Hindman Settlement School has always been about transformation in the lives of people who call central Appalachia, “home.” For us, this happens through a number of services and experiences, but one of the most lasting traditions here on Troublesome is that of our literary legacy. Hindman Settlement School is the seedbed of the Appalachian literary tradition, starting with our founders and weaving through early teachers and housemothers who wrote prose and poetry to express the world they watched developing all around them. A young Al Stewart, raised on the Settlement campus by one such novelist, Lucy Furman, would start a writers’ workshop at Morehead State University that would eventually become our Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, now entering its 42nd year.
We are very proud of how our literary programs are growing at present, with our partnership with Narrative 4, the hiring of the James Still Writer-in-Residence in 2017, the introduction of The Makery, the Lee Smith Reading Room in our new May Stone Gathering Place, and our foray into a small press with our recently announced partnership with the University Press of Kentucky (more extensive information on that to come soon). One of the recent projects I have begun working on is an affiliation with the venerable Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, Vermont. Bread Loaf has an intensely rich history of regionally distinctive literary and educational programs that have addressed graduate education, teacher networks, and student expression for decades. Sound familiar?
As much as the imaginative themes between Middlebury and Hindman intersect, we have only had two meaningful interactions in our history, the first when James Still went to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1937 and now, with me, when I visited the Middlebury and Andover programs in July to forge ahead on this dreamed about partnership.
We are at the beginning stages of developing what, I think, promises to be a high impact opportunity for students and teachers throughout eastern Kentucky to be part of a larger movement where students learn to write for purposes of advocacy, where we learn to address our community’s concerns about food insecurity with a bent toward food justice for people of the mountains, where we engage teachers from throughout the region into a network of other teachers who are using English and creative writing to greatly influence their students’ education and real world life preparation, and where people from our region experience all of this alongside peers from geographic locales across the United States—urban Boston, the rural Navajo Nation, upland South Carolina, New York City, and even suburban Louisville.
Stay tuned for more information about our budding partnership with Bread Loaf. This is one of those relationships that just makes sense, and we are seeing our way through toward making this a reality. If you’d like to be part of it, we are happy to discuss ways you can do so!