Speakers

Our 2023 Lineup

William Bernhardt is the author of over fifty books, most recently the Daniel Pike legal thriller series, starting with the #1 best-selling novel The Last Chance Lawyer. His previous works include the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference (WriterCon), small-group writing retreats, plus a bi-weekly e-newsletter and podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the president/owner of Bernhardt Books, which publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Bernhardt has received the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (University of Pennsylvania) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (Oklahoma State), which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.” He has been nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award nineteen times in three different categories, and has won the award twice. In 2019, he received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

In addition to his novels and poetry, Bernhardt has written plays, a musical (book and score), humor, children stories, biography, and puzzles. He has edited two anthologies (Legal Briefs and Natural Suspect) as fundraisers for The Nature Conservancy and the Children’s Legal Defense Fund. In his spare time, he has enjoyed surfing, digging for dinosaurs, trekking through the Himalayas, paragliding, scuba diving, caving, zip-lining over the canopy of the Costa Rican rain forest, and jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. In 2013, he became a Jeopardy! champion.

OSU has called Bernhardt “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man.” In 2017, when Bernhardt delivered the keynote address at the San Francisco Writers Conference, chairman Michael Larsen noted that in addition to penning novels, Bernhardt can “write a sonnet, play a sonata, plant a garden, try a lawsuit, teach a class, cook a gourmet meal, beat you at Scrabble, and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.”


MICHAEL BRACKEN

Bracken’s story “Disposable Women” (Tough, July 19, 2021) is currently short-listed for a Shamus Award. Bracken and co-author James A. Hearn received an Edgar Award nomination for their short story “Blindsided” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2021). “All My Yesterdays,” “Getting Out of the Box” and “The Downeaster Alexa” received Derringer Awards; “Aloha Boys,” “Cuts Like a Knife,” and “Love, or Something Like It” were short-listed for the Derringer Award; and “Of Dreams Unborn” appeared on the preliminary ballot for the Nebula Award. In 2016, Bracken received the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement from the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

His short crime fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Black Mask, Crime Square, Down & Out: The Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Espionage Magazine, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, The Private Eye Writers of America Presents: Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, and in many other anthologies and periodicals. A multi-genre writer, Bracken has also published erotica, fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories, and he wrote so many stories for women’s magazines such as True Confessions, True Experience, True Love, True Romance, and True Story that he was dubbed “The King of Confessions” (“Diversify Your Career: Exploring Fiction-Writing Options” by Vivi Anna, Romance Writers Report, July 2010).


CLARISSA WILLIS

Clarissa (Chrissy) Willis is an author, consultant, and professional developmental specialist. She provides workshops, keynote addresses, and customized professional development both nationally and internationally. In her spare time, she writes early childhood curricula, teacher resource books, non-fiction self-help books, and books for children.

Clarissa Willis has over 20 years in the publishing industry, from intellectual property development to international/foreign rights acquisitions. She has worked for two major publishing companies and owns her own international rights agency.

Contact her at: clarissa@clarissawillis.com


RENEE GEORGE

USA Today Bestselling author Renee George writes paranormal mysteries and romances because she loves all things whodunit, Otherworldly, and weird. Also, she wishes her pittie, the adorable Kona Princess Warrior, and her beagle, Josie the Incontinent Princess, could talk. Or at least be more like Scooby-Doo and help her unmask villains at the haunted house up the street.

When she’s not writing about mystery-solving werecougars or the adventures of a hapless psychic living among shapeshifters, she is preyed upon by stray kittens who end up living in her house because she can’t say no to those sweet, furry faces. (Someone stop telling them where she lives!)

She resides in Mid-Missouri with her family and spends her non-writing time doing really cool stuff…like watching TV and cleaning up dog poop.


CINDY KIRK

USA Today and Publishers Weekly Bestselling author Cindy Kirk is also a Booksellers’ Best Award Winner and a National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist. Cindy launched her Good Hope series with a bang. Christmas in Good Hope hit #1 on the Amazon best seller list for both Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction.

A lifelong Nebraska resident, Cindy started writing after taking a class at a local community college. But her interest in the written word started years before when she was in her teens. At sixteen she wrote in her diary, “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.”

An incurable romantic, Cindy loves seeing her characters grow and learn from their mistakes and, in the process, achieve a happy ending.

Someone once told Cindy that to know a writer you just have to read what she’s written; she hopes that once you read her books you can tell she is an eternal optimist, one who truly believes in the power of love. She invites you to kick off your shoes, pick up one of her books and get to know her.

Cindy and her high school sweetheart husband live on an acreage with their two dogs.


LARA BERNHARDT

Lara Bernhardt is a Pushcart-nominated writer, editor, and audiobook narrator. She is the founder and acquiring editor for Available Press, which publishes a wide variety of books. She has written The Wantland Files supernatural suspense novels and the standalone women’s novel, Shadow of the Taj.


JON CHANDLER

The Los Angeles Daily News dubbed Denver native Jon Chandler the “…best western songsmith since Ian Tyson,” while Texas’s Country Line Magazine exclaimed, “Thank God for Chandler and his gang of musicians.”  A review of Jon Chandler’s iconic CD WESTERNS includes the phrase, “Chandler’s music is literate and literary.”  That about covers it.  There’s not an ounce of stereotypical Gene ‘n Roy retro-cowpoke, Lazy Z Chuckwagon faux-western schtick in his music, voice or prose.  Chandler writes and sings of the historic and contemporary West – not particularly cowboy songs and stories, although they tend to show up with frequency.  His songs owe more to Larry McMurtry, Elmer Kelton, Robert Service and Mark Twain than they do to anyone in a band that ends with Wranglers or Ramblers.  Simply put, his music and his writing are reflections of his heritage.  A seventh-generation Coloradan, his novels, songs and poems serve to keep the West’s frontier ethic alive.

“It was a pleasure to see Jon and his ensemble of first-rate musicians on the Lakewood Cultural Center Stage.  Jon’s talent goes beyond his extraordinary way with words and deeply moving melodies; Jon is an artist in the truest sense of the word.”
– Lakewood Cultural Center

“The first time I saw you perform was in Jackson, Wyoming a couple of years ago.  The performance was indescribably moving! Thank you for making great music with words that describe what we hold in our souls.”
– Debra Brandsrub

I had the good fortune of hearing Jon Chandler sing at this year’s WWA convention in New Mexico and it was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever witnessed.
– Chris Enss


C. A. SIMONSON

C.A. (Candy) Simonson has always had a love for words. She started writing stories as a child and even won a contest for writing in the third grade. (See the story in Stories to Read: “The Budding of a Writer.”) Her first published piece was a poem in a national magazine at age 17. That was enough to get her hooked.

She is an award-winning author and writer of short stories, articles, and books. She is a frequent contributor to online publications and print magazines, now almost 400 pieces.

Candy also occasionally writes content for Crowd Content and Textbroker. These online companies present a list of articles, blog posts, ads, and other content that need to be written. “It provides a happy distraction when writing is slow, or the ideas don’t come.” Although this is a ‘write-on-demand’ type of writing and sometimes requires a lot of research on a deadline, it presents the type of challenge she loves to meet.

In 2013, her contemporary Christian fiction, Love’s Journey Home -The Search for Love, debuted. Two years later, the sequel, Love Looks Back – The Search for Siblings, came out and the following year, Love’s Amazing Grace -The Reunion. A Christmas novella, The Christmas Adventure came out in 2018. Her award-winning short stories and flash fiction have been published in nine anthologies.  Click for a list of publications.

The latest novel is a drama/mystery about the plight of runaway children, fostering and adoption. Runaway was released in 2019. Runaway won the Literary Titan Gold award, and was nominated in the
“Reader’s Favorites” awards.

Her nonfiction books include a primer/storybook/coloring book: All Beautiful Creatures, a food tip book: Food Hacks, Helps, and Hints, and a five-minute devotional: Reflections of the Soul Finding Your Super Powers is a activity/story/coloring book for ages 8-12 based on the Beatitudes of the Bible .

Simonson worked in the technical field for over 20 years, first as an elementary computer teacher (K-6) to over 300 students, which evolved into adult education as a computer teacher at two Springfield, MO companies. Her experience includes all applications of MS OFFICE, ADOBE, and a variety of other apps. She also volunteer-taught at the Springfield Senior Center in 2018.

When she is not writing, she is painting, quilting, or fishing in her backyard pond.


MORE TO COME