Rural Crimes - S.A. Cosby, Chris Harding Thornton, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Heather Young - 03/14/2021 - 6:00pm

Rural Crimes


Presented in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book and The Back Room, crime writers S.A. Cosby, Chris Harding Thornton, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, and Heather Young discuss their highly-acclaimed books in conversation with international bestselling authors Karen Dionne and Hank Phillippi Ryan. Each of these novels presents a complicated story of secrets and crimes that involve generations within a rural noir framework, including Virginia-based drag races, lost souls in rural Nebraska, criminal injustice on a North Dakota reservation, and the explosive effects of opioid abuse in a small town in Nevada. 


This event will have a different structure than other Wisconsin Book Festival events. The Back Room event opens with all four authors in conversation with Dionne and Ryan, followed by four sessions in break-out rooms, when the authors visit each room in turn, offering attendees the opportunity to chat with each author. The doors to the main Zoom room open five minutes before the program’s start time so folks can say hello to one another and to the featured authors. Chat is also turned on. As the program begins, attendees’ mics are muted and the authors are spotlighted. After very brief introductions, the authors play a quick “get to know you” game of 20 questions using our custom-designed Back Room Question Cards.


The opening session finishes with the authors’ book recommendations, and then attendees are divided into 4 breakout rooms, with one author assigned to each room. Being assigned to a breakout room happens automatically. You don’t have to do anything except click the “join breakout room” invitation that appears on your screen. Each breakout room will have between 15 and 20 people, so we recommend joining the call from a laptop or a computer instead of a tablet or cell phone and using the gallery view so you can see everyone! Attendees remain in their breakout room for the rest of the program, while the authors rotate through each room in turn. Everyone’s video is turned on and their mics are open. You’ll get fifteen minutes with each author to chat about whatever you like! It’s all very relaxed and casual and fun — like a virtual cocktail party! Once all four authors have visited each breakout room, the event is over.


Please note that this event is free and open to the public, but, given the unique structure, capacity is limited. A video recording of the opening conversations will be available to watch after the event concludes on Please note that this event is being broadcast from the Eastern timezone at 7/6 Central.

S.A. Cosby

Presenter photo

Shawn A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland, is a writer from Southeastern Virginia, now residing in Gloucester, Va. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and his short story “The Grass Beneath My Feet” won the Anthony award for best short story in 2019.

Recent Book
Blacktop Wasteland

Chris Harding Thornton

Presenter photo

Chris Harding Thornton, author of Pickard County Atlas, is a seventh-generation Nebraskan. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Nebraska, where she currently teaches.

Recent Book
Pickard County Atlas

David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Presenter photo

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, author of Winter Counts, is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. He received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and was a MacDowell Colony Fellow, Tin House Scholar, and the recipient of PEN America’s Writing for Justice Fellowship. Winter Counts received an Edgar nomination for Best First Novel; winners will be announced April 29.

Recent Book
Winter Counts

Heather Young

Presenter photo

Heather Young, author of The Distant Dead, won a Strand Award and an Edgar nomination for her debut novel, The Lost Girls. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Virginia. The Distant Dead received an Edgar nomination for Best Novel; winners will be announced April 29.

Recent Book
The Distant Dead