Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Out of the Mountains
Appalachian Stories

By Meredith Sue Willis

“Appalachian stories need not feature ‘a granny woman’ and be set in the past. Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories by West Virginia native Meredith Sue Willis is a collection to prove the point. It's (twelve) stories are set in the milieu of the 21st century and explore current issues familiar not to just Appalachians but to contemporary readers everywhere. Her timely stories ring true and are often humorous.… She is one of the true voices of Appalachia in print today.”

West Virginia Book Festival: The Blog

“(Willis’s) characters possess a conversational familiarity, and the reader feels absorbed into the small community that is both distinctly Appalachian and markedly universal. This finely crafted collection is worth reading twice to discover all its intricacies and connections.”


“I love this collection because it is not just about the rich, full heritage of the Appalachian past, but about how contemporary people from the mountains deal with moving out or moving on.… The stories from Out of the Mountainsmake me wish I knew these people; I probably do.”

Roberta Schultz, “Around Cincinnati,” WVXU

“Character-driven and contemporary, the stories mirror situations we know.… As a writer (Willis) uses the imagination of her heart to explore her cultural heritage from many vantage points.”

Now and Then: The Appalachian Magazine

Meredith Sue Willis’s Out of the Mountains is a collection of thirteen short stories set in contemporary Appalachia. Firmly grounded in place, the stories voyage out into the conflicting cultural identities that native Appalachians experience as they balance mainstream and mountain identities.

Willis’s stories explore the complex negotiations between longtime natives of the region and its newcomers and the rifts that develop within families over current issues such as mountaintop removal and homophobia. Always, however, the situations depicted in these stories are explored in the service of a deeper understanding of the people involved, and of the place. This is not the mythic version of Appalachia, but the Appalachia of the twenty-first century.

Meredith Sue Willis is the author of more than fifteen books, including novels for adults and children, collections of short stories, and nonfiction about the art of writing, most recently Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel. She teaches novel writing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.   More info →

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Retail price: $26.95, S.
Release date: July 2010
180 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $50.00, S.
Release date: July 2010
180 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: July 2010
180 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Out of the Mountains

“Pick up this book and read it a story at a time. Meet Willis’ people and understand the issues they face. You won’t be the same after you do.”

The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

Meredith Sue Willis writes sparkling, masterful stories, grounded in the wisdom of place, musical in their voices and cadences, and truly joyful in their understanding of the power of words. Reader, enter in!”

Jayne Anne Phillips

“In Out of the Mountains, Meredith Sue Willis gives her characters the juice of life. Some turn up in more than one story, prompting the pleasure of recognition. Willis writes about people from Appalachia’s West Virginia corner, where she herself comes from, and about people from New York, where she lives now, with a smattering of folks from elsewhere. They’re all alive on the page.…Grade: A-”

CityBeat (Cincinnati)

“What does connect the stories is a sense of displacement and restlessness—insiders who leave the mountains to live elsewhere and outsiders who come to the mountains. There’s a tension between belonging and not belonging, of insider vs. outsider, of rural vs. urban, of traditional customs vs. new ways.”

In This Light blog

“The words have a precision to them, swift and clear and vivid, infinitely correct brush strokes that make tiny adjustments to the color of the story. And there is not a wasted word. You think you aren’t reading about Appalachia, but you are. Without your knowing, Meredith Sue Willis paints Appalachia on your heart.”

Lee Maynard, author of The Pale Light of Sunset

“The Appalachian stories in Meredith Sue Willis’s Out of the Mountains are lively, funny, and, in good mountain tradition, sometimes a little bizarre. Willis uses her characters to show the ways people work out the conflict between what they desire and what they get. Alert to the edgy personal and political tensions between ambition and reward, between longing and satisfaction, these stories offer up essential human conflicts wisely and with a lot of heart.”

Maggie Anderson, author of Windfall: New and Selected Poems

“You wish you knew the people who inhabit the stories of Meredith Sue Willis. In fact, you do know them! And Willis’s scope, from Emma Goldman to a dying West Virginian who drives his truck into a New England lake, is breathtaking.”

Denise Giardina, author of The Unquiet Earth

“These stories are memorable and moving. Meredith Sue is so adept at capturing the fine points of Appalachian culture, and she’s especially good at depicting culture clashes and the difficulties of native Appalachians who try to balance both mainstream and mountain identities. The contrasts between rural Appalachian and urban Jewish cultures are depicted very vividly in ‘Elvissa Did Not Become a Rabbi.’ The conflict between family loyalty and church-sanctioned homophobia was wonderfully portrayed in ‘Fellowship of Kindred Minds.’ Even in ‘Big Boss Is Back,’ Meredith Sue examines the cultural contrast between long-time natives of the region and newcomers. I actually taught this story in my graduate fiction workshop, and several of the students commented on the superb metaphor Meredith Sue uses when she says that ‘what Dr. and Mrs. Siefert were putting down was less like roots and more like the little feet English ivy uses to hang onto bricks.’”

Jeff Mann, author of Loving Mountains, Loving Men

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