Catherine Venable Moore — Writer & Producer

Archive for the ‘West Virginia History’ Category

Two Reviews

In Announcements, Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Nonfiction, Photography, Poetry, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on June 5, 2018 at 9:22 am

Two review-essays prompted by WVU Press’s recent reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s 1938 poem cycle, The Book of the Deadto which I wrote the 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.

#Ojeda4Congress on NPR

In Appalachia, Audio, Mine Wars, Nonfiction, West Virginia History on March 30, 2018 at 10:35 am

NPR News, which is already reporting on the 2018 Election in West Virginia, hired me to go down to Pineville to record a meet-and-greet with U.S. House candidate Richard Ojeda, sponsored by the United Mine Workers of America. It was lots of fun talking to Wyoming County voters, and a great research opportunity for a project of my own–the book I’m writing, which compares the politics of the West Virginia Mine Wars era with politics in the Mountain State today.

Read the full story…

Taylor Books Reading March 1

In Announcements, Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Nonfiction, Photography, Poetry, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on February 21, 2018 at 10:41 am

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.

Random House

In Announcements, Appalachia, coal, Economic Transition, Mine Wars, Nonfiction, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on October 3, 2017 at 3:21 pm

In September 2017, I sold two nonfiction books to my dream editor, Kate Medina, at Random House. One is a book 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.

WVU Press Re-publishes “The Book of the Dead”

In Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Nonfiction, Photography, Poetry, Print, West Virginia History on September 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

“Written in response to the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster of 1931 in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, The Book of the Dead is an important part of West Virginia’s cultural heritage and a powerful account of one of the worst industrial catastrophes in American history. The poems collected here investigate the roots of a tragedy that killed hundreds of workers, most of them African American. They are a rare engagement with the overlap between race and environment in Appalachia.

Published for the first time alongside photographs by Nancy Naumburg, who accompanied Rukeyser to Gauley Bridge in 1936, this edition of The Book of the Dead includes an introduction by Catherine Venable Moore, whose writing on the topic has been anthologized in Best American Essays. Read more at West Virginia University Press…

WV Mine Wars Museum Wins NEH Grant

In Announcements, Appalachia, coal, Mine Wars, West Virginia History on August 12, 2017 at 7:10 pm

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…

Best American Essays

In Announcements, Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Nonfiction, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on April 18, 2017 at 9:53 am

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

Read “The Book of the Dead”

In Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Multimedia, Photography, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on December 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm
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Above the Hawk’s Nest Dam on the New River. Photo by Lisa Elmaleh.

My longform nonfiction piece about the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster, “The Book of the Dead: In Fayette County, WV, Expanding the Document of Disaster,” is now available online at The Oxford American‘s website. It was originally published in the magazine’s fall issue and recently won a Commendation from the Stack Awards.

My online archive of Hawk’s Nest Tunnel workers, hawksnestnames.org, is a companion project that houses primary source documents and victims’ names.

Finally, check out this “Photographer’s Day Book” feature from The Oxford American, in which Lisa Elmaleh tracks her pursuit of Hawk’s Nest images for the magazine. I’m so thankful to Lisa for making these photos.

“Book of the Dead” Commended by Stack Awards

In Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on October 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

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The Stack Awards recognize the best work in independent magazines from all over the world. I recently learned that I was short-listed for a Stack Award in Nonfiction for my longform essay, “The Book of the Dead,” published in the Fall 2016 issue of Oxford American. 

The piece explores the history of the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster and how it was documented in poetry by the writer Muriel Rukeyser. It also offers new revelations about the workers who lost their lives in the process of building the tunnel, three quarters of whom were black migratory laborers.

West Virginia-based photographer Lisa Elmaleh was commissioned to provide art for the story. Though the piece is not yet available online, a new website I built archives some of this history: The Book of the Dead: An Archive of Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Workers. 

UPDATE: “The Book of the Dead” was one of two “Commended” finalists. Congrats to The Outpost, which took home the win! Listen to Stack founder Steven Watson talk about the winning and commended pieces in the video below…

Cedar Grove Radio Documentary

In Announcements, Appalachia, Audio, Black History, Cedar Grove, coal, Economic Transition, Mary Lee Settle, Multimedia, Photography, West Virginia History, Women's History on August 30, 2016 at 10:45 am

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.