Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Week Preview

The 2013 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence (AHWIR) week will be held Sept. 23-27.  The resident writer this year will be Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X. Walker.

Walker, who serves as Director of the African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky, and the editor of “PLUCK!, the New Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture,” will be on campus the entire week. Born in Kentucky in 1961, Walker is the second of 10 children and holds a Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. He was awarded the Lannan Fellowship for poetry in 2005, and has received many awards and commendations for his work. “Affrilachia,” released in 2000, is the 2013 One Book, One West Virginia selection.

The AHWIR is entering its 15th year and has been held exclusively at Shepherd University. Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, the driving force behind the event, is a former Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages and currently serves as a tenured professor and coordinator of the Appalachian Studies minor.

Shurbutt expressed her pleasure with being able to feature Walker this year: “When I read one of his books, I was blown away by his talent.”

Dr. Shurbutt believes the Appalachian area “is rich with not only natural beauty, but also is home to an incredible group of writers.”

Attendees of AHWIR events will be able to sample Walker’s writing and learn more about the region.

Throughout the week, students and community members will be able to attend a wide range of events and interact with Walker. Events include, but are not limited to: a screening of “Coal Black Voices,” a lecture entitled “The African American Story in Appalachia” given by Dr. Matthew Foulds, a discussion with Walker regarding his writing process and work, and Walker’s keynote address, “Voices from Affrilachia.”

Paul T. Kessler, a 2012 graduate of Shepherd University who majored in English with a minor in Appalachian Studies, was presented with an award by Ron Rash (2011 AHWIR) during the 2011 festival for receiving second place in the West Virginia Fiction Competition, a branch of the AHWIR program.

“Meeting Ron Rash was very cool. He and I both agreed that Ryan Adams rules. In his critique of my story, he spoke so highly of me that I honestly could not agree,” said Kessler. “Winning second place meant the world to me. It was a moment of recognition that made me feel like my efforts and emotional investment in something were worth something.”

Kessler’s story was included in the “Anthology of Appalachian Writers Vol. IV.”

Dr. Carrie Messenger, assistant professor of English, recalls her first year at Shepherd and her attendance at the AHWIR events:

“I was thrilled that Bobbie Ann Mason (2010 AHWIR), a writer I have admired for years was going to be on campus. It’s wonderful as a creative writing professor to know that there will be a writer on campus every fall doing both readings and discussing their work…[Students] should plan to attend the events because they are excellent and free,” she added.

Steve McKenzie, a 2013 graduate of Shepherd with a minor in Appalachian Studies and a member of the AHWIR Planning Committee, believes “AHWIR week is a chance for individuals to explore a critical element of modern literature, music, education and more…AHWIR week is perhaps the best way to get a concentrated view of the limitless creativity that flows down from the Appalachian culture.”

Diana Everhart, a senior English major with a minor in Appalachian Studies, has attended a number of AHWIR events since arriving at Shepherd. She believes the week is “a wonderful opportunity for students to experience what a writer experiences first hand. I think it’s a lot of fun and very educational.”

Those interested in attending any of the events should refer to the schedule online and in our print addition for full details.

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