Bottom Dog Press's Appalachian Working-Class Fiction

I should have known about these folks long ago, yeah? Some­where along the line I found out about them and for­got until recent­ly, when Charles Dodd White told me about an anthol­o­gy he'd be edit­ing with Page Seay. More on that at the end of this post. What I found most intrigu­ing was this list of char­ac­ter­is­tics of Appalachi­an work­ing-class fic­tion. Have a look:

Com­piled by Lar­ry Smith, BGSU Fire­lands College/ Bot­tom Dog Press

(With thanks to Edwina Pen­darvis, Lau­ra Bent­ly, Ann Pancake,
Mered­ith Sue Willis and  Phyl­lis Wil­son Moore for suggestions.
We are look­ing at adult fic­tion here. )

Gen­er­al Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Work­ing-Class Writ­ing and Art; not designed to be cri­te­ri­on but characteristics.

1) The writ­ing is based on lived expe­ri­ence and shows char­ac­ters as human per­sons in a lived space, depict­ing their dai­ly life includ­ing their actu­al phys­i­cal work.

2) The writ­ing cre­ates space for peo­ple to speak and rep­re­sent them­selves, includes speech idioms and dialects, curs­es and blessings.

3) The writ­ing is com­mu­nal in nature. The indi­vid­ual "I" is speak­ing for the col­lec­tive "We."

4) Read­ers can rec­og­nize them­selves in the writ­ing; it gives val­i­da­tion to their own sto­ries and culture.

5) The writ­ing gives lan­guage to human suf­fer­ing and grief. Eco­nom­ics forces are rec­og­nized thus giv­ing val­i­da­tion to deep feel­ings often ignored by main­stream art.

6) The writ­ing (art) has agency in the world, is useful.

7) The writ­ing includes forces of social and polit­i­cal his­to­ry and their impact on human relationship.

8) The writ­ing chal­lenges dom­i­nant assump­tions about aes­thet­ics… It breaks rules or con­ven­tions of form in favor of ver­i­ty of experience.

9) The writ­ing builds con­scious­ness of class oppression.…denial of rights, exploita­tive mar­ket­place, etc. and may lead to rebellion.

10) The writ­ing takes sides…"Which Side Are You On?" it asks and then declares.

[Source: Devel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Janet Zandy and her Hands: Phys­i­cal Labor, Class, and Cul­tur­al Work (Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Press)]

Addi­tion­al Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Appalachi­an Work­ing-Class Writing

1) The writ­ing reveals a deep appre­ci­a­tion of folk habits and cus­toms, fam­i­ly rituals.

Music, alco­hol and food are a major part of the life ritual.

2) Fam­i­ly extends back his­tor­i­cal­ly and in a neigh­bor­ly way to community.

3) Themes of sense of place abound; most are not about ‘escap­ing’ the work­ing-class cul­ture but of going out for edu­ca­tion yet return­ing home to help. “Stay­put­ters,” "ground­ed," not mobile. "This is the sto­ry of a land shaped by the peo­ple, and a peo­ple shaped by the land,"-The Appalachi­ans (film)

4) Eth­no­cen­trism is present in fam­i­lies, towns, coun­ties. Dis­trust comes first till one is revealed as “one of us,” then wel­come is extended.

5) Often reli­gion is strong, emo­tion­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly intense…fundamental yet often giv­en indi­vid­ual or fam­i­ly interpretation…"Free Willers."

6) The writ­ing reveals peo­ple find­ing ways of “get­ting by,” “mak­ing do,” “Do-it-your­selfers.”

7) Those liv­ing in pover­ty are not clear­ly sep­a­rate from working-class.

8) The writ­ing is marked by an inti­mate sense of community—though respect­ing unique­ness of char­ac­ter, it most often por­trays an inter­de­pen­dence of rela­tion­ships includ­ing home, fam­i­ly, town, work, and the land­scape and nat­ur­al world.

9) Rebel­lion comes when fam­i­ly or land is vio­lat­ed, prop­er­ty rights must be respected.

10) Unions play a major role in the life and writing.

11) In the nar­ra­tive there is a fond­ness for mul­ti­ple points of view, either through many narrators

or the use of sub­nar­ra­tors, typ­i­cal­ly in authen­tic dialect.

I can't find much to argue with, as this apt­ly sums up what kind of work I'd like to see here at FCAC. Check Bot­tom Dog Press out, buy their books, and shout out to Lar­ry Smith for build­ing that incred­i­bly help­ful website.

And as I promised here's the details again on that anthology.

From Hill to Holler: Sto­ries of Con­tem­po­rary Appalachia
From Bot­tom Dog Press Inc.

Huron, OH


From Hill to Holler is an anthol­o­gy about what it is to live and strug­gle in Appalachia today. The short sto­ries includ­ed will be sharp, vivid evo­ca­tions of a place and a cul­ture, fic­tions that chart new ter­ri­to­ries between the moutains, its val­leys and the peo­ple who inhab­it them. We don't want sen­ti­men­tal treat­ments of Grandaddy's rock­ing chair. Think instead of the “mud, the blood and the beer” of the area—realistic, unspar­ing por­tray­als. Both North­ern and South­ern treat­ments of the Appalachi­an theme are encour­aged. Any style is accept­able, as long as it serves the sto­ry and the audi­ence. Send us your top draw­er stories.

Edi­tors: Charles Dodd White and Page Seay

This book will be pub­lished as part of Bot­tom Dog Press's Work­ing Lives Fic­tion Series


Length: between 3,000 and 6,000 words.

Sub­mis­sions are open now. The read­ing will be ongoing.

Dead­line: July 1, 2010.

Email sub­mis­sions only. Send attached .rtf or .doc file to: fromhilltoholler@​hotmail.​com and make sure the word “Sub­mis­sion” is some­where in the sub­ject line.

Pay­ment: $50 and two copies

Reprints are accept­able in some cas­es. Please let us know where it’s been pub­lished and if the pub­li­ca­tion was print or online.

Simul­ta­ne­ous sub­mis­sions are okay as long as we are noti­fied imme­di­ate­ly if your work is accept­ed elsewhere.

No mul­ti­ple sub­mis­sions, please. Pick your best sto­ry and send it forward.

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