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Boone Author Selected As Recipient of the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s Fall 2023 Writer’s Residency

Boone’s own Kaye Wilkinson Barley was chosen from writers across 20 states as recipient of the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s Fall 2023 Writer’s Residency. Photo submitted.

By Sherrie Norris

Kaye Wilkinson Barley of Boone has been named recipient of the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s Fall 2023 Writer’s Residency.

Barley will spend a week in Beaufort, SC, at the MarshSong cottage, in conjunction with the 8th annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, held in late October.

Barley was chosen from a large pool of talented writers — representing 20 states —who applied for the residency program,  one of two opportunities offered twice each year by the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center.

The residency is available to writers of all genres, published or unpublished.  Located on a salt marsh on St. Helena Island, approximately 15 minutes from historic downtown Beaufort, the residency cottage provides an inspirational, creative space in the heart of Pat Conroy’s beloved low-country for an eight-day stay. 

Barley will also have the opportunity to attend up to three writers workshops during the literary festival.

When High Country Press spoke with Barley on Monday, just hours after she was notified of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she said she was “still wiping tears.” Tears of joy, for sure, at her latest accomplishment.

A longtime fan of Conroy, the late American author who wrote several acclaimed novels and memoirs, Barley and her husband, Don, traveled around the southeast to attend his signings and purchase his books.

Barley, an award-winning author of several books and anthology contributions, in 2015, was a finalist in the Southern Writers Magazine short story contest. “Picnics with Aunt Kathryn,’ is one of her all-time favorites among her many works. She was honored “and tickled pink,” she said, to have a story included in the 2016 Bouchercon Anthology, edited by Greg Herren. “I was further gratified when Blood on the Bayou was awarded an Anthony in 2017.” 

Blood on the Bayou was published in conjunction with Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, which was held in New Orleans in 2016 and includes stories by best-selling authors Gary Phillips, David Morrell, Alison Gaylin, Elaine Viets and many others.

A self-described “voracious reader and lover of books, a long-time blogger, an indie author, an amateur photographer, dabbler in mixed media collages, and fiddler of fiber arts,” Barley believes creativity is essential to the soul.

Retired from Appalachian State University since 2011, Barley was the Department Secretary in the Dept. of Philosophy and Religion for 14 years, and prior to that worked in Human Resources.  

She and Don, her husband of 35 years, moved to Boone from Atlanta in 1987, continuing to reside here with their “princess of a pup”—Annabelle, a fluffy Welsh Corgi.

“We’re both retired and spending time doing things together we both enjoy—photography and traveling,” Barley shared. “We both, of course, have individual interests that we pursue on our own. While Donald is off exploring the world on his motorcycle, I might be reading, writing, or cooking up a big pot of chili. I’m a collector of ‘things’ pretty and sparkly. I’m opinionated and mouthy, but a marshmallow at heart. Loyal to a fault. And have strong (very strong) political opinions.

While we’re not always in agreement on all things, we (Don and I) do agree on what we both believe are life’s most important concerns—trying to live by The Golden Rule and doing no harm to others while accepting no nonsense.”  

As music lovers who have managed to see most of their favorite bands and musicians in concert, the couple also spends a great deal of time in search of the perfect pizza.

Applying for the Residency

Applying for the Writer in Residency opportunity was a rather simple process for Barley, she said. “I saw the application on-line, and filled it out, hit send, and received notification this morning (Monday) that my submission was the winning entry. 

The requirements were easy for her, Barley admitted: From telling a brief story of how she “found her voice” the first time, expressing how being in the lowcountry for a residency will benefit her writing, and how her presence will benefit the people she will meet there; also, a short bio, her favorite Pat Conroy quote, (of which she has so many!), and a writing sample of her work, which, as one would expect, greatly impressed the selection panel. 

The Pat Conroy Literary Festival began as Pat Conroy’s 70th birthday celebration in October 2015 and continues as an annual signature event of the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center. 

The 8th Annual Conroy Festival will be held on Thursday, October 26, through Sunday, October 29, as a series of free and ticketed events in Beaufort, SC, featuring author discussions, writers workshops, a poetry reading, a screening of the film The Lords of Discipline, a musical performance, and a ribbon cutting for the new Witness Tree Park.

Conroy’s books, which include The Water is Wide, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into films, the last two being nominated for Oscars. Born October 26, 1945 in Atlanta, Ga., 

Conroy was 70 when he died on March 4, 2016 at his home in Beaufort, SC from pancreatic cancer. He is buried in a small cemetery on St. Helena Island near the Penn Center, where as a teenager he first met Martin Luther King and where he was honored in 2011 for his dedication to social justice.

To learn more about Barley, visit her Facebook page, her website at www.kayewilkinsonbarley.com, or email info@kayewilksonbarley.com 

 For details about Pat Conroy, his life, impact and the literary festival, visit www.patconroyliteraryfestival.org.