Julie Wrinn's blog

Guest Column by Jan Isenhour

August 21, 2019: a 40th anniversary guest column from former Board chair Jan Isenhour:
They Were Our Rock Stars, But They Were Not Divas:
Behind the Scenes in the Early Years at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference
 I’m not sure you can imagine how important, how revolutionary, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference was to me when it burst into town in 1979, but I’m going to help you try.

40 Years in the Room Where It Happens

In today’s Lexington Herald-Leader, I have a column on how the conference has evolved over four decades and what it has meant to me: https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article234089712.html. Your “click” helps us and helps the newspaper, so please pay it a visit. If you have your own conference memories, why not post them in the comments? It is our shared history!

Toni Morrison & Historical Fiction

The passing of Toni Morrison on August 5 at age 88 probably means millions of readers pulling her books from their shelves to find the underlined passages and re-live the power and beauty of her language. I know I did.

Earlier this week, Democracy Now with Amy Goodman welcomed Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Angela Davis to speak on their friend’s passing. That episode is well worth a view on YouTube, and I was especially intrigued to learn about Morrison’s career as a book editor. Many of us have gotten to know Sister Sonia during her visits to Lexington for the series named after her, and it’s gratifying to hear her thoughts on Morrison.

Mariama Lockington & Sapphire Heights auditions

Some of the most eye opening literature on family comes from authors raised in a nontraditional configuration that sheds new light on the meaning of kinfolk. Transracial adoption is one of those configurations, and we’ll hear more about that at KyWomenWriters2019 from our keynote speaker, Nicole Chung, author of the award-winning memoir, All You Can Ever Know.

Antonya Nelson & 4 Tenacious Women

My first introduction to Antonya Nelson was on a New Yorker fiction podcast, that cozy club of New Yorker authors choosing each other’s backlist stories to read and discuss with preternaturally calm editor Deborah Treisman. A chief pleasure of this podcast is how it showcases affinities among writers, and when Lorrie Moore reads Antonya Nelson’s "Naked Ladies," the shared sensibility is evident. Wry tragi-comedies in the domestic sphere, with a mastery of dialogue as revelation of character. If there’s a quintessential New Yorker fiction writer, it’s Antonya Nelson, who has published no fewer than 17 stories there since 1991.

We’re thrilled to bring Antonya Nelson to this year’s conference, where she’ll give a reading and lead a fiction craft talk. It’s one of several sessions underscoring the value of the “$125 general admission without workshop” option. We know that our registrants return to KyWomenWriters year after year, and sometimes they’re not at a place in their work where they want to do a workshop. Craft talks with some generative exercises can get the juices flowing in a lower-key setting than the intensive workshops. Later that day Nicole Chung will also lead a craft talk in nonfiction, and between those two sessions, you’re sure to come away with new tools and directions for your reading and writing.

Alice Speilburg, Jane Friedman, & Gabehart Winners Announced

Paths to publication are markedly different for the three main genres represented at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. With fiction, you must wait until your work is complete: no agent or editor wants to speculate on an unfinished story. With nonfiction, however, a sample chapter and outline are often enough to earn a publishing contract. With poetry, the readership is smaller, meaning that agents cannot earn a livelihood by selling it, and you must approach editors directly.

For our annual look at what writers need to know about getting published, we are delighted to feature Alice Speilburg giving two talks at KyWomenWriters2019:
--Representationship: Manager, Editor, Therapist -- What To Expect from a Literary Agent, and
--First Page Critiques: How to Write the Opening that Publishing Pros Want to Read

Lydia Millet, Katy Yocom, and 2 Fiction Workshops

            July 5, 2019
Lydia Millet’s novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven begins: “When I insisted on keeping the baby, Ned threw his hands into the air palms-forward.” So we are plunged into Anna’s story of an unfortunate marriage and the birth of their daughter, Lena. Weary of Ned’s neglect, Anna flees with Lena, traveling anonymously from Alaska to Maine and encountering an unusual cast of characters, while Ned launches his pursuit. With surprising plot twists and philosophical musings about politics and God, Sweet Lamb of Heaven is a cerebral summertime page-turner.  

Darcey Steinke Invents the Menopause Memoir

June 28, 2019
I suppose what we need is a taxonomy of hot flashes, because mine are nothing like Darcey Steinke’s as described in her new memoir, Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life. Initially the feeling was closer to a panic attack, until I eliminated caffeine and the episodes evolved into benign waves of heat—as advertised. I started enjoying the sensation, especially in bone-chilling winter. Now I laugh if my glasses fog up, and I know I’ll miss my hot flashes when they’re gone. My friend Lisa says she misses hers.

Cuban American Novelist Chantel Acevedo & the Power of Place

Chantel Acevedo was born in Miami to Cuban parents, and her fiction evinces a fascination with the history and culture of that beautiful fraught island. In The Distant Marvels, a Booklist Top 10 Historical Novel of 2015, Acevedo nests her narrative in two historical periods, 1963 during Hurricane Flora, and 1895-98 during Cuba’s War of Independence. Born at sea en route to Cuba, the narrator describes how her mother, Lulu, named her:
"The island appeared like a low cloud on the horizon. Inspired, Lulu carried me unsteadily toward the ship’s bow, to glimpse our homeland. The sea was calm and crystal clear. Dolphins played a few feet away, their polished backs breaking the surface again and again, like extraordinary fruit bobbing in the water. Lulu says that the dolphins dove deep suddenly, and in their foamy wake, a ghostly white hand emerged, then another, then finally, the dark, wet head of a lady rose from the water. . . The lady did not speak, though it felt to Lulu as if she had marked me, claiming me for herself. The lady had lifted her arms and beckoned with a small flick of her wrists . . . Because she did not know what form of divinity she was dealing with, Lulu took no chances and named me Maria Sirena."

Barbara Hurd and "The Ear Is a Lonely Hunter"

June 14, 2019
Who doesn’t relish describing what she sees? Whether sketching a character, depicting a landscape, or writing poetry known as ekphrastic, creative writers lean heavily on sight as a conduit for rendering the world. In a fascinating departure, environmental writer Barbara Hurd has written a book about sound. Near her home in the mountains of western Maryland, she often visited the Savage River with her young granddaughter and found a rich new vein of inquiry there in what they heard. As Sierra magazine said of Hurd’s latest work, Listening to the Savage (2016):