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To the Bones tour

"This is the West Virginia novel done right: slam-bang storytelling in tightly controlled language, by turns horrific and funny and beautiful."

Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories

"A storytelling feat: a pulse-pounding thriller that also manages to construct a whole terrifying, gorgeous mythology. To the Bones surprises and captivates at every turn."

Clare Beams, author of We Show What We Have Learned

"A thrilling hike into coal country, Nieman's page-turner pulls off an audacious trick: empathy for a misunderstood region."

James Tate Hill, author of Academy Gothic

"Evocative, intelligent prose conjures an anxious mood and strong sense of place while spotlighting the societal and environmental devastation wrought by the coal mining industry."

Kirkus Reviews

"An immensely readable story of good versus evil, with enough twists and turns (and twists within turns) to keep you guessing to the last minute."

Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

A tale told by two voices, Dinah, the Leopard Lady, whose journey from a Dickensian childhood as a biracial orphan in Appalachia ends her with the carnival in a series of roles, and The Professor, also a runaway, who seeks to escape his failures of the spirit.


Many thanks to the Coney Island Museum for the invitation to debut the book in the "Ask the Expert" lecture series.


"Unique, deeply moving, funny, and withal composed on the edge of danger and enlightenment, Leopard Lady is masterful. Nieman's syntax, rhymes, meter and scenes make music while the reader is charged with an energy that takes us closer and closer to the singular truth we must bear." Kelly Cherry

Valerie Nieman is the author of four novels: To the Bones, coming soon; Blood Clay, a novel of the New South, which was honored with the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction; a novel about the Rust Belt of the 1970s, Survivors; and her first book, Neena Gathering, reissued in 2012 as a classic in the post-apocalyptic genre. Another novel is now in submission, and she is at work on a haibun narrative based on a month hiking solo in Scotland.

Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, debuted with a reading at the Coney Island Museum. Her second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, appeared in 2015 from Press 53, and poems from that book were nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best Short Fictions of 2016, where the title poem was a finalist. She is also the author of Wake Wake Wake, and a collection of short stories, Fidelities.

She was a 2013-2014 North Carolina Arts Council poetry fellow, and has received an NEA creative writing fellowship as well as major grants in West Virginia and Kentucky. Her awards include the Greg Grummer, Nazim Hikmet, and Byron Herbert Reece poetry prizes.

Nieman graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University and at venues ranging from the John C. Campbell Folk School to WriterHouse.