A spoken word tour dispels stereotypes and gives voice to Appalachian women.

Kari Gunter-Seymour founded the Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak tour to help dispel negative stereotypes about mountain women. But she’s ended up doing something even better. “It has become more about building a sisterhood,” says Gunter-Seymour, an Albany, Ohio-based poet and photographer. 

The spoken word showcase—which will make its first-ever appearance at WVU’s Downtown Campus Library on September 30 at 1 p.m. as part of its ninth annual tour—features short fiction, performance pieces, essays, poetry, and songs from women all over Appalachia’s 420 counties. Gunter-Seymour says artists form lasting bonds as they travel and perform at the tour’s six stops, which often leads to more collaboration down the road. 

And since Women Speak often showcases writers who’ve never shown their work publicly before, Gunter-Seymour says they leave with the confidence to continue exhibiting their work. “I think we create this feeling of inclusion and self-esteem,” she says. 

This is no amateur affair, though. Gunter-Seymour says Women Speak events often draw standing-room-only crowds. “People come to our events and cry. Or they’re belly laughing. We give it our all. We really tell the truth,” she says. 

Women Speak’s WVU appearance is a project of WVU Libraries and the university’s LGBTQ+ Center, Women’s Resource Center, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, and WVU Campus Read. 

Visit Women of Appalachia Project’s website for more information. womenofappalachia.com