UK alum among new Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame inductees

Lexington Souers

Thursday night welcomed five new inductees to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

The event was hosted by the Carnegie Center, as well as the Kentucky Council for the Arts and LexArts. Both the Arts Council Director and LexArts President spoke at the event.

Bianca Spriggs, Graduate Research Assistant in the English Department, introduced each Hall of Fame inductee with a brief history of the writer. Writers like Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon, Silas House and Jason Howard followed the introduction with a brief reading of the individuals’ works.

James Lane Allen, Harlan Hubbard, Alice Hegan Rice, Jean Ritchie, and Bobbie Ann Mason were honored at the event. This year the Writers Hall of Fame honored its first songwriter, Jean Ritchie. Ritchie was a prominent folk singer and songwriter from Appalachia.

Perhaps the most poignant inductee of the night was UK alum and former university writer-in-residence Bobbie Ann Mason. Mason follows Wendell Berry, last year’s Living Inductee.

Mason thanked the arts council and LexArts, as well as commenting on how Kentucky has grown to be a center for arts in the region.

“Writing is something done alone and you don’t think anyone will read it, or even know about it. You’re busy trying to get the words right and then you look up and wonder that somebody has, at a fact, read your mind,” Mason said. “I’m very grateful that you’ve noticed.”

Mason left Kentucky after college and remained away for many years.

“It was the coming back that was always different each time, because I had changed each time. It helped me to get perspective on where I had come from and to discover my writing material, because the things I had wanted to get away from were the things that turned out to be the most interesting.”

Mason said those kinds of inspirations stay in a writer’s brain and allow them to create works for their readers.

“But we honor all of you as readers. It is said that reading may sometimes be the most intimate connection you can make with another mind or sensibility,” Mason said. “So thank you for making that connection. It’s a thing of wonder, this bond between writer and reader. It’s like telepathy.”

Mason said a her college friend and one of her college professors for the influence.

“I had a writing teacher, Robert Hazel, and several illustrious writers from Kentucky had the same teacher,” Mason said.  “He was very influential.”

Hazel taught several other famous Kentucky writers, and Mason said the connection between the former students has helped to inspire her work.

“We’ve been friends most all these years and I think got a lot of energy for each other,” Mason said.  

Morris Book Shop sold the honored authors’ work in the gallery area, including Mason’s, who signed books and created guests after the event.