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The West Virginia Storytelling Project's video poster

The Liars Competition, John Henry, the Flatwoods Monster, and countless others: all West Virginia stories, all begging to be told. Read more

pledged of $3,500 goal
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This project was successfully funded on May 12, 2011.

The Liars Competition, John Henry, the Flatwoods Monster, and countless others: all West Virginia stories, all begging to be told.

About this project

"We learn through stories; we become who we are through stories." -Ralph Koster

This project is about my home, West Virginia, and the stories it holds. 

The goal of this project is to explore West Virginia storytelling traditions, both historic and present, and to give them a life and longevity on the Internet that surpasses their normal ephemeral nature, where they can not only be accessed by a new generation of eager viewers but will reach a broader audience. 

Therefore, I will create a series of interviews with storytellers from throughout West Virginia. These I will combine with my original animated shorts of traditional folktales from the region as well as audio and photographic explorations of locations within the state. I will then design an interactive website database, making all this content freely available to anyone interested in a good story or two.

Synopsis: **Since elements of this project are documentary in nature, changes may occur as the story develops. I have tried to be as detailed as I can be at this time.

In one month, I will embark on a journey to collect stories. The nucleus of this project will be the West Virginia Liars Competition. The West Virginia Liars Competition was founded in 1983 and takes place on Memorial Day weekend in the state capital Charleston, WV as part of the Vandalia Gathering, the largest arts and cultural festival in the state. Here there are several people I am eager to speak with, including: 

-Ken Sullivan, the contest creator and emcee.

-Adam Booth, who started in the youth competition and has been a Liar off and on for about 10 years now. 

-Five time Biggest Liar Champion (winner of $100, a golden shovel, and infinite bragging rights) Bil Lepp

I will collect video and audio recordings of the competition as well as interview participants individually, and thereby gather a variety of perspectives on current storytelling modes. I plan to blend these interviews and performances together into short episodes that translate my subjects unique views and approaches to storytelling. Then, following the suggestions of these individuals and aided by the WV Storytelling Guild, I will interview anyone that is willing to share their time and stories with me, making connections and tracking down new and unexpected characters as I go.  

During this time I will also visit the West Virginia Folklife Center in Fairmont, WV and the West Virginia Collection at WVU, where I will research popular tales from our history, selecting three to five to animate using After Effects (you can see an example of my After Effects animation style here). These will provide a frame of reference for individuals that are unfamiliar with West Virginia folklore. I will translate these old stories into a new medium, recycling them back into our awareness and giving them a renewed life in a visual format.

The ultimate presentation of this piece will be an interactive database coded in HTML 5/CSS. This will provide a non-linear platform for the viewer to navigate freely, thus constructing their own impressions out of a mix of stories, stories about stories, animations, and interviews. The homepage will take the form of (or at least provide) a map of the state to visually connect these stories to the land that inspired them. 

In time, I aim to expand the scope of this project to consider musical and artistic forms of storytelling, potentially highlighting old time & bluegrass music, poetry, creative writing, blacksmithing, and quilting.  

The context:  

Growing up in West Virginia, there were many forms of regional expression that I took for granted until I left the area. Music, art, and storytelling are all binding agents of community. The power these mediums had over the generations served to transmit stories and establish fellowship over many miles of wilderness between towns and homes. I want to understand how these forms of expression influenced generations past and how they have translated to, and have been altered by, today’s world. 

Stories, legends, and folktales express the mindset of a particular region of people at a particular time. Historically, West Virginia's folklore traditions are predominantly dark, riddled with stories of ghosts, revenge, and feuds over wealth. Savagely divided by the Civil War, physically isolated from its neighboring states by its mountainous geography, and its land and people exploited by profit-hungry coal companies...this all resulted in a cultural stigma that is obvious in the foreboding and suspicious nature of the oral traditions. Our state still faces its share of trouble: mountain top removal now eats away at our natural terrain as economic depression makes it difficult for our many  to scrape a living. How is this still reflected in stories and how has this cultural mindset changed over the years? Do modern storytellers reconcile the past and present in their tales? Are there still common threads of community apparent in modern stories?

This funding will help me cover production and post-production costs during my two month journey and beyond. I have contacts within the state that have already offered support in the form of accommodations and food, and because of these generous offers, my funding goal is lower than other projects of similar magnitude. $3500 is the absolute minimum I need to produce this project, but if I receive additional funding, it will all go towards bringing you more stories. 

With your donation, you will help cover production equipment rental and insurance. Gas for driving all over WV for nearly two months. Web domain and hosting. Countless little necessary things required to make this project as successful and comprehensive as I intend it to be.

Most importantly, with your donation you become a part of this project. I hope you are as excited as I am to see where these stories will take us. Thank you so much, and I can't wait to hug you.  


  • You can still contribute! I spent most of the summer filming for this project, but we still need help to get through post production in the coming months. If you contribute before February, 2012, I will still honor my list of prizes seen on this page!

    All contributions can be mailed to:

    Melissa Rogers
    11 Spring Hill Terr.
    Somerville, MA 02143

    Thank you very much for your continued support!

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    6 backers

    Everyone that donates gets a hug the next time I see you!
    For those that are a bit further away, I will e-mail you a very special audio thank you to keep you company until I see you next.

  • You selected
    Pledge $15 or more

    12 backers

    Behind-the-scenes access to the project blog (filled with production stills and updates of my travels/interviews), a "special thanks" on the project blog AS WELL AS on the completed project website, an audio thank you, and a hug!

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    15 backers

    Two 5x7 photo prints from my travels in West Virginia, access to the project blog, "special thanks" on blog & project site, an audio thank you, and a hug!

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    11 backers

    YOU CHOOSE: A custom-made sock puppet or a set of 5 assorted post cards featuring production stills, the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman, or the project collage shown above. Also comes with access to the project blog, "special thanks" on blog & project site, an audio thank you, and (of course) a hug!

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    7 backers

    A special edition audio CD of my favorite stories & music gathered from my interviews and travels, as well as a 5x7 photo print, access to the project blog, "special thanks", and a hug.

  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    2 backers Limited (1 left of 3)

    I will come to your house and bake you the pie/cake of your choice (other food negotiable for people that are anti-dessert). During the baking, we can watch a movie, play a game, or just talk about life.
    Also includes a 5x7 photo print, access to the project blog, "special thanks", and a hug.

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer Limited (1 left of 2)

    YOU CHOOSE: A custom photo shoot (up to 3 hours) OR 20 hours of custom web design/consultation.
    Also includes a 5x7 print, "an enormously special thanks" on the website & blog, a handwritten thank you letter personally updating you on the project, and access to the project blog. And a hug.

  • You selected
    Pledge $750 or more

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    I will make you an afghan in the colors and style of your choosing (will provide list of choices for the indecisive) & producer credit on project website.
    You also receive the whole shebang: the audio CD, a 5x7 print, "an enormously special thanks" on the website & blog, a handwritten thank you letter updating you on the project, access to the project blog, and the biggest hug you can possibly imagine.

Funding period

- (30 days)