Keynote Speaker

The 23rd annual Diversity Conference will feature keynote speaker renowned children's author Kimberly Newton Fusco. She describes herself as a “bookworm, bibliophile, and passionate lover of books.” Her favorite childhood books include Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Since the sixth grade, Fusco knew she wanted to be a writer. As a child who stuttered, she believed that writing gave her a chance to express herself. She wrote for the literary magazine started by her church’s youth group, and went door-to-door selling them for twenty-five cents each. 

Fusco studied writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In 2002, she submitted the beginnings of a novel to Alfred A. Knopf’s executive editor, Michelle Frey. Michelle rejected the novel, saying that it was good, just not good enough. However, she told Fusco that she believed in her ability to write the kind of literary novel that Knopf publishes, and that if Fusco gave it another shot, she would have another look. Fusco threw out the original novel, and after almost a year, finished Tending to Grace, a novel about Cornelia, a young girl who stutters.

Fusco loves to write about characters that “put on bigger boots and keep the face of difficulty. Her novels convey hope, kindness and courage that transcend the characters above their circumstances, leaving a lasting impact on their communities.