Mindy Beth Miller via Bent Country's Sheldon Compton

More young Appalachi­an writ­ers to watch out for: Mindy Beth Miller and Shel­don Comp­ton.

Before any­thing else, have a look at Mindy Beth Miller's writ­ing chops. Here's a cou­ple para­graphs to give you a taste:

"Back on Low Gap, the sun spit out its last blast of rays over the top of Sad­dle­back Moun­tain. A pud­dle of yel­low light gleamed on the hood of the parked car. Lau­rie trudged up the road, lis­ten­ing to her suit­case knock on the side of her leg. She stared straight up at the thick, green kudzu that tow­ered over her, the bulky forms of draped fig­ures ris­ing high in the air. The creek burst out of the holler and a lit­tle water­fall spewed out like a rain show­er some­where down over the hill. She could feel the cool breeze from it lick­ing her skin.

Up at the top of the hill, she looked over in the bot­tom, fol­low­ing the echo­ing taps of ham­mer strikes. She saw the sweat gleam­ing on Garner's naked back under the pole light's orange glow. He was build­ing her the view she'd always want­ed. She felt that famil­iar gnaw­ing at her heart and laid a warm hand on her chest. A short breath shud­dered inside of her like a bird try­ing to unfold its wings between her ribs. She focused on all that lay ahead of her, fix­ing her eyes hard like two round pieces of slick coal in the dim­ness and willed her body onward, step­ping toward his wav­ing hand." – excerpt from "The Cost of Liv­ing" Miller's first pub­lished story(published in the sum­mer 2009 issue of Appalachi­an Her­itage), and the win­ner of the 2008 Jean Ritchie Fel­low­ship in Appalachi­an Writ­ing.

The Mex­i­can restau­rant where I sit with Mindy Beth Miller in her home­town of Haz­ard, Ken­tucky is buzzing with activ­i­ty. Miller, who has already gath­ered pub­li­ca­tions, awards and the eye of a New York lit­er­ary agent for her first nov­el all while still in her twen­ties is reserved, arms crossed in front of her on the table. Her eyes search the room, gath­er­ing details, tak­ing in her sur­round­ings. She is ready for our inter­view and, know­ing her as a delib­er­ate per­son as well as a delib­er­ate writer, I start only when she seems ready.

The main char­ac­ter of her nov­el-in-progress is Cat, a Ken­tucky coal min­er work­ing to make a life for her fam­i­ly in the best way she can. But her nov­el-in-progress and her process as a writer is where I decide to start. I now refer to this tech­nique as method writ­ing. I prob­a­bly did not coin that phrase, but it applies in spades when look­ing at Miller's approach.

SHELDON LEE COMPTON: Let's start with the big question…the book you're work­ing on. Tell me about it. I under­stand you're tak­ing on some pret­ty involved research to gath­er mate­r­i­al and that it's an exten­sion of your short sto­ry, "Moun­tain Born," which is fea­tured in the fall 2009 issue of The Louisville Review. More.

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