Wheeling to Host Inaugural Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia

Downtown Wheeling has been chosen as the site for the first-ever Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia (WCoNA), where workshops, presentations, roundtable discussions and literary readings will take place Friday, Sept. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 8.

An open mic night hosted by Ohio Valley Writers will open the conference at 6 p.m.  Friday, Sept. 6, at Vagabond Kitchen. Saturday and Sunday events will take place at the Ohio County Public Library and the First State Capital Building.

Writers from, living in or writing about the region of northern Appalachia have yet to be distinguished with a regional identity. While the people, places, culture, folk traditions, history, landscapes and geography of northern Appalachia are uniquely inspiring, their stories have been underrepresented and undervalued in the traditional literary world.

The mission of the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia is to bring writers, researchers and literary scholars together to recognize this distinct literature and to establish a canon of writers and writing of northern Appalachia.

Conference co-organizer, P.J. Piccirillo, says that the idea for WCoNA has been building for years because of need.

According to Piccirillo, “Northern Appalachian writers lack a network of universities, curators and experts dedicated to helping grow our very own literature. Our writers go underappreciated while other regions, steeped as well in culture and folkways, enjoy the notoriety of recognized canons and even artistic schools. At last, people from far and wide have assembled to explore opportunities, challenges and trends specific to northern Appalachian literature.”

David Poyer, whose books are often set in western Pennsylvania, will deliver the keynote address on Saturday. After the conference sessions end, a banquet will be held at West Virginia Northern Community College during which an award will be given for the Book of the Year. Wheeling mayor, Glenn Elliott, Jr., will welcome guests to the Friendly City, and Marc Harshman, West Virginia’s poet laureate, will give the banquet speech. The cost of the banquet is $30 per person and will be catered by Vagabond Kitchen.

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The cost of attendance for this year’s WCoNA is $95 for regular registration and $99 for on-site registration. Registration fees cover all keynote addresses, workshops, presentations, readings and roundtable discussions for both Saturday and Sunday.

In conjunction with the conference, an artisan market, featuring local and regional artists, will be available at Market Street Plaza from noon to 8 pm on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Fall Art Market is curated by Friendly City Handmade, a Wheeling artist collective.

In addition, a book sale featuring books from the region will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, in the lower level of the Ohio County Public Library. Authors will be on hand throughout the day to autograph books and talk with readers. The book sale is open to the public.

WCoNA is sponsored in part by Weelunk, Wheeling Heritage, West Liberty University, Sunbury Press, the WALS Foundation, the Ohio County Public Library, Alpha Delta Kappa Iota (WV), the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau, inWheeling magazine, Ohio Valley Writers and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

For more information and a complete list of sessions and activities, visit WritersConferenceofNorthernAppalachia.com or contact Christina Fisanick at fisanick@calu.edu.

Christina Fisanick, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches expository writing, creative non-fiction and digital storytelling. She is the author of more than 30 books, including her most recent memoir, “The Optimistic Food Addict: Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder.” She has been a Weelunk contributing writer since 2015. Christina is a 1996 graduate of West Liberty University and a member of Ohio Valley Writers. She lives in Wheeling with her family.