This annual residency connects writers with Great Smoky Mountains National Park to inspire some of their best, most meaningful work.

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 program provides time for writers to develop new work, as well as opportunities to engage and inspire the public through outreach initiatives, all while immersed in the rugged mountain landscape, rich cultural heritage, and wealth of biological diversity at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In exchange for their stay in the park, each writer creates new work and generates experiences that promote visitor understanding of the need to preserve and care for this national treasure. Selected writers thereby continue the long tradition of interpreting resources in ways that enrich the park experience for today’s visitors and leave lasting impressions for future generations.

Steve KempSteve Kemp had his first story on managing wildlife in national parks published in 1983 and won the Montana Audubon Society Journalism Award. Kemp has been meandering along the same path, more or less, ever since, writing for 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, most notably, Who Pooped in the Park?

GSMA seeks applications from writers in any genre whose work is engaged in issues that are relevant to the park’s main interpretive themes:

Diversity & Abundance Great Smoky Mountains National Park harbors a truly wondrous web of life. Biological diversity is the hallmark of the park, which encompasses more than 800 square miles in the southern Appalachian Mountains—an amazing diversity of plants, animals, and invertebrates.

Continuum of Human Activity The park’s cultural history is embodied in a variety of preserved historic structures, cemeteries, archaeological sites, museum objects, and archival documents—as well as less tangible resources including folklore, literature, and music.

Refuge of Scenic Beauty Miles of mountain ridges, deep-cleft valleys, unspoiled streams, endemic life forms, and unique cultural features provide an opportunity for visitors to experience sanctuary, wilderness, adventure, and solitude—a respite from the impacts of modern technological society.

The chosen resident will receive the following:

  • Opportunity for one-on-one time with Steve Kemp to discuss the direction of work and learn more about the park’s history
  • Regular communications, field trips, and mentoring from GSMA Creative Services Director Frances Figart
  • The opportunity to have written work included in GSMA publications, such as the Smokies LIVE blog; the park newspaper, Smokies Guide; and Smokies Life magazine
  • Access to park archives for research and study with the assistance of archivist and librarian Mike Aday
  • Inclusion in 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, Friends of the Smokies, 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.

Application Requirements

Anyone age 18 or older of any background may apply. Selections are made without regard to race, religion, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. Prior knowledge of the Smokies is not prerequisite.

Residency submissions will close November 1, 2023, details for application can be found by clicking the Apply Now button. 

Finalists will be chosen and all applicants will be notified of their status by December 1, 2023. The successful applicant will be selected and notified by December 15, 2023.

Please contact Frances Figart,, if you have issues submitting your application.