Clark Medallion Event featuring Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape

Topophilia, the love of place, is what drives Richard Taylor. Through his love of Elkhorn Creek and his gift of storytelling, Taylor’s new release, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, presents readers with a powerful picture of a location that has impacted so many with its natural beauty. Filled with photographs, illustrations, and vignettes detailing this creek and its surrounding wonders, Taylor’s book gives readers a sense of why there is such a pull to this majestic landscape. 

Elkhorn is the 2018 winner of the Thomas D. Clark Medallion. The Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit established in 1994. The medallion is presented annually to a book highlighting the state of Kentucky’s history and culture.

In honor of Taylor and his new release, an award presentation, reception, and book signing will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday, September 26 in the River Room at the Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort. The event will be hosted by Kentucky Humanities, Nana Lampton, the Paul Sawyier Public Library, and the Thomas  D. Clark Foundation.

Taylor_TrueFinal_Medallion“Count among the Elkhorn’s fans white-water enthusiasts who mount kayaks on their roof racks and often drive considerable distances to glide along its rough-edged spine. Or the fishermen who wade into sun-lucent pools as they might approach a spiritual or religious experience. And the rest of us, near and far, who love nearly pristine places, land that hasn’t been subdivided into suburban citadels with a few acres of tamed lawns or converted into cultivated fields that productively but monotonously generate nicotine or a single food crop to the impoverishment of nature and local soils,” Taylor writes in Elkhorn.

The Clark Medallion event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click here for more information.

 

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Q&A with Maryjean Wall, author of Madam Belle

WallCompF.inddIn this revealing book, Maryjean Wall offers a tantalizing true story of vice and power in the Gilded Age South, as told through the life and times of the notorious Miss Belle. After years on the streets and working for Hill, Belle Brezing borrowed enough money to set up her own establishment—her wealth and fame growing alongside the booming popularity of horse racing. Soon, her houses were known internationally, and powerful patrons from the industrial cities of the Northeast courted her in the lavish parlors of her gilt-and-mirror mansion.

Join the Kentucky Book Group on Thursday, September 20th from 6:30-7:30 at the Paul Sawyier Public Library for a riveting and engaging discussion on MADAM BELLE.

 

How did you first become acquainted with the story of Belle Brezing?

Soon after I moved to Lexington in the mid-1960s, I began to hear about Belle Brezing and the infamous mansion for men she had operated near downtown. She had been dead only twenty-some years and many people recalled her presence in this city. If you mentioned Belle’s name, people knew of whom you spoke. William H. Townsend, a Lexington attorney and historian, published a seven-page pamphlet in 1966 titled, “The Most Orderly of Disorderly Houses” and this pamphlet undoubtedly kept the legend going. Who wouldn’t have been interested in knowing more about this woman who ran a famous house of ill repute and was the prototype for the madam in Gone with the Wind? The mystery and mystique of Belle inspired me to explore further.

Belle was a businesswoman ahead of her time. Despite it being a brothel, what particular challenges did she face establishing and maintaining her own business?

She faced gender and poverty issues. In the beginning as a 15-year-old, when she’d already had a baby, seen her mother die, and been evicted by her mother’s landlord, Belle faced a grim future. She had a bad reputation in this city and probably was not going to get a job in a decent establishment. Or, perhaps she did not want to support herself in that traditional fashion. She turned to prostitution. But she did work her way up the financial ladder. It’s an amazing story.

The gender issues she faced were the same that all women faced in the 1880s, the 1890s and the early twentieth century. Women did not even have the vote yet. They could not exercise public power. Most women occupied the domestic sphere, raising families, and maintaining a home for their husbands. Belle chose to handle gender issues in non-traditional fashion. She worked disadvantages to her own advantage, improving her position in this community until she owned property, was wealthy, and operated at the city’s center of power.

What role did Lexington play in enabling Belle to develop her business as successfully as she did?

Lexington was a city of its time, embracing the 1890s notion that prostitution—called “a necessary evil” at the time—was best handled by segregating prostitutes into a red-light district. Any madam running prostitutes in her house was complicit in the corruption pervasive among city authorities. Also, Kentucky’s rising horse industry during the post-Civil War decades enabled Belle’s rise to power and fame, just as Belle’s identity as a southern belle played a role in crafting a most advantageous southern identity for Kentucky and its horse industry.

Bobbie Ann Mason’s Patchwork Promotional Tour

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As the visitors at yesterday’s book signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers can attest, a reading with Bobbie Ann Mason is more than a literary event. It’s an engaging, entertaining, and intimate talk filled with illuminating stories and anecdotes about the author, her life, and her work.

Bobbie Ann Mason signed copies of her new release, Patchwork: A Reader. She also read some of her short stories (“Charger” and “Car Wash”), spoke of her favorite characters (Nancy Culpepper and Sam from In Country), and shared several funny narratives, including how she had a teenage obsession with the Hilltoppers. Mason was such an admirer, in fact, that she started a fan club, and she and her mom would travel to their concerts. At one point, her mom had the band over for a catfish dinner!

Mason is about to hit the road for her North Carolina promotional tour and has several upcoming events scheduled the week of September 24. Check out the dates below and don’t miss the opportunity to spend an evening with this phenomenal scripturient!

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Patchwork North Carolina Promotional Tour

Monday, September 24, 6 pm at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC

Tuesday, September 25, 7 pm at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC

Thursday, September 27, 5:30 pm at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC

Friday, September 28, 6 pm at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC

Saturday, September 29, 11 am at McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, NC

 

 

Kentucky Novelist, UK Professor Enjoys Sweet Peach of a Summer

“Another sweaty summer presents itself like a gift. Sun is a peach outside the window, grass all calmed down.”

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University Press of Kentucky author Crystal Wilkinson has had a summer of gold. From her novel, The Birds of Opulencebeing named the winner of the 2016 Appalachian Writers Association‘s Appalachian Book of the Year for Fiction to Wilkinson herself being appointed as the 2018 Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Murray State University, Wilkinson has spent the hot summer months earning both professional and personal honors.

Birds follows four generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with—and sometimes surrender to—madness. The book hones in on the hopeful and sometimes tragic navigation of life as seen through the eyes of the Goode-Brown family. This marks the fourth award The Birds of Opulence has won, including the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, the Weatherford Award for Fiction, and the Judy Gaines Young Book Award. Wilkinson’s novel was also named the debut selection of the Open Canon Book Club, which was created by New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash to introduce readers to varied voices and portrayals of the American experience.

Birds is not the only one of Wilkinson’s books that has gotten attention this summer. Her second short story collection, Water Street, has been selected as the One Book Read at West Kentucky Community and Technical College. The program is a community-wide effort to help eliminate illiteracy in the region, with faculty and staff at WKCTC collaborating with many local and college partners to promote reading.

WATER STREET

Wilkinson’s work has earned her personal honors as well. The Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Committee and the West Virginia Center for the Book selected her for the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award. Previous recipients include Henry Louis Gates, Charles Frazier, Frank X Walker, Denise Giardina, and Silas House. In conjunction with the award, she will be the One Book, One West Virginia Author for 2019, and Water Street will be read by students across the state.

In addition, Wilkinson has gained speaker representation from Authors Unbound, which will broker her events in the form of literary engagements, one book programs, distinguished lectures, keynote appearances, community visits, and a variety of signature events.

Pictured at the top is Wilkinson sitting on a book bench designed by Bowling Green artist Lora Gill. Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors is a public art project that features book-shaped benches, each themed around a different work by a Kentucky author, that have been placed around Lexington as a way to encourage reading. Wilkinson’s bench will be installed along South Limestone Street in front of the University Press of Kentucky office in November.

To top it off, Wilkinson accepted a new position as Associate Professor of English in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at the University of Kentucky. Further information on Crystal Wilkinson, her books, and her upcoming events can be found on her new author website: https://www.crystalewilkinson.net/.

From all of us at Kentucky Press, congratulations on a wonderful summer, Crystal!

Meet the Press: Patrick O’Dowd, Acquisitions Editor

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Name: Patrick O’Dowd
Position: Acquisitions Editor
Hometown: Lexington, KY
Alma Mater: University of Kentucky

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Tell us a little bit about your position at the press.

I am one of UPK’s three acquiring editors. Most of my acquiring efforts are focused on regional titles, fiction, and poetry.

What’s one of your favorite UPK titles and why?

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson. It is a beautiful story by an amazing writer/human.

If someone was visiting Kentucky for the first time and you were their tour guide, where would you take them? Any specific restaurants, landmarks, etc.?

County Club

What’s your favorite word?

According to my fiancée: gorgeous.

Do you have a favorite font? If so, what is it? 

I have many strong opinions but not on fonts.

Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing? When you were a kid, did you want to do something different as an adult?

Farmer, chef, race car driver. There was a certain process of elimination, but publishing is where I belong.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? What’s a random factoid about yourself?

I’m the biggest Formula 1 fan in Kentucky.

If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?

Leslie Knope.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee. Yes! It’s a well told story.

If you could have dinner with any three people—dead or alive, famous or not—who would it be?

Anthony Bourdain, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama

Meet the Press: Tasha Huber, Assistant to the Director

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Name: Tasha Huber
Position: Assistant to the Director
Hometown: Utica, Ohio
Alma mater(s); major(s), minor(s): University of Kentucky; B.A. in English, Communication minor

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Tell us a little bit about your position at the press.

As the assistant to the director, I do a variety of things at the press. I draft various letters and grant proposals. I help manage the director’s book projects and communicate with authors and community partners. I coordinate the editorial board and press committee meetings that happen four times a year. I also help coordinate our Thomas D. Clark Foundation meetings and work closely with the foundation members. Additionally, I work closely with our acquisitions staff to keep up-to-date on the book projects they are working on.

One of the things I enjoy most about my position is the work I do with our growing internship program. I helped create a group dedicated to the advancement of the program, and we meet monthly to discuss ways to give our interns a more meaningful experience. As a former intern at the press, I like to work with students and help them gain experience and knowledge in scholarly publishing.

What’s one of your favorite UPK titles and why?

Patchwork by Bobbie Ann Mason—it was the first project that I worked on when I became a full-time staff member at the press. I’ve spent a lot of time with the book!

If someone was visiting Kentucky for the first time and you were their tour guide, where would you take them? Any specific restaurants, landmarks, etc.?

I’m not a native Kentuckian, so I feel a little unqualified to act as a tour guide. However, I would definitely recommend the many distilleries and wineries that Kentucky has to offer.

What’s your favorite word?

Serendipity: finding something good without looking for it.

Do you have a favorite font? If so, what is it?

I like Adobe Garamond because that’s the font used in the Harry Potter books.Adobe Garamond

Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing? When you were a kid, did you want to do something different as an adult?

I’ve always enjoyed reading books, so I think it was natural for me to want to work with books in some way. However, there was a brief period in time where I wanted to be a sports journalist.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? What’s a random factoid about yourself?

Normally my random fact is that I’m a super crazy cat lady, but most people know that about me by now (my “Cat Mother of the Year” mug is maybe not so subtle…). Something that most people don’t know about me is that my dream is to open a cat sanctuary one day. I’d love to spend my time playing with and giving love to kittens and cats that would be otherwise be left as strays on the streets or worse.

If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?

I would choose Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series because I think we would be best friends.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?

I just finished reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon. As a huge Fitzgerald fan, I definitely would recommend it. It is interesting to read an unfinished work and to try to interpret where Fitzgerald was going with the novel based on the notes he left behind.

If someone were to make a movie about your life, who would you hope would play you?

I can only hope that it would be Emma Watson.

Any hidden talents?

I have a decent singing voice. I used to sing in a lot of talent shows and school musicals, in choir and in church, and at any event that had a karaoke machine. Now, I mostly limit my singing to car rides and the occasional sing-along to a Disney movie.

Gentry Named Recipient of AWA Book of the Year for Poetry

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Author and former Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry (1941–2014) has been named the recipient of the Appalachian Writers Association’s 2017 Appalachian Book of the Year for Poetry for her posthumous collection The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry, edited by Julia Johnson, professor of English and creative writing at the University of Kentucky.

Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet’s work. Upon being diagnosed with cancer, Gentry and her daughters began collaborating with editor Julia Johnson to organize this definitive collection. The result is the entirety of Gentry’s published work alongside new, previously unpublished poems.

“In poem after poem in this rich and important collection, Jane Gentry commemorates her personal history through the lens of poetry — family, friends, the seasons, the flora and fauna she moves through. This book is a love song to Kentucky,” commented Jeff Worley, editor of What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets.

Poet and professor Jane Gentry spoke to UK College of Arts and Sciences about her life and work in 2013.

The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry is the ninth University Press of Kentucky book to win an AWA award, joining Driving the Dead: Poems by Jane Hicks and From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems by James Still as winner of the poetry award. In addition, Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers by Joyce Dyer, Songs of Life and Grace: A Memoir by Linda Scott DeRosier, My Appalachia: A Memoir by Sidney Saylor Farr, Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South by T.R.C. Hutton, and Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia by Helen Lewis all won the AWA’s Book of the Year Award for Nonfiction, and The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson, UK associate professor of English, won for fiction.

Gentry’s work is deeply rooted in place, exuding a strong connection to the life and land of her native Kentucky. In honor of this consummate poet, who possessed an uncanny ability to spin quietly expansive and wise verses from small details, objects, and remembered moments, we are sharing one of her poignant pieces, “A Garden in Kentucky.”

A Garden in Kentucky

Under the fluorescent sun
inside the Kroger, it is always
southern California. Hard avocados
rot as they ripen from the center out.
Tomatoes granulate inside their hides.
But by the parking lot, a six-tree orchard
frames a cottage where winter has set in.

Pork fat seasons these rooms.
The wood range spits and hisses,
limbers the oilcloth on the table
where an old man and an old woman
draw the quarter-moons of their nails,
shadowed still with dirt,
across the legends of seed catalogues.

Each morning he milks the only goat
inside the limits of Versailles. She feeds
a rooster that wakes up all the neighbors.
Through dark afternoons and into night
they study the roses’ velvet mouths
and the apples’ bright skins
that crack at the first bite.

When thaw comes, the man turns up
the sod and, on its underside, ciphers
roots and worms. The sun like an angel
beats its wings above their grubbing.
Evenings on the viny porch they rock,
discussing clouds, the chance of rain.
Husks in the dark dirt fatten and burst.