One of the best parts about working for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference the last three years has been helping Tim Sandlin select writing faculty. I do take suggestions from people I know, especially when they have had first-hand experience with their nominee. You can blame the poets in our poetry group sponsored by Jackson Hole Writers for the poetry faculty. Or give us credit for finding folks who are excellent poets AND teachers.

Occasionally, Tim lets me or a board member offer up a name. Tina Welling mentioned Tobias Wolff. And now he’s coming. He will most likely be the Q&A author on Saturday afternoon. If you are doing a critique at that time, you will miss out.Jewell-Rhodes_600

This year I didn’t have to push hard to have Tim invite Jewell Parker Rhodes. Many years ago she came to Jackson for a free workshop sponsored, I believe, by the Teton County Library. I provided housing for her and so spent time with her in addition to the workshop. As with so many writers who travel a long ways to Jackson, I was stunned by her generosity both as a teacher and as a human being. Sounds trite, I suppose, but she makes the world a better place with her stories and her presence. Nothing academic about her person, though she teaches at Arizona State University. Something to be said for being able to engage with students. Even teachers are students.

Since that time I have recommended Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau to many fiction-loving friends and fiction-writing friends, who are often the same people.  Jewell delves into the roots in all of her stories. The roots of racism, sexism, power. It is tough soil she has to dig into. She is fearless but doesn’t serve rhetoric over story.

I am looking forward to talking with her, hearing what she has to say about the narrative craft. I envy anyone who has a chance to have her critique their work. Poetry draws me right now, or I’d be standing in line to get her comments.