Every people has to have its own stories . . .
If we don’t have our own stories then we don’t have our own soul:
we don’t have our own deepest possession, which is ourselves and our own unfolding . . .
Unless we cherish and savour our own [stories],
then we’re not going to know who we are and . . . we’ll become strangers to ourselves . . .
We’ve got to hold up a mirror to ourselves and create our own stories.

— Leonard N Cohen


Writing is a valuable, sometimes vital, tool in human endeavour.

Story writing is a particular talent: the memorialisation of personal experiences, tales, and narratives bequeathed by family or friends or teachers or mentors.

The Origin Project is an in-school writing program sprouted six years ago from the idea that Appalachia’s stories are national treasures and its children should celebrate their roots. Our program inspires young people to discover and liberate their inner voices through the craft of writing about their unique origins. It has been enormously gratifying that The Origin Project has evolved into a community of engaged learners focused on diversity and inclusion, capitalizing on the rare chance to expose young people to each other’s unique heritages and to galvanize their curiosity about, and respect for, each other.

The Origin Project has grown organically from 40 students in Big Stone Gap to more than 1,500 students in 17 schools. We regularly import renowned authors—so far, David Baldacci, Meg Wolitzer, Margot Lee Shetterly, Mary Hogan, and Laurie Eustis—to meet with the students and share their personal writing experiences.

Each fall, our students are given a personal journal and thereafter work on multiple projects or stories that speak of and to their heritage. Their work is professionally published year-end in this anthology, presented to each student and made available in school and public libraries. The Origin Project is integrated with the Virginia Standards of Learning curriculum and collaborates with each student at her/his skill level to conceive, develop, and hone ideas into short stories, poems, plays, interviews, or other art.

The students present their work aloud to their peers, parents, teachers, and guests, often at forums such as the Barter Theatre or Mountain Empire Community College. In past years’ anthology unveilings, our student-artists have been congratulated live or by video by Governor Terry McAuliffe, Senator Mark Warner, and Senator Tim Kaine. The First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam joined us for a recent Kick-off Celebration.

We synergise community and schools to offer heritage-related presentations and incorporate libraries and museums to convey the rôle of history in the present and develop the skill of research. This year, we visited the Civil Rights exhibit at The Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an exposition on immigration at the Library of Virginia.

It is a joyful surprise to read our students’ work, witness their growth, and observe the budding of their self-esteem. Through their creative writing with The Origin Project, our students “hold up a mirror” to themselves and thereby reclaim their “own deepest possession”: themselves and their “own unfolding.”

– Nancy Bolmeier Fisher

– Adriana Trigiani

Mission Statement

The Origin Project (“TOP”) seeks to inspire young people to release their inner voices through the art of writing about their unique origins; when we connect to the stories of our past, we are able to build our dreams for the future. TOP is an in-school writing program sprouted from the idea that the stories and people of Appalachia are national treasures and its children should celebrate their roots. Founded in 2012 by bestselling author Adriana Trigiani and educational advocate Nancy Bolmeier Fisher, TOP develops and encourages the skills of writing and other artistic selfexpression to support the students in Southwest Virginia and beyond in their academic and professional endeavours.

TOP serves a diverse group of young people that includes disadvantaged students: foster children, low income and underserved populations, and children with learning differences. It is a community of engaged learners rejoicing in their heritages. TOP galvanizes the students’ curiosity about, and respect for, each other.

The Origin Project is a non-profit in-school writing program sprouted six years ago from the idea that Appalachia’s stories are national treasures and its children should celebrate their roots.



Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is Co-Founder of The Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia and beyond. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Nancy Bolmeier Fisher is an activist and former Wall Street bond trader in New York and London. She is Co-Founder / Executive Director of The Origin Project and also manages various privately held companies that own commercial real estate. Nancy is a passionate education advocate and has served as trustee on several school boards in New York City and San Francisco. She also chairs Collective Impact, a non-profit organization bringing constructive change to children in San Francisco communities. Nancy lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Board of Directors


Nancy Bolmeier Fisher
President and Treasurer

The Origin Project

Collective Impact

Board Member Since 2014

Adriana Trigiani
Vice President and Secretary

Author and Filmmaker

The Origin Project

Board Member Since 2014

Board Members

Rhonda Early Carper

Educational Advocate

Retired Vice Principal

Stonewall Jackson High School

Board Member since 2019

Wendy Marquez

Wize Solutions

Congressional Hispanic Institute

100 Women Strong

Visitors of George Mason University

Board Member since 2016

Bonnie Fraenza

Instrumental Music Teacher and Director of Performing Arts

Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco

Board Member since 2019

Monica Hoel

Director of Alumni Affairs

Emory & Henry College

Board Member since 2019

Linda Woodward

Executive Assistant and Program Coordinator,
The Origin Project

Retired English teacher

Board Member since 2016

Margi Vanderhye

Retired Executive Director, Virginia Commission for the Arts

Former Delegate VA 34th District

Board Member since 2019

Emeritus Board Members

Grace Bradshaw

The Appalachian Writing Project

University of Virginia – Wise

Board Member 2014-2019

Dr. Amy Clark

The Appalachian Writing Project

University of Virginia – Wise

Department Chair

Professor of Rhetoric

Board Member 2014-2019