WMKY

Eric Douglas

Eric is a native of Kanawha County and graduated from Marshall University with a degree in Journalism. He has written for newspapers and magazines throughout his career. After completing the certificate program with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, he began producing documentaries including Russia: Coming of Age, For Cheap Lobster and West Virginia Voices of War.

 

Working with FestivALL in Charleston, he has recorded more than 100 oral histories and produced a multimedia documentary of those stories called Memories of the Valley.

He is also an avid scuba diver and a former dive instructor. He has written a series of thriller novels set in locations around the world. For a change of pace, he prints his underwater photographs using the antique technique called cyanotype, also known as sun prints.

Appalachia has many strengths and faces many challenges. Some of those are addressed in a new book produced by the Ohio Valley ReSource, a public media reporting collaborative made up of reporters from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. 

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Stories of snake handlers, moonshining and the isolated mountains of West Virginia have been around for years, but “Shiner,” a new novel by author Amy Jo Burns, looks at them from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl caught in the middle. 

Eric Douglas spoke with Burns to discuss the newly released book. 

Douglas: The book is set in modern day, but there are pieces of it that feel like they could have been told 100 years ago. 

Stories of life in Appalachia are often told from a male perspective, but many young writers and authors are trying to change that. They want to make sure the story of Appalachia’s women are not forgotten. 

In Cassie Chambers’ memoir “Hill Women” she examines her life in eastern Kentucky through the eyes of three generations of women in her family. 

She spoke with Eric Douglas to discuss the book -- and her pursuits that ultimately led her back to eastern Kentucky. 

Stan Bumgardner is a historian and the editor of Goldenseal Magazine, a folklife publication about West Virginia. He recently wrote an essay titled “What is Appalachia?” for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Author Bonnie Proudfoot began working on her new novel “Goshen Road” nearly 25 years ago, but she said she had to get older before she had the confidence to finish it. The story follows two sisters growing up in northern West Virginia, beginning as teens in 1967. 

She described the book as women-centered Appalachian fiction, although she was quick to point out that not every chapter was told from a woman’s point of view. 

Many families have turned to video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic. Those online conversations can also  serve a larger purpose  —  to capture family oral histories. 

Oral histories are, at their simplest, recordings of memories. They have been around since the earliest days of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Documentarians or researchers would head out into the field to record the memories of people who survived grand events in human history. In the process, they also recorded local music and tall tales. 


One could spend a lifetime learning about Appalachia, and just scratch the surface. 

On this week’s episode, we take a deeper look at traditional cultural practices found throughout these mountains.

We’ll hear stories spanning from fiddle music, to Appalachian style food. We’ll also hear how moonshine getaway cars turned into an Appalachian subculture of families who rebuild and race hot rods.


Love For Mountains And Each Other, Inside Appalachia

Feb 17, 2020

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about love. Not the florist and jewelry store version of love, but love for something deeper: love for home, family, for the mountains. 

We also have a variety of personal love letters from listeners, and we'll talk a little bit about being in love, too.


Stories about Appalachia tend to fall into two camps-- quaint stories about cultural oddities, or reports about grim health and economic statics that our region struggles with. And while those stories have merit, they aren’t the only stories that matter.

Understanding What Mountains Mean, Inside Appalachia

Jan 24, 2020

“Montani Semper Liberi ⁠— Mountaineers Are Always Free” is West Virginia’s state motto, but it is more than that. It is a belief system that is not just true about the Mountain State. It rings true throughout Appalachia and even mountains on other continents.

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re doing something a bit different. We’re taking a temperature check on how people are feeling about politics as we head into what is sure to be a critical election year. While most people have the presidential race on their minds, there are many local races here that will have lasting impacts as well.

Holiday Food And Music Traditions, Inside Appalachia

Dec 30, 2019

At Inside Appalachia, we can’t get enough of the holidays and the traditions that come out of these mountains. So for this week’s episode, we are taking another listen to a show that originally aired last December.


Passing Down Holiday Traditions, Inside Appalachia

Dec 21, 2019

In this episode of Inside Appalachia we’ll hear stories about holiday traditions that have been passed down through several generations. We’ll travel to a toy maker’s workshop where toys are handmade⁠ — similar to what your grandparents might remember from Christmases past. 

We’ll also explore the grief that sometimes comes with the holidays, as family members who created traditions are no longer with us, and look at Christmas tree farms in Appalachia trying to help preserve family traditions. 


Katherine Manley grew up in abject poverty in Logan County, W. Va., but went on to teach in the same schools she attended. 

Mountain State Press recently published her memoir, “Don’t Tell ‘Em You’re Cold” about her upbringing and how she overcame those challenges. The book's title refers to a time when she was begging on the streets of Logan with her father. He was afraid the authorities would take her away if she told anyone she was cold.  

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll take a trip across our region and meet people in Tennessee, to Kentucky, and Ohio. Each of the stories featured highlight an element of life here in Appalachia that is often overlooked. 


West Virginia author Mesha Maren’s debut novel “Sugar Run” is set in a fictional version of Greenbrier County. Maren is from Alderson and currently splits her time between North Carolina and West Virginia. 

“Sugar Run” tells the story of a woman named Jodi McCarty. The story begins as she is being released from prison. She wants to head back to where she grew up in southern West Virginia, to live on land owned by her grandmother. But before she does that, she wants to make good on a promise she made before prison.

Rivers And Lakes See Heavy Recreational Use, Inside Appalachia

Dec 6, 2019

For many people in Appalachia, the lakes, rivers and creeks are the first places we swam, played in the water or caught crawdads. For many adults, our waterways are some of the best places to get outdoors and cool off in the summer. We have whitewater rafting, swimming, boating and even scuba diving to choose from (yes, scuba diving, you read that right.)  

It may be December, but we wanted to take another listen to this episode to imagine the fun we will have this summer. And as a reminder that the rivers and waters of Appalachia are an important, vital resource all year long.


Reimagining A New Economic Future For Appalachia

Dec 2, 2019

Our region has faced major economic changes and challenges in the past decade. But if you know our region’s history, this story of boom and bust, renewal and recession, is an all too familiar story. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how these economic changes affect people, our friends, our neighbors, and how entire communities can be uprooted by the closing of a local factory, or coal-mine layoffs. 


This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are making connections with each other, themselves, or a spiritual community. 

In 2013, Jim Dahlman, a journalist and professor of communications at Milligan College in Tennessee, set out to learn more about Appalachia by walking Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road from Tennessee into Kentucky. 

The walk inspired the recently published book “A Familiar Wilderness: Searching for Home on Daniel Boone’s Road.” It is a collection of history, modern observations and interviews with people Dahlman met along the way. 


By branding southern West Virginia “Hatfield & McCoy” country, are we re-affirming negative stereotypes in Appalachia?

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how some communities in southern West Virginia are hoping to jumpstart their local economies through tourism. In particular, we’ll explore a type of tourism that caters to ATV riders along the Hatfield and McCoy trail system.

But what do we gain, and what do we lose, when we market ourselves to visitors? Are people able to remain true to their real identity, and claim ownership of their own narrative? We'll discuss that and more in this week's episode.


In her new novel, "Blood Creek", author Kimberly Collins writes about the strikes that gripped the southern West Virginia coalfields in the early 20th Century from the perspective of the women who lived through them.

"Blood Creek" is the first in the Mingo Chronicles series. It starts with the strike at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in 1912. Collins used real characters from history in her books, several of whom she is related to. 


Think back to the last time you saw an Appalachian portrayed on TV, in the national media, in a book or a cartoon. Often, when people talk about Appalachians, they portray us as white, or poor, or ignorant -- or all three. But when you dig beneath the surface, and challenge the stereotypes that are often used to misrepresent people who live in our region, the story becomes much more honest, and interesting.

People on the outside looking in often misunderstand Appalachia’s cultural ways and traditions. Those same attitudes are often leveled at people from the Middle East. 

The new student podcast Sandstone, by Clara Haizlett, seeks to introduce people from both cultures, with the aim of developing greater understanding between them. 


West Virginia is one of ten states where the number of children living in areas of concentrated poverty is increasing. That’s according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Data Snapshot on High-Poverty Communities.” 


When Traditional Food Becomes Trendy, Inside Appalachia

Oct 5, 2019

What foods did your parents and grandparents cook when you were growing up? What memories of food do you hold onto after all these years?

This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll talk about food from our region. We'll explore what happens when fancy chefs start cooking up our traditional fare, and we discuss how what we consider to be staples are called "trash food" by others.

In The Face Of Adversity, 6 Stories Of Resilience In Appalachia

Sep 28, 2019

Across Appalachia, there are remarkable stories of resilience in the face of adversity. This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are recovering from drug addiction, and are finding a new path forward by learning to build stringed instruments. And we’ll learn about a rare plant that rebounded after being put on the endangered species list. And why this particular plant, called the buffalo running clover, has a secret weapon; when it’s beaten down, it bounces back even stronger.


The U.S. Census Bureau released data last week that showed the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line went down for the first time since the Great Recession of 2008. 

Overall, the number of people living in poverty, nationwide, decreased by half a percentage point from 2017 to 2018 covering nearly 1.5 million people.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how our history is intertwined with our future. We’ll hear from coal miners and children about how they are reshaping Appalachia, while remembering the past.

Pinch, West Virginia is home to about 3,500 people and the longest running community reunion in the country. Since 1902, the reunion has brought current residents together as well as many who moved away.


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