Lily, Laurel County, Kentucky
|Occupation||Novelist, music journalist, columnist|
2001 - present
Silas Dwane House (born 1971) is an American writer best known for his novels. He is also a music journalist, environmental activist and columnist. House's fiction is known for its attention to the natural world, working class characters, and the plight of the rural place and rural people.
Early life and education
House was born and grew up in rural Lily, Laurel County, Kentucky, but he also spent much of his childhood in nearby Leslie County, Kentucky, which he has cited as the basis for the fictional Crow County, which serves as the setting for his first three novels. He has degrees from Sue Bennett College (Associate's), Eastern Kentucky University (BA in English with emphasis on American literature), and from Spalding University (Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing). In 2000, House was chosen, along with since-published authors Pamela Duncan, Jeanne Braselton and Jack Riggs, as one of the ten emerging talents in the south by the Millennial Gathering of Writers at Vanderbilt University.
House's first novel, Clay's Quilt, was published in 2001. It appeared briefly on the New York Times Best Seller list and became a word-of-mouth success throughout the Southern United States. It was a finalist for both the Southeast Booksellers' Association fiction award and the Appalachian Writers' Association Book of the Year Award. He followed with A Parchment of Leaves (2003), which became a national bestseller and was nominated for several major awards. The book was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Prize and won the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Chaffin Award for Literature, the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award and many others.
House's next book, The Coal Tattoo (2004), was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Prize as well as winning the Appalachian Writers' Association Book of the Year Award, the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award, and others. House's work has been championed by such acclaimed writers as Lee Smith and Larry Brown, who were both mentors for House.
In March 2009, House published Something's Rising with fellow anti-mountaintop removal activist Jason Howard. The book is a series of profiles of various anti-mountaintop removal activists from the region, including musician Jean Ritchie, author Denise Giardina, and activist Judy Bonds. The book was called "revelatory" by esteemed author and oral historian Studs Terkel, in his last blurb. Lee Smith wrote the introduction.
House's fourth novel, "Eli the Good," was published in September 2009 to great acclaim. The book emerged as a number one bestseller on the Southern lists and received the first annual [Storylines Prize] from the New York Public Library system, an award given to a book for use in the ESL and literacy programs of New York City.
His short story Recruiters, which has appeared in Anthology of Appalachian Writing, Vol. 2 now has a new Larkspur Press edition from Kentucky's Artisan Printer. This special edition is illustrated Arwen Donahue and includes the original song Brennen's Ballad by Sue Massek, which was the inspiration for the story.
House's first book for middle-graders, "Same Sun Here," was published in February 2012 and co-written with Neela Vaswani. The book was the winner of the Parents Choice Award and was the #1 Most Recommended Book by Independent Booksellers in the entire nation during the Spring of 2012. House and Vaswani recorded the highly successful audiobook version of the novel, which won an Earphones Award, and was a finalist for the Audie Awards, the highest honor given to audiobooks.
House's writing has appeared in "The New York Times" (including his hugely popular essay "The Art of Being Still", Oxford American, Newsday, Bayou, The Louisville Review, Night Train, Appalachian Heritage, Wind and other publications. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and anthologized in such books as New Stories From the South: The Year's Best, 2004. He has also written the introductions to Missing Mountains, a study of mountaintop removal; From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow, a biography of Earl Hamner, Jr., and Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses, a new edition by HarperCollins.
House is also a playwright. In 2005, House wrote the play The Hurting Part, which was produced by the University of Kentucky. In 2009 his second play, "Long Time Travelling," was produced by the Actor's Guild of Lexington (Kentucky). In 2012, Berea College Laboratory Theatre presented his controversial play "This Is My Heart For You," about a small town divided by a gay rights discrimination case and hate crime.
House served as a writer in residence at Eastern Kentucky University 2004-2005 and at Lincoln Memorial University 2005-2010. At LMU he also directed the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. In 2010 House became the NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where he teaches Appalachian Literature and a writing workshop. He served for one year, 2011-2012, as interim director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center. He has served on the fiction faculty at Spalding University's MFA in Creative Writing since 2005.
In 2010 House was selected as the focus of the Silas House Literary Festival at Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. The same year he was chosen as Appalachian Writer of the Year by Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
House is also a music journalist and a contributing editor to No Depression magazine, for which he has written features on Lucinda Williams, Delbert McClinton and many others. House is also an in-demand press kit writer for Nashville's music business, having written biographies for such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Buddy Miller, Del McCoury and Lee Ann Womack. In 2001 and 2002, he was a regular contributor to NPR's All Things Considered.
Since 2005 House has been increasingly visible in the fight against mountaintop removal mining, an environmentally devastating form of coal mining that blasts the entire top off a mountain and fills the valley below with the debris. House says he got involved in the issue after being invited on a tour of devastated mountains by environmentalist, author, and public intellectual Wendell Berry. House wrote the original draft of the 2005 Kentucky authors' statement against the practice; since the draft more than three dozen authors have signed it. House has published many articles about mountaintop removal, including an editorial in "The New York Times". House serves on the board of Appalachian Voices, the major clearing house for grassroots organizations fighting mountaintop removal, was a speaker in 2011 at Appalachia Rising, a major protest in Washington D.C. that resulted in more than 115 arrests, and in 2013 was the keynote speaker at I Love Mountains Day.
In recent years House has become increasingly outspoken on bullying and fairness issues.
House has two daughters. He presently lives in Berea, Kentucky. House's next novel is "LIttle Fire," which will be completed sometime in 2013. His next project is a play about Mary Todd Lincoln.
- 2001 "Clay's Quilt" -novel
- 2003 "A Parchment of Leaves" -novel
- 2004 "The Coal Tattoo" -novel
- 2005 "The Hurting Part" -play
- 2008 "The Hurting Part" -published playscript
- 2009 "Something's Rising" -non-fiction, co-authored with Jason Howard
- 2009 "Long Time Travelling"-play
- 2009 "Eli the Good" -novel
- 2012 "This is my Heart for You"-play
- 2012 "Same Sun Here"-novel, co-authored with Neela Vaswani
- Shurbutt, S. Bailey. "The History of Every Country": Place in the Poetry and Fiction of Silas House.
- ""Silas House (1971- )" by Linda Scott DeRosier". KYLIT. May 13, 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- "Recruiters (paperback) by Silas House". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- "Kentucky Authors". Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. Undated. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- Silas House's website
- Silas House Fan Page on Facebook
- Southern Hum Interview
- Creative Loafing interview
- Random House books discussion guide on Clay's Quilt
- Random House books discussion guide on The Coal Tattoo
- Random House Books discussion guide on A Parchment of Leaves
- No Depression website
- Lee Smith website
- Audio recording: Silas House at the Key West Literary Seminar, 2008