Frank X Walker: 2013 Writer-in-Residence
Director of the African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky; editor of PLUCK! the Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture; and Kentucky's Poet Laureate, 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, the second of ten children, cultivated lovingly by Faith and Frank Walker, Sr. 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 creative writing 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 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.