Bluefield University in the News


by | Mar 15, 2012

Award-winning author Rebecca Elswick, creator of the book "Mama's Shoes," will speak on the campus of Bluefield College, Tuesday, March 20 as part of the school's yearlong "Celebration of Appalachia."

Elswick, winner of the 2011 Writer’s Digest Award for her moving account of love, despair and forgiveness portrayed in “Mama’s Shoes,” will speak from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in BC’s Shott Hall. The event is open and free to the public.

Elswick’s “Mama’s Shoes” is a story about a 13-year-old girl named Sassy growing up in a small Appalachian coal town and trying to determine the truth of who she really is, while coming to terms with her Mama’s harsh past that included burying her parents, giving birth to a daughter, and becoming a widow, all before the age of 18.

Sylvia’s dream of dancing in red heels through life to the melody of a Hank Snow record are dashed. Instead, she is raising her daughter, Sassy, alone in the coal mining town she vowed to leave behind. The result: conflict, and plenty of it, between mother and daughter, truth and lies, rich and poor, past and present.

By the time she is 13 years old, Sassy has a stiff dose of Mama’s lessons on how to be a lady, even though Mama drinks, smokes, and dates a myriad of men. For Sylvia, only the support of kith and kin can rescue her from her mistakes. In the end, she realizes that family means more than blood kin, and second chances can bring happiness.

Elswick, native of Grundy, Virginia, will talk about the process of writing her book and becoming an award-winning debut novelist when she speaks at Bluefield College on March 20. The daughter and granddaughter of coal miners, she will also talk about other literature projects and people native to Appalachia.

Elswick’s fiction has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including the “Literary Journal of the Virginia Writing Project,” “Jimnson Weed,” and “A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II.” In addition to her 2011 Writer’s Digest Award, she won first and third place in 2010 in the Appalachian Authors Guild short story contest. She is currently working on her second novel.

Elswick is the fourth of five speakers/presenters in an Appalachian lecture series at Bluefield College. The series is a part of an overall yearlong “Celebration of Appalachia” symposium featuring lectures, concerts, exhibits, discussions, movies, theatre, tours and other educational and entertaining activities designed to honor the Appalachian heritage.

Other events on the “Celebration of Appalachia” schedule this spring include:

— “Thinking Like a Mountain: Creative Expressions of Concern for the Appalachian Mountains,” an art exhibit by regional painters, poets and songwriters, now through April 2 in BC’s Art Gallery on the first floor of Lansdell Hall.

— “Appalachian Instruments,” a lecture/presentation on the instrumental music of Appalachia, offered by Charles Priest, assistant professor of music, Tuesday, March 27 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Shott Hall A&B

— “Problems in Appalachia: A Panel Discussion,” Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. in Shott Hall, hosted by BC’s “Media in Appalachia” class and featuring local experts on Appalachian history and culture

— “Appalachian Festival,” Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., outside on the BC Quad (inside the Dome Gymnasium in the event of inclement weather), featuring vendors, demonstrators, Appalachian author book sales and signings, storytelling, clogging, square dancing, and Bluegrass music from Stacy Grubb and Clinton Collins and the Creek Boys

— “Mountain Jack,” a rollicking presentation of mountain folk tales and rousing mountain music, presented by BC Theatre, Thursday through Saturday, April 19-21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 22 at 2 p.m., Harman Chapel

— “Eva Easley Quilt Dedication,” Friday, April 20 at noon in Easley Library, recognizing the significant contributions of the Easley family, particularly the late Eva Easley, to the success of Bluefield College through the placement and dedication of a locally-handmade quilt representing her service to BC

— “Spring Instrumental Music Concert,” featuring Appalachian music by BC’s Concert Band, Community Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble, Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m., Harman Chapel

For more information, visit or e-mail [email protected]

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