Virtual Women Writers Conference Goes Online in September

By Whitney Hale

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 20, 2020) — The Kentucky Women Writers Conference – Virtual Edition runs Sept. 10–13, 2020, and is taking place entirely online.

Julie Wrinn, conference directory, recently wrote an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader about how this event will be different in the context of the pandemic and the protests.The conference features writing workshops, readings and panel discussions. General admission is $25, with options for joining a small-group workshop or meeting with an agent for additional fees.

The conference will continue to include several signature free events, taking place at 7 o'clock, though each will look a little different this year. The conference keynote, "An Evening with Evie Shockley," is made possible by University of Kentucky Libraries and is taking place on the first night of the conference, Sept. 10. 

Shockley is a professor of English at Rutgers University and the author of three books of poetry: "semiautomatic" (Wesleyan, 2017), which won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the LA Times Book Prize; "the new black" (Wesleyan, 2011), winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry; and "a half-red sea" (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). In 2019, she was named winner of the Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. Shockley’s reading begins at 7 p.m.

The Wild Women of Poetry Showcase is taking place Saturday night but is changing from a competitive format this year.

“Even though it is possible to hold poetry slams online, we felt that the fishbowl environment of being judged onscreen without the enthusiastic crowd dynamic of our in-person slams would make this event less satisfying in a competitive format,” Wrinn said. 

The showcase headliner will be the poet Mahogany Browne, its emcee will be Affrilachian poet Ellen Hagan, and its performers will include eight young female poets from Kentucky and around the country. Honoraria in memory of Faith A. Smith, the mother of UK professor and former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, will be awarded to each of the eight performers. To sign up for the open mike segment (7-7:30 p.m.), email

The Stars of the Commonwealth reading, which highlights writers with Kentucky ties, will feature readings by Carrie GreenMariama Lockington and Claudia Love Mair, with introductions and a discussion led by the conference's Board of Directors Vice President Ashley Sipple-McGraw. Instead of its usual morning slot, this reading will take place 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.

“Some may have noticed that we moved the conference to a different weekend than originally announced," Wrinn said. "This was owing to a conflict with the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Our organization has a long and proud history of celebrating and encouraging all women’s voices, including Jewish women’s. It is because of our commitment to these values that I am especially sorry that our original dates were not welcoming and inclusive of our Jewish colleagues and friends. The Board of Directors and I pledge to avoid conflicts with religious holidays in the future.”

A joint program of the UK College of Arts and Sciences and Kentucky Women Writers Conference Inc., the conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Registration opened July 1, and free events also require registration. To register or for more information on the conference, visit online at or phone 859-257-2874.

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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