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Frank X Walker: 2013 Writer-in-Residence
"Voices from Affrilachia: The Poetry and Storytelling of Frank X Walker"

Kentucky's Poet Laureate, Director of the African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky, and editor of PLUCK!, the New Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Frank X Walker is author of When Winter Come, Black Box, Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York, Affrilachia, and Isaac Murphy among others. Walker coined the term "Affrilachia" in 1991, in an effort to make Appalachian literary studies more inclusive--understanding, as do we all, that seizing the language (and telling one's own story) is the first step in wresting one's identity and true independence. Walker was born on June 11, 1961 in Danville, Kentucky, second of ten children, cultivated lovingly by Faith and Frank Walker, Senior. Walker recalls in the This I Remember volume a devoted mother whose creativity touched every aspect of her family's life, from her creative cooking that could turn "a single potato" into a family feast to her creative sewing that could turn cloth scraps into charming dolls or create a prom or wedding dress for his sisters: "I always knew," Walker writes, "when she was making something, because she'd be singing or humming,... [as she did] all the way through her home correspondence courses in floral design and interior decorating." A first generation college student, Walker found his way into one of Gurney Norman's classes and afterward developed a passion for literature and writing. After receiving his degree from the University of Kentucky, Walker worked in various arts administrative jobs, eventually finishing his MFA at Spalding University so that he could teach on the university level. Walker's documentary Coal Black Voices was greeted with critical acclaim and won the Jesse Stuart Award in 2003.

After receiving a prestigious Lannan Fellowship for Poetry in 2005, Walker was able to concentrate on his writing and other creative projects. He is recipient of two honorary doctorates, has served on a variety of boards such as the Kentucky Humanities Council, Appalshop, and the Hindeman Settlement School. He is recipient of an Al Smith Fellowship, the 2006 Thomas D. Clark Literary Award for Excellence, and has seen three of his books, Affrilachia, When Winter Come, and Isaac Murphy, turned in plays and performed throughout the country. Walker's Buffalo Dance was winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, and Affrilachia was a Kentucky Public Librarians Choice Award nominee. Walker will serve throughout 2013 as Shepherd University's Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence and be on campus September 23-27, 2013, to receive the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award, funded by the WV Humanities Council and the WV Center for the Book. Walker's Affrilachia will be the 2013 One Book, One West Virginia read, selected by the WV Center for the Book. Frank X Walker will be the focus of the 2013 Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Frank X Walker Volume VI, published in 2014.


 

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About the Program
The Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award and Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Project were developed by the Department of English at Shepherd University in 1998 to celebrate and honor the work of a distinguished contemporary Appalachian writer. 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 (PASS).

To encourage aspiring West Virginia writers and to promote the kind of networking that fosters literary achievement, Shepherd University developed, in fall 2001, the West Virginia Fiction Competition. Fiction submissions from across the state of West Virginia are judged by a panel of teachers and writers, with final selection of the winning works of fiction made by the Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence. The first-prize winner of the fiction competition will receive a cash prize of $500.

The Anthology of Appalachian Writers is a publication that encourages a long-established tradition of storytelling, love of language, and creative expression associated broadly with the area of the country known as Appalachia. Though the principal mission of the anthology is to provide a venue for publication of new writers, it also provides a collection of literature and scholarship that contributes to an understanding and appreciation for the region. Poetry, fiction, memoir, heritage writers, as well as new voices appear in each annual volume of the anthology.

 

The Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Project is made possible with financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council,
in partnership with the Shepherd University Foundation, the West Virginia Center for the Book, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi,
the Shepherdstown Public Library, the Scarborough Society, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History,
the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

   

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