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University Press of Kentucky authors to be inducted into 2024 Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame

2024 Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame
Clark & Johnson

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2024) — Billy C. Clark, whose autobiography was considered by Time magazine to be “as authentically American as 'Huckleberry Finn'”; Fenton Johnson, who wrote the first major work of fiction about the impact of the AIDS crisis on rural America; and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, whose novel "Come and Go, Molly Snow" is a classic Kentucky story, are this year’s University Press of Kentucky inductees into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. These notable authors will join the 28 other University Press of Kentucky authors who have already been inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St., with a book signing to follow. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and no registration is required.

The Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame was created by the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in 2012 to celebrate the state’s rich literary heritage and recognize outstanding authors, poets, writers and journalists with strong ties to Kentucky. Members of the Hall of Fame are chosen by committees at the Carnegie Center and the Kentucky Arts Council.

Billy C. Clark

Award-winning author of thirteen books, Billy C. Clark (1928–2009) penned memoir, fiction and poetry about his life and river culture along the Kentucky-West Virginia border. After enlisting in the Army and working various blue collar jobs, Clark graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1967 and spent the next 18 years as a teacher and writer-in-residence at what was then known as UK’s Somerset Community College. In "Miss America Kissed Caleb," Clark weaves together small-town Kentucky yarns of young brothers, a suspected witch and other townsfolk to create a collection that is at turns heartbreaking and hilarious.

Fenton Johnson

Prose writer, essayist and journalist Fenton Johnson was born the youngest of nine children into a Kentucky bourbon-making family that held a deep appreciation for life and creating beauty. As a child, he was an insatiable reader, and growing up in the storytelling culture of rural Kentucky made for an easy transition from reader to writer. 

Johnson has taught creative writing at many colleges and universities, including the University of Arizona and the low-residency MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, and has written for Harper’s and the New York Times Magazine.

Three of Johnson’s novels have been published by the University Press of Kentucky. An eloquent meditation on devotion, family and loss, "Scissors, Paper, Rock" chronicles the experience of a young man with AIDS who comes home to Kentucky from San Francisco to help his dying father, then must face his own mortality in the era before effective anti-viral drugs. Heartfelt and shrewdly humorous, "Crossing the River" is an affecting look at one headstrong woman’s reawakening and her rebellious son’s coming of age in the U.S. heartland. In "The Man Who Loved Birds," Johnson pulls from the real-life state police kidnapping and murder of a legendary storyteller and petty criminal to navigate the eternal conflicts between free will and destiny, politics and nature, the power of law, and the power of love.

Mary Ann Taylor-Hall

Mary Ann Taylor-Hall has produced two novels, a book of short stories and three volumes of poetry, and her work has been featured in the Paris Review, the Sewanee Review, and the Kenyon Review. She taught at Auburn University, Miami of Ohio and the University of Puerto Rico before coming to the University of Kentucky in 1977 and settling into what she described as a “tar-paper shack” along the Harrison-Scott County line.

Inspired by the people and landscape of the Commonwealth, Taylor-Hall’s highly acclaimed first novel, Come and Go, Molly Snow, was reissued in paperback by the University Press of Kentucky. It introduces readers to the fictional Carrie Marie Mullins, a gifted Kentucky Bluegrass fiddler and singer whose grief and guilt over the death of her five-year-old daughter evolves into a masterful exploration of friendship and the healing power of music. Also published by the Press, Taylor-Hall’s "At The Breakers" is a deeply felt and beautifully written novel about forgiveness and reconciliation that follows a longtime single mother of four as she rebuilds her life after fleeing an abusive relationship.

Paul Brett Johnson

Children’s book author and illustrator Paul Brett Johnson (1947-2011) wrote and illustrated more than 20 books and illustrated many more by other noted authors, including Hall of Fame writers James Still, "An Appalachian Mother Goose," and George Ella Lyon, "A Traveling Cat." Johnson’s books earned the California Young Reader Medal and the North Carolina Junior Book Award, as well as honors from Smithsonian magazine and the Kentucky Association of School Librarians.

Biographies, bibliographies and photos of all new Hall of Fame inductees, as well as past inductees, can be found on the Carnegie Center website.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.