If 2017 was a year of firsts for West Virginia University Press, then 2018 has been one of reach—a year in which our books and authors were in particularly broad circulation, helping propel outward the reputation of the university, state, and region in encounters from Portland to New Orleans and New York to Munich. We’re proud of our work with partners in the state’s growing literary and cultural network, like Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, Labor Heritage Week in Wheeling, and the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston. In our end-of-year message, though, we start by looking further afield.
West Virginia University Press was big in Southern California this year: we were reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books three times and made our first appearance in Pacific Standard; author Michael Adamson talked about his book in our series Energy and Society at the Huntington Library in San Marino; and a visit to Skylight Books yielded sightings of a half dozen of our titles (including one coauthored by WVU musicologist Travis Stimeling). “When I go into a bookstore and see the words ‘West Virginia University Press’ on a spine next to logos from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University,” said director Derek Krissoff, “it says something about the community WVU is part of. If I’m far from home and the book happens to be by a WVU faculty member, all the better.”
As the West Virginia teachers’ strike made headlines around the world, the magazine Literary Hub used three books from WVU Press to help explain the strike’s origins and context, while Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC, displayed our new edition of The Book of the Dead (“gorgeous,” according to PW) alongside Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia in solidarity with striking teachers. At the height of the strike, WVU Press teamed up with the WVU Humanities Center and the Hardesty Festival of Ideas to bring Catte, our editor at large, to speak at the university.
Author Tim Jelfs, visiting Morgantown from the University of Groningen to talk about his book The Argument about Things in the 1980s, said that publishing with “small but mighty” WVU Press inspired him to teach his students in the Netherlands about Appalachia. It wasn’t our only time in international circulation this year. Marked, Unmarked, Remembered helped people around the world—from Memphis high school students to a German newspaper and an Israeli blog—think about thorny issues around the commemoration of challenging events.
Our friends in Germany also helped us celebrate After Coal, Tom Hansell’s look at socially just transitions from fossil fuels in Appalachia, Wales, and around the world. The book’s launch in Washington, DC, was cosponsored by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, a political foundation affiliated with the Green Party of Germany, and featured guests from the Sierra Club, Teaching for Change, and Higher Ground.
Nancy Abrams brought a piece of West Virginia to Chicago when she launched her memoir The Climb from Salt Lick—”a great corrective to ugly caricatures of Appalachia,” said Chicago Reader—at Rare Nest Gallery. The press’s midwestern tour also hit Cincinnati, site of the annual meeting of the Appalachian Studies Association, where three of our titles were honored as finalists for the Weatherford Award, and Clay Carey and Laura Leigh Morris celebrated their new books.
From Morningside Heights (where Book Culture near Columbia University displayed The Book of the Dead) to Greenwich Village (host of the “New York Writers Who Still Go Home” program featuring Meredith Sue Willis and Their Houses) to Borough Hall (site of the Brooklyn Book Festival), WVU Press popped up all over New York in 2018. Further up the Hudson, Todd Snyder’s tour for 12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym—a “very special book,” according to Booklist—stopped in Albany.
In March and April the press exhibited books at conferences in Tampa and New Orleans, meeting writing professors and geographers from around the world. Jacob Appel showed off his story collection The Amazing Mr. Morality, which Kirkus called “intelligent, humanistic, and witty,” at the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
And at the press’s final conference of 2018—Professional and Organizational Development in Higher Education, in Portland, OR—we exhibited new titles from our higher education program. Books in the press’s highly regarded series on teaching and learning appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed multiple times over the course of the year, drawing together a community of authors and readers dedicated to improving college teaching.
Through it all, we celebrated our successes back home, bringing authors to West Virginia’s bookstores, libraries, concert venues, and breweries (specifically Short Story Brewing in Rivesville, where Natalie Sypolt read from her “masterful” The Sound of Holding Your Breath); rejoicing when pepperoni roll expert Candace Nelson made national news (twice); and working to shape more sensitive perceptions of our place and empower people working for change. We’ll wrap up the year at WVU’s reception for President Gordon Gee and other West Virginia authors on December 7 at 10AM at Wise Library. [Edited to add: it was great!] We look forward to joining many of our Morgantown friends at the celebration. And if your own place in the world is more far flung, then there’s a good chance you’ll see us there, too.