On Saturday, September 9, the Ohio County Public Library will host its 2023 Wheeling Reads: One Book, One Community Finale Festival, the culmination of a season of programming and events based on author Jennifer Haigh’s novel, “Heat and Light.”
Wheeling Reads, in partnership with the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia (WANA) and West Virginia Writers, Inc., and with funding from the City of Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, encourages Ohio Valley residents to read Haigh’s book, which tells the story of a western Pennsylvania coal town that finds new life and hardship when a fracking company begins operations. Throughout the summer, the library has hosted and continues to host events, lectures, and discussions on issues surrounding the book, including climate change, environmental justice, and hope for the future.
The season’s programming will culminate at the Wheeling Reads Festival on September 9, at which Haigh will be the guest speaker at 4 p.m. in the library‘s auditorium. All events are free and open to the public. A group of Wheeling writers will read from their work at 11 a.m., followed by an art workshop at noon led by Cheryl Ryan Harshman, a poetry workshop at 1 p.m. led by Allison Puitinii Davis, and a writing for young adults workshop at 2 p.m., led by Nora Shalaway Carpenter. RSVPs are requested for each workshop.
Sean Duffy, the Ohio County Public Library’s Programming Director and Local History Specialist, is excited for the festival.
“Wheeling Reads is a great fit for a public library,” he said. “It encourages reading, discussion, and the free exchange of ideas, all of which are critical parts of our mission. It might also inspire action that benefits our community for years to come. We have amzing workshops for art, poetry, and young adult writing, and the community discussion of the book should be a highlight. Of course, Jennifer is a fine writer and will be an outstanding guest.”
Dr. Christina Fisanick, president of WANA, is leading the initiative with Duffy.
“Wheeling Reads is an excellent way to build community around a common read,” she said. “Given that books are now available through our library in multiple formats — paperback, e-book and audio — everyone can participate in this year’s read. The committee chose Jennifer Haigh’s ‘Heat and Light’ because it’s well-written and engaging. In addition, the story lends itself to multiple conversations about energy, the environment, and life in northern Appalachia.”
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For those interested in Wheeling Reads, it’s not too late. The Ohio County Public Library has copies of “Heat and Light” available, and both the audiobook and the e-book are available through Hoopla, a free digital library platform. Digital versions can all be checked out simultaneously.
To kick off the finale, on Friday, September 8 at 7 p.m., Wheeling Reads will host a Literary Pub Crawl and a Hip Hop Poetry Slam at Towngate Theatre. Participants will visit local restaurants, including Later Alligator, Brew Keepers and The Market Vines. Storytellers Vince Marshall, Dr. Fisanick, and Ron Scott, Jr. will feature stories about local authors Rebecca Harding Davis, James McHenry Jones, James Wright and David Grubb. Tickets for this event can be found at Eventbrite, or by calling Duffy at the library at 304-232-0244.
A complete list of events and details is available on the Ohio County Public Library’s website and on the Wheeling Reads 2023 Facebook page.