Visiting writers to present Appalachian literature

Author Robert Gipe

In connection with the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series, two Appalachian authors will read from and answer questions about their work at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 in the Shawkey Room of Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center.

The A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series is a series of reading events, which allow new and established writers to share their work and voices with the Marshall and Huntington communities, series coordinator John Van Kirk said. He said the series was founded in 1989 by Marshall English professor and poet Art Stringer, and since its founding, the series has had five to eight events a year.

This event, which is sponsored by the Department of English and the College of Liberal Arts, like others in the series, will be free and open to the public, Van Kirk said.

The two authors featured at the event will be Robert Gipe, who will read from his 2015 illustrated novel “Trampoline,” recipient of the Weatherford Award in fiction, and Savannah Sipple, who will read from her not-yet-released poetry collection “WWJD and Other Poems,” said Cody Lumpkin, associate coordinator of the series. Both authors have a connection to Appalachia through their ties to eastern Kentucky, he said.

Both authors also have a connection to Appalachia through their subject matter, Lumpkin said. He said he has taught Appalachian literature in the past, and though he has not taught these particular books and the authors were not held to any particular theme, their work relates to a theme he has seen in Appalachian literature.

“I think, generally, what seems to be going on in Appalachia is the idea that Appalachia is a place of extraction,” Lumpkin said. “Things are taken away. That seems to be, at least in the classes I’ve taught, that that’s the great theme in Appalachia. You take coal, you take lumber, you take water. It’s like a colony— it’s something that you take things from. And that gets reflected in the literature.”

Lumpkin said this theme is even reflected in the people of Appalachia, with some people moving away or joining the military because there are no opportunities for them. He said human labor and capital, as well as culture and music, are taken, repurposed and used for profit.

Both works the authors will read from during the event deal with current issues, Lumpkin said. He said Gipe’s illustrated novel “Trampoline,” as is about a teenage girl, her relationship with her grandmother and their fight to deal with mountaintop removal. Sipple’s poetry deals with being LGBTQ+ and with perceptions of body imagery and one’s own comfort in one’s body, as well as identity and coming out and living in a world that may not accept you for who you are or allow you to be yourself, Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin said he thinks it will be useful for Huntington, as part of Appalachia, to have writers from within Appalachia come and show thoughtful creative work that is coming out of the area and pushing against the stereotypes and assumptions people may have about the region.

“There seems to be a greater awareness, and need, in people in general coming out of Appalachia of the need for them to tell their own stories and to control their own narrative,” Lumpkin said. “For so many years, outsiders have come and said, ‘This is how we perceive Appalachia,’ ‘this is how we see them,’ and I never want to utterly dismiss an outsiders perspective about things, but I do think it’s important that people from that region, from those communities, are able to tell their story from their perspective.”

More information about the event and the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series can be found at or by contacting Lumpkin at [email protected].

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].

Author Savannah Sipple