Potter College News
WKU Hosts 25th Annual Mary Ellen & Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing
- DJ Stover
- Tuesday, November 9th, 2021
On Sunday, October 31, the WKU Department of English hosted the 25th annual Mary Ellen & Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing at the Kentucky Museum. This event was created to honor the legacies of the distinguished writers and cherished WKU professors Mary Ellen and Jim Wayne Miller through a writing contest and guest speaking. The creative nonfiction contest was open to all undergraduate English majors/minors, and students currently enrolled in a creative writing class.
Before the celebration, guest speaker Amy Wright held a workshop for the winners and finalists. “The workshop with Amy Wright was so rewarding. She led us in a refreshing conversation about using the social eye in our narratives and really dived into each of our stories' themes and the weight they carried. Every person has a different literary and creative perspective on the art of writing; this experience allowed me to learn not only from Dr. Wright, but from everyone in the workshop and their brilliant stories.” Catherine Sheffield explained.
During the event, Amy Wright announced the three winners of the contest. Clarksville, Tenn. senior Catherine Sheffield took first place with her submission “Deciding on a Blue Bird.” Second place went to Bowling Green senior Samuel Chumbley with “Pray to the Skunk.” Bowling Green senior Emra Mehmedovic’s piece “Mother” placed third. The finalists are Adam Woodard, Elizabeth Roth, Seth Nevin, Haley Eller, Justin Harris, Kayla Spears, Lily Ford, and Sydney Selems.
After Dr. Alison Langdon introduced the event, Associate Provost and English Professor Dr. Robert Hale gave welcoming remarks in honor of the late Professor Mary Ellen and Dr. Jim Wayne Miller. Dr. Jim Wayne Miller taught German and Literature at WKU for over 30 years and was best known for his poetry and many books like Copperhead (1964). His wife, Professor Mary Ellen, taught literature and creative writing at WKU for 53 years and was named WKU’s first WKU Poet Laureate in 2017. Her works include The Poet’s Wife Speaks (2011) and Every Leaf a Mirror: A Jim Wayne Miller Reader (2014). The Poet’s Wife Speaks won the 2011 Old Seventy Cress Press Prize. Dr. Jim Wayne Miller’s novel Newfound won several awards including Best Book of the Year citation from Learning Magazine and Best Book of the Year from Booklist.
After Dr. Hale’s opening, Amy Wright announced the winners and read from her newest book Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round. Folding together conversations from a vast web of thinkers like Dorothy Allison, Rae Armantrout, and many, many more, Paper Concert depicts every individual as a collective in dire need of preservation. Wright was born in Wytheville, Virginia and has written and published many award-winning works.
“We all miss Mary Ellen. I think that all of the speakers, including guest writer Dr. Amy Wright, English Department Head Dr. Alison Langdon, and Associate Provost Dr. Rob Hale did an excellent job of honoring her memory." Dr. Tom Hunley said about the event. Dr. Langdon also had a comment about the celebration. “It was wonderful to be back in person to celebrate great writing and honor the memories of Mary Ellen and Jim. I’m so proud of all our finalists, and Amy Wright’s reading was amazing!”
Amy Wright, a native of Wytheville, Va., is an award winning author of 3 poetry books and 6 poetry chapbooks. More information can be found about author Wright and her works at awrightawright.com. A Zoom recording of the celebration can be found here.