The scholarships will benefit UMKC MFA students, who will teach free writing courses at the library and work on organizing the Maya Angelou Book Award, presented at the event. Buki Papillon is the winner of the second annual Angelou award for her acclaimed first novel, “An Ordinary Wonder.”

Celebrated author Alexander Chee was the featured speaker at the event. Chee, editor of the newly released “The Best American Essays 2022,” a collection of the best essays published in the U.S. last year, conversed with Whitney Terrell, UMKC associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program; and V.V. Ganeshananthan, a fiction writer, journalist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

Chee is also the bestselling author of two novels, “Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night,” and the essay collection “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.” His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, The Sewanee Review and in the 2016 and 2019 editions of Best American Essays. He is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth University

Named for revered Missouri-born memoirist, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, the Angelou award celebrates contemporary writers whose work demonstrates their commitment to social justice. It alternates annually between poetry and fiction. The award was established in 2020 by the Kansas City Public Library, UMKC, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri State University and Northwest Missouri State, Truman State and Southeast Missouri State universities.