Tag Archives: Appalachian Studies Association Conference

Q&A with Amy Clark

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association conference, we decided to get in touch with UPK author Amy Clark. Check out our question and answer session to learn about the University of Virginia professor:

UPK:       What first prompted you to think about and study Appalachian Englishes?

AC:           I grew up in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and my first education in vernacular dialects had to be my upbringing. Voice was at the center of everything, like how my family told stories, the cadence of a preacher’s sermon, and music…always music. My dad sang in a quartet on weekends so I grew up traveling and listening to old-style mountain music, which is full of vernacular grammar, accent, and words.


UPK:       Who are some of your role models in the Appalachian community?

AC:           I grew up with three living generations of family, so I have to say they were my first role models because they were my first teachers, historians, sociologists…you name it. Everyone who came after simply added on to that foundation they gave me. I know everyone says this but it’s true of me, as well: I discovered Appalachian literature when I was introduced to Lee Smith’s and Denise Giardina’s books. And seeing my own voice on the printed page was a revelation, because it meant there was artistic integrity in the way we speak. I continue to be inspired by other writers like those I’ve gotten to know through the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman. Helen Lewis has inspired me because of her service and activism. And so many scholars who have done good work…too many to name.


UPK:       Have you ever been a victim of linguistic bigotry?

AC:           I’ve experienced regional bigotry, which likely had a great deal to do with my accent because that’s the first indicator of where I’m from. It surprises me that denigrating Appalachia is still not taboo, and it surprises me when the bigotry comes from highly-educated or high-ranking people.


UPK:       What are your responsibilities as the founding director of the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           My primary responsibility is growing a network of teachers who are good role models for their colleagues in progressive ways to teach writing in all disciplines, at all levels. I write grants to support my leadership team of teachers, who train a new batch of teachers every summer to develop workshops that we offer in public schools. We also have Young Writer’s Camps and Writing Retreats. As co-founder/Director of our new Center for Appalachian Studies, I’m including the AWP as part of the CAS outreach, and there will be more opportunities for teachers to integrate Appalachian studies into their curriculums.


UPK:       What have you learned from working with the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           I was a public school teacher at the beginning of my career, so I know how hard it can be. There are so many excellent, hard-working teachers in our system who-if given the resources, support, and time-are willing to go beyond the call of duty in the classroom and share their good practices with colleagues. So many of them are good writers, too, but like their students, they have trouble acknowledging it. We spend time in our writing institutes working on that insecurity. Several of our teachers, like Rebecca Elswick, author of Mama’s Shoes, have gone on to publish their work.


UPK:       What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference at Marshall University?

AC:           I’m doing a workshop on Friday about teaching writing to vernacular speakers, which is based on my chapter in the book, so I’m excited to have that opportunity (see my answer to 7 for more about that.) I’m looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and hearing about the new work that’s being done.


UPK:       What advice would you give a teacher from outside of the Appalachian region who might be teaching in Appalachia for the first time?

AC:           Come with your cup empty and learn as much as you can about our histories. And because most teachers aren’t well-versed in sociolinguistics, I would urge them to learn more about the dialects-where they come from, why people speak them, and how best to teach bi-dialectal speakers. Contrary to institutionalized ideas about a “right” and “wrong” English, we speak on a continuum of Englishes. So I would advise them not to simply dismiss what is nonstandard as wrong or incorrect, but instead, appreciate the historical significance of it and then teach students how to sensitively shift into a standard spoken and written version when they need it, but understand that they don’t have to deny their “first” voices.


UPK:       What was it like to have your co-edited book, Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, be used as a dialect resource for actors during the filming of Big Stone Gap?

AC:           It was thrilling. Adriana Trigiani called me when she saw a piece I had written about Appalachian dialects and she said she wanted to use the book. She also asked me to do a phonetic rendering of the script so actors would know how to pronounce some of the words, so we met and talked about that once the movie was underway. I was able to watch Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd (who Tweeted about the book) as they filmed a scene, and our dog, Sadie, ended up in the scene with them.


UPK:       What other successes has Talking Appalachian seen in the past year? Has it been used as a resource in other areas?

AC:           It is being taught in several university classrooms, such as University of Kentucky and UVa.’s College at Wise, and it was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers, especially after a recent piece I published in the New York Times about writing in a vernacular voice. I’m also happy to report that it will be released in paperback this fall.


UPK:       Did you have any favorite Appalachian traditions or pastimes growing up in Virginia?

AC:           My family made and sold molasses on my great-grandmother’s farm, and I have good memories of participating every fall. They harvested the cane, which was crushed in horse-drawn mill. We boiled it in pans flanked by benches that someone had taken out of old school buses. The kids used hole-punched pie pans nailed to broomstick handles to skim the batch as it cooked. Then, the pan would be hoisted on chains so the molasses could be poured into mason jars. My family took orders and sold out before a batch was even finished. I can still remember the smell of smoke in my hair every night, and the older folks sitting on the bus benches near the evaporating pan, smoking and listening to the high school football game on the radio. I’m quilting now with my mother and grandmother, and my four-year old daughter watches and pretends to help. I’m eager to start new traditions with my own children that they will carry forward.

To delve deeper into the life of Appalachia and Amy Clark, check out her book Talking Appalachia!

G is for Games

In honor of the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association Conference, we thought we would share some fun Appalachian culture with you! The next time you’re bored, pass the time by playing Drop the Handkerchief like so many Appalachian children did. You may recognize the jingle that goes along with it:

“A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket.
I sent a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it.
A little child picked it up and put it in his pocket,
His pocket, he put it in his pocket.”

Here are the rules for the game:

1)      Pick somebody to be the leader and give them a handkerchief.

2)      The remaining players make a circle by linking arms. Be sure to leave the leader outside of the circle.

3)      The leader skips around the outside of the circle while the players on the inside sing the jingle.

4)      At some point, the leader needs to drop the handkerchief behind the feet of one of the players.

5)      Once the person who gets the handkerchief dropped behind their feet realizes that they were picked, they grab the handkerchief and chase the leader around the circle.

6)      If the leader gets caught before they make it around the circle, they take another turn dropping the handkerchief behind somebody’s feet. However, if they make it all the way around the circle without being caught, then the person who was selected by the original leader becomes the new leader.

Like this game? It’s featured among many others in Appalachian Toys and Games by Linda Hager Pack!  Be sure to check out the rest of her book, as well as the beautiful illustrations done by A is for Appalachia illustrator, Pat Banks!

Kentucky in the ASA

If you can’t tell, we are getting pumped about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association Conference! This event is an exciting time for many people related to Appalachian culture, including a surprising number of Kentucky students and professors! Going to the conference? Be sure to check out these interesting events put on by Kentuckians:

Who: UK PhD students, Heather D. McIntyre and Richard Parmer
What: Releasing paper titled “Environment, Media, Agency”
When: March 28, 11:00 – 12:15 p.m.

Who: UK PhD student, Julie. A Shepherd-Powell
What: Releasing paper titled “Beyond the Coal Divide”
When: March 28, 11:00 – 12:15 p.m.

Who: UK PhD student, Katherine McComas Maddy
What: Participating in a panel over “Living in the ‘Stroke Belt”
When: March 28, 11:00 – 12:15 p.m.

Who: NKU Associate Professor, Dr. Rebecca J. Bailey
What: Releasing paper “To Make Plain The Issue”
When: March 28, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.

Who: UK Professor, Dr. Ann Kingsolver; UK Program Coordinator at the Appalachian Center, Shane Barton; UK PhD student Zada Komara
What: Hosting a panel over “Kentucky Coal Camp Documentary Project of the UK Appalachian Center: An Interactive Website”
When: March 28, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.

Who: EKU Professor, Dr. Alice Jones
What: Discussion over “Academia/Activism: A Dialogue”
When: March 28, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.

Who: UK Undergraduate student, Phillip Barnett
What: Panel over “AppalArts Magazine: The Origin”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: UoL graduate student, James K. Pugh
What: Poster session over “Economics of Mountain Top Coal Removal in Central Appalachia
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: NKU graduate student, Christian J. Messer Gaitskill
What: Poster session over “Social and Cultural Factors as a Catalyst for Change”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: Morehead State University undergraduate student, Montana Hobbs
What: Poster session over “Traditional Music Alive in ‘New Appalachia’”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: UK professor, Dr. Jeff Spradling
What: He is hosting a panel on “Using Community Service to Build Paths Back to East Kentucky for Robinson Scholars”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: Transylvania University, Martha Billups; Union College professor Dr. Jimmy Dean Smith
What: Releasing paper titled “I Had To Take Pen in Hand”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Who: Morehead State University undergraduate students, Sarah Shepherd, Andrew Kuchenbroad, and Joseph Rivers
What: Unconference over “Imagined Possibilities for the Region’s Children”
When: March 28, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Celebrating Appalachia and Helen Matthews Lewis

Home to approximately 25 million people, Appalachia is nestled in hills and steeped in tradition. It ranges from the southern tip of New York State down to the northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. It is a region of abundant natural beauty and natural resources, of folk songs and farmland, of dialects and powerful voices that hold powerful opinions.

However, some Americans don’t see Appalachia in such a light. Their view is clouded by jokes and stereotypes of the ignorant, racist “hillbilly” who doesn’t speak properly, of the “trailer trash” who always drinks moonshine and never wears shoes. Although the region struggles with certain problems such as poverty, its people and culture are not stereotypes to ridicule. They are diverse, intelligent, and ever-hopeful.

Helen Matthews LewisThis is what Helen Matthews Lewis, known as the “Mother of Appalachian Studies,” has helped others to see throughout her lifetime and career. A Georgia native, Helen has worked with miners in the coalfields of southwest Virginia and has worked with the communities of Jellico, Tennessee; McDowell County, West Virginia; and Ivanhoe, Virginia. She helped give birth to Appalachian Studies and has taught and lectured at many of the leading educational institutions in the Appalachian region. Among her other contributions, she has mentored seminarians working in the mountains; been involved in adult and community educational programs throughout the region and abroad; served as President of the Appalachian Studies Association; and held major leadership roles at the Highlander Research and Education Center and Appalshop.

Helen’s story counters negative images and stereotypes, as she has confronted rural poverty, racial prejudice, economic injustice, and traditional gender roles. Her ability to empathize, her moral courage, and her intellectual honesty have made her well-equipped for the fight for social and economic justice in Appalachia. Her life story demonstrates that, with perseverance and passion, change can occur. Communities can be impacted. Lives can be bettered—for generations to come.Helen Matthews Lewis 2

If you want to learn more about Helen Matthews Lewis’s work and Appalachia, pick up a paperback copy of Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).


The Appalachian Studies Association Conference is Coming

The ASA’s annual 37th conference is just eleven days away! The conference will take place at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia March 28-30. Every year many awards are given to deserving candidates, some of which have been UPK authors! Do you recognize these names?

Cratis D. Williams and James S. Brown Service Award
2009 – William H. Turner
2007 – Ron Lewis (Co-Recipient)
2004 – Patricia D. Beaver
1993 – Richard Drake (Co-Recipient)
1993 – Loyal Jones  (Co-Recipient)

Weatherford Award – Nonfiction
2011 – Emily Satterwhite
2010 – Chris Green
2009 – Ronald D. Eller
2004 – Michael Montgomery
1999 – Loyal Jones
1989 – Jon Inscoe
1982 – Ronald D. Eller
1978 – Henry D. Shapiro
1977 – Gurney Norman
1975 – Brian Wooley
1971 – David H. Looff

Weatherford Award – Special
1999 – Sidney Saylor Farr
1996 – Loyal Jones
1979 – Cratis Williams – 1979
1978 – Harriette Simpson Arnow
1977 – James Still
1976 – Harry Caudill
1975 – Jesse Stuart

Helen M. Lewis Service Award
2013 – Amy Clark on behalf of the Appalachian Writing Project
2008 – Silas House
2007 – Gurney Norman

Carl A. Ross Student Paper Award
2004 – Emily Satterwhite
1984 – Jon Inscoe

Wilma Dykeman “Faces of Appalachia” Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship
2009/2010 – Emily Satterwhite

Check back after the conference to see this year’s recipients! Who do you think will win?