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West Virginia Humanities Council grant to support 2021 Appalachian Writer-in-Residence

ISSUED: 10 May 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Shepherd University Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities, in partnership with the Shepherd University Foundation, received a $10,250 grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to host Marie Manilla as the 23rd Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence. In addition, the West Virginia Library Commission’s Center for the Book has chosen Manilla’s “The Patron Saint of Ugly,” a 2014 Weatherford Award winner, as the One Book One West Virginia statewide common reading selection for 2021.

As Writer-in-Residence, Manilla will select winners of the West Virginia Fiction Competition, write reviews for winners and finalists that will appear in an anthology focused on her work, and help create a scholarly website for teachers and book clubs. In late September Manilla will be at Shepherd and will visit area libraries, schools, and book clubs if COVID-19 safety protocols permit.

Manilla grew up in Huntington and like many young people yearned to see the world beyond Appalachia. After college, she moved to Texas for what she thought was another culture and another life, working seven years as a graphic designer. She found that even half a continent away from West Virginia’s country roads, people were more alike than different. After earning her Master of Fine Arts and returning to West Virginia, Manilla began to write seriously, initially considering herself a short story writer and publishing in a range of journals, exploring what she calls “those pivotal moments in characters’ lives that forever change them for better or worse.”

“Like author Silas House, characterization is Manilla’s true forte, though her writing also possesses wonderful joie de vivre and energy that allows her to entertain even as she tackles the thorniest of issues and profoundest of themes,” said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, director, Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities. “Exploring her own Italian roots, ‘The Patron Saint of Ugly’ has been called a ‘blend of magical realism, Southern Gothic, and Sicilian malocchio.’ The book investigates ideas about prejudice, ‘othering,’ and the ‘beauty myth,’ which serves as another kind of stereotype.”

Manilla is a product of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short story collection, “Still Life with Plums,” was a finalist for both the Weatherford Award and ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year. Manilla’s book “Shrapnel” won the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel.

For information about Manilla and the full range of Writer-in-Residence events, visit, or contact Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt at

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