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Bluegrass Writers Studio™ Winter Residency

What is the Winter Residency?

An annual literary event that brings together established writers, editors and literary agents.  The nine-day event offers rare opportunities to hear craft talks from visiting writers and writing advice from editors and agents. You’ll also get a chance to interact closely with our guests and your peer writers.  Finally, you’ll get a chance to discuss your own creative writing in an intensive workshop.

Who are this year's guests?

These are the amazing authors who will read their work and give craft talks at Bluegrass Writers Studio™ Winter Residency in January:

January 4, 2016

Bianca Spriggs

Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Bianca Lynne Spriggs, is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky. Currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, she holds degrees from Transylvania University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Named as one of the Top 30 Performance Poets in the country by The Root, Bianca is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry, multiple Artist Enrichment and Arts Meets Activism grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and a Pushcart Prize Nominee. In partnership with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, she is the creator of The SwallowTale Project: Creative Writing for Incarcerated Women.  Bianca is the author of Kaffir Lily (Wind Publications 2010), How Swallowtails Become Dragons (Accents Publishing 2011), and the forthcoming titles, Call Her By Her Name (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Galaxy is a Dance Floor (Argos Books 2016), as well as co-editor of Circe's Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women (Accents Publishing 2015). She currently serves as the Literary Arts Liaison for the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning where she curates the Red Door Writers Blog, as well as the Managing Editor for pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Art & Culture and Poetry Editor for Apex Magazine


Kurt Gohde

Kurt Gohde teaches Studio Art at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and makes art to invite conversations about contemporary social issues, from marginalized sexualities to the experience of homelessness. Recently, he has become newly invigorated by plans to reseed the clouds over Kentucky with meat, in loving memory of the Kentucky meat rain of 1876.

Kremena Todorova

Kremena Todorova teaches American Literature as well as classes that ask students to meet and work with their neighbors face to face. Born and raised in Communist Bulgaria, she continues to draw inspiration for her art and teaching from Timur and his commitment to community. She became an official American on December 10, 2010.

Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova capture photographs at the periphery of American culture, where drag queens, discarded couches, and abandoned motel signs exist. They have traveled to Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Portland to photograph the people who live near the couches and easy chairs found on these cities’ curbs. The resulting collection of images is part of an ongoing artwork, DISCARDED: USA. With the Lexington Tattoo Project—a public artwork that placed the words of a poem, as permanent tattoos, on the bodies of 253 Lexingtonians—Kurt and Kremena have started a movement and are working with several other cities to launch locally based pride-of-place Tattoo Projects. Kurt and Kremena have exhibited their collaborative work in Boulder, Indianapolis, Lexington, Louisville, Oneonta, New York, San Antonio, and Venice Beach.


January 6, 2016

Daniel Walker Howe

Daniel Walker Howe is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  His book, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848, published by Oxford University Press, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for 2008, also the annual American History Prize of the New-York Historical Society, and the annual Prize of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.  It is available in paperback, audio, and on Kindle. It is being translated into Chinese and Korean.

Dan Howe grew up in Denver, Colorado.  He attended Harvard (A.B. magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), Oxford (M.A.), and the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D.).  He taught at Yale from 1966 to 1973. He taught at UCLA for 19 years, from 1973 to 1992 and was chair of the History Department there between 1983 and 1987.  In 1989-90 he was Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at Oxford, and in 1992 he took early retirement at UCLA to accept appointment as Rhodes Professor of American History for the next ten years.  He helped found the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford.  In 2001 he spent a semester at Yale as a visiting professor.  In 2002 he retired from Oxford, and so is now “emeritus” at two universities.  In Spring Semester of 2011 he was Jones Visiting Professor of History at Wofford College in South Carolina. He continues to do research and writing, both at UCLA and the Huntington Library.

Dan has received postdoctoral awards from the Guggenheim  Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Huntington Library, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, and the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy. In 2014 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities by Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.  He is a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians and has lectured for the Renaissance Weekends in Aspen, Charleston, and the Napa Valley.

Besides What Hath God Wrought, Dan’s books include The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805-1861 (Harvard University Press), The Political Culture of the American Whigs (University of Chicago Press), Victorian America (University of Pennsylvania Press), and Making the American Self (Harvard; reprinted in paperback by Oxford).

Dan Howe’s writings have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, and Smithsonian Magazine

Dan was historical advisor to the 12-hour TV series America: the Story of Us, covering the entire history of the United States, that ran on the History Channel.  He consulted for and was interviewed on the PBS TV 2-hour documentary “Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil, and the Presidency,” planned and filmed at Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville.  He has been interviewed on many other television and radio programs, both American and British, on historical and contemporary topics including film reviews, educational issues, communications revolution, character development, and analogies between the USA and the Third World.  He has also been interviewed on many Internet blogs.

Dan has written some fifty articles for professional journals and other scholarly publications, and over ninety book reviews.  He regularly lectures all over the country to both academic and general audiences.  He has run four Gilder-Lehrman summer seminars for high school teachers.

Dan has been married for 53 years to Sandra Howe, who has just retired as Special Education teacher at Birminghham Community Charter High School in the San Fernando Valley.  They have a daughter and two sons. Sandra and Dan live in Sherman Oaks, California, and visit Oxford every summer for a month or more to see all their friends there.  Dan enjoys classical music, wine, re-runs of Law and Order, and his six grandchildren. 


Julie Marie Wade

Julie Marie Wade is the author of four collections of poetry and four collections of prose, including Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010; Bywater Books, 2014), Small Fires: Essays (Sarabande Books, 2011), Postage Due: Poems & Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2013),  When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2014), Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and SIX: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2016), selected by C.D. Wright as the winner of the AROHO/ To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize.  A recipient of an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship, a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami.  She is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach.


January 7, 2016

Allen Wier

Allen Wier (pronounced Wire) is the author of four novels, Tehano (SMU Press), A Place For Outlaws (Harper & Row), Departing As Air (Simon and Schuster), and Blanco (LSU Press, Avon/Bard, Harper & Row), and a book of stories, Things About to Disappear (LSU Press, Avon/Bard). He has edited a collection of stories and a book of essays on style in contemporary fiction and has received Guggenheim, NEA, and Dobie-Paisano fellowships. In 2008, Wier was awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature. His work appears in such publications as The Southern Review, Five Points, Shenandoah, and the New York Times. Immediate past Chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, he is a member of the Sewanee Writers Conference faculty, and he has been the visiting writer at Florida International University, the University of Texas, the University of New Orleans’ Edinburgh Workshop, and the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. He has taught literature and writing at LSU, Longwood College, Bowling Green University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Hollins College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Tennessee. Wier has a memoir and a novel in-progress, and he has just completed a volume of new and selected short fiction.


January 8, 2016

Lee Martin

Lee Martin is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; River of Heaven; Quakertown; and Break the Skin. He has also published three memoirs, From Our House, Turning Bones, and Such a Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need to Know. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors. A new novel, Late One Night, and a new story collection, The Mutual UFO Network, are forthcoming. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper's, Ms., Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Glimmer Train. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University, where he is a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English and a past winner of the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

January 9, 2016

Oliver de la Paz

Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious LullabyRequiem for the Orchard, and the forthcoming Post Subject: A Fable. He is also the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A co-chair for the advisory board of, he teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University and in the Low-Residency MFA program at PLU.


Special Guest

Mackenzie Brady Watson

Mackenzie Brady Watson joined New Leaf Literary as an agent in 2014. Previously, she'd been an agent at Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and before that an intern at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and FinePrint Literary Mgmt.

She was a microbiologist in her pre-publishing life, so she's always on the hunt for projects that bring new facets of science to light. She is endlessly fascinated by the human body, especially the heart. Her taste in non-fiction extends beyond science books to memoirs, lost histories, epic sports narratives, and gift/lifestyle books. She's looking for non-fiction for all ages. She is particularly interested in projects with a strong narrative and a female bend. If you've written the next Brain on Fire, The Power of Habit, Random Family, The Boys in the Boat, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Autobiography of an Execution, or Young House Love, she wants to see it.

On the fiction side, Mackenzie only represents select upmarket commercial/literary adult and YA projects. Her favorite novels range from philosophical and charming (read: The Submission, Station Eleven, The Spectacular Now) to downright dark and gritty (read: The Dinner, We Were Liars, We the Animals). She also represents illustrators with or without book projects of their own.

In the end, all she wants is to be told a good story.


Bluegrass Writers Studio Winter Residency --Now for Undergraduates!

The Bluegrass Writers Studio will once again offer our undergraduates the chance to take part in our annual Winter Residency in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, in January 2016. Rarely do undergraduate creative writing majors get opportunities like this!

Which undergrads are eligible to participate? Any student who has passed ENG 101 and 102 (or 105) and/or ENG 306 is eligible.  If you’re in 306 right now, or you’ve already taken it, you’re eligible!

Will participation in the undergraduate workshop award me credit toward my creative writing concentration? Yes!  Undergraduate students participating in our Winter Residency will sign up for ENG 503/504, two Winter Term courses that award three credits and fulfill one of your creative writing requirements. 

How do undergrads enroll? Sign up for ENG 503/504 on the Winter Term schedule.  The CRNs are 70156 and 70158.  You must enroll in both courses.  We can waive the 301 prerequisite as long as you’ve taken ENG 306 (Intro to Creative Writing) and received a C or better.  Please email me at for details about how to get a waiver. 

How do undergrads participate? Plan to be at the Lexington Downtown Hilton ( for the duration of the residency.  The Residency runs all day, every day, for ten days, so it’s a full-time commitment.  We strongly recommend a stay at the hotel for those of you living more than 20 minutes away (including Richmond residents). The Hilton charges about $65 per room, per night, but this can be split in half by roommates. Staying on site affords you great opportunities to interact with fellow writers well into the evening—one of the best parts of the residency!

For more information or to have your questions answered, please contact Bob johnson, the Director of Bluegrass Writers Studio, at


Residency Activities

The Bluegrass Writers Studio™ Winter Residency held each year in Lexington, Kentucky, is ten days of intensive workshops, lectures, readings, and author socials. Focusing on individual writing, MFA students experience the richness of a full semester of writing craft and critical analysis of their and their peers' creative works. The typical day includes morning workshops in poetry, fiction, genre writing, or creative nonfiction. Workshops are led by program faculty and visiting writers. The afternoon is dedicated to craft lectures, readings, and organizational meetings. Informal dinners with faculty and visiting writers are followed by that night's reading featuring either faculty, visiting writers, or students. One night of the residency is dedicated solely to participant readings. Each day is concluded with an informal social with faculty, students, and visiting writers.

Questions? Contact us.

Residency Faculty

Winter Residency faculty from Eastern Kentucky University include Julie Hensley, Nancy Jensen, Bob Johnson, Young Smith, and Carter Sickels.

Residency Facilities

The Winter Residency is held at the Lexington Downtown Hilton, which provides special student discounts to those who choose to stay at the Hilton. Students are not required to stay at the HIlton, but doing so enriches the overall residency experience. All classes are held within the Hilton. 

Residencies and Masters Degree Requirements

Four sections of ENW 800 Writing Residency are required to obtain the Bluegrass Writers Studio™ MFA. Each section is 3 credit hours. Each Winter Residency in Lexington earns 3 credits. The Summer Residency earns either 3 credits (if you stay two weeks) or 6 credits (if you stay four weeks). Four week-long Winter Residencies will fulfill the residency requirement if you choose not to go overseas. You may combine credits from Winter and Summer Residencies to earn total of 12 hours (ENW 800).

For more information contact Program Director Bob Johnson at

Lexington, Kentucky

Thirty minutes north of Eastern Kentucky University, Lexington provides a central and well-appointed location for the Winter Residency. The Lexington Downtown Hilton, located in the heart of the city, is within walking distance of a wide variety of restaurants and social venues. Considered "The Horse Capital of the World," the green, rolling lands around the city of 270,000 are home to numerous horse farms, training facilties, tracks, and historic parks. In the heart of the Bluegrass Region, Lexington is also home to a thriving music scene and supports a rich literary community.

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