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Appalachian Zines, A Racial Revamp For Rock Climbing Routes And W.Va. Musician John R. Miller Speaks

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Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage
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John R. Miller has gained national attention with the release of his newest album “Depreciated.”

In the latest episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear stories from creators across Appalachia and how they process their lives through their art. Everything from songwriting, to photography, to self-published zines. Suzie Kelly has been making zines for more than 20 years. She talks about how DIY publishing can connect people in unexpected ways.

“Maybe a kid in California finds an Appalachian zine and decides to move to Appalachia,” Kelly told Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams.

And there’s a new edition of a guidebook that lists climbing routes in the New River Gorge. We’ll talk to a climber who challenged the climbing community to rename racist and sexist route names — and won. Also in this episode, West Virginia singer and songwriter John R. Miller brings us up-to-speed on his new album… a lot has changed in his life in the last few years.

In This Episode:

New River Gorge Guidebook Renames Route Names

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Zack Harold
New issues of "New River Rock" include a message from those who helped petition to change the route names.

In October 2020, we talked with West Virginia rock climbers who took on racist, sexist and other offensive route names in the New River Gorge. DJ Grant is a Black climber who helped kickstart the effort to change offensive names that were found throughout the Gorge. The routes — and the pioneering climbers who made them — are recorded in a two-volume guidebook called “New River Rock,” which contains about 3,000 rock-climbing routes in the Gorge and surrounding areas. Last year, Grant and others asked the New River Alliance of Climbers to change some of those route names to get rid of racist and offensive language. A new edition of the book hit shelves this July. Inside Appalachia reporter Zack Harold checked in with Grant on the latest.

Self-Published Zines Can Connect People

A zine, in essence, is a self-published magazine. A zine can be big and glossy, but it’s a lot more likely to be produced by an individual person, often handwritten and made on a photocopier, with the paper folded and stapled. Artist and designer Suzie Kelly has been making zines for more than half of her lifetime. She eventually moved to Florida where she went to a couple of zine fests and got fired up again. When she moved to Johnson City several years ago, she asked, “Why not have a zine fest here, too?”

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Courtesy Suzie Kelly
After spending time in Florida, Suzie Kelly moved to Johnson City and started the Johnson City Zine Fest.

Mason Adams recently visited Suzie’s home in Johnson City to talk about how she got into zines, and what they mean for the people reading and making them.

John R. Miller’s New Album Gains International Attention

Singer and songwriter John R. Miller grew up in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle in a small town called Hedgesville. He’s gotten pretty well known across the state and has performed on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage a few times. Now, he’s got a new album called “Depreciated.”

John R Miller 2021
West Virginia native John R Miller, now living in Nashville, returned to Mountain Stage on August 1.

This is his third album and it’s gained international attention. He’s been featured in SPIN magazine and on official Spotify playlists like “Emerging Americana” and “Fresh Folk.” He moved to Nashville to further his career, and it was during this transitional time that he wrote most of the songs on “Depreciated.” But the Mountain State is never far from his mind. Miller spoke with Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan about the songs on his new album. They started with the song “Shenandoah Shakedown” — which is set in the Shenandoah Valley where he grew up.

Story Of Man’s Struggle Wins Murrow Award

The Edward R. Murrow awards for journalism were announced last month. Our team here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting picked up two first place awards, including for a story that our producer Roxy Todd reported about the plight of small farmers in West Virginia. And an episode that the program Us & Them produced about grandparents raising grandchildren.

We’re excited to work with other journalists who also picked up Murrow awards, including reporter Sandy Hausman of WVTF Radio IQ. Her story about one man’s struggle to gain freedom won first place in the Hard News Category. Rojai Fentress entered prison at just 16 years old and spent 24 years there for a murder he said he didn’t commit. Six years ago, another man confessed to the crime, but Virginia’s governor ignored a petition for pardon from Fentress until Hausman reported on his case. One day later, the state announced it would free the 40-year-old Fentress. This week on the show, we hear the story of what happened next in Hausman’s story, which originally aired in July 2020.

Many Still Face Food Insecurity 

We live in an era of plenty, and yet a lot of people still have trouble accessing or affording fresh, healthy food. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania uses donations to provide meals for people living with food insecurity.

The people who deliver those meals try their best to connect those in need with other kinds of support. And they say food outreach is working. But as Transforming Health’s Brett Sholtis reports, there are limits to what the program can accomplish without broader support for people living in poverty.

 

Three Women Come Together To Form Asheville Band

Asheville, North Carolina, is known for its vibrant music scene. It’s a destination for touring musicians, but it’s home to a thriving local scene, too, anchored by record stores, small venues and house shows. The Smoky Mountain Sirens were formed by three women who’d played in multiple Asheville bands, and as Blue Ridge Mountain Radio’s Matt Peiken reports, they decided to try something new.

North Carolina Author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina. In late 2020, she published her first novel, “Even As We Breathe.” It's a mystery of sorts, set at an upscale mountain resort, and as great books always do, it calls us to think hard about the world around us. NPR's Neda Ulaby visited the author near the reservation where she grew up.

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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by John R. Miller, the Smoky Mountain Sirens, Wes Swing, and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to Inside Appalachia@wvpublic.org.

Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.
Kelley Libby is a Virginia-based public radio editor and producer. She currently edits for Inside Appalachia and its Folkways Reporting Project at WVPB. You can reach here at kelleylibby@gmail.com