Fans of Appalachian literature will have another reason to celebrate as volume six of Shepherd University’s Anthology of Appalachian Writers is set to be released by the end of April.
According to Shepherd University Professor Sylvia Shurbutt, the anthology’s Senior Managing Editor, the newest volume will feature work from Frank X Walker, this year’s writer in residence. Walker is a poet laureate from Kentucky who coined the term “Affrilachia” with the purpose of embracing the region’s multicultural influences. Walker came up with Affrilachia years ago when he didn’t know how to describe a southern Appalachian writer who was African American.
“It’s a great term and a great phrase and it certainly is very descriptive. Frank deserves a lot of credit I think, through that word showing how diverse Appalachia really is,” Shurbutt said.
In addition to Walker’s work, the annual anthology is also a venue for new writers of poetry, fiction and more. Writers from across the country submit to the publication.
While the anthology is mostly regional to Appalachia, Shurbutt says the pieces within the publication can appeal to a variety of readers.
“All good writing does have a universal quality as well. And certainly writers like Ron Rash, Silas House and Frank X walker, they are appealing across races and regions and they are giving us something that is uniquely appealing,” Shurbutt said
The Anthology of Appalachia Writers comes from the Appalachian Heritage program that was first developed by Shepherd University’s English Department in 1998. Along with the anthology, the program hosts an annual West Virginia Fiction Competition, which is judged by the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence.
Next Year’s Writer-in-Residence will be Homer Hickam who was born in Coalwood, West Virginia, and is the author of novels such as the Rocket Boys trilogy.
Shurbutt said the program is excited to be able to host Hickam as a writer-in-residence.
“Homer Hickam has been for a long time on our short list,” Shurbutt said. “For West Virginia, he is an immensely beloved writer.”
“Though he doesn’t live in West Virginia anymore, he really has captured the essence of West Virginian’s,” she said. “He has been able to get us a portrait of the disappearing coal towns, so he is really valuable in so many ways.”
The Anthology of Appalachian Writers is supported by the West Virginia Center for the Book, which is hosted by the West Virginia Library Commission and Humanities Council.
Chelsea DeMello is a Shepherd University intern and also editor of the student newspaper, The Picket.