Following up with the recent Appalachian Studies Association Conference, two of our Urban Appalachian Leadership Project grant recipients shared their experiences.

Michael Thompson and Jeni Hall are students at Thomas More University.

Michael shares: From March 14-17, I had the pleasure of attending and contributing to the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference on the beautiful campus of UNC Asheville in North Carolina. AppalachA’ville, as it was being referred to as, consisted of tables for colleges, publishing companies, and collectives, a silent auction, and hundreds of presentations – one of them being ours. My UALP group had one of the first presentations of the day at 8:30 Friday morning. We presented in similar fashion to our open mics, including informational elements, infused with poetry and music. Although not many people attended, those who came seemed to have been inspired and asked great questions at the end of our presentation.

Later on Friday, Brook Batch and I volunteered together at the silent auction, cataloging donated items and reading books given to the conference by contributors. This allowed us to meet masses of people as the filtered in and out of the space. Through the conference, there were rooms with groups hosting different creative projects; one that I participated in was creating a “Zine” with found materials, all of the pages being put into a compilation for those who wished to take one on the last day. One of the highlights of the conference for me was the Affrilachian Poetry session on Saturday evening where I got to meet Frank X Walker, along with his wife and other poets. This conference was a wonderful place not only to learn and contribute but to network also.

The ASA Conference revealed to me how large and flourishing this world was that was almost non-existent in my mind before getting involved with UACC. It also gave me the opportunity to see how involved other Liberal Arts colleges were; being proactive in growing Appalachian values and heritage, and how we can improve in Northern Kentucky outwards. My hope is that I will be able to attend in the future, as the experience is one which I think will grow in meaning and importance to me as the tradition develops and faces become more familiar.

Jeni shares: The Appalachian Studies Association conference in Asheville, North Carolina was a wonderful experience for witnessing other great creative minds within the region, meeting people with a variety of backgrounds, and enjoying the experience of a booming city in the Appalachian mountains. While our own presentation for the UALP Express Appalachia: Wide Open Mic went well, it was not the highlight or main learning point of the conference.

One presentation that struck me was a presentation from Marshall University that had three graduate students sharing prose that they had written. Not only were their pieces well written and their presentation flawless but gave me ideas for my own future and possibilities for continuing education and writing. Another presentation that meant a lot to me was the reading for the latest issue of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. While I had read the book before, it was much different seeing the people behind the poems and hearing their pieces in their own voice. It was is one thing to read literature that you enjoy, but to hear it expressed in front of you is a whole different monster. The presentation inspired me and kept me thinking about how these were all tasks and feats I was capable of accomplishing and gave me the inspiration to continue to hone my writing skills.

Image via Creative Commons

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