Partners in craft: More friends of West Virginia University Press

In the second installment of our Booktimist series, we hear from collaborators across the world of books.

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Penny Pugh is head of research services at the WVU Libraries and a member of WVU Press’s editorial board.

It’s been my pleasure to serve on the WVU Press board for several years and to see it grow and flourish under the leadership of two talented directors. The work of a board member is indeed a pleasure. The board approves all new books before they’re published, and as part of the evaluation members read a portion of the work under consideration as well as a summary and reports from external reviewers. These glimpses into potential new titles are fascinating. After reviewing the titles, members of the board provide additional insights from our various disciplines and vote on acceptance of the title. The board also advises the director on matters of policy and practice and generally guards the reputation of the press.

I am a particular fan of the fiction and creative nonfiction that the press publishes, so it’s a delight to have a preview of the new titles. But I’m also continually impressed by the quality of the academic and regional works that are presented for approval, and I’m proud to see the growing national attention to WVU Press titles. A press author at a recent event described it as “small but mighty,” and I agree wholeheartedly.

Tom Hansell signs books at Malaprop’s. Photo courtesy of Patricia Furnish.

Patricia Furnish is an event host and bookseller at Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC.

Tom Hansell, author of After Coal: Stories of Survival in Appalachia and Wales, appeared for an author event in conversation with one of the producers of his eponymous documentary on Sunday, January 13, at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC. Tom and Pat Beaver had a wide-ranging discussion about his book and the oral histories it contains.

The book is reminiscent of the work of Studs Terkel and his oral histories of working-class Americans. Strains of Howard Zinn are also evident in the call for social justice for health issues, adult education programs, and protection for mining whistleblowers. The need to combat despair is palpable, as alcoholism and drug abuse mire families in further misery. Hansell allows readers who might be unfamiliar with the coal industry in Wales to see extraction economies as a global phenomenon. Even more evocative are Welsh culture and its post-coal community spirit.

Community was the key word for the author event with Tom and Pat. It’s what Malaprop’s Bookstore has worked to generate and sustain for over thirty-five years in western North Carolina. Our community spirit reaches beyond the mountains of Appalachia, just like Tom’s book.

The photo above shows Tom kindly signing copies for our store. We’re so glad to have had the opportunity to host an event with him and with West Virginia University Press.Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 4.29.28 PMJeremy Jones is associate professor of English at Western Carolina University and the author of Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland.

As a series coeditor at WVU Press, I get to ride a lot of coattails. Alongside Elena Passarello (award-winning writer and screamer), I help books make it into the world as part of the series In Place—a literary nonfiction series publishing books about place. Elena and I don’t write the books. We don’t design the covers. We don’t change em dashes to colons. Lots of other people on staff shepherd these books from proposals to published pages. We series editors get to curate and—stroking our chins, pipes in hand—think about the future.

Our series is young. This spring, the second and third books in the series will be published. This means that a lot of what Elena and I do is spread the word, cheerlead, and solicit manuscripts. Then, the biggest—and hardest—part of the job is to choose manuscripts from the slate of submissions we receive. From among those exciting proposals, we try to find the most compelling, most surprising, most necessary projects for the press to turn into books. Then, the good people in Morgantown make it happen.

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