With an approaching book deadline, I haven’t been taking on too many freelance assignments, but this one was just too good to pass up. The literary magazine Terrain is preparing to publish an anthology of writings in response to the current national crises—political, environmental, ethical. They’ve been publishing a series of “Letters to America” ever since the 2016 election. These “letters” take various forms—epistles, poems, fables, even a bit of artwork—but they all respond to the changing American landscape so vividly illuminated by Donald Trump’s win. Writers, artists, intellectuals, activists—citizens of both the country and the planet—have, over the past two years, steadily contributed a variety of literary reactions to the world we all awoke to on the morning of November 9. I’m working on a letter for the anthology, which will sit in good company alongside writings by writer-heroes Robert Hass, Camille Dungy, and Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington who is 17-0 against Trump in court.
Two review-essays prompted by WVU Press’s recent reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s 1938 poem cycle, The Book of the Dead, to which I wrote an introduction…
Los Angeles Review of Books, “I Wake Up Choking,” by Maggie Messitt:
The Book of the Dead is a story about race. It’s about industry. It’s about being held accountable and the right to a safe workplace. But, to me — like so many Great Depression narratives — it’s about wealth and power and the ways in which that has trumped humanity and justice across time.
The Paris Review, “Muriel Rukeyser, Mother of Everyone” by Sam Huber:
We often lament our porosity to the world’s data as a uniquely contemporary curse. Rukeyser imagines it instead as a capacity we might cultivate, no easier for having been attempted before by others like her, from whom we are lucky to learn, and by many more who will not be preserved or restored. So often in her poems, Rukeyser is both student and teacher.
Wrapping up a series of readings and events to promote the re-issue of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem collection, The Book of the Dead, by West Virginia University Press. One more chance to catch a reading here in the region, and this one should be pretty special. I’ll be joined by several descendants of Hawks Nest Tunnel silicosis victims, who will read from Rukeyser’s work. I’ll also read a bit of my nonfiction essay that introduces the new edition of the book. March 1, 5:30-7:00 PM. Visit the event page for details.
In September 2017, I sold two nonfiction books to my dream editor, Kate Medina. One of the books is about the history and legacy of the Battle of Blair Mountain; the other is an essay collection. Here’s the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:
University of Montana MFA graduate, Best American Essays 2017 writer and producer of public radio documentaries Catherine Venable Moore’s two works of narrative non-fiction set in Appalachia, exploring events in the past of America and of that region, from the violent West Virginia Mine Wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, up to the politics of today, to Kate Medina at Random House, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company (World English). UK rights: firstname.lastname@example.org . Translation: email@example.com.
On August 2, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is the recipient of a $30,000 challenge grant for The Blair Centennial Project, our long-term plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021!
The NEH grant committee called the Blair Centennial Project “A bold and collaborative effort to use the humanities to foster cultural tourism and give a challenged community hope for the future through respect for the past.” Read More…
“The Book of the Dead“—my essay on the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster and the poet Muriel Rukeyser from the Fall 2016 issue of Oxford American—will be included in the The Best American Essays 2017. One of my favorite writers, Leslie Jamison, edited this year’s collection. From the publisher’s listing:
The best-selling essayist Leslie Jamison picks the best essays from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites, bringing her incredible ability to “stitch together the intellectual and the emotional with the finesse of a crackerjack surgeon” (NPR) to the task.
Crackerjack! Preorder your copy…
This year I’ll be spending some of the spring and fall months in New England at two writing residencies. I’m happy to announce that I’m the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship in Longform Journalism at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH, and a Mountain State Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT.
I’ll be finishing up my current book project for Ohio University Press / Swallow Press, a collection essays titled Transmontane, and getting started on a proposal for my next book. I’m very grateful to these two institutions for the encouragement and support!
At the birth of any industry, uncertainty abounds. So does opportunity, say Kentuckians like Joe Schroeder of Freedom Seed and Feed, who is among those growing industrial hemp and advocating for others in Appalachia to do the same.
“It’s really speculative,” says Schroeder. “But people are making a lot of money, and that money is real.”
But don’t take that talk of money to mean Schroeder is greedy. At a time when the region’s collapsing coal and tobacco industries have left gaping holes in central Appalachia’s economy, at least some of Kentucky’s hemp experimenters want to maximize the benefit to as many local people as possible.
Read more of my story on industrial hemp at Yes! Magazine…