Written by James Moore
Clarksville, TN – On June 4th at the Clarksville Writers Conference banquet, the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council honored novelist Sharyn McCrumb with the first-ever Patricia Winn Award for Southern Fiction.
An award-winning Southern Author, she celebrates the richness and variety of Appalachian culture through her books, many of which have appeared on the New York Time Best-Sellers List.
Of her numerous works, the best known make up the Ballad series. In these stories she weaves together past and present while seeking to change the popular perception of Appalachia.As Sharyn likes to tell it, her descent from circuit preachers, teachers and storytellers taught her to love the legends and myths of the mountains while appreciating the Celtic sensibility that kept them alive.
In her novels, Sharyn returns again and again to the theme that the past has a continuing impact upon the present.
She says, “I find that the more I write, the more fascinated I become with the idea of the land as an intricate element in the lives of the mountain people, and of the past as prologue for any contemporary narrative. This connection to the land is personal as well as thematic.”
Starting with the publication of “If Ever I Return” in 1990, the Ballad novels include:
- The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
- She Walks These Hills
- The Rosewood Casket
- The Ballad of Frankie Silver
- The Songcatcher
- Ghost Riders
- The Devil Amongst the Lawyers
- The Ballad of Tom Dooley
- King’s Mountain
The Elizabeth McPherson novels consist of nine works revolving around the adventures of a forensic anthropologist who tackles murder and mystery.
In 2005 racing fan Sharyn branched out into NASCAR and wrote “St. Dale”, a modern retelling of the Canterbury Tales with Dale Earnhart as the saint at the center of the story. She followed up this success with “Once Around the Track” and “Faster Pastor”.
The Jay Omega novels are two satirical tales set in the world of science fiction conventions and fandom.
Finally, Sharyn has produced two short story collections “Our Separate Days” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”.
Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, Sharyn was the product of a marriage of two diverse regions of the South. Her mother came from the Coastal Plain while her father hailed from the mountains of East Tennessee. Sharyn received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in English from Virginia Tech.
She has been recognized with many awards for her writing. These have included the 1997 Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature from the Appalachian Writers Association.
Shepherd College awarded her its inaugural Appalachian Heritage Writers Award in 1999.
In 2003, her novel Ghost Riders received the Wilma Dykeman Award for Regional Historical Literature from the East Tennessee Historical Society and the national Audie Award for Best Recorded Book.
Two years later, Sharyn was honored as one of the Library of Virginia’s “Virginia Women in History”.
In 2014, Chowan University awarded Sharyn the Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters in recognition of King’s Mountain, the latest of the Ballad novels. The Prize recipients starting with Kaye Gibbons in 1995 have represented the epitome of Southern literary excellence. King’s Mountain, the story of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle and the Overmountian Men, was also nominated when Sharyn was picked for the Patricia Win Award.
Her next novel , “Prayers the Devil Answers” will be published in 2016 by Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster.
In addition to her writing, Sharyn maintains a rigorous schedule of lectures, workshops, book signings and other public appearances. She lives in the Virginia Blue Ridge with her family.
As Sharyn says, “My books are like Appalachian quilts. I take brightly colored scraps of legends, ballads, fragments of rural life and local tragedy, and I piece them together into a complex whole that tells not only a story, but also a deeper truth about the culture of the mountain South.”
Sharyn McCrumb has indeed given us a deeper truth in her body of work. A brilliant master of language, an enthralling storyteller and a tireless advocate for the Appalachian tradition, I can think of no one more appropriate to be honored with the first Patricia Winn Award for Southern Fiction than Sharyn McCrumb.