2009|Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Carry the Torch Knoxville began in 2009 with Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Their book, Same Kind of Different as Me, is an extraordinary story of a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together.
The Soloist is the story of Steve Lopez and his relationship with Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless cello player. Their story highlights the widespread nature of mental illness and how building relationships can offer an opportunity for change.
The Pursuit of Happiness inspires us with the true story of Chris Gardner who set his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet as soon as he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm, Gardner and his toddler son found themselves caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left them among the city’s homeless population.
The Glass Castle is the award-winning and best-selling account of how Walls grew up in the desert and in West Virginia, eventually leaving at age 16 and going to New York City. Walls’s parents, while battling mental illness and addiction, would encourage them to read Shakespeare and dream of the glass house they would live in one day all the while without indoor plumbing.
2013| Wally Lamb
Wally Lamb is an American author known for his novels She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both of which were selected for Oprah’s Book Club and are New York Times’ Best Sellers. His third novel, The Hour I First Believed, interfaces fiction with non-fictional events such as the Columbine High School shooting and the Iraq War. His next novel, Wishin’ and Hopin’, a Christmas Story, is a comically nostalgic novel about a parochial school fifth grader set in 1964.
Pat Conroy passed in 2016 and was a Southern writer whose award winning novels include The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, Beach Music, and South of Broad. Two of these novels have been made into major motion pictures. Mr. Conroy’s novels draw unabashedly on his own experience as an abused child. His lyrical prose portrays his love of the South, as well as his confidence that, just as people hurt one another, they have the potential to heal one another.
2015|Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd is a Southern writer whose award winning novels include The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings. The Secret Life of Bees has been made into a major motion picture. The Invention of Wings, Kidd’s third novel was published January 7, 2014, by Viking to wide critical acclaim, debuting on the New York Times bestseller list at #1. The novel was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Plans are underway to turn the book into a film.
John Quiñones, Emmy Award-winning anchor and author, is the sole anchor of the Primetime series What Would You Do?, one of the highest rated newsmagazine franchises in recent years, and he has authored two books, What Would You Do? Words of Wisdom About Doing the Right Thing, and Heroes Among Us: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Choices. Mr. Quiñones has won seven national Emmy Awards for his Primetime Live," "Burning Questions" and "20/20" work. He was honored with a World Hunger Media Award and a Citation from the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for “To Save the Children,” his 1990 report on the homeless children of Bogota. Among his other prestigious awards are the First Prize in International Reporting and Robert F. Kennedy Prize for his piece on "Modern Slavery -- Children Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic."
Erin Gruwell is an educator and president of The Freedom Writers Foundation. When Erin landed her first job at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Ca, she discovered many of her students had been written off by the education system and deemed "unteachable." As teenagers living in a racially divided urban community, they were already hardened by exposure to gang violence, juvenile detention, and drugs. By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students lives. She encouraged them to rethink rigid beliefs about themselves and others, to reconsider daily decisions, and to re-chart their futures. With Erin's steadfast support, her students shattered stereotypes to become critical thinkers, aspiring college students and citizens for change. They dubbed themselves the "Freedom Writers." Inspired by Anne Frank and Zlata Filipovic (who lived through worn-torn Sarajevo), Erin and her students captured their collective journey in "The Freedom Writers Diary - How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them." The book and their stories became the basis for the movie, THE FREEDOM WRITERS, in which Hilary Swank starred as Erin Gruwell.
Kathy Izard, Author of The Hundred Story Home, was a graphic designer, wife, mother of four daughters, and volunteer at Charlotte's Urban Ministry Center when an unlikely meeting with formerly homeless author Denver Moore (Same Kind of Different As Me) changed the course of her life. Inspired by Denver's challenge to do more than serve in the soup kitchen, Kathy quit her job to take on what seemed like an unimaginable task in her second half of life- to build housing for Charlotte's homeless. Denver Moore and Ron Hall were the featured speakers for VMC's first annual Carry The Torch event in 2009.