Authors to celebrate anthology in Parkersburg

Photo Provided “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods” will be featured Saturday in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — On Saturday, eight authors from across the region will gather in Parkersburg to celebrate “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods,” a new anthology of fiction and poetry from West Virginia that was published by WVU Press last month.

The event, co-sponsored by WVU Press and the Parkersburg Poetry Series, will take place from 3-6 p.m. in the Alexander Parker Room at The Blennerhassett Hotel. This reading and reception are free and open to the public.

The anthology, co-edited by professors Laura Long and Doug Van Gundy, contains 63 writers whose work delves into the many senses of place that modern West Virginia, the core of Appalachia, inspires. The idea for “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods” gradually took shape over a number of years. Abby Freeland, sales and marketing director at WVU Press, said that she first began to think about just such a project when she joined WVU Press in 2009.

“It was then that I realized that WVU Press had published ‘Backcountry: Contemporary Writing in West Virginia.’ This anthology was edited by Irene McKinney and released in 2002,” Freeland said.

“I’d read Backcountry as an undergraduate student at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and it introduced me to writers from our state that I’d never even heard of,” Freeland said.

“It helped me to connect to and understand my identity as a West Virginian in ways I had never been able to articulate on my own.”

When Freeland became acquisitions editor of Vandalia Press, the creative imprint of WVU Press, she made a new anthology of contemporary literature from West Virginia her priority.

“I decided that somehow, someday, I would make this happen, and I began to think about how to commission this book. As luck would have it, Laura Long, Doug Van Gundy, and I shared a wonderful dinner together at a conference a few years ago, and it all just clicked.”

Poet, fiddler and West Virginia Wesleyan English professor Doug Van Gundy says that the new anthology of fiction and poetry provides an exciting overview of West Virginia’s contemporary literary scene. He also thinks such a volume has a crucial role to play in inspiring the next generation of writers and fostering a sense of community.

“When I was young and wanted to be a writer, I didn’t know that people from here with families and experiences like mine could write “literature.” Writers like James Wright, Irene McKinney, and Breece Pancake showed me that my culture, my story, had value. I always wanted to write, but didn’t know how to begin. Those writers — and later, many of the writers in this anthology — provided me with a model. I hope that this book might offer the same kind of encouragement to others,” Van Gundy said.

The featured readers at Saturday’s anthology celebration are Rahul Mehta, Elizabeth Savage, Cheryl Denise, Andrea Fekete, Ace Boggess, Renee Nicholson, Laura Long and Doug Van Gundy. Randi Ward, a native of Belleville and founder of the Parkersburg Poetry Series, will host the event.

Rahul Mehta, a 1991 graduate of Parkersburg High School, says that he is excited to be reading from his work for the first time in his hometown. Mehta’s acclaimed debut novel, “No Other World,” was released by HarperCollins earlier this year.

“I am honored to be included in WVU Press’ wonderful anthology,” Mehta said. “My upbringing in West Virginia shaped me both as a person and as a writer in integral ways. I’m grateful to have had some incredible teachers who fostered my love of writing, teachers like Sharon Neely Niday, Wilma Acree and Barbara McCullough at Jackson Junior High School and Carolyn McCune at Parkersburg High School.”

Copies of “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods” will be available for purchase at Saturday’s event. The 336-page anthology is also available online. To order the book, visit wvupress.com, phone 800-621-2736 or visit a local bookstore. To learn more about WVU Press, visit wvupress.com.