1. My main contribution to the Appalachian region is raising two responsible sons who care about the culture and the land. One is a professional Bluegrass/Jazz fiddler and the other is a landscape painter/photographer. My poetry depicts my deep roots in the mountains and that I live in their midst on my own terms. It is apparent in my work that I am strongly opposed to strip mining, mountaintop removal, and fracking. I struggle to remove the prejudice I grew up with – aimed at those of other beliefs, races, sexual orientation, or the mentally ill. I became a psychiatric nurse to help those that are so often misunderstood or stigmatized and established a group for family and visitors of patients to educate about mental illness, hopefully promoting more understanding. For many years, I worked as a volunteer at an elementary school to expose children to art projects and the writing of poetry.
2. Appalachia is a place so beautiful that the land itself is balm for any hardship that its hardy people must endure. The culture encompasses utilizing everything you have and wasting nothing with a community that supports, adapts, and pitches in to help as needed. The culture – music, dance, and crafts/art - is drawn mostly from Indigenous, Celtic, and African influences as though the continents were still connected.
3. We need to encourage our children to continue the culture and be good stewards of the land. We can build their confidence and help them take pride in their heritage by exposing them to all aspects of the culture. Every child should have access to a musical instrument as an essential part of their development.
4. We need to tell our own stories, be our own historians from our point of view. Not all outside observers will have preconceived ideas but some will promote stereotypes simply by misunderstanding. We are our stories. We hand ourselves over for ridicule and negativity when others step in with a possible agenda. We need to check ourselves for truth, live that truth, and promote it.
5. I am inspired by just looking out my window, walking in the woods or along the river, listening to music at local venues or someone’s house after dinner, exploring the farmer’s market, finding every kind of wildflower I have noted in the past every Spring, reading especially the works of Appalachian writers, stepping out onto a Parkway overlook, and seeing what artistic endeavors my sons come up with next – and so much more that I simply have to turn to writing my own poetry to continue.