Press Release | March 22, 2011

Appalachian Mountains, Beloved and Imperiled, are Themes of 2011 Reed Writing Award Winners

SELC hosts winners at Virginia Festival of the Book with special guest Silas House

SELC is pleased to announce the winners of this year's Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment.  In the Book category, Tennessee naturalist and Methodist minister Charles W. Maynard won for The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic: A Celebration of the World's Oldest Mountains, published by Mountain Trail Press. In the Journalism category, Sam Evans, a recent law school graduate, won for “Voices from the Desecrated Places: A Journey to End Mountaintop Removal Mining,” published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review.

Maynard and Evans joined SELC in Charlottesville on March 19 to accept their awards and read from their work as part of SELC's special event at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book.  Our featured speaker was author and activist Silas House, who spoke movingly of how story-telling imbued his Kentucky upbringing with a deep sense of place and of how today, the residents of Appalachia are using stories to empower their fight to stop the atrocity of mountaintop removal coal mining.

In The Blue Ridge, Maynard takes the reader on a journey deep into the wilds of the ancient mountains. Blending his knowledge of geologic history, the era of European discovery and exploration, and present-day scientific inquiry, he celebrates the unparalleled diversity of life in the mountains. Over his lifetime, Maynard has spent untold hours hiking the Blue Ridge, attuned to nature's stories. For him, stepping over a Michaux saxifrage blooming from a boulder is to recall the French botanist who scoured the Blue Ridge in the 1700s discovering new plants, and to know that the rocks beneath his feet were formed more than 1 billion years ago.  We are invited to be a part of this intimate relationship when turning the pages of the book, graced by dozens of stunning photographs by photographer Jerry Greer.

A graduate of Emory & Henry College in Virginia and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Maynard served United Methodist churches in the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia for over 20 years.  He is an accomplished story-teller of traditional Appalachian tales and of his childhood in the mountains, and a prolific writer, having authored or co-authored 29 books, including 21 children's books.  He was the first executive director of Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and currently serves on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Board of Directors, the Southeast Region Advisory Council of the National Park Association, and the Board of Discover Life in America. 

What the Reed judges say: 

  • “This book not only celebrates in beautiful words and photos the great diversity and splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it also is motivation for us to be forever vigilant in protecting this ancient, majestic mountain chain.” – Charles Seabrook
  • “It was the combination of natural history, conservation history, and anecdote that made it the most interesting to me-and did the most justice to the landscape to which it is dedicated.” – Hannah Fries

SELC also congratulates Jim Minick, who won second place in the Book category for The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family, published by St. Martin's Press. Minick, a Radford University professor of English, poet and author, digs into the deeper relationships between humans, weather, soil, and food, and what it means to farm with heart and soul.

Journalism Award winner Sam Evans was a student at the University of Tennessee Law School when he set off on a journey through the coalfields of Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia on a mission. He aimed to deliver a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end mountaintop removal coal mining. An avid bicyclist, he traveled by bike in winter-eleven days and 750 miles-to Washington D.C.  He sought out the people most affected by mountaintop removal: those whose water is polluted, whose homes shake from constant nearby explosions, whose communities are overrun with coal trucks, whose lives are endangered in myriad ways. His story of that journey, the people he met and befriended along the way, the destruction he saw, and his outstanding exposition of the legal loophole that has allowed this atrocity to happen, culminated in “Voices from the Desecrated Places.”

What the Reed judges say: 

  • “A well-rounded examination of mountaintop removal mining, its consequences, and means to stop this degrading practice. Scholarly work presented in wonderfully readable form. Likely to be read by people with clout.” – Janet Lembke

SELC is grateful to this year's judges, who generously volunteer their time and talent:

Marilou Awiakta--Poet, essayist; Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom.
Jim Detjen--Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Mich. State University.
Hannah Fries–Assistant Editor of Orion, winner of Independent Press Award for General Excellence.
David Gessner--Pushcart Prize, John Burroughs Award; Sick of Nature, UNC Wilmington faculty.
Nikki Giovanni--Poet, author, essayist; Distinguished Professor of English, Virginia Tech.
Janet Lembke--Poet, essayist; Because the Cat Purrs  and Touching Earth.
Will Martin--Ocean conservationist, former Dep. Asst. Secretary NOAA; SELC President's Council.
Bill McKibben--Essayist, activist; The End of Nature and Eaarth;  Middlebury College scholar.
Deaderick Montague--Civic leader and writer; Vice President of SELC Board of Trustees/
Janisse Ray--Essayist, poet, activist, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood; Chatham University faculty.
Charles Seabrook--Author, former environmental reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Lee Smith--Award-winning novelist; Mrs. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed Stranger.
Donovan Webster--Journalist; The Burma Road and Meeting the Family.