Judy Carmichael, Artist and Writer:

Judy Carmichael, Artist and Writer, Raised Four Daughters in the Mountains; Abingdon, Virginia:

"I just returned home from a week in the desert southwest, where I spent the first 22 years of my life. I'm 50 now, and it was dear to go back, touch base with people and places and a culture I love.

But Appalachia IS my home now. It is where I feel at peace. And if I could get one message out to the stereotyping world, it would be that most people don't know us. They don't know how fine the people are, how thinking and caring. How unexpected. How much you can count on your neighbors. The rural, volunteer fire and rescue squad next door is my favorite example. Every time the sirens fire up, I look outside and give thanks for the whole bunches of trained volunteers who drop everything they're doing and run straight for their neighbors who need help. It's especially brave. They're probably going to know the person in the car accident or a house that's on fire.

Anyway, I got home last week and flopped right down in the grass to take in a beautiful, green perfume."