A Valentine to Appalachia

Feb 9, 2018

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week's encore episode of Inside Appalachia features one of our favorite and most downloaded podcasts. We hear from writers Neil Gaiman, Ann Pancake, Carrie Mullins, Charles Frazier, and Nikki Giovanni sharing their love letters to Appalachia. It's a place that, while flawed, has been a source of inspiration and awe for them.

Some of those writers, like Pancake, grew up in these mountains and were eager to move away, only to be drawn back as adults. She described that complicated relationship, marked by conflicting attitudes about her home state.

“It seems really strong in West Virginia, this pull to come back, but also this pull to leave. So most of us live with that contradiction, that attraction of the place and the repulsion of the place," she said.

Others like Gaiman, a fantasy writer who grew up in England, developed his fondness for Appalachia through its rich folklore. Some stories even inspired his stories.

“Books of mine, like American Gods, in some ways began with my readings of the Appalachian folktales," Gaiman told Jesse Wright in 2015.

We'll also hear an interview with Carrie Mullins, whose debut novel Night Garden is about growing up in eastern Kentucky and the struggle many young people face fighting drug addiction.

Sunset over Cheat Lake in Morgantown during a thunderstorm.
Credit Jesse Wright

"There’s a certain sense of security and comfort with these mountains," says Inside Appalachia's host, Jessica Lilly. "It’s not perfect, we have our flaws, but true love takes the good with the bad and finds beauty in flaws."

"When you love someone, you don’t just give up on them. Maybe that’s why this place has inspired some strong voices in writing."

We’d love to hear your Appalachian love letter, poem or even haiku. Just send us tweet @InAppalachia and use the #MyAppalachia. Or send an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

Music in this episode was provided by Ben TownsendDinosaur Burps, and Michael Howard.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Jesse Wright is our executive producer. Jesse Wright also edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.