Shepherdstown authors share inspirations

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Dr. Jim Price, the official “Historian Laureate” of Shepherdstown, always has been a storyteller.

Over the years, he accumulated a hefty collection of tales related to his work as a vet and his life in Shepherdstown. He amused friends and family with his anecdotes, but he said he never could find time to write them down.

During a recent community forum, Price recounted how his late son often would tell him: “Someday, Dad, you have to write down these stories.”

After his only son died at 32 from diabetic complications, he did begin to commit his stories to print – a process that took 16 years. His son’s encouragement prompted Price to entitle his book of stories, “… And So I Did, Vol. I.”

Four Shepherdstown authors – storyteller Jim Price, architectural historian John Allen, poet Ed Zahaniser and photographer Hali Taylor – recently shared the inside scoop on their books, all of which have been published within the past year.

The book is set to be released next week.

Price shared details regarding his road to the printing press at a talk earlier this month at Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall.

Monica Lokett, president of the Shepherdstown Rotary Club, moderated “The Journey from Inspiration to Publication: A Conversation With Shepherdstown Artists.” The event was sponsored by Shepherdstown 250 and the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County.

Like Price, historian John Allen, poet Ed Zahaniser and photographer Hali Taylor all have published major projects within the past year. The authors discussed a range of topics such as vision, collaboration, content discernment and potential future projects.

Zahaniser discussed the inspiration for his book, “In Good Company,” an anthology of poetry by area authors. Released earlier this month, the book began following a request by a Shepherdstown 250 committee leader who sought a literary contribution to the town’s anniversary celebrations.

He said that the project was fortunate in having 27 local poets ranging in age from 18 to 80.

Allen said that he was inspired to write, “Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1735-1835,” a comprehensive book cataloguing and explaining Jefferson County’s unique architectural background, by his childhood upbringing in an old house.

He wanted to determine if the early architecture of Jefferson County had unique features compared to surrounding counties, and if so, why. He said that as he explored the homes in the area, he discovered specific characteristics attributable to the county’s unique ethnic diversity during the colonial period.

He said that one of the challenges he expected to face while working on the project surprisingly never hindered his progress: gaining unrestricted access to the homes of hundreds of complete strangers.

“I was not expecting to actually be able to get into all the houses that I did,” he said. “It still amazes me that I would call up people I had never met and say, ‘Can I come to your house and measure it and go from the attic, to the basement, to the closets, everything? I need to measure every inch of your house,’ and they would say, ‘Sure.’”

Taylor’s “On the Wall,” a collection of portraits of Shepherdstown residents taken starting in 1986, was published as part of Shepherdstown’s 250 celebration. She said she had wanted to publish “a little coffeetable book of my own” since she first became interested in photography as a high school student.

She said that for many years she displayed a photography exhibit called “Portraits Continued,” but that one year after making photographs of children playing on the wall the center of her exhibit, she forever changed the name to the current title of her book.

She said that she did not like criticism from town residents who disapproved of children sitting on the wall and her photos were “my own form of protest to show these are just kids. They want to be in the center of town, they wanted to be noticed, they wanted to be part of the community, but they still wanted to be their own separate kind of group.”

 

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