Shawna Kay Rodenberg is originally from Seco, a tiny former coal camp near the headwaters of the Kentucky River in Letcher County, Kentucky, where her family on both sides has been since the 17th Century. When she was three, her parents joined a wilderness community in northern Minnesota, and she spent a portion of her childhood there until her parents moved back home to the Appalachian Mountains. Shawna is the mother of five and a registered nurse, and she attended five colleges before receiving her BA in English from the University of Southern Indiana. She obtained her MFA from Bennington College in 2012.
Shawna has been selected to receive a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer's Award in creative nonfiction. Her poetry has appeared in The Bennington Review, The New Millennium Review, Free State Review, Structo Magazine, drafthorse lit journal, The Crab Creek Review, The USI 50th Anniversary Anthology, Kudzu, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, by whom she was nominated for her second Pushcart Prize. Her academic publications include lectures for the RISC Showcase on her creative translations of the French poetry of Anna, Comtesse de Noailles, and another on the contemporary persona of Sigmund Freud in popular Viennese culture. She completed her graduate thesis on the value and efficacy of dialect (specifically Appalachian English) in contemporary poetry. She moonlights regularly as a poetry editor and has even assisted as a dialect/regional consultant for the recently acclaimed documentary, Linefork, about Letcher County banjoist, Lee Sexton. Additionally, she has published criticism and essays in Consequence Magazine, Salon, and the Village Voice.
As a teacher, Shawna works for Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Pikeville, Kentucky, about twenty miles from Seco. There she is an English lecturer and teaches no less than seven classes per semester, mostly online, but she is grateful to be involved in and give back to the underserved and underrepresented mountain community from which she hails. She is also an active presence in the community of Evansville, Indiana, where she lives; there she is the founder and host of Slant, a vibrant monthly poetry reading series.
In 2016, Shawna was the recipient of the Jean Ritchie Memorial Fellowship, the largest monetary award given to an Appalachian writer, for her poetry and her memoir-in-progress. Her poems have won numerous prizes from small presses, and her poetry manuscript, Black Magic Gun, has been chosen as a finalist and semi-finalist in four national book competitions.
Shawna is also a vocalist, and she and her husband, David, are currently in the studio collaborating on an album, a mix of original Americana, vintage country, and traditional mountain songs.