Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The West Virginia Literary Map, a tool frequently requested by classroom teachers, is now a reality and available for purchase.

A project of the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State and funded through the collaborative efforts of the Folklife Center, the West Virginia Library Commission, the West Virginia Center for the Book, the National Center for the Book of the Library of Congress and the West Virginia Humanities Council, the map illustrates West Virginia's literary mile markers and related sites. It is now available for use in schools, by scholars and as a promotional item for cultural tourism. The map's title is "From a Place Called Solid," based on a quote from author Louise McNeill.

State teachers have provided the foundation for the development of many distinguished authors: Davis Grubb, Breece DJ Pancake, Louise McNeill, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Robyn Eversole. West Virginia joins the ranks of 42 other states that have a literary map.

"The map promotes pride in place and is a tool to show students they can succeed as a writer, etc.," said Phyllis Wilson Moore, Project Director. "I can't think of a major writing award that has not been won by a West Virginian. The Literary Map should be valuable in recruiting businesses to West Virginia and in promoting literary/cultural tourism."

Registered with the Library of Congress, the map is available for use in exhibits, classrooms, offices, libraries, tourist centers, museums, historical societies and at conferences. It will serve as a research tool for the study of the state's literary achievements and will point the way to selected and representative authors of imaginative literature from each of the state's eight tourist regions.

The map, five years in the making, is the result of the efforts of a statewide committee composed of Phyllis Wilson Moore, Project Director, Literary Researcher/Author; Dr. Judy P. Byers, Abelina Suarez Professor of English and Folklore and Director of the W.Va. Folklife Center at FS; Mary Lucille DeBerry, media representative; Sharon Diaz, English language arts representative; Ruel Foster, former professor emeritus West Virginia University (deceased); Jennifer A. Soule, former director of the W.Va. Center for the Book; Barbara Smith, professor emerita Alderson-Broaddus College; and Gordon Simons, representative for the general public and businesses. Noel W. Tenney, Cultural Specialist for the Folklife Center, served on the committee to represent historians and as the map's illustrator.

West Virginia's unique map is two-sided, produced in four colors and features all original art. It is available in a soft, foldable version suitable for use in a student's notebook and as a wall poster. For world wide dissemination, the map is also available on the Internet.

Side one of the map opens with a quote from revered former state poet laureate Louise McNeill of Pocahontas County and is dedicated to the oral literature that came before as exemplified in the works of Ruth Ann Musick, W.Va. folktale scholar. The map's front highlights 35 authors from the 35th state, writing from 1863-2003, plus a W.Va. site often associated with them or their work, along with a major literary distinction. The front illustration addresses the scope of content from the general "sense of place" to the specific details of published titles.

"The honor of being placed on the front design was given to those writers who have received national recognition, have become the "spirit voices" of our regional culture, have effected social change through the power of their words or have implanted a lasting imprint on the psyche of our regional and national soul," said Noel W. Tenney, illustrator.

Portrait images of specific monumental writers, all who now "belong to the ages," were chosen carefully and include Booker T. Washington, Pearl S. Buck, Louise McNeill, Rebecca Harding Davis and David Hunter Strother. Literary figures and characters -- Chief Logan, John Brown, William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, John Henry, the legendary Tony Beaver and the symbolic coal miner -- stand in the shadows of the writers.

"The map shape of West Virginia, a most identifying image, was used to represent the geography of place but as well the dimensional structure and spiritual realm of home, hills and something everlasting solid," Tenney said. "Mountains, majestic rivers from rushing streams, flora, fauna, state symbols of the black bear, rhododendron and cardinal were included because they are what we are, habitants of a very special country, "from a place called solid."

The reverse side of the map is dedicated to three literary collaborators -- Shirley Young Campbell, Jim Comstock and William Plumley -- each a catalyst in the promotion and development of West Virginia literature. This side features 150 significant authors writing in six genre categories. The majority of the living authors selected for the map currently reside in West Virginia. The reverse side closes with a quote from Pearl S. Buck, the state's most famous literary figure.

Every public library in the state received a complimentary copy of the map from the West Virginia Folklife Center. The map is for sale in area bookstores and from the Folklife Center via the Internet or by telephone order. For programs related to the literature or to purchase a map, contact Dr. Judy P. Byers at (304) 367-4286 or access the Folklife Center's web site at www2.fairmontstate.edu/wvfolklife. The web site features an order form that can be downloaded and sent to the Folklife Center mailing address, which is also listed on the site.