Natalie Sypolt, author of the novel, The Sound of Holding Your Breath, joined Dr. Jill Sunday’s
English class in McCance auditorium for a brief discussion Thursday, Nov. 7.
The Waynesburg University students who attended have analyzed Sypolt’s book within their
literature class throughout the entirety of the semester and were honored to welcome the author
to campus to share in her thought process. Located in West Virginia and an avid Harry Potter
enthusiast, Sypolt likes to spend time with her dogs as she produces her work.
Her writing has received substantial attention. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train,
Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Switchback, Ardor Literary Magazine, Superstition
Review, among many other popular literature journals.
In addition, Sypolt has won various awards such as the West Virginia Fiction Award, the Still
fiction contest and the Gabehart Prize. Amongst her many accomplishments, Sypolt is an active
book reviewer whose thoughts have landed a place in the Los Angeles Review, Fjords Review,
Harpur Palate, as well as the Mid-American Review.
During her visit to the university, Sypolt decided that in honor of Sunday’s new literature class
on hauntings, she would read the chapter titled “Ghosts” to the students. Sunday wanted her
students to appreciate the opportunity they were about to experience by asking them to focus on,
the magic of hearing an author read in his or her own voice.
“It is kind of weird for me back here reading to you all because this was my first job. I taught one
year of composition and then came back twelve years later and taught one section of creative
writing… I truly appreciate you all reading my book,” Sypolt said.
Students listened intently as the author read each of her words. Once the reading of the chapter
concluded, students were encouraged to ask questions regarding the book itself, the process in
writing it and about the process of being an author. Sypolt shared her favorite chapters and the
reasoning behind them, as well as, a few stories about those who have inspired her along the
Even for short story writers, writing is a long process that takes a great period of time to
brainstorm, develop, edit and publish. The titles and book itself have been rearranged multiple
times to find the best fit.
“These stories were written over a really long period of time… I think they are linked by theme
because I wrote the things that were important to me or interesting to me,” Sypolt said.
After listening to the stories and being drawn into the depth of each word, students couldn’t help
but wonder if they were based on her own reality.
“None of them are real but there are certainly real parts in a lot of them,” Sypolt said.
When asked where she got the motivation to write these short stories, Sypolt wished she could
pinpoint an exact answer.
“Motivation comes from wanting to write the book that you would like to read,” she said.
Sypolt serves as a literary editor in her spare time for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers. She
also participates in a reading series called Women in Appalachia and holds a position as the Vice
President of the Appalachian Studies Association. Her daily life consists of working as an
Associate Professor of English at Pierpont Community and Technical College.
Sypolt is incredibly grateful for those who show interest in her writing and is appreciative of
those who take the time to read her work. She believes aspiring writers should understand the
importance of multiple perspectives.
“Writers can come from anywhere and they should,” Sypolt said. “Because if they don’t, then a
lot of voices are being silenced. I think that’s really important for students to read.”