Lee Maynard died at the age of 79 on June 16, 2017, in a VA Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, following a heart attack and treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His wife, Helen, who he married in 1959, preceded him in death in 2010. He is survived by his daughter, Darci, and son, Toran. Lee requested that there not be any services and that he be cremated so that his son can take his ashes to the Grand Canyon.
Lee Maynard was a man of many passions and pursuits. One of the most successful writers born and raised in West Virginia, he was a very successful administrator and business consultant, yet completely at home in the wilderness. Of the over one-hundred periodicals that published his work, The Reader’s Digest ran the most. He was on assignment for them for more than twenty years specializing in their Drama in Real Life pieces. Yet he also toured as one of West Virginia’s “Outlaw Authors,” a reputation sealed by the fact that Tamarack, the iconic purveyor of all things West Virginia, refused to carry his first book, Crum. They maintained that this coming of age story that used the kind of language and told the kind of tales that high school kids typically use and tell was too vulgar.
Lee Maynard was born in 1936 in his grandmother’s parlor in Kenova, West Virginia. His father was a teacher and coach at several Wayne County Schools, but lived mostly in Crum and Kenova. Lee was an offensive tackle on the football team and graduated from Ceredo-Kenova High School in 1954. He then entered West Virginia University, but withdrew in the Spring of his senior year and went on the road. A few weeks living on the streets of Los Angeles, as he later said, “was long enough to view the Army as a safe have. How wrong can one guy be?” He married Helen, a woman of Seneca Indian heritage, in 1959 and stayed in the Army until 1961 when he returned to WVU and completed a degree in journalism. Upon graduation he was hired to edit West Virginia Conservation published by the state Department of Natural Resources, an awesome first job illustrating his obvious writing and administrative talent as well as his devotion of the natural environment. He later edited West Virginia Commerce and in 1967 was named the youngest state secretary in the West Virginia government in charge of the Commission on Manpower, Technology and Training. The next year he became an administrator on the national level serving, out of Boston, as National Director of Operations for Outward Bound, another expression of his interest and commitment to the natural environment. That led to a job as a top administrator for Prescott College in Arizona, a college with a deep commitment to the natural world. After he became a director of an Upward Bound School in New Mexico, he settled in the state where he resided the rest of his life, often serving as a business consultant, always doing free-lance writing, and often taking motorcycle trips, running rivers, and even co-piloting an airplane into South America. In 1976, he was instrumental in founding Storehouse, one of the largest and most successful food banks in the West. He served it as CEO and President at various times.
Lee Maynard is the author of six books. His first was Crum, set in the town he mostly lived in during his school years. It was the first work of original fiction published by Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. In its first month of publication it rose to #8 on the Doubleday best-seller list. It was re-printed in 2001 as the first book in their Vandalia Press imprint by West Virginia University Press, and – within a year – became the best selling book in the history of that press. This cemented Lee’s choice of Vandalia Press as his publisher for the rest of his life. In 2004, a sequel to Crum, Screaming with the Cannibals, was published, and in 2012 Scummers completed the trilogy. In the meantime, The Pale Light of Sunset: Scattershots and Hallucinations in an Imagined Life was published in 2009, essentially a series of connected, somewhat autobiographical, short stories. Maynard’s last two books were both published by Vandalia in 2015. Magnetic North is a novel loosely based on Maynard’s motorcycle ride to the Arctic Circle while Cinco Becknell is probably the least autobiographical of Maynard’s works. The protagonist is a homeless man living on the streets of Santa Fe.
Lee Maynard was one of my favorite people. He was one of my featured authors when I was editing Appalachian Heritage, and his visit to Berea College was memorable. When I attended some of his many writing seminars, I relished his depth, not only in considering his craft, but also in terms of his understanding of human nature. He and his brother and my late wife and I had breakfast together in Charleston, West Virginia, one morning during the West Virginia Book Festival, and I have never laughed as hard as I did throughout that occasion.
Kathryn Stripling Byer
Kathryn Stripling Byer died on June 5, 2017, at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, following complications from lymphoma. She is survived by her mother, Bernice Campbell Stripling of Camilla, Georgia, as well as her husband, Jim Byer and their daughter Corinna, both of Cullowhee, North Carolina. Services were held in her hometown of Camilla, Georgia, and a memorial service will take place at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Cullowhee on August 5th at 3:00 p.m.
Kathryn Stripling Byer was one of our region’s premier poets. She succeeded her former professor, Fred Chappell, as North Carolina Poet Laureate in 2005, becoming the state’s first female laureate. She served until 2009 but continued promoting poetry for the rest of her life.
Kathryn Stripling Byer was born in 1944. She grew up in South Georgia, but one of her grandmothers was from the mountains near Dahlonega, Georgia. Byer graduated at the top of her high school class in 1962 and went on to graduate from Wesleyan College in Macon Georgia summa cum laude in 1966. It was there that she started writing poetry. She received her MFA in creative writing in 1968 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1968 and was hired that same year to teach English at Western Carolina University. Two years later she married Jim Byer a young English professor at WCU who was from Oakdale, Tennessee, on the Emory River in the mountains west of Knoxville. Their daughter, Corinna, was born in 1978.
Kathryn Stripling Byer’s first full-length poetry collection, The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest was chosen for the prestigious National Associated Writing Programs Award Series in 1986 and published by Texas Tech Press. Although she published several chapbooks, all six of her subsequent poetry collections were published by Louisiana State University Press. The first of these, Wildwood Flower (1998), won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets. In 2002, Catching Light won the Southern Independent Booksellers award. In 2007, the Fellowship of Southern Writers presented Byer their poetry award. In 2010, John Lang chose to include her as the only woman, alongside former National Poet Laureate Charles Wright and Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Jim Wayne Miller and Jeff Daniel Marion in his book, Six Poets from the Mountain South. In 2013 she was chosen as one of twenty-five Appalachian poets and short story authors included in Appalachian Gateway: An Anthology of Contemporary Stories and Poetry published by the University of Tennessee Press. Byer’s last LSU Press collection, The Vishnu Bird, was published in 2015.
Kay Byer will be long remembered not only for her distinguished body of poetry, but also for her tireless promotion of the literary arts and her encouragement to aspiring writers.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Lee Clay Johnson its $5,000 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction for his book, Nitro Mountain.
Finalists for the 2017 Lambda Awards include The Rope Swing by Jonathan Corcoran in Gay Fiction and Country by Jeff Mann for Gay Romance, and Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two Spirit Memory by Qwo-Li Driskill in LGBTQ Studies. None of these books were announced as the winners on June 12th at the ceremony in New York City.
Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette Mail won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his work on the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
For 2017, Amy Green and Silas House were inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
Chris Offutt has been awarded a Pushcart Prize for his story, “Trash Food” which appeared in The Oxford American.