PIKEVILLE – Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) English Lecturer Shawna K. Rodenberg is the winner of the 2016 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing, awarded by Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate, Tenn. The prize is $1,500 and is awarded to an Appalachian writer who shows overwhelming promise in the continuation of great writing in the region. This is the ninth year the fellowship has been awarded through LMU’s annual Mountain Heritage Literary Festival, which honors writers of the region like James Still and Jesse Stuart, both alums of LMU.
Rodenberg, a native of Letcher County, was also the recipient of the 2016 Kudzu Poetry Prize, sponsored by Hazard Community and Technical College. She has been published in Fishhook, The Bennington Review, New Millennium Writings, Free State Review, drafthorse, Crab Creek Review, USI’s 50th Anniversary Anthology, and Structo Magazine, which nominated her work for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. She has work forthcoming in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, a publication of the Southern Appalachian Writers’ Cooperative. She teaches English Composition courses at the Pikeville campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College.
Rodenberg, who worked previously as a nurse in Evansville, Indiana, earned her
BA in English and Creative Writing, from the University of Southern Indiana and her
MFA in English, Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College.
Featured in an April NPR.org article, Rodenberg spoke of her return to her home in Letcher County and of teaching writing in the area. “I love it here,” she said. “There’s nowhere else that I really feel like myself. In Letcher County, I don’t feel like I have to have any kind of artifice, pretend to be someone that I’m not.”
Since beginning at BSCTC in August 2015, Rodenberg has encouraged her own students to write creatively, and one of her greatest accomplishments as a teacher at BSCTC this past year was helping two of her students, Ariana Velasquez and Cody James to be published in Painted Cave, a reputable literary journal. “They were so encouraged by their success!” she says.
According to Rodenberg, being the recipient of the 2016 Jean Ritchie Fellowship carries special weight: “To have my name associated in some way with one of Appalachia’s greatest treasures is both humbling and inspiring.”