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A Brief History

In 1974, a group of writers and activists gathered in the circular meeting space at Highlander Center to form what became the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Founding members of SAWC include Gurney Norman, Peggy Dotson Hall, Jim Webb and Ron Short.

During the 1970s, SAWC sponsored readings and published New Ground, an anthology of contemporary Appalachian literature. In the 1980s, Norman, along with poets George Ella Lyon and Bob Henry Baber facilitated the Appalachian Poetry Project, breathing new life into SAWC as poets and writers from throughout the Appalachian region gathered in their own and one another’s communities, and celebrated together at Highlander Center. 

SAWC has met (almost) annually since this time. Through its annual October writers’ gathering, a SAWC Summer gathering at Wiley’s Last Resort on top of Pine Mountain in Whitesburg, KY, local readings and the literary magazine, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, SAWC continues its original mission to foster community among and encourage publication of Appalachia’s writers.

In the fall of 2002 SAWC took an opportunity to “look back while moving forward,” as Wind Magazine published an “literary portrait” that documented SAWC’s unique place in the Appalachian literary movement.  For information about the anthology and/or to order, visit Wind’s website.  If you’re interested in an extended history of SAWC from its founding through 1990, contact .

What writers say about SAWC

“What more could a writer ask than a windowed room high on a ridge, every chair a rocking chair, and every thought directed toward writing?” —Dana Wildsmith

“Writing. Friends. October walks. Music. One of the most striking and historical places in The South!” —Mack (John) Clarke

“Lord, how our voices often mingle,creeks rounding down from a thousand miles to wed the same bright river....” —Richard Hague


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