C. D. Wright Women Writers Conference

The C. D. Wright Women Writers Conference was established in 2017 to focus on women writers, with a special emphasis on written work that has been inspired by or written in the South. The conference is usually held for two days each fall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). It is named in honor of the late Arkansas poet C. D. Wright (1949–2016), who was born in Mountain Home (Baxter County) and published more than a dozen books in her lifetime. Naming the conference for her was endorsed by Wright’s husband, the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Forrest Gander.

The conference recognizes women writers at all experience levels and from all genres, not only in general fiction and nonfiction but also journalism, literary fiction, and writing for mass market media such as blogs and podcasts. Writers from genres such as crime, fantasy, food, mystery, romance, science fiction, speculative, and travel are all welcome. A major goal of the event is to provide a forum for camaraderie, inspiration, and making connections. Women writers are the only presenters at the conference, although all attendees are welcome regardless of gender.

The conference was founded by author Nan Snow, who retired from Stuck & Snow Resultants, a consulting firm based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1997, with business partner and co-author Dorothy Stuck (who died at age 100 in 2021), Snow published the award-winning biography Roberta: A Most Remarkable Fulbright, which was a bestseller in Arkansas. Snow served as president of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame board of directors when that program was launched in 2015.

In founding a conference for women writers, Snow sought to honor the late C. D. Wright, an Arkansan who was recognized internationally for her poetry. Wright was the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2004, Wright was recognized for her contributions as a poet by being named a fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, popularly known as a “genius grant.” In bestowing the top-tier honor, the MacArthur Foundation described Wright as an artist who embraced “both lyrical and experimental styles in clear, accessible language rooted in the landscape and people of Arkansas.”

With Wright’s work and memory in mind, the organizers of the conference seek to bring together women writers of all skill levels. A call for proposals by potential presenters for the following fall’s conference is usually offered during the preceding spring.

The conference features nationally known keynote speakers along with a book fair, breakout sessions, craft talks, panel discussions, readings from creative works, dinner programs, and opportunities to socialize. Featured topics have generally included information on writing, editing, and publishing as well as practical advice on how to balance writing, work, and home life.

The conference has featured popular breakout sessions such as “Women and Publishing,” in which industry professionals give tips on avoiding pitfalls, breaking through barriers, obtaining internships, and being hired for jobs in publishing, as well as explain the differences between large presses, small presses, academic presses, and self-publishing. The conference has also offered consultations with experienced editors from a variety of presses and publications.

Balancing both information and entertainment that is designed to appeal to readers as well as writers, events at the conference have featured presentations by women writers from across the country, with an emphasis on those from the South.

Prior to the main body of the conference, there have traditionally been separate pre-conference workshops. One was a writing workshop held at Conway’s historic Cadron Settlement Park that was led by Louisiana poet Alison Pelegrin.

The original director of the conference was prize-winning poet Sandy Longhorn, a faculty member in the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at UCA.

For additional information:
C. D. Wright Women Writers Conference. http://www.cdwrightconference.org/ (accessed January 25, 2023).

“Women Writers Conference at UCA.” 501 Life. https://501lifemag.com/women-writers-conference-at-uca/ (accessed January 25, 2023).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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