Valerie Nieman is a professor of English at North Carolina A&T State University. A former journalist and farmer in West Virginia, she is the author of three novels, as well as collections of poetry and short fiction. She is a graduate of West Virginia University, and she received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. To the Bones, her latest novel, is now available.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time digging: century-old crockery pulled up from dumps behind fallen-in houses, jack-in-the-pulpit and native azalea dug out of the woods and toted home, stones pried out of hillsides. (That last led to a broken ankle, when I stepped in the hole I’d created earlier.) My bedroom was adorned with trilobites, the skulls of wild creatures, slab-sided patent medicine bottles.
In the newly published LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, editors Jeff Mann and Julia Watts have collected works “that give Appalachian queer voices—members of a double minority—an opportunity to be heard at a time when many people in power would prefer to silence or ignore them.” This collection, the first of its kind, gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. In this conversation, Mann and Watts take a closer look at what growing up queer in Appalachia was like for them and how their identities influenced their reading and writing.
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.
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.
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.
Abby Freeland is the sales and marketing director at West Virginia University Press, where she also acquires fiction. She recently represented WVU Press at AWP’s annual conference, where she was an exhibitor at the bookfair.
Laura Leigh Morris is an assistant professor at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where she teaches creative writing and literature. Before that, she spent three years as the National Endowment for the Arts/Bureau of Prisons Artist-in-Residence at Bryan Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas. She’s previously published short fiction in Appalachian Heritage, the Louisville Review, the Notre Dame Review, and other journals. She is originally from north central West Virginia.Jaws of Life, now available, is her debut book.
I sat in the backseat of my parents’ car, my eyes on the road, an attempt to stave off motion sickness on the winding roads between Wetzel and Marion Counties. We were on our way back from visiting my great-aunt and -uncle in Rymer. We rounded the hundredth curve only to be blinded by lights—1000+ watt industrial lights that allowed hydraulic fracturing to continue 24 hours/day.
Jacob Appel is a physician, attorney, and bioethicist in New York City, where he teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His story collection The Amazing Mr. Morality will be published by WVU Press in February.
One of my favorite jokes relates the story of an impious rabbi who goes golfing on a Jewish Holy Day and is punished by God with a perfect score. In the punchline, God asks the angels, “But who can he tell?” My job, as an emergency room psychiatrist and hospital-based bioethicist, raises similar challenges: I hear the most amazing, unlikely, compelling stories all day long—but the magic often lurks in the details, and both canons of medical ethics and federal law prevent me from sharing these stories with others. (For fifty years beyond the death of the patient, at least; check back with me at the turn of the next century.) So if I cannot write about my professional experiences, even in the most oblique or veiled manner, how does being a psychiatrist or ethicist influence my writing?Read More »
Heather Bell Adams is from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and now lives in Raleigh with her husband and son. She is the winner of the 2016 James Still Fiction Prize and her short fiction appears in the Thomas Wolfe Review, Clapboard House, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. Maranatha Roadis her first novel and is the winner of the Knoxville Writers’ Guild Contest Find Heather on Twitter: @heatherbelladam.
On the heels of the publication of my first novel, Maranatha Road, I’m grateful to share an inside look at how we got here.
The manuscript took about a year to write and, along the way, I received helpful feedback from novelist Amy Greene, whom I greatly admire. She was leading a workshop through the Appalachian Writing Project and, when my work obligations got cancelled at the last minute, I could take time off to attend. Amy’s encouragement fueled a mad dash to “the end” and then, of course, the real work of revising began.Read More »