Liz McCormick Published

Appalachian Heritage Festival Continues in Shepherdstown this Weekend


The annual Appalachian Heritage Festival in Shepherdstown continues this evening.  The dance, art, and music filled weekend is a celebration of the region’s artistic traditions. This past week included a quieter celebration of Appalachian literature with Shepherd University’s 2014 writer-in-residence, Homer Hickam.

Hickam is best known for his 1998 book Rocket Boys, the story of his 1950s childhood in Coalwood, West Virginia and his hopes of becoming a rocket scientist. He eventually realized his dream, working for NASA as an aerospace engineer for seventeen years. But when it comes to his writing ability, he credits his West Virginia roots.

“Both my parents were good storytellers around the kitchen table after supper, and I’d listen to their stories,” Hickam remembered, “And Coalwood, where I grew up, a lot of folks knew how to tell a good story. And when I started writing, it was one of the first things I got back from my editors was, wow you really know how to tell a story, and I said, well, you know I had good teachers.”

As Shepherd University’s writer-in-residence, Hickam has spent the past week speaking to student and community groups around Shepherdstown.  Last night, he received the annual Appalachian Heritage Writers Award, funded by the West Virginia Humanities Council. 

Hickam says it’s been a great experience for him and his wife.

“We have been treated like royalty, and it’s been standing room only wherever I’ve gone, which has been really, really nice, and I mean the people are just wonderful.”

Hickam’s Coalwood Trilogy is this year’s One West Virginia Common Read. That means it’s recommended reading for everyone in the state according to the West Virginia Center for the Book.