Category Archives: Economic Transition

Glamour

I wrote a short piece for Glamour magazine’s September issue, published alongside the voices of women in Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Florida, speaking about the issues that will decide their vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. “I’m a Woman in a Battleground State. Here’s What Politicians Don’t Understand About Me.” For the record: I don’t hate the city where I started my Ph.D. That was an error introduced in the editing process, over which I had limited control. 😉

Works In Progress

In September 2017, I sold two nonfiction books to Random House. One 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: decronin@penguinrandomhouse.com . Translation: linda@defliterary.com.

Turning Coal Mines Into Farms

On a surface-mine-turned-farm in Mingo County, West Virginia, former coal miner Wilburn Jude plunks down three objects on the bed of his work truck: a piece of coal, a sponge, and a peach. He’s been tasked with bringing in items that represent his life’s past, present, and future. Read more in Fall 2017 issue of Yes!…

Kentucky Hemp in “Yes!” Magazine

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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…

Cedar Grove Radio Documentary

Cedar Grove is a story about transition–bridging the past and the future. The hour-long radio documentary reveals surprising hidden histories through the work of renowned novelist Mary Lee Settle and the voices of women from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV. The piece was co-produced by me, Allegheny Mountain Radio, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Settle is the author of 21 books, including her five volume fictional opus, The Beulah Quintet, which spans two continents and 300 years of Appalachian history. Beulah Land is a fictional place grounded in the reality of Settle’s family homeplace at Cedar Grove, a town in West Virginia struggling amid coal industry decline. West Virginia native Catherine Moore visits Cedar Grove and interviews the “real” residents of Beulah Land, searching for stories of survival and resiliency in the face of enormous challenges.

The scenes and characters that emerge take us through wilderness, Underground Railroad operations, the coal mine wars of the early 20th century, and John F. Kennedy’s visit to the Cedar Grove in 1960.

A collaboration with photographer Roger May also produced a robust visual document of life in present-day Cedar Grove. Original music by Caleb Samples. Funding provided by the West Virginia Humanities Council and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

For audio, photos, and more, visit the project website. 

Two New Projects

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.00.59 PMThe Paint Creek Audio History Project is a geo-located series of radio stories featuring the voices of people who live on beautiful Paint Creek, WV. These ten stories became the basis of an audio driving tour delivered via mobile app, as well as a new website for the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association.

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Cedar Grove draws from the writing of Mary Lee Settle and a chorus of voices from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV. The project features a photography collaboration with Roger May. Gibbs Kinderman is the executive producer, the editor is Ben Shapiro. Cedar Grove was co-produced by Allegheny Mountain Radio and West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and me.

These projects would not have been possible without support from The West Virginia Humanities Council, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, the Fayette County Commission, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PRI’s Living on Earth

Art “Bunny” Hayes, rancher – Tongue River (Montana) (Photo: Clay Scott)

Art “Bunny” Hayes, rancher – Tongue River (Montana) (Photo: Clay Scott)

Earlier this year, I collaborated with producers Clay Scott of Mountain West Voices and Reid Frazier of Allegheny Front to produce a half-hour radio doc about the state of coal in America today. Portions of it recently aired on PRI’s Living on Earth:

Living With the Rise and Fall of King Coal” — Coal was a vital industry in Appalachia for a century, but its environmental effects and economics have undermined its power, leaving many once employed by the industry floundering. In a special team report from West Virginia Public Radio, the Allegheny Front, and High Plains News produced by Clay Scott, we explore the past and future for coal mining areas and the people that live there.

The story I contributed to the documentary, about an East Kentucky strip miner turned farmer, spurred this piece on PRI’s main news site, about the mourning of coal’s gradual decline in Appalachia.

Building Barns Out of Coal Tipples: Appalachia’s shifting economy

Since the days when mules carted coal and miners were paid in company credit, coal has certainly been king in Central Appalachia. But now, in a trend not widely noted outside the region, far fewer people make a living in mining there. West Virginia, for example, had 132,000 miners in 1950. Today there are fewer than 20,000, and that number is falling. Nearly every day, Appalachians awake to news of mass layoffs and mine closures.

It’s no one thing. There is cheap and newly-abundant natural gas. Limits on coal-burning power plants. Increased competition from Wyoming, where coal is cheaper to mine and lower in polluting sulfur. And finally, after over 100 years of intensive mining, Appalachia’s coal seams are simply becoming mined out.

Producer Catherine Moore has witnessed this moment. She travelled the back roads of West Virginia from county to county, like Logan, where about 130 laid off miners from Patriot Coal gathered with their families for an emergency meeting held by the state’s workforce development program. Each miner was given a booklet called Surviving a Layoff. Inside, how to write a resume, give a good interview. But something else caught Catherine up short. Listen here…

EXCERPTED FROM “Moving On But No Way Gone: Coal in America,” A 30-MINUTE RADIO DOCUMENTARY COMMISSIONED BY HIGH PLAINS NEWS, AIRING NATIONALLY SPRING 2015.