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Appalachian Author Arnoult Visits BC

On February 16, Appalachian Heritage magazine hosted author Darnell Arnoult as the featured regional writer in celebration of the winter 2007 issue. A native of the Virginia foothills, Arnoult’s novels and poetry embrace her deep Appalachian culture passed down through oral storytelling. Arnoult shared excerpts from her books, "What Travels With Us" and "Sufficient Grace" at the event.

Arnoult shares her work while Appalachian Heritage Editor George Brosi and staff look on.

"What Travels With Us," her first published book, shares through poetry an autobiographical and fictional story line that blends the stories of her life and that of the characters found within her colorful tales. As a child, Arnoult recalls hearing the stories of her grandmother. These stories served as a catalyst for her passion of oral storytelling and writing. Through her prose, Arnoult attempts to emulate the dialects and voices of the characters within her poetry.

In her novel entitled, “Sufficient Grace," Arnoult tells the story of Gracie Hollaman, a woman battling schizophrenia. Gracie leaves her husband and daughter to follow the voices within her head. These voices lead her on journey of transformation and love to find her inner self. True to life, the novel mirrors Arnoult’s childhood as she grew up with a mother who also suffered from schizophrenia. “Adding a touch of real life enhanced my writings," she admits.

Lee Smith, an Appalachian writer and friend of Arnoult, encouraged her autobiographical impulses as preparation for a transition into writing fiction. “She told me that in time I would develop characters which would enhance and add to my writing,” said Arnoult. “Breaking away from autobiographical was a challenge in my earlier writings.”

Arnoult’s gift of writing developed from a hobby to career, yet it did not come without its challenges. As a teenager, Arnoult suffered from ADD, a disorder unclassified by medical practitioners at the time. She admits that the disorder effects her concentration to the present day, but listens to songs by Zig Zigler to bring her mind back to focus.

Although she has struggled, her writings have gained recognition in the field of Appalachian literature. In 2006, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) presented Arnoult with the SIBA Book Award for “What Travels with Us.” In 2005, Arnoult was awarded the Weatherford Award by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association for her work in non-fiction and fiction pieces.

“I believe if you write then you are a writer,” said Arnoult, taking a humble stance in her advice to all aspiring writers.

“I had the opportunity to read a piece of hers in Appalachian Heritage,” said Berea College student Beth Bissmeyer. “It was a fulfilling experience to hear her speak of her work.”

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