2015 PRESENTERS


WILL BOAST

Will Boast was born in England and grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin. His story collection, Power Ballads, won the 2011 Iowa Short Fiction Award. His fiction and essays have appeared in Best New American Voices, Virginia Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The American Scholar, and The New York Times, among other publications. He’s been a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford and a Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia in the UK. His memoir, Epilogue, is out now from W.W. Norton Co/Liveright (Sept. 2014) and forthcoming from Granta Books (Jan. 2015) in the UK. He currently divides his time between Chicago and Brooklyn, NY. This fall he'll be a Literature Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.


JOELLE CHARBONNEAU

Joelle Charbonneau is a storyteller at heart. She has performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area. In addition to her stage work, Joelle has also performed with several bands and worked as a solo performer. 

While Joelle is happy to perform for an audience, she is equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use her experience from the stage to create compelling characters in her books. She is the author of the NY Times and USA Today best-selling The Testing Trilogy (The Testing, Independent Study and Graduation Day), as well as two mystery series: the Rebecca Robbins Skating Series (Minotaur Books) and the Paige Marshall Glee Club Series (Berkley). Her YA books have been nominated for the Agatha and Anthony Awards, and have appeared on the Indie Next List, the YALSA Top 10 books for 2014, and the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Paramount optioned The Testing for a film adaptation, and the project is currently in development.


JOEL CHMARA

Despite feeling initially daunted by the poetry of his good friend Derrick Brown, Joel Chmara tried his hand at slamming for the first time in 1997 at the legendary Green Mill in Chicago. Since then, he has toured throughout Europe and America; he placed in the top ten at the 2002 National Poetry Slam; he was featured on the 2003 season of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; he was a member of the Uptown Poetry Slam Troupe (a traveling poetry group created by poetry slam founder Marc Smith); he wrote and performed poetry and comedy on The Loop (97.9 FM), and parody songs for the Harry and Spike Show on WMVP (1000 AM); he co-hosted the Mental Graffiti open mic and poetry slam in Chicago; and he was a regular contributor to The Encyclopedia Show, a live variety show that ran for six seasons. He is currently a professor of Communication at The College of Lake County. He returns to GCHS Writers Week for Write Night on Wednesday, April 1.


LORI & WAYNE EARL

Lori and Wayne Earl named their daughter Esther Grace Earl after the famous Queen Esther, who was full of beauty and grace. One of five children, Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 12 years old. Before losing her battle with cancer in 2010, Esther Earl unwittingly became an inspiration for one of the biggest teen phenomena of our era, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

An avid blogger, vlogger, and writer, Esther posthumously became an author herself with the publication of her journals in This Star Won’t Go Out. Inspired by their daughter’s energy and natural empathy, Esther’s parents, Lori and Wayne Earl set up the non-profit foundation This Star Won’t Go Out (TSWGO). The foundation works to serve families with children diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. To date, TSWGO has given more than $175,000 to families in need. Lori and Wayne Earl speak to families across the country about caring for a teenager with cancer and how their experience relates to The Fault in Our Stars.


MICHELLE FALKOFF

Michelle Falkoff's fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law. She is also a visiting faculty member in the University of Chicago's creative writing department. Playlist for the Dead, published in January 2015, is Falkoff's debut novel.


JESSICA HOPPER

Jessica Hopper is a music and culture critic based in Chicago. She started out as the editor of a feminist music zine called Hit It or Quit It in 1991 and worked for 10 years as the publicist for dozens of indie, electronic and punk bands, including At The Drive In and The Promise Ring. She is now a senior editor at Pitchfork and the editor-in-chief of the Pitchfork Review, Pitchfork's quarterly print publication. She is also the music editor at Rookie, an online publication for teenage girls.

Hopper was previously the music curator for the public radio show This American Life and has written for Spin, GQ, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. Her essays have appeared in Best Music Writing for 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011. Her first book, The Girls' Guide to Rocking, was named one of 2009's Notable Books For Young Readers by the American Library Association. Her forthcoming book, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, is due out next spring. She lives in Chicago with her husband and young sons.


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SHANNY JEAN MANEY

Shanny Jean Maney was born out of a cornstalk in Ottawa, IL. She has worked as a legal assistant, as a babysitter, as Temporary Part Time Casual Faculty at an Ivy League institution, and a performance poet. With Robbie Q Telfer, she co-founded The Encyclopedia Show, a radical literary reading/spectacular which now runs in venues all across the globe. She and Telfer continued to curate the original show in Chicago until its end in 2014.

Shanny's first book of poetry, I Love Science!, was published by Derrick Brown's imprint, Write Bloody Publishing, in Spring of 2012. Shanny reads and writes and bathes and sleeps in beautiful, under-appreciated central Illinois with her composer husband and two dogs.


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BRUCE MILES

Bruce Miles is the beat writer covering the Chicago Cubs for the Daily Herald. He has been in that role since 1998 and has covered Major League Baseball since 1989. Miles began his career with the Daily Herald as a freelancer in 1981, covering high school sports, including basketball, football, baseball, swimming and gymnastics. He joined the sports copy desk full time in 1988 and worked at editing stories, laying out pages and putting out the sports section each night. Miles covered the Chicago Bears in 1997. He also has covered the Chicago Wolves hockey team and has assisted on coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks. He covered the historic 1991 NHL All-Star Game at Chicago Stadium and also covered the White Sox's postseason run to the World Series Championship in 2005. A native of Chicago, Miles is a graduate of Schaumburg High School and of Loyola University Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in Communication Arts. He was won awards from the Associated Press. In 2014, he was named the Illinois Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Miles is a longtime member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and, as such, votes yearly for members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.


MATTHEW SANTOS

With a voice consistently compared to that of the late Jeff Buckley and likened to a male version of Adele, Chicago singer-songwriter Matthew Santos has been the subject of praise from such artists as Kimbra, Eddie Vedder, and John Legend. His highly acclaimed collaborations with Lupe Fiasco, for which he received two Grammy nominations, have served to broaden international awareness of Santos, whose own style is a unique, homegrown hybrid touching on alternative/indie-rock/soul and folk genres.

After the first official collaboration on the song “American Terrorist” from Fiasco’s debut album Food ‘n Liquor, Santos’ vocals were featured on multiple tracks on The Cool, Fiasco’s sophomore album which was Gold-certified and most widely recognized for the inclusion of the Grammy-nominated single “Superstar” (featuring a vocal hook by one Matthew Santos). With appearances on David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen, Craig Ferguson, TRL, and performances at Lollapalooza, Coachella, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, and the Video Music Awards as well as on a 56-date tour with Kanye West, Rihanna, and NERD, Santos’ world underwent a drastic change.

Once “Superstar” frenzy subsided, Santos returned to Chicago to continue working with his band. He was nominated for “Best Rock Entertainer” at Chicago’s 2009 Music Awards. The band — Aviva Jaye (vocals, keyboard), Robert Tucker (drums), Graham Burris (bass), Chris Gelbuda (lead guitar) and Matt Nelson (keyboards) – was named one of the Top Ten Bands To Watch by the Chicago Sun-Times, who recognized Santos as an artist who is “organic and soulful and moody, full of interesting musical ideas and dripping with serious vocal talent.”

Santos has recorded six albums since 2004, including his most recent LP, Into the Further, which is set for release in early 2015.


THE SECOND CITY OUTREACH & DIVERSITY

The Second City is best known for creating relevant political and social commentary in a variety of mediums and launching some of the world's beloved comics, including Joan Rivers, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. The Outreach & Diversity division is committed to making this art form accessible to schools and universities to grow a diverse community of voices studying and performing improvisation. Through a customized partnership, members from Second City Outreach & Diversity join us for interactive workshops, lecture, demo, and performance during Grayslake Central High School's Writers Week for all to experience. To learn more, visit www.secondcitydiversity.com.


SIDEWALK CHALK

Chicago eight-piece Sidewalk Chalk’s brand of hip-hop, soul, and jazz is rooted in a sound first heralded in the Native Tongues era, but never before has that sound been so musically diverse. The group’s unique arrangement allows them to incorporate numerous styles seamlessly: an MC and female vocalist; a trio of keys, bass, and drums; a horn section with trombone and trumpet; and a tap dancer.

The band’s third album, Shoulder Season, is compiled from seven live performances across the US. Its title signifies transition, a time between two places, a feeling of expectation for what is to come. Following their sophomore album, Leaves, and their debut release, Corner Stone, this new album finds the group venturing into more cerebral musical space, accompanying songs about the duality of our lives and our world. The essence of each performance is captured, with electric and energetic crowds playing as much of a role on the album as the band itself.

The group has shared stages with ?uestlove, De La Soul, Action Bronson, and other notables. Individually, band members have acted as musical director(s) for Brother Ali, toured with Jazzanova, and played behind Buddy Guy and Talib Kweli. Sidewalk Chalk was named “Most Outstanding Group” at the 2012 Chicago Music Awards, and its MC represented Chicago at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China. Sidewalk Chalk is: Rico Sisney (MC), Maggie Vagle (vocals), Charlie Coffeen (keys), Garrett McGinn (bass), Tyler Berg (drums), Jumaane Taylor (taps), Sam Trump (trumpet), and David Ben-Porat (trombone).


JOSH WITTENKELLER

Josh Wittenkeller, better known by his online persona “TheJWittz,” is a YouTube personality, a Pokemon Master, and 2009 GCHS alum.  An avid, life-long video game lover, Josh grew up in the Pokemon heyday and its subsequent retro-cool resurgence.  Josh is a self-proclaimed “nerd” who has turned his childhood passion into a successful career; after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Media & Cinema Studies, Josh took a risk and decided to try making YouTube videos full time.  His YouTube channel now boasts over 1.2 million subscribers, and Josh spends 50-60 hours per week writing and revising scripts, directing video shoots, and editing raw footage for his channel. As an active member of a vast internet gaming community, Josh was invited to provide commentary for the internationally televised Pokemon World Championships in 2013, and Josh’s legion of fans voted to earn him a place on the hit TBS show “King of the Nerds” in 2014.


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DANNY YADRON

Danny Yadron covers cybersecurity from The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau. He usually writes about hackers, cybercops and what companies do (and don't do) to stay safe on the Internet.

At the Journal, he also has covered tech policy, a presidential campaign, national politics and the Midwest. Before that, he wrote for McClatchy, the Austin American-Statesman and The Buffalo News.

Yadron is also a Grayslake Central High School alum. He graduated from GCHS in 2006 before going on to study journalism at Northwestern University.


YOUNG CHICAGO AUTHORS

KEVIN COVAL is the poet the Chicago Tribune called “the voice of the new Chicago” and who the Boston Globe says is “the city’s unofficial poet laureate”. Author of Schtick, L-vis Lives!: Racemusic Poems, Everyday People, Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, and More S*** Chief Keef Don’t Like, Coval is the founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival and Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, LTAB’s non-profit home. Coval teaches hip-hop aesthetics at The University of Illinois-Chicago, is a 4x HBO Def Poet, and has written for a wide variety of publications including CNN.com, The Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, National Public Radio’s Chicago affiliate WBEZ, The Spoken Word Revolution Redux (Source), Handbook of Public Pedagogy (Routledge) 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History (Haymarket) & It Was Written: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, ed. by Michael Eric Dyson (Basic).  Coval won a New Voices/New Visions award from the Kennedy Center for a play co-authored with Idris Goodwin about graffiti writers called, This is Modern Art, that will premiere in the winter of 2015 at Steppenwolf Theater and is currently editing an anthology, The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket) due out February 2015.

JAMILA WOODS is a poet, singer, and teaching artist from Chicago, IL. She is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors and a founding member of YCA’s Teaching Artist Corps. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry has been published by MUZZLE, Radius, and Third World Press. Her first chapbook entitled The Truth About Dolls was released in 2012 by New School Poetics Press. Jamila is also a member of the Dark Noise Collective of poets & educators of color, and is the front-woman of soul-duo band M&O. Their 2013 debut album, The Joy, was hailed as “mold-shattering” by the Washington Post, and their 2014 sophomore album, Almost Us, has been featured in OkayPlayer, JET, and Ebony Magazine.