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Frank X Waler
Stephanie Fege

April 29, 2023


The second annual Conference of Writers will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on April 29, 2023. We will return to the Frankfort Country Club at 101 Duntreath in Frankfort, Kentucky. 

We're excited about the amazing speakers we've lined up! We hope you'll join us!


2023 Conference of Writers Speakers (so far!)

Frank X Walker

Photo by Patrick Mitchell

The first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker is Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where he founded pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. He has published eleven collections of poetry, including Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, which was awarded an NAACP Image Award for Poetry and the Black Caucus American Library Association Honor Award for Poetry. He is also the author of Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, winner of a Lillian Smith Book Award, and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride, which he adapted for stage. Voted one of the most creative professors in the south, Walker, a Danville native, coined the term “Affrilachia” and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets. A Cave Canem fellow, his honors also include a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry. His most recent collection is Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems.


Stephanie Feger, owner and chief strategist of the emPower PR Group, is passionate about emPowering authors and authorpreneurs with laser-focused marketing strategies and tactics to help them write books that sell, promote their books to those who need and want them most, and build a meaningful business from a message that is emPowering. As an author of three books herself—including her book, Make Your Author emPact: Sell More Books, Increase Your Reach & Achieve Your Why—Stephanie merges her love for writing books and her skillset in marketing them, to help nonfiction authors make their author emPact. She doesn’t believe in movement without strategy, and always keeps strategy front and center. She has also seen how emPowered people emPower people. In fact, her business is built around it! Learn more at or by listening to her podcast, The emPowered Author Podcast.

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Debbie Dadey

Photo by Don Fields

Debbie Dadey grew up in Kentucky and now lives in a log cabin in Tennessee with her husband and two greyhound rescues. Her three adult children continue to inspire her. A former first grade teacher and school librarian, she is the author and co-author of 182 traditionally published books.  Her first children’s book Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots, co-authored with Marcia Thornton Jones while they both taught in Lexington, became The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series with sales of over 45 million and has recently been released as a graphic novel by Scholastic Graphix. The newest is the Ghosts Don't Eat Potato Chips graphic novel. A Titanic Museum is the newest in Debbie’s Mermaid Tales. She is also very excited about her new picture book, Never Give Up Dr. Kati Kariko and the Race for the Future of Vaccines. It is the story of a woman who wouldn’t give up and her forty years of research ended up saving millions of lives.  Please visit,,, or to find out more.

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Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and broadcaster based out of Lexington, Kentucky. His titles as an author include the Rayden Valkyrie Tales (Sword and Sorcery), the Ragnar Stormbringer Tales (Sword and Sorcery), the Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk). Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot. Stephen also co-hosts the Star Chamber Show, a weekly live audio podcast featuring creative talents from around the world. Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Find Stephen online at: Website: 

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Stephen M. Vest is the editor and publisher of Kentucky Monthly, a Governor Award in the Arts (Media) honoree. Founded in 1998, Kentucky Monthly has more than 100,000 readers. He is the author Unexpected Inheritance, a memoir about being raised by older parents and a hard-to-please grandmother, two collections of columns and the publisher of the 2012 anthology Kentucky’s Twelve Days of Christmas. Vest holds degrees from the University of Louisville and Murray State University (MFA). His work has appeared in The Journal of Kentucky Studies. A frequent speaker, Vest teaches communications at Campbellsville University and feature writing at Eastern Kentucky University. He and his wife, Kay, have four grown children. They live in Frankfort.

Chanda Veno, of Frankfort, is editor of The State Journal. She is the first female to hold this post in the newspaper's 119-year-history. Veno started her career as a journalist as a part-time sports reporter at her hometown newspaper, The Times-News in Cumberland, Maryland, where she worked her way up the ladder via various newsroom positions from obituary clerk to copy editor. She also served as a copy editor at The Ashland Times-Gazette in Ohio and as a reporter at The Owenton News-Herald and The Anderson News in Kentucky. Veno started as a reporter at The State Journal in August 2017 and was promoted to news editor in April the following year. She took over as managing editor in December 2018 and was promoted to editor in June 2021. To see her work, visit  

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Chris Helvey is a novelist, short-story writer, and poet. His works have appeared in numerous reviews and journals. His latest novel, Last Train to Miami, was released by Wings ePress (paperback and ebook) in July 2022. His short-story “One More Round” was a recent winner of the Modern Mountain Magazine Short-Story Contest. For more information on his novels, short-story collections, and poetry chapbook please visit the Shop section of his website. In addition to his own writing, Chris serves as a Writing Coach and served for over a decade as an editor for both Best New Writing and Trajectory Journal. He conducts short-story writing workshops and is a founding member of the Bluegrass Writers Coalition. He is a frequent lecturer on writing success and appears at numerous literary readings and book fairs.

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Debra Ison is from Central Kentucky and draws many of the scenes in her books from the Bluegrass Area. She came to writing after retiring from a long career as a Physical Therapist and Health Care Executive. She writes mainly in the mystery/thriller genre, but also has two children’s books. Her characters are drawn as composites of the people she knows and meets during her extensive travels. In her spare time, she writes devotions for an online Christian website, My Journey of Faith. Debra loves flower gardening, embroidering, traveling, and time with family and friends.

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Shannon McRoberts is a Creative Deconstructionist weaving myths and lore into her works while living in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.  She is a USA Today Best-Selling author, artist, and poet focusing on works showcasing women, weapons, and magic.  You can find out more, including contact and social media channels, by visiting

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Bestselling author Virginia Smith’s first novel was published in 2006. Since then, she’s written more than fifty books that have collected a satisfying number of accolades and awards. She has received two Holt Medallion Awards of Merit. The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade, set in small-town Kentucky, was Library Journal’s top pick of the month when it released and received a starred review. Ginny loves to introduce readers to her home, the bluegrass state of Kentucky, in her books (where the grass is green, not blue!) She and her husband live in her hometown with a feisty Maltese watchdog named Max. Ginny will return this year as the Conference Emcee. Learn more about Ginny and her books at

Questions? Email us!

Stephen Zimmer
Richard Taylor
Stephen Vest
Chanda Veno
Chris Helvey
Virgnia Smth
Debbie Dadey
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