Author Archives: nicolesolakiewicz

Kentucky Travels: Books to Bring On Vacation

Are you going on a trip soon? Are you looking for the perfect book to bring along, but don’t quite know where to start? If you answered yes to both of those questions then keep reading! Today we are featuring some of our favorite new/vacation-related books to bring along on your next trip. Even if you aren’t going anywhere special we think you’ll really like these. Take a look:

  • Olmsted Parks of Louisville: A Botanical Field Guide by Patricia Dalton Haragan – This book combines nature, Kentucky, and history all in one! Featuring the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted; over 380 species of trees, herbaceous plants, shrubs; and where and how these plants grow in Kentucky; this book is interesting and resourceful for those nature enthusiasts.
  • The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry – Just released in March of this year, this book is a feast for readers who are eager to sample the finest fare in the state.  What’s interesting about this book is that many of the establishments featured are dedicated to the time-honored craft of cooking over hot hardwood coals inside cinderblock pits. If you’re a food lover looking to spice things up, definitely check this book out!
  • Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878 by Emily Satterwhite – We consider this one an oldie, but a goodie! As a 2011 winner of the Weatherford Award and the Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award, this book is worth having in your collection, especially if you’re someone interested in popular culture and Appalachia. Satterwhite examines fan mail, reviews, and readers’ geographic affiliations to understand how readers have imagined the region and what purposes these imagined geographies have served for them.
  • Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder by Robert Crane – The title of this book certainly speaks for itself. Written by the son of star, Bob Crane, actor in Hogan’s Heroes. This book goes beyond the big stars and behind-the-scenes revelations to tell a riveting account of death, survival, and renewal in the shadow of the Hollywood sign and makes a profound statement about the desire for love and permanence in a life where those things continually slip away. A truly unforgettable and deeply human story we think you won’t be able to put down this spring break!

What do you think? Tell us in a comment below which book you’re most interested in!

Kentucky Travels: Our Top 10 State Parks in Kentucky

For today’s post we’ve put together a few of our favorite Kentucky state parks from The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or something fun to do for the afternoon, we think you’ll find something you’ll like. (Photographs courtesy of

  1. General Butler State Resort Park – Carollton, KY – Named after General William Orlando Butler who fought in the Revolutionary War, this is a place where visitors can hike the wooded trails along the ridges and cliff edges, paddle out on the lake, fish, or golf.
  2. White Hall State Historic Site – Richmond, KY – Featuring a ghost mansion with 44 rooms and full of rich, Kentucky history this is a very unique place to visit.
  3. Barren River Lake State Resort Park – Lucas, KY – A much less wooded, more open park that is great for a quiet getaway including a beach, pool, hiking trail, and golf course.
  4. Lake Cumberland State Resort Park – Jamestown, KY – A great place for fishing and hiking, this park is full of natural Kentucky wildlife you won’t see anywhere else.
  5. Carter Caves State Resort Park – Olive Hill, KY – If you ever wanted to tour bat caves this is the place for you. This gothic-style park features an underground Dance Hall and summer evening movies for visitors.
  6. Paintsville Lake State Park – Staffordsville, KY – A relatively new place founded in 1984, this state park features boating and a campground for those who just want a relaxing time with family.
  7. Lake Barkley State Resort Park – Cadiz, KY – A canal connects Lake Barkley to Kentucky Lake, forming the largest engineered body of water on earth. Beautiful and elegantly decorated, this is wonderful for a family vacation.
  8. Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park – Dawson Springs, KY – Named after the pennyroyal plant that grows here this is a more inconspicuous location but is beautiful year round. A lake, hiking trails, and beautiful scenery is what you can expect by visiting here.
  9. Breaks Interstate Park – Breaks, VA – This park is located across Virginia and Kentucky and is one of the most notable geological features in the United States. Whether you choose to kayak or explore the 60 different species of trees, this is the right place for those who want to embrace nature and encapsulate themselves in Kentucky wildlife.
  10. Kentucky Horse Park – Lexington, KY – We end this list with a place that is nearby our home at UPK. Horse exhibitions, art galleries, as well as the chance to ride the horses here are what intrigue visitors of this park.

What do you think? Tell us in a comment below if you plan on visiting any of these state parks! Don’t forget to check out Susan Reigler’s book The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks to learn more about other great Kentucky state parks to visit.

Kentucky Travels: Top Travel Destinations from My Old Kentucky Road Trip

Are you planning a trip to Kentucky anytime soon? You know, the Derby will be here before you know it. Whether you’re from Kentucky or are traveling here soon, My Old Kentucky Road Trip (a blog, and now a book, coauthored by current staff member, Cameron M. Ludwick and former staff member, Blair Thomas Hess) has a few suggestions for the next time you’re up for some uniquely Kentucky fun!

My Old Kentucky Road Trip

reposted with permissions from; originally published November 17, 2011. Photos courtesy Elliott Hess Photography,

Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union and the first on the western frontier. High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States. Post-It Notes are manufactured exclusively in Cynthiana; the exact number made annually of these popular notes is a trade secret. The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817. Pikeville annually leads the nation in per capita consumption of Pepsi-Cola. Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother’s Day in Henderson in 1887; it was made a national holiday in 1916. The song “Happy Birthday to You” was the creation of two Louisville sisters in 1893. More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox; this is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world. Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaelin’s restaurant in Louisville. Middlesboro is the only city in the United States built within a meteor crater.

There’s no other place like Kentucky.

©Elliott Hess Photography

In the spirit of the Kentucky Department of Travel’s “There’s Only One” campaign, we’ve put together a short list of some of the “Only One” destinations we’ve visited. We’ve had a great time on our travels so far—we want you to enjoy the Bluegrass State as much as we do!

  1. Lexington is known as the Horse Capital of the World
    OK, we’re a little biased here. We’re both born and raised Lexintonians, and we’ll be the first to tell you there’s no where else in the world like it. The rolling hills of Bluegrass and sweeping fields of thoroughbred horse farms are just the start of its beauty. While you’re there, take a walk through Gratz Park or visit downtown and Cheapside Park. There are tons of great things to do in Lexington
  2. Take to the high seas Ohio River on the Belle
    The Belle of Louisville is a historic steamer docked on the riverfront in downtown Louisville. Take day cruises, dinner cruises or special event cruises. A few years ago, our friends joined us for a special fireworks cruise on the Belle on the Fourth of July. It was a beautiful night of dancing and fireworks.
  3. Take a tour of Bourbon Country
    We road tripped to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. It was a fun an informative day full of good friends and great bourbon. But the Maker’s Mark distillery is just one stop on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. 95 percent of all bourbon is distilled, aged and bottled right here in Kentucky. That makes it a must-see.©Elliott Hess Photography
  4. Hang out with the buffalo in Land Between the Lakes
    Blair has a soft spot for Land Between the Lakes and the bodies of water that surround it (Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley). Her grandparents live in one of the neighboring counties, and she spent countless summers growing up there with her brothers and sister. Enjoy the great food, all of the miniature golf, the lovely resorts along the lake — Lake Barkley State Resort ParkKentucky Lake State ParkPrizer Point, just to name a few — and if you look close enough, you’ll even spot a few buffalo. How very uniquely Kentucky.
  5. Whether to rock climb or to eat some delicious pizza, people come from around the world to see Red River Gorge
    This canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky is about 44 square miles of high sandstone cliffs, natural bridges, waterfalls and rock shelters. ‘The Red’ attracts rock climbers and boulder-ers from around the world to experience the tons of bolted routes in overhanging, pocketed sandstone. When you’re there, be sure to check out Natural Bridge State Park. This natural sandstone bridge spans 78 feet and is 65 feet high. And don’t you dare leave without stopping at Miguel’s Pizza in Slade, Kentucky. Some of the best pies we’ve ever tasted.

Check out more of the items from the “There’s Only One Kentucky” list here.

©Elliott Hess Photography

Kentucky Travels: Featuring One of Our Favorite Kentucky Writers

When you live in Kentucky, it’s hard not to be Kentucky proud, and we’ve certainly got a lot to be proud of! Wonderful sports, parks, derby races, food, bourbon—the list goes on. Part of what makes Kentucky so great is the support and love you feel as a community, and today we are sharing one of our favorite Kentucky native authors, Gurney Norman.

Gurney Norman is a professor at the University of Kentucky in the English Department and currently teaches and advises students interested in creative writing. He started out as a student at the University of Kentucky, and, after graduating, moved to California to attend Stanford. Being from a small town in eastern Kentucky has not limited Gurney to one place. As a young writer Gurney traveled across the country, and his experiences have been reflected in his writing throughout the years. Gurney has written numerous books and essays, including Divine Right’s Trip: A Folk-Tale and Kinfolks (“Fat Monroe” was actually made into a short film that you can view here). He also was a contributor to Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes which is published by the University Press of Kentucky. In addition,  Gurney has over 16 awards/honors to his name, including being named Poet Laureate in 2009–2010.

Gurney has left his mark on the hearts of the people of Kentucky through his writing, his teaching, and his storytelling, and we thought he deserved this honorable mention. While corresponding in email with Gurney, we discussed his writing and I decided to ask him the question: At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What made you want to pursue a writing career? To which he answered:

“I was fifteen when I actually wrote a complete story. It was a mystery story in which a boy was fighting his ‘evil’ uncle on a narrow footbridge only inches above the raging waters of a river in flood. The man was his uncle-by-marriage. The aunt was out of the picture, suggesting that the man had murdered her. The bridge might be swept away at any moment but the boy and man kept on fighting. I can’t remember the boy’s name. My later stories featured a boy named Andrew. In this first story I imagined the boy to be about twelve years old.
Unfortunately I did not write the last page of the story, so it still is not finished. I seem to have lost the manuscript some time in the past sixty years. The story was handwritten, about seven or eight pages.

Interestingly, to me at least, my father had died about a month before I wrote the story. It was not about my father but I was still in a certain mood following my father’s funeral so I do feel a connection between the two events.”

Gurney’s writing heavily involves family and traditions, reflecting his deeply rooted love for Appalachian culture. Being raised in both Virginia and Kentucky, Gurney feels a strong connection to the land and the people of Kentucky and has involved himself in Appalachia his whole life. Even though Gurney has been firmly rooted in the Bluegrass for quite some time now, this did not keep him from spending time out west or joining the U.S. Army.

If there is one thing we can learn from Gurney, it’s to remember where we came frombut to not forget to travel, explore, and grow. As Kentuckians we should always be proud of where we come from, and we can show this by traveling and cultivating ourselves in the outside world and through our writing and creative outlets. Kentucky is a wonderful place. Let us show the world how great it truly is.


Kentucky Travels: Buffalo Trace Distillery

If you’re from Kentucky then I’m sure you’ve heard the name Bourbon Country before. While Kentucky is known for basketball, horses, and fried chicken; bourbon also tops this list as a favorite among the 21+ crowd, providing a popular tourist attraction for locals and non-locals. Whether you’re travelling near or far for spring break, Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries are a great place to check out.Reigler_Cover_HI

Kentucky is home to several bourbon distilleries, employing over 3,000 people and generating $3 billion in gross state product. It’s no wonder bourbon is so important to Kentuckians, but how much do we really know about bourbon production or the history of the distilleries in Kentucky? Susan Reigler and Pam Spaulding’s book Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide details some very important information on bourbon and the distilleries located here in the Bluegrass state. One, very notable distillery mentioned in this book is called Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, Buffalo Trace is just a short 40-45 minute drive from Lexington. With over 200 industry awards, Buffalo Trace has certainly outperformed all other distilleries in the area. They offer several different tours: The Trace Tour, The Post-Prohibition Tour, The Hard-Hat Tour, and The Ghost Tour. (Each tour is also complimentary, so you really have no excuse to not visit!) Each of these tours are unique and offer a variety of interesting information on Kentucky’s first bourbon distilling industry. With over 100 buildings and 130 acres of land, you can’t possibly explore it all at once. No matter when you visit you can always come back and learn something new each time. Whether you want to learn about the Buffalo Trace’s rich history, view the beautiful architecture, or visit a haunted mansion – Buffalo Trace is the right place for you.

If you want to learn more about these wonderful distilleries located in Kentucky, pick up a copy of Reigler and Spaulding’s book Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide. This book includes nearly 150 full-color photographs and a bourbon glossary, following the Urban Bourbon Trail and the localities surrounding it. Reigler and Spaulding also share their favorite restaurants, lodging areas, attractions, and shopping centers nearby. This book is essential to those who are looking for something fun to do on vacation, or for the locals who just want to spend a day exploring.

Here are a few pictures one of our interns, Nicole, took from a visit this past week. We’d love to see your travel pics, tweet us them @KentuckyPress!

Tell us in the comments below, what are you doing over spring/summer break?

Sunday FUNday: Music Trivia

In honor of the 57th annual Grammys tonight at 8/7c we are going to switch things up a bit! We’ve provided some music trivia questions down below (as well as an answer sheet for you to check your work). Send this to your co-workers, friends, family, etc and make a game out of it! Whoever gets the most correct gets an honorary Grammy!


1. Which of these is nominated for Best Country Song?
a. Automatic – Miranda Lambert
b. Invisible – Hunter Hayes
c. We Dem Boyz – Wiz Khalifa

2. What Kentucky born musician is nominated for Best Americana Album?
a. John Hiatt
b. Rosanne Cash
c. Sturgill Simpson

3. ‘Into My Own’ album by Bryan Sutton is nominated for which of these Grammy awards:
a. Best Country Album
b. Best Rap Album
c. Best Bluegrass Album

4. Miranda Lambert is nominated for how many Grammy nominations?
a. 6
b. 4
c. 2

5. Who is hosting this year’s Grammy Awards?
a. Taylor Swift
b. LL Cool J
c. Iggy Azalea

6. Which of these songs is nominated for both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Collaboration?
a. Bound 2
b. Anaconda
c. 0 to 100 / The Catch Up

7. Which of these artists IS NOT nominated for Best New Artist?
a. Sia
b. Haim
c. Bastille

8. Which of these artists are performing at the Grammys this year?
a. Ariana Grande
b. Keith Urban
c. Miley Cyrus

9. Which of these movies was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media?
a. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
b. Gone Girl
c. Wolf of Wall Street

10. And lastly, where is this year’s Grammy Awards taking place?
a. Atlanta, GA
b. New York, NY
c. Los Angeles, CA

answers: 1. a, 2. c, 3. c, 4. b, 5. b, 6. a, 7. a, 8. a, 9. b, 10. c
That’s it for our music-filled week! Stay tuned for other fun weeks ahead!

Featuring: Festival of the Bluegrass

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Here in the Bluegrass we are Kentucky proud – our sports teams, our derbies, and even our music. Not only do we have musicians like Jean Ritchie and Sturgill Simpson, but we have wonderful music festivals too.

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Every year the Cornett family hosts the Festival of the Bluegrass which includes not only great local music, but activities such as camping, shopping, and workshops! There’s even a beautiful horse park  for you to visit during your stay which includes a museum. Who could ask for more, right?

Photo courtesy of Festival of the Bluegrass website.

No matter what you choose to do, learn to play the banjo at one of the workshops or take a gander at some of the food and local shops, we know you’ll have a great time. Though the festival is known for its wonderful music, it includes so much more than that. We hope you’ll find your way to the music festival this June 11-14th!

To learn more about the festival visit their website at: To join the waitlist click here.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section – have you been to the Festival of the Bluegrass? Do you plan on going this year?

Coming Spring 2015: MELLENCAMP: AMERICAN TROUBADOUR by David Masciotra

It’s Friday everybody! We’ve been working hard here at the press on our upcoming books and we just couldn’t wait to share one of them with you!

Mellencamp_final.inddThis post features one of our new favorites, Mellencamp: American Troubadour by David Masciotra. This book gives you an insider’s perspective on the life and music career of John Mellencamp and his path to fame. This book is an absolute must-read for music enthusiasts who are interested in the development of roots rock and Americana music.

We’ve including an excerpt here at the bottom for you to check out and tell us your thoughts. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our music related posts we’ve been doing all week, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

You can order the book here. Have a great weekend!

Introduction: No Pop Singer

From the American heartland came a voice as strong and restless as a tornadic
wind blowing up dust devils on a wide open prairie. In the beginning
that voice was given the unfortunate moniker of Johnny Cougar, and
its possessor would spend nearly a decade, from the late 1970s to the late
1980s, fighting to define himself as a man and as an artist, crawling out
of the shadow of his record company’s limited vision for his talent. His
manager and record company—Tony DeFries of MainMan Management,
which had a close relationship with MCA Records—found a brash, handsome,
and hungry young man from Indiana and offered him a record
contract because they liked his demo, but first and foremost because they
liked the way he looked. They envisioned a pop star brat who would make
girls swoon with his James Dean swagger and cause radios to light up
with the sonic styling of another Neil Diamond. When the record company
executives told the young man their plans and punctuated it with the
demand that he change his performance name from John Mellencamp,
his birth name, to Johnny Cougar, he protested. “No one’s ever called me
Johnny in my life,” he said before addressing the humiliation of a tag like
“Cougar.” The conversation ended abruptly when an executive brought his gavel down on the table: “You can be Johnny Cougar or you can go back to
Indiana and do whatever it was you were doing there.” What Mellencamp
was doing was making minimum wage working for the phone company in
his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. He’d come to New York City to get a
record contract and, in the spirit and tradition of the explorer, adventurer,
and artist, he was determined to meet the challenge of the task—a challenge
that ends with many people forced, without ceremony or even farewell,
to return to their hometowns to do whatever it was they were doing
there. Mellencamp signed the deal, and Johnny Cougar was born.
Fourteen years later, in 1989, after selling millions of albums and scoring
several top ten hits as both John Cougar (Johnny became John by the
early 1980s) and John Cougar Mellencamp (his surname first appeared
on a record in 1983), Mellencamp released a single called “Pop Singer.”
The song is a stimulative and hypnotic blend of funk and folk—the funk
foaming from a Sly Stone bass line and a Stax sisterhood of backup vocalists,
and the folk fomenting from the fiddle, imported from Ireland, and a
beach accordion. Mellencamp’s voice—car wheels on a gravel road of confidence—
begins a biography and commences a confession:
Never wanted to be no pop singer
Never wanted to write no pop songs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just wanted to make it real
Good, bad, or indifferent
That’s the way that I live and the way that I’ll die, as a
Pop singer

Gems of the Backlist: FOLK SONGS OF THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS by Jean Ritchie

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’re in the middle of a program to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through over 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we just can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:


It’s Throwback Thursday here at UPK which means a Gems of the Backlist post. Today we’re rediscovering our love for Jean Ritchie and folk music. In her book, Folks Songs of the Southern Appalachians, Jean Ritchie shares the rich cultural and musical history of southern Appalachia and shares with us some remarkable photographs as well.

Almost all of the songs begin with a little background information or a story that Jean Ritchie shares from her personal history. Not only do readers get a sense of Jean Ritchie, herself, but they see the music through her eyes. Readers see the pastoral landscapes that embody Kentucky, and the greater sense of community established in Appalachia. All in all, the book feels like a one-of-a-kind reading experience. Even if you’ve never been to the places she has described, you will feel at home with Jean Ritchie, while she shares her stories and sings along with them.

The book Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians As Sung By Jean Ritchie is available for purchase here. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! How did you like this Throwback Thursday?


Photos courtesy of Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians

Women of Rock Wednesday!

Today’s post is about – you guessed it – women who are rock musicians!

Today when we think of rock musicians we mostly think of men: Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc. How often do we actually think of women in the rock industry? Sure, there’s Janis Joplin and Courtney Love, but can we think of any women rock musicians from the past decade or so?

The truth is, some women just don’t want to be put in the spotlight, or they don’t want the criticism that comes with it. In one of our books, Girls Rock! Fifty Years of Women Making Music by Mina Carson, Tisa Lewis, and Susan M. Shaw, these women discuss how difficult it can be to be a female rock musician in this day and age. Caron, Lewis, and Shaw talk all facets of the industry – the image, the business, the production. They also share some truly inspiring and surprising stories – some their own and some from other famous female rock musicians. All in all, these women combine their own feminist twist to this truly eye-opening book filled with history and ideas you won’t want to miss.

In a comment below, tell us who your favorite women rockstars are!

Girls Rock! is available for purchase here.