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Queen of Modern Day Memoirs Mary Karr to Headline Women Writers Conference

By Whitney Hale

(Jan. 11, 2016) — Since her reign at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 1995 for "The Liars' Club," writer Mary Karr has been credited with launching a memoir revolution. Karr will give insight into her art as the keynote speaker of the 2016 Kentucky Women Writers Conference, running Sept. 16-17. Karr's keynote address, beginning 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at the University of Kentucky, is made possible by ongoing generous support from UK Libraries. The event is free and open to the public.

"Mary Karr is as riveting a storyteller in person as she is on the page," said conference Director Julie Kuzneski Wrinn. "Her most recent book, 'The Art of Memoir,' grants her a new degree of authority not only as a brilliant practitioner but also as an inspired teacher of autobiographical writing. Karr's conversion to Catholicism is vividly recounted in 'Lit,' and her keynote will include remarks on creativity and spirituality."

Karr’s first memoir, "The Liars' Club," chronicled her hard childhood growing up in Texas amidst a family of eccentric misfits and their extravagant fights, secrets and alcoholism. The book won nonfiction prizes from PEN (the Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction) and the Texas Institute of Letters, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. "The Liars' Club" rode high on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year, becoming an annual "best book" there and for The New Yorker, People and Time.

Karr continued to strike gold with memoirs. "Cherry," her coming-of-age memoir, also hit bestseller and "notable book" lists at the New York Times and dozens of other papers nationwide. Her most recent book in this autobiographical series, "Lit," a story of her alcoholism, recovery and conversion to Catholicism, received rave reviews across the country and was also an immediate best-seller, having hit the New York Times, Independent Booksellers, San Francisco and Boston Globe best-seller lists.

The Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University, Karr released "The Art of the Memoir" in 2015. Using excerpts from her own work and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experiences, the writer/educator shares her process and knowledge of the form.

Outside of memoirs, Karr is a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays, as well as several grants, including the Whiting Award and Radcliffe's Bunting Fellowship. Her four volumes of poetry are "Sinners Welcome," "Viper Rum," "The Devil's Tour" and "Abacus."

The 38th annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference, will take place Sept. 16–17, 2016, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and other Lexington venues. A program of the UK College of Arts and Sciences, the conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Registration opens May 1.

For more information on the conference, visit online at