Activities and Outings

All activities and outings are free for Watson attendees.

Throughout: Pet Photo Competition

Watson Pet-a-Palooza Runs Feb. 28-Mar. 9 (for all attendees)

Learn more and register your pet by Friday, Feb. 23  Monday, Feb. 26, 11:59 pm EST

Register your pet for our “March Madness”-style single-elimination tournament! Pets will compete against each other one or more of the following categories.

  • Best sleeping pose 
  • Best silly pose
  • Best helper (photo of your pet helping you work or do a chore)
  • Best short comic or meme – one or more photos of your pet with a caption(s) or thought bubble(s) 

The competition will begin February 28, the first day of the (Zoom) conference. On Feb. 28, Feb. 29, and March 1, conference-goers will vote on their favorite pets; each day, more pets will be eliminated. Once we have a winner in each of the four categories (announced March 2), the “Final Four” pet owners will have 5 days to create a 60-second video of their pet. Those pets will then compete against each other on March 7 and March 8. The champion will be announced on March 9 and will receive a personalized pet pillow.


Feb. 29: Zoom "Pub" Trivia Night

Thursday, Feb. 29, 8-10 pm EST (for all attendees)

Sign up by Thursday, Feb. 29 at 12 noon EST

Come meet other conference attendees and play some trivia! No prior experience needed—just a commitment to curiosity and fun (and to integrity! No looking up answers online!). Questions will cover literature, history, pop culture, music, science, sports—anything under the sun! Your host is experienced quizmaster Jonathan Lippman, and your tech maestro and scorer is Martin Butterick of O’Brien’s Hybrid Pub Quiz in Los Angeles.

Each round will be announced with everyone in the same Zoom room; then, teams will go into breakout rooms to confer and submit answers.

Teams of six players will be randomly assigned that night—unless you’d like to play with certain people. If that’s the case, please let us know in the registration form.  

 Photo of Crystal Wilkinson

Mar. 2: Zoom Creative Writing Workshop: Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Cultivating Literary Writing Through Food Memories with National Bestselling Author Crystal Wilkinson

Saturday, March 2, 4-6 pm EST, on Zoom (for all attendees)

Register here by March 1, 11:59 pm, to give us a sense of how many people will attend. (You are still welcome even if you don't sign up in advance.)

The Watson Conference is sponsoring a free creative writing workshop with national bestselling writer Crystal Wilkinson, Kentucky's former poet laureate who just published Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks. (Workshop description and excerpt below!) The goal is for attendees to break out of the constraints of “traditional” academic writing, connect with one another over writing, and discover a writer they may not have yet read. We will also raffle off copies of her new book. This workshop will be Saturday, March 2, from 4-6 pm EST over Zoom.

Workshop Description: Whether it’s cornbread, seafood, or tortillas, food is culture and memory. We express the joys and pains of our lives through the food we eat and the food eaten by our families and ancestors. Using food as the center, in this generative workshop we will generate the beginning of poems, stories, and essays by tapping into food-related memories be they joyful, sad, traumatic, or comforting. In this workshop, we will read a few published examples and learn how to use food to extract larger concerns. Whether you are writing a novel, stories, poetry or nonfiction, you'll leave this workshop with some beautiful beginnings for new work.

Read an excerpt from her new book, Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks.

Crystal Wilkinson, a recent fellowship recipient of the Academy of American Poets, is the award-winning author of Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts, a culinary memoir, Perfect Black, a collection of poems, and three works of fiction—The Birds of Opulence , Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. She is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, an O. Henry Prize, a USA Artists Fellowship, and an Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. She has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Hermitage Foundation and others. Her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in The Atlantic, The Kenyon Review, STORY, AgniLiterary Journal, Emergence, Oxford American and Southern Cultures.  She was Poet Laureate of Kentucky from 2021 to 2023. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Kentucky where she is a Bush-Holbrook Endowed Professor.


Mar. 7: Reception at Black Jockey’s Lounge

Thursday, March 7, 5:30-8 pm (for in-person attendees)

Come kick off the Watson Conference with some hors d’oeuvres, non-alcoholic drinks, and sweets at Black Jockey’s Lounge. Our bus will run continuously between UofL and Black Jockey’s Lounge between 5:15 pm and 6 pm. If you want to a ride back to the Galt House, the bus will leave at 7:30 pm.

Black Jockey's Lounge documents and celebrates the tradition of Black jockeys competing in the Kentucky Derby before the Jim Crow era. Read about the restaurant in this 2022 Spectrum News article, and learn more about the history of Black jockeys in this 2024 Courier-Journal article.


Mar. 8: Visit to the Roots 101 African American Museum

Friday, March 8, 5:00-7:00 pm EST (for in-person attendees)

Sign up here by March 7 at 1 pm EST.

The Watson Conference is sponsoring free tickets to one of Louisville’s newest museums, the Roots 101 African American Museum, which opened in 2021. The museum tells the story of the African American experience in chronological and thematic fashion. Exhibits include “Faces of Africa,” “The Circle of Hate” (which includes Ku Klux Klan artifacts), “Static Major” (a tribute to the late Kentucky-born singer, songwriter, and producer Stephen “Static Major” Garrett), and the Breonna Taylor Memorial.

Our bus will leave UofL at 4:45 p.m. for the museum; it may need to make two trips. Once everyone has arrived (by 5:00-5:30 p.m.), we’ll sit down in the lobby area, and museum founder Lamont Collins will give us a brief presentation about the mission and scope of the museum. Then, you are free to walk around by yourself and explore the exhibits. You can leave for dinner whenever you’d like. If you’d like a ride back to the Galt House Hotel, the bus will leave Roots 101 at 7 pm. (The museum is downtown and close to restaurants; it’s 0.4 miles from the Galt House Hotel.)