West Virginia Book Festival

Flatwoods bookstore closing — but not for long

It’s a rotten feeling — and one book-lovers have had all too many times in recent years — when you head to a local bookstore and find that it’s closed down.

So next month, if you’re visiting the outlet center off the Flatwoods exit of Interstate 79, and you see that the Book Cellar bookstore has shut its doors, don’t despair. I’m told the condition will be temporary.

An employee there said recently that the Book Cellar will close in early September. It’ll be closed for a few weeks, and then will reopen as a branch of Book Warehouse, a company that has stores in outlet malls across the country.

I can’t find any official announcement of this, so all details should be taken with a grain of salt. But that’s the word.

Marc Harshman

In May, Marc Harshman was named West Virginia’s seventh Poet Laureate by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, replacing Irene McKinney, who died in February. A resident of Wheeling, Harshman will present his inaugural reading since his appointment at the West Virginia Book Festival on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 12:30 p.m.

In addition to reading his poems, Harshman will reflect upon the rich legacies of Louise McNeill and McKinney, the Laureates who most immediately preceded him. Harshman’s program is sponsored by BB&T.

Harshman is also a storyteller and author of 11 children’s books. He is a recipient of the West Virginia Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry, has won an award from Literal Latté and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has degrees from Bethany College, Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh. His storybook, “The Storm,” was a Smithsonian Notable Book, and he has new children’s books forthcoming from Macmillan/Roaring Brook and Eerdmans.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 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 The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; BB&T; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

If the two days of the West Virginia Book Festival aren’t enough for you, Headline Books is offering you a chance to whet your appetite.

The Terra Alta-based publisher will offer a “Festival of Writers” on Friday, Oct. 12 at the Holiday Inn Civic Center. That’s the day before the Book Festival, at the hotel across the street from the Book Festival.

At the top of Headline Books’ list for the event is Karna Small Bodman, a former official at the National Security Council, and Rick Robinson, author of several award-winning political thrillers. Other authors include West Virginia authors Barbara Smith, Melissa Harker Ridenour, Colleen Driscoll and Ed Rehbein; NASCAR kids author Tim Packard and storyteller Lynn Salsi. There are more workshops that that, even, as well as a pitch session and lunch. The session costs $99, with special rates for students and groups.

Many of those Headline Books authors will make appearances at the company’s booth in the West Virginia Book Festival marketplace, where Headline Books has been a mainstay for years.

Marketplace: Dead Ringers: Why Miners March

Another in our series of authors, publishers and others who will be in the West Virginia Book Festival‘s marketplace this year, in their own words. This submission comes from Wess Harris, editor of the anthology “Dead Ringers: Why Miners March.”

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Long-buried secrets of Appalachia are unearthed in a book published in 2012 and available at the upcoming West Virginia Book Festival.

Dead Ringers: Why Miners March is an anthology of works featuring nine of Appalachia’s top scholars and activists along with additional documentation and photos from the unknown and often suppressed history of the coal fields.

The book’s title is taken from the original meaning of “dead ringer,” explained Wess Harris, editor of the anthology.  In the early coal camps of West Virginia, burials for women often occurred a mere 12 to 24 hours after death. Men were meant to dig coal, not linger over lost wives.

“Incredibly, women were sometimes not thoroughly dead before burial,” said Harris. “To guard against such mishaps becoming truly tragic, they were buried with a bell in hand and a string attached to another bell on the surface that would be monitored by the oldest child for 24 hours.”

“If the woman woke up, she would be a  ‘dead ringer’ and — perhaps — be rescued from the grave,” Harris said.

Like the book’s title, stories in this anthology are coming back to life.  They paint a new and often unsettling perspective on conditions in the early coalfields.

Never before has a book described:

| Why coalfield women, perhaps more than men,  owed their souls to the company store.   Michael Kline describes the previously untold and still censored story of forced sexual servitude.

|  While coal companies have long painted unions as socialistic, Father John Rausch, Director of the Catholic Committee on Appalachia,  explains why  the union effort is part of the caring tradition of Christianity.

| How a baseball team saved 200 union miners from the hangman’s noose.

| Why the 1921 battle for Blair Mountain was a union victory, contrary to defeatist historical myths.

| How the coal industry has controlled — and continues to control — the West Virginia educational system.

The book shows that West Virginia’s history is still being unearthed.  By shedding light on long buried historical truths,  “Dead Ringers” deepens our understanding of Appalachia’s coal mining heritage with a candor that has never been offered before.

Parkersburg native to speak at Book Festival

 

Rahul Mehta

Rahul Mehta, author of the short story collection “Quarantine,” says that he is drawn to characters “who are lost in some way; who make mistakes; who are looking for their place in the world.” Born and raised in Parkersburg, Mehta will talk about his work and sign books at the West Virginia Book Festival on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 3:30 p.m.

“Quarantine” was named by the American Library Association as one of the top 10 LGBT books of 2011. Mehta will read from the title story of the collection, in which a young Indian-American man brings his boyfriend home to West Virginia, and through his boyfriend’s eyes discovers a new understanding of the grandfather he’d despised. Set partly at the Hare Krishna commune near Moundsville, this story – which was selected by Madison Smartt Bell for the prize anthology New Stories from the South – examines the complicated dynamics among three generations of an Indian immigrant family in West Virginia.

An Out Magazine “Out 100” honoree for 2011, Mehta currently resides in Philadelphia. He is finishing a novel to be published by HarperCollins in 2014.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 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 The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; BB&T; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

When Bill Merical sells a book at the West Virginia Book Festival, he won’t be the only one that who benefits.

Merical, who has written a book called “The Journey of Fallen Rock.” On his website, he calls the book “a children’s story about family, the adventure of traveling coast to coast across this great land and the lesson that we all can enjoy our natural resources while we still protect and preserve them. ” The website also has a bunch of testimonials from students and teachers.

Here’s Merical explaining who else benefits from the sales:

At the West Virginia Book Festival we will selling The Journey of Fallen Rock for $10.00 and  donating a copy of The Journey of Fallen Rock plus $2.50 to Read Aloud West Virginia for every book sold.  Growing up in Nitro I look forward to getting to help out a great program like Read Aloud West  Virginia. … We only sell the book to non-profit groups, PTOs and PTAs to help them raise money and recently had several teachers write a 3-week lesson plan for 5th and 6th graders.

Merical will be selling “The Journey of Fallen Rock” at booth 203 (left side, near the entrance) in the Festival Marketplace.

Dan Chaon to speak at festival

 

Dan Chaon

Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of “Among the Missing,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and “You Remind Me of Me,” which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon will speak about his work and sign books at the West Virginia Book Festival.

Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing. His latest book is “Stay Awake,” a collection of haunting, suspenseful stories featuring lost, fragile, searching characters who wander between ordinary life and a psychological shadowland. They have experienced intense love or loss, grief or loneliness, displacement or disconnection – and find themselves in unexpected, dire, and sometimes unfathomable situations.

Chaon’s presentation is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 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 The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.

For someone who hasn’t cooked all that much in his life, I have read a lot about Julia Child.

Child — who was born on this date 100 years ago – was, as most of you know, did more than anyone to teach Americans of the mid- and late 20th century how to seriously cook. She did it with her cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and her PBS television show, “The French Chef.” Child also lived long enough (she died in 2004 at age 91) to see the dawn of the Food Network and a cornucopia of TV cooking shows, and enjoyed something of a renaissance in the public eye.

I’m not sure how I ended up with a copy of her 1997 authorized biography, “Appetite for Life” by Noel Riley Fitch, on my shelf in the early 2000s (I was raiding used bookstores pretty indiscriminately around then). But the Child biography was there one day, and I read it. It was interesting, and I learned a lot about her that I didn’t know before. The key phrase there is a lot; I remember the book being very long, and very dense; it sometimes seemed that names, dates and other information were just being thrown at the reader, rather than being woven into a story.

But I also remember the part that interested me the most: the post-World War II years, when Julia and her husband, Paul, lived in Paris — and Julia learned to cook. So when her memoir of those years, “My Life In France,” came out in 2006, I gave it a shot. Definitely worth it; the book (finished by Julia’s nephew, Alex Prud’homme, after she died) is, as William Grimes said in The New York Times, an “exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming account” of her transformation from clueless American in Paris to expert on all things culinary and French. (“My Life In France” also formed the basis for the Julia Child half of the movie “Julie and Julia.”)

That probably would have been the end of my Julia Child reading — except that in late 2010, a collection of letters between Child and one of her great friends, Avis DeVoto, was published. In recent years, I have become fascinated with books of letters (but that’s another post). So I picked up “As Always, Julia,” edited by culinary historian Joan Reardon.

The story of how Julia Child and Avis DeVoto “met” seems like a plot device in a novel. Bernard DeVoto, Avis’ husband, was a columnist for Harper’s magazine. In one issue, he lamented the poor quality of kitchen knives in the United States. Julia, a regular reader, sent him a note and a couple of knives she bought at her local store in Paris. Avis answered the letter. Over the course of several years, the two progressed from polite acknowledgement to soul-baring friendship — despite not meeting in person until years after their first correspondence. (If you’ve seen “Julie and Julia,” Avis is the friend who Julia finally meets in Boston toward the end of the movie.)

For anyone who’s really interested in Child’s life and career, “As Always, Julia” is a must. But it’s also a fascinating look at American political discourse in the 1950s, as seen by two women who were planted firmly on the left side of the political spectrum. Their letters are full of gossip and speculation about Joseph McCarthy, Adlai Stevenson, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, among many others.

As you might expect, the landmark birthday has prompted a handful of new books. There’s a new biography, “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child,” by Bob Spitz, which is every bit as big as the Fitch biography. Reviews seem good so far; Kirkus Review called it “an engrossing biography of a woman worthy of iconic status.” If that’s too much to handle, there’s a 48-page illustrated biography by Jessie Hartland called “Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child,” and a children’s picture book about Julia and her cat, “Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat.”

So if you want to mark Julia Child’s centenary, there are plenty of literary options. Or, you could just opt to make some boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, or anything else that sounds good. Whatever you do, just remember Julia’s advice, given when flipping potato pancakes on an early episode of “The French Chef”: you have to have the courage of your convictions. Bon appetit.

Two months from today, it’ll be time for the 12th West Virginia Book Festival, set for Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center. For months now, festival organizers have been announcing the authors and programs for this year’s festival. You may have seen them as they happened — but in case you missed one or two, here’s the docket so far:

| Supernatural mystery author Charlaine Harris, best known for the Sookie Stackhouse novels (the basis of the HBO series “True Blood”)

| Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire mystery series (the basis of the A&E series “Longmire”), as well as a Huntington native and Marshall University graduate

| Tamora Pierce, who’s been writing best-selling novels for teenagers for decades

| David Corbin, author of a forthcoming book about the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s relationships with 10 U.S. presidents (that’s the annual Mary Lee Settle Session)

| Robert Sabuda, called “the reigning prince of pop-up books” by The Wall Street Journal (and if you don’t believe them, check out the video)

| Christopher Wilkinson, West Virginia University music history professor and author of a book about big band jazz in the Mountain State

| Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of more than 70 books for young people of all ages, including recent ones about the creators of Superman and Batman

| Marilyn Sue Shank, author of a novel for young readers set in 1950s West Virginia.

| Christian fiction authors Tamera Alexander, Lynn Austin and Julie Klassen

We hope to have more on most of these authors on the blog in the coming weeks. Also, I’m reliably advised that there’s at least one more announcement coming soon, so stay tuned.

Of course, there will be dozens of authors, vendors and others in the festival marketplace, as usual. And if you think this sounds like fun and you want to be a part of making it happen, volunteers are always needed.

Christian fiction is popular with a variety of readers in the United States. According to Library Journal, “a faith-based perspective remains at the core of evangelical fiction, but today’s fans are reading these books not just because of the Christian focus. They also love this genre because it quenches their inner thirst for knowledge, spiritual guidance, and, yes, entertainment.”

Three well-known authors of inspirational fiction will present a panel discussion at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the West Virginia Book Festival.

The three panelists are:

Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander, a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots and poignant prose have earned her devoted readers and multiple industry awards, among them, the Christy Award, the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award and the acclaimed Library Journal’s Top Pick for Christian Fiction.

Alexander’s first seven novels are set against the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory (1860-70s), but she recently began writing about her own Southern heritage by setting two new series in Nashville, her hometown.

“A Lasting Impression,” the first of three Belmont Mansion novels, showcases the larger-than-life history of Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America at the time, and the Belmont Mansion in the years following the Civil War. Alexander’s ninth novel, “To Whisper Her Name,” the first of three Belle Meade Plantation novels, will be released in fall 2012, and tells the story behind the most influential thoroughbred stud farm in our nation’s history.

These two Southern series will intertwine, detailing the “real life” history of two of Nashville’s most famous homes and their intriguing families. “A Lasting Impression” was recently named a 2012 Christy Award finalist (an award honoring excellence in Christian Fiction) for Best Historical Romance.

 

Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin, a former teacher who now writes and speaks full time. Her unique voice and ability to portray compelling relationships have garnered her wide acclaim, including seven Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction. Her novel “Hidden Places” has been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Research for her historical novels has provided Lynne with many interesting experiences, such as volunteering on an archaeological dig in Israel and exploring the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. She and her husband have three adult children and make their home near Chicago.

 

Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen, who worked in publishing for 16 years, first in advertising, then as a fiction editor, and now writes full time. Two of her books, “The Girl in the Gatehouse” and “The Silent Governess” won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. “The Girl in the Gatehouse” also won a Midwest Book Award and “The Silent Governess” was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards.

Klassen graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoys travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minn.

Charlaine Harris, best-selling urban fantasy novelist; Craig Johnson, author of the “Longmire” series of mystery novels; and Tamora Pierce, author of 28 fantasy novels for teens, have already been announced as part of the line-up for the festival, which will be held Oct. 13 and 14 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 The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail and is sponsored by The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation; Pamela D. Tarr and Gary Hart; the Friends of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County; West Virginia Library Commission and West Virginia Center for the Book; Books-A-Million; and William Maxwell Davis. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.