Our year in sixty seconds: A highlight reel for 2019

We kicked off this blog two years ago with a roundup of the year’s highlights and—73 posts and 17,000 views later—we’re excited to once again provide a celebratory recap of a successful year. Our year-in-sixty-seconds feature makes room for all of 2019’s books, but necessarily leaves out a lot (including television appearances, bookstore sightings, and newspaper takeovers). Still, we hope this highlight reel captures some of the year’s energy, and provides a glimpse of the communities that have come together around our books. We’re grateful to them—to you—and we wish you all the best this holiday season.

West Virginia University Press welcomes Sarah Munroe

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Sarah Munroe will join West Virginia University Press as marketing manager and acquisitions editor at the start of the new year, overseeing marketing and sales operations and acquiring a mix of literary and social justice titles. Sarah is currently at Temple University Press, and she has worked previously at the Pew Charitable Trusts and at WVU Press, where she was a graduate assistant while earning her master of fine arts degree. She received the Russ MacDonald Creative Writing Award from WVU’s Department of English. While at Temple, she has worked in literary studies, disability studies, gender and sexuality studies, and other fields.

We hope you’ll join us in welcoming Sarah back to Morgantown, and we invite you to get to know her in this blog post from the spring, in which she talks with Kat Saunders, another WVU Press alum, about graduate work at West Virginia University as preparation for a career in publishing.

WVU author spotlight: Daniel Renfrew

At West Virginia University Press we publish books in our areas of specialization by authors around the world, including WVU faculty like Rosemary Hathaway and Travis Stimeling, both of whom have written for our blog. Other members of the WVU community, of course, work with different publishers. In this post we continue to feature authors at the university who publish with other houses—part of our effort to serve as a forum for all things book- and publishing-related at West Virginia University.

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Daniel Renfrew, associate professor of anthropology at WVU, writes about his experience publishing with the University of California Press.

Last year I was proud to publish my book Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay through the University of California Press. The finished product readers view or hold is of course only a façade veiling a complex internal scaffolding of effort, time, and multistep stages involved in bringing a book to fruition. Here I outline the combination of perseverance and fortune that resulted in my book being accepted for publication, in addition to the steps, at once monumental and mundane, that got it into print.Read More »

Mid-Fall roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

Sadie Hoagland’s American Grief in Four Stages lands alongside books by Jia Tolentino, Jaquira Diaz, Sarah Elaine Smith, and others on the Electric Lit roundup of the best debuts of the second half of 2019. This fall Hoagland will read in Davis, Salt Lake City, and Lafayette, LA. Learn more at her website.

A Blue Ridge Public Radio piece about the Appalachian studies community and its reactions to Hillbilly Elegy draws on Appalachian Reckoning, quoting coeditor Meredith McCarroll and contributor Ivy Brashear. The book is also profiled in the Charleston Gazette Mail, and reviewed on the US Intellectual History blog, which praises it for “[uplifting] historically marginalized voices, such as LGBTQIA+ Appalachians and Affrilachians.”

The Gazette Mail also interviews author and series editor Travis Stimeling about his book Songwriting in Contemporary West Virginia.

Titles in our higher education series continue to attract attention. Joshua Eyler talks with Inside Higher Ed about How Humans Learn, his “incredibly well-received new book,” which also appears on the list of the 66 best education books of all time from Book Authority.Read More »

“Are the birds really electric now?”: Sadie Hoagland talks about American Grief in Four Stages

Sadie Hoagland is the author of American Grief in Four Stages, a new collection of stories from West Virginia University Press. Here she talks with Tessa Fontaine, the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers choice, and an Amazon Editors’ Best of the Month featured debut. 

Tessa Fontaine: Many of your stories are written in the first person, with characters who must reckon with a crisis. Though they may be surrounded by other people, they mostly wade through grief alone. Do you think the short story form lends itself particularly well to these kinds of stories?

Sadie Hoagland: I think the intense grief that is the subject of many of the stories does fit the short story form well. For one, the reader doesn’t necessarily want to be in that space longer than a short story. But in addition, the short story allows for a kind of reading that asks us to consider emotional territory and space over plot investments; we can’t know the characters as well as we can in a novel, but the glimpse we are given into their lives is incredibly intimate. I think the brevity makes it all more poignant.Read More »

“Putting off-the-map oddities at the center of the universe”: An interview with Krista Eastman

credit.Sharon Vanorny.jpgKrista Eastman’s new book The Painted Forestdescribed by Publishers Weekly as “thoughtful and elegant”—is now available in West Virginia University Press’s series In Place. Here the author talks with series coeditor Jeremy Jones.

Jeremy: “What strangeness, I asked, is this?” This is the question you pose to yourself walking around the Painted Forest—the fraternal society hall covered in murals of, among other images, a man riding a goat. It’s a good question. So good, I’m pointing it back at you. There’s so much beautiful strangeness in your book. Were you looking for strangeness when you found places and experiences to write about? Was that a central criterion for these essays?

Krista: I hadn’t thought about it that way but the attraction to strangeness is definitely there. I do thrill to weird things. I look at something as deeply strange and antiquated as fraternal societies and I can’t look away, but mostly because I see in all of it this arresting proof of our collective strangeness, as well as proof of how bizarre and byzantine we will all look one day, how wrong we’ll have been, how obviously conflicted we all were (are). Read More »

Early fall roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

In a starred review, Kirkus calls American Grief in Four Stages “a captivating debut collection” of “assured, haunting, and deeply empathetic stories.” The volume also earns praise from Foreword Reviews, which says it’s a “terrifying, brave collection.” Sadie Hoagland will launch her book at the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on November 21.

Krista Eastman, author of The Painted Forest, is one of five writers highlighted in the “best debut memoirs and essay collections” feature for 2019 from Poets and Writers magazine. She writes of her experience publishing the book: “Then I came upon West Virginia University Press and its In Place series, which publishes books about ‘the complexity and richness of place.’ I sent my manuscript to the editor . . . who began emailing me frequently and thoughtfully, a responsiveness that evoked mild confusion until it occurred to me that the book was being read, carefully, by the people who were going to publish and champion it.” Eastman will appear at the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison on October 19 and Milwaukee’s Boswell Book Company on October 29.

Newsweek reports on controversies surrounding the Hillbilly Elegy film adaptation, citing our book Appalachian Reckoning, which “argues against how Vance’s memoir depicts the poor.” Volume editors Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll will join James Patterson, Denise Kiernan, Salina Yoon, and Orson Scott Card as headliners at the West Virginia Book Festival on October 4 and 5. McCarroll will also participate in the Boston Book Festival on October 19, and Harkins will appear at the Kentucky Book Festival on November 10.Read More »

Nerd alert! Reflections on quoting geek culture in Geeky Pedagogy

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Jessamyn Neuhaus is a professor of US history and popular culture at SUNY Plattsburgh, a scholar of teaching and learning, and a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her book Geeky Pedagogy is new in WVU Press’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

When I first began thinking about writing a book on teaching and learning in higher education, I knew who I most wanted to reach: geeks, introverts, and nerds (GINs) like me—the eggheads and experts who are fluent in studying, pondering, thinking, and researching but for whom teaching effectively doesn’t come naturally or easily. As I state in the introduction of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers: “Emulating other writers and commentators today who are proudly self-identifying as geeks and nerds, expanding the definition of geek culture, and challenging negative stereotypes about nerds, I use ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ as an occasionally self-deprecating, but also affirming and celebratory way of describing certain characteristics we in higher education often share and which have an impact on teaching” (3). Because I am a professor and lifelong consumer of popular culture, I leapt at the chance to pay homage in the book and chapter epigraphs to my favorite geeky books, movies, and entertainment franchises. In this post, I reflect on a few of these geek culture touchstones.

“Grade me. Look at me! Evaluate and rank me. Oh, I’m good, good, good, and ohso smart! Grade me!!!!” –Lisa Simpson, “The PTA Disbands,” The Simpsons

Lisa Simpson is one of the most widely viewed popular depictions of a nerd. In “The PTA Disbands,” a teacher’s strike cancels classes and soon brainy, straight-A student Lisa goes into academic withdrawal. I chose this quote for Geeky Pedagogy’s book epigraph in part because I love that one of pop culture’s most famous nerds of all time is a socially awkward little girl who (most of the time) finds enormous satisfaction in her intellectual prowess. Additionally, in the book I argue that many super-smart people teaching college classes started out as students like Lisa, which makes us great scholars but can hamper our teaching efficacy, since most people don’t especially love school and especially dislike being graded. In Geeky Pedagogy, I explore how awareness of and preparing to bridge this potential gulf between GIN professors and our students is essential for effective teaching, and it can start with acknowledging all the traits we may very well share with little bookworms and brainiacs like Lisa Simpson.Read More »