An Open Letter

Dear Supporters of the University Press of Kentucky:

Based on the recently passed state budget, the University Press of Kentucky (UPK) will lose approximately $672,000 out of a total operating budget of $2.86 million against sales of $1.92 million. The University of Kentucky will work with UPK to plan increases in efficiency and enhanced revenues to partially offset the loss of funding. Further, the University of Kentucky and all partner institutions of UPK will be expected to provide financial support to fill any remaining funding gap. The long-term goal is to chart a strong path forward for UPK.

The fact is that many university presses receive funding and support from multiple sources. Against that backdrop, a fresh approach to our funding model is economic reality. It reflects that technology and other forces are changing the way we transmit and discuss ideas. We should seize this moment to continue to evolve, as we have already been doing, in ways that keep pace with change and serve as a model for other university presses.

In this context, it is critical that current and prospective authors and UPK’s business partners understand that we are on a path toward stability. Our short-term financial challenges are transitory. We urge our authors and vendors to understand that we are conducting business as usual.

Many supporters of UPK have asked how they can help. This is how: share our news. Help the faculty you interact with understand that we plan to be here for the long haul. Help them know that UPK looks forward to continuing our work with writers and scholars around the world to advance thinking and scholarship. Help them understand that the best way to keep us growing and improving is to send us thoughtful, significant, and creative manuscripts of the highest caliber.

We are grateful for the messages of support given to us by so many in recent months. We look forward to continuing to work with you as we chart our path forward—one that will secure the future of UPK and the rich cultural and intellectual heritage in which we play such a vital role.


David W. Blackwell, Provost, University of Kentucky

Deirdre Scaggs, Interim Dean, UK Libraries

Leila Salisbury, Director, University Press of Kentucky


Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Two days ago on April 4th 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visionary leader and activist Dr. King was one of the most impactful voices in the Civil Rights Movement and his speeches and the marches he helped organize are recorded both in history books and the minds of people who were there. In order to honor his work and legacy, here is a story from the book IN PEACE AND FREEDOM: MY JOURNEY IN SELMA by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson where Bernard LaFayette Jr. recalls a march he participated in that was led by Dr. King.

I stood there, amazed that we were here, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the capitol, in the middle of the bible belt, the Cradle of the Confederacy. Dr. King looked down the street, and in his sight was the first church that he pastored, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in the city where he led his first movement, the In PeaceMontgomery Bus Boycott. And now, after a decade of arrests, attacks, and even having his home bombed right here in Montgomery, he delivered his message from the seat of government to an audience of thousands. I noticed that he put his finger in his ear, which is a traditional sign that a Baptist preacher is ready to whoop. Whooping is a form of preaching, mainly practiced by black preachers. There is an intonation in the minister’s voice with a musical, rhythmic repetition that connects with the spirit and emotions of the congregation. They respond in oral affirmations and chant, leading to a crescendo and, finally, squalls. People often leap to their feet, shouting, fired up, and emotional.

However, Dr. King maintained his composure and presented his poignant and poetic message, not just to a Baptist church audience but to an entire world, as the media transmitted his words internationally. Dr. King delivered one of the most powerful speeches of his life, often referred to as the “How Long? Not Long” speech. His eloquent 31-king-and-bernardwords filled the air and our hearts: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that day will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” He had a remarkable ability to communicate effectively not only with scholars in ivory towers but also with the common people in the pews on Sunday morning, and with each person in the street that day. He had the voice, but never relied on his homiletic gifts. He talked as a statesman speaking to his government and its people. His messages were always inspiring, informative, and motivating. So it was on this historic occasion. At the conclusion of the march and Dr. King’s speech there was a feeling that the goal of the Voting Rights Movement was within reach. We felt with all confidence in our minds, our hearts, and our feet that soon we would all be marching to the voting booths.


Reading Awareness = Community

Here at UPK, we have two main priorities: books and community. For the past 75 years, we’ve been publishing books about our entire state—from far east to far west—and telling the narrative of Kentucky’s rich and complex culture and heritage. We continue to cultivate the importance of these stories to our readers in the Commonwealth and our extended community all over the nation and the world.

In honor of National Reading Month, which celebrates and accelerates children’s interest in reading, writing, and literacy, we are sharing a few of the influential reading programs and independent booksellers in our Lexington community.

After you’ve reviewed our list, we’d like to hear from you! So whether you’re from the Bluegrass or another region, share with us via Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter some of your favorite reading programs and/or people who have cultivated your love of books. Use the hashtag #UPKreads to share your post with us!  

Brier Books

Brier books.JPGNew to the community but already a literary hub, Brier Books is focused on bringing the community and reading together. They have hosted a number of events including, book clubs, poetry workshops, and author nights. As they have said themselves, They are going “back to the basics, the words & stories we’ve
always loved, and we want you to share your favorites—
yours or someone else’s—we want you here,
with us, helping us create this brier bookshop/
story swap/community gathering space



The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning

“Empowering people to explore and express their voices through imaginative learning and the literary arts.” Are you a writer, artist, or some form of a creative enthusiast? Then this center may be for you! This center offers an array of classes, from how to write poetry, edit your own work, as well as poetry readings and tutoring sessions for kids of all ages. Whether you are a novice or an unparalleled professional, the Carnegie Center will help build the skills you need in order to write your next inspirational novel! One of the many things this center does well is hosting the Annual Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame! Many of our authors have been apart of this award.

logoOutreach Services by Lexington Public Libraries


If you would like to be more involved in your community, this is a great way to learn through volunteering. Each program caters to a variety of needs and gives flexibility to those looking to get more involved with Fayette County and their local library. Become a volunteer or sign up to be paired with a volunteer. If you are homebound adult or in a nursing home, consider signing up for a Book Buddie.  Foreign Languages & ESL learners program is a wonderful way for those who struggle with the English language and want a safe community in which practice adult literacy. If your hear is towards the children in your community, consider signing up to become a Storytime Bus driver!

Read to Succeed  

“READ out loud with a child, READ to the child, and LISTEN to the child read.” This organization is focused on cultivating a love of literature in children. Focused primarily on immediate community, this organization is committed to equipping leaders in Kentucky to inspire children to have adventures and pursue their dreams of success. read to succeed   

Wild Fig Coffee and Books

wild figWhat better place for reading and community  than a local neighborhood coffee shop? UPK author Crystal Wilkinson and her partner Ron Davis are owners of this unique coffee house and bookstore in downtown Lexington. They host open mic nights, seminars, author signings, and many other events. To learn about their upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.  This coffee shop promotes diversity, culture, empowerment, coffee, and reading! It is a one-of-a-kind kind of place.


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2018 Judy Gaines Young Literary Awards


This year marked the fourth annual presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Book Award since its generous foundation by Dr. Byron Young, a trustee of Transylvania University, to honor his late wife. The award is presented to a writer from the Appalachian region for a book of particular distinction. Crystal Wilkinson won the award in 2017 for her book Birds of Opulence, a title published by the Press.

This year’s winner, judged by Jason Howard, editor of Appalachian Heritage, was none other than UPK author and best-selling poet Kathleen Driskell for her poetry collection, Next Door to the Dead: Poems.

The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Student Writing Award, an award honoring the exceptional creative writing abilities of a Transylvania student. Laura Daley, a senior at Transylvania University and former UPK intern, won the award for her outstanding work in creative nonfiction and poetry, excerpts of which she read at the event.

Also in attendance were two former Kentucky poets laureate, a member of the board of the Kentucky Humanities Council, and several members of UPK staff.

By happy coincidence, the presentation of these prestigious awards fell on World Poetry Day (21 March 2018), and we were thrilled to celebrate the day with two such phenomenal poets!

Next Door to the Dead: Poems is a collection inspired by author Kathleen Driskell’s residence in a disused Louisville, Kentucky church built before the Civil War sitting next to a cemetery. The poems examine the fragility of mortality, the complexity of grief, and the importance of love when confronting loss. Her words breathe life into figures both known and unknown who have long since passed away, reimagining who they might have been based on what they left behind, and encouraging readers to ponder their own complex relationship with death, mourning, and life.


Kathleen Driskell read several poems from her collection, including “Ars Poetica”, “The Mower”, and “Tchaenhotep: Mummy at the Kentucky Science Center” . Her reading was followed by a short Q&A session, in which she discussed her writing process, her experiences living beside a graveyard, and what projects she is currently undertaking.


Laura read a memoir and two poems from her repertoire, and all three truly captures the spirit of living in Kentucky, from the beautiful moments spent in nature to the horrifying moments of watching your cousin bite off a snake’s head (yikes!) Her work emphasized the importance of family, and the feeling of belonging somewhere.

Laura Daley has been accepted with funding into the graduate programs of both DePaul University and University of Colorado Boulder. We can’t wait to see what this promising young writer (and former Press member) has in store for the future!

Kathleen is professor of creative writing at Spalding University, and associate editor of the Louisville Review. She has written several books and poetry collections, including Blue Etiquette and Seed Across Snow. To learn more about Kathleen Driskell and her work, check out her blog, and be sure to snag a copy of Next Door to the Dead.

next door to the dead

Wildcat Slush: A Treat for Players and Fans Alike

Ah, March in the Bluegrass… There might be snow (check), there might be spring (still waiting), but there’s always madnessMarch Madness, that is. Since the Big Dance started yesterday, we figured Wildcat fans would be starting to prepare for Thursday, when UK faces Davidson College at 7:10 PM EST in the first round. (We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that Murray State, the other Kentucky team in this year’s tourney, tips off against West Virginia tomorrow at 4 PM. Good luck, Racers!)

If you’re gathering with a group to cheer on the Cats, you have to have the right snacks and drinks, right? If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic treat fit for champions (or those cheering on champions [*fingers crossed*]), we’ve got just the trick: Wildcat Slush.


Deliciously sweet and easy to prepare, Wildcat Slush became a postgame treat and “pick-me-up” of sorts for the ‘78 NCAA Championship team. In the following excerpt from Forty Minutes to Glory: Inside the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1978 Championship Season, Doug Brunk provides the backstory of how this refreshing concoction was created.

Lexington dentist Roy Holsclaw said that during a late-January postgame radio interview show, Coach Hall lamented how year after year his teams fell into a shooting slump and struggled to maintain stamina and sharpness by the time late January and February rolled around. A local physician who listened to the radio show that night wrote a letter to Coach Hall, suggesting that the symptoms he described indicated possible depletion of potassium, a key electrolyte that impacts energy and stamina. “He wrote, ‘I would suggest that you put your players on a high-potassium diet,’” Dr. Holsclaw recalled. “Coach Hall handed me the letter and said, ‘Roy, why don’t you check into this.’”

Chemical examination of blood drawn from the players revealed that some did have low potassium levels, so Dr. Holsclaw conferred with the physician, who recommended adding potassium-rich pineapples, bananas, and strawberries to their diet. Coincidentally, Dr. Holsclaw’s wife, Katharine, had a frozen-dessert recipe handed down from her mother that contained all of those fruits in their natural juices, so the couple mixed up the recipe in a three-gallon Tupperware container and stuck it in their freezer at home. Dr. Holsclaw brought in the frozen treat prior to many practices and all remaining home games that season, intended for the players to consume afterward. “I would turn it over to one of the managers,” he said. “They’d set it on a counter or something, and during the two hour course of the practice or game it would thaw out partially, and we’d serve it in a little plastic cup.” The concoction became known as Wildcat Slush. “It seemed to give us a boost,” Coach Parsons said.

Learn how to make your own Wildcat Slush below, and if you’re in need of the perfect book to read between tournament games, be sure to pick up Forty Minutes to Glory by Doug Brunk, available now!
Wildcat SlushBrunk_coverFinal


First Ladies: Celebrating #UPKWeekofWomenWriters

Take a look at your bookshelf. (Go on; we’ll wait.) Look at all the familiar spines: the scores of paperbacks; the creased and well-loved classic; the shiny new hardback, ready to be cracked open. Imagine what your bookshelf would look like if we erased all contributions ever made by women. There goes Frankenstein and, with it, all science- and speculative-fiction. No more Pride and Prejudice, or The Bluest Eye. Gone are the Brontes, all three of them, same as Woolf and Kingsolver and hooks and Angelou. Oh, and no more Tolstoy, since his wife typed his manuscript. (For that matter, no more T.S. Eliot, and Great Gatsby is out, and Nabokov, too. #ThanksforTyping.) Pretty sad, huh?

This Women’s History Month at UPK, we’re kicking off a week of celebration of the indelible marks women have made on our industry. Today on the blog, we’d like to highlight a few of the many barrier-breaking women, those who were the first in their fields of writing and publishing.

The First of the Firsts

The first published writer of record in what is now known as the United States of America, regardless of gender, was Anne Bradstreet, a white, Puritan 17th-century poet. Her first and only volume of poetry, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was published in London in 1650, making her the first woman to be published in England, as well. Due to the strict gender roles of the time and of her religion, Bradstreet and her writing were met with extreme criticism. Still, she wrote until her death in 1672, at the age of 60. Read more about Bradstreet in some of our scholarly books of criticism, concerning her work, available here.


Phillis Wheatley frontispiece.jpg

Phillis Wheatley, pictured on the title page of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

More than a hundred years after Bradstreet’s death, the publication of Phillis Wheatley’s book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773 inaugurated her as the first Black poet in North America, and by association, the first published Black female poet. Wheatley was a slave, bought by Nathaniel Wheatley as a gift to his wife, but was given an unprecedented amount of education, for a slave and for a woman of any race at the time. In 1773, shortly after her first book was published, the Wheatleys emancipated her, which ushered her into a life of poverty unfitting of the acclaim, from the likes of George Washington and Thomas Paine, her book had garnished. In 1784, Wheatley died a scullery maid; her second book of poetry is still lost to us. Read more about her work in Authority and Female Authorship in Colonial America, by William J. Scheick, which also features criticism of Bradstreet’s poetry, available here.

Decorated Women

In 1918, the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was awarded to Sara Teasdale, for her fourth book, Love Songs, and so she became the first woman to receive the prize. She would go on to write four more books of poetry before her suicide in 1933.

In 1920, two years after Teasdale’s win, Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Age of Innocence. This was her twelfth novel, among a staggering collection of short fiction, non-fiction, and stage plays, all containing criticism of the ninteenth century society she grew up in, and of the literary scene she operated within. The 1920 Pulitzer for Fiction inaugurated her as the first woman to win the prize in that category. (More on Wharton’s influence in Modernism here.)


Mona Van Duyn (pictured) in 1992 became the first female U.S. Poet Laureate after an award-winning career, where she snapped up accolades like the National Book Award for her collection To See, To Take, the Bollingen Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Near Changes.




Librarians are the keepers of the literary world in many senses, and the Library of Congress doubly so. Dr. Carla Hayden, appointed in 2016, is the first black woman, the first woman, and the first Black person to hold the office of Librarian of Congress. She is also the first professional librarian to be appointed in more than sixty years. Dr. Hayden’s current mission is to modernize the institution by digitizing access to preserved collections. (Did you know we have a book by a former Librarian of Congress? Now you do!)

Jan Morris

Jan Morris, a transgender woman from Wales, is a renowned non-fiction, travel, and essay writer, and author of acclaimed novel Last Letters from Hav. Last Letters from Hav, published in 1985, was also shortlisted for a Booker prize in the same year, making Morris the first transgender writer to do so. At 90, she is still writing, and is due to have a book of history out in the coming year.

And, of course, we would be remiss to forget Leila Salisbury, current director of the University Press of Kentucky. Beginning her directorship in 2016, Salisbury is the first female director of UPK. She follows in the footsteps of Carro Clark, the first American woman to be founder, owner and manager of a book publishing firm, the C.M. Clark Company, est. 1900.

We hope this list got you excited for a week of celebrations. However, by no means is this an exhaustive list of the many wonderful women who have shaped our literary world. We’d love to hear about your favorite lady literary heroes! Feel free to follow along using #UPKWeekofWomenWriters, and be sure to stay tuned!


Peacemakers: The Past May Hold the Key to Our Present

pardewComps.inddThe wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s were the deadliest European conflicts since World War II. The violence eventually led to genocide when, over the course of ten days in July 1995, Serbian troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic murdered 8,000 unarmed men and boys who had sought refuge at a UN safe-haven in Srebrenica. The United States quickly launched a diplomatic intervention with military support that ultimately brought peace to the new nations created when Yugoslavia disintegrated. Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans by Ambassador James W. Pardew is dedicated to the mission of detailing the successful multilateral intervention in the Balkans from 1995–2008. It is, in fact, the first inclusive history of this event.

As an American diplomatic official directly involved in negotiations, Pardew presents a comprehensive narrative history that draws on archival research,  first-hand experience, personal connections, and detailed journals he kept during his time in the State Department. He examines the conflicts starting with the Bosian War and continuing through the subsequent conflicts in Kosovo and Macedonia.

With the ongoing debates regarding the role of the US in global affairs—and the US facing threats from North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan—Pardew’s perspective on the implications of war and peace are timely. He provides lessons in intervening in very volatile situations, both for people in the field of US foreign relations and those who study it.

For answers to the current European Crises, the leaders at the United States Institute of Peace are looking for answers in four key areas: leverage for peace agreements, necessary components of effective peace agreements, implementation of peace agreements and the possibility of peace in corrupt situations. In the video clip below, James Pardew is engaging in a discussion with the US Institute of Peace, taking the time to draw from his experiences, exceptionally detailed and addressed in his book, and provide the materials necessary for answers to achieving peace in Europe. Peacemakers is evidence that the past may in fact hold necessary tools and keys to the success of our present and future.

Leaders at the United States Institute of Peace are looking to this past event for answers to the current European Crises. They’re looking for answers in four key areas: leverage for peace agreements, necessary components of effective peace agreements, implementation of peace agreements and the possibility of peace in corrupt situations. In the video clip (link attached below), James Pardew is having this discussion with the US Institute of Peace. They take the time to draw from the experiences, exceptionally detailed and addressed in his book, and draw the material necessary for answers to achieving peace in Europe. Peacemakers is evidence that the past may in fact hold necessary tools and keys to the success of our present and future.

To find out more information about Peacemakers, click here.