break the Habit and Arc & Hue. Tara holds a MFA from New England College and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Her writing has appeared in American Poetry Review, POETRY, Essence, NYLON, Octavia's Brood, and The Break Beat Poets among many other publications. After winning the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, she represented Chicago twice on the first two Mental Graffiti slam teams. She appeared on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam." Tara teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago. Most recently, her piece on the #LukeCageSyllabus on Black Nerd Problems went viral with more than 45,000 shares and mentions on, profhacker, and AAIHS (African American Intellectual History Society) website, and at libraries across the country. 

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Brielle Brilliant is a writer and filmmaker, known for her investigations of violence, identity, and speech. She was raised in New York but has moved around a lot, facilitating workshops, developing film projects, and ghostwriting. She received her MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied philosophy in college in Colorado. She's the winner of The Lorien Book Prize and her first novel, The SPUD, about a mass shooter's influence on young identities, will be published in 2018 with Featherproof Books. She loves to box. 


Kim L. Dulaney's writings include children's books, poetry, creative nonfiction and novels. Her works have been noted on ABC, CBS, MTV and various other news programs, as well as in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Essence, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and USA Today. Ms. Dulaney has a B.A. in African American Studies, a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Foundation (ABD). She currently works as an African American studies professor at Chicago State University and does independent work as a cultural consultant for various educational programs.

Lizzie Duszynski is a veteran performer with Chicago's live storytelling series 2nd Story. Her work has appeared in Verily Magazine, Venus Zine, The Onion's AV Club, TimeOut Chicago, and, among others. She is a longtime teaching artist in Chicago's Catholic schools, and an editor at a national parenting magazine. 

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Adrienne Samuels Gibbs is a Pulitzer-nominated journalist and essayist whose words can be read in Forbes, Essence, Chicago and Marie Claire. A sought after interviewer and narrative writer, Samuels Gibbs is good at finding details that bring a story to life on the page. Samuels Gibbs, a proud graduate of Morgan Park High School and Northwestern University, lives on the South Side with her husband and sons.

Janine Harrison is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience teaching creative writing at Purdue University Northwest and in community settings. She wrote If We Were Birds and is the 2017 Highland (IN) Poet Laureate. Janine has an M.A. in English from Purdue University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Chicago State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, A&U, Not Like the Rest of Us, The Wabash Watershed’s “Six Indiana Poets” feature, Broadsheet, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, and other publications. She is a former Indiana Writers’ Consortium president


Grace Kuikman is a professional writer and editor. Honing her skills as feature writer on a daily newspaper early in her career, Kuikman specializes in producing insightful articles on the achievements or experiences that shape their lives. Kuikman has been editor of The Villager for many years, and also works as a freelance writer for business and creative clients. She is founder and facilitator of the Longwood Writers Guild critique group for adult creative writers, and was a lead editor on two little literary magazines, Midway Review and BAC Street Journal. Kuikman also writes short fiction and creative non-fiction, and has had work published in small press including the Outrider Press Black and White Anthology and December.


Christy Lavalais is a writer/director of sci-fi, fantasy and action short films.  She recently wrote an episode of the television show Fifth Ward.  Her first novel, The Fairy Princess: Enter into Fionntan, will be published in March 2018.  She received her BA in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago. She was a Quarter Finalist in the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition and Scriptapalooza TV, and came in 3rd Place in the Organization of Black Screenwriter’s Original Script Contest, Short Film Category.

Photo Credit Maya Moody Photography

Photo Credit Maya Moody Photography

Cole Lavalais’ short stories have appeared in The Offing, Obsidian, Apogee, Warpland, Tidal Basin Review and others. Her novel, Summer of the Cicadas, debuted in 2016. She holds a M.F.A. from Chicago State University and a Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Chicago in Creative Writing. She is a Visiting Writer at Mississippi University for Women and has taught writing for over twelve years. 


Shahari Moore holds an MFA in Fine Arts and Creative Writing. She's taught courses and facilitated workshops in African American Studies, African American Literature, Creative Nonfiction, and Screenwriting at the University of Southern Califiornia's School of Cinematic Arts, the City Colleges of Chicago, and Chicago State University. She is the writer and co-director of "B Love" and "Swimmin’ Lesson, which have both garnered national and international acclaim, including the Black Harvest Film Festival and the Cannes International Film Festival. In 2016, the School of the Art Institute honored her with the "Star Filmmaker Award". Currently she is directing her first feature length documentary on the life, legacy and impact of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize.