Travis Stimeling is associate professor of music history at West Virginia University and a series editor and author with WVU Press. Here he talks with Jacob Kopcienski, a lecturer in the WVU School of Music. Don’t miss Travis and musical guests at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV, on December 19.
JK: What inspired your interest and scholarly engagement with Appalachian music and culture?
TS: I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia, in Upshur County, about an hour and change south of Morgantown. Toward the end of elementary school, we started going to a Methodist church. In our neighborhood you were either down in the holler or up on the ridge, and church was up on the ridge. We shared the minister with three other churches, so we only got a preacher on the first and third Sundays of the month. Second and fourth Sundays were lay speakers and, in months with five Sundays, the preacher got the last Sunday off. On those fifth Sundays, all four churches got together in the evening for a big sing-in. So, from the time I was nine to eleven years old, I was singing gospel music with my mom, and singing in the church choir. Mom and I were a little duo that was a lot of fun. I would sing the harmony and she would sing the lead. When my voice changed, we flipped parts.Read More »
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: wewerereviewed 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.”Read More »
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.
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.
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 »
Our forthcoming After Coalis 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 launchAfter Coal on October 14 at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.
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 »
Our 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 Kirkuspraising 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 »
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 »
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 »
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.