The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series: 2015-2016 Season


The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writer Series

2015-2016 Season


Common Reading Program author Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah will read on Sept 3 in Blue Ridge Ballroom at 7:30. He’ll also speak at 10 a.m. at Convocation that same day.

Ishmael Beah’s book “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” has been selected as the Common Reading selection for 2015-16.

The book will be provided to all incoming freshmen during their summer orientation and discussed in small group settings prior to the start of classes in August and in First Year Seminar classes. In addition, Beah will speak to campus during convocation Sept. 3.

“A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” has been published in more than 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. Time Magazine named the book as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007, ranking at number three.

Author Jeannette Walls said, the book “hits you hard in the gut with Sierra Leone’s unimaginable brutality, and then it touches your soul with unexpected acts of kindness. Ishmael Beah’s story tears your heart to pieces and then forces you to put it back together again, because if Beah can emerge from such horror with his humanity intact, it’s the least you can do.”

Walter Isaacson called the book, “a wrenching, beautiful, and mesmerizing tale,” and Steve Coll sums the reviews up well when he said, “This is a beautifully written book about a shocking war and the children who were forced to fight it. Ishmael Beah describes the unthinkable in calm, unforgettable language; his memoir is an important testament to the children elsewhere”

Beah was born in 1980 in Sierra Leone. While he was a young boy, his country descended into a horrific civil war, and Beah was forced to flee his village when rebels brutally attacked. After wandering the country, Beah was picked up as a young teenager by the government army and was pressed into service as government guerrilla soldier.

Beah witnessed and sometimes participated in truly terrible acts, but the story does not end there. Beah was eventually released by the Sierra Leon government army, and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center where he struggled to regain his humanity and learn how to reenter the world of civilians as an adult.

He moved to the U.S. in 1988 and completed high school at the United Nations International School in New York. Beah graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in political science.

Beah now is a UNICEF Ambassador, an advocate for Children Affected by War, a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Advisory Committee, and an advisory board member of the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also is a former visiting scholar at the Center for Conflict resolution, Columbia University, a visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights, Rutgers University, Co-Founder of The Network for Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) and president of The Ishmael Beah Foundation.


Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, Poet and Editor R.T. Smith

R.T. Smith photo

R.T. Smith will read on Sept 24 in Table Rock Room at 7:30, preceded by a reception in his honor from 6-7:15 in Table Rock. His afternoon craft talk is also in Table Rock from 2-3:15.

R.T. Smith is Appalachian State University’s Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing for 2015-16. He follows in the footsteps of some of the nation’s most renowned writers, including Robert Morgan, Al Young, Toi Derricotte, Paul Zimmer, Kelly Cherry, George Ella Lyon, and Nancy Huddleston Packer.

Smith has a rich past with ASU. He received his M.A. in English here in 1976. In 1972, he founded Cold Mountain Review, which started out essentially as a venue for student work. By and by, however, it became a professional journal. Over the next forty-three years (few university literary magazines last a quarter of that time), CMR  has gone on to publish not only the best writers in North Carolina, but the best writers from all over the United States, and even beyond, and has positioned itself among the most prestigious journals in the nation. What’s more, only three literary magazines in North Carolina are older than CMR: the venerable Carolina Quarterly (1948), UNC-Chapel Hill; Tar River Poetry (1965), East Carolina University; and Greensboro Review (1966), UNC-Greensboro.

Since his years at ASU, Smith has gone on to become a writer of singular renown. He's the author of thirty-four books across a wide swath of genres, including: In the Night Orchard: New and Selected Poems, Texas Review Press, 2014; The Red Wolf: A Dream of Flannery O’Connor (poems), Louisiana Literature Press, 2013; Sherburne: A Story Cycle, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2012; The Calaboose Epistles: Stories, Iris Press, 2009; Outlaw Style (poems), University of Arkansas Press, 2007; Uke Rivers Delivers (stories), LSU Press, 2006; Brightwood  (poems), LSU Press, 2003; and The Hollow Log Lounge (poems), University of Illinois Press, 2003. The list goes on. His poems and stories regularly appear in the very best journals and magazines in the United States, such as Sewanee Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, and Kenyon Review.

Smith is also regarded as one of the finest editors in the nation and is currently Writer-in-Residence at Washington and Lee University where he also edits its renowned literary magazine, Shenandoah. Prior to his assignment at Washington and Lee, he served as Writer-in-Residence and Professor of English at Auburn University where he was Assistant Editor and Co-Editor of Southern Humanities Review, another cutting-edge literary journal. In addition, he has edited, along with Sarah Kennedy, Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia, published by University of Virginia Press, 2003.

His honors and awards are legion. He is the recipient of the 2013 Carole Weinstein Prize for Poetry from Library of Virginia, the 2012 Perkoff Prize in Poetry from The Missouri Review, the 2011 and 2006 Theodore Hoefner Prize in Poetry from Southern Humanities Review, the 2008 Library of Virginia Poetry Book of the Year Award, the 2008 and 2002 Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the 2007 Glenna Luschei Fiction Award from Prairie Schooner, a 2006 and 2003 Pushcart Prize for Poetry, the  2006 Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, the 2006 Cohen Prize for Poetry from Ploughshares, a 2005 Pushcart Prize for Fiction, the 2004 Maurice English Poetry Book Prize, the 2004 Denny C. Plattner Fiction Prize from Appalachian Heritage, the 2001 Richard Hugo Poetry Prize, a 1988 Governor’s Arts Award from Alabama Arts Council, and others. He’s also been awarded poetry and fiction fellowships from the Virginia Commission for the Arts (2004), the National Endowment for the Arts (1990), the Alabama State Arts Council (1986, 1989), the Wurlitzer Foundation , and others.


Novelist and environmental activist Denise Giardina (author of the Appalachian classic Storming Heaven)

Denis Giardina photoDenise Giardina will read on Oct 20 in Parkway Ballroom at 7:30. Her morning craft talk is in the Table Rock Room from 9:30-11 a.m.

American Book Award winner Denise Giardina was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, and grew up in Black Wolf coal camp in McDowell County, W.Va., where her mother was a nurse and her father was a coal company bookkeeper. She is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College (B.A., history, 1973) and Virginia Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1979). She was ordained as an Episcopal deacon in 1979. She is best known as a novelist and Appalachian community activist. She ran for governor of West Virginia as the Mountain Party candidate in the 2000 general election, receiving more than 10,000 votes, on a platform of support for labor issues, environmental protection, and fair taxation of coal and absentee-owned land.

She is the author of six novels of historical fiction, focusing on England’s Henry V in Good King Harry (1984), Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany in Saints and Villains (1998), and links between West Virginia and England in a time travel novel, Fallam’s Secret (2003). Her most recent book, Emily’s Ghost (2009), is a novel based on the life of Emily Bronte. Her novels Storming Heaven (1987) and The Unquiet Earth (1992) explore a century of Appalachian coal mining history, from the 1890s to the 1990s—from events leading to the Matewan Massacre and the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain to strip mining and the Buffalo Creek flood in 1972. Giardina retired as Writer-in-Residence from West Virginia State University, and she lives in Charleston, W.Va.

Denise Giardina is the recipient of the Weatherford Award of the Appalachian Studies Association for both Storming Heaven and The Unquiet Earth; the Lillian Smith Award and an American Book Award for The Unquiet Earth; the Fisk Fiction Prize for Saints and Villains; and the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Giardina describes herself as “a theological writer.” “That’s what I’m interested in exploring,” she said, “whether it’s morality, right or wrong, or redemption, or life after death—the theological issues we all grapple with.”


Black Mountain College literary historians William Rice and Katherine Chaddock

William Craig Rice photoWilliam Rice and Katherine Chaddock will read on Oct 27 in Parkway Ballroom at 7:30.

William Craig Rice is the director of education programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities. His first job out of college was teaching 9th and 10th grade English at the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee; his second was as an apprentice mechanic for Alfa Romeo. He later taught writing seminars for many years at Harvard University and served as the 12th president of Shimer College, the Great Books College of Chicago. His publications include essays, articles, reviews, and verse, mostly recently in The Caribbean Writer, The New Criterion, and The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Verse, and a history monograph, Public Discourse & Academic Inquiry. He and Mark Bauerlein recently brought out the republication of I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century, by John Andrew Rice, founder of Black Mountain College (University of South Carolina Press). William Rice is the grandson of John Andrew Rice. He lives in Washington, DC.

 Katherine Chaddock photoDr. Katherine Chaddock, the author of Visions and Vanities: John Andrew Rice of Black Mountain College (Louisiana State University Press, 1998), is currently Distinguished Professor Emerita of the University of South Carolina.  Her career in higher education includes research and writing, teaching and administration in positions at American University, the University of Utah and the University of South Carolina. 

Dr. Chaddock is a graduate of Northwestern University (B.S.), University of Southern California (M.P.A.) and University of Utah (Ph.D.).  During her twenty years as a faculty member in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina, she was awarded by the Board of Trustees the title of University Trustee Professor.  She also won the University’s Michael J. Mungo Graduate Teaching Award and the USC College of Education Outstanding Researcher Award.  History, administration and policy in higher education were Dr. Chaddock’s primary areas of teaching.  She retired in 2014.

Dr. Chaddock’s  research and writing largely focus on history and biography; and these have led to numerous journal articles and books.  John Andrew Rice and Black Mountain College captured her interest first as a topic for her Ph.D. dissertation.  Her research included dozens of interviews and archival collections in six states.  Eventually, this led to her biographical book on Rice, as well as several journal articles—including one on the founding philosophies of Black Mountain College; one on John Dewey’s influence on the college; and one on Rice’s published stories about the South.  Among her subsequent historical and biographical books are:  A Separate Sisterhood: Women Who Shaped Southern Education in the Progressive Era (Peter Lang Press, 2002); Vital Signs in Charleston: Voices From MUSC (History Press, 2007); and The Multi-Talented Mr. Erskine: Shaping Mass Culture Through Great Books and Fine Music (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). 

Dr. Chaddock lives in Charleston, South Carolina.  She is currently researching and writing a biography of Richard T. Greener, the first African American graduate of Harvard University (1870) and first African American faculty member of University of South Carolina (1873-77), who was a prominent lawyer, distinguished diplomat, and influential political activist during and beyond the U.S. Reconstruction era. 


All readings are held in the Plemmons Student Union, Appalachian State campus