Appalachia and Beyond
Conversations with Writers from the Mountain South
The last quarter-century has seen a remarkable outpouring of fiction and poetry from southern Appalachia-a surge of creativity that has formed an integral part of a larger, and still growing, regional self-consciousness. This book charts the course of this literary renaissance through twenty-one interviews with contemporary Appalachian writers, conversations conducted between 1983 and 2003 at Emory & Henry College’s annual literary festival and originally printed in the Iron Mountain Review.
The authors interviewed range from nationally known figures such as Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Lee Smith, Mary Lee Settle, and Charles Wright to less prominent, though no less gifted, writers like George Ella Lyon, Jo Carson, and George Scarborough. Many of the interviewers are themselves creative writers or Appalachian studies scholars, as well as longtime friends of the interviewees. For example, Jim Wayne Miller interviews James Still; Loyal Jones interviews Jim Wayne Miller; Richard Marius interviews Wilma Dykeman; George Garrett interviews David Huddle; and Michael Chitwood interviews Michael McFee. These wide-ranging conversations address such topics as formative experiences in the author’s childhood, major literary influences, the author’s educational background and mentors, the writing process, the limitations imposed by such labels as “Appalachian writer,” and the broadening scope of literature originating in the Appalachian region.
Collectively, these interviews confirm the judgment of some observers that writers from the mountain South are now playing a much larger role in southern letters than in previous periods, thus constituting a “renaissance within a renaissance.”
John Lang is professor of English at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia. The editor of the Iron Mountain Review, he is the author of Understanding Fred Chappell, and his articles have appeared in such publications as American Literature, Southern Literary Journal, and North Carolina Literary Review.