Forest Disturbance: An excerpt from Katie Fallon’s essay in Mountains Piled upon Mountains

West Virginia University Press’s new book Mountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene features nearly fifty writers from across Appalachia sharing their place-based fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry. The excerpt below is from the essay “Forest Disturbance” by Katie Fallon, who is the author of several books, has taught at West Virginia University, and now teaches in low-residency programs at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Chatham UniversityMountains Piled upon Mountains, edited by Jessica Cory, is available now on our website.

Isabelle stands directly on top of the running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), a federally endangered species. Her silver Nikes crush some of the three-leafed plants, while other sprouts tangle between her feet. The US Forest Service scientist leading our small group assures us that this clover likes disturbance—in fact, it requires disturbance to flourish—but we are nervous about obliging.Read More »

On editorial work, imposter syndrome, and MFA degrees: A conversation between WVU Press alums Sarah Munroe and Kat Saunders

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Sarah Munroe and Kat Saunders worked as graduate assistants at West Virginia University Press while earning MFA degrees in creative writing from the WVU English department, and both have gone on in publishing—Sarah at Temple University Press, where she is an acquisitions editor, and Kat at Kent State University Press, where she is an assistant editor. In this conversation, conducted over Google Chat, they talk about how their time at West Virginia University informs their publishing work.

Sarah: I don’t know about you, but I miss West Virginia University Press. It was so chill. And the little house with the sheep.

Kat: I do too! Although I don’t miss the dead mice in the walls—only downside to that old farmhouse. What was your favorite project you worked on?

Sarah: I got to copyedit Marc Harshman’s poetry collection and work on the Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods collection; they were both fun. What about you?

Kat: I worked on the reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, which featured a new introduction by Catherine Venable Moore. It was a stunning essay. And I loved how Rukeyser wound research through her poetry.Read More »

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

Greg Bottoms’s Lowest White Boy is excerpted in the “Readings” section of Harper’s—our first appearance in the nation’s second-oldest magazine. Seven Days, Vermont’s alt weekly, praises the book for its “alchemy of lyricism and down-home telling-it-like-it-is.”

In our first appearance in the Times Literary Supplement, Appalachian Reckoning is called a “vibrant” collection of “rigorous, passionate” essays. The volume also lands alongside books by Colson Whitehead and others on the summer reading list at Bitter Southerner, and appears in The Baffler, Nashville’s The Contributor, and the podcast Reading Women. Coeditor Meredith McCarroll takes to CNN.com with the essay “Anthony Bourdain Listened to the Voices Hillbilly Elegy Ignored,” and the editorial team behind the book continues to be active on the interview circuit. McCarroll talks with WFDD radio in Winston-Salem, her coeditor Anthony Harkins talks with the podcast America’s Democrats, and the two team up for the podcasts Working History and New Books Network.

Ryan Boyd considersHow Humans Learn and the Future of Education” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, calling Joshua Eyler’s book “a splendid repository of ways to rethink how we teach college.”

In other news from our Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series, Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy appears in the Inside Higher Ed preview of fall highlights from university presses. The SUNY Oswego podcast Tea for Teaching features interviews with both Neuhaus and Derek Bruff, author of Intentional Tech.Read More »

Montana, 1973: An excerpt from Cassandra Kircher’s Far Flung

Foreword Reviews calls Cassandra Kircher’s Far Flung—the latest title in WVU Press’s series In Place—a set of “intimate and moving essays on nature, family, and adventures in the wild,” noting that “Kircher, who was the first woman to patrol the remote, isolated backcountry of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, writes about how love for the earth’s wild places is intimately tied up with who we are.” We’re pleased to share an excerpt from this perfect summer read, and encourage you to see the author on tour this July and August.

I’m eighteen. My dad, my mom, my brothers, and I are on vacation driving across Nebraska and Wyoming in our Ford LTD before making a right-hand turn at Colter Bay and heading up to Glacier National Park. Behind the Ford, we’re pulling a wooden pop-up camper, one that is hand built and swerves in the wake of our exhaust like a water-skier. My father has picked it up from the want ads.

My father has picked up a lot of new equipment for this trip: five down sleeping bags, five foam air mattresses, five rectangular backpacks, and a whole fleet of plastic containers recommended—according to my father—by camping experts: a tube for peanut butter, another for mayonnaise, a carton molded to nest half a dozen medium-sized eggs. He buys everything one afternoon from The Backwoods, the only mountaineering store in Omaha. He also purchases an expedition tent in which my youngest brother and I will sleep. The tent features a snow tunnel and a little half-moon panel that can be zipped out of the floor in case you want to light a stove indoors and brew a cup of tea during a blizzard.

“I think,” my brother says with a maturity way beyond his twelve years, “that Dad might be feeling his midlife.”Read More »

Late spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

In a first-of-its-kind public scholarship collaboration, the Lexington Herald-Leader dedicates its entire May 5 opinion section to work from WVU Press, running three essays, a poem, and photography from Appalachian Reckoning. Harkins and McCarroll’s book also generates interest in Michigan, where the Petoskey News-Review features a personal response by columnist Glen Young. Editors and contributors from the volume will appear in Greensboro, Wake Forest, Hendersonville, and Atlanta in May, and a recent appearance at Parnassus Books in Nashville will be broadcast on C-SPAN on May 19.

Amy Alvarez of the WVU English department takes to the Los Angeles Review of Books to talk with Greg Bottoms about Lowest White Boy, new in our series In Place. Bottoms is also interviewed in Pittsburgh Current, and “Growing Up at Ground Zero of American Apartheid,” an excerpt from the book, is featured in Literary Hub. Another excerpt is slated to appear this summer in a print publication with roots in the nineteenth century. Watch this space!

North Carolina Public Radio’s “The State of Things” features an interview with Valerie Nieman, author of To the Bones. Nieman will appear in Greensboro, Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Charleston, Richmond, Huntington, Asheville, and other cities this summer.

“Pittsburgh is very much a part of Appalachia . . . The fact that ‘very few people’ in our area ‘actually see themselves as Appalachian’ encouraged Ferrence to explore the tensions surrounding that identity.” Pittsburgh Magazine reviews Matthew Ferrence’s Appalachia North.Read More »

Learning to dig: A creative writer on her start as a journalist

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Valerie Nieman is a professor of English at North Carolina A&T State University. A former journalist and farmer in West Virginia, she is the author of three novels, as well as collections of poetry and short fiction. She is a graduate of West Virginia University, and she received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. To the Bones, her latest novel, is now available.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time digging: century-old crockery pulled up from dumps behind fallen-in houses, jack-in-the-pulpit and native azalea dug out of the woods and toted home, stones pried out of hillsides. (That last led to a broken ankle, when I stepped in the hole I’d created earlier.) My bedroom was adorned with trilobites, the skulls of wild creatures, slab-sided patent medicine bottles.

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

Two of West Virginia University Press’s books won awards from international scholarly societies this spring. The Politics of Lists received the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award from the Political Geography Group of the American Association of Geographers, and The Argument about Things in the 1980s received the Arthur Miller Institute First Book Award from the British Association for American Studies. Congratulations to authors James Tyner and Tim Jelfs.

Appalachian Reckoning continues to receive attention.

  • In WVU Press’s first appearance in Salon, Erin Keane positions the book among a “cohort of dazzling Appalachian talent” offering alternatives to Hillbilly Elegy.
  • Keith Wilson’s contribution to the volume, the poem “Holler,” is featured in Literary Hub, and the book receives coverage from public radio and the alt weekly newspaper in Louisville.
  • West Virginia Public Radio’s Inside Appalachia also profiles the book.

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“I’ve thought about writing directly about white racism for a long time”: An interview with Greg Bottoms

Greg Bottoms is “one of the most innovative and intriguing nonfiction writers at work,” according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Bottoms’s latest book, Lowest White Boy—a study of growing up white and working class in Tidewater, Virginia, during school desegregation in the 1970s—is new in WVU Press’s In Place series. Here Bottoms talks with Jeremy Wang-Iverson.

What inspired you to write about racism from your boyhood experience?

I’ve written a lot about the South and Virginia, and I’ve touched on racism many times and in different ways in other books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’ve thought about writing directly about white racism for a long time because it was so prominent in my childhood personal geography. But it is our political climate of rising racism and the pushing back on civil rights of all kinds that really made this feel urgent to me. Jeff Sessions was AG. Steve Bannon developed core ideas for the Republican candidate, now president. Stephen Miller is in the White House. Racism is the subtext and often the text of Trump’s words. These men are white supremacist, first and foremost, and a solid minority of our country supports their ideas with votes. White ethno-nationalism is now a fundamental pillar of one of our two major American political parties and has a powerful media ecosystem that magnifies these views. I’m describing an objective, factual reality.Read More »

LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia: A conversation between editors

In the newly published LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, editors Jeff Mann and Julia Watts have collected works “that give Appalachian queer voices—members of a double minority—an opportunity to be heard at a time when many people in power would prefer to silence or ignore them.” This collection, the first of its kind, gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. In this conversation, Mann and Watts take a closer look at what growing up queer in Appalachia was like for them and how their identities influenced their reading and writing.

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WVU author spotlight: Lisa DeFrank-Cole

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. With this post we inaugurate a new feature spotlighting 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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Lisa DeFrank-Cole, professor and director of WVU Leadership Studies, shares the story of securing a contract for her textbook on women and leadership.

After a recent conversation with Derek Krissoff, director of WVU Press, he suggested I compose a short blog post about my experience obtaining a contract with SAGE Publications. He thought other faculty might find value in in my story. So here it goes . . .Read More »