MURRAY, Ky. — The creative writing program at Murray State University is pleased to announce author Robert Gipe as the 2019 Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer-in-Residence.
An award-winning author, educator and activist, Gipe was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, and now calls Harlan County, Kentucky his home. Gipe earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Wake Forest University and a Master of Arts in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. From 1997 to 2018, he directed the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Cumberland, Kentucky.
He is a former marketing and educational services director for Appalshop, a nonprofit organization devoted to documenting the life, celebrating the culture and voicing the concerns of people living in Appalachia and rural America. Currently, Gipe serves as a producer of “Higher Ground,” a series of community-based musical dramas inspired by oral histories and local issues. The troupe was featured by the Smithsonian as part of its 2016–17 exhibition “By the People.”
Gipe has brought in more than $5 million in grant funding for “Higher Ground” and other community and cultural development projects from organizations including the Appalachian Regional Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Robert E. Frazier Foundation, John D. Rockefeller Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, DeWitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and the Annenberg Foundation, among many others.
Gipe’s first novel, “Trampoline,” received the Weatherford Award in fiction from the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College. The award is given to works that “best illuminate the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.” A sequel, “Weedeater,” was published in 2018. Other stories and essays by Gipe have appeared in anthologies and publications such as Still: The Journal, Gravy, “Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South,” “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy” and the New York Times. Gipe has served as writer-in-residence at Furman University and joins the fiction writing faculty of the Appalachian Writers Workshop at Hindman Settlement School this summer. In its review of Gipe’s work, Bookpage wrote, “With ‘Trampoline’ and ‘Weedeater,’ Gipe delivers some of the most vivid Appalachian characters we’ve ever read. There are no clichés or stereotypes here.” Author George Singleton has called his work “a one-of-a-kind masterpiece,” and novelist Jennifer Haigh praises Gipe as “the real deal: a genuine storyteller, a writer of wit and style, wisdom and heart.”
“In his work as an author as well as a community arts advocate, Robert Gipe brings to light the rich diversity of voices and experiences of people living in today’s Appalachia,” said Dr. Carrie Jerrell, creative writing program director at Murray State. “We’re very excited to be hosting him in September, and we’re deeply grateful for the generosity of the Moore family members who have made this opportunity possible.”
The Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer’s Residency was established with gifts from Shirley Moore Menendez, John C. Moore, Tom Moore, Nancy Moore Waldrop and Jayne Moore Waldrop in honor of their late parents and their family’s eastern Kentucky roots. Clinton Elster Moore (1916–2008) and Mary Opal Moore (1922–2015) were born in eastern Kentucky — Pike and Letcher counties, respectively — but left the mountains in the early 1950s when they moved to far western Kentucky. They settled in Paducah, where they remained for the rest of their lives, but they always considered Appalachia their home.
The Moore Residency was created to strengthen literary connections between Appalachia and western Kentucky while enhancing the creative and professional growth of students pursuing creative writing at Murray State. It commemorates the Moores’ east-to-west journey in hopes of fostering creativity and understanding between two distinct regions in Kentucky connected by the Cumberland River. The Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer’s Residency takes place early in the fall semester and includes a one-week stay for the writer in a private cabin overlooking Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River.
Robert Gipe will read from his work on Thursday, September 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Curris Center Theater on the Murray State main campus. A Q&A and book reception will follow the reading. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Carrie Jerrell in the Department of English and Philosophy via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (270–809–4723).
About Murray State University: Murray State University provides opportunities for students through a high-quality education with experiential learning, academic and personal growth and the ability to secure a lifetime of success. Since 1922, the true value of higher education has been found at Murray State University, where our commitment is to afford endless opportunities for developing leaders in the community, the country and the world. The University’s main campus is located in Murray, Ky., and includes five regional campuses. For more information about Murray State University, please visit murraystate.edu.
Top photo: Pictured from left are Clinton and Mary Opal Moore, the namesakes of the Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer’s Residency. Established with generous gifts from their children, the residency was created to strengthen literary connections between Appalachia and western Kentucky while enhancing the creative and professional growth of students pursuing creative writing at Murray State.