Not so many years ago, stories about the mountains and the people who live in this region were few and far between. The Dollmaker; The Tall Woman; The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come; Trail of the Lonesome Pine were a few of the books that represented this region in times past, but there was little from a more current generation. It was a rare thing for an Appalachian writer to break into the publishing world and make it in the bigger audience outside of the region.
Historical romantic fiction has become a popular genre. Books like Cold Mountain have slammed onto the scene and into the movies, opening the door for more regional tales to be considered closely. Publishers are looking for things that appeal to a wider audience than just one region and often pass over anything that is considered “regional.” I believe the stories of Appalachia have not yet had the surface scratched.
Everyone has a story. One of my instructors at the Writers' Workshop was Gretchen Laskas, whose first book is called The Midwive's Tale. As you might guess, it is the story of a girl who must take over her mother's responsibilities as the local midwife. Silas House continues to dazzle readers with his realistic insight to the lives of Appalachian people and the region, based on his own experiences and characters shaped from bits and pieces of people he has known. Loyall Jones serves up Appalachian humor better than anyone else I can think of.
There are poets and playwrights, novelists, journalists, columnists, children's book writers, and a vast number of people throughout Appalachia who are breaking on to the literary scene.
The experiences of this region make them rich with verse and words to fill the pages of new manuscripts. I read part of Robert Gipe's manuscript that was submitted to Hindman. I have no doubt that he will be published sooner or later. He captured the voices of our people and the current issues that bless or plague the region.
Pauline Harber is currently working on a memoir of her life that is a story of determination, tragedy and triumph.
Almost everyone's story would make a good book in the hands of the best writer. Unfortunately, a lot of great stories get told, even written in to a book style, but never make it into the hands of a publisher who can see the value of our type of regional writing.
I hope to join the ranks one day of being a respected Appalachian author because of the stories I have yet to tell about this region and our people. Sometimes it just isn't important to try to capture a national audience, when your heart is focused more on regional people and places. These Appalachian mountains are full of stories waiting to be told - of love; faith; drama; mystery; corruption, suspense, triumph of the human spirit. The door has opened in the literary world to hear these stories and publish them because of those authors who have made and are making their mark in the publishing industry. The number of Appalachian authors getting published and the books about Appalachia that are making it in to print are growing rapidly.