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Montcoal,WV:April 2010

Posted on May 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (19)

Since this is Memorial Day weekend, I've decided to publish my poem online in memory of the 29 miners who lost their lives at Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010.


Montcoal, West Virginia: April 2010


Night after night of this cruelest month,

porch lights beckon the miners home

and wait for a truck to top the hill.


Each evening they keep watch,

listening for the crush of tires on gravel,

the bark of a faithful dog.


But the men aren’t coming back,

tonight or any night

from Upper Big Branch mine.


Deep underground

twenty-nine headlamps

have long gone out,


but families hold vigil and pray,

and somehow the miners

hear each whispered word,


see all those porch lights

candling the darkness,

calling them home.


Posted on May 26, 2012 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Word & Song Cafe

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (4)

    Word & Song Café

Photo by Roger Roppel

Join us this summer at the Word & Song Café atop the beautiful gazebo at 14th Street West in Huntington, West Virginia, during the 21st annual Old Central City Days. Sit back and enjoy a cup or two of tea and delicious pastries from Betty Schoew’s Manchester House Tea Catering and listen to The Harmonica Club, Rocco Muriale play saxophone with Griff on keyboard, Dave Lavender sing, and award-winning writers read original selections Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, 2012, from 1-3pm. For more information, go to


Our featured readers for Saturday include short story writer and author of Still Life With Plums, Marie Manilla, O’Henry Award winner and novelist, John Van Kirk, poet and author of Lake Effect, Laura Treacy Bentley, playwright and freelance writer, Diane Wellman, and a recitation by two-time state winner of the Poetry Out Loud competition, Jasmine Lewis.


Our featured readers for Sunday include novelist and author of Emily’s Shadow, Christina St. Clair, novelist and author of, Paul Martin, and debut novelist and author of Flowertown, Sheila Redling.


Celebrity readers include radio news personality: Bill Cornwell (Saturday), WSAZ morning news anchor: Susan Nicholas (Saturday), Commissioner: Bob Bailey (Sunday), owner of Hattie and Nan's antique shop: Joanna Sexton (Sunday),  Director of Weed & Seed: Jennifer Williams (Sunday), and Quilt Trail artist and author: Sylvia Thompson (Saturday).


Signing authors include Carter Taylor Seaton, an award-winning author of Father’s Troubles and a figurative sculptor, Daleen Berry, a blogger for The Huffington Post and author of an award-winning memoir, Sister Of Silence, Jane Congdon, author of The Count, My Mother, and Me, Patrick Grace, publisher of Wild Sweet Notes, Marilyn Shank and Llewellyn McKernan.


Admission is $3.00 or three cans of food. All profits will be donated to a local food bank.Your ticket entitles you to tea and a pastry served by our Celebrity Servers and an afternoon of entertainment plus a chance to win door prizes at 2pm and 3pm. (You must be present to win.)


Arrive early for limited seating on the gazebo stage! There will be another seating at 2pm.


Both featured and signing authors will be on hand to discuss and sign their books.


                                  * * *     

Huntington native Marie Manilla frequently peppers her fiction with local landmarks: Frostop Drive-In, Dwights, Neirman’s Pharmacy, curvy Spring Valley Drive. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her award-winning stories have been collected in Still Life with Plums (WVU Press, 2010). Her novel, Shrapnel, also set in Huntington, won the Fred Bonnie Award for best first novel and will be available in August 2012. Her website is  


John Van Kirk’s short stories have earned him the O. Henry Award (1993) and The Iowa Review Fiction Prize (2011). His work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, West Branch, Kestrel, The Sonora Review, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, as well as several anthologies. His novel, Vossimilitude, is set to be published in 2013 by Red Hen Press. He teaches writing and literature at Marshall and is a long-time member of the Huntington Harmonica Club.


Laura Treacy Bentley is a poet, fiction writer, and book editor who writes “Conversations” for WV Living Magazine. She grew up in the West End of Huntington and spent many summers at the Olympic Pool. Her work has appeared in the United States and Ireland, and her first book of poetry, Lake Effect, was published in 2006. One of her poems, “Keepsake,” was recently chosen by the editors of O Magazine and is featured on Oprah’s website. Visit Laura’s website:


S. Diane Wellman lives in Huntington and works as a freelance writer. She is the author of several works of fiction, including short stories, plays, and screenplays. Her flash fiction was nominated for the 2009 Best of the Net Awards, and her play The Hen House was performed as part of Women’s History Month at Marshall University, where she received an MA in English. Visit her at


Jasmine Lewis is the Poetry Out Loud State Champion for both 2009 and 2010. She is currently a Junior at Marshall University majoring in Communication Studies with a focus on Organizational Communication and minoring in Business Management. Jasmine's favorite instrument is the violin, and she loves guinea pigs as pets.


Award winning author, Christina St. Clair, born and raised in London, England, has written articles, essays, and many novels for young people. She will be reading from Terrible Toes (available on Amazon Kindle) about an incident from her childhood. Her website is


Though born in Los Angeles, Paul Martin, novelist and author of has lived and written in Huntington, WV, so long that he considers these mountains and valleys both his only real home and inspiration. His fiction draws its breath from the people, small towns, even the geography of this region, and he hopes his work honors that debt. He understands that many of you might own an iPad, but doesn't want you to ever forget the sensual pleasure of cracking the spine on a great new book.


You may remember Sheila Redling from her fifteen year stint on the morning show at WKEE-FM in Huntington. Still an avid traveler, language geek and wine lover, she now writes under the name SG Redling and is anxiously awaiting the release of her debut thriller, Flowertown, from Thomas & Mercer, June 19, 2012:  Find her on Facebook and Twitter at SG Redling.




Photo by Roger Roppel


Posted on April 8, 2012 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (5)

Thanks to Sheila Redling (whose debut novel, Flowertown, is being released very soon on Amazon from Thomas & Mercer) for sharing this fabulous link:


In this video via, Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame talks about the origins of creativity. It's entertaining, inspiring, and moving. I highly recommend this video to every writer or would-be writer.

WV WRITERS:June 2012

Posted on March 10, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (2)

I will be leading two poetry workshops this summer at the 2012 West Virginia Writers Conference, June 8 - 10 at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, WV.


A stellar line-up of presenters includes Lee Maynard, Edwina Pendarvis, Marc Harshman, Marie Manilla, and Brad Barkley, among many others, plus great music and singers.


Come and join us!! 


Posted on February 12, 2012 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (7)

Just wanted to share some winter scenes that I photographed last week in Garrett County Maryland. Maybe you would like to write a companion haiku or a caption?



Small Wonders

Posted on December 9, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (13)


I took this picture of my niece, Sarah, about fifteen years ago, and it's one of my very favorite photographs---a wondrous moment that I was lucky enough to capture. I hope that your days are full of small wonders, and I wish you many more.


Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all my friends and family!


Posted on November 26, 2011 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Don't miss this incredible footage. Now I know what murmuration is, and I want to witness it in person!


"Girls canoeing in Ireland behold an astonishing sight as thousands of starlings swoop and pulse, whooshing through the sky as above Irish waters. It's the miracle of "'murmuration.'"  via Good News Network and my friend Christina St. Clair.


WOUB Interview

Posted on November 25, 2011 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (2)


Marie Manilla and I were recently interviewed by Wendy McVicker on WOUB public radio about writing and the writing life. Between the two of us we write short stories, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and novels. I hope that you'll click on the link below and listen in. Marie and I will be happy to respond to any questions or comments.


The Stinging Fly!

Posted on October 21, 2011 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

News from Dublin, Ireland! The cutting edge magazine,The Stinging Fly, will be presenting three readings in NYC from their latest New York Issue. Read about all the excitement from editor, Declan Meade.


On Monday, I fly from Dublin to New York along with four writers—Aifric Mac Aodha, Emer Martin, Sean O’Reilly and Keith Ridgway. We have three events lined up on three consecutive nights at venues around Manhattan. It’s very exciting and more than a little scary.


Right from the first issue of the magazine coming out in the spring of 1998, we have organised events in Dublin, and these have become an integral part of what The Stinging Fly does. We bring together all these writers on the pages of each of our issues, and then we bring them together in the flesh and we have them share their work and then they talk and drink and talk some more. They get to meet with their readers too. One of the main reasons the magazine has survived all this time is that we have a loyal band of readers who subscribe to the magazine and who come and participate in our events.


In Dublin, our events start on Irish time. I often find myself pacing an almost empty room as the advertised start-time comes and goes. (Almost empty because typically one or two people will arrive way ahead of time, but they will not be the kind of people who make me any less nervous.) Then suddenly, at five or ten minutes after the hour people begin to arrive and, within twenty more minutes, the room is full and my spirits lift and I know we’ll have another good night.


But three consecutive nights! We’ve never attempted that in Dublin. But to go to New York—to have been given this wonderful opportunity—it seemed like the only way to do it was to go all out and to try and do as much as we possibly could.


So, yes, I’m anticipating a few nervous evenings next week, waiting to see if people will turn up to our different events. I know I’m going to meet a lot of writers, many of whom have contributed to our New York issue, and up to now we’ve only communicated by e-mail. I hope I’m going to meet some new readers for the magazine too— and I hope we all have a few great nights together.

~ Declan Meade


The Stinging Fly in New York, three events on three nights, October 25, 26 & 27, is part of Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year of Irish arts in America during 2011. The Stinging Fly magazine publishes new Irish and international writing. We welcome submissions from January to March each year.



 (Photo by John Minihan)


Declan Meade has published and edited The Stinging Fly magazine since 1998. From 1999 to 2004 he edited the James Joyce Bloomsday Magazine for the James Joyce Centre in Dublin. In 2005 he set up The Stinging Fly Press that he continues to run in tandem with the magazine. He has edited two anthologies of short stories, These Are Our Lives (2006) and Let's Be Alone Together (2008). In 2004 and again in 2009, he organised the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award, Ireland's biggest short story competition.


The Stinging Fly

PO Box 6016

Dublin 1



—new writers, new writing—


The Stinging Fly in New York - 3 events, 3 nights - October 25, 26 & 27 as part of Imagine Ireland




Available now: our New York issue


Join us on Facebook: and on Twitter: @stingingfly

Favorite quote

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (10)

c 2011


"Hitch your wagon to a star." ~ Emerson



In need of some powerful inspiration? Please share one of your favorite quotations.

Marc Harshman Interview

Posted on August 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (3)

Enjoy my latest interview ("Conversations") from the Fall issue of WV LIVING MAGAZINE with acclaimed West Virginia poet, children's writer, and storyteller, Marc Harshman:


While you're there, explore the brand new WV Living website!

Jump Start Your Novel

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 11:33 AM Comments comments (19)

Have you ever dreamed about writing a novel or need some inspiration on how to organize or complete your latest novel-in-progress? Well, you've come to the right place!


What a stroke of luck to have noted author and teacher Meredith Sue Willis agree to be my guest blogger! As you will discover, her post "Jump Start Your Novel" is filled with solid ideas and fresh perspective on how to tackle the complexities of novel writing.


Meredith teaches creative writing and is a masterful and prolific author who has written novels, short stories, and books about the craft of writing. Born and raised in West Virginia, she graduated from Barnard College Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude and took a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. She has won many prizes for her writing, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Oradell at Sea for adults and Billie of Fish House Lane for children are her most recent novels. Her new Appalachian short story collection is Out of the Mountains, and her latest book on writing is Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel. 


Meredith will be taking questions for the next two days, and she has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with us. Don't miss this fabulous opportunity to ask questions about writing your novel!


 ~ Jump Start Your Novel ~


                                 Meredith Sue Willis


The momentum that got you rolling on your novel is almost certainly going to die out before you finish. Inspiration alone can take you through the draft of a short story, but rarely a novel. When I run out of steam, my favorite approach is to let it rest a while, then come back a month or half a year later. I skim over what I’ve written (trying hard not to start improving the sentences), and try to see the novel as a whole. What scenes are missing? What did I forget about? What scenes might get me writing again?


I tend to think in scenes, especially when I’m coming back to a project, because often that’s where the energy is, in these mini-stories where people interact and talk– the dramatized if not necessarily dramatic parts.


One approach is to use what I call the Archipelago Method. This requires listing the five or seven most important scenes in the novel, including those you’ve written but especially those yet to come. The number is arbitrary, but the idea is to write first the parts that engage you most.


And what engages you is essential for restarting a stalled project. These important scenes, once drafted however roughly, stand in the ocean of your ideas like the islands of an archipelago. Once they’re drafted, you go back and start from the beginning, revising the “islands” and adding connective material and new scenes as well.


The Archipelago method focuses on the structure of your novel as a way of building momentum again, but taking the opposite tack works too.


Make a list of quotidian scenes: people eating or kissing. Have a character look at a refrigerator or pantry or other food storage place that belongs to another person. Have your main character take a shower or bath. The point here is to use the quotidian as a magnet to attract material from your sources.


Or, try something even smaller and more concrete. Describe an ordinary object that might appear in any novel. Use more detail than you ordinarily would, and emphasize the senses other than sight. Use the description to sink into your story almost meditatively and see what other ideas come to you. Draft quickly, trying to make the thing fit into your novel.


Give yourself these assignments or similar ones:


– Put a pair of shoes in your novel. How do they sound, smell, and feel?


– Put an apple in your novel.


– Put a bird in your novel– a pet, a ceramic bird, or a bird cooked for a festive meal.


It’s important to repeat that the aim here is not description for its own sake, but description as a way of priming the pump so ideas will bubble up. There’s no right or wrong, and if you go off on a tangent, enjoy the trip! You might find a subplot or a character or even (at last) your ending.



 ~ Visit Meredith Sue Willis's website at


                                  Meredith Sue Willis   


~ Read about and buy her books at    


Discover her wonderful page of resources for writers at 


New Books: OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS: Appalachian Stories.


Honoring Ethan Fischer

Posted on June 20, 2011 at 9:22 AM Comments comments (8)




My witty, wise, kind, and caring poet friend Ethan Fischer died a few days ago. Simply heartbreaking.



I wanted to do something to celebrate his life, so I created this tribute page for him where people can come and share their memories of  Ethan. I think he would have liked that.


Here is a link when Ethan was featured on my blog a couple of years ago:


Scroll down to read about and listen to this wonderful interview with Ethan conducted by his dear friend Grace Cavalieri who talked with him on her award-winning program "The Poet and the Poem" at the Library of Congress: or click on this link



My Poem on Oprah's Website

Posted on April 22, 2011 at 6:14 PM Comments comments (4)

Photo: Gentl & Hyers

*  *  *

I was thrilled to learn that one of my poems, "Keepsake," was selected by Maria Shriver and the editors of O Magazine to be featured on Oprah's website.


If you'd like to read it, here's the link:

NWP Guest: Paul Oh

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 10:19 PM Comments comments (12)

I'm thrilled to introduce my very first guest blogger Paul Oh. He is a Senior Program Associate for the National Writing Project. Not only is he a wonderful writer himself, Paul's also an advocate for teachers teaching teachers and an integral part of the quiet revolution that has inspired countless teachers across the country since 1974, kindergarten through college, to write and effectively teach writing in their classrooms.


In celebration of National Poetry Month and to stir up some support for continued funding of the NWP, Paul will be taking your questions and comments for the next two days. Please make him welcome!!! 



Paul Oh

Last year, the staff where I work decided to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day (which this year will be held next week, April 14th, as part of National Poetry Month). The 15 or so of us who participated took turns standing at the top of a small flight of steps, which had a commanding view of the office, and each read our poems.  


Some were about love. Some were funny. All were beautiful.  


I chose "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100." Or maybe I meant to. I can’t remember now. I only recall that afterward we shared cupcakes and talked about our poems and enjoyed the experience of reading aloud to one another, of sharing words and their beauty.   


Of course this makes complete sense, given that I’m employed by an organization called The National Writing Project. For those of you not familiar with the work of NWP, as so many call it, we are a long-standing education reform non-profit that focuses on the teaching and learning of writing. We are also a network of teachers and of local sites – more than 200 – located in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Our ethos is often succinctly described as “Teachers Teaching Teachers.” Because we believe that teachers, together, through reflection, collaboration, reading and writing, build knowledge that helps us become better educators and our children better learners.   

Like the Poem in Your Pocket gathering in my office last year, at writing project sites around the country, teachers periodically gather to share practice, share food, write, and sometimes read aloud.   


In my former life as a teacher – I taught various grades and in a computer lab at the elementary level, both in Massachusetts and New York – I was a member of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Now, as a staff member at NWP, I live in Oakland, California, miles from our Berkeley office, just across the Bay from San Francisco. In fact, as I stood at the top of those steps reading my poem that day a year ago, I could’ve turned and seen out the window the Golden Gate Bridge.   


We have a wealth of teacher resources at the NWP website. But especially relevant right now is this collection pertaining to National Poetry Month. Please check it out. And enjoy your own poems in your own pockets.   


* Which poem will you carry in your pocket on April 14? How has NWP impacted and transformed your life?  


* Please come and share your thoughts, opinions, and testimonials. Writing is essential. 


~ Paul Oh is a Senior Program Associate with the National Writing Project, an educational non-profit dedicated to the improvement of writing in our nation’s classrooms. You can often find Paul at  and you can always find his writing at

All-time favorite poet?

Posted on April 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (4)


Since April is National Poetry Month, tell us your all-time favorite poet. Click on the red question below and then type in the name of your favorite poet. It will create a "word cloud" of all the answers.



Who is your all-time favorite poet?... at

Favorite comfort food?

Posted on February 9, 2011 at 12:12 PM Comments comments (6)


What's your favorite comfort food that always seems to make everything better? If it's homemade, how about sharing the recipe, too?!


Click on the red link below, and type in your favorite. What is your favorite comfort food?... at

SEVEN: Marie Manilla

Posted on January 12, 2011 at 12:28 PM Comments comments (37)


Marie Manilla is a typical hyphenated American: Italian-Irish-West Virginian. She was a barefoot, tomboy growing up as evidenced by the nail-punctured feet and briar-scratched legs. She survived 12 years of Catholic school and is no longer afraid of nuns (mostly). She is still afraid of priests. Her first post-college job was as a graphic artist in Houston where she was introduced to the Latino culture (and the fabulous magical realism of Garcia Marquez). It was in Texas that Marie began writing fiction and her work is often peopled with West Virginians, Texans, and Latinos. Go figure. Magical realism also creeps in from time to time. After earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Marie returned to her hometown, Huntington, West Virginia, where she teaches on and off at Marshall University and tries to keep her Appalachian students from buckling under all those worn-out, hillbilly stereotypes. When Marie can’t write she paints or hugs her dog—because dog hugging is also an art form.


Marie's debut collection of short stories, Still Life With Plums, has just been published by WVU Press. Her vivid and award-winning stories have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, Calzyx Journal, Kestrel, Portland Review, GSU Review, among others. Marie is also the author of the upcoming novel Shrapnel, a winner of the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel which was judged by Daniel Wallace, celebrated author of Big Fish.


Glenn Taylor, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart said this about Marie's work: "It's soul lies in life's little moments, somehow still yet perpetually fleeing. Manilla's word take flight in the mind and dance 'like paper birds in the wind.' Inevitably, the words will root inside the reader, like the memory of a fossil or a Polaroid picture, and once there, they will cease to be still. Just as the people in these stories, they will keep on humming."



Discover seven revealing and unique things about Marie! She will be answering your questions over the next two days and invites YOU to share one of your stupidest-thing-I-ever-did stories!! Please stop in and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn more about Marie and her craft.


~Seven Things You Probably Don't Know About Me~

                                Marie Manilla


1.  I was a cook at a drive-in hot dog stand (Frost Top) throughout high school. I still have the burn scars on my arms to prove it, as well as an affinity for the comingled smell of mustard and onions. I also have fond memories of throwing tomatoes up into the exhaust fan so they would spew all out all over the parking lot. So far hot-dog stands have wound up in two of my stories.


2.  I went to the Indy 500 in 1980 (this was before I was born, of course) with an 18” bendable Wile E. Coyote strapped around my waist. Two cool things happened: Walter Cronkite sat in our row, and a vender was selling baggies of ashes from the recently erupted Mount Saint Helens for $1.00. I regret that I did not buy one . . . though admittedly the ashes could have been from the dude’s fireplace.


3.  I lost my glasses on the Soufriere Hills volcano on Montserrat Island a few years before it erupted in 1995. I have since wondered where my glasses may have landed after the spew. (What is it with me and volcanoes . . . which feature prominently in The Patron Saint of Ugly, my current novel-in-progress? Hmmm.)


4.  On the way to dinner one night in London, I accidentally crossed a police barricade where Charles and Diana were getting out of their car to attend the premiere of the movie Lady Jane Gray. A bobby threatened to club me. A few hours later I again accidentally crossed the barricade as the movie was letting out and nearly fell into Phil Collins’s car (apparently he had a song in the film, which I never saw). What is it with me and police barricades?


5.  When the writing is going well, I am a happy, happy camper. The converse is also true.


And now for a Cormac McCarthy detour:


6.  Here is one of the seven stupidest things I have ever done: One night in college I walked home from a party by myself. A car pulled up, the guy inside offered me a ride, and because he looked decent I got in. The man drove me home, parked out front, and we talked in his car for about an hour--mostly about his cheating girlfriend. Right before I got out he touched my arm and said it was a good thing he picked me up because our chat had deflated his original errand: He was on his way to kill his girlfriend; he even showed me the gun beneath his seat. Stupid, stupid girl.


7.  Another stupid thing happened at that same Indy 500 listed in #2. Wile E. and I were ambling around the beer and popcorn vendors outside the speedway (think seedy carnival) when a guy asked if I could show him how to get back to the highway so he could hitchhike home. I pointed in the right direction, but he kept insisting that I physically show him since it was just a couple of blocks. I was about to go with him (I know. Stupid, stupid girl) when one of the guys I’d come to the race with happened to walk by and said in the voice of God: Don’t go. The other man took off, and now I wonder what he really had in store. I am not so stupid any more.




Still Life With Plums was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Weatherford Award. Marie's book may be purchased at

3202600 and many other online venues, including


Visit Marie's website at

Which work of art?

Posted on January 2, 2011 at 9:44 AM Comments comments (15)

If money were no object, which original work of art would you most want to own and why?




© Laura Treacy Bentley, 2019