Annette Gordon-Reed

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello integrated the East Texas town of Conroe’s school district soon after John Howard Griffin published his classic book Black Like Me, which she reconsiders this month (“Black Like Him”). “The sense of possibility was in the air,” remembers Gordon-Reed. Still, she doesn’t think Griffin’s book would have been radically different if it had been set in her hometown rather than the Deep South. “A man was burned at the stake in Conroe in the late twenties. It’s been known as a rough place for blacks ever since.”


Jason Sheeler

When it came to inhabiting the world of high-end Dallas realtor Erin Mathews (“Give Me Shelter”), it helped Jason Sheeler to have written for the Dallas Morning News’ style section for four years. “I’d already been in several of these homes for society events, fundraisers, and parties,” says the writer, whose work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure and D Magazine. That’s not to say he didn’t get his share of surprises, like a request from legendary agent Ebby Halliday to pose for a photograph—with him on her lap. “At one hundred years old,” says Sheeler, “she’s still got it.”


Dagoberto Gilb

Much like the guitar player in “Cheap,” Dagoberto Gilb knows “where I’ve come from and how far, and with what good fortune, I have traveled.” Gilb, whose new fiction piece is part of Before the End, After the Beginning, a ten-story collection published this month, has certainly journeyed physically (from Los Angeles to El Paso to Austin), professionally (from carpenter to university professor), and literarily (from novels like The Magic of Blood and The Flowers to collections such as Woodcuts of Women and Gritos). But it was a stroke in 2009 that defined his latest passage: “I made a decision to spend my second year of recovery writing,” he says, “and this book is a statement that I am not done, that I do not submit easy.”