West Virginia Book Festival

Free storytelling concert slated at Book Festival

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.

Like a lot of West Virginia families, mine has a storytelling tradition. Not an official, stand-up-at-a-microphone kind of tradition – just the kind where you sit on the front porch at dusk and tell stories about things that have happened over the years.

For example, when my brother, Doug, was about four, our mother served squirrel for supper, but told us it was chicken so we would eat it. After he finished his meal, Doug remarked, “That chicken sure had a lot of legs.”

My cousin, Joe Bob, got a BB gun for his birthday and promptly shot out all the lights in the drive-in theater next door. Uncle Doc tricked Joe Bob into a confession by claiming to be angry with the owner of the drive-in. He said, “You know, I’m so mad at him, I think I’ll just go over to that drive-in and shoot out every one of his lights.” And Joe Bob said, “That’s okay Dad, I already took care of that for you.”

Going farther back in the family tree, my mom tells the story of her great-uncle, Solomon Carpenter, who was a prisoner-of-war during the Civil War. He gained his freedom from Camp Chase, Ohio, by winning a fiddle contest.

If your family has a storytelling tradition too, the Charleston arts celebration FestivALL is offering a way to preserve those tales. The Oral History Project, offered June 18, 19, 25 and 26 from noon to 5 p.m. at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 300 Capitol St., gives you a chance to record your family’s stories on a CD. The 45-minute sessions are free, and you can make an appointment by calling George Walker at 304-389-6066.

And while we’re on the subject of FestivALL, Executive Director Larry Groce tells me that there are still tickets available for the major performances.


Fred Powers of Bluefield, a member of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild, performs at the Vandalia Gathering on Saturday. Photo by Chip Ellis

There was more than the usual traditional Appalachian music, dancing and other events going on at this weekend’s Vandalia Gathering. Storytellers are also playing their part, as the Gazette’s Mackenzie Mays reports:

Melissa Rogers, a graduate media-arts student at Emerson College in Somerville, Mass., wants to help storytellers like (West Virginia Storytelling Guide member Fred) Powers get their voices heard with The West Virginia Storytelling Project.

The documentary-style project explores West Virginia storytelling traditions and helps to preserve the stories’ longevity, while broadening the tellers’ audience with a Web presence.

Rogers said she couldn’t think of a better place than the Vandalia Gathering to begin the production process.

West Virginia Storytelling Guild Vice President Donna Wilson said she hopes the project will build awareness about the importance of preserving traditions.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to pass on these stories to younger generations. It’s so easy to lose those things. It’s amazing how quickly people can forget,” Wilson said. “It’s important to know who you are and remember where you came from.”


An interview with David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a funny, funny man.

How funny? Find out for yourself when the writer/comedian/radio personality comes to the Clay Center in Charleston on Friday. If you want a preview, Gazette reporter and blog contributor Bill Lynch interviewed Sedaris in the Sunday Gazette-Mail about his visit and his latest book, the collection of stories “Squirrel and Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.”

“Fables have morals,” [Sedaris] explained. “Not all of these stories have morals. It’s just a bestiary with animals doing things people would do, and 16 stories seemed pretty modest. I mean, how many of these things can people stand?”

Sedaris will talk about some of his earlier work as well, including “Barrel Fever,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and “When You Are Engulfed in Flames.” If you’ve never heard him, you can listen to some of his work for National Public Radio here.

Five members of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild will present a storytelling concert featuring humorous stories at the West Virginia Book Festival this fall at the Charleston Civic Center. The free concert, “Humor from the Mountains,” begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16. Featured storytellers include:

Ilene Evans

Ilene Evans

Evans creates educational theater programs that span a range of arts disciplines, including music, dance, drama and storytelling. Evans has taught, lectured, and performed nationally and internationally. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Psychology at Trinity College in Deerfield, Ill., and is currently working on her Master’s degree in storytelling at East Tennessee State University. She lives in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia.

William Scott Hill

William Scott Hill

Hill is an energetic, heartfelt and pedal-to-the-metal speaker who weaves the experiences of his life in Appalachia to point out the larger truths that lie just under the surface of peoples’ lives, no matter where they call home. He uses true stories of growing up in southern West Virginia and the family, friends and neighbors that helped shape his life, to show the positive nature of most people.

Keith Maynard

Keith Maynard

Maynard is a fourth generation railroader and professional storyteller. He tells personal stories of the railroad, as well as national and international railroad stories and legends, including portrayals of historical personalities. His stories are family friendly and enjoyed by all ages.


Karen Vuranch

Karen Vuranch

Vuranch has toured throughout the US with her traditional storytelling and living history performances, has completed five performance tours of Wales and England, and has participated in a storytelling exchange in China. She also performs living history recreations of a number of historical individuals, including Pearl Buck, Mother Jones, Mary Draper Ingles, Emma Edmonds, Clara Barton, Grace O’Malley, Belle Starr and Julia Child.

Suzi “Mama” Whaples

Suzi "Mama" Whaples

Whaples cherishes her West Virginian heritage, and tells tales inspired by her Appalachian roots. Besides traveling the country plying her trade, she is currently serving as the West Virginia Storytelling Guild president. She describes herself as a storyteller, humorist and conference speaker, and has more than 30 years experience in teaching, public speaking and entertainment. She has performed in at least 19 states, and won several regional and national awards. Most recently, she was chosen as a New Voice for the 2010 National Storytelling Festival, October 1-3 in Jonesborough, Tenn.

In addition to members of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild, the West Virginia Book Festival line-up includes, among others: New York Times best-selling authors Nicholas Sparks and Diana Gabaldon; Civil War historian James Robertson; children’s author Carmen Deedy; and E. Lockhart, author of books for teens.

The West Virginia Book Festival, scheduled for Oct. 16 and 17, is an annual, two-day event celebrating books and reading presented by The Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Inc., Kanawha County Public Library, the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail. For more information, visit www.wvbookfestival.org.