Jane Alison, Ashlee Clark Thompson, and Alice Speilburg

August 30, 2019
Dear Friends,
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! After two divorces and two weddings, Jane and her sister gained two stepsisters. Not to put too fine a point on it, their relationships were fraught. Jane also has a new craft book that I’m eager to get my hands on, entitled Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative.
Our Stars of the Commonwealth reading is like the last minute of the fireworks display, and this year is no exception. At Stars we feature authors with Kentucky ties, and one of them will be Ashlee Clark Thompson. Culture Editor at Louisville Public Media, Ashlee is favorite food writer on the Louisville scene and has written the definitive guide to Louisville Diners (History Press, 2015). She also hosts the Moth StorySlam competition and is president of the board at Louisville Literary Arts, which produces the Writers Block Party each November, among many other programs. Ashlee is working on a memoir-in-essays about the relationships between Black women and their hair, their mothers, and societal beauty standards. She'll read from her essay “American Girl,” “about the only Black doll I ever had with natural, un-straightened hair,” she said. As someone who tirelessly experimented with all of my dolls’ hair growing up, I need to hear this essay.
            Finally, a reminder that another Louisvillian, Alice Speilburg, will bring her expertise as a literary agent for two talks at our conference: 1) First page Critiques: How to Write the Opening That Publishing Pros Want to Read; and 2) Representationship: Manager, Editor, Therapist—What to Expect from a Literary Agent. Alice is also holding one-on-one manuscript meetings for an additional fee, and she has several slots still available. If you are already registered and would like to add that option, just reply to this email. If you haven’t registered yet and would like to enroll in a meeting with Alice, you can do so at the link below, making sure to check that option on the online form. As always, if you experience glitches, just send me an email and we’ll get you enrolled somehow.
Yours truly,
Julie Wrinn, director
P.S. If you missed Jan Isenhour's guest column last week giving a behind-the-scenes look at the early days of the conference, you can find that on my blog here.