Winter 2015 Editor’s Note

In the dead of winter, sunlight is often in short supply, appearing without warning, only to soon disappear again behind a mass of grey clouds. Many of us can’t help but walk around downcast, wearing what Shakespeare called a “February face” in Much Ado About Nothing—“So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness…” We pine for the sun, for warmer temperatures, for woods and beaches and the heat of city pavement beneath our sandaled feet.

The writing in this issue of Appalachian Heritage will not be a cure-all for those February faces. There are clouds and storms within these pages, moments of sadness and stark beauty that reflect the winter’s chill. But tucked away in here are also rays of sunlight. All are gifts from the talented group of writers huddled here who ask you to contemplate a small town tragedy in the story “Broke Your Heart Just About Every Way How” by Clarissa Nemeth, a glimpse behind the veneer of country music legend Dolly Parton in the essay “Christmas in August” by Jennifer Barton, how pain can leave a mark in the poem “Rural Stigmata” by Jen Coleman, and quietude in literature in the craft essay “The Sacred Stillness of Father Damien” by Katherine Scott Crawford.

I’m also proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Denny C. Plattner Awards, presented to the authors of the work deemed by our judges to be the best pieces of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry that appeared in the magazine last year.

The fiction award goes to Patti Frye Meredith for her story “The Big Chair.” Bestselling novelist and judge Denise Giardina does not mince words, stating, “Meredith’s story is carefully crafted, her characters are fully realized and believable, and their lives are ultimately moving.” Honorable mention in fiction was awarded to Jordan Farmer for his story “Lost in the Flood.”

Fenton Johnson is the recipient of the creative nonfiction award for his essay “Power and Obedience: Restoring Pacifism to American Politics.” In his comments, essayist and judge Patrick Madden observes, “By personal, familial, and regional stories with philosophical statements, military history, and the development of the Titan Missile system, Johnson crafts a powerful essay on the pervasiveness of war and the importance of pacifism…His personal experiences and meditations invite readers to ponder their own complicities in systems that seek to destroy rather than heal. ‘Power and Obedience: Restoring Pacifism to American Politics’ does what the best essays do: it grapples with irremediable complexities through a strong individual voice that stands within the melee and does not flee.” Receiving honorable mention in this category is Angel Sands Gunn for her essay “Black Holes.”

The poetry award is presented to Maurice Manning for his poem “Translation.” Acclaimed poet Kathleen Driskell, who judged this category, notes, “Upon entering Manning’s fine poem, I understood within a line or two that this poem was from a master’s hand. There are so many things I could say about it in admiration—beginning with the word ‘so’ that commences the poem and lets the reader know this is an ongoing conversation the speaker has with self, but also a conversation with his own culture and even poetry (I hear and see habits of haiku throughout). Manning’s voice is completely of our present world, even as it effortlessly reaches back and engages the old work of poet as philosopher.” Driskell awarded honorable mention to L.S. McKee for her poem “The Creek.”

With all that said, I now leave you to the winter—chilly and partly cloudy, but with a strong chance of some sunshine.

Jason Kyle Howard is the author of A Few Honest Words and co-author of Something's Rising, both works of literary journalism. His essays, features, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, Oxford American, Salon, The Millions, The Nation, Sojourners, and on C-SPAN's Book TV and NPR. Howard is editor of Appalachian Review, a literary quarterly based at Berea College, where he teaches and directs the creative writing program. He serves on the graduate faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing, and holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and degrees from The George Washington University and the University of Kentucky.

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