Frank X Walker is the current Kentucky Poet Laureate. He also happens to be a Danville native and a DHS grad (just like yours truly.) So some literary types in Danville have organized the first ever literary fest in Frank’s honor. Be sure to come to Danville and check it out. Here’s the schedule:
The Frank X Walker Literary Festival
Thursday, September 18, 2014
“Turn Me Loose…. The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” Convocation
Newlin Hall/Norton Center/7:30 p.m.
Featuring Frank X Walker
Friday, September 19, 2014
- Frank X Walker … School Presentations
- Authors in our Schools (Danville/Boyle)
Writing Workshops/Oral Readings/Student Presentations
- Boyle County Public Library: Heather Henson/Marie Bradby: Reading & Talk 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:30 p.m.
- Frank X Walker Community Reception Danville High School 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Danville High School
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Oral Presentations by Frank X Walker and Authors
- Community Readings
- Book Fair 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.
- Frank X Walker “State Historical Marker” Project
- Concessions : Dunn’s BBQ
Boyle County Public Library
- Family Day of Literacy/ Readings/ Workshops 10:30-12:00 p.m.
- Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:00 p.m.
Frank X Walker Rick Lee
Minnie Adkins Maurice Manning
Amy Barkman Marcia Mount Shoop
Wendell Berry David Nahm
Marie Bradby Ricardo Nazario-Colon’
Devine Carama Guerney Norman
Hasan Davis Mike Norris
Mitchell Douglas Yolantha Pace
Carolyn DuPont Katheryn Ragle
Ruth Ann Fogle Octavia Sexton
Thomas Freese C.A. Shelley
Hazel “Sybil” Hall Judy Sizemore
Louis Hatchett Penny Smith
Heather Henson Patsi Trollinger
Shayla Lawson Crystal Wilkinson
I’ll be in beautiful downtown Stanford, Kentucky on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. along with other Kentucky writers. Please join me! I’ll be reading my books to kids at 11:00 a.m. Here’s more info about the event!
I’ve been unable to update this blog for months. Here’s why: my sister’s cancer came back with a vengeance. She was gone in a flash.
Holly was my only sister, my big sister. She was born in Danville, KY on July 19, 1960. She grew up on the stage at Pioneer Playhouse, the theatre our dad, Eben Henson, started in 1950. She was always involved in one way or another at the Playhouse — acting, directing, managing. She became artistic director when Dad passed 8 years ago.
Holly died where she lived — in her home not a stone’s throw from the Playhouse stage. She died on May 27, 2012, just as the Playhouse company was assembling — the new actors arriving for the 63rd season. After she was gone, the company meeting went on without her; auditions for the first show continued. Rehearsals began. That’s the way Holly wanted it. The show must always go on.
It’s been a hard few weeks without her. Robby and my mom, Charlotte, are the ones who run the Playhouse now. I pitch in where I can. The family has vowed to keep Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre alive another year in Holly’s memory, and then we’ll see what happens. It’s hard to imagine ever closing it though. The Playhouse has been a part of my family’s very fabric, our heart and soul.
Every night I stand to greet patrons arriving for the show (one of my duties), and I’m constantly told how much I look like Holly, how much her personal greeting meant to them, how much the Playhouse continues to mean to them, how much they miss Holly, but are glad to see us going on as a family. It’s heart-breaking and gratifying all at once. It makes me feel sad. But it also makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself.
Holly felt the same way. A few years ago, she started an “Artistic Director Diaries” as part of a podcast the Playhouse was doing at the time. Holly’s diary entries aren’t long, some of them just talk about the mundane day to day running of the theatre. But one passage jumped out at me when I read through it after she died:
Is it worth it? To keep this place going, under immense stress and strain?
Last night a mosquito kept me awake….I thought about my mother, who is 79, playing guitar and singing every night for the supper guests, as she has done for over 50 years. I thought about all the changes she has seen. All the sets, all the actors, the loss of a husband — as she stands in the back, enjoying the sound of the dialogue and the audience laughing.
All summer my trailer has filled up with flowers and photos and press releases and memories. There have been five opening nights. I’ll never see these same people, gathered in the same place ever again.
I’m so busy, I seldom have time to think about Dad. Except in an odd pause or two, and the realization that he’s not here still has a tinge of surprise — like he’s just taking a nap and will be back shortly and take all my worries away. Like he’ll invite me to sit beside him, as we greet the audience together.
I still don’t know whose dream is more important — mine or my dad’s. I still don’t know why the “show must go on.” There are only 20 outdoor theatres left in the entire US. If one more closes, does it matter?
If I wanted, I could walk away from all of this…into my own story. But how lonely would my summers be, without laughter and tears. At least when I’m stepping into Dad’s shoes, I can see the path.
I guess it’s my turn now, Holly, to follow in your footsteps. And I’ll do my best. But already the summer — and the path — seem lonely without you here.
Holly Lee Henson
July 19, 1960 – May 27, 2012
I’m heading up to Northern Kentucky University tomorrow to participate in their annual Bookfest on Friday, May 4. It’s a really incredible day long program in which about 500 middle grade students from around the state come to the NKU campus in Highland Heights to talk about books and reading.
Here is a link to NKU’s webpage about it, with a really terrific video showing highlights of years past:
Last year, Silas House was the featured speaker, so I’m just thrilled and honored to have been asked to follow in his footsteps.
Will post pictures from the event soon! Hope to see you there!
I’ve been participating in the Kentucky Book Fair for almost ten years now, since my first book (YA novel, Making the Run) was published in 2001. It’s always been a lovely event, with local school visits the day before, and a reception for authors the night before, and finally the event itself. I always see it as a time to get to know new writers or become reacquainted with writers I don’t see very often. It’s a great opportunity to talk to Kentucky writers whose work has deeply influenced my own, like Bobbie Ann Mason, Wendell Berry, Gurney Norman, George Ella Lyon.
This year, I met Heather Clay, who grew up in Kentucky and now lives in New York City (we have a lot in common!). Her first novel is called Losing Charlotte (published by Knopf), and I’ve just started reading it, and the writing is lyrical and lovely, and the story is starting to grab me so that I know I’ll have trouble putting it down very soon.
I also got to see my old friend Maurice Manning, a guy I grew up with/made it through those crazy high school years with. It’s interesting that we’ve both become writers, having grown up in a pretty small town. Maurice is an amazing poet, and very prolific. His latest book of poems is The Common Man, published by Houghton Mifflin. I haven’t started to read it yet, but it’s on my bedside table — can’t wait to dive in!
A couple of other writers/books that really grabbed my attention this year: I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles by Ron Penn and How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders by MaryJean Wall, who was a turf writer for the Lexington paper for years.
I have a personal connection with John Jacob Niles. He used to come visit my parents and hang out at the Pioneer Playhouse when I was little. He once told my mother that she had one of the purest voices he had ever heard. And he would often bring his dulcimer and sit with my mother and they would sing together, entertaining the dinner guests before the night’s show. For those of you who don’t know, John Jacob Niles is considered one of the most influential songwriters and balladeers of the American folk music tradition. He is particularly known for collecting and documenting songs of Appalachia.
So…I probably ended up buying more books than what I “earned” selling books. But that’s what often happens anyway when I’m surrounded by books and writers. Have to support my fellow artists!
Sadly, it was a smaller turn out than usual. The economy is definitely still hard hit. People aren’t rushing out to buy books, let me tell you. But the people who did come out to the Kentucky Book Fair this year — as is the case every year — were passionate about books and reading. There are always a lot of parents who bring their kids, and that’s always so heartwarming. Every parent I talked to during the fair said that they want to instill a love of books in their kids, and it’s obvious that they have already — and that makes it all worth while!
Here’s a picture of me at my table, taken by photographer James Sullivan. Thanks James, for letting me use this!
And thanks, as always to Connie Crowe, who does SO very much. Thanks to the folks at Joseph-Beth, especially my gals, Brooke and Rachel — you two rock!