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Children's Authors Discuss Creativity, Appalachia And Diversity

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Courtesy David Perri
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"Messy Larry" is about learning it's okay to make messes because they are a part of life.

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia features several children's authors, including Cynthia Rylant, who wrote "When I Was Young In The Mountains." It also includes David Perri, author of "Messy Larry," Bil Lepp reading from his recent children's book "The Princess and The Pickup Truck," and Lyn Ford, a professional storyteller and children's educator, telling a story she wrote called "The Old Woman and Death." And while these stories were written for children, like many children's stories, each have messages for all of us, including grown-ups.

Messes Are A Part of Life

If you’ve spent time with toddlers, you know that messes are a part of creativity and life. During the pandemic, many parents are juggling working from home while also watching after children -- which can sometimes lead to messes. Producer Roxy Todd sat down with author David Perri to discuss his book “Messy Larry,” a book about a larger-than-life bear named Larry who learns that it’s okay to make messes and mistakes.

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Courtesy Penguin Random House
Author Cynthia Rylant was inspired by time time she spent with her grandparents for her book "When I Was Young in the Mountains."

“I set out to write something that was fun to read, both for parents and for kids,” Perri said.

Perri is currently working on his second book titled “Cameron Gives A Kiss.”

Growing Up In The Mountains

Author Cynthia Rylant has written more than 100 books since she began a professional career as an author -- from picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and even novels. She is the recipient of the Caldecott Honors for her book “When I Was Young in the Mountains.” Rylant was raised in West Virginia and spent time with her grandparents in Raleigh County, which inspired her beloved book. This week, we talked with Rylant and learned more about her childhood and heard her read an excerpt from “When I Was Young in the Mountains.”

“The Princess And The Pea” With An Appalachian Twist

Those familiar with Bil Lepp’s storytelling style know he writes in a way best heard aloud. Lepp is a storyteller who has won the West Virginia Liars’ Contest five times. This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear Lepp read his newest book “The Princess and the Pickup Truck.” The book is based on “The Princess and the Pea,” with Lepp’s own personal twist on the classic tale.

 

Storytelling As A Connection To History

Lyn Ford is a professional storyteller who grew up in Appalachian Pennsylvania and spent many summers in East Liverpool, Ohio. Many of Ford’s stories are adapted from folktales she heard as a child. Ford identifies as Affrilachian, a term that combines African American and Appalachian identities. She said because history books don’t often include African American history, she didn’t begin learning about it until she found some of her aunt’s books.

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Courtesy Lyn Ford
Lyn Ford at the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute in Utah in 2016.

“So I think it starts with family, sharing stories from your own family, and that makes a connection to history,” Ford said. “And also sharing stories is communication, which helps us to know one another better and we all need that these days getting acquainted with one another.”

“So definitely, storytelling is at the foundation of a better world,” she said.

In this week’s show, we hear Ford telling one of her stories “The Old Woman and Death,” at the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute in Utah in 2016.

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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Nathan El, and Marisa Anderson.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Our associate producer is Jade Artherhults. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture.
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.