The Great Lakes African American Writers Conference

Sanctioned by the Cleveland Foundation As Part of Cleveland Book Week

Join us for our annual day-long Conference at the beautiful East Cleveland Library where literary creatives from Cleveland, Northeast Ohio, and throughout the Great Lakes gather to learn from and network with influential publishing industry professionals from hubs including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

What can you expect at The Great Lakes African American Writers Conference?

  • Groundbreaking authors and publishing industry professionals
  • Meaningful dialogue in an intimate setting
  • Entertainment from riveting storytellers
  • Networking with like-minded individuals

All lovers of reading and writing are invited! GLAAWC is free and open to the public. Join us at the beautiful East Cleveland Public Library, 14101 Euclid Avenue East Cleveland, OH 44112.

Sincerely yours,

The Reverend Dr. Leah Lewis
Founder of GLAAWC
Executive Producer
Author of Little Lumpy’s Book of Blessings

2019 GLAAWC Conference Registration

Youth Poetry Slam in the Afternoon

Kimiya Flowers
& Jada Hobson,

Raffle for Attendees!

Win a Copy of Jesmyn Ward’s Novel,
Sing, Unburied, Sing

Compliments of Tri-C, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative

Conference Bookseller:​

13015 Larchmere Blvd.
Shaker Heights, OH 44120

Donate Please!

Hough Reads

Hough Reads, a place-based Little Free Library Neighborhood initiative, is seeking book donations for residents of Cleveland’s Ward 7. We are particularly in need of culturally relevant books for African American adults and children. New books are preferred but gently used books are welcomed and accepted. For more information email

Literary Headliner

Damon Young

Damon Young
Damon Young is a writer, critic, humorist, satirist, and professional Black person. He’s a co-founder and editor in chief of VerySmartBrothas — coined “the blackest thing that ever happened to the internet” by The Washington Post and recently acquired by Univision and Gizmodo Media Group to be a vertical of The Root — and a columnist for GQ. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, LitHub, Time Magazine, Slate, LongReads, Salon, The Guardian, New York Magazine, Jezebel, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Damon’s writing — which vacillates from anthropological satire and absurdist racial insights to razor sharp cultural critique and unflinching indictments of privilege and bias — has often generated praise from his peers. Ava DuVernay called his voice “clear and critical.” Micheal Eric Dyson said he’s “one of the most important young voices in humor writing today.” And Kiese Laymon called his work “the best of American twenty-first century writing.” Damon’s debut memoir — What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays (Ecco/HarperCollins) —  is a 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and is a tragicomic exploration of the angsts, anxieties, and absurdities of existing while black in America. NPR called it an “outstanding collection of nonfiction” and The Washington Post “hilarious” and “unflinching.” A native Pittsburgher who attended Canisius College on a basketball scholarship, Damon is also a member of the ACLU Pennsylvania’s State Board. He currently resides in Pittsburgh’s Northside, with his wife, two children, and his faithful bottles of Nexium and Lisinopril.

Literary Headliner

Kima Jones

Kima Jones has received fellowships from PEN America West Emerging Voices, Kimbilio Fiction, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony. She was named on the inaugural Bitch 50 list in 2017 as a “shape-shifter who pushed pop culture to be more representative, inspiring, and meaningful for communities who are typically ignored by mainstream media.” The Los Angeles Times called Kima “2018’s literary breakthrough” and “an important new voice on the national stage.” She has been published at GQ, Guernica, Poets and Writers, NPR and McSWeeney’s and in the anthologies Unruly Bodies, a pop-up magazine by Roxane Gay for Medium and the New York Times Best Seller, The Fire this Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. Her short story “Nine” received notable mention in Best American Science Fiction 2015, and her hybrid poem “Homegoing AD” appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017. She serves as an advisory board member for the Rumpus, the Anisfield-Wolf Fellowship, the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Carter Black Mountain Institute and its flagship magazine, The Believer, and the Wordplay Literary Festival. Kima founded Jack Jones Literary Arts in March 2015 and works as lead strategist on all publicity campaigns and is especially proud of her work on the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner, Olio, by Tyehimba Jess; the 2017 PEN America Robert W. Bingham Emerging Fiction Prize winner, Insurrections, by Rion Amilcar Scott; the 2017 Midland Authors Award winner in Adult Fiction, Know the Mother, by Desiree Cooper; and May-lee Chai’s Useful Phrases for Immigrants. Kima divides her time between Los Angeles and New York. She writes poetry and prose.

Publishing Industry Professionals

Linda Peavy, Founder

LiPav Consulting

Linda Peavy is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and the owner of LiPav Consulting, a marketing, grant writing, and communications firm. Services include non-profit consulting, fund development, marketing campaigns, event planning, literary representation, and book campaigns. With over 21 years of marketing experience, Linda has developed marketing campaigns and collateral for special events, plays, educational programs, musical events, schools, books, individual clients, religious leaders, conventions, and major conferences across the country. She is the current PR and Booking Agent for the Miss America Organization. Linda has worked with high profile individuals including Danny Glover, Delroy Lindo, Cathy Hughes, Nia Imani Franklin, Miss America 2019, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Erica Alexander, Charlie Ward, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and others. Clients have included the Miss America Organization, At the Well Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Progressive National Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches, and other organizations. Her marketing skills have garnered publicity for clients in Essence Magazine, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, the D. L. Hughley Show, Ebony Magazine, The Los Angeles Times newspaper, and Guideposts to name a few. Linda’s 17 years of professional publishing experience has led to the publication of more than 500 books for authors. Self-published books are created under her LiPav Publishing imprint. She has worked with Ruby Dee, T. D. Jakes, Bishop Donald Hilliard, Dr. James Perkins, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, and dozens of other authors. Her personal writings can be found in The Book of Daily Prayer, 2001 (United Church Press), Women at the Well, Volume 2 (Judson Press), and the Women of Color Devotional Bible (Nia Publishing). Linda has spoken before audiences exceeding 10,000 people, and she is a member of the Advisory Board for Precious Times magazine, a leading Christian women’s periodical.

Kim Martin Sadler

Sadler Communications & Consulting Group, LLC

Kim Martin Sadler is founder and CEO of Sadler Communications & Consulting Group, LLC (SCCG), dba, The Publishing Boutique. The Publishing Boutique provides customized services to assist novice and seasoned authors who want guidance in every aspect of book publishing. Prior to forming her own communications company, Kim was the Editorial Director of The Pilgrim Press, the publishing imprint of The United Church of Christ — the oldest religious publishing house in the nation. Kim, a published author, has over 25 years of book publishing experience and has edited the works of notable Cleveland religious leaders such as Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III. Kim holds a BA degree in print journalism from the Howard University School of Communications and a Master of Arts degree in Psychology with a specialization in Diversity Management from Cleveland State University.  

Authors, Poets, Journalists, and Storytellers

Ali Black is a poet, educator, consultant and youth advocate.  She directs a literacy based after-school and summer program for girls at West Side Community House.  Ali has been writing and performing poetry for over 15 years. She has taught and performed at Playhouse Square, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Juvenile Detention Center, various schools throughout Cuyahoga county and elsewhere.  She is the co-founder of acerbic, which is a multi-disciplinary arts collective dedicated to providing a safe and resourceful home to artists of color. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry and is a current graduate student for poetry at Cleveland State University’s NEOMFA program.  She is also the poetry editor for Gordon Square Review.  Her work has appeared in A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City and december. She is the recipient of the 2016 Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize for her poem “Kinsman.”  

Rhonda Crowder


During the course of her nearly 20 year career, Rhonda Crowder has been a copywriter, general assignment reporter, freelance manuscript editor, ghostwriter, associate publisher and literacy advocate. But, her biggest writing goal has always been to become an acclaimed author – to join the likes of some of her favorites including Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. In pursuit of her dream, she attended Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University. At CSU, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration on creative writing, editing, and publishing. Since then, she’s worked at the historical Call and Post Newspaper and with Who’s Who in Black Cleveland in addition to starting her own business, Rhonda Crowder and Associates – a creative services agency specializing in literary and branded content development, media relations and fundraising. In her spare time, Rhonda coordinates Hough Reads, a Little Free Library placed-based literacy initiative designed to unite the community around improving literacy and igniting a love of reading. She is also an active member of Greater Cleveland Association of Black Journalists and United Black Christians of Greater Cleveland. Rhonda has been awarded a Rotary Group Student Exchange Fellowship, recognized by I CAN Schools as leader in her community, named 2018 Women of the Year by El Hasa Court #47 and received recognition from the Cleveland Chapter of National Action Network.And, after years of working hard, long hours and never giving up, she released her debut novel Riddles in November of 2016.

Dr. Mittie Davis Jones is currently serving as Interim Director of the Diversity Institute at Cleveland State University. Dr. Jones is Associate Professor Emerita at Cleveland State University having formerly been Chair of the Department of Urban Studies, Director of the Urban Child Research Center, Assistant Dean for Student Services, Director of the Master of Urban Planning, Design and Development Program, Director of the Master of Urban Studies Program, and Associate Professor all in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. She holds a Ph.D. in political science and a Master of Urban Planning – both from Wayne State University; she received a B.A. from Michigan State University. Dr. Jones has been a practitioner, student, and researcher in the field of urban affairs for over 40 years.  She has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses that address topics of her research concerns, specifically, contemporary urban issues, public policy, housing policy, politics in the black community, and race relations. As a consultant and evaluator, her clients have included various housing, educational and health programs. Her scholarly research has been published in several journals and books. In 2016, she co-authored Boycotts, Busing, & Beyond: The History & Implications of School Desegregation in the Urban North with Ronnie Dunn, Donna Whyte, Adriennie Hatten and James Hardiman.

Dr. Ronnie A. Dunn is the Chief Diversity Officer and an Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Cleveland State University. As CDO he serves on the executive leadership team and is responsible for developing policies and practices that enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the university and the broader community. Dr. Dunn’s research interests include issues affecting minorities and the urban poor with particular expertise in race, crime, and the criminal justice system and the issue of racial profiling, which led to the use of traffic cameras in the city of Cleveland and municipalities throughout Ohio, and the governor’s appointment of a statewide taskforce and advisory board on Community-Police relations. His latest publications include, Race & Policing in Ohio: The Loss of Hope Cross the River Jordan, in The Legacy of Legacy Cities, Tighe, R. & Webster-Ryberg, S. (Eds.), University of Pittsburgh Press (2019), and Boycotts, Busing, & Beyond: The History & Implications of School Desegregation in the Urban North, co-authored with Whyte, D. M., Hardiman, J. L., Davis-Jones, M., & Hatten, A., Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt Publishing Co (2016).

Dr. Hall is currently a Professor at Cuyahoga Community College in the Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Interpretive Services. She has a B.A. in Business from Delaware State University, M.Ed. in Deaf Education from McDaniel College (formerly known as Western Maryland College) and a Ph.D. from Cleveland State University in Urban Education. Dr. Hall has taught American Sign Language and other courses in Deafness and interpreting for more than forty years.  Her work has been recognized by the Ohio State Senate for her outstanding contribution of service, by Phi Delta Kappa as a Distinguished Educator, Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Distinguished Teacher Recognition Program, Cuyahoga Community College as a recipient of the Ralph M. Besse Distinguished Teaching Award, the League for Innovation in the Community College John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award and by Who’s Who in Black Cleveland. Dr. Hall has published work examining the construct of Racelessness among African American Deaf adolescents in the American Annals of the Deaf. Dr. Hall has also written a memoir entitled, Paris in America: A Deaf Nanticoke Shoemaker and His Daughter published by Gallaudet University Press. It is the story of being raised by her Deaf Nanticoke Indian father, a shoemaker, as a single parent in the 1950’s in Dover, Delaware. Dr. Hall has traveled nationally and internationally speaking and observing various programs and schools for Deaf children and Deaf Adults. Dr. Hall has established the J. Paris Mosley Scholarship Foundation Fund in the name of her father, with the Cleveland Foundation to provide financial support for the higher education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who use some form of sign language to communicate.  Being the only child of Deaf parents, Dr. Hall has seen firsthand how obstacles for Deaf people can become opportunities. Dr. Clara Jean Mosley Hall is married to Dr. Howard Ralph Hall, III. They have two outstanding daughters, Ilea Elizabeth Mosley Hall Speight and Karelle Ayita Hall and a wonderful son-in-law, Bryan Speight.

Dr. Brenda R. Smith is a retired Professor of English. In her former post at Kent State University at Stark, she taught American and African American Literature, women’s literature, and freshman composition.Dr. Smith earned both her B.A. in English and her Ph.D. in American and African American Literature from Case Western Reserve University. She earned her M.A. in American literature from Cleveland State University. Her dissertation, The Construction of Bi-Cultural Subjectivity in African American Migrant Autobiography, which earned her Case Western Reserve University’s distinguished Neil McIntyre Memorial Essay Award and Kent State University’s Regional Campus Professional Development Award, explored the relationship between African Americans’ involuntary immigration to and voluntary migration within the United States and the formation of American subjectivity. Her current research interests include the trans-ethnic study of autobiography and the construction of American subjectivity, and the evolution of the Bildungsroman literary form in African American women’s writing. Dr. Smith’s publications include “Reaping What She Sows: The Evolution of African American Female Bildung and the Journey to Self from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower,” in New Essays on the African American Novel: From Hurston and Ellison to Morrison (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); “Voodoo Imagery, Modern Mythology and Female Empowerment in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God,” in the online  journal Women Writers; “We Need a Hero: African American Female Bildungsromane and Celie’s Journey to Heroic Selfhood in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple,” in Dialogue: Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (Rodopi Press, 2009); and “We, Too, Sing America: The Construction of ‘American’ Subjectivity in African American Migration and European Immigrant Autobiography,” in Selves in Dialog: An Interethnic Approach to American Self-Writing (Rodopi Press, 2011). Dr. Smith is married and has two daughters, one of whom is writer Michelle R. Smith.

Michelle R. Smith

Michelle R. Smith is a poet, blogger, educator, and cultural facilitator with strong ties to the Great Lakes. She was born in Cleveland, spent two very formative years in Chicago as a graduate student, and currently lives in Twinsburg with her family with no intention of relocating outside of her beloved Ohio. Michelle has been writing poetry since she was a fourth grader at John Dewey Elementary School in Warrensville Heights, OH. She has been published in poemmemoirstory; Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism; My Soul to His Spirit: Soulful Expressions from Black Daughters to Their Fathers; Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal; The Normal School; and Gasconade Review. Her first full collection of poetry, Ariel in Black, was published in December 2015 by Guide to Kulchur Press in Cleveland. Michelle has recently been a featured poet and performer at The Persisters (all female variety show), Mental Illness & Friends, NeoSoul Poetry at Larchmere Arts, and Cleveland Story Club East. Michelle conceptualized THE BLAX MUSEUM, an artistic showcase open to all forms and dedicated to honoring notable black figures in American history and culture, and she directed and performed in the first BLAX MUSEUM at Guide to Kulchur Bookstore in March of 2018 and the second BLAX MUSEUM at the East Cleveland Public Library in February of 2019, where she has also been a workshop facilitator for Writers Wednesday. Michelle also created an original poetry workshop called Practical Principles for Writing Poetry that she inaugurated at the PNC Fairfax Connection in Cleveland in July of 2018. Her future creative plans include publishing a second poetry collection in the fall of 2019 on Outlandish Press and sharing Practical Principles for Writing Poetry with as many students of writing as she can. Michelle’s “day job” is teaching college composition as an adjunct instructor at Kent State University at Stark and Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus.

Abby L. Vandiver

WALL STREET JOURNAL AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, Abby L. Vandiver is an indie as well as a traditionally published author. She has written and published more than twenty self-published books. Under Henery Press, she writes the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. Additionally, Penguin Berkley will publish her new cozy mystery books, Crewes Creamery Mysteries, beginning spring 2020. Abby was raised and attended school in East Cleveland, Ohio, currently a resident of South Euclid, she has a bachelors in Economics, a Masters in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor.

Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers

Judy Bateman/Miiz JED

Judy Bateman/Storyteller Miiz JED is a professional storyteller, retired teacher, church usher, mother, wife and dog lover. She belongs to several storytelling organizations and is also a toastmaster. Judy is a two time award winner in national storytelling competitions and has also sponsored several youth storytelling groups. One group performed at Cain park in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Michele Rudolph

Michele is a retired social worker and acknowledges that a story can bond a group together. The story becomes the shared experience that unites the audience. As a professional storyteller and teaching artist she uses stories to teach and celebrate her rich and beautiful culture. Michele is the President of the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., (CABS) and a member of the National of Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). Ms. Rudolph has performed at schools, libraries, community and cultural events for audiences of all ages throughout Northeast Ohio. She was one of the featured artists in “A Tribute to Maya Angelou” at the historically renowned theater, Karamu House and St. Ignatius High School Breen Performing Arts Center. Michele wrote, directed and performed an original short “3 Winds Blowing Towards Freedom” at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Station Hope, a celebration of hope, freedom and community at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland’s Underground Railroad Station.

Mother Oluremi

Oluremi has performed internationally as a professional Storyteller and poet and often uses cultural traditions from the African diaspora to enliven, invigorate and inform her performances. She is one of 12 current recipients of a Center for Performance and Civic Practice Learning Lab award funded through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Oluremi believes in the capacity for stories to open minds, to soften hearts, and to elicit positive change. She is grateful to serve in this capacity and for every opportunity to share this powerful gift. 

Thank You, Sponsors

GLAAWC proudly collaborates with like-minded partners on outstanding programming all year round.  We gratefully acknowledge the kind support of the following organizations.

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The Courtyard Marriott – Cleveland University Circle
2021 Cornell Road  | Cleveland, Ohio 44106