About the Program

A Moment in the Smokies: The Steve Kemp Writer’s Residency is a new offering from Great Smoky Mountains Association designed to help writers connect with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in meaningful ways that will inspire some of their best work. The program is named for 30-year GSMA veteran Steve Kemp, who retired in September 2017 after directing the publication of hundreds of books, magazines, brochures, newsletters and other interpretive materials that continue to support the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The Kemp residency provides an annual opportunity for one writer working in any medium to spend six weeks in the Smokies and to focus on their craft in a retreat-like setting. The writer will follow in the footsteps of—and actually spend real time with—Steve Kemp in an effort to create written works that move visitors to a greater appreciation of and stewardship for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The chosen resident will receive:

  • The opportunity for one-on-one time with Steve Kemp to discuss the direction of work and learn more about the park’s history
  • Weekly meetings, field trips and mentoring from GSMA Interpretive Products and Services Director Frances Figart
  • The opportunity to have written work included in GSMA publications such as our e-newsletter, the Cub Report; the park newspaper, Smokies Guide; Bearpaw member newsletter; and Smokies Life magazine
  • The opportunity to host a GSMA member event, the nature of which would be determined by the writing style and interests of the chosen applicant; the program's design would be determined in coordination with GSMA staffers
  • Access to park archives for research and study with the assistance of Archivist and Librarian Mike Aday
  • Inclusion in at least three organized park activities or projects with a park or GSMA staff host to be determined by the nature of the writing style and interests of the chosen applicant
  • Potential for interfacing with staff from park partners Discover Life in America and Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
  • Potential for interfacing with the artist community at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg
  • Several options for office/desk/creative space if needed in addition to housing and the great outdoors
  • A stipend of $600 to help with meals and transportation
  • Free lodging; some restrictions apply

The Application Process

A panel of readers representing Great Smoky Mountains Association and Great Smoky Mountains National Park will review the applications, interview top candidates, and select the writer-in-residence. Anyone 18 years of age or older may apply. Selections are made without regard to race, religion, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age or national origin. Knowledge of the Smokies is not a prerequisite.

Applications should take the form of one email correspondence to Frances Figart, director of interpretive products and services, at frances@gsmassoc.org on or before the January 15, 2019, deadline with “Kemp Residency” as the subject and should:

1. Demonstrate the applicant’s ability to interpret the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and the Smokies in a way that engages visitors in interpretation and helps them derive meaning from their experience here.

2. Provide easy access to three recent writing samples, in the form of links to online publications or attached documents.

3. Contain a letter of introduction explaining why the applicant would like to be considered for this residency in the form of a response/reaction to these words from Steve Kemp:

“From my days as an NPS seasonal ranger, I have always considered myself an interpreter, a person who tries to make complex themes of natural and cultural history accessible to a lay audience. My target audience has always been the average Janes and Joes who visit national parks, not scholars or full-time nature-crazed wilderness fanatics like myself. I accept the fact that my audience may be more interested in the pool at their motel or sitting in a rocking chair at their chalet than hearing about biological zones in the mountains. I just want one moment to attempt to engage them. One try. I want to find that one thing—a bear cub, a church, a wildflower, a big tree, a story—that they can connect with. I hope that connection leads them to some positive emotional feeling about a protected place that will linger after their visit. Humble, but reasonable.”

For more information prior to submitting a formal application, email frances@gsmassoc.org.

Apply Now!