Story by Ava Chuppe
Murray State’s creative writing program recently announced author Robert Gipe as the 2019 Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer-in-Residence.
Gipe is an award-winning author hailing from Greensboro, North Carolina but currently living in Harlan County, Kentucky. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Wake Forest University and a master’s degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Gipe also served as the director of the Appalachian program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College from 1997-2018.
Carrie Jerrell, the creative writing program director at Murray State, said she was honored to host Gipe.
“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,” Jerrell said. “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 children of Clinton and Mary Opal Moore established the Moore Residency as a way to honor their late parents, as well as helping students pursuing creative writing at Murray State. Clinton and Mary Opal Moore were born in eastern Kentucky but relocated to Paducah.
The Moore Residency takes place in the fall semester and includes a week-long stay for the writer in a cabin near Lake Barkley.
Gipe is a former marketing and educational services director for Appalshop, a nonprofit devoted to celebrating Appalachian culture. Gipe is now a producer of a series of musical dramas inspired by local voices and issues, entitled “Higher Ground,” which the Smithsonian featured it in its 2016-17 exhibition “By the People.”
In addition to “Higher Ground,” Gipe has worked with such organizations as the Appalachian Regional Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robert E. Frazier Foundation, the John D. Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the DeWitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and the Annenberg Foundation. Gipe has raised over $5 million in funding for these organizations.
His first novel, “Trampoline,” earned the Weatherford Award for fiction from Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association, which recognizes novels for portraying the unique culture of Appalachia. The sequel, “Weedeater,” was published in 2018.
Gipe has also had work in anthologies such as “Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South,” “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy,” in publications such as The New York Times, The Journal, and in the podcast Gravy.
His writing has been called a “one-of-a-kind masterpiece” by author George Singleton, and he has been praised as “the real deal: a genuine storyteller, a writer of wit and style, wisdom and heart” by novelist Jennifer Haigh.
Gipe will read his work on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Curris Center, followed by a Q&A. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, contact Carrie Jerrell at email@example.com or (270) 809-4723.