Bios and Statements

Laura Hope-Gill

Executive Director

Laura Hope-Gill is a deaf writer and painter. Her work appears in 13th Moon, Bayou, Briar Cliff Review, Cape Rock, Carquinez Poetry Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cincinnati Review, Cold Mountain Review, Diagram, Denver Quarterly, Hampden-Sydney Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Illuminations, Laurel Review, Madison Review, Mindprints, North Carolina Literary Review, Parabola, Phantasmagoria, Poet Lore, Primavera, Owen Wister Review, Rivendell, Sortes,  South Carolina Review, Spillway, Wrath-Bearing Tree, Xavier Review, and other journals. Her poem “The Dimension of Dog” was nominated by Denver Quarterly for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College, and is the founding director of the MFA program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She founded the multicultural poetry festival Asheville Wordfest and was named the first poet laureate of the Blue Ridge Parkway. She has published several books, including co-authoring Look Up Asheville: An Architectural Journey Vol. 1 (2010) and Look Up Asheville Collection II (2011) by the Grateful Steps Foundation. She has written manuscripts that merge memoir and a very earth-bound mysticism, which she plans to publish one of these days. She enjoys playing the piano, dog sitting, and sailing.

Personal Statement

I am launching Story Shepherds because we are at a defining moment in history, one where politics can do only so much to address the matters that need attention. Where state can’t go, story takes over. By this I mean that people are painfully caught up in ideologies and identity to the point where no longer see humanity in one another. Instead we see sides as in a football game, a here and a villain as in a movie. Story Shepherds creates spaces for story-sharing as neither performance nor persuasion. Simply: Story. We all have a story. We all have a story wherein we failed. We all have a story wherein we tried our best and got it all wrong. We all have a story wherein we unknowingly did harm. We have stories wherein someone harmed us. We have stories in which we knowingly caused somebody else pain. Yes, we have the happy stories as well, and there are plenty of opportunities to share those. It is in the shadow stories that our humanity equally lies. These are passages to healing–healing our trauma, listening to others’ trauma, feeling one another’s sorrow, loss, and survival. Getting to these stories is not a goal. Providing spaces in which people can tell them is. We can never crack one another open and say “tell me everything.” We do not work that way, and neither does Story. Story comes when Story feels safe, that the person listening is genuine, non-judgmental, deeply caring, and in touch with their own deep story. The story is a deep as the listener, and for the stories that shape our lives, we need deep listeners. These listeners are witnesses, and without witness, our traumas and tragedies prolong their ever-tightening hold over us. Story Shepherds are listeners and tellers, people we all need to help us weave ourselves, wounds and all, back into the world.

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