Local writer publishes coffee-table book set that explores residents of the Eastern Panhandle
Eastern Panhandle writer Katherine Cobb announces the release of her new nonfiction coffee-table book set, Panhandle Portraits, a Glimpse at the Diverse Residents of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, which features compelling portraits of West Virginians and their unique characteristics in two volumes.
The two-volume, 176-page set contains 77 portraits, with some photos featuring more than one person, plus an introduction, index and Panhandle fun facts. The project blends Cobb’s loves of writing and photography in one. She traversed all eight counties of the Eastern Panhandle—Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Pendleton—to find subjects to portray.
Panhandle Portraits features athletes, historians, doctors, artists, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, adventurers, volunteers, farmers, pastors, mavericks, business owners, beloved community members, trailblazers, survivors, mentors and leaders.
“I wanted to show the breadth and depth of West Virginians. We have such an interesting population, both people who have lived here for several generations and others who arrived at various junctures but who have made a significant contribution in some way,” said Cobb. “It’s also no secret West Virginians are often negatively stereotyped, and I find that frustrating. The people here are like anyone in any other state. I enjoyed putting something positive about our citizens into print, and putting something positive into the world, period. There’s so much negativity and tension this past year; this is something that will make people feel good when they open it up.”
She conceived the project a year ago and said she couldn’t get it out of her mind. “I pushed it to the side to work on a second novel, but it kept calling to me. Once I decided to explore the concept and began taking photos and doing the interviews, it took me on a wild adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my trips throughout the panhandle. It’s a glorious place. Every time I found myself in the Potomac Highlands, I felt almost giddy. It’s simply breathtaking. I also enjoyed meeting many new folks and learning their stories, as well as photographing subjects I knew already. The real beauty of the book is how it connects us and reminds us of our humanity.”
Although the subject matter varies greatly, Cobb represented industries or organizations that are prevalent in the Eastern Panhandle, so members of the communities involved in horse racing, car racing, history preservation, war reenactment, agriculture and outdoor adventure were intentionally included. She also kept a focus on the everyday person.
“I like finding the extraordinary in the everyday, and always enjoy writing about people who fit that category. I profiled that type of person in my book, but also included a few superstars—world champions and some others well-known for their accomplishments. That said, someone who may be well-known in Hardy County will not necessarily be known at all in Morgan County, and vice versa.”
Cobb is known for her nonfiction contributions to publications throughout the mid-Atlantic region, including her award-winning monthly editorial column for The Journal and her young adult novel, Skyline Higher. She also contributes a rotating column about addiction to The Observer. Readers can connect to Cobb through her website, www.katherinecobb.com.
Panhandle Portraits is available in paperback through Amazon.com, and will be stocked at some bookstores and gift shops throughout West Virginia. Cobb will sell the companion volumes at the upcoming Christmas Marketplace at Charles Town. Vendors will be scattered throughout the historic downtown area and Cobb will be at Sugar Whipped, located at 307 W. Washington St., on two dates: November 26 and December 3, from 10 am to 4 pm. On December 4, she will be at the Lost River Trading Post in Wardensville, W.Va., from 11 am to 2 pm. Pre-orders are strongly recommended.