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Great Smoky Mountains Association 2023 Steve Kemp Writers’ Residency

Residency program designed to inspire writers of any medium based in the stunning landscape of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

GATLINBURG, TN — Great Smoky Mountains Association is now accepting applications for its third annual Steve Kemp Writers’ 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 is accepting applications for the 2023 Kemp Residency through Nov. 1. One writer will be selected to live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for six weeks in 2023. The chosen writer will follow in the footsteps of Steve Kemp and engage with the retreat-like environment of 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.

“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for writers to stretch and grow by immersing themselves in a sense of place that cannot be experienced anywhere but in the Smokies,” said Frances Figart, creative services director for GSMA and the coordinator of the residency. “I enjoy helping to foster connections between not only National Park Service staff but also park partner staff and these writers, who become some of our greatest spokespersons in communicating interpretive messages such as protecting resources like hemlocks and ensuring visitor safety around black bears.”

The 2022 Writer in Residence, Sue Wasserman, spent six nonconsecutive weeks living, writing and gathering inspiration in and around the park. A writer, nature photographer, teaching artist and book editor, Wasserman spent more than 20 years in corporate communications and public relations, allowing her to self-publish and promote two books: “A Moment’s Notice” and “Walk with Me: Exploring Nature’s Wisdom.” Her work has previously been featured in the New York Times, Southern Living, American Style and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as well as in GSMA’s own “Smokies Life.” Originally chosen as the 2020 recipient, Wasserman’s residency was delayed until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, she said, it was well worth the wait.

“Prior to the residency, I knew precious little about the park with the exception of the few trails I’d hiked,” Wasserman said. “Where once I was primarily interested in the wildflowers, I’m now learning about aquatic life, entomology, and park history, all while meeting some rather fascinating interpretive rangers, scientists, and fellow meanderers.

“Having discovered just how wondrous the park is makes me want to share the wealth that much more through my writing,” she continued. “I have a sense, too, my work here is going to open new doors for me.”

As part of the residency, each writer works with Figart, program namesake Steve Kemp, and other park professionals and partners.

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, click here.

Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the scientific, historical, and interpretive activities of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by providing educational products and services to park visitors. GSMA depends on the generous support of its members to fulfill its mission, preserving the Smokies for generations to come. Membership-driven funding also supports the preservation of more than 90 historic structures throughout the park, as well as the backcountry rangers who protect more than 800 miles of trails to spectacular mountain vistas, rushing streams, waterfalls, and quiet groves of old-growth forest. For more information about GSMA, visit our website.