Writers are often told to “write what you know.” Natalie Sypolt and Nancy Abrams, authors with ties to Preston County, have done just that, creating images of a sometimes idyllic, sometimes gritty, but always fascinating Appalachia. They will read from their new books at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie Sypolt is a collection of short stories. The residents of storiescould be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms. Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later. Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.
Natalie is the winner of the Glimmer Train New Writers Contest, the Betty Gabehart Prize, the West Virginia Fiction Award, and the Still fiction contest. She serves as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writer and currently works as an Assistant Professor at Pierpont Community & Technical College.
In the mid-1970s, Nancy L. Abrams, a young photojournalist from the Midwest, plunged into life as a small-town journalist in West Virginia. She befriended the hippies on the commune one mountaintop over, rented a cabin in beautiful Salt Lick Valley, and fell in love with a local boy, while wrestling to balance the demands of a job and a personal life. The Climb from Salt Lick: A Memoir of Appalachia is the story of an outsider coming into adulthood. It is the story of a unique place and its people from the perspective of a woman who documents its burdens and its beauty, using words and pictures to tell the rich stories of those around her.
Nancy Abrams is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where she trained as a photojournalist. She spent a decade at The Preston County News in Terra Alta, West Virginia. She next worked at the Morgantown Dominion Post, where she was a photographer, a writer, and, finally, editor of Panorama, the Sunday magazine. She spent her next decade as the manager of publications at West Virginia University’s Medical Center. Nancy earned an MFA in creative writing - nonfiction from the New School the year she turned 55.
The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University is dedicated to the identification, preservation, and perpetuation of our region's rich cultural heritage. For additional information about this program or about the Folklife Center, please call 304-367-4403.