by Mike Templeton

The 46th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference will take place at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio on March 16-19. This year’s theme, “From Surviving to Thriving,” opens the panels and presenters to scholarly work, activism and advocacy, and creative work that advances the complexity and variety of Appalachian experiences. As most of us know Athens is located in Appalachian Ohio, and this is the first time the Appalachian Studies Conference has been held on this campus. As the conference approaches, we would like to remind you that the deadline for the Appalachian Studies Association scholarship applications is February 15, and there is still time to apply (links below). It seems only natural that there would be a focus on Appalachian Ohio, and with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition active within both greater Cincinnati and in the Appalachian region, it should come as no surprise that members of UACC will make appearances on multiple panels and presentations.

The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is presenting two roundtable discussions entitled, “Mountain Movers and Shakers: Women of Appalachia Leading Thriving Communities” on Saturday.  Among other women leaders from throughout the region are Core Members Sherry Cook Stanforth and Nancy Laird, Maureen Sullivan and other UACC folks such as MoPoetry Phillips, Ashley Hopkins (Part 1 convener), Roberta Campbell, Omope Carter Daboiku and Erinn Sweet (Part 2 convener).

UACC Research Committee Chair Roberta Campbell told me she is assembling ideas for her part in this panel. “I’ve done some interviews with Appalachian women on the topic of Appalachian identity, and I have pulled out some of these to consider. I also have ideas from a book I’ve been working on for a long time.” Overall, Roberta explained that her message will consist of “how important women are and have been to activism, how women have made such a difference politically and socially in Appalachia, and how so much of this is bound up with family.”

UACC’s own Communications Coordinator Erinn Sweet is a first-time conference participant. In addition to convening one of UACC’s two roundtables, she is presenting her paper, “Urban Appalachia Has ‘Entered the Chat’: Including Urban Women in Appalachian Identity Discourse” as part of the “Literature, Poetry, and the Culture of Place” panel on Saturday. (You can read more about Erinn’s research here.)

Panelist MoPoetry Phillips, who has also been featured on this blog, is herself a first-time conference participant and will present a workshop on Saturday called “Thriving After Survival.”

Ashley Hopkins will join her colleague Matthew Smith, both of Miami University, in discussing their ongoing research on Peck’s Addition. Hopkins explained that they shared the initial work on this study of an urban Appalachian neighborhood in Hamilton, Ohio at the last ASA conference. She told me “we are excited to present the progress we have made on this, not just the results of our research but also how this project has become a site of student engagement. We received funding through a grant that allows students to work on the Peck’s Addition research.” The tremendous advantage of this is that it gives students real experience in building a resume, and they can get paid for the work they are doing. Since so much of the work on Peck’s Addition involves collecting stories from people who remember this place, Hopkins pointed out that there is a great deal of overlap with the things happening with UACC, particularly the Story Gathering Project. Her presentation will be one of the first panels on Friday.

Omope Carter Daboiku will also present on the panel entitled “Breaking the Age Code: Creating a Dynamic Writing Space for the Creatively Aging” on Friday. Omope explained that some of her presentation will be informed by some recent research and activism. “I was offered training funded by the Ohio Arts Council to develop some strategies to push back against ageism,” she explained. This work was complemented by some activities with a program called “Pearls of Wisdom” which took place with Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Part of the focus of this panel is on the resilience and coping skills of mountain women, and how this legacy can be sustained.

The “Creatively Aging” panel is convened by Kari Gunter Seymour, Ohio’s poet laureate, who is also hosting the “The Women of Appalachia Project Spoken Word Event” offsite on Saturday evening. (This event is free and open to the public, regardless of conference registration.) Cincinnati area writers Omope Carter Daboiku, Pauletta Hansel and Roberta Schultz are included in the line-up.

Pauletta Hansel is among those working hard throughout the conference. She will join other writers in three Friday sessions, Kari Gunter Seymour’s, “I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing” (which will include Richard Hague and Sherry Cook Stanforth), “Appalachia Inside Out: Reading from Change Seven Magazine,” and of course with “Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel,” convened by Sherry Cook Stanforth. Pauletta will also offer a creative writing workshop on Friday called “Finding the Poem in Family Stories,” and is the convener of the panel on Saturday entitled “Magdelenes of the Mountains: Poetry of Religious Rebellion.” This panel features Sara Moore Wagner who will read from her new collection Hillbilly Madonna, along with urban Appalachian poets Christen Noel Kauffman and Ben Kline. Pauletta told me one thing she is really happy about “is that there will be so much literature from greater Cincinnati and that Cincinnati writers are getting focus and attention.” Scott Goebel is another area writer who will be presenting at the ASA conference on Friday in a panel of readings called “Ashes to Ascension: Jim Webb’s book, Get In, Jesus. Pauletta noted how exciting it is to be able to shine a spotlight on writers who are pushing urban Appalachian literature into the public consciousness.

It seems appropriate that the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and many writers and scholars from greater Cincinnati should make up such a presence at this year’s Appalachian Studies Conference. With the conference in Appalachian Ohio, the centrality of the urban Appalachian experience can move toward the center of what we mean when we present and represent Appalachia. As perhaps the most important meetings of Appalachian scholars, artists, and writers, the Appalachian Studies Conference serves to set the bar for inquiries into and representations of the Appalachian experience in all its richness and diversity. If you plan on attending the ASA, a link with the full program and schedule is below. And again, there is still time to register for the conference. The scholarship deadline is February 15 and the early-bird deadline is February 28, with late registration through March 7.

Full ASA details are at where you can link to the preliminary program, registration and more. Information for the Appalachian Studies Association scholarships are at these links:

BIPOC membership scholarships:

Other scholarships:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iskra Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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