By Bethany Miller
This story is part of a five-part series featuring this week's featured guests of Ohio University Zanesville Campus' fifth annual national conference, Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments.
One writer's mantra is "write what you know," and Kiki Delancey listened, capturing a first-hand look into the Appalachian coal mining industry in her collection of stories, "Coal Miner's Holiday," inspired by the miners, laborers and farmers she interacted with everyday.
As a featured guest of Ohio University Zanesville Campus' fifth annual Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments national conference, Delancey offers a genuine perspective on one aspect of Appalachian culture as a coal worker and daughter of a coal mining family.
"I worked in the coal mining industry," Delancey said. "Those were the only people I knew for a long time. I was really intimately involved."
People not native to the region and who have not experienced Appalachian culture sometimes have trouble believing her stories, Delancey said.
"These stories aren't exaggerated," she said. "Those who have stereotypes about Appalachia can't grasp these realities."
A self-taught writer, Delancey hopes presenting her work at the conference will help to further enhance Appalachian writers' legitimacy. Even writers from Appalachia who deal with subjects non-specific to the region are not viewed to be as literate as urban writers, she said.
However, eventually, Delancey would like to see the Appalachian writer designation disappear all together. Writers should not be labeled because they write about topics and issues focused on Appalachian culture, Delancey said.
"Faulkner isn't called a southern writer," Delancey said. "I'm just a writer and want to be recognized as such."
The Women of Appalachia conference is also important because natives of the region will have the opportunity to recognize their culture, Delancey said. By naming the society, locals cannot ignore the heritage hidden so deeply in their roots. With this recognition, Appalachians will gain self-respect.
Delancey's stories have been published in literary magazines since 1987, but "Coal Miner's Holiday" has recently brought her several honors including the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award Winner for Short Story Fiction, finalist for the 2003 Paterson Fiction Prize and the 2001 Mississippi Review Prize for fiction. She also won a 2003 Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council and the Great American Novel Award from the New York Foundation for the Arts for her yet-to-be-published novel "Swingtime."
Bethany Miller is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.
The Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments is still accepting registration, and some events are open the public. For a complete schedule of events or for registration information, visit www.zanesville.ohiou.edu/ce/wac/default.asp