HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington’s Mayor’s Council on the Arts recently appointed Daniel J. O’Malley as the city’s inaugural literary laureate for 2021-23. The honorary two-year position is given to a writer who expresses and celebrates Huntington’s unique people and places while advocating for the arts and fostering a love of writing and literature among the diversity of all residents.
“As chair of the committee within the Mayor’s Council on the Arts that was tasked with recommending a literary laureate, I’m thrilled that Huntington has chosen Daniel O’Malley for the post as part of the city’s 150th birthday celebration,” said Carter Seaton, Mayor’s Council on the Arts committee member, in a news release. “For many years, the literary arts have been a strong presence in our city, so it was only fitting that we become one of the few, if not the only, city in the state to create such a position. This is just one more component that makes up the vibrant creative scene here.”
O’Malley is an assistant professor of English at Marshall University, finding his way to Huntington to be closer to his wife’s hometown of Wheeling. Since then, O’Malley has developed a love for Huntington and its unique brand of creativity and narratives.
A selection committee from the Mayor’s Council on the Arts recommended O’Malley as the Literary Laureate after a community call for entries process. Mayor Steve Williams officially appointed O’Malley in March 2021.
“As a city marked by innovation and creativity, we are honored to have Daniel O’Malley represent Huntington as the first literary laureate,” Williams said in the release. “Huntington boasts a wealth of talented storytellers, and we want to highlight them as we showcase our history, the present moment and where we hope to be in the future. O’Malley’s contributions during the sesquicentennial and afterward will ensure that Huntington will continue to be a leader in the arts for years to come.”
O’Malley has proposed a Huntington Literary Festival to celebrate the sesquicentennial and Huntington’s vibrant creativity in 2021. The festival and subsequent writing efforts will tentatively entail a series of public readings and community writing sessions, a cooperative storytelling effort, a day of workshops and classes and an evening of performance and celebration.
These narratives will continue to showcase Huntington’s creativity, organizations, businesses, history and people.
“It’s a real honor to be selected as the inaugural literary laureate,” O’Malley said. “I came to Huntington, and to Marshall University, in 2012, and I was struck immediately by the active literary community — the readings and events, the writers’ groups. More broadly, Huntington has such a lively artistic side, which I really appreciate. I think this new laureate position is a nice way to further highlight the place of the arts in our community.
“It seems fitting for the city to be starting a new tradition as we celebrate the sesquicentennial. I’m hoping that this year we can find ways to explore the city’s history in terms of story, to get people to share their own experiences and perspectives, so we can all get a deeper sense of Huntington’s story as a kind of collection of the stories of all the people who have lived here.”
The $2,000 stipend for O’Malley’s two-year term was approved by Huntington’s 150th Anniversary committee in March 2021. The Huntington Literary Festival and related events will be part of the official sesquicentennial calendar of events.