A Century of West Virginia Authors:
West Virginia Library Association 1999

Copyright Phyllis Wilson Moore, March 1999


Knowles, John, Fairmont. Knowles, a world traveler, is the author of the much read novel A Separate Peace.  Of special interest to West Virginians is his novel A Vein of Riches detailing the rise and fall of a West Virginia coal dynasty in a town like Fairmont.  Knowles was a finalist in the 1961 National Book Award competition for A Separate Peace.

Kromer,Tom, Huntington.  Attended Marshall University but, of necessity, became a hobo during the Great Depression. At the age of 28 Kromer published his survival story Waiting for Nothing. Breece D' J Pancake emulated the style of this "strictly an autobiographical" novel.  Short fiction, novels.

Latham, Jean Lee, Buckhannon.  In 1956 Latham became the state's first Newbery Medal winner for her work of historical fiction, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. Genres: historical fiction, screen and radio plays, nonfiction.  Latham, one of the state's most versatile and prolific authors, also had an outstanding career as playwright and scriptwriter for major television shows.

Marshall, Catherine, lived in Keyser for ten years and is a graduate of Keyser High School.  Her best-selling novel Christy, set in Tennessee, tells her mother's story.  Novels, religious nonfiction, children's literature, biography. Marshall was a National Book Award Finalist in 1980.

Lee Maynard

Maynard, Lee, born in Kenova.  His novel Crum is a coming-of-age story set on the Kentucky/West Virginia border.  Maynard, a freelance writer for Readers' Digest, lives in New Mexico and is working on his second novel.

McNeill, Louise, born near Marlinton, lived and taught in several West Virginia counties.  Gauley Mountain and Elderberry Flood are two of her best-known books of poetry.  The Milkweed Ladies, her memoir, is the account of her families nine generation association with the state.  McNeill earned a Ph.D. in history and was the state's Poet Laureate from 1979 until her death in 1993.  She was named West Virginia of the Year in 1985 and was the 1988 recipient of the Appalachian Gold Medallion from the University of Charleston.

McKinney, Irene, Belington and Buckhannon.  The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap; The Wasps at the Blue Hexagon; Quick Fire and Slow Fire; Six O'Clock Mine Report.  West Virginia's current Poet Laureate teaches at West Virginia Wesleyan. Poetry and essays.

Mc Pherson, James Lowell, born in Charleston, McPherson moved to Connecticut after graduating from WVU.  He has the distinction of being a Poet Laureate with no published book of poetry and the only West Virginia Poet Laureate to publish a novel, Goodbye Rosie.

Gerald Milnes

Milnes, Gerald, Elkins.  Milnes collected the rhymes, riddles and verses in Granny Will Your Dog Bite and other Mountain Rhymes: a Knopf Book and Cassette Classic and is the author of Play of a Fiddle: Traditional Music, Dance, and Folklore in West Virginia.  Milnes is associated with the Augusta Heritage Festival music program at Davis and Elkins College.

Moore, Phyllis Wilson, Clarksburg.  Researches the literary history of West Virginia. Selected essays, poetry and book reviews are available in journals and anthologies such as Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness published by Fairmont State College and the West Virginia Humanities Council.  She received a 1995 Denny G. Plattner Appalachian Heritage Award for Written Excellence in Poetry.

Ruth Ann Musick

Musick, Ruth Ann, Fairmont. Musick, a leading folklorist, quickly adapted to West Virginia after moving here from Missouri.  She collected and published folktales of West Virginia during her tenure at Fairmont State College (1946-1974). The Telltale Lilac Bush, Green Hills of Magic and Coffin Hollow are three extremely popular volumes.  She was also a poet, short story writer and playwright. Her manuscripts are preserved at the college in the library which bears her name.

Myers, Walter Dean, Martinsburg.  Now Is Your Time! The African American Struggle for Freedom; At Her Majesty's Request: An African American Princess in Victorian England. Myers, a New Jersey resident, left Martinsburg around the age of three but returns to visit family and research his ancestors' slave experiences at a plantation near Martinsburg.  Myers is the winner of six Coretta Scott King Awards and a Newbery Honor.  He writes poetry, fiction and history.

Myers, Karl Dewey, Hendricks.  The Quick Years. As a child Myers developed physical problems and could not walk.  He had no formal schooling but was "more learned than many college graduates" according to Phil M Conley, editor of The West Virginia Review.  Conley mounted a campaign to have Myers appointed first Poet Laureate of West Virginia.

Pancake, Breece, Milton.  A stark collection, The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake, was published posthumously to national acclaim.  The "why" of Pancake's suicide at the age of 26 remains a mystery.  Success seemed eminent; he was near completion of his master's degree at the University of Virginia and his stories were being published by The Atlantic.  Poetry and short stories.

Pedneau, Dave, Bluefield.  Pedneau's best selling crime novels have unique titles based on police jargon: D.O.A.; N.F.D.  His background as reporter, columnist and magistrate court judge provided him materials.

Jayne Anne Phillips

Phillips, Jayne Anne, Buckhannon.  Phillips, a graduate of West Virginia University, is the author of Black Tickets and Fast Lanes, two widely anthologized collections of short stories.  Her work is included in the 1980 O. Henry Award Prize Story Collection.  Phillips' first novel Machine Dreams was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  The roots of her fiction can be found in her early book of poetry Sweethearts.

Post, Melville Davisson, Romine Mills near Clarksburg. Post, a WVU graduate and practicing attorney, drew many of the plots of his stories and novels from his practice.  Dwellers in the Hills and The Mountain School-Teacher are two of his enduring novels but he also wrote best-selling mystery stories, usually featuring an unscrupulous lawyer or a horseback riding, bible-thumbing, mountain squire turned crime solver.  His work is included in the 1919 O. Henry Award Prize Story Collection.

Price, Eugenia, Charleston.  Price lived most of her adult life on St. Simons Island, Georgia.  The location inspired best-selling historical romance novels: Lighthouse; New Moon Rising; The Beloved Invader.  Price was also the author of inspirational books and an autobiography.

Rice, Otis, Hughestown.  Rice has many history titles to his credit: Hatfields and the McCoys; West Virginia: A History; West Virginia: The State and Its People.  He is currently an advisor for the West Virginia Humanities Encyclopedia Project.

Rylant, Cynthia, born in Virginia, grew up in Cool Ridge and Beaver, and lives in Oregon.  A graduate of Marshall University, Rylant is an inspiration to many authors.  She thrives on writing and her honors are legion: 1993 Newbery Medal; 1987 Newbery Honor; 1983 National Book Award finalist. Genres: fiction, poetry, autobiography, and essays.  Her first book When I Was Young in the Mountains, illustrator Diane Goode, won a Caldecott Honor.

Savage, Lon, southern West Virginia.  Savage is the author of a social and labor history Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-1921.  He is a former bureau chief for United Press International an experienced journalist and a member of the administrative staff at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. History.

Settle, Mary Lee, Charleston.  A world traveler, Settle currently lives in Virginia.  She is the state's first National Book Award winner for her novel Blood Tie (1987).  Her outstanding literary achievement is considered the Beulah Quintet, five historic novels dealing with immigrants from England settling and developing what is now West Virginia.  The Quintet is comprised of Prisons, O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, The Scapegoat, and The Killing Ground.  Settle writes memoirs, plays, children's books, poetry and short stories.  A story "The Old Wives' Tale" is included in the1978 O. Henry Award Prize Story Collection and her early poetry is in several 1929 issues of West Virginia Review.  Her memoir Addie is her most recent book.

Scherf, Margaret, born in Fairmont.  Scherf moved to Montana and became a member of Montana's State Legislature.  She was a prolific mystery writer between 1940-1963 with approximately 20 adult and 3 juvenile titles to her credit.  One intriguing title, Don't Wake Me Up While I'm Driving.

Skidmore, Hobert Douglas, Webster Springs and Clarksburg.  Hobert (and his twin, Hubert) were 1927 graduates of Washington Irving High School, Clarksburg. Both won Avery Hopwood Awards in creative writing at the University of Michigan. Hobert is the author of short stories and 4 novels.  His novel The Years Are Even is the story of an identical twin coping with life as a twin and then with the death of his twin.

Skidmore, Hubert, Webster Springs and Clarksburg.  Hubert is the author of short stories and six novels, most set in West Virginia.  His last, Hawk's Nest, details the horrific and controversial Depression-era industrial tragedy at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia.  Hubert died in a house fire at the age of 37 shortly after writing the novel.

Smith, Agnes, Clarksburg and Fairmont.  Smith is the author of two novels and a "how to" book for writers.  Her 1959 youth novel, An Edge of the Forest, is a fantasy centered on a black lamb cared for by animals of the forest.  It received numerous awards and was dramatized for radio by the British Broadcasting Service.

Smucker, Anna Egan, Weirton and Bridgeport. Smucker's first book, No Star Nights, won the 1990 International Reading Association's Children's Book Award in the younger reader category.  She is the author of a 2nd picture book, Outside the Window.  Her most recent book, A History of West Virginia, was written for adult new readers.  Smucker is also a poet.

Spencer, Anne, Bramwell.  Spencer was born in Virginia but grew up in Bramwell, West Virginia and taught school there before marrying Edward Spencer and returning to Virginia.  Noted as a poet, she never published a book of poetry.  However, her work can be found in most Harlem Renaissance anthologies.  The Spencers' Lynchburg home is on the National Register of Historic Houses as a result of Anne's fame as a poet as well as the couples' work with the (then) newly founded NAACP.  Time's Unfading Garden: Anne Spencer's Life and Poetry by J. Lee Greene is a good source of Spencer information and contains many of her poems.

Stockton, Frank R, lived near Charles Town the last three years of his life.  Best known for his short story "The Lady or the Tiger," Stockton was the long-time editor of St. Nicholas magazine and wrote novels, science fiction, and fairy tales.  With financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council, WNPB-TV Morgantown is producing an animated adaptation of Stockton's tale "The Griffin and the Minor Canon," one of his most endearing tales.

Thompson, Carlene, Point Pleasant and Parkersburg.  Black for Remembrance is one of her chiller-thriller titles, but there are many others (and she likes to include a dog in each). Remembrance is available in Braille and on audio.  Some of her novels are set in Point Pleasant, Wheeling and Parkersburg.

Beverly Van Hook

Van Hook, Beverly, Huntington.  Van Hook, journalist turned author, now lives in Virginia.  She writes the popular "Supergranny" mystery series for children and the "Liza and Dutch Randolph" series for adults.  Her adult mystery Fiction, Fact, & Murder is set at a writers' conference in West Virginia.

Ware, Clyde, West Union and Clarksburg.  Ware's novels include The Eden Tree and The Innocents.  He is a script writer for television and movies and the founder of a film production company.  Two of his films were shot on location in West Virginia, No Drums, No Bugles and Where the Line Goes Through.

Washington, Booker T., Malden.  Born into slavery in Virginia, Washington and his family moved to Malden, West Virginia when he was about 8 years old.  His autobiography, Up From Slavery, is one of three books written by this renowned educator.

John Alexander Williams

Williams, John Alexander, White Sulphur Springs.  Williams has three history titles to his credit. West Virginia: A History for Beginners is most recent.  He is professor of history and director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and served as script writer for the West Virginia History Film Project.

Willis, Meredith Sue, Shinnston. Now a New Jersey resident, Willis returns to West Virginia frequently.  She is Fairmont State College's "Artist-in-Residence" for 1999.  Her short story collection In the Mountains of America, and some of her novels, have West Virginia settings. Willis' children's books include The Super Secret Powers of Marco and Marco's Monster.  She is the author of "how-to" books on creative writing and teaches creative writing.

Wilson-Kelly, Becky, St. Albans.  Kelly (the last name given on some of her books) considers illustrating the most engaging part of her career at this time.  She lives in Kansas City and illustrates her own line of Hallmark Greeting Cards.  She is the author/illustrator of Mother Grumpy's Dog Biscuits as well as the illustrator of The Old Woman in a Shoe, Playtime, and Mad Ann Bailey.

Yep, Laurence, Yep is not a West Virginian but has a kinship with the Clarksburg area.  During the Great Depression his maternal relatives moved from China to Ohio and then to Clarksburg before settling in California.  He grew up hearing stories about his family's life in West Virginia and based his Christopher Award winning novel The Star Fisher on their stories.  His autobiography The Lost Garden contains a section about his family's West Virginia connection and his youth novel Child of the Owl is dedicated to a West Virginia resident who befriended them, and his youth novel, Dream Soul, is set in Clarksburg.

Sources: Personal interview and survey information collected from West Virginia authors or their families as part of my research "The Multicultural Literary History of West Virginia" is the primary source of much of this information. For authors of the past, dust covers of books were utilized. Additional references are mentioned throughout the text.

Corrections, additions and suggestions related to the site may be sent to MountainLit or Phyllis Wilson Moore, West Virginia Literature Consultant. Your feedback is appreciated.

The afghans were available through the West Virginia Library Association but quickly sold out.

 

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