Homer Hickam to be 2014 AHWIR

Homer Hickam, author of “Rocket Boys,” will be the 2014 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence (AHWIR), spending time in the fall on Shepherd University’s campus.

In an interview with The Picket, Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, professor of English and director of the AHWIR program, called Hickam “an icon in West Virginia for that matter, all over the country for his first novel ‘Rocket Boys.’”

Hickam is best known for his New York Times bestselling memoir “Rocket Boys,” but he has also written several other volumes of memoirs and fiction. “Rocket Boys” was made into the film “October Sky.” He began writing after returning from military service in Vietnam while working for NASA.

As a native of West Virginia, a state Shurbutt says is “rich in fine writers [with] a fascinating history,” Hickam will arrive on campus in late September and spend a week discussing his work and writing process, meeting with students and community members, and attending various events during the Appalachian Heritage Week Festival.

Diana Everhart, a senior English major with a minor in Appalachian Studies, looks forward to the AHWIR program each year. When asked about Hickam’s selection, she replied that she “knows he will be great.”

Hickam’s selection marks a slight deviation from previous writers in that he often highlights elements of science within his work. Shurbutt hopes this might draw in an additional section of the Shepherd community. She notes her excitement about “the possibilities for programs” which might draw in science students and faculty, too.

The AHWIR program has been ongoing at Shepherd since 1999. Shurbutt contributes its success to the program’s attempt to “be innovative, to involve the community as well as the campus in what we do.” However, she notes the “most interesting product [is the] Appalachian region which allows us to be creative and to engage a community interested in learning more.

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