Great Smoky Mountains Association now accepting Kemp Writers Residency applications

Press release from Great Smoky Mountains Association: 

Great Smoky Mountains Association has announced the call for applications to its second annual Steve Kemp Writer’s Residency.

Funded by GSMA, the residency is designed to connect writers with the Smokies in meaningful ways and to inspire some of their best work. The program is named for 30-year GSMA veteran Steve Kemp, who retired in 2017 after directing the publication of hundreds of books, magazines, brochures and newsletters that continue to support the preservation of the national park.

GSMA will be accepting applications for the 2020 Kemp Residency through November 1. One writer will be selected to live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park from April 1 to May 15, 2020. The chosen writer will follow in the footsteps of Steve Kemp and immerse themselves in the Smokies, learning about the park in ways that will inform their chosen genre—whether this is nonfiction narrative, fiction, poetry, playwriting, music or another form of writing.

“The writer’s residency is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for one lucky writer to spend six blissful weeks in the Smokies, tuning in fully to focus on their craft,” said Great Smoky Mountains Association Chief Executive Officer Laurel Rematore. “In exchange for their stay in the park, the writer will create new written works and develop ways to engage and inspire the public to a greater appreciation of and stewardship for this national treasure.”

For the 2019 inaugural year of the program, the selection committee chose not one, but two accomplished and engaging writers as recipients of the residency. Elise Anderson and Latria Graham arrived in the Smokies in March and stayed through mid-April. Both emerged from the residency agreeing they needed six months rather than six weeks to completely absorb the rugged mountain landscape, rich cultural heritage and wealth of biological diversity at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both will be contributing their talents toward GSMA projects in the near future.

“I’d always known the park was beautiful, but through GSMA we got to meet and learn from a wide range of people working in and around the park,” said Anderson, a poet, artist and musician who resides in Nashville, TN. She will be leading a writing workshop at GSMA’s Members Weekend September 20–22 and is working on the first-ever ‘poetic experience’ article for Smokies Life magazine, to be published next fall.

Graham, a fifth-generation farmer whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, Southern Living and Garden & Gun, is conducting research on African Americans living in the area before it became a park. “I’m extremely interested in the story of Sook Turner and her family who are buried in the Meigs Mountain area,” she said. “I want to know how they got here, how they survived and ultimately where their descendants wound up.”

Through the residency, GSMA and the park have gained invaluable partners in these two skilled communicators. “I understand how Steve Kemp could live and write here for 30 years,” Graham added, “and still feel like there is so much to learn.”

With his long-standing contributions to both GSMA and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Steve Kemp is the perfect inspiration for the writer’s residency. His first story on managing wildlife in national parks was published in 1983 and won the Montana Audubon Society Journalism Award. He has been meandering along the same path, more or less, ever since. Kemp’s writing credentials include a variety of periodicals and journals including Outside, Outdoor Life, National Parks, Outdoor Photographer, Discovery Travel Adventures, Blue Ridge Country, Smokies Guide and Smokies Life. His books include Trees of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains: Simply Beautiful,Great Smoky Mountains: A Visual Journey, We’re Going to the Mountains,Great Smoky Mountains: Natural Wonder, National Park, and, perhaps most notably, Who Pooped in the Park?

For full residency details and the instructions for submitting your application, visit

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