Author Wins Big Prize For ‘Little Things’

West Virginia author Bil Lepp has won the prestigious PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing for his first children’s book, “The King of Little Things.”

Lepp, a prize-winning storyteller and writer who resides in South Charleston, is the son of the Rev. John and Sally Lepp of Glen Dale.

Officials of the PEN American Center stated that the award is given to a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2013.

Lepp will receive a $5,000 prize and will join other PEN literary winners at a ceremony in New York City Monday, Sept. 29.

The release of Lepp’s book, “The King of Little Things,” was the subject of a Life section cover story in the Sunday News-Register last year. He has explained that eight years ago, the inspiration for the story came from a playtime suggestion from his son, Noah, now 14.

Lepp, a five-time winner of the annual liars’ contest at West Virginia’s Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, also has written short stories and a parenting book.

“The King of Little Things,” released by Peachtree Publishing, is in its second printing, with 12,000 copies in print, according to officials at the firm.

Former Wheeling resident Kris Keppel was one of the 25 finalists for Brooks Running Co.’s 2014 Inspiring Coach of the Year Award. He is a teacher and cross country coach at Land O’ Lakes High School, north of Tampa, Fla.

Keppel, who grew up in Wheeling and graduated from Bethany College, is the son of the late Rev. Jack and Mildred Keppel, who were longtime Wheeling residents. The Rev. Jack Keppel had served as minister of Island Christian Church for many years.

Voting for the award was conducted on Facebook by runners, students, families and community members. Brooks officials announced on Aug. 5 that Renee Williams-Smith, a cross country coach at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was the winner of this year’s award.

Williams-Smith and her team won $10,000 in Brooks performance running gear and $2,500 cash to use for team expenses. Each finalist received $5,000 in Brooks performance running gear and $500 cash for team expenses, as well as membership in Brooks’ Inspire Daily program.

In naming Keppel as a finalist, Brooks officials said that he “powered through a state cross country championship while undergoing chemotherapy.”

A profile on the company’s Facebook page stated: “The Land O’ Lakes High School Gators were sad when they realized that their inspiration, Coach Kris Keppel, would miss the cross country state finals due to his chemotherapy treatment for a cancer diagnosis. To their surprise and delight, Coach Keppel showed up with clipboard in hand and an IV bag attached to his hip. Kris Keppel’s dedication and commitment to the team and the sport he loves is evident at Land O’ Lakes.”

The profile stated that after Keppel’s diagnosis, his team created “I Run for Keppel” T-shirts. To date, they have sold more than 500 shirts. In addition, “one gifted student artist drew a picture of the coach that won a national award and will be housed in a congressional building in Washington, D.C.,” officials said.

The profile concluded with this observation: “Often, times of trial show us the love we’ve given by the love we then receive. Coach Keppel has given his community a great deal of love!”

Work began this past week on a project to reseal and provide water protection for the foundation on the south side of the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling. As a result, parking is restricted and the book drop is unavailable for one to two months.

Library officials are arranging for temporary book drops to be located in the Eoff Street-16th Street parking lot which will remain open to patrons throughout the project.

Lunch With Books programs planned originally for the remainder of August have been rescheduled. Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. archivist Bekah Karelis’ presentation on the Habermehl-Guire Photograph Collection has been moved to noon Thursday, Nov. 13. The date for author Lisa Kirchner’s talk on “An American Woman in Qatar” has been changed to noon Friday, Nov. 21. A program on Mother Jones will be postponed until spring.

Depending on the status of the repair project, Lunch With Books programs slated for Sept. 9-30 might be held in the library or they may be postponed or held at another location, said Sean Duffy, programming coordinator. He will announce updates as they become available.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: