After traveling for his writing from New York to Hollywood, Homer Hickam said there is nothing “compared to coming back to my home state.”
Hickam received the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award and presented his keynote address Thursday, Sept. 25, at Shepherd University before an overflowing auditorium in Erma Ora Byrd Hall.
University President Suzanne Shipley described Hickam’s presence in the auditorium as a “rare privilege.”
“I love writing. That’s what I do. That’s my life, Hickam said in his speech. He also presented awards for the 2014 W.Va Fiction Competition to fellow writers during the event.
Hickam shared several anecdotes during his keynote, including the time his 8th grade W.Va history teacher made him take the Golden Horseshoe test, a test based on the history, geography, economy and government of the Mountain State, because he was caught diligently reading The Black Stallion in place of his text book during class.
As far as his novels are concerned, he talked most of his best-selling memoir Rocket Boys. He described the writing process for the novel as one of the most difficult things he had ever done, and he was shocked to see how much his home of Coalwood had changed since his childhood.
In his life as a writer, Hickam said that John Steinbeck inspires him most but that Jack London is a close second, and he said that London’s literature should be taught more in schools. Hickam said he spent a lot of his time growing up reading as many books as he could get his hands on, and Steinbeck and London were two of his favorites.
In conclusion to his keynote address, Hickam put an emphasis on being proud of one’s heritage in West Virginia. Although he currently lives in Alabama, he did say that West Virginia “has always been a place that endures,” and that he will always be part of his original home.