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The Arkansas Writers’ Conference (AWC) is an annual two-day conference and workshop that brings together writers and editors of all genres from across the state and beyond. The event was begun in 1944 when the head of the journalism department at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County), Helen Hall, persuaded the department to develop a conference for Arkansas writers. An agreement was reached with the leaders of the Arkansas branch of the National League of American Pen Women to co-sponsor the first conferences, which was held on July 16–22, 1944. Hall became the first executive director of the conference. Bernie Babcock, founder of Arkansas’s first branch of the National League of American Pen Women was also an important leader in the conference’s founding. The Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women continues to sponsor the conference in the twenty-first century.
Now held on the first Friday and Saturday of June, the conference has changed locations over time; the event is usually held in a central location and has most recently partnered with University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College as a co-host. A member of the Arkansas Pen Women serves as the director of the conference, sometimes for multiple years. Past directors have included Helen Hall, Bernie Babcock, Anna Nash Yarbrough, Roberta Allen, Clovita Rice, Peggy Vining, Barbara Mulkey, Janis Kearney, and Brenda Iannacone.
The conference charges a nominal registration fee and, in return, provides presentations and panel discussions on the writing and publishing of poetry, fiction, drama for stage or screen, and creative nonfiction for writers of all levels. Audience participation is encouraged, and attendees have time to speak with presenters one-on-one. Some topics have included the importance of place in poetry and prose, the move to e-publishing, and what editors expect from writers.
Writers and publishers attending the conference also have the opportunity to reserve display space. At these tables, writers and publishers sell their books, and many publishers use the conference as an opportunity to take pitches from authors with books ready to be published.
Since 1946, the conference has held annual writing contests to correspond with the awards banquet that closes the conference. These contests require a small entrance fee; however, winners receive a cash award.
In 1989, the AWC instituted the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame, with at least one Arkansas writer being named to the Hall of Fame each year. A luncheon on the first day of the conference celebrates the Hall of Fame honoree for the year. To be eligible, an author must have a strong Arkansas
connection. Additionally, an author must have published at least three books,
won a significant literary award, or demonstrated exceptional ability in column
writing, editing, screenwriting or playwriting.
Anna Nash Yarbrough
Verna Lee Hinegardner
Sue Abbott Boyd
Andrea Hollander Budy
B. C. Hall
Laura Parker Castoro
Raydine Trees Nehring
Janis F Kearney
For additional information:
Arkansas Writers’ Conference. http://www.arkansaswritersconference.org/ (accessed September 15, 2017).
Hancock, Orville. Dream Weavers: A History of the Arkansas Writers Conference, 1944–1998. N.p.: 1998.
Pulaski Technical College
Last Updated 9/15/2017
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