Volpi uses her passion for literature and literacy to benefit the state as Kentucky Book Festival director

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Sara Volpi
Sara Volpi | Photo credit: Loren Gifford

Sara Volpi (12) earned a BFA in Creative Writing with a minor in studio art from Morehead State University. If you knew her when she was a kid, this was easy to predict. The writing was on the wall. Actually, that is not really accurate. The writing was on the paper, accompanying appropriate visuals she created. 

“I’ve always drawn since I can remember, making up cartoons since I was a kid,” she said. “It seems like the two (writing and art) just go hand-in-hand. I would draw a character and that character needed a story, so you would make a story for them.” 

Now, the story she hopes to create is one that centers around sparking a passion for reading and an appreciation for authors of the Commonwealth in her newest position as the director/special projects coordinator of the annual Kentucky Book Festival for Kentucky Humanities. 

Volpi was born in Louisiana and moved to Somerset when she was five years old. Even though she indulged her visual art talents as a child drawing Disney characters and butterflies she saw outside, she also said she picked up the “editing gene” from her parents. Her father Joe was the associate pastor and principal of a Christian school and her mother Rhonda worked alongside him as an executive assistant. 

Volpi graduated from Southwestern High School and was offered the Commonwealth Scholarship to attend MSU but she initially attended Somerset Community College to major in art. While she was there, former MSU English faculty members Crystal Wilkinson and Ron Davis came to her class to talk about how MSU was going to start a BFA program in creative writing. 

“I’d always liked writing, but I’d never heard of a degree in creative writing until Crystal showed up and I was like, ‘Ok, that sounds fun,’” she said. 

Volpi transferred to MSU her sophomore year. She remembers constantly hanging out in the Claypool-Young Art Building, the Bert. T. Combs Building or the Camden-Carroll Library, bringing her computer to “type papers there all hours of the night.” She also served as editor of Inscape, MSU’s long-standing student-led, juried literary and visual arts journal, in 2012.  

She said on the way to earning her undergraduate degree, the faculty instilled in her some much-needed discipline, challenged her as a writer and an artist, and sparked a passion that made her want to continue her education and remain in Kentucky after college. 

“They kind of put a fire in me to just stay in Kentucky and just do what I can to make my state as cool as possible as far as a literary scene is concerned, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. -[Sara Volpi]

Volpi earned a Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition from Western Kentucky University in 2014. While in Bowling Green, she worked as a customer service representative for Studio Calico, a subscription-based scrap-booking company. She became the company’s marketing and social media coordinator, where she wrote content for the company’s website, newsletters and blogs while doing freelance editing for publishing houses and her more creative writing on the side.  

Thanks to a fortuitous Facebook message from a friend in 2015, she learned about a job as the literary outreach coordinator and Southern Kentucky Book Fest coordinator at Western Kentucky University. When she applied and was accepted, she found a sense of fulfillment through a position that allowed her to be closely tied to figures from the literary world.  

“It’s perfect because I love books and meeting authors,” she said. “That was the first time I realized authors were accessible and authors would meet with me and talk about their work, which is really cool.”  

Volpi continues to have access to authors from within the state and beyond, but what she finds most rewarding is organizing events that help stoke enthusiasm in some of the state’s youngest readers. 

“I love getting books to kids, that’s my favorite thing,” she said. “My favorite part is to see a kid get to meet an author and get that book signed and tell them, ‘I really like this book. When are you going to write your next book?’ I hope that continues and authors like that are the reason kids continue to read.”  

Volpi feels extremely fortunate to have a position where she can use her passion for writing, authors and reading to help get kids excited about reading while introducing more people to the state’s talented writers. 

“I feel like there is no limit to what we can do and I want to try to build more partnerships across Kentucky to bolster our literary community because there are hundreds of authors that live in the Commonwealth, and people outside of Kentucky don’t know that, and I really want them to,” she said. 

Additional information about MSU’s BFA in Creative Writing program is available at www.moreheadstate.edu/study/creativewriting. To learn more about MSU’s Department of Art and Design, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/art