May 7—HUNTINGTON — Marie Manilla has been selected as the 2021 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence, and her award-winning novel, "The Patron Saint of Ugly," was chosen as the One Book One West Virginia Common Read Author.
The Huntington native moved to Texas after college, working as a graphic designer and seeking to learn about other cultures within the United States, but soon found people were more alike than different, she said. After earning her master of fine arts, she returned to West Virginia and began writing seriously, initially considering herself a short story writer and publishing in a range of journals, exploring what she calls "those pivotal moments in characters' lives that forever change them for better or worse."
Manilla attended the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short story, "Still Life with Plums," was finalist for the Weatherford Award and ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year, and includes stories that originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review and elsewhere.
Two years later, Manilla published "Shrapnel" (2012), about an elderly Texas transplant, Bing Butler, who, despite his narrow and intolerant attitudes, discovers the importance of family and the necessity of tempering his judgement of those he finds different from himself. "Shrapnel" won the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel.
Manilla's third book, "The Patron Saint of Ugly," established her as a literary force to be reckoned with and won for her the Weatherford Award in 2014. Exploring her own Italian roots, "The Patron Saint of Ugly" has been called a "blend of magical realism, Southern Gothic and Sicilian malocchio." The book investigates ideas about prejudice, "othering," and the "beauty myth" which perpetuates gender stereotypes.
Previous Appalachian Heritage writers include Denise Giardina, Wiley Cash, Charles Frazier, Nikki Giovanni, Jayne Anne Philips, Silas House and Dorothy Allison.
Manilla worked throughout this spring with the center's staff to create a scholarly website for teachers and book clubs. Her duties include judging the WV Fiction Competition, and in September she will be in the Eastern Panhandle to visit libraries, schools and book clubs.