P.O. BOX 688 * FLOYD, VIRGINIA 24091 * AWA@swva.net
CAROL HONEYCUTT: Growing up in the country in Southwest Virginia meals were most often planned around work in the tobacco fields or barns. Women were in the fields as early as the men and didnít leave until the men quit but they were expected to have a meal of some sort on the table. When it came time to eat men were sent to the table first, then the children and last the women. Eating last meant taking what was left over. I watched this happen as a young girl and wondered why it was always women first in the fields and last at the table. Even though the women were almost always last for everything I never heard any women complain.
When it came time for Mommy and me to begin collecting household items for a Hope Chest for me, my mom would laugh and called it a No Hope Chest. She was joking with me saying there was no hope that I would get a man, but her words had a different meaning for me. I had observed the hopelessness of women in Appalachia.
Later as a grown woman with a daughter of my own I found myself in many hard situations while going through a divorce. As I struggled to raise my daughter I wanted her to see a woman as a strong individual who didn't depend on a man to feel her own self worth or to always be placed last when it came to the important things in life.
Much of her education in that area and mine came from gatherings of women like me who struggled to have a voice. The Appalachian Women's Journal was one such place where I could express myself and not fear forever being a hopeless person.
TYRA ROBINSON: I am ten years old. I am from my grandmama, flowers and nice people, nice trees and nice things to see and nice things to do.
IVVY GULLEY: I am eight years old and from Clintwood, Virginia. I am from eating chocolate chip cookies and sitting in my granny's lap, and she sings to me. I am from playing with my friends. The games we play are tag, checkers, hide and go seek. I am from eating Mammaw Louise's greens.
NYLA GULLEY: I am seven years old. I am from Clintwood and eating cookie dough.
CARLA HATFIELD BARRETT: I am from a place deep in the woods where the headwaters of the Cumberland once ran clean. I am from native Americans, frontiersmen, servants, farmers, coal miners, soldiers, kings and queens. I am from my grandmother's old front porch swing where tales of old were told and sung, memorized to be retold again. I am from the dreams of my mother and her mother before her. I am from the highest point in Kentucky, the heart of Appalachia, a place called Harlan County. A place I will always call home.
LULA DYE GRAHAM lives with her husband Nolan in Lancaster, Kentucky. Says Lula, "I first wanted to write when I was a teen-ager. When I was a child my dad read fairy tales to me and I could see everything so real. I like to write things in a way that others can see them as I do."
CONNIE RUTLEDGE: I was born and raised in Mercer County, West Virginia, born into a family where lots of them were abusive. I was sexually abused by seven men, starting at age 4 up until I was 18. There was sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical and mental abuse every day of my childhood. Most of my life. Always being told I'm no good and I'm very bad!
Thanks to 25 years of therapy I am a better mother to my two grandbabies (that I'm raising), than I was to my two sons. I like writing poems because they express my true feelings of how I feel inside. No child should have ot endure horrible abuse like I did. "Always a Nuisance, Always Persecuted" tells the whole story of my childhood. I hope to get it published someday so that it may help to stop some child abuse.
CINDY FRALEY is a teacher in Jenkins, KY. Wife of Robert, and mother of Sam and Luke, Cindy is working on a novel about three generations of strong mountain women, copies of which she one day hopes to give away to her oppressed Appalachian sisters.
SAVANNAH CHURCH: I am 21 years old. I live in Haysi, Virignia. The mountains are cute; the mountains are so big. We take trips to amusement parks and eat vanilla dip-n-dots - those are my favorite! It's scary because a lot of people make fun of me. That doesn't feel good. It makes me cry. I have a good home to live in where I am safe. You don't let anybody come in that you don't know. I would like to work in a hospital and be with all the sick babies.
LINDA MCKINNEY: I am from a holler in Summers County, West Virginia. I am from a place with two creeks that flow into one as they travel seven miles to the New River. I am from land that was taken from the native Indians in the late 1700's. I am from stubborn, hard-headed women who speak about wrongs when they see wrong being done to the children and to the land. I found a place for my voice to be validated in the Appalachia Women's Journal. I was able to let words flow out onto the paper, because I was sitting in a circle of women that I respected and trusted not to use my words against me.
I have two granddaughters, Destiny and Susan McKinney. Destiny is beginning to find her voice and a little of the power of writing thanks to the Journal. Destiny has moved to four different schools and continues to struggle to find herself in the middle of divorcing parents and living in a motel while going to school and making new friends. Destiny at age 9 now, stays in the homes of her grandmothers, lots of books and clothes in both homes, and good grades in school as a fourth grader. Destiny has the encouragement of her grandmothers and extended family and friends who admire her strong spirit.
ASHLEY WHITTAKER: I have enjoyed being in the Women's Alliance these past years because there are so many thing that you can learn working with them. Not only do they teach you about cultures but, they teach women how to protect themselves and how to stand up for what's right. When I was younger I wrote a poem called "Like a Butterfly" and it was about me being free and doing whatever career I chose to do - that was to become a nurse. To this day I am still doing that. I plan to continue to be a part of the Women' s Alliance, because I want to teach other women the things that I have learned. It's an honor to know that my poem is being performed at all these places. It makes me feel like people respond to it and it is making a difference in their lives.
SANDI KEATON-WILSON: Orphaned at an early age, I was raised in southern Kentucky by grandparents who were born in the 1800s. Spare time was spent reading or listening to stories, poems or old ballads at my Grandmaís knee. Because of my love for literature and the lack of close playmates, writing became a pastime by the time I was twelve. Publication came only a few years later.
After deciding I could use my written words to do more than entertain, I began going into schools and doing public readings. Iíve developed my talent over the years to give voice to the richness of our language, our strengths and our stories, our truths and traditions. The women of the Appalachian region are as rich in worth as this place we so identify with, and I canít imagine being anyone other.
PHIBBY VENABLE: My father died when I was seven. This left my mother with 8 children at home, age 1 to 16. My poem, Mountain Women, is actually based on her struggles, (plus the great biscuits & gravy she produced), and the strength and laughter she brought to our lives. As I grew up, I observed the struggles of women in this area. They appeared to have a courage and tight lipped determination that was quiet and nurturing. Their grief was often absorbed into their daily routines and accepted with a stoic grace and silence.
I worked two years as a vista volunteer helping low income families receive grants for indorr plumbing, home repairs and wells. I am presently involved with Appalachian Resources, was nominated for the Governor's Award for Volunteer Excellence, and won the Virginia Water Projects Award. I also have three chapbooks of poetry, Indian Wind Song, On White Top, and What I Saw Beautiful.
BARBARA DYE BARRON: I think to be a good writer you have to love books. My love for books started in the fourth grade when my teacher began to read to us daily. I won an essay contest in the eighth grade and was published in the local paper. I really began to write when my youngest son missed his siblings while they were at school. To entertain Kevin I would make up stories for him. He enjoyed them so much I started to write them down. My mother was a storyteller and would keep us spellbound for hours with her tales. I feel like I am carrying on the family tradition of story telling.
Barbara belongs to the Pulaski Writer's Alliance. Her work has appeared in Senior Voices, Kentucky Explorer, Back Home in Kentucky, Crossing Troublesome; 25 Years of the Appalachian Writers Workshop, Kudzu, Tobacco; A Literary Anthology, Appalachian Women's Journal, Pegasus, first place winner of Kentucky State Poetry Society in the Bible category, third place winner in Green River Writers in two categories.
ANNE CONGLETON has been published in Poetry As Prayer: Appalachian Women Speak, edited by Denise McKinney. Her ten-minute play, "Crazy Izzie", was awarded second place in the Appalachian Writer's Association, Josphina Niggli Playwright Contest. She has performed in "LUMPS" by Trish Ayers and "Courageous Paths" by Kim Stinson-Hawn, adapted from the book Courageous Paths by Jane Stephenson. She is currently in the final re-write of her full length play, "Two Widows and a Spinster" sponsored by a grant from The Kentucky Foundation for Women. Anne lives on a farm outside of Richmond, Kentucky with her son, Kelby.
SHERRY PRYOR grew up in a loving family in Carlisle, a small town bordering Appalachia and the Bluegrass of Kentucky. She is 42 years old and currently resides in Mercer County, Kentucky. She graduated from Morehead State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Psychology. An environmentalist at heart, she has worked as an Environmental Scientist for over 20 years. Sherry loves nature and cherishes time spent with her husband, family, friends, and dogs. She is a non-religious "Jesus Freak." Among her interests are health, spiritual healing, reading, and writing poetry.
JAN SPARKMAN's published works include two novels, a collection of short stories, three books of nonfiction, magazine articles, and hundreds of newspaper columns and book reviews. She acts as facilitator for the London Writersí Group and serves on the Boards of the Janice Holt Giles Society and the Laurel County (KY) Historical Society.
TRISH AYERS, a Berea, Kentucky resident for 24 years was a professional photographer until in 1990 she suffered an injury which required neck surgery. She was left with a tracheotomy (a hole in her neck for breathing) and numerous life threatening health problems. As she struggled to breathe she felt like she sucked up energy to stay alive and had nothing positive to contribute. Then she decided to return to her youthful passion of writing and it saved her life. Her world opened up as she saw the power of writing to work toward positive change in the world. Her play, LUMPs, (about breast cancer) has traveled throughout the country and several short plays including Gregory and the Dreamslayers have been produced throughout the United States and Japan. She led a year long playwriting seminar for talented Kentucky women writers to explore the genre of playwriting. She is also a co-leader of writing workshops with the Silver Creek Writers. Her life is full in spite of health issues.
GAIL LIVESAY writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays and plays. She is currently revising her autobiography which explores the impact of growing up with bipolar disorder, which had not been diagnosed and/or recognized. Gail attends weekly classes led by Pulitzer Prize nominated poet and author Sidney Saylor Farr and she is a participant in The Kentucky Womenís Playwright Seminar, led by Trish Ayers. Her poetry has been published in Poetry As Prayer, Appalachian Women Speak, USAdeepsouth, Woman on Earth Journal, The Seeker and Appalachian Connection. She has had informative letters to the editor published across the state of Kentucky. Her play Ward 101 will be published in an anthology by Shan Ayers. A selection of her poetry was recently performed by the New Mummers Production Group of New York city in Berea, Kentucky as part of an urban, rural culural exchange. She lives in Berea with her husband Wayne. They have two grown children Lisa and Michael, and have been blessed with two granddaughters, Hannah and Marina.
JUDY KLARE: I came to the Appalachian region in 1954 when my husband joined the faculty at Ohio University. We had lived in several different places, but never in a small town. I loved this place immediately. The area is so beautiful, the people so friendly and helpful. I started writing poetry in fifth grade; a gifted teacher encouraged me. Now with my three children grown and into their own lives, I have more time to write. I belong to a local writersí group. Our meetings provide me with the kind of deadlines all writers need. Currently I am a volunteer at a local agency called The Work Station. They help people find employment and also run a literacy center. Some of my poems reflect this. To help an adult read or, better yet, to achieve a G.E.D. is very difficult but most rewarding.
GERALDINE CANNON BECKER grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in South Carolina. The only member of a family of eight children to graduate from high school, she went on to earn a B.A. in English from Winthrop University. She then earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing--Poetry from the University of Arkansas, at Fayetteville. A Professor of English at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, she teaches various types of writing and literature classes (including a class on Appalachia), and also leads writing workshops at conferences in various locations.
SALLY PEARSON CONGLETON was born in Madison County, KY in 1934. She entered EKU as a non-traditional student and graduated in 1983. Sally shares a farm with her husband, John Congleton, their dog Dreyfus, and several appaloosa horses. She was brought to writing because of a need to express herself and could always do it better on paper than verbally. Sally also felt the need to write down family history and pass it on to younger generations. Writing is a wonderful outlet for self-expression and at age 72 is her first ever hobby. She is a playwright and member of Kentucky Women's Playwright Seminar and writes poetry, memoirs and family history.
LINDA CALDWELL grew up on a farm near Paint Lick, Kentucky that has been in her family over a hundred years. It could be said that Paint Lick is on the border between Appalachia and the Bluegrass. Her writing is, for the most part, about this place and the people who have inhabited the area from pre-Daniel Boone to the present.
Linda was a librarian in Jefferson County, Kentucky for twenty-seven years before moving back to the farm. She is a volunteer director at a local community action center which received teh President's National Service Award in 1991.
SYLVIA DELEE DAVIS resides in Madison County Kentucky where she is a substitute teacher and writer. Her poetry and short stories have been published locally and nationally. She is in the process of publishing Appalachian Angels, a book about angel encounters and near-death experiences by fellow Kentuckians.
KAY JUSTICE and EVELYN HAMILTON began singing together in the mid 1970's. Influenced by such singers as Hazel and Alice, the Carter Family, the Stanley Brothers and David Morris, they performed mostly in Southwest Virginia, Tennessee and in West Virginia. Although they performed together for many years, each of them maintained their respective professions, singing mostly for the love of music and the love of the many friends they made in the traditional music arena.
ELAINE PURKEY has been called an "Appalachian Janis Joplin" because it doesn't get much realer than Elaine. Elaine was born and raised in a hollow called Sand Creek Road in the coalfields of West Virginia. Her father played clawhammer banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar among other instruments, and had Elaine singing by the age of five.
As a child, Elaine performed with her siblings for church services and many community events, and took her music to the picket lines in support of her husband, a union miner. She began writing and singing labor songs in the1980s during the United Mine Worker strikes against the Pittston Coal Company. Elaine became a community organizer in the 1990s, directing the West Virginia Organizing Project, a grassroots organization.
Of her singing Pete Seeger wrote,"Elaine Purkey's songs carry on the great tradition of Ella May Wiggin of Gastonia, South Carolina, and Aunt Molly Jackson of Harlan County, Kentucky."
Elaine has made appearances at such prestigious events as the Festival of American Folklife, Appalshop's Seedtime on the Cumberland, the Vancouver Folklife Festival, and the Chicago Folk Festival, among others. Elaine can be heard on her CD, "Mountain Music, Mountain Struggle." A feature story about Elaine appears in the most recent version of GOLDENSEAL magazine.
KATE LARKEN is a musician, writer, publisher, producer, educator and progressive activist who grew up in rural Kentucky and has lived in suburban and rural settings on the east and west coasts and points in between. Her career arc includes intense experiences in communication, education and the arts. Formerly a teacher, she has authored textbooks, written and co-written award-winning plays, composed soundtrack music, recorded five collections of original songs (including the critically acclaimed CD Muddy Water), and contributed to other recordings and live performances. Named one of the top three songwriters in North Carolina in the mid-1990s, she has recorded and toured nationally as a professional musician, songwriter, playwright, actor and producer. Having worked at Kentucky Department of Education, Governor's School for the Arts, as director of a private arts school in North Carolina, as editor of several newspapers, and for an international advertising agency, she designs and presents workshops and sessions for community cultural organizers, educators and business professionals. A textbook she authored is used in classrooms across Kentucky. She is founder of EvaMedia, Inc. <www.evamedia.com>, which includes Motes Books, Nekked Rekkedz and other endeavors.
Says Kate, "As a result of both nature and nurture, I have been blessed with an organic ability to see even small connections between and among ideas. Finding ways to use those connections creatively is the most fascinating and rewarding work I do, especially when the connections bring together otherwise discrete ideas, objects, events or people. In addition, I believe deeply that an action anywhere affects all of us everywhere - for as the Native American saying goes: When one strand is plucked, the whole web vibrates. My professional work and cultural/political activism has often drawn together three strands that are integral to my life and work: communication, education and the arts. A Golden Rule gal from way back, fairness is immensely important to me, and I routinely and consistently make it an important part of my work."
MARTA MARIA MIRANDA was born in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba in 1954. She immigrated to New Jersey in 1966 with her nuclear family, and then to Miami, Florida to attend college . Marta comes from a rural background and although she loved the diversity of the big city she had never felt at home in the United States until she found Appalachia. Marta has multiple identities, ethnically she identifies as Afro-Caribbean. In 1996, she bought a log cabin on 14 acres of wood in a holler in the Mt.Vernon/Berea area of Kentucky and finally felt at home. " I knew that I could be an American, as long as I could live and die in Kentucky". Marta calls herself Cubalachian, "Cuban by birth and Appalachian by the Grace of God."
She learned story telling and water gazing from her dad, who practiced both the Yoruba religion and the art of sitting in circles telling stories over dominoes and cigars. Marta is an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University in the Dept. of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work where she teaches social work practice and is the director of the Women's Studies Program. Marta has been a social justice activist for 25 years, addressing civil rights and immigration rights, hate crimes and violence against women.She is a member of the Appalachian Women's Alliance Ironweed Network and the Afrilachain Poets. She is new to creative writing, although she is a published scholar in her discipline. Her stories and poems are: On Being Brown in the South, Four Turkeys to Ridgefield, When Ancestors Call, The Flute, the Hag, The Harvest, The Journey, Social Justice as a Spiritual Path and most recently I Am From.