“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 »

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

In the first published review of The Painted Forest, forthcoming in our series In PlacePublishers Weekly praises Krista Eastman’s “thoughtful and elegant” prose, saying her “deep fascination with and love of her home state, in all its complexity and eccentricity, permeate this moving book and will live on in the reader’s mind.” Eastman launches The Painted Forest in Wisconsin in October. Details from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Bitter Southerner features “Hillbillies Need No Elegy”—a major essay by Meredith McCarroll, coeditor of Appalachian Reckoning, with photography by Roger Mayalong with an excerpt from the volume by contributor Ivy Brashear. The book makes Iowa Public Radio’s summer reading list, and is reviewed—alongside Matthew Ferrence’s “thoughtful, meditative” Appalachia North—in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Appalachia North is positively reviewed, as well, on Brevity‘s nonfiction blog, which also praises Cassandra Kircher’s “inventive and supple” Far Flung.

For the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, Pittsburgh Current interviews volume editors Jeff Mann and Julia Watts about LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, “a testament to the survival of Appalachian LGBTQ folks.”Read More »

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 »