A Message from the Director

July 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

The 42nd annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference has remained in its chrysalis longer than usual as we reimagined how it might look as a virtual event. We feel a responsibility to encourage, lift up, and inspire women writers, and we know that all of us need connection, role models, and great teaching. So I am thrilled to announce that today we are finally beginning online registration for KyWomenWriters2020 Virtual Edition, taking place on September 10–13, 2020 (NOT Sept. 17-20 as previously announced). For those intending to make submissions to our Betty Gabehart Prizes, the deadline was extended to July 1 (update: see p.s. below for announcement of winners).

On July 8 and 12, we aired a Kentucky Women Writers Radio Hour that you can listen to here. In it, we spoke to Jami Attenberg, Bridgett M. Davis, Erin Hosier, Mariama Lockington, and Darcey Steinke about their current projects and what they'll be doing at our conference.

On July 11, Dr. Shauna Morgan taught a free workshop on the poetry of Evie Shockley entitled "Renegade Poetry and Poetics: Exploring the poetry of Dr. Evie Shockley." Engaging the poetry of our keynote speaker, Evie Shockley, through the lens of what she has called “Renegade Poetics,” we will first explore the form and content of “risk-taking” poetry, and then we will generate our own poems approaching those aesthetics. Admission is free, but as of July 6 this workshop was sold out.

It’s understandable that many writers conferences around the country are cancelling, and we fully understand that online can never replicate the in-person experience of gathering with other writers. But our Board of Directors and I are nonetheless determined to make you feel welcomed and fully supported during our virtual conference, with opportunities for interacting with esteemed authors and networking with publishers who may be interested in your own work. Further, we promise a virtual conference that is not only excellent, but also the most affordable and accessible in our history.

We want to offer you this conference at a time when people are struggling yet still need the community and connection that women’s words provide. Because this year’s conference will be online, and because we know that some of you may be watching your expenses, we are reducing all admission fees. You’ll still find a range of options, including meetings with a New York literary agent and teacher-led workshops capped at no more than 12 participants.

We will hold our events using the Zoom platform. If you are unfamiliar with this easy-to-use online platform, we will forward you a guide to using Zoom, and there will be practice sessions offered before the event.

Thanks to support from the University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences, LexArts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, UK Libraries, and individual donors, our signature events are still free: the Sonia Sanchez Series, the Wild Women of Poetry Slam, and several others will be open for all.

Most of all, I want to thank you for your literary citizenship and your willingness to bring your words, ideas, and your friendship to this virtual gathering. We are as excited as ever about this year’s conference and look forward to seeing you with us online.


Julie Wrinn, director

p.s. This year’s Betty Gabehart Prize winners in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are to be commended for not letting the many crises of 2020 prevent them from submitting beautiful and serious work that wowed the judges on our Board of Directors. Without further ado, I extend my heartiest congratulations to:

  • Marci Cornett of Morehead, Kentucky, for the short story, “The Black Veil”
  • Amanda Hawkins of Woodland, California, for “Ars Poetica” and other poems
  • Lisa Kent of Columbia, Missouri, for the essay “Death, Rock Me to Sleep”
  • Honorable mention in fiction goes to Katie MacDougall of Nashville for “Howling Baby Arch.”
  • Honorable mentions in poetry go to Linda Bryant of Berea for “An Artist Knows” and other poems; and Nancy Cook of St. Paul, Minnesota, for “Daphne, Reincarnate.”

Each winner receives a $300 honorarium, full tuition support to attend the conference and enroll in a small-group workshop, and the opportunity to give a reading during the conference paired with another featured presenter. The contest is open to women writers everywhere and is judged blindly by our Board of Directors.

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