Folklife Center to host talk by former Times West Virginian journalist

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center invites the public to attend the first of four presentations as part of The Women’s Lyceum, A Celebration of Appalachian Women. On Monday, September 30, at 7:00 p.m., Val Nieman will be discussing her novel, “To the Bones.” This event is free and open to the public.

Nieman is an author, teacher, and editor whose work emerges from her Appalachian roots. Her fourth novel, “To the Bones,” a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, is a spring 2019 title from WVU Press.

The Small Press Picks notes the novel takes place in Redbird, West Virginia, run for generations by a coal-baron family, the Kavanaughs, whose evils run far deeper than their exploitation of the land and its people. To help achieve their ends, the Kavanaughs seem to draw dark, otherworldly powers from the coal, and from the land itself. And these powers appear unstoppable, until a few townspeople, and an outsider with some otherworldly powers of his own, try to fight back-often, with deadly consequences.

Niemen’s writing has appeared widely in journals and in numerous anthologies, including “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods” and “Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology.” She has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships, and her awards include the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction, two Elizabeth Simpson Smith awards in fiction and the Greg Grummer Prize in poetry.

A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist (including work for the Times-West Virginian), Nieman teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.

“I’d consider this a love letter to the genres that have thrilled me over the years, from Tennyson’s Arthurian cycle to Poe’s tales of madness, to Lovecraft and Bradbury and Herbert, and films from the schlocky to the great. “Night of the Living Dead” is in here, but also “Night of the Hunter,” she said of her book. “And Appalachia, where I was educated and worked for most of my life, has produced a great body of folk tales and traditions and stories of otherworldly events – I think of Ruth Ann Musick’s classic The Tell-Tale Lilac Bush – a rich vein that’s been tapped by writers from Manley Wade Wellman to Davis Grubb to Sharyn McCrumb.”

The tradition of the lyceum dates back to Ancient Greece and serves as a way of public education and entertainment. It includes lectures, readings, concerts, and discussions.

The Folklife Center is located in the historic Kennedy Barn on the Fairmont State University Campus and is dedicated to the identification, preservation, and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage. It houses academic minors in folklore and museum studies. This event is free and open to the public. For questions, please contact Dr. Francene Kirk at 304-367-4403 or

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