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Dr. Ted Olson edits new work on Appalachian writer James Still

Thursday, January 15, 2009JOHNSON CITY—Dr. Ted Olson of East Tennessee State University has compiled James Still in Interviews, Oral Histories and Memoirs, a new book published by McFarland & Co.

The volume is a compilation of reminiscences by Appalachian writers to honor James Still, the first poet laureate of Kentucky, who, in addition to poetry, penned the acclaimed novel River of Earth, as well as short stories, folkloric works and literature for children. One of the most admired and influential authors to work in and write about Appalachia, Still won praise for his work in every genre he attempted.

Olson’s book is intended to assist readers in more fully understanding and appreciating the many facets of Still’s literary voice and vision. James Still in Interviews, Oral Histories and Memoirs features transcribed versions of virtually all the interviews and oral histories ever conducted with Still, along with numerous memoirs expressing appreciation for Still and his legacy by some of the leading voices in the Appalachian studies movement, including Lee Smith, Loyal Jones, Gurney Norman, Jesse Stuart and Silas House.

While Olson was a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, he met Still at the 50th anniversary of the publication of the celebrated River of Earth. A few years later, Still discussed his work for Olson’s students, and, during his talk, Still mentioned that his poetry had never been fully compiled. Olson decided to undertake that task, with Still’s encouragement. The resulting work, Still’s final book, From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems, received the Appalachian Book of the Year Award from the Appalachian Writers Association in 2002.

Olson also co-edited a 2007 scholarly book on Still. It is entitled James Still: Critical Essays on the Dean of Appalachian Literature and was also published by McFarland.

In 2008, Olson served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He lectured and conducted research at the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. Currently, he is producing and writing interpretive notes for a CD of historic music recordings of the Smoky Mountains to be released in early 2009 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For further information, contact Olson at (423) 439-4379 or


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