This was originally posted on the Broad Blog at Broads United.
When I’m talking to non-Kentuckians, especially those with biased views toward our great state, I make it a point to bring up our untold wealth of writers and artists. I tell them what Gurney Norman told me years ago: that we are the heart of another great American Renaissance. I’m sure it comes off a little dramatic since I have that natural tendency, but I believe this to be true: there is no place in our great nation that produces better writers than the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Eyebrow raises and scoffs (some audible, some swallowed) tend to follow my grand assertions about Kentucky that don’t involve fried chicken, moonshine stills, banjo pickin’, or the Kentucky Derby. I’m sure a few eyes get rolled behind my back, too. But some folks out there are ready to lean in and listen, to open up and discover this wide variety of voices we call out with across the pages, the airwaves, the movie screens, the stages; these voices translated from our native tongue to others’ all across the globe.
We Kentucky writers are more than a group of individuals who come together once in a while to shake hands and politely clap after a reading. It’s a strong community that holds each other up and close, building relationships that allow writers and readers of all ages to just talk like regular folks with people who’ve achieved great literary successes.
Where else in this country can you find yourself in a room full of writers who’ve been New York times bestsellers, National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize finalists, Kentucky Poet Laureates, Oprah’s Book Club authors, and writers with works so engaging that they’ve been on the silver screen or had lunch with President Obama—all chatting away like old friends and parting ways with real hugs? We Kentucky writers are more than just a community; we’re a wide and weird chosen family, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Two weeks ago in Danville, our current Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, said to a crowd of creatives about how we need to shift the way we talk about our state on a national stage: “We’ve been talking about distilleries, basketball, and horses. We should be talking about us.”
With this series, I’m heeding Frank’s call. We’re gonna be talking about us, the women who steal time away from the rest of our lives to huddle over scratches on a page or a backlit keyboard to perform linguistic alchemy.
From Pine Mountain to the New Madrid Fault and every pocket of beautiful land in between, I’ll be talking with you each month on our Broadcast and in the Broad Blog about one of the many, many Kick-Ass Kentucky Women Writers you should know and love.
Until the next time, here are some things to keep you busy…
- Read Kentucky Tourism’s list of Famous Kentucky Writers and Journalists.
- Consider signing up for the longest-running conference of its type in the nation, the Kentucky Women’s Writing Conference.
- Pay a visit to the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, who venerates the bygone writers, celebrates our living writers, and then elevates the next generation of writers to come. Pick up a free book while you’re there.
- Peruse the work currently being funded by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and Kentucky Arts Council. Then go out and show your support for all those women artists.