The January 2020 Residency Line Up!

Visiting Writer

Charles R. Smith JrCharles R. Smith Jr. is an award-winning author, photographer and poet with over thirty books to his credit. His awards include a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration (2010) for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem, My People and a Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award (2008) for his biography on Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. Many of his books have also garnered reluctant reader awards, proving that kids that don’t like to read, do like to read his books.

Charles’s interest in writing came first, years ago, growing up in Compton, California when he began composing simple poems and stories inspired by the books he read. “Reading books filled with stories and poems inspired me to write my own. And if I wasn’t reading a book, I was playing a sport: I played everything, particularly basketball, and spent many afternoons on the court, perfecting my jump shot.”

In high school, Charles’s love of writing led to him join the high school yearbook staff as a writer where he was also required to take photographs. Through trial and error, Charles soon found a new love in photography. “Right up until that point I wanted to be an astronaut, but after taking yearbook pictures nonstop for a year, I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer.”

Today, Charles combines his passions of writing and photography with a variety of subjects that spark his interest, from basketball with Rimshots, Hoop Kings and Hoop Queens to black history with 28 Days and Brick by Brick, to diversity with I Am America and I Am the World, to name just a few of his books. Many of those books have been brought to life with the launch of his YouTube channel centered around cultivating the mind, the body and spirit. From poetry performance, to favorite books, to photography how-to, to American Ninja Warrior and fitness training and more, Charles is harnessing the power of video to engage readers and educators in new ways.

Of the distinctive niche Charles fills with his books, he notes, “I want to show students, particularly boys, that there are many ways to pursue their interests, no matter what they may be.”

Charles R. Smith Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. You can find him on the web at

Darrow Lecturer

Ann Davila Cardinal

Ann Dávila Cardinal is a tattooed-Gringa-Rican-punk, a novelist, and Director of Recruitment for Vermont College of Fine Arts where she earned her MFA in Writing. Her young adult horror novel, Five Midnights, was released by Tor Teen in June 2019. The sequel, Category Five, will be released on June 2, 2020. Ann lives in Vermont, needle-felts tiny reading creatures, and cycles four seasons a year. Visit her at

Visiting Illustrator

Gilbert Ford

Gilbert Ford holds a BFA in illustration from Pratt Institute and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY where he has illustrated many New York Times best selling middle-grade novels and also award-winning picture books. He is the author/ illustrator of non-fiction picture books The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring and How the Cookie Crumbled. His debut middle grade novel he wrote and illustrated, entitled The Treasure Inside, will hit the shelves in 2020.

& we are thrilled to announce two new faculty will be joining us in January 2020!