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 Writers. Her 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.
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 Seawallcalls 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.
Meaningful Grading: A Guide for Faculty in the Arts, by Natasha Haugnes, Hoag Holmgren, and Martin Springborg, was published this summer by WVU Press. Written as a guide for postsecondary arts instructors in all stages of their careers, the book addresses issues of perennial importance in all arts disciplines.
These are the three main questions that drive Meaningful Grading:
How can faculty in the arts grade student work in ways that improve learning and support artistic development?
What does effective grading in the arts look like?
How can faculty in the arts develop and improve their teaching and grading over the course of their careers?
The contents are written in tip form, and arranged to mirror the flow of an academic semester, so that information can be located and implemented quickly and easily. Here we share an excerpt from the section “During the Semester.”Read More »
Paint Creek. Cabin Creek. Holly Grove. Cesco Estep. Mucklow. Frank Keeney. Mother Jones. Solidarity Forever. The places and the people of the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike are buried deep in the American memory of the labor movement and the working-class struggle for rights and justice. The strike occurred in the “age of industrial violence,” before there were laws to govern labor relations, and for many it revealed the darkest depths of capitalism in America but also the indomitable spirit of workers organized in the face of great odds. Despite its tragic loss of life, despite its importance in the history of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and despite being a cause célèbre among the labor activists of the era, this conflict in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields remains little known today except among historians and the coal mining families of southern West Virginia.Read More »
The June issue of Landscape ArchitectureMagazine features eight pages of photographs from our Marked, Unmarked, Remembered—”an effort by brothers Andrew and Alex Lichtenstein to help us recall.” Photos from the book also appear in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Our edition of The Book of the Dead is included in Sam Huber’s thoughtful essay on “Muriel Rukeyser, Mother of Everyone.” It’s WVU Press’s first time in the Paris Review.
Anthony Harkins, coeditor of our forthcoming Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds toHillbilly Elegy, is mentioned in Nancy Isenberg’s (paywalled) New York Review of Booksessay on recent books by J.D. Vance, Elizabeth Catte, and Steven Stoll.Read More »
Chuck Kinder is the author of four novels—Snakehunter, The Silver Ghost, Honeymooners, and Last Mountain Dancer—and three collections of poetry—Imagination Motel, All That Yellow, and Hot Jewels. West Virginia University Press has just published new editions of Snakehunter, his first novel, and The Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life, his latest novel. Here, Donna Meredith, associate editor of the Southern Literary Review and award-winning author of The Glass Madonna, The Color of Lies, Wet Work, Fraccidental Death and Magic in the Mountains, explores Kinder’s remarkable career.
A dozen Chuck Kinder personas are sitting in a honky tonk. Would the real one please stand up?
At times, Kinder seems like your basic outlaw author, the “Jerry Lee Lewis of American Letters” he aspires to be (Last Mountain Dancer, 452). The man who ran wild at Stanford with short-story giant Raymond Carver and befriended fellow writers Scott Turow, Tobias Wolf, and Larry McMurtry. Later in his career, Kinder and Lee Maynard even embarked on a book tour under the Outlaw Author banner.
In March Ryan Claycomb, interim director of WVU’s new humanities center, talked with our director, Derek Krissoff, about university press publishing. Now it’s Ryan’s turn to discuss his work with the center—a vital part of the university’s intellectual landscape and an important press partner.
DK: WVU’s new humanities center arrives at a moment of particular anxiety about the role and future of the humanities. Do you see the center as arising from, or participating in, those debates in the wider world?
RC: I heard a talk by digital humanities and performance scholar Sarah Bay-Cheng recently. She had run a Google Ngram on the terms “crisis in the humanities” and “public humanities” to check their frequency. She noted that while the concept of “public humanities” certainly followed the coining of this apparent crisis, the idea that the humanities are in crisis has been in the air for fifty years. That’s about as long as the National Endowment for the Humanities has been in existence, as a matter of fact: a period that might be called a golden age of humanities scholarship! The peak in mentions of this crisis, furthermore, happened in 1990—before I even started as an undergraduate literature major—so any sense that this is a novel or timely concern isn’t really taking the long view.Read More »
Meredith Sue Willis teaches novel writing at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. She is the author of twenty-two books, including A Space Apart, Love Palace, Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories, and Oradell at Sea (West Virginia University Press). She has received literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has won awards such as the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, the West Virginia Library Association Literary Merit Award, and the Appalachian Heritage Denny C. Plattner Prize for both fiction and nonfiction.Their Houses, her latest novel, is now available to preorder.
Long before I moved to New York City, at my first college in rural Pennsylvania, I became accustomed to a lot of nonsense from otherwise intelligent people who thought it was okay to make hillbilly jokes. To this day, decades later, people will still openly make remarks about Appalachians that they would never openly make about other groups. I think this is probably less about malice and more about deep, appalling ignorance. It is an ignorance, however, that contributes to making West Virginians and others feel marginalized.
Meagan Szekely is the marketing manager at Naval Institute Press. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant at Johns Hopkins University Press and as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University Press. Meagan has a master’s degree in professional writing and editing from West Virginia University. She has worked on books about Appalachian culture, Florida manatees, World War II spies, and Victorian shoes. A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Szekely now lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and cat. She is passionate about books, Coca-Cola, and West Virginia.
From the very beginning of grad school, I lived by Jeffrey Eugenides’s words from The Marriage Plot: “She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” To which my mother replied, “But what are you going to do with a degree in English?”Read More »
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Maggie Messitt has an essay responding to our edition of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead. She writes: ”The Book of the Dead is documentary poetry . . . at its most effective. The collection builds a narrative that carries through each poem, leading us into a disaster impossible to shake, illustrating the fight for accountability, and exposing the awful truth.”
Nancy Abrams’s The Climb from Salt Lickreceives two major pieces of media attention. Booklistcalls it “a reverse Hillbilly Elegy, the story of a young woman who flummoxes her family back in St. Louis by settling in remote, rural West Virginia, giving us a glimpse into hardscrabble living, small-town characters, and a slice of history.” And Chicago Readersays the author “paints a vivid picture of what it was like to make her way in an unfamiliar territory during a turbulent time.” Abrams’s photographs, including some from the book, are on exhibit at the Rare Nest Gallery in Chicago.
Marked, Unmarked, Remembered—a book that “seeks to shed light on events that have been left out of the national story, even as these issues continue to define political struggles today”—is also featured in Chicago Reader, in conjunction with the authors’ appearance at the Chicago Humanities Festival.Read More »