Julie Wrinn's blog

Bridgett M. Davis, Jamey Temple, and the Betty Gabehart Prizes

April 24, 2020
I was driving Mary Gaitskill to the airport after KyWomenWriters2018 when she mentioned her new favorite author. A nervous person whose heightened sensitivities seem linked to a deep empathy for the flawed characters of her fiction, Mary was visibly uncomfortable in my old car. When the mysterious thumping noise in the dashboard began, always triggered by turning off the AC, Mary asked, “What is that noise?” “I wish I knew,” I replied. It was a short drive from her hotel to the Bluegrass Airport, and we didn’t have time to say much, but Mary especially wanted me to know her most ardent author recommendation for a future conference: Bridgett M. Davis.

Encouragement from John Keats and Jami Attenberg

April 4, 2020
Uncertainty is a fact of life, but I’m not sure it has governed our day-to-day existence to this degree in my lifetime. It’s strange and scary not knowing what the next three, six, or nine months will look like. Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, notes in his heroic daily press conferences that our uncertainty pales in comparison to World War II, where no one knew how long the war would last. We know there will be a vaccine for the coronavirus in 12 to 18 months, and that normal life will return by then or sooner. But that doesn’t make it any easier to imagine what will happen in the meantime.

Hunkering Down

March 20, 2020
When you wake up in the morning, how long does it take you to remember COVID-19? It was a gorgeous first day of spring here in the bluegrass, but honestly, I am struggling to strike a reassuring note. Each new cancellation and closure has brought fresh pain for our community of writers—“the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”—so many of whom are part of the gig economy. Kentucky Women Writers is enriched by many older voices, the population most at risk, and we are worried about how you are faring.

Gabehart, Hindman, Bayeza, Majok, Gatwood, Link, Morris

March 6, 2020
I remember the days when book reviews were a staple of local newspapers, written by journalists whose taste I knew and trusted. Books are still being reviewed in national publications, of course, but I miss the local voices. Now more than ever, amidst the bombardment of a 24/7 news cycle that seems to drown out everything else, critics play a crucial role in helping readers find books that are meaningful to them. Since 1975 the National Book Critics Circle has adjudicated book awards in 6 categories, the only national awards determined by critics and reviewers themselves. This year, they've nominated one of our own.

Evie Shockley & Mary Oliver

January 20, 2020
Recently my thoughts have been full of poems by Evie Shockley and Mary Oliver. Paths to becoming an acclaimed poet are sometimes mysterious, but usually there are early signs of a fierce intellect. Evie Shockley came to poetry after earning a law degree at the University of Michigan, practicing environmental law at a Chicago firm, and departing to earn a Ph.D. in English at Duke. Along the way she wrote poetry, and her third collection, semiautomatic (2017), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Shockley, I’m thrilled to announce, will be the keynote speaker at our September conference, and you can read more about her in our press release.

Verble, Daum, Driskell; year-end giving

December 20, 2019
I was delighted to see two of our past presenters making the New York Times’s list of 100 Notable Books of 2019: Margaret Verble for her novel Cherokee America, and Meghan Daum for her essay collection The Problem with Everything. Congratulations to them and also to past presenter Kathleen Driskell, a Louisvillian who was just elected president of the Board of AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs), which is kind of like being elected President of Creative Writing. Kathleen is a wonderful poet, teacher, and leader who is sure to move the organization forward in its many programs that nourish writers.

Board membership; Katy Yocom's new book

December 5, 2019
If you are a Kentucky resident looking for ways to positively impact the literary community, you might consider joining our board. Now is the season when we recruit new members, and you can nominate yourself or a friend at this link: https://womenwriters.as.uky.edu/nominate-board-member. Board members are patrons and volunteers who:

Sapphire Heights Opening Night!

November 7, 2019
Live theater is the most ancient of arts, and in a world awash with screens, we need more than ever to share time and space with actors and audience for a singular storytelling experience. That’s what you’ll find tonight and through Saturday, Nov. 9, at our world premiere production of Sapphire Heights. Sapphire Heights takes place in a London council flat, where newlyweds Billy and Angela are working on a plan to improve the lives of a group of Palestinian families, whom Billy befriended on a trip to the West Bank. Needing financial backing, the young couple decides to solicit Angela’s wealthy parents for the money but are forced to deal with the older couples’ old fashioned opinions and narrow world view. Over an afternoon in the tiny distressed flat and fueled by alcohol, political dissonance, and glaring incompatibility, the two couples’ secrets begin to reveal themselves.

Sqecial Media, Agnes Varda, Nicole Chung's cover design

September 6, 2019
Last year we welcomed a new sponsorship from one of my favorite stores in Lexington, Sqecial Media, and we’re grateful for their support again this year. Sqecial Media’s tagline is “books and curiosities," and this 2nd-floor treasure trove at 371 South Limestone does not disappoint: shelves upon shelves of silver jewelry, scarves, mobiles, paper lanterns, artisan greeting cards, candles, incense, soaps, and tobacco accessories. Sqecial Media is also the curator of one of Lexington’s coolest festivals, the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival, and lucky for KyWomenWriters audiences, this year they are highlighting the work of the French feminist new wave director Agnes Varda. One of Varda’s best known works is Cleo from 5 to 7, a 1961 film that screens at the Kentucky Theatre on the night before our conference opens, Wed., Sept. 18, 7 p.m., at the Kentucky Theatre. Read more about that and other films in the series here.

Jane Alison, Ashlee Clark Thompson, and Alice Speilburg

August 30, 2019
You may have noticed Darcey Steinke’s photo quietly disappearing from our website and Facebook page recently, and I’m sorry to say that it’s because she is unable to join us. Due to a back condition that will require surgery, Darcey had to cancel, and we hope to bring her in a future year. I was lucky to find an awesome replacement in Jane Alison, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. Jane will give a reading from her nonfiction novel, Nine Island, which “dramatizes the social invisibility of women who live alone past a certain age” (Alix Ohlin, New York Times), and she’ll also read from her memoir, The Sisters Antipodes. The latter is an example of fact being stranger than fiction: during her childhood, Jane’s Australian-diplomat parents bonded with another married couple who were U.S. diplomats, and the two couples ended up changing partners. Since we’re a women writers conference, I won’t say that the husbands traded wives, but rather, that the wives traded husbands!