"Living Voices": 2003 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Project and the West Virginia Young Writers Fiction Competition

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The Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Project was developed in 1998 by the Department of English at Shepherd College; its purpose is to celebrate and honor the work of a distinguished contemporary Appalachian writer each year. The literary residency was designed to function in concert with the Appalachian Heritage Festival, an annual celebration of Appalachian artistic and cultural traditions, sponsored by the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd. To encourage aspiring young writers, aged sixteen to twenty-eight, and to foster literacy and the kind of networking that encourages literary achievement, Shepherd College developed in 2002 the West Virginia Young Writers Fiction Competition. In this competition, fiction submissions from throughout the state of West Virginia are judged by a panel of teachers and writers, with the final selection of the winning works made by the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence. A $1,000 Literacy Initiative Grant from Phi Kappa Phi helped to make possible both the fiction competition and the residency in 2003.

Southern Book Critics Circle Award-winner Robert Morgan (Gap Creek and The Truest Pleasure) was the Fifth Annual Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence. From September 29 through October 4, 2003, Morgan visited Shepherd College and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, fulfilling the requirements of the residency. Morgan, an international best-selling fiction writer and poet whose book, Gap Creek, was chosen as an Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection, came to Shepherd College to receive the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award for his body of work in fiction and poetry and for helping foster through his writing an understanding of Appalachian heritage and cultural traditions. Morgan, who teaches creative writing at Cornell University, is also a recipient of the James G. Hanes Poetry Prize Fellowship of Southern Writers (1991), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1968, 1974, 1982, 1987), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1988-1989), and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (1986). In 1986, he was selected as Hawthornden Fellow in Poetry at the International Writers Retreat at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland. In 1991 he received the North Carolina Award in Literature. His stories have been listed by Publishers Weekly as Outstanding Books, and Gap Creek was named Book of the Year for 2000 by the Association of Appalachian Writers.

During the week-long residency, sponsored in part by the Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Initiative Grant, Morgan conducted writing workshops for young writers; visited the public schools for literary discussions; met with community book clubs, college classes, and other community and college groups interested in literature and writing; and participated in interviews with newspapers, West Virginia public radio, and the editor of the Antietam Review literary magazine. Morgan also attended receptions and spoke at literary programs about literacy, story telling, and the Appalachian culture that features so prominently in his novels. The highlight of the residency, however, was the September 29 Phi Kappa Phi Chapter 281 Speakers Series held in the Scarborough Library at the Robert Byrd Legislative Studies Center. …


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