Jesse Stuart Foundation writing workshop is later in June

Published 5:55 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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A foundation dedicated to continuing a former Kentucky poet laureate’s legacy is renewing a literary workshop in Northeastern Kentucky. 

The Jesse Stuart Foundation will host the Jack Ellis Writers Workshop at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park June 21-22. Several instructors, including George Ella Lyon — another Eastern Kentucky native and poet laureate — will lead participants in more than a dozen breakout sessions on topics such as crime and fiction writing, poetry, research for writing and publishing processes. 

“Writing, first of all, is for you,” Lyon said in a statement. “It’s really a tool for understanding yourself and helping yourself. Your voice matters. You have stories to tell that nobody else could tell. You look at the world in a way that no one has ever looked at it before.”

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Lyon, who has authored poetry collections, adult novels, novels for young people and dozens of children’s picture books and more, is a poet, writer, teacher, musician, storyteller and social activist with Appalachian roots and a global reach, the foundation said. 

James Gifford, CEO and senior editor of the foundation, said Lyon was selected for the workshop because “she is one of Kentucky’s best known literary figures.” 

“She’s an effective presenter and an energetic presenter, and just a genuinely nice person who is very popular with the general public and also the more literate public,” Gifford said. 

The other instructors include Gifford, Stan Bumgardner, Victor M. Depta, Brenda Evans, Keith R. Kappes, Wayne Onkst, Edwina Pendarvis and Christina St. Clair. More information about them, as well as information about registering for the workshop and agenda, can be found at

Participants are chosen on a first-come basis. Those selected will pay a $50 registration fee on the first day of the workshop. 

Headquartered in Ashland, the Jesse Stuart Foundation was founded by Stuart and his wife, Naomi Deane Stuart, in 1979. Stuart led a similar writers’ workshop at Murray State University between 1969 and 1977. The foundation now serves as a regional publisher and bookseller of Stuart’s works as well as those by other Kentucky and Appalachian authors. 

Gifford said the foundation is an “institutional extension of Jesse Stuart’s life and work” and seeks to promote literacy and learning as part of its mission. This workshop is a natural extension of that. 

“We wanted to do it as a service to the people of Ashland and Greenup and Northeastern Kentucky, but we also wanted to do it because it was basically an extension of things that Stuart had done during his lifetime,” Gifford said.