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Award-winning Appalachian author Ron Rash to be at Shepherd University the week of September 26

ISSUED: 29 August 2011
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
(Award-winning Appalachian author Ron Rash to be at Shepherd University the week of September 26)

Shepherdstown, WV--Award-winning Appalachian author Ron Rash will be at Shepherd University during the week of September 26 serving as the 2011 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence. Rash will be on campus to talk about his work, the writing life, and Appalachia--its environmental issues, its language, and literature. He will receive the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award on Thursday, September 29 at Erma Ora Byrd Hall.

Born in 1953 in South Carolina, Rash spent his early years in Chester. When Rash was eight years old, the family moved back to the mountains of western North Carolina. There Rash's father began teaching at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, which Rash also attended as an undergraduate.

Paramount in Rash's work is a respect for the land, and, like many Appalachian writers, Rash tackles the thorny environmental issues that have plagued the region. Also influential on Rash was his Southern Baptist background. Rash's work is rich with religious and biblical imagery, yet it is also reflective of the pagan myth and spirituality that are part of his Celtic roots.

After graduation from Gardner-Webb, Rash attended graduate school at Clemson University, publishing his first collection of short stories in 1994, The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth. Rash has since published a number of award-winning books, including Eureka Mill (1998), Among the Believers (2000), and Raising the Dead (2002). His novels include One Foot in Eden (2002), Saints at the River (2004), The World Made Straight (2006), and Serena (2008). Rash's other story collections include Casualties (2000), Chemistry and Other Stories (2007), and his latest collection Burning Bright (2010).

The quality and depth of Rash's work have placed him into a select group of American and Appalachian writers that includes Fred Chappell, Denise Giardina, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith. Among Rash's awards are the Sherwood Anderson Prize (1996), Appalachian Book of the Year for One Foot in Eden (2002), Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Saints at the River (2004), O. Henry Prize (2005), and a PEN/Faulkner Finalist (2009). Ron Rash currently holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and was most recently awarded the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize for Burning Bright.

The following is a list of programs for the 2011 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence:

  • Monday, September 26-October 14: Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Volume III photographic art exhibit, Scarborough Reading Room, Shepherd University. For more information, visit http://www.shepherd.edu/ahwirweb/.
  • Monday, September 26: Screening of the film "Appalachia: Power and Place," 7 p.m. Reynolds Hall, followed by a discussion led by Dr. Jerry Thomas, history professor emeritus. The event is sponsored by the Shepherdstown Film Society, website at http://www.shepherdstownfilmsociety.org/.
  • Tuesday, September 27: "A Celebration of Appalachian Storytellers: A Carolina Muse" and The Anthology of Appalachian Writers and Photographers, 7 p.m., at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, sponsored by the West Virginia Center for the Book. A reception and book signing will be held at 8 p.m. in Scarborough Reading Room.
  • Wednesday, September 28: Visit with Martinsburg, Jefferson, and Berkeley Springs students at Martinsburg High School, 9 a.m.; reading at Martinsburg Public Library and reception, 10:30 a.m.; and a lecture "The Writing Life, with Ron Rash," Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 29: Writers master class, 3-4:30 p.m. at Byrd Center; Scarborough Society lecture and awards ceremony, 8 p.m. at which time Ron Rash will receive the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award and present his keynote address at Erma Byrd Hall, followed by a reception and book signing. The West Virginia Fiction Competition awards will also be presented by Ron Rash.
  • Friday, September 30: Reading of award-winning work of fiction, from the West Virginia Fiction Competition, at 16th Annual Appalachian Heritage Festival Concert, 8 p.m., Frank Theater.
  • Saturday, October 1: Appalachian Heritage Festival at various venues throughout Shepherdstown during the day and evening festival concert at 8 p.m., Frank Theater; website at http://www.shepherd.edu/passweb/festival.htm.

These programs are supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council, the West Virginia Center for the Book, the Shepherd University Foundation, and other community and university partners.

For information, contact Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt at sshurbut@shepherd.edu or 304-876-5220.

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