Kentucky Women Writers Conference Goes Virtual for 2020

By Whitney Hale

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. 17-20 with headliner and celebrated poet Evie Shockley. 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 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 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. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11, Shauna Morgan, director of Equity and Inclusion Initiatives at University of Kentucky Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, will teach a preconference creative writing workshop on the poetry of 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.

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 past years, conference workshops will be led by acclaimed writers who are also gifted teachers, including Jami Attenberg, author of seven novels including “The Middlesteins” and “All This Could Be”; keynote speaker 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 WomenUK Libraries and individual donors.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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