Children's Authors Discuss Creativity, Appalachia, Diversity


On this week’s encore episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re dedicating the show to children’s authors. Hear from Cynthia Rylant, author of “When I Was Young In The Mountains,” “Messy Larry” author David J. Perri and storytelling champion Bil Lepp reading from his children’s book “The Princess And The Pickup Truck.”

We’ll also hear Lyn Ford — a professional storyteller and children’s educator — telling a story she wrote, called “The Old Woman and Death.”

We learn that while these stories are written for children, they carry messages for all of us, even grown-ups.

Messes Are A Part Of Life

Those who spend significant time with toddlers know this to be true: messes are a part of creativity — and life. This is especially true in the life of “Messy Larry,” the titular character of David J. Perri’s children’s book.

Perri, a Pittsburgh native who lives in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, wrote and illustrated “Messy Larry” with the goal of writing “something that was fun to read, both for parents and for kids.”

Last March, Roxy Todd sat down with Perri to discuss the book, and the freeing notion that messes are okay.

Growing Up In The Mountains

Author Cynthia Rylant has written more than 100 books since she began a professional career as an author — from picture books, easy readers, chapter books and novels. She is the recipient of the Caldecott Honors for her book “When I was Young in the Mountains.”

Rylant was raised in West Virginia and spent time with her grandparents in Raleigh County, which inspired her beloved book. This week, we’re airing a conversation Rylant had with our host, Mason Adams, about her childhood. We’ll also listen back to hear her read an excerpt from “When I was Young in the Mountains.”

“The Princess And The Pea” With An Appalachian Twist

Those familiar with Bil Lepp’s storytelling style know that he writes in a way best enjoyed aloud. Lepp is a storyteller who has won the West Virginia Liars’ Contest five times.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear Lepp reading his newest book, “The Princess and the Pickup Truck.” The book is based on “The Princess and the Pea,” with an Appalachian twist.

Storytelling As A Connection To History

Lyn Ford is a professional storyteller who grew up in Appalachian Pennsylvania and spent many summers in East Liverpool, Ohio. Many of Ford’s stories are adapted from folktales she heard as a child. Ford identifies as Affrilachian, a term that combines African American and Appalachian identities. She said that, because history books don’t often include African American history, she didn’t begin learning about it until she found some of her aunt’s books.

“So I think it starts with family, sharing stories from your own family, and that makes a connection to history,” Ford said. “And also sharing stories is communication, which helps us to know one another better and we all need that these days getting acquainted with one another.”

“So definitely, storytelling is at the foundation of a better world,” she said.

In this week’s show, we hear Ford telling one of her stories “The Old Woman and Death,” at the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute in Utah in 2016.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Nathan El and Marisa Anderson.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.