Writers by the River

Reflections on 40+ Years of the Highland Summer Conference

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About the Book

The Highland Summer Writing Conference (HSC), held each summer along the banks of the ancient New River at Radford University’s Selu Conservancy, brings together and inspires writers as they participate in the communal art of creating and sharing. Over the years, many prestigious Appalachian authors have taught workshops to like-minded students, many of whom became published authors in their own right. This book, a celebration of the HSC, is a collection of reflective essays, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction contributed by 41 authors and student-authors who have taken part in the conference over a span of 43 years.

About the Author(s)

Donia S. Eley devotes much of her free time to causes throughout the New River Valley, among them the preservation and perpetuation of art, music, land conservation and Appalachian culture. She holds a post-bacc certificate and a graduate degree in Appalachian studies, and is the co-author of two books about Appalachian artist Willard Gayheart.

Grace Toney Edwards is professor emerita of Appalachian studies and English and the founding director of the Appalachian Regional Studies Center at Radford University. For 27 years she served as the director of the Highland Summer Conference. Her life’s work has been the study of the Appalachian people and the mountains they inhabit, and has edited two books about Appalachia.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Donia S. Eley and Grace Toney Edwards

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 272
Bibliographic Info: 57 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8406-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4197-3
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies 51

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Preface
Grace Toney Edwards 1
Introduction
Donia S. Eley 3

Part I: Inspiration
Grace Toney Edwards 8
In Memoriam: They Came, Left Gifts, and Now Are Gone 8
Parks Lanier, Jr. 19
Highland Summer Conference: The Beginning 19
Jeff Daniel Marion 25
The Chinese Poet Reconsiders Time 25 • “Late Autumn the Chinese Poet Invites His Old Friend the Brier Out to the River to Sit a Spell” 29
Loyal Jones 30
Words from a Legend of Appalachia 30 • “Tintagel” 31
Marilou Awiakta 32
Our Courage Is Our Memory 32 • “Dawn Birth” 33 • “Out of Ashes Peace Will Rise” 36 • “Parting Thoughts” 38 • “I Offer You a Gift” 43
David Huddle 44
How and Why Radford University’s Highland Summer Conference Was More Than Just a Teaching Gig for Me 44 • “Where Do You Come From?” 47 • “What Can You Tell Me About Your Father?” 48 • “What About Your Mother?” 48 • “Art for Money” 49 • “What Are You Up To?” 49 • “Elrica” 50 • “Some Kitchens” 50 • “Inez” 51
George Ella Lyon 53
Reflections: Community, Generosity and Magic 53 • “All to Pieces” 55
Bill Brown 56
Gift … Beyond Measure 56 • “The Talk in Floyd County” 57 • “Passenger” 59 • “Learning to Be Quiet” 60 • “Otter Dream for Geron” 61
Rita Sims Quillen 63
Writing in the Highlands of Virginia 63 • “A Woman Born to Farming” (After Wendell Berry’s “A Man Born to Farming”) 64
Robert Morgan 66
Experience at Radford: Connecting with the Indigenous Roots 66 • Lost Lead Mine of the Cherokees 68
Diane Gilliam 77
How I Got to RU, and What I Found There 77 • “Said the Girl to the Boy” 79

Part II: More Inspiration
Ron Rash 82
Words from Ron Rash 82 • Reflection on Highland Summer Conference 82 • “Canning” 83
Ricky Cox 84
My First Highland Summer Conference 84 • Where Are You Now, Marlos Perkos? 85
Ruth B. Derrick 91
Fun, Terror and Gratification 91 • “The Sweater” 94 • “Taken” 95 • “Body Language—1918 Family Portrait” 95 • “Life Cycle” Four Poems in One 96
George Brosi 97
Appalachian Mountain Books and HSC 97
Pamela Duncan 101
In the Blue Ridge of Virginia 101 • Real Life 102
Grace Toney Edwards 105
Yesterday’s Voices, Today’s Visions: The Power of a Teacher’s Influence 105
Robert Gipe 110
Words from Robert Gipe 110 • The Hide-Behinds 110
Richard Hague 114
Jesus of the Hills 114 • My Week 118
Heidi Hartwiger 119
There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Garlic 119 • An Incredible WOW Factor Woman 123
Jeff Mann 129
HSC Memory 129 • “Country Kitchen—Christiansburg, Virginia” 131 • “Gay Redneck, With Baby Stroller” 132 • “Redneck Food” 133
Karen Salyer McElmurray 134
Conferencing 134
Linda Parsons 139
A Grateful Confluence 139 • “Divine Rods” 140
Dana Wildsmith 142
Teaching the Teachers 142 • “One Light” 144 • “Emergency Room” 145 • “Pitched Past Grief” 145 • “Elegy” 145
Frank X Walker 147
Contributions from Frank X Walker, a Kentucky Poet Laureate 147 • “Sweat Equity” 147 • “Ritual” 148 “Rock Paper Scissors” 149 • “Hoofers” 149 • “Wheeze” 150 • “Eclipse” 151
Rick Van Noy 152
Reading the River 152
Donald Secreast 156
The Highland Summer Conference Could Have Added Ten Years to My Writing Life 156

Part III: The Inspired
B. Chelsea Adams 164
The Truth We Share 164 • “The Part Gone” 166 • “The Nineteenth Hole” 167
Charles A. Swanson 169
You Made Me One of Your Own 169 • “Fraulein” 173 • “Old Work Shirt: Let Me Praise the Pansies” 173 • “Old Work Shirt, the Hand-Stitched Swans Most Gone” 174 • “Forward: Row-ing for O-hi-O” 174 • “Homeplace” 175
Donia S. Eley 178
From Long Dusty Roads and Tobacco Rows to a Selfie with Gurney 178 • “I Am From” 179 • “The Captain” 180 • “Sputnik” 181 • “Evening Light” 182
Kevin Stewart 183
From a Montana Vantage Point 183 • Silenced 184
Becky Dellinger Hancock 192
APPALKIDS at HSC 192
Rick Mulkey 195
Homecoming 195 • “Concerning Whisky” 197 • “Cured” 198 • “An Explanation” 199
Matt Prater 201
Looking Back 201 • “Trieste” 202
Sam L. Linkous 204
Remembering Jim Wayne Miller—and More 204 • “Catching Supper” 205 • “Sacred Ground” 205 • Reflections 206
Elizabeth McCommon 216
You Asked, and I Came 216 • Up On Locust Hill 217
Teresa Stutso Jewell 219
From Hairdresser to Writer 219 • “The Plea of Brother Mountain” 222
Luther Kirk 223
Impacts 223 • Opal Jean 224 • “Ain’t Never Went to the Ocean” 232 • “Witching Hour” 232 • “She Left” 233 • “Child of Appalachia” 233 • “My Soul” 233 • “Went to the Ocean” 234
Tim Thornton 235
For Those Two Weeks in That One Summer … I Was a Writer 235 • “Mom and Dad, 1958” 237
Bonnie Roberts Erickson 238
A Journey into the Heart 238
Jim Minick 242
Writing Community: Celebrating the Highland Summer Conference’s 40th Anniversary and More 242 • “When You Realize the Future” 244

Afterword
Theresa L. Burriss 245
Appendix: List of HSC Leaders, Readers and Performers 247
About the Contributors 251
Index 258