West Virginia Book Festival

Lee Child on Derek Jeter

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After one of the most spectacular days in baseball’s long and storied history on Wednesday, the playoffs start today.

What does this have to do with the West Virginia Book Festival? I’m glad you asked. Lee Child, headliner of the festival, is a big New York Yankees fan, and wrote about Yankees captain Derek Jeter this week on the ESPN sports/culture blog Grantland.

Jeter is Child’s choice if he had to build a novel around a member of the Yankees. He knows that “on the face of it, [Jeter] is the blandest man in baseball,” but then says:

Can you imagine the constant, crushing pressure involved in that? The sense of always being onstage? The caution, the paranoia, the relentless vigilance? He’s a Cold War story, a CIA guy undercover for 10 years a block from Checkpoint Charlie. Nerves of steel. Not just for the week of the World Series, but all day, every day, year after year after year. He has to be tough as hell. A weaker man would have collapsed under the strain long ago.

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One of the latest additions to next month’s West Virginia Book Festival is Fran Cannon Slayton, who’s going to use her 2009 young adult novel “When The Whistle Blows” to show how writers can use their family stories to break into writing.

If you don’t want to go into her session without knowing about her book, well, you should read the book … or, barring that, you could check out this week’s Video of the Week:

Free storytelling concert slated at Book Festival

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Three members of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild will present a storytelling concert at the West Virginia Book Festival this fall at the Charleston Civic Center. The free concert, “Stories from the Back Porch,” begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. Featured storytellers include:

Lynn R. Mills

Lynn R. Mills
A retired Wyoming County teacher, Mills began storytelling when her children were young to keep them entertained during car trips or in waiting rooms. She became a professional storyteller in 1999 and entertains audiences at family reunions, church picnics, nursing homes, schools, state parks and anywhere else there is someone to listen to her. She was the second place winner at the National Storytelling Competition in Hillsboro, Ohio, in 2000, and won the 2005 Tazewell County Fair Storytelling Competition.

 

John Wyatt

John Wyatt
“Appalachian from the heart” best describes Wyatt. His songs and stories of the mountains will transport you to an era when life moved at a slower pace, to a time of innocence, as he writes in one of his songs. Wyatt’s music and stories are drawn on his personal experience of growing up in rural Appalachia in the 1950s and 60s.  Wyatt and his wife are founders of Appalachian Cultural Heritage Alliance, a non-profit group that promotes and preserves the positive aspects of life in the mountains, then and now.

Sue Atkinson

Sue Atkinson
In August of 2010, Atkinson became the second biggest liar in Raleigh County. Sue has always been an avid reader and a dreamer. She has told stories as a Sunday School teacher and a Scout leader, at 4-H camps and church gatherings. She worked in business with her husband for 35 years and played with stories when she could. She retired from business in 2004. Now, she plays with stories and works occasionally.

Best-selling thriller writer Lee Child, basketball legend Jerry West, former Secret Service agents Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, and self-help author Dave Pelzer have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 22 and 23 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by Kanawha County Public Library, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Segal & Davis Family Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart, Target, Wal-Mart, BB&T West Virginia Foundation and Borders Express. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

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Ron Rash, one of the best short-story writers alive, is spending this week at Shepherd University as the writer in residence for the school’s 2011 Appalachian Heritage Festival.  He’ll get the festival’s Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award at an event tonight, and will present the festival’s West Virginia Fiction Competition awards.

Rash (who was part of the 2006 West Virginia Book Festival) is a supremely appropriate choice for an Appalachian writer’s award. He grew up and went to school in the mountains of western North Carolina, and as the good folks at Shepherd said when announcing his appointment:

Paramount in Rash’s work is a respect for the land, and, like many Appalachian writers, Rash tackles the thorny environmental issues that have plagued the region. Also influential on Rash was his Southern Baptist background. Rash’s work is rich with religious and biblical imagery, yet it is also reflective of the pagan myth and spirituality that are part of his Celtic roots.

Or, as Rash himself said when he won the Frank O’Connor Award for short fiction last year:

“Sometimes I think we think of regionality in a negative way, maybe particularly in the US, but you find the universal through the particular – that’s the kind of story I’m intrigued with. The authors I grew up admiring, Faulkner and O’Connor, were able to centre their work on a very specific geographical area and use it as a conduit to the universal.”

Are comic books art? The Warhol Museum says yes

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"Batman: Knight Over Gotham," by Alex Ross

If you’re a comic book fan, and you can make it up to Pittsburgh over the next few months, you’re in luck. Alex Ross, one of the great comic artists of the era, is having an exhibit at the Warhol Museum, titled “Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross.”

As the description of the event on the Warhol’s website notes, Ross won the Favorite Painter award from the Comic Buyer’s Guide so often, the award was retired. He worked on two landmark events early in his career, Marvel Comics’ “Marvels” series (the view of costumed heroes and villains from an ordinary man’s perspective) and DC Comics’ “Kingdom Come” (an imagination of the future of the superhero universe). Art from both is to be included in the exhibit (although seeing as how one of the exhibit’s sponsors is DC Comics, I’d expect their characters to occupy the places of prominence).

Ross will be on hand for the opening celebration on Oct. 1, and the exhibit will run until Jan. 8. Andy Warhol was a big comic book fan, so some of his collection will be featured; also, Warhol’s unfinished camp film “Batman/Dracula” (1964) will be screened.

A look back at Mary Lee Settle

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Mary Lee Settle

National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon will appear at next month’s West Virginia Book Festival in the annual session named after Mary Lee Settle. In the announcement about Gordon, Book Festival chairwoman Pam May called Settle “the grande dame of West Virginia literature.”

Settle died on this date in 2005, at the age of 87. Although she left West Virginia for much of her later life, her experiences here continued to color her books throughout her life. (She also returned for the inaugural West Virginia Book Festival back in 2001.)

Below is the obituary for Settle that appeared in The Charleston Gazette — for those who don’t know her, or for those who want to be reminded of a remarkable woman. ………………………………………………………………………

Mary Lee Settle, the critically acclaimed author whose novels chronicle life in the Kanawha Valley from its earliest settlements through the 20th century, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. She was 87.

She had been a resident of the Charlottesville, Va., area for most of the last 30 years.

Former Gov. Gaston Caperton was a longtime fan of Settle’s and persuaded her to tour small colleges in West Virginia in 2003.

“She was a great lady,” Caperton said Wednesday. “West Virginia has lost one of its most distinguished writers and a person that I loved not only for her writing but for her spirit and her penetrating and challenging understanding of West Virginia and its people. Though she is gone, she will live on through her great writing.”

Fellow West Virginia novelist Denise Giardina said, “I lost my real mother a few days ago, and I considered Mary Lee my literary mother. She’s the one who showed me it could be done, that I could be a writer from West Virginia. She was also extraordinarily vivid as a person, one of the strongest personalities I ever met.

“She was the quintessential American, the way Americans should be: outspoken for justice and democracy. She was also the quintessential West Virginian, a strong individual, tough and willing to stand up to anything.”

In more than 20 novels and nonfiction volumes, Settle took measure of the coarse mores, emotional ties and ripple effects of history that came for her to define Charleston and the other locales of her bittersweet upbringing in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, rechristened by one of her characters as the “Beulah Land.”

Continue reading…

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For Jack Reacher fans, the wait is over. “The Affair,” the 16th novel in Lee Child’s series about ex-Army policeman Reacher, hits bookstores today.

Reviews so far are pretty positive. Janet Maslin in The New York Times:

The Reacher books, like those in many series, had reached an existential shark state: they had to keep moving forward to survive. But they could move only in relatively limited ways.

“The Affair” cleverly begins at the single most crucial point in Reacher’s life: the point at which he had to leave the Army. As it opens, he is about to enter the Pentagon. “I remember the date, of course,” Mr. Child writes, in one of his typically attention-riveting opening paragraphs. “It was Tuesday, the 11th of March, 1997, and it was the last day I walked into that place as a legal employee of the people who built it.”

Maslin also notes that the titular Affair is an actual affair:

Whether motivated by creative fervor or commercial instinct, Mr. Child has at long last given Reacher sex scenes, but they are stealthily funny: Reacher’s idea of sex, like his idea of everything else, is filled with precise calculation.

For The Associated Press, Jerry Harkavy writes that “The Affair” is:

… one of the best Reacher books yet: a murder investigation fraught with political ramifications and a rising body count set at the edge of an isolated Army Ranger base in Mississippi.

And Nina Sankovitch says in The Huffington Post:

“The Affair” is a thrilling book, a page-turner until the very end. It is rife with testosterone and riddles, laden with beautiful women and bad men, and although brutal, cynical, and provoking, it is a richly satisfying good read.

But why take their words for it? Get your own copy — and then come hear the man himself speak at next month’s West Virginia Book Festival.

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Children will have their own area with hands-on activities and performances by a children’s theater group at the West Virginia Book Festival, Oct. 22 and 23 at the Charleston Civic Center.

Sadie — Bright Star Touring Theatre
Maximus Mars — Bright Star Touring Theatre

Bright Star Touring Theatre, based in Asheville, N.C., will present two plays on Saturday – “Sadie’s Spectacular Saturday” at 11 a.m. and “Maximus Mars” at 3 p.m. – and will repeat “Sadie” on Sunday at 1 p.m.  Both productions teach children ways to cope with bullies. Launched eight years ago, the group’s season is comprised of literary, curriculum- and character-education based classics that are as entertaining as they are educational.

Word Play, located in West Hall 2, is devoted to a variety of children’s activities provided by area organizations. This year’s participants include: Kanawha County Public Library, South Charleston Public Library, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Kanawha County Master Gardeners, Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union, The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, and Charleston Newspapers’ Newspapers in Education program.

Best-selling thriller writer Lee Child, basketball legend Jerry West, former Secret Service agents Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, and self-help author Dave Pelzer have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival. The annual, two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by Kanawha County Public Library, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Segal & Davis Family Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart, Target, Wal-Mart, BB&T West Virginia Foundation and Borders Express. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

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Mingo County native Lee Maynard, former presenter at the West Virginia Book Festival, will be part of Fairmont State University’s Celebrations of Ideas Lecture Series next week. The author of “Crum” and “Screaming with the Cannibals” will speak at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the school’s Colebank Hall gymnasium.

I probably would have mentioned this on the blog no matter what, but any excuse to link to last year’s tongue-in-cheek literary brawl between Maynard and Chuck Kinder is a good excuse.

Please also note that Geraldine Brooks, author of “People of the Book” and “March,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006, will close out the lecture series in April. Brooks’ first novel, “Year of Wonders,” is FSU’s campus-wide Common Reading Project for this year.

Program to focus on writing for teens, children

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Fran Cannon Slayton used her family’s stories to break into the young adult/children’s book publishing business. She’ll talk about how other writers can use the same technique at the West Virginia Book Festival in the Charleston Civic Center on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2:30 p.m.

Slayton will help attendees identify stories from their own lives that may be good topics for books, offer writing tips and provide information about the children’s and young adult book publishing business. Her presentation, “Writing Books for Kids, Tweens and Teens: Mining Memories, Honing Craft and Exploring the Nuts and Bolts of Publishing,” will cover how to format a manuscript, how to know when a manuscript is ready, how to submit to editors and agents, and how to find a community of writers for encouragement and support.

Slayton is a Virginian by birth and a West Virginian by lineage. Her novel, “When the Whistle Blows,” is loosely based upon her father’s experiences growing up as the son of a B&O Railroad foreman in Rowlesburg, W.Va. in the 1940s. Full of Halloween excitement and adventure, “When the Whistle Blows” has been described as a masterpiece by Kirkus in a starred review. Slayton’s novel is a finalist for 2012 book awards in Virginia, Alabama, Illinois and Maryland.

Best-selling thriller writer Lee Child, basketball legend Jerry West, former Secret Service agents Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, and self-help author Dave Pelzer have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 22 and 23 at the Charleston Civic Center. The annual, two-day event celebrates books and reading and offers something for all age groups. A variety of authors will attend, participating in book signings, readings, workshops and lectures. Activities for children include special programs and a section of the Marketplace filled with children’s activities. Admission to the festival is free.

The event is presented by Kanawha County Public Library, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation, Segal & Davis Family Foundation, Pam Tarr and Gary Hart, Target, Wal-Mart, BB&T West Virginia Foundation and Borders Express. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.