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kathryn tucker windham
spoken word stage


ashley m. jones

Alabama Poet Laureate, 2022-26


mark childress

Harper Lee Award Winner, 2014


nana nkweti

Whiting Award Winner, 2022


michael martone

Mark Twain Award Winner, 2016

kathryn tucker windham
spoken word stage schedule


​                9:30am – Writing our Stories, A Kids’ Workshop sponsored in part by Alabama Writers Forum (3rd grade & older)
                11:30am  – Marlin Barton
                12:30pm  –  University of Alabama Undergraduate Writers
                1:00  –  Pure Products
                2:00pm  –  Nana Nkweti
                3:00pm  –  Michael Martone



               10:0am  –  The Rude Mechanicals, performing works by Kathryn Tucker Windham
               11:00am  –  University of Alabama Undergraduate Writers
               1:30pm  –  Ashley M. Jones, Alabama Poet Laureate
               2:30pm  –  Mark Childress

listed in order of appearance

about the artists

Barton headshot.jpg

Marlin Barton is from the Black Belt region of Alabama. His newest book is a novel, Children of Dust, and it was recently a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He’s published two earlier novels, The Cross Garden and A Broken Thing, and three collections of short stories, The Dry Well, Dancing by the River, and Pasture Art. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. He’s also been awarded the Truman Capote Prize for short fiction. He teaches in, and helps direct, the Writing Our Stories project, a program for juvenile offenders created by the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and he’s been teaching in the low-residency MFA program at Converse University since 2010.


Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer, Whiting Award winner, and AKO Caine Prize finalist whose work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Hub City Writers, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her book, Walking on Cowrie Shells, was hailed by The New York Times review as  “raucous and thoroughly impressive” with "stories to get lost in again and again." The collection is a Saroyan International Prize shortlistee, a New York Times Editor's Choice, Indie Next pick, recipient of starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and BookPage; and has been featured in The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Oprah Daily, The Root, NPR, Buzzfeed, and The Tuscaloosa News; amongst others. The work features elements of mystery, horror, myth, and graphic novels to showcase the complexity and vibrance of African diaspora cultures and identities. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches creative writing courses that explore her eclectic literary interests: ranging from graphic novels to medical humanities onto exploring works by female authors in genres such as horror, Afrofuturism, and mystery.


Michael Martone, professor emeritus of creative writing at the University of Alabama, where he taught from 1996 to retirement in 2020, is author of nearly 30 books and chapbooks of fiction, essays, non-fiction, meta-fiction and more, the most recent among them "Plain Air: Sketches from Winesburg, Indiana," just released last month; 2020's "The Complete Writings of Art Smith, the Bird Boy of Fort Wayne;" "The Moon Over Wapakoneta: Fictions and Science Fictions from Indiana and Beyond;" "Brooding: Arias, Choruses, Lullabies, Follies, Dirges, and a Duet;" "Winesburg, Indiana: A Fork River Anthology;" "Memoranda;" "Four for a Quarter;" "Not Normal, Illinois: Peculiar Fiction from the Flyover;" "Racing in Place: Collages, Fragments, Postcards, Ruins;" "Double-wide," a collection of his early short fiction; "Michael Martone," a memoir in contributor’s notes; "Night Terrors: An Introduction to Zombiegaze," a meta-biography; and "Unconventions: Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art," among others. 


He's edited several anthologies, won two Fellowships from the NEA and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His writing has been published and cited in the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies; also in Harper’s, Esquire, Story, Antaeus, North American Review, Benzene, Epoch, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Third Coast, Shenandoah, Bomb, and other magazines. 


His recognitions include the Mark Twain Award by The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature; the Indiana Author’s Award; and the 2022 Druid Arts Award for literary educator. In addition to UA, he's also taught at Warren Wilson College, Iowa State University, Harvard University, and Syracuse University.


Ashley M. Jones is the Poet Laureate of the State of Alabama (2022-2026). She holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of "Magic City Gospel" (Hub City Press 2017), "dark / / thing" (Pleiades Press 2019), and "REPARATIONS NOW!" (Hub City Press 2021). Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. 


She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020, and her collection, "REPARATIONS NOW!" was on the longlist for the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. 


Jones has been featured on news outlets including Good Morning America, ABC News, and the BBC. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. 


She co-directs PEN Birmingham, and is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival. She teaches in the Creative Writing Department of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and is part of the Core Faculty of the Converse University Low Residency MFA Program. She recently served as a guest editor for Poetry Magazine. In 2022, Johnson received a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets.


Mark Childress was born in 1957 in Monroeville, Alabama and grew up in Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Childress is the author of seven novels: "A World Made of Fire" (Knopf, 1984), "V For Victor" (Knopf, 1988) "Tender" (Harmony, 1990), "Crazy in Alabama" (Putnam, 1993), "Gone for Good," (Knopf, 1988) "One Mississippi," (Little Brown, 2006), and "Georgia Bottoms") (published February 2011 by Little, Brown & Co.) 


His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday Review, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Travel and Leisure, and other national and international publications.

After graduation from the University of Alabama in 1978, Childress was a reporter for The Birmingham News, Features Editor of Southern Living magazine, and Regional Editor of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He has been writing fiction full time since 1987.

"Tender," a Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selection, was named to several Ten Best of 1990 lists, and appeared on many national bestseller lists. "Crazy in Alabama," a featured selection of the Literary Guild, has been published in eleven languages, and appeared on many bestseller lists and Ten Best of 1993 lists. It was named The (London) Spectator’s “Book of the Year” for 1993 and a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” and was on the Spiegel bestseller list in Germany for 10 months.  

"One Mississippi" was a BookSense Notable Book of the Year, nominated  for SIBA Book of the Year,and appeared on the "hot summer book" lists of Good Morning America, People, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles  Times, Wall Street Journal, O: the Oprah Magazine, and the New York  Public Library.  

Childress has received the Thomas Wolfe Award, the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Harper Lee Award, and the Alabama Library Association’s Writer of the Year, and has been a longtime staff member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, California.  


Childress has written three picture books for children, "Joshua and Bigtooth," in 1992, "Joshua and the Big Bad Blue Crabs," 1996 (both from Little, Brown), and "Henry Bobbity Is Missing And It Is All Billy Bobbity’s Fault," (Crane Hill Publishers, 1996).

He wrote the screenplay of the Columbia Pictures film "Crazy in Alabama," directed by Antonio Banderas, and starring Melanie Griffith, an official selection of the Venice and San Sebastian film festivals in 1999.  

Childress collaborated with Gregory Vajda on the libretto of "Georgia Bottoms: A Comic Opera of the Modern South," which held its world premiere in Huntsville, Alabama in 2015, with performances in 2017 at CAFe Budapest Arts Festival in Hungary.

Childress is now working on a new novel and a film project. In recent years he has lived in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

pure products group members

Travis Headshot.jpg

Travis Turner hails from Brightwater, Alabama, deep in the heart of the Black Belt. He writes fiction and teaches literature and composition courses at The University of Alabama. 

Kaushika Headshot.jpg

Kaushika Suresh is an Indian-American writer. They write about gossip and they write about girls. Kaush's work has appeared in Joyland, The Master's Review, and Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, and their novel-in-progress was chosen by Justin Torres as a finalist for the First Five Pages Prize. Kaush would like to begin their reading by offering you a question: What is gossip but the first form of fiction? 

Jessica Smith Headshot.jpg

Jessica Smith is the author of numerous chapbooks including Lion’s Den (above/ground press 2019) and three full-length books of poetry, Organic Furniture Cellar (Outside Voices 2006), Life-List (Chax Press 2015), and How to Know the Flowers (Veliz Books 2019). Her fourth book, The Daybooks, is forthcoming from Insert Blanc Press (2022).

Sara Pirkle Headshot.JPG

Sara Pirkle is a Southern poet, an identical twin, a breast cancer survivor, and a board game enthusiast. Her first book, The Disappearing Act (Mercer University Press, 2018), won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. In 2019, she was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry. She is the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at The University of Alabama.

PP Brett Shaw Headshot.tiff

Brett Shaw writes and teaches in Alabama. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, Sycamore Review, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. His work has received support from the Community of Writers. He holds an MFA from the University of Alabama.

Sarah Cheshire Headshot.jpg

Sarah Cheshire graduated from the University of Alabama’s Creative Writing MFA program in 2020 and currently teaches in UA’s English Department. She is the author of an award-winning chapbook, “Unravelings” (Etchings Press 2017), and has been published in a variety of national and international literary journals. In addition to receiving AWP’s 2018 Kurt Brown Prize for Creative Nonfiction, she was a finalist for the 2018 Disquiet International Literary Award and was longlisted for the Spring 2017 American Shorter Fiction prize. Beyond her role at UA, Sarah is involved in many local creative collaborations, including curating a local art gallery, playing banjo with the Tuscaloosa Old Time Music Ensemble, and selling wearable absurdist collage art at Kentuck Saturday Art Markets.

PP Eric Parker Headshot.jpeg

Eric Parker was born and raised in California. He’s been teaching in the UA English department since 2010, and currently gnashes his teeth over a book manuscript about his homeless poet friend who has five college degrees.

the rude mechanicals


The Rude Mechanicals is a Tuscaloosa-based Shakespeare performance group celebrating its 20th year. During the summer, they perform free outdoor Shakespeare plays at Manderson Landing at The University of Alabama, but at the Kentuck Festival, they will be reading a selection of Kathryn Tucker Windham's ghostly tales.

who was
kathryn tucker windham?

In celebration of Kentuck's 50th anniversary (2021), Kentuck Art Center renamed the Spoken Word Stage to honor the late journalist/storyteller/Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham. 

The Spoken Word Stage at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts would not exist if not for Kathryn. 

In the early years of the Kentuck Festival, there was no storytelling stage - just a circled spot on a map, where someone would tack up a sign with her name, and times. She'd walk the festival grounds, then wander back whenever a crowd of children gathered. 


Kentuck Art Center and Festival is honored to dedicate the stage to Kathryn. In addition to the performances listed below, attendees can look forward to listening to old recordings of Kathryn telling her ghostly tales.  


Kathryn used to say "Storytelling is a way of saying 'I love you.' I love you enough to tell you something that means a great deal to me."


The power of spoken word transcends time and generations. It is Kentuck's hope that honoring Kathryn Tucker Windham with this stage dedication will stir feelings of nostalgia for those who grew up reading her stories, and introduce a new generation to the magic of storytelling. Or, in Kathryn's words, the magic of saying, "I love you."


Learn more about Kathryn's life and legacy here. 

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