QUESTION: I'm writing to ask a quick question about the category of "Appalachian Writing" in the annual writing contest. Other than length (up to 5,000 words), there's little to describe what qualifies for that category on the contest entry form; can you tell me a little more about the guidelines for "Appalachian Writing"? Thanks so much.
ANSWER: The description of Appalachian Writing is left vague because it can cover such a wide range of writing. But, ideally, the story, essay or poem submitted will comment on some aspect of Appalachia and/or the lives of the people who reside there. There's an awful lot of room to move within those guidelines. It can be as simple as telling a good story that happens to be set in West Virginia, or starting out with the intention of illuminating specific aspect of Appalachian culture through the work. You need not be a native Appalachian to consider entering, either. I'm from Mississippi and have placed in the category twice.
Similarly, our category The Flood, while inspired by the historic flooding in West Virginia this past June, is not limited to that tragedy, but is open to interpretation. You could absolutely write about the flooding in WV, but the theme could apply to the flooding in Mississippi and Louisiana this past fall, or even the flooding that happened during Hurricane Katrina, or other such flooding. Or, it could take a non-literal approach and be an essay on the flood of information we're all hit by this day and age. It's open.