Kentucky author brings humor to 16th annual “Celebration of Writing”


Chuckles and laughter abound as Kentucky author Ed McClanahan entertained guests as a part of the Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing.

The Celebration of Writing took place Sunday in Cherry Hall. At the presentation’s start it was standing room only, packing close to 200 people into the room.

The 80-year-old author, known for being friends with contemporary authors Ken Kesey and Gurney Norman, is a Brooksville, Ky. native. McClanahan graduated from Miami University of Ohio and the University of Kentucky. He said though he’s traversed the country, he’s spent quite a bit of time in the Bowling Green area.

The Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing, which is in its 16th year at WKU, is named after former professor Jim Miller, who taught German and literature at the university for over 30 years until his death in 1996. The celebration is a contest open to any student in an English major, minor, or taking creative writing classes.

Andrew McMichael, Interim English Department Head, announced the 11 finalists, before announcing the top three winners. First place went to Krystol Stinson, second to Isiah Fish, and third to Jaclyn Melcher.

McMichael then introduced McClanahan to the audience, noting his “rich style” and called his work “absurdist,” but not in the traditional sense of the word.

McClanahan, white hair pulled back in a short ponytail and classes poised at the edge of his nose, said he was “humbled by the opportunity” to speak. He said he met Miller in the 1980s, and they bonded over “bourbon and baloney, two of the five main food groups for Kentucky writers.”

McClanahan’s readings consisted of two pieces from his 2008 work “O the Clear Moment.” The first, called “How’s That Again?” was a story about trouble caused by not wanting to get hearing aids, despite pleas from McClanahan’s wife to do so. Ultimately, he leaves his car window rolled down amidst an automatic car wash and fights with a “pink tentacle monster” during the wash.

His second reading was called “Great Moments in Sports,” in which he recounts his personal best great moment, trying to win the heart of a girl while he was in high school.

Both of McClanahan’s tales were peppered with laughter from the audience, and at times a laugh from the author himself.

Junior creative writing major Haley Edwards said she thought McClanahan’s humor was a breath of fresh air.

“So many times these readings can get really serious, or deal with depressing topics,” Edwards said. “But I really loved the humor in his stories.”

Junior religious studies major Patrick Thompson said he enjoyed McClanahan’s humor as well, but didn’t exactly catch all the jokes.

“I feel like some of the humor was lost to me because of the age difference,” Thompson said.

“Yeah, I didn’t exactly know everyone who he mentioned in his stories, but it was evident the older people there caught the humor,” Edwards said, agreeing with Thompson.

Freshman history and secondary education major Claire Bellar said she’d read “Divine Right’s Trip” by McClanahan’s contemporary Gurney Norman, but she didn’t know what to expect from McClanahan himself.

“I really liked it,” she said. “I didn’t know how exactly he wrote as a writer, but I really enjoyed the humor he added in his stories.”

The presentation was followed with a reception and book signing, where McClanahan encouraged guests to ask him questions.

The next author featured in the Department of English’s Creative Writing Series is Iowan writer Joe Blair on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in Cherry Hall Room 125.