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Katlin and her cat, Billie Joe, who she adopted after finding her on the streets of Bristol in 2017. Photo: Katlin Kazmi/Submitted

Welcome back, fellow Appalachians!

Lexi here. This week marks the start of our FIFTH Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series. Not so shabby for a short-term series that started with an expiration date!

This week, I'd like to introduce you to our incoming co-host Katlin Kazmi and, whew, are y'all in for a treat! Katlin's the co-owner of The Pakalachian Food Truck in Abingdon, Virginia, and the assistant principal of Wallace Middle School. Over the next four weeks, Katlin will be sharing with us some of her personal stories of trial and triumph, as well as her travels across the globe. This month, she'll give us a glimpse into the world of culinary arts, tell us about the inspiration behind her creative endeavors and, if we're lucky, we may even learn a cooking tip or two! Here's a note from Katlin about what you can expect to see in September:


I tried my damndest to flee Appalachia, wanting to be far from the kudzu vines and coal dust. 

I vowed I would never return after college. Little did I realize at the time that you can’t exactly escape Southwest Virginia, at least not mentally — this region breathes the culture into you from birth; it hard wires you to look at the world from a lens of creative ingenuity and hard work. Like our slate blue mountains, we, too, are chiseled; formed by stubborn love and unique experiences.

The fact that Appalachia honestly and humbly gives you a culture of your own is perhaps its most beautiful quality.

My name is Katlin Wohlford Kazmi. I come from a long line of fried bologna sandwiches, piled up porches and barefoot summer days in a garden with heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds passed down through generations. Over the years, my travels have taken me far beyond the Appalachian mountains. All before I created another human life, I devoured the ooey gooey in Rome, saw the sky streak green and purple from the Northern Lights in Iceland, taught school in Malawi, Africa, bought war antiques in Chile, have been eaten alive by the sand flies of the Peruvian Amazon, and smelled every single lily in London’s Kew Gardens.

But as I see it, nothing compares to spending a Sunday afternoon in Southwest Virginia, playing Rook and laughing with the people who make this place home.

I have — as you probably surmised — moved back to Appalachia and currently live in Abingdon, Virginia. I am co-owner of The Pakalachian Food Truck and the assistant principal at Wallace Middle School. Over the next four weeks, my plan is to simply tell stories: stories about how my husband and I brought forth a cultural explosion to our region through culinary arts, stories about the people who work diligently to improve the area in which we live and, of course, a few regional tales that I’ve heard passed down over the years.

As I share these stories with you, I hope they bring you comfort amid the uneasiness we’re all experiencing in 2020. I also hope my writing can illustrate what these peaks and valleys have taught me in my 30 years on Earth — courage, determination, living with the land and daring to dream momentous ideas into realities. 

The only people who can save Appalachia from the ugly stereotypes surrounding it are those who have endured with it. Change begins with us.

I look forward to sharing with you over the next few weeks, 

— Katlin

Please join me in giving Katlin a warm welcome as she kicks off this month's series on Thursday. If you've missed any of our previous editions, I encourage you to check out our archive and explore some of the writings, visuals and other works of art we've featured in the Creators and Innovators series. 

While we’re here, I have a quick favor to ask: Over the last four months, you've heard from a variety of artists and creators in Appalachia, including Roger May, Rosalie Haizlett, Bianca X and Jeremy Wilson. Now, we'd like to hear from you! Fill out the survey here and tell us what you think about the Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series, what you've liked (or would have improved) and what you'd like to see going forward.

Stay tuned!


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