Great Smoky Mountains Association has announced Sue Wasserman of Burnsville, North Carolina, as the winner of the second annual Steve Kemp Writer’s Residency. A GSMA member, Wasserman learned about the residency from GSMA’s digital newsletter, the Cub Report. Recently she has written two articles for Smokies Life magazine focused on the artists and artisans of the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.
“While spending time with the artists, I made time to wander along some of the national park trails,” she wrote in her residency application. “One morning in Greenbrier, a young family was walking alongside me, their tiny tot a crying hot mess. She wanted to go home even though they had just started their journey. I called her over, telling her the woods were filled with magic and tiny flowers. I pointed one out and told her if she looked carefully, she would see countless more. The mom was as grateful as she was surprised. She had never thought to look down and had never noticed the flowers before. A few hours later when we encountered each other again, their tiny tot was still happily engaged in the magic.”
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 in honor of 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.
Wasserman will live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park from April 1 to May 15, 2020. She was chosen from eight finalists by a selection committee of 13 GSMA authors, past and present GSMA board members, and retired park and GSMA employees, including Kemp himself who will spend time guiding Wasserman in her experience of iconic park places such as Cataloochee, Oconaluftee and Cades Cove.
The perfect inspiration for the writer’s residency, Kemp has made many long-standing contributions to both GSMA and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His first story on managing wildlife in national parks was published in 1983 and won the Montana Audubon Society Journalism Award. Since retirement, he has written stories for Smokies Life magazine—which he founded and is now edited by GSMA’s Creative Services Director Frances Figart—and has recently edited a children’s book, advised author Robert Beatty on his Willa of the Wood book set in the Smokies, produced a museum exhibit and photo history book for the Town of Pittman Center, and wrote The Blue Ridge Parkway: In Celebration of the American Landscape, a title forthcoming from Eastern National.
Wasserman will be entering the residency with impressive credentials of her own. In addition to her recent Smokies Life articles, she has been published in the New York Times, Southern Living, American Style, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution among others. Her more than 20-year career in corporate communications and public relations allowed her to self-publish and promote two books: A Moment's Notice and Walk with Me: Exploring Nature's Wisdom.
“GSMA and the park have gained another champion and interpretive partner in Sue,” said Figart, who coordinates the residency program. “She is a skilled communicator with a great deal of enthusiasm for the natural world as well as the history of the people who were here before the Smokies became a national park.”
Wasserman said, “Thanks to GSMA, I've fallen in love with everything about the Smokies. So to be able to become part of the rhythm of daily life as the Steve Kemp Writer-in-Residence is a dream come true.”
Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. A nonprofit organization, GSMA has provided more than $44 million to the park during its 66-year history.
For more information on GSMA and the Steve Kemp Writer's Residency, visit smokiesinformation.org/writers-residency.
Steve Kemp, 30-year GSMA veteran
Sue Wasserman, 2020 Steve Kemp Writer-in-Residence