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grandpa telling story
grandma telling story
grandpa telling story
grandpa telling story
grandma telling story
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grandma telling story

West Virginia is packed with seriously good storytellers. We all know it. It's part of who we are.

  It's one reason we have so many wonderful writers.
  These 14 writers are just a start, but they're a spectacular start.
This web site will help you get to know them.
They'll surprise you, 
make you proud ...
and inspire you.

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girl reading West Virginia book
child reading book
girl reading West Virginia book
thought balloon

 Someone from West Virginia wrote this book!

thought balloon

I bet I could  

write a 

story too ...

logo of books in mountains

Real visits with 14 of West Virginia's

greatest writers!


* This website brings the national award-winning In Their Own Country series to the Web, 24/7. First broadcast on West Virginia Public Radio.


* Language arts, state history, social studies teachers: This website is a great tool for you!


Each writer has a home page and an hour-long audio 

visit: readings, childhood stories, advice about writing 


* Each program is divided into short, downloadable audio tracks  of 3 - 12  minutes that can be played in class or presentations. 


Play or download a 58-minute program or short passages of 30 seconds to 15 minutes. 

* You can download a complete script for each program, with track numbers.


* Each Table of Contents helps you locate tracks that interest you: readings, advice on writing, childhood memories, etc.

* The site gives teachers ideas for ways  to weave these

writers into the classroom day, to teach skills you're already teaching.  See Activities page.



* Advice on Writing from all 14 writers is compiled into one

"Advice on Writing" file. Fourteen-writer files are also available on "Growing up in West Virginia," and "West Virginia history."

* Teachers: You can find a list of CCR Standards here that you

can cite when you use this 

website to teach skills, history, social studies or writing.

* See the Teachers page for classroom ideas and CCRS links.


This website was created to make it easy for all West Virginians - and anybody else - to visit with a great collection of our best storytellers and poets.   They'll inspire you and give you new insights on the history and rich culture of this unique state.

These writers include children's writers, writers for adults, and people who write for all ages.  Click on the "Listen" tab to listen to an hour-long visit with any of them.  They offer great readings of their work, stories about growing up in West Virginia, advice about writing and insights on Appalachian culture and history.

Collectively, they have won dozens of national awards. Listen while you cook dinner, clean the house, or any other time when you might listen to radio or TV.  This site is also ideal for book clubs or reading groups.  Listen to a writer, then discuss!

Under the "Activities" tab, you'll find six pages of writing exercises for all ages.  Scroll down on this page for notes for teachers.


A quick guide to the menu:


Click on the "Writers Home Pages" tab at the top of this page to find an introductory page for each writer:  bio, writing sample, and opportunity to hear the writer speak. A great starting point.


Then click on the "Listen / Scripts / Tools" tab at the top of the page to listen to the conversations with the writers. The hour is divided into tracks, so you can play the whole hour or a few minutes. You can also download a transcript or table of contents.


Under the "Activities" Tab, you'll find six pages of ideas and writing activities to help students learn from the writers.


The "Teachers" tab gives  tips for using the site and is linked to a listing of CCRS standards created for this website.

Teachers and parents: 


First, enjoy these writers, yourself! Browse through the writers' home pages. Listen to some programs.  Decide which writers / programs are appropriate for your students.  

Use this website to let young West Virginians know they have a literary heritage to be proud of.  When you show the kids the writer pages and they hear some writers' voices,  you stir up pride and motivation. You give them role models. They know that real writers do come from West Virginia.  

Use your judgment. This website includes material that's appropriate for kindergartners as well as material appropriate for adults and older students.  Listen/read through a given writer's program to decide what tracks you feel are right for your students.


Research tells us  this:  People are more likely to try things they see that their people "do"  well.  Your child or one of your students may be the next Cynthia Rylant or Breece Pancake.  Help them realize, "I come from a state where people write great stories. We do that, so that door is open to me."


Check out the learning activities: six pages of them!


Check out the Teachers Page You'll find advice on using the web site, learning activities, and links to WVCCR standards compiled for this web  site.

WVCCRS lists

for this website!
boy reading book

"I wish I'd known about some writers from West Virginia when I was growing up. I really did think it would be fun to be a writer, but I never dreamed I could, because I didn't know of any writers from here.  I had no role models."  

~ Nationally celebrated writer, McDowell County native Denise Giardina

History of this project:

The In Their Own Country radio series first aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2002. It won two national awards. 


The perception of West Virginia as a literary backwater was thoroughly demolished by these programs."

~ Graffiti Weekly wrote

The name came from the Bible: "prophets without honor in their own country."  In 2004, the Library Commission gave CDs of the series to all West Virginia schools, and many teachers used it in their classrooms.

“The series is timeless," writer Ann Pancake said.  "Stories of writers’ lives and work, of West Virginia history and culture, and the writing advice these authors offer—none of these become outdated.” 

"Students loved the writing, and they loved hearing the writers' voices," she said. But students no longer have CD players. So she joined other teachers to ask if the series could be put online. 

The WV Humanities Council funded this online version. The advisory group includes staff from eight WV higher education institutions, the state Department of Education, Library Commission, and Division of Arts, Culture and History. 

With adequate funding, this website could be expanded in the future, to honor more writers. This state has no shortage!

The original project was funded by the WV Humanities Council and the WV Department of Arts, Culture and History.  It was produced and edited by Kate Long, with recording and engineering help from Bob Webb and Francis Fisher. 


        Staff and Advisory Committee

  • Kate Long, director, audio producer, web designer

  • Patrick Stephens: Web site audio Engineering

  • Bob Webb: original recording / music

  • Jenna Keesee:  Project Intern


  • Advisory Committee:

  • Sarah Morris. WVU English Department, Coordinator of Undergraduate Writing, NWP coordinator

  • Sylvia Shurbutt, Director of Shepherd University Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities

  • Marc Harshman, WV Poet Laureate/ retired teacher 

  • Jana Tigchelaar, Associate Professor of English, Marshall University; Director of Graduate Studies /

  • Susie Garrison, 6-12 language arts coordinator, WV Department of Education

  • Donna Calvert, Acting Director, WV Library Commission. 

  • Michael Tierney, Co-CEO, Step by Step WV, founder of Step by Step’s Appalachian literature program 

  • Jeannie Dalporto, Professor, University of Charleston, Literature

  • Lydia Warren, Director Fairmont State Folk Life Center

  • Bill King, Davis and Elkins College Professor of English / poet  (deceased)

  • Anna Elfenbein, WVU Associate Professor, specializing in American literature and women’s studies

  • Sarah Walton, Marshall University, assistat professor

  • Jeannie Dalporto, University of Charleston,

  • Katie Fox, Fayette County teacher

  • Corey Humphrey, Ph.D candidate, University of Pittsburgh

  • Carter Seaton, author/teacher, First Vice President, WV Writers Inc.

  • Natalie Sypolt, Pierpont College English / teacher and WV fiction writer

  • Courtney Shimek, Assistant Professor, WVU / Curriculum Specialist

  • Stephanie Burdette, Assistant Professor, Education, West Virginia State University

  • Jim Wolfe, Arts in Education director, WV Division of Culture and History   

These fine West Virginia musicians provided the wonderful improvised music that threads through each program. They were asked to "play what the writer is saying," and they did it! Bob Webb recorded them all.
Musician Bob Webb

The Musicians

Bob Webb

Musician Ron Sowell

Ron Sowell

Musician Tim Courts

Timothy Courts

Musician Robin Kessinger

Robin Kessinger

Musician Steve Hill

Steve Hill

Musician John Blissard

John Blisard

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    Each writer has his or her own pages. There are also "14-Writer Files."

We collected what all 14 writers had to say on these subjects so you can easily compare them:
Advice on writing
Growing up in WV 

The future: Click on this link to see what Voices may look like in the future.

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