Professor’s book named Appalachian Book of the Year
“It [the award] has such a great reputation because so many famous Appalachian writers have won the award in the past,” she said.
Past winners include James Still, George Ella Lyon, Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan and Lee Smith. To be eligible for the award, an AWA member’s book is to be nominated by a fellow member and published the previous year.
The Appalachian Writers Association, which is composed of nearly 300 members, holds an annual conference on a college campus where members convene to attend workshops, readings, lectures or to promote Appalachian writing.
“The biggest thing for me is that my teacher Jeff Daniel Marion won the award four years ago. That’s what I kept thinking about. My teacher won this award. Now I have,” said Worthington.
Marion, who was distinguished poet-in-residence and director of the Appalachian Center at Carson Newman College, was Worthington’s writing teacher in college. Though she had written several poems during her four years at Carson Newman and was published in student literary journals, she didn’t write seriously until much later.
“Someone asked me not too long ago how long it took to write this book, and I said, ‘Thirty years,’ which really isn’t a lie. Because even though I wrote a lot in college, I really didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my late 30’s,” she said.
What sparked her renewed interest in writing was a desire to preserve her family’s history and to learn more about the craft of writing.
“I wanted to tell these stories because my grandmothers have been very influential in my coming up. One lived up the street from me and one lived across town. They had a hand in bringing me up, and I always admired them. I idolized them, really. My father was an inspiration because of his physical condition. He had a stroke when he was sixteen and overcame all those physical disabilities and accepted that stroke. Got married, raised a family and worked really hard doing hard labor,” she said.
“I wanted to be serious about writing. I wanted to write these stories down for my family,” she said.
Although, individually, her poems have been printed in several noted journals such as “The Louisville Review” and “Shenandoah,” the chapbook is Worthington’s first published collection.
When asked what this award means to her, Worthington said, “I’m just really thrilled. Someone out there’s read my book. Maybe more people will read my book, and it’s real exciting; but it’s real humbling because it sort of puts some pressure on you to go to the next level,” she said.
Finishing Line Press, Worthington’s book publisher, is an award-winning press based in Georgetown, Ky., which is owned and operated by Leah and Kevin Maines. Worthington’s book was chosen as part of the press’ New Women’s Voices Series. In addition to Finishing Line’s website (www.finishingline.com), the book is also available on amazon.com.