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Keynote for 2020 Signatures Event Features Author of Insightful, Impactful Works

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THE WOODLANDS, TX – The keynote author for The John Cooper School’s 16th Annual Signatures Author Series, Jesmyn Ward, is a two-time National Book Award winner and bestselling author whose diverse works cover insightful topics and include richly drawn characters.

Signatures Author Series John Cooper School 2020 Jesmyn Ward Cover sing unburied sing
photo credit: Beuwolf Sheehan

The luncheon, to be held on December 4, is a highly anticipated annual event that brings noted authors to The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center each year. Wearing of masks and social distancing will be required at the 2020 Signatures event. Reservations are currently available online at Early registration is recommended for best seating.


Frequently likened to such authors as William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, Ward’s distinctive poetic style of writing illuminates the Black experience in America. Her three novels, all set on the Gulf Coast, tell tales of hope and struggle.

Where the Line Bleeds was described in The Boston Globe as “a lyrical, yet clear-eyed portrait of rural South and an African-American reality that are rarely depicted.” Her subsequent novel, Salvage the Bones, is a personal story of how one family endured Hurricane Katrina, earning Ward her first National Book Award for fiction.




Sing, Unburied, Sing, published in 2018, won her a second National Book Award. Named by the New York Times as one of the Top 10 Best Books of the Year, Sing, Unburied, Sing gives an intimate portrait of three generations of a family in an epic tale. A review in Buzzfeed said, “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it.”

Ward received her MFA from The University of Michigan and is currently a professor of creative writing at Tulane University. Her most recent book, Navigate Your Stars, is an uplifting book based on the 2018 Commencement speech she gave at Tulane about the value of hard work, perseverance and the importance of respect for oneself and for others.

Ward is also the editor of a critically acclaimed anthology, has authored a memoir and is currently working on two new novels that are set in the south.




The Signatures luncheon also features local authors, book signings and a VIP book signing with the author for major table sponsors. Pre-lunch events begin at 10:30 a.m. and the keynote portion begins at noon. Local authors are selected by submitting an application that can be found online at and are due by October 9 to be included in pre-event publicity. All applications are due by October 23.               

As is tradition, a portion of the proceeds from each year’s event is designated for a local literacy organization. The recipient of the 2019 luncheon, The Montgomery County Memorial Library System, received a donation of $5,000 that is being used to replace books that were lost or damaged in Tropical Storm Imelda.

Table sponsorships are available at the $10,000, $5,000, $3,500 and $2,500 levels and individual reservations are $150. For more information about additional sponsorship opportunities, please contact The John Cooper School Advancement Office at 281.367.0900 ext. 2441 or email