Writing Where You Live: Diverse & Literary Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence has a vibrant, diverse literary heritage. Read on to discover notable writers connected to Lawrence and learn about local author events. If you aspire to write and share your own writing, local opportunities are included as well.  Whether you’re a reader or writer, there’s useful information for everyone.  

Lawrence’s notable authors include so many highly regarded names – it’s a formidable task to recognize everyone! Check out the growing list of books by Lawrence, KS authors in the library’s catalog. Well over 100 writers with Lawrence connections are represented on the shelves at Lawrence Public Library, so only a few are noted here:

Langston Hughes was at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance. His eloquent writing frequently used satire to challenge prejudices and emphasized the value of love and laughter. His poignant coming-of-age novel, Not Without Laughter, is semi-autobiographical, reflecting his childhood experiences of growing up in Lawrence during segregation.

Celebrated author Sara Paretsky grew up in Lawrence. Her writing emphasizes social justice, especially in the gripping mystery series featuring private eye V.I. Warshawski.

Laura Moriarty

Laura Moriarty is a local author who has earned a big reputation. Her novels are realistic, engaging, and character-driven. Also, she teaches creative writing at KU.

Controversial Beat Generation author and artist William S. Burroughs wrote experimental fiction; the novel Queer introduced a gay character long before society was ready to accept different sexual preferences. He spent his later years in Lawrence.

Two local authors are fast rising stars:

Crystal Bradshaw’s debut novel, Eliza: A Generational Journey, is an inspiring and sometimes-brutal fictionalized biography of her ancestors. This story shares her family’s legacy of surviving slavery and establishing the exoduster settlement of Jetmore, Kansas.

Ty’esha “T. L.” Jones has written three books in a series, Happily Never After –a fantasy tale infused with relationship realism. She also has a book of poetry titled Alphabetical Attraction.

And speaking of poetry: it’s huge in Lawrence! Local poet Joseph Harrington wryly states, “Studies have shown that 37% of Lawrencians either write poetry or are reincarnations of people who did (sometimes in Lawrence, sometimes in ancient Sumer).” Three esteemed Lawrence poets have earned the title of Kansas Poet Laureate: Eric McHenry (2015-2017), Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (2009-2013) and Denise Low (2007-2009).

A fantastic source for more information about local poets and other writers in the region was created by author and professor of English Thomas Fox Averill and his students at Washburn University. The Map of Kansas Literature website provides much information about authors and their work; be sure to review the page focused on Lawrence authors.

One upcoming opportunity to meet local authors and learn about their new books is Tales of Two Americas with John Freeman, Sarah Smarsh, & Whitney Terrell. Issues of inequality, in connection with Freeman’s new book, will be the focus of a chat with three authors on November 9 at Lawrence Public Library. Smarsh and Terrell each contributed stories in this book which highlights ongoing inequities and why our society still needs to work toward social justice.Sarah Smarsh is a Lawrence author, and Whitney Terrell is from Kansas City.

Additionally, The Raven Book Store presents regular “Big Tent” author readings and frequent book discussions. The staff are dedicated to promoting local and regional authors as well as selling the best mysteries and many other interesting books.

If you are an aspiring writer and hoping to unveil your own literary creations, check out the following opportunities:

WRITE CLUB, hosted by Lawrence Public Library, is a great way to share your creative writing and seek support. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for November 3rd and November 17th.

The Langston Hughes Creative Writing Awards for poetry and fiction are jointly sponsored by The Lawrence Arts Center and The Raven Book Store. The 2016 submissions deadline is December 16.

Wonder Fair Gallery is a great resource for new authors who want to self-publish. The store specializes in local zines and graphic novels.

Keep on reading and writing, Lawrencians –let’s keep the Lawrence author scene diverse! I hope you enjoyed this post and perhaps discovered new or interesting information about literature in Lawrence, Kansas. Please feel free to share a comment below, especially if you have additional resources to add.

- Shirley Braunlich is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

(Painting of Lawrence by Brian Timmer)


Not Without Laughter


Happily Never After