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By Selena Stevens


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Time magazine called Billy C. Clark's autobiography, "A Long Row to Hoe," "as authentically American as 'Huckleberry Finn.'"

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April 2, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Renowned Appalachian writer and educator Billy C. Clark will read from his works in the University of Kentucky's William T. Young Library auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4. The reading is free and open to the public.

A former UK student and Ashland native, Clark is the author of seven novels and four books of short stories. Clark began publishing short stories as a student at UK in the early 1950s. In 1960, his widely praised autobiography, "A Long Row to Hoe," was published, then reprinted in 1992. Time magazine called the story "as authentically American as 'Huckleberry Finn.'"

A native of the Big Sandy region of Eastern Kentucky, Clark was born in Catlettsburg in 1928. His fiction is noted for its sensitive portrayal of local life and lore, and his responsiveness to the surrounding natural beauty of the Appalachian region. Clark is writer-in-residence at Virginia's Longwood College and is the founding editor of Virginia Writing. He has received numerous awards, including the Appalachian Treasure Award, given annually by Morehead State University to recognize dedication in promoting and preserving the cultural heritage of Appalachia.

Born into poverty, Clark was the first member of his family to receive an education.

He left home at age 11 and, for the next five years, lived on the third floor of the Catlettsburg city office building. He cleaned the jails, wound the town clock and served as a volunteer firefighter to put himself through school.

"The house where I lived with my family is long gone," Clark has written, "but it is not what I look for when I come back to Catlettsburg. The city building seems like my home, because I lived there, in a small room upon the top floor, sleeping on an old Army cot."

Clark found another home on the Big Sandy River. His deep love and connection with life on the river is a major subject of his writing.

He wrote his first novel, "Song of the River," at age 14 and published it years later in its original form. It was one of dozens of fading manuscripts his wife retrieved from the back seat of his '48 Plymouth after they were married. Writer Wade Hall has called "Song of the River" "a national treasure."

Clark's most recent book, "By Way of the Forked Stick," is a collection of short stories published in 2000 by the University of Tennessee Press.

The Billy C. Clark reading is the final event in a yearlong Half-Century of Excellence celebration by the UK College of Arts and Sciences Department of English Creative Writing Program. The reading is sponsored by the Department of English, the UK College of Arts and Sciences, the UK Appalachian Center and the UK Appalachian Studies Program.

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