Ferrence Nieman

Please join us on Saturday, June 1, 7:00 PM, when we welcome Matthew Ferrence and Valerie Nieman to City Books. 

Ferrence will discuss his book Appalachia North, the first book-length treatment of the cultural position of northern Appalachia—roughly the portion that lies above the Mason-Dixon line. Nieman will read from her latest novel, To the Bones, an Appalachian horror/mystery/eco-thriller mashup that is impossible to put down.

Matthew Ferrence wandered away from his birthplace in southwestern Pennsylvania to live in the high desert of southern Arizona, then in the urban cultural center of Paris, France. Pulled by shared geographies of their home Appalachians, he and his wife returned to the Laurel Highlands, settled there, became unsettled, then settled again in Northwestern Pennsylvania at the confluence of Appalachia and the Rust Belt.

His essays have appeared in literary magazines across North America, with recent work appearing in The Fiddlehead, Gettysburg Review, and Best American Travel Writing 2018. He is the author of two books, the latest – Appalachia North: A Memoir – an inquiry into exiles of self and region, precipitated by the curious cultural position of being from Northern Appalachia and by the difficult personal reckoning that comes in the aftermath of the diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumor.

He teaches writing and literature at Allegheny College, serves as a visiting faculty member in the West Virginia Wesleyan Low Residency MFA program, and with his family divides time between between northwestern Pennsylvania and Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Valerie Nieman is the author of four novels: To the Bones; Blood Clay, a novel of the New South, which was honored with the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction; a novel about the Rust Belt of the 1970s, Survivors; and her first book, Neena Gathering, reissued in 2012 as a classic in the post-apocalyptic genre. Another novel is now in submission, and she is at work on a haibun narrative based on a month hiking solo in Scotland.

Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, debuted with a reading at the Coney Island Museum. Her second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, appeared in 2015 from Press 53, and poems from that book were nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best Short Fictions of 2016, where the title poem was a finalist. She is also the author of Wake Wake Wake, and a collection of short stories, Fidelities.

She was a 2013-2014 North Carolina Arts Council poetry fellow, and has received an NEA creative writing fellowship as well as major grants in West Virginia and Kentucky. Her awards include the Greg Grummer, Nazim Hikmet, and Byron Herbert Reece poetry prizes.

Nieman graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University and at venues ranging from the John C. Campbell Folk School to WriterHouse.