Celebrated Essayist, Actor Elena Passarello to Present at Kentucky Women Writers Conference

By Whitney Hale

Actor, writer and recipient of the 2016 Whiting Award Elena Passarello will be one of the featured presenters at the 2017 Kentucky Women Writers Conference running Sept. 15-16, in Lexington. In celebration of her upcoming appearance, the conference will also present a Pre-Conference Essay Workshop on Passarello’s work July 15, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

Earlier this year, Elena Passarello’s second essay collection, “Animals Strike Curious Poses,” was reviewed in The New York Times by Helen MacDonald, author of “H Is for Hawk,” who wrote, "I’ve spent decades reading books on the roles animals play in human cultures, but none have ever made me think, and feel, as much as this one. It’s a devastating meditation on our relationship to the natural world. It might be the best book on animals I’ve ever read. It’s also the only one that’s made me laugh out loud."

Passarello first popped on the literary radar with her debut collection, “Let Me Clear My Throat,” which won the gold medal for nonfiction at the 2013 Independent Publisher Awards and was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Award. Her essays on performance, pop culture and the natural world have earned the writer quite a following and have been published in Oxford American, Slate, Creative Nonfiction and The Iowa Review, among other publications, as well as in the 2015 anthologies “Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong” and “After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essay.”

On the stage, Passarello has performed in several regional theaters in the East and Midwest, originating roles in the premieres of Christopher Durang’s “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” and David Turkel’s “Wild Signs and Holler.” In 2011, she became the first woman to win the annual Stella Screaming Contest in New Orleans. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon, and teaches at Oregon State University. Her website and blog are at www.elenapassarello.com.

Members of Kentucky’s writing scene might also recognize Passarello’s work. She has served as a faculty mentor in the low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Murray State University. In addition, both of her essay collections were published by Sarabande Books of Louisville.

As part of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference in the fall, Passarello will teach a two-day nonfiction workshop titled, “The Old Collage Try.” A collage essay uses vivid images and quick cuts to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments, rather than in one specific narrative line. Inspired by visual art and film, collage storytelling is an inspiring way to supercharge one’s writing. Participants of this workshop are encouraged to bring their notebooks to this program, as it will be very hands-on and outline the basics of reading, responding to, and — most importantly — writing one’s own prose collages. The Passarello workshop will run 2-4:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16, at the Carnegie Center.

Passarello will also give a reading at the conference and participate in a panel discussion, with memoirist Jessica Handler, on research in writing for general audiences. The reading will begin 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept 15, at the Carnegie Center.

Only Kentucky Women Writers Conference registrants will be able to participate in the reading and collage essay workshop presented by Passarello. To register visit: http://womenwriters.as.uky.edu/register.

Later this week, locals will have an opportunity to experience Passarello’s work as part of a Pre-Conference Essay Workshop, led by conference director Julie Wrinn and University of Kentucky MFA student Neleigh Olson. This workshop will run 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at the Carnegie Center. While free and open to the public, enrollment is limited for the July essay workshop. Individuals interested in attending should reserve a spot by emailing kentuckywomenwriters@gmail.com.

Now in its 39th year, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference is an annual event known for bringing notable women writers to Lexington for readings, writing workshops and discussions. A program housed in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, the conference is made possible in part by continued community partnerships, including its primary venue, the Carnegie Center. Registration for this conference is currently open.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue


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