By Mike Templeton

It is clear from some of the past several blog articles that Core Members and others associated with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition have been extremely busy. New books, the Kith & Kin Project, Place Keepers, music, the Appalachian Festivals, both large and small—it has been such a massively productive time for urban Appalachia. Behind the scenes, of course, there are people like Core Member and UACC Administrator, Maureen Sullivan, who holds all this together. I imagine her like those people from old movies with a half-dozen phones on their desk keeping all the logistical lines open. And Communications Specialist, Erinn Sweet, maintaining the digital realm. This operates like some kind of magic to me, as if she were the staff wizard. I have simply been an outfielder catching the fly balls and turning them around. Given that I do have a little time out here in the outfield, I thought I’d check in with some of the things I, as the main UACC blogger, have been doing. 

First things first, I got word just yesterday that my novella has been accepted for publication with a small publisher out of Seattle called Nut Hole Publishing. The novella, the awaiting of awaiting, is part of a much larger project I have been working on that includes a chapbook of poetry which was also recently picked up by LJMcD Communications. The larger project is a little difficult to explain, but other aspects will include two short plays, which I am currently writing, and music that I write and record with my song-writing partner Jamie Taylor. The musical end of this is part of a project called Paranoid Systems—kind of a doom-shoe-gaze-post-punk-whatever… noisy music by two geezers, Howzat. You can give it a listen on Bandcamp. The larger project, the novella and poems, and the plays all pertain to my interest in the ways communication has become so difficult in the twenty-first century, and how these difficulties are literally making us sick.

Obviously, the release of my book The Chief of Birds: A Memoir last fall was a major milestone and achievement for me. The book has done quite well thanks in large part to the support of people in our urban Appalachian Communities. The help of Downbound Books in Northside for stocking physical copies of the book was a massive boost for the book. Walking in there and finding my book literally two books away from Patti Smith on the memoir shelf is something I will indulge myself on for the rest of my days.

Writing for UACC led to a full exploration of the conditions in Ohio’s Appalachian Counties. After writing about the horrifying events in Pike County, I began doing some research on the social and economic conditions of Pike County and other Appalachian Ohio Counties. As horrible as the murders were in Pike County, the general conditions of life in our Ohio Appalachian Counties is just as bleak. While there is good news in the form of a few opportunities for employment, the ways these regions are being converted back to natural conditions, and social interventions into some of the struggles for folks out that way, the people of Ohio’s Appalachian Counties are often operating like a forgotten people. This research is in a project on Ohio in general which is under review with a publishing house that works with alternative publishing processes. If they pick up my work, it will likely be an ebook of sorts.

I am working toward building a website to collect these things into a single place. This means exploring options with people within the Appalachian community to accomplish this. One of the great advantages of being involved with UACC is the fact that we are drawn into Appalachian communities that are founded in part on a simple commitment to helping each other out. If there is anything I have learned about Appalachian people over the last few years is that we are all about lifting each other up, and this sense of responsibility to each other extends to everyone, not just fellow Appalachians.

If I needed any evidence of how people from within UACC and beyond are there for me to offer help it came almost exactly a year ago when I was diagnosed with throat cancer. The support and material assistance came immediately from the folks at UACC. I am grateful, and I will remain grateful for the rest of my life for everything the folks at UACC did for me and my wife during that time. Almost a full year later I am much better, but still recovering. I am not quite the same, but I am learning to live with the changes. I wrote a short reflective essay on my thoughts on cancer and how I see myself in the world after having cancer that was published by Becoming Press. After all that happened, I am back to walking the trails in the woods with my wife. She is the greatest blessing to me.

Really, I am grateful and happy be back to writing blog articles for the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. Since getting back to writing for UACC things have been amazingly busy in the best possible ways. And any successes I may have achieved in the past year are just signs for me to keep at it. Keep at it is what I intend to do while keeping a sense of gratitude about things. Someone once told not to think too much and just keep putting the hay on the truck, and that advice has worked wonders for me.

You can order The Chief of Birds: A Memoir at this link:

The link for the Paranoid Systems Bandcamp can be found here:

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

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