In memoriam: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster

Photo by Bob Campione

Bonnie Stewart, an award-winning journalist and former professor of journalism at West Virginia University, is the editorial adviser for Daily Titan, California State University, Fullerton’s student newspaper. While at WVU, she spent five years researching and writing No.9: The 1968 Farmington Coal Mine Disaster, an investigative book about the mining disaster that killed seventy-eight men at a Consolidation Coal Company mine on November 20, 1968. In 2014, the miners’ families sued the coal company, which subpoenaed Stewart for unpublished interviews. Claiming reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment, she fought the subpoena in federal court and won.

Fifty years have passed since seventy-eight coal miners died underground in the Consolidation Coal No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia. Some good came from that tragedy. The deaths moved Congress to pass the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which is credited with saving untold numbers of miners. Although that has given the families of the seventy-eight dead some comfort, it has not erased what happened that cold November day in 1968 or why it happened.

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

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The rollout for Tom Hansell’s After Coal continues with a review and excerpt in the Daily Yonder, also picked up by the Huffington Post and 100 Days in Appalachia. It’s praised as “a forward-looking book” that “should be on the reading lists of any communities that wonder ‘what do we do now?'” Another portion of After Coal is excerpted in Pacific Standard, our first appearance in the magazine. Hansell will read from his book at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC, on November 29.

In response to author J.D. Vance’s visit to Charlotte, NC, Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll, coeditors of our forthcoming Appalachian Reckoning, appear on NPR station WFAE to “argue that the ‘hillbilly culture’ Vance depicts is actually much more diverse, complex, and nuanced” than it’s made to sound in Hillbilly Elegy.

New Pages includes Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath in its October roundup of new and noteworthy titles from independent publishers. Sypolt is interviewed on Shelf Life, from City Books in Pittsburgh, and will appear in cities across West Virginia and Kentucky in November.Read More »

WVU Press at the West Virginia Book Festival

We look forward to seeing book buyers and other friends at this year’s West Virginia Book Festival, October 26–27 at the Charleston Civic Center. Find us in the festival marketplace, and look for these new titles and special events featuring WVU authors.

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Meredith Sue Willis, author of Their Houses, will lead a writing workshop on October 26 at 10AM in rooms 202–204. Foreword Reviews praises her new novel as “a surprisingly tender portrait of the bonds that keep friends and families afloat.”Read More »

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

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Our forthcoming After Coal is reviewed in Publishers Weekly, which calls it an “optimistic” and “visually appealing” book about “community-building efforts by locals” in mining communities in Appalachia and across the Atlantic. Author Tom Hansell talks with the Trillbilly Worker’s Party podcast, and his After Coal project—an ongoing exchange between Appalachia and Wales that includes our book and a documentary film—makes an appearance on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia. We’ll launch After Coal on October 14 at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.

In Booklist, Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath is described as a “bold collection” and praised for its “masterful storytelling.” Sypolt launches her book in Pittsburgh, Rivesville, and Charleston in October.Read More »

Partners in craft: Three friends of West Virginia University Press

In the first installment of a new Booktimist series, we hear from three publishing professionals who help WVU Press’s small staff bring books to West Virginia and the world.

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Jeremy Wang-Iverson with Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Jeremy Wang-Iverson is president at Vesto PR and Books, based in Barcelona and New York.

I have helped with the publicity for WVU titles for two years now and look forward to promoting the books into 2019. It strikes me that WVU’s publishing program represents the best of university press and scholarly publishing; there are many authors and editors with interesting arguments, research, and ideas whose chief goal and ambition is having their book brought with care into the world. The limited size of WVU’s list means that this can be done for every book. As a publicist, I’m most interested in working with publishers who have been “present in the process,” as Cleveland State University’s Caryl Pagel says, and I’ve found that’s the case with the WVU team, which handles the smallest details slowly and correctly. WVU’s mix of academic titles, alongside regional and literary, is also very appealing, offering a catalog that has something for every reader. That Morgantown, just an hour outside of Pittsburgh, is a source of literary activity can only be positive; we should all encourage and support the cultural output that comes from places away from the coasts and big cities.Read More »

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

inside higher ed.jpgOur series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is well represented in the back-to-school reading roundup from Inside Higher Ed, with two of five recommended books—The Spark of Learning by Sarah Rose Cavanagh and How Humans Learn by Joshua Eyler—published by WVU. “One thing all these books have in common,” according to IHE, “is their capacity to spur and direct reflection about one’s own teaching practice.”

Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath receives two national pre-publication reviews, with Kirkus praising the story collection’s “powerful images” and Foreword saying it is “full of inevitability and resignation and haunted by themes of class, family, and place.” Sypolt will launch her book at an event with Laura Leigh Morris, author of Jaws of Life, at Pittsburgh’s White Whale Books on October 20. See her full tour schedule on our calendar.

Jesse Donaldson’s On Homesickness has been named Appalachian Book of the Year in the nonfiction category by the Appalachian Writers Association and the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival.Read More »

Local control, global perspective: Moving beyond coal and creating new jobs

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Musicians from Appalachia and Wales at the BBC Radio Wales studio.

Tom Hansell’s book After Coal: Stories of Survival in Appalachia and Wales will be published by WVU Press on November 1. In this opinion piece drawn from his research for the book, Hansell reacts to President Trump’s plan to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, and argues that Appalachia can, drawing on lessons from other parts of the world, work toward a post-coal future.

Last week President Trump traveled to West Virginia to announce his intention to scrap the Clean Power Plan, sounding a death knell for federal regulations on carbon emissions. While it’s undeniable that environmental regulations have a negative impact on coal jobs, the President ignores the fact that in states like West Virginia, coal and natural resources comprise only 3 percent of the state economy, according to a recent West Virginia College of Business report.Read More »

Defining the field: Series editor Brian Black on Energy and Society

Brian Black is Distinguished Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Penn State, Altoona, and editor of WVU Press’s series Energy and Society—an important part of our growing program in interdisciplinary studies of environment. With the second title scheduled for publication this fall and the third announced in the forthcoming catalog, we asked Brian to introduce his new series, which has already begun to define an emerging scholarly field. 

The issues related to energy management continue to power conversation and news in 2018, and the Energy and Society book series has taken important steps to be part of this global discourse. Focusing on the intellectual scaffolding that informs and shapes our use of energy, three new titles will be or have been recently released. In each case, leading scholars in the field seek to broaden our discourse on energy in a way that blazes a path for framing future scholarship.Read More »

Notes on the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop, a vital part of the state’s literary landscape

Natalie Sypolt is an assistant professor at Pierpont Community & Technical College. She coordinates the high school workshop for the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at West Virginia University and has served as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian WritersHer work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Appalachian Heritage, Kenyon Review Online, and Willow Springs. She is the winner of the Glimmer Train new writers contest, the Betty Gabehart Prize, the West Virginia Fiction Award, and the Still fiction contest. West Virginia University Press will publish The Sound of Holding Your Breath, her first book, this November. Learn more at nataliesypolt.com.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I attended the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop for the first time. I was shy, pretty awkward, and more than a little scared of the workshop leader I’d been placed with—West Virginia writer Pinckney Benedict. Now, looking back at my 19-year-old self, I’m still surprised that I actually did it. I can’t help but feel proud.

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

Sharon Harris’s “remarkable” new biography of Wheeling author and activist Rebecca Harding Davis is the subject of an essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books. It’s the third time we’ve appeared in LARB since December—twice with books by or about women writing about West Virginia.

On the Seawall calls Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead “a singular masterpiece.” Catherine Venable Moore, who wrote the introduction to our edition, will speak about the book in Parkersburg on September 1.

Michael Clay Carey’s The News Untold has been named a finalist for the Tankard Book Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.Read More »