Sunday, October 12, 2014

2015 New River Gorge Winter Writer Residency Selection Announced

Novelist Eric Shonkwiler has been awarded the New River Gorge Winter Writer’s Residency for 2015. As Writer-in-Residence, Shonkwiler will live at Lafayette Flats, a luxury vacation rental in downtown Fayetteville, from January through March. During the three month residency Shonkwiler will be working on his own writing as well as contributing to the Lafayette Flats blog.

Shonkwiler is the author of Above All Men, a novel that was published earlier this year by Midwestern Gothic. He has been on tour promoting the book for much of the summer and fall. The book, set sometime in the future during a long slow economic collapse of America, tells the story of war veteran David Parrish as he fights to keep his family and farm together amid the decay and strife. Shonkwiler has received much critical praise for his book; one reviewer writes “Shonkwiler lands somewhere between a soberer Hemingway, a more linear Faulkner, a heavy rotation of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, a couple’a shots of Bulleit, an infected snakebite, and Cormac McCarthy.”

“We feel honored to have such a fine, young talent as our first Writer-in-Residence,” says Lafayette Flats co-owner Shawn Means, who with wife Amy McLaughlin, came up with the idea of hosting the residency in their vacation rental, a recently renovated 110 year old former bank building in the Fayetteville Historic District. “I know that Eric is going to benefit from the experience, and that his writing will be even better because of the time he will spend in Fayetteville,” Means continued.

Shonkwiler, upon learning of his selection remarked, "I'm excited and thankful to be the first New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence. I'm very much looking forward to exploring the community, the area, and getting a chance to incorporate what I learn into my writing."

In addition to providing chic, contemporary lodging to New River Gorge travelers, Lafayette Flats seeks to provide guests with an alternative narrative about the culture of West Virginia through the art and design choices for the space: to present a view of the state and its people that doesn't follow the tired old stereotypes that are so prevalent in literature and art. The Writer’s Residency is another way the owners have chosen to help create this “alternative narrative” about West Virginia. “We hope that Eric’s future writing will be informed by what he experiences here in the Gorge, and that he will help us tell the real story of West Virginia and its people,” says Means.

To contact Eric Shonkwiler eshonkwiler@gmail.com

Friday, October 10, 2014

New River Gorge Winter Writer Residency

When we pondered what the Lafayette Flats' first ever off-season is going to be like we pictured it to be quiet. People certainly come to the Gorge in the winter, but in far fewer numbers. We remembered last winter, when we were still working on the building every weekend, the streets were mostly empty in the evenings and the license plates on the few cars that were in town mostly were WV instead of the typical in-season mixed offerings of PA, VA, NY, NJ, OH and Ontario. Thinking through the ways that we could take advantage of the solitude that the winter offers we landed on the thought of a Writer in Residence program where we would select a writer and afford he or she with the opportunity to live and work in one of our flats during the slow season.

We researched other writer residency programs and talked to our neighbor, Colleen Anderson, who is a writer that has taken part in such programs. We were encouraged by Colleen's enthusiastic support for the idea, and took it to heart when she said that such experiences are very meaningful to writers. It began to feel like a natural extension of the support for the arts that we always intended for Lafayette Flats, but instead of patronizing visual artists we would be supporting the literary arts.

The first thing we had to decide is the time frame for the residency. We chose January 1 through March 31 and reserved Flat #2 Corten for that time period. Of course, since this is the first winter that Lafayette Flats will be open, we really have no way to judge whether removing the flat from the market for three months will cause us to miss out on rental opportunities, but if so then we'll consider the lost income as our gift to the arts.

We quickly realized that, other than this possible lost income, there was going to be very little downside to hosting the residency. We already have to keep the building heated and it would actually be a nice thing to have someone stay at the building in the coldest months making sure the water is flowing and systems are working. We began to think of the residency as "why not?' proposition and wondered if we had missed any obvious downsides. As of this writing, we still have not thought of any.

We announced the residency program in September and accepted applications through October 1st. We had some very good applications and the choice was not easy to make, but in the end one writer stood out.

And very soon, in the next few days, we will be announcing who that writer is. Stay tuned!