Women Writers Conference

Women Writers Conference

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The Kentucky Women Writers Conference had its beginnings in 1979 as a celebration of women writers at the University of Kentucky
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky, also known as UK, is a public co-educational university and is one of the state's two land-grant universities, located in Lexington, Kentucky...

. That first year featured Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is an American author and poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly...

, Toni Cade Bambara
Toni Cade Bambara
Toni Cade Bambara, born Miltona Mirkin Cade was an African-American author, documentary film-maker, social activist and college professor.- Biography :...

, Ruth Stone
Ruth Stone
Ruth Stone was an American poet, author, and teacher.-Life and career:In 1959, after her husband, professor Walter Stone, committed suicide, she was forced to raise three daughters alone...

, Alice Walker
Alice Walker
Alice Malsenior Walker is an American author, poet, and activist. She has written both fiction and essays about race and gender...

, and Ruth Whitman
Ruth Whitman
Ruth Whitman was an American poet, translator, and professor. Her eighth and last book is Hatshepshut, Speak to me , and her most well-known and well-regarded is Tamsen Donner: A Woman’s Journey...

. Since then, it has become the longest-running annual festival of women writers in the nation, showcasing the talents and issues addressed by established and emerging authors.

UK History faculty Nancy Dye had suggested using surplus funds from Undergraduate Studies to bring women writers to campus. UK English faculty Linda Pannill formulated the idea of an annual event called the University of Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Pannill and a 16-member committee from the departments of English, Honors, Undergraduate Studies, and Special Collections, along with members of the Lexington community, produced the conference. In 1984–1985 the conference was directed by UK English faculty Jane Gentry Vance, who later served as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate.

In 1985–1993, the conference was affiliated with Continuing Education for Women/University Extension and directed by Betty Gabehart. As the conference’s longest-running director, Gabehart made significant contributions to its enduring legacy and stability, establishing much of the reputation it enjoys today. In 1994–1996, the conference was affiliated with the Women's Studies Program and directed by Jan Oaks, faculty in English and Gender and Women’s Studies. In 1997, former Conference assistant Patti DeYoung served as director.

In 1998 the conference lost university funding when it was unable to find a sponsoring department, and its advisory board established itself as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its new home became the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in downtown Lexington, and it was renamed the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Its director during those years, 1998–2002, was Jan Isenhour, also director of the Carnegie Center, and its work was carried out by a volunteer board.

In 2002 President Lee Todd reinstated support for the conference to demonstrate the university’s commitment to women’s programming and community events. Since then, the Conference leadership has continued cultivating wide community support through many partnerships and the committed efforts of its board and volunteers. UK provides staff salaries, office space, and the majority of KWWC’s operating expenses. Financial support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women
Kentucky Foundation for Women
The Kentucky Foundation for Women promotes feminist art and social justice by awarding grants to individual artists and organizations, providing time and space for artists and activists at its retreat center, sharing information, and building alliances....

, LexArts, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Humanities Council
Kentucky Humanities Council
The Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. The Council is supported by the National Endowment and by private contributions. It is not a state agency, and receives no state funds. The group performs...

, businesses, and individual patrons remains critical to our ability to attract writers of the highest caliber.

Directors since then have been Brenda Weber (2003) and Rebecca Gayle Howell (2004–06). Howell launched several free community events that have become signature offerings of the conference, including the Gypsy Slam, the Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books...

Series, and the Hardwick/Jones keynote reading on mentorship and collaboration. In 2007, Julie Kuzneski Wrinn became Conference director

32nd annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Sept. 10-12, 2010 in Lexington. Diane Ackerman, Heather Sellers, Patricia Smith, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, and Valerie Wilson Wesley and 5 others lead writing workshops, readings, and discussions. $150 for 2 days, $80 for one day, $25 student rate, with free events all 3 nights.

The 33rd annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Sept. 15-17 in Lexington. Keynote Speaker, Francine Prose. Workshops and craft talks with poets Lynnell Edwards, Krista Franklin, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Susan Stewart, fiction writers Tananarive Due, Francine Prose, and Danzy Senna, and creative nonfiction writer Kim Dana Kupperman. $175 for two days, $90 for one day, with student rate of $30.