Tom Martin

Tom Martin is co-publisher of UnderMain and producer/host of the weekly public radio magazine program Eastern Standard on WEKU. Tom's 50 year career in media has included network news correspondent, newspaper editor, columnist, and student media advisor.


June Fest Celebrates Mountain Literary Heritage

The 2021 Mountain Heritage Literary Festival is on June 4-5 at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Undermain’s Tom Martin, host of WEKU’s Eastern Standard, talks with festival director, Patrick Wensink. (Pictured above from the 2019 festival: Darnell Arnoult, Joseph Bathanti, Jim Minick, Abigail DeWitt, Charles Dodd White)


Tom: Hi, Patrick.

Patrick: Hi. How are you today?

Tom: Great. A quick bit of background. This festival was founded I believe by the Kentucky writer, Silas House. And Silas is your keynote speaker this year, correct?

Patrick: He is.  We’re coming full circle at the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. Silas founded the festival 15 years ago when he was the visiting writer at Lincoln Memorial University, and so we thought it would be fitting to welcome him back as our keynote this year.

Tom: And will this year’s event be in person or is it online again?

Patrick: It will be virtual this year. Hopefully next year in 2022, it will be in person again.

Tom: Fingers crossed. 

I understand that you have a whole new mission for the festival. Tell us about that?

Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very proud of the work that the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival has done in the previous 15 years, and I see this is as an opportunity to expand and to grow and encourage a new set of voices in Appalachia.

As we all know, Appalachia is a really diverse place and those are oftentimes voices that don’t get as much encouragement as they should for creative writing, whether it’d be fiction or non-fiction or poetries. 

And so, that’s a big mission of ours is to make sure that we’re reaching out to all the different communities that make Appalachia so special and to uplift those voices and celebrate them and encourage them in every way possible. 

Tom: And will that be reflected in the agenda for this year?

Patrick: Absolutely. I think that we have a really diverse faculty that’s coming aboard and they’re bringing just a different vision to our workshops that are building on traditional storytelling and poetry writing techniques, but in unique and really exciting ways.

Tom: And, what sort of workshops and events will be available during those couple of days?

Patrick: We’ve got some, yeah, as I’ve mentioned we have fictional workshops, poetry workshops, non-fiction workshops. Some of our non-fiction workshops I think are some of our most exciting. We’ve got Cinelle Barnes, a really great memoirist; she’s talking about writing about your family. 

Emily Hilliard, who is West Virginia – is the West Virginia state folklorist. She’s teaching an oral history class and a food writing class, which I think is going to be really exciting. 

Carter Sickels, who teaches at Eastern Kentucky, actually.

Tom: Right.

Patrick: In the creative writing program there. He’s teaching a workshop on how to write really complex realistic characters in fiction. So, those are just a few of the really exciting courses that we’ve got.

Tom: Okay. Patrick, what are the dates and how can our listeners get more information? I take it there’s a registration required?

Patrick: Absolutely. Yes. Our dates are June 4th and 5th. You can go to – you can just Google Lincoln – or Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. It’s probably the best way because our website is a million miles long. [laughs] 

Or you can find us on Facebook as well. It’s $150 for the two days and you’re free to visit any of the workshops you would like. 

And we also really highly encourage folks to check out our scholarship opportunities. We have the online format that allows us to have an abundance of scholarship opportunities. 

So, if you are a person who can afford it or perhaps maybe are just curious and this is not something that’s in your usual comfort zone, I really highly encourage you to reach out and apply for a scholarship. It’s very easy and we have a lot to offer this year.

Tom: All right. That’s Patrick Wensink, Director of the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival in the Cumberland Gap, set for June 4th and 5th. Thanks, Patrick.

Patrick: Thank you. 

Visit the festival site

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The Legacy of Lige: Kentucky-Born Gay Rights Activist Elijah Clarke

In an interview for WEKU’s Eastern Standard, Stephanie Lang, editor of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, talks with Jonathan Coleman. Dr. Coleman is the co-founder and director of the Faulkner Morgan Archive, home to more than 100 works of art, along with photographs and ephemera, by Kentucky-born painter and sculptor Edward Melcarth. The works were gifted to the archive by enthusiastic Melcarth collector and friend Malcolm Forbes. Along with previously acquired pieces, the Faulkner Morgan Archive has become the largest repository of works by this Kentucky artist.

In this conversation, Coleman and Lang focus on another icon of the Kentucky LGBTQ community, Elijah “Lige” Clarke. Born and raised in Hindman, Kentucky, Clark was a prominent gay activist in the 60’s and early 70’s.

(Photo: Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society)

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The Year of Peril: America in 1942

We may think of World War II as a time when Americans shared a sense of unity and even optimism. But, in reality, America was beginning to splinter from within.

In his latest book The Year of Peril: America in 1942, the University of Kentucky historian and author Tracy Campbell explores the deep social, economic, and political fault lines that pitted factions of citizens against each other in the post-Pearl Harbor era, even as the nation mobilized, government-aided industrial infrastructure blossomed, and parents sent their sons off to war. American society was being challenged by the greatest stress experienced since the Civil War.

As part of UnderMain’s new partnership with the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and WEKU’s Eastern Standard, Tom Eblen’s interview with Dr. Campbell reveals the various ways, both good and bad, that the trauma of 1942 forced Americans to redefine their relationship with democracy in ways that continue to affect us today.


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And then, boom! Pandemic.

Robin Irwin, Executive Director, Appalachian Center for the Arts

Erick Buckley, Director of Education, Appalachian Center for the Arts

Broadway veterans Robin Irwin (Titanic) and Erick Buckley (Addams Family) relocated to Pikeville, Kentucky, one year ago in search of a quality lifestyle and an opportunity to boost Eastern Kentucky’s game in theatre and performance. Then a pandemic struck. Irwin and Buckley discussed the consequences (by phone, of course) with UnderMain’s Tom Martin for his WEKU program, Eastern Standard.

Listen to the interview

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KY Author Debut: Bobi Conn

Bobi Conn grew up in a hollow near Clearfield, Kentucky, a former factory village located just outside of Morehead. It was an idyllic setting of forest, creeks and tin-roofed homes that sang to the tempos of rainfall. But it also was the scene of a traumatic childhood in the presence of an addicted, alcoholic, violent father. Bobi Conn escaped, got herself into college and landed a white-collar job.

Bobi Conn (With permission of the author)

But that same progress earned the mistrust of her family. And her Eastern Kentucky accent and history were often met by the condescension of peers. 

The account of a survivor is detailed in the pages of Bobi’s debut memoir, “In the Shadow of the Valley.”

She discussed her work and perspectives on life with UnderMain’s Tom Martin for his weekly WEKU program, Eastern Standard.


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Reaching Critical Mass (IV)

UnderMain’s annual event “Critical Mass” has been postponed.

Dear Supporters:

We regret to inform you of the following news:

Due to a recommendation from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, the CDC, and WHO for high risk and other populations, and out of reasonable care and caution regarding the hazards of COVID-19 for high-risk populations, we are postponing Critical Mass IV: Tastemakers: Collectors, Critics, and Curators until further notice. The annual event was scheduled for Saturday, March 14th at 21c in Lexington, Kentucky.

UnderMain, The Great Meadows Foundation, and 21C agree that this is the prudent thing to do until the virus no longer poses a threat to our community.

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original works

Hemp and the Future of Fashion

The Future of Fashion 2020 show is coming to Lexington on the evenings of March 13-14, with a focus on designs incorporating hemp fabrics. In an interview for the March 5 edition of Eastern Standard on WEKU, I spoke with fashion designer, community activist, and organizer Soreyda Benedit Begley. Click on the image below to listen.

Soreyda Benedit Begley | Photo by Chris Begley

Images courtesy of Soreyda Benedit Begley

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LexPhil’s Maestro Marathon: Enrico Lopez-Yañez

Enrico Lopez-Yañez, Principal Pops Conductor of the Nashville Symphony, is fourth among six finalist candidates scheduled for an audition with the Lexington Philharmonic. Mr. Lopez-Yañez will spend a week in Lexington, interviewing, meeting and greeting and rehearsing for a Friday, February 21 concert at Singletary Center for the Arts. 

Each candidate is being interviewed prior to their arrival by Tom Martin for the weekly WEKU radio magazine, Eastern Standard. You can listen to the conversation here:

Interview with Enrico Lopez-Yañez


Interviews with previous candidates

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