2016 Presenter Biographies and Session Details



        2016 Presenter Biographies and Session Details


cropped-sharyn-mccrumb-for-website1.jpgSharyn McCrumb, award winning author of Appalachian novels will be presenting a workshop on Friday entitled, “What Poets Know that Novelists Don’t” about improving your writing using the techniques of poetry. On Saturday, her keynote will be “Keepers of the Legends: Writing to Preserve the History and Folklore of Appalachia”. These will be an exciting part of the symposium so be sure you are registered to attend this year.



robmerritt  Dr. Rob Merritt is a professor of English at Bluefield College and Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Author of the poetry collection, “The Language of Longing” and the critical study, “Early Music and the Aesthetics of Ezra Pound”, he is currently writing and offering workshops about personal mythologies, the geographical imagination, Chinese poetry, and Appalachian poetics, and using expressive writing for healing. He will have 2 workshops: Your Life as Myth- Using Appalachian Material to Tell Your Story and Cold Mountains- Using Chinese poetry as Stimulus and Guide for Writing Poetry.

Kathy ShearerKathy Shearer began collecting oral history for the Appalachian Oral History Project at Emory & Henry College in 1973. Living in a rural part of Washington County, she was able to interview several neighbors and contribute the tapes to a collection of over 400 that resides in the college library archive. She put that work aside for about 20 years until she went to the Russell County coalfields to work on a community rehabilitation project and found people eager to tell her of their lives in the “old days”. The result of that fortunate collaboration was the Dante History Project, a display of stories and pictures that the public visited at area locations, including the art gallery at SVCC. Eventually, Kathy expanded the Dante project and wrote her first book, “Memories from Dante: The Life of a Coal Town”. Since then, she has written four more oral and pictorial history books. The most recent is “Working for Stuarts: Life on One of the Oldest and Largest Cattle Farms East of the Mississippi”. She will be presenting a workshop entitled, “Saving Our Heritage: Collecting, Preserving, and Presenting Oral and Pictoria History”.

bathantiDr. Joseph Bathanti is a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He was the poet laureate of North Carolina from 2012-2014. He will be presenting a workshop entitled, “Where You Live: Writing About Yourself and Your Family”. His workshop will let participants come away with a story (a memoir) of their identities as citizens of Appalachia. This promises to be an exciting workshop.




Donna Watson grew up in McDowell County, West Virginia and holds a PH.D. from Virginia Tech. She is currently the Dean of the School of Education at Bluefield College. She enjoys reading about and exploring Appalachia, as well as telling and listening to stories. She also loves cooking, gardening, and playing the piano- especially for church. She will be presenting a workshop entitled, “Social Media and the Writer: The basics of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and More”.  She will discuss how to decide which is best and how to use it to successfully create interest and “buzz”.

KR_Thompson_Author_07-15-14_300dpi_med (2)K.R. Thompson is an independent author from southwestern Virginia who writes paranormal stories with a bite and fairy tales with a twist. An avid reader and firm believer in the magic of books, she spends her nights either reading an adventure or writing one. She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek. She will be presenting a workshop entitled, “Writing and Independently Publishing Your Fantasy Novel.” The workshop will outline the basics of writing a fantasy novel and will touch on how to market and self-publish your work once your story is written.

Bob Land headshotBob Land has been an editor, proofreader, and indexer for 35 years and a freelancer for the last 20. Present clients include university and scholarly presses (Oxford, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Orbis, etc), other publishers, and a wide range of individual authors. He will be presenting a workshop entitled, “Editing and Proofreading: Distinctions, Specifics, and Q&A”. He will discuss the differences between copy editing and proofreading; address common concerns, practices, errors, and issues regarding both functions; and take questions from workshop participants on editing and proofreading.



CHUCK THOMPSON PHOTO (2)Chuck Thompson returned to North Central College to finish a degree in psychology and then went to Wheaton College Graduate School for a Master’s degreee in Clinical Psychology. This happened after several adolescents in his town attempted and one committed suicide. After graduating, he took a job as a counselor at Naperville Community Outreach and taught part time at North Central College. A year later, he was recruited by King College to move to Bristol, Tennessee and be the director of the school’s counseling center. For the past 25 years, Chuck’s normal work week (September-April) includes 20 hours of counseling students, 20 hours of private practice, and teaching 2 college courses. During this time, he has also taught graduate courses at ETSU and Radford University. He wrote 4 applied theology books based on James, designed and taught 2 college courses based on James. His interest in the book of James led him to write his first novel, “The Bishop of Jerusalem”. He and his wife, Barb, are enjoying an empty nest which allows them to travel to visit children and grandchildren. These travels have taken them to exotic locations that provide the settings for his Natasha McMorales mystery novels. His workshop is entitled, “Getting Beyond the White Hat: Developing Multi-dimensional characters”. This is sure to be an interesting topic.

ShannonSmith PhotoShannon Smith is a writer, artist, and comic book maker from Saint Paul, Virginia. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech. He has been writing, drawing, and publishing comics, minicomics, and webcomics for over 15 years. His comics and writing have appeared in BAM, Narrative Corpse, The Dollar Bin, Fluke, Candy or Medicine, The Hooded Utilitarian, My Name is Jonah, Shiot Crock, The Atomic Elbow and other anthologies. He has written about comics since 1999 for websites including Pop Matters and File Under Other. He is a lifelong student of comics and believes that there is no story that they cannot tell. His workshop is entitled, “Writing in the Language of Comics”.

Our Saturday activities include a panel discussion “Exploding the Myths of Writing” and Storytelling- back by popular demand. Below are our panelists and storyteller.

Greg Horn has taught English at Southwest Virginia Community College for the last twenty-three years. Between 2010 and 2015 he served as editor of The Clinch Mountain Review, SWCC’s literary magazine. He also writes the monthly “With Good Reason” column for the Tazewell County Free Press, and is an avid acoustic musician and songwriter.




Linda Hoagland has wLindaon acclaim for her mystery novels that include the recent “Onward and Upward,” “Missing Sammy,” “An Unjust Court,” and “Snooping Can Be Doggone Deadly.” She is also the author of works of nonfiction, a collection of short writing, and a volume of poems. She has won numerous awards for her work, including first place for the Pearl S. Buck Award for Social Change and the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest.

varner,garyGary Varner will be our storyteller this year. He was born in a coal camp in McRoberts, Kentucky and raised in the small coal mining town of Pound, Virginia. He joined the U.S. Army in 1962 after graduating from East Tennessee State College. He spent seven years in the Army where he became an officer and an aviator. He spent a year (1966-1967) in Vietnam as a reconnaissance and combat support pilot. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star and Air Medal with clusters for his combat operations. He is the author of “The Life and Legends of an Appalachian Boy”, a series of humorous short stories about his life adventures. He also published a children’s book, “The Adventures of Homer the Worker Ant.” He is a professional storyteller and has performed at several venues including the Paramount Theater in Bristol, Tennessee, Veteran’s Hospital in Mountain Home, Tennessee, and Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield, Virginia. He is a performing member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild, a member of the Appalachian Authors Guild, and a member of the Lost State Writers Guild. His storytelling workshop is entitled, “Storytelling for Fun and Profit”. This is sure to be fun.