UK Happenings

Prestigious Kentucky Women Writers Conference Goes Virtual for 2020, Will Feature Several Celebrated Black Writers

headshot photo of Evie Shockley by Nancy Crampton
Pulitzer Prize finalist and poet Evie Shockley to headline 2020 Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Photo by Nancy Crampton.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2020) For the first time in its 42-year history, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference will take place online to ensure the health of its participants and presenters amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference will go forward as scheduled Sept. 10-13 with headliner and celebrated poet Evie Shockley, but all readings, discussions and workshops will be presented virtually. 

Several prominent Black writers will be featured as part of the event. “Our organization has a long and proud history of lifting up the voices of Black women, from our first conference in 1979 with Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Toni Cade Bambara, to the establishment of The Sonia Sanchez Series in 2005 that brought revolutionary thinkers like Elaine Brown, dream Hampton and Sister Sonia herself more than once,” said Julie Wrinn, conference director.

“The September conference will be attuned especially to the truths that Black women speak, from Evie Shockley to poet and Wild Women of Poetry Slam headliner Mahogany Browne, memoirist Bridgett M. Davis and Lexington novelist Mariama Lockington," Wrinn said. "Our goal is to create a shared space where women are seen and respected in their fullness and complexity so that fearless work can emerge. These days of protest are the time for that fearless work.”

On July 8 at 7 p.m., WUKY-FM 91.3 will air a special preview episode of the conference, featuring interviews with five of its authors. The episode will air again 8 p.m. Sunday, July 12. From 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11, Shauna Morgan, director or Equity and Inclusion Initiatives at University of Kentucky Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, will teach a pre-conference creative writing workshop on the poetry of Evie Shockley. The workshop is titled “Renegade Poetics” and will take place on Zoom. Admission is free, but space is limited. For more information or to enroll, email or call 859-257-2874.

The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running event of its kind in the nation, and this will be the 42nd consecutive year it has been presented. By moving forward virtually, the conference’s board hopes the event will be able to continue “to encourage, lift up and excite women writers.”

Participants will have opportunities for interacting with esteemed authors and a New York literary agent, as well as networking time with publishers who may be interested in participants’ works. The virtual format will make this the most affordable and accessible event offered in the conference’s history.

As with all past years, conference workshops will be led by a host of acclaimed writers who are also gifted teachers, including Jami Attenberg, author of seven novels including “The Middlesteins” and “All This Could Be”; keynote speaker Evie Shockley, a professor at Rutgers University whose poetry collection, “semiautomatic,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Darcey Steinke, author of five novels and a new memoir, “Flash Count Diary,” among others.

Registration opens July 1 at

The Kentucky Women Writers Conference signature events will remain free and open to the public, including The Sonia Sanchez Series and the Wild Women of Poetry Slam.

The 42nd Kentucky Women Writers Conference is a program of the UK College of Arts and Sciences made possible with support from LexArts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, UK Libraries and individual donors.

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