Oscar-winning ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Screenwriter Kevin Willmott Highlights Spalding Festival of Contemporary Writing, Nov. 10-20

Katy Yocom

Spalding University’s Festival of Contemporary Writing – the state’s largest fall-spring reading series – will take place in a virtual format Tuesday, Nov. 10 through Friday, Nov. 20, featuring readings by faculty of the low-residency programs of Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott will make a special appearance on Thursday, Nov. 19 to accept the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature.

All readings will take place virtually and are free and open to the public, but you must register separately for each event in order to receive the link to attend. The complete schedule of the festival, which is held in conjunction with the School of Writing’s fall residency, is listed below, and each session has a unique registration link.

Register here to attend Willmott’s presentation and prize ceremony, which will occur 5:30-6:45 p.m. Nov. 19.

The Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature was established to honor exceptional literary works that exemplify Spalding University’s mission. The $7,500 prize will be awarded to Willmott for his body of work in November during his virtual visit to the School of Writing, home of the nationally distinguished low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program.

Willmott, who in 2019 shared the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, is also Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas and has spent his filmmaking career taking on the subject of racism in America. He is a frequent collaborator with Spike Lee, most recently on the critically acclaimed Vietnam film Da 5 Bloods. Willmott’s other films include the mockumentary CSA: The Confederate States of America (which he wrote and directed) and Chi-Raq, a retelling of Lysistrata in a violence-wracked neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (which he co-wrote with Lee). The film critic Richard Brody called Willmott’s work “brilliantly imagined fictions.”

“Kevin Willmott is an extraordinary screenwriter and teacher,” said Kathleen Driskell, Chair of the School of Creative and Professional Writing. “BlacKkKlansman, which he wrote with Spike Lee and others, is the kind of work we aim to recognize with our Spalding Prize and bring to our students’ attention. BlacKkKlansman is courageous, unflinching, and beautifully written. Like his earlier work, it’s a relevant social commentary on our times.”

In 2019, the year Willmott won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with co-writers Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel, the film was nominated for a total of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The screenplay was adapted from Black Klansman, Ron Stallworth’s memoir detailing his work as the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, during which he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan of Colorado Springs. BlacKkKlansman premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. The American Film Institute named it one of the top films of 2018.

Willmott has visited the Spalding MFA program twice before, most recently to talk about Chi-Raq. Prior to Willmott’s visit, all School of Writing students and faculty will read and discuss the screenplay for BlacKkKlansman and will view that film as well as Da 5 Bloods, Destination Planet Negro!, and CSA: Confederate States of America.




7:30 – 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time, Tuesday, November 10. Faculty Reading. Register:

  • Rachel Harper (fiction), This Side of Providence
  • Fenton Johnson (creative nonfiction, fiction), At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life, The Man Who Loved Birds
  • Lesléa Newman (writing for children and young adults), Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story
  • Douglas Manuel (poetry), Testify
  • Larry Brenner (writing for TV, screen, and stage), Growing Up Dead, Saving Throw Versus Love
  • Lynnell Edwards (poetry), This Great Green Valley

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, Saturday, November 14. Faculty Reading. Register:

  • Leslie Daniels (fiction), Cleaning Nabokov’s House
  • Greg Pape (poetry), Four Swans: Poems
  • Jacinda Townsend (fiction), Saint Monkey
  • Roy Hoffman (fiction, creative nonfiction), Come Landfall, Alabama Afternoons: Profiles and Conversations
  • Erin Keane (professional writing, poetry), Demolition of the Promised Land
  • Sam Zalutsky (writing for TV, screen, and stage), Seaside (Now streaming on Amazon, iTunes, VUDU, and elsewhere)

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, Tuesday, November 17. Faculty Reading. Register:

  • Kirby Gann (fiction), Ghosting
  • Jeanie Thompson (poetry), The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller
  • Keith S. Wilson (poetry), Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love
  • Edie Hemingway (writing for children and young adults), Road to Tater Hill
  • Eric Schmiedl (playwriting), Browns Rules
  • Dianne Aprile (creative nonfiction), The Eye is Not Enough: On Seeing and Remembering

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday, November 19. Faculty Reading. Register:

  • Nancy McCabe (creative nonfiction, fiction), Can This Marriage Be Saved?, Following Disasters
  • Jeremy Paden (translation), Under the Ocelot Sun
  • Gabriel Dean (writing for TV, screen, and stage), Terminus, Qualities of Starlight
  • Silas House (fiction), Southernmost
  • Beth Ann Bauman (writing for children & young adults), Jersey Angel

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday, November 19. Spalding Prize winner Kevin Willmott. Register:

  • Kevin Willmott, Academy Award-winning screenwriter. Credits include BlacKkKlansman, Da 5 Bloods, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. Willmott will be awarded the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature for his body of work.

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, Friday, Nov. 20. Faculty Reading. Registration:

  • John Pipkin (fiction), The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter
  • Rebecca Walker (creative nonfiction, fiction), Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, Adé: A Love Story
  • Robin Lippincott (fiction, creative nonfiction), Our Arcadia, Blue Territory
  • Kira Obolensky (playwriting), Hiding in the Open
  • Charlie Schulman (writing for TV, screen, and stage), Goldstein: A Musical About Family
  • Kathleen Driskell (poetry), Blue Etiquette

The reading schedule may change without notice. Check Facebook for updated information: For more information, call 502-873-4400 or email ‘