Today is Kim Ruehl’s birthday – Please support her Zilphia Horton book project
If you’ve spent any time on this site you should know who Kim Ruehl is by now. She is the fearless and dedicated community manager who keeps the No Depression site humming along each and every day, six days a week rain or shine. I handle the duties each Sunday so she can have a day off and occasionally for a period of several days when she is at a music festival, doing research for her book or otherwise away.
Managing the site always feels a bit like having a new puppy or small child at home, or being tethered to an ankle monitoring security device (not that I’ve ever experienced that). No matter what you have planned, where you are going or what you are doing the site must be accounted for at all times. It’s always in the back of your mind regardless of what else is happening in your life on any given day.
A new blog is featured and links are posted on Face Book and Twitter every two to three hours. That sounds easy enough but sometimes deciding what should be featured is difficult and coming up with interesting, cleaver quips for Face Book and Twitter posts day in and day out is a lot harder than it sounds. Kim also keeps an eye out for spammers, and approves photos and videos throughout the day. She keeps an eye on forum and blog comments to make sure discussions aren’t getting out of hand and steps in with the exact right words and tone if they do. She compiles our twice weekly email newsletter, responds to readers questions and complaints while also managing to write some pretty great blogs for all of us to read and enjoy.
Unless you’ve managed the site (Thanks to Easy Ed, Gillian Turnbull, Craig Young, Russ and the small handful of others who have filled in from time to time and regularly help out with other tasks) it’s easy to assume that it all just happens automatically and forget that there is someone here keeping things running smoothly every day.
Kim is doing all this for little pay. We are very appreciative and thankful for those who choose to support the site with their advertising dollars. I hope that you are paying attention to the ads and clicking on them to check out the artists and products they are promoting as they provide the revenue that allows us to keep this site here for you. Even with those ads it’s hard to generate enough revenue to pay market rate salaries so Kim is doing all this for less than I would prefer.
Kim has been doing research to write a book about Zilphia Horton. She did a Kickstarter campaign back in November to raise money to help defray research costs and those funds have since been exhausted. There was a small handful of ND community members who donated to her Kickstarter campaign but given that over 100,000 people visit the site each month I was surprised that not more people from this community stepped up and donated.
This is where you can get involved and help out a bit. If you enjoy this site and appreciate that it is here for you please consider making a donation to Kim so she can continue with the valuable undertaking of chronicling Zilphia Horton’s incredible yet relatively unknown place in history.
It is Kim’s birthday today so please take a moment and step to the plate and let her know how much you appreciate what she does everyday to make this site a great place to visit. There is no better time or way to say thanks to Kim.
Think of this as the pledge drive for your local PBS television channel or community radio station. Please make a donation for Kim’s book project. No amount is too small. Give whatever you can. Every dollar helps.
Thanks for visiting No Depression this site also wouldn’t exist without you, our readers!
Mail checks made out to Kim Ruehl to:
PO Box 31332
Seattle, WA 98103
Donate via Pay Pal:
Click the DONATE link in the right hand column below the ads.
(If you don’t have a Pay Pal account you can still donate via Pay Pal without setting up an account by clicking the “continue” link in the lower left hand corner under “Don’t Have A Pay Pal Account”
To give you an idea where your money will be going here is the most recent project update that Kim sent out to those who contributed to her Kickstarter campaign:
I was recently interviewed for an article in Seattle magazine about the Kickstarter phenomenon (you Seattleites can pick that up on a stand near you – I believe it’s out this month). That’s when it occurred to me one of the reasons this engine is so powerful is that it so frequently turns out music. I’ve seen a few of my friends run Kickstarter campaigns, get fully funded, make albums, and set release dates all in the time since my Kickstarter campaign closed. I’m still doing research. It’s not that I’m slow; it’s that I picked a project considerably larger than I could have possibly imagined at the time.
It’s kind of invigorating, honestly.
I feel like the guy in the Verizon ads, walking the countryside with this network behind me. I always have a signal, because I’m always backed up by you people, and those who have joined you since this campaign got funded.
The good news is, I now know what the story is. I have an outline, a chapter-by-chapter plan. I have a synopsis. I know how the whole book is going to start, and I’m collecting anecdotes to keep the story pumping.
I’ve met some incredible people over the past seven months since I launched this campaign. I’ve been to the original Highlander Folk School, where Zilphia and her husband built a house in which she – in the early 1940s – installed radiant heating in her floors. That didn’t have a name or trend behind it at the time, was just an idea she had about keeping her large feet warm. (Her feet were so large – she was six feet tall – she had to travel to New York City to have special shoes molded to fit them.) She found out some guys who came to dances at the school cut mountain rock, so she had them figure out how to cut the rock and heat it from underneath.
I’ve visited Zilphia’s grave, have seen the church her good friend Septima Clark singlehandedly desegregated simply because it was the church in town she wanted to attend. She went to a service there. Nobody dared say anything. And, like that, while buses and meals and drinking fountains were still segregated throughout the south, Septima went to church with the white folks in rural Tennessee. (There will be more about her in the book.)
I’ve met a couple of her friends, have talked to others on the phone. Every time, without fail, people who knew Zilphia 60, 70 years ago, remember her with more clarity, more fondness, than almost anything else in their lives. They’ve all described her as one of the most important, special people to them in their entire lives. I asked one of her friends if she could think of any exceptions to that, or if that was just how Zilphia left her mark on people. She couldn’t for the life of her think of anyone who didn’t feel the same. Except for those who might look down on poor people or mountain people with some disdain (Zilphia had no patience for that kind of presumptuous discrimination), she was everybody’s friend. She could hang with high scale academics and high society people, and she could hang with chaw-spittin’ hill folks. And she always wanted to hear everyone’s favorite song.
One more bit of trivia before I stop. Zilphia was an award-winning pianist. Once when the Tennessee symphony orchestra’s pianist got sick, they called up Zilphia to sit in. She had something like 48 hours to get this piano piece down, but she performed it flawlessly, by all accounts. Packed up her piano book and went right back to Highlander to sing folk songs with labor activists. This was not a woman who sought any level of fame. Probably why her name is still so obscure.
So, looking forward.
I’m at a precarious place right now, because my Kickstarter funding has run out. Everything is out of my pocket at this point, so some of the information collection has slowed considerably. For example, the Wisconsin State Archive has 110 boxes of information about Zilphia. Her sister and daughter both live in Los Angeles, and visiting them will require…well, getting to (and staying in) LA for a spell. And there’s the trip to Arkansas to her hometown, the college her uncle founded – where she and Lee Hays (the Weavers) attended and became radicalized toward the labor movement in the late ’20s/early ’30s. So, I’m saving all that travel for Round Two: when I have some kind of funding from a publisher or grant, or some other source of income for this book. In the meantime, Zilphia’s friend Ann sent me a huge box of books to read, and I’m making some more trips to Highlander to get deeper into their archive.
I’ve also been querying agents. (An agent will help me sell the book to a publisher.) That’s the sticky business of the publishing process. It’s kind of like house hunting, if your prospective house had an opinion of its own.
I was talking to one agent who was very excited about this project. He felt strongly that it should – and will – find a home. And though he ultimately decided to pass on it (basically the content is possibly a bit too controversial for his agency to get behind), he kept me on the phone for a good amount of time giving me tips about how to make sure it finds the right home. He recommended another agency – and a specific agent there – who might be more appropriate for a book like this. That other agency deals with folks like Barbara Kingsolver and Mumia Abu-Jamal. I queried them and, a week later, they asked for the full proposal. Now, I wait with fingers crossed. I’m told it could be months before I hear a peep, that the summer is a bad time for agents to respond about anything. It could be late fall.
Like so many other things in this process, it’s a lesson in patience.
So, I wanted to give you this update. I’ll continue to keep you abreast as things progress. Keep an eye on my book blog for more updates from Highlander visits, etc. Also, here’s a link to a radio show I did here in the Asheville area on WNCW, about Zilphia’s life and legacy:
Thank you again, so much, from the bottom of my heart, for your interest and contributions to this project. Believe me, it keeps me going through this arduous process. When the book is finally done and out in the world, it will have been in large part because of your help. So, again, thank you!
Til next time…