About our writers
Sarah E. Kucharski is, despite her last name, a born and raised Southerner. Her writing has earned awards from the South and North Carolina Press Associations, as well as the National Newspaper Association. Kucharski also engages in public relations and marketing work for small businesses and non-profit organizations, and in her spare time she is pursuing a master’s of liberal arts degree. Recently she has translated her skills to the teaching profession. Her work as a remedial English instructor aims to enable students to communicate effectively and inspire them to pick up a book by choice on occasion. Kucharski lives in Canton, North Carolina with her husband, Travis (Smoky Mountain Living’s art director), three cats — Atlas, Nelson and Penelope — and hound dog, Bruce.
Mandy Newham is a lefty vegetarian artist and illustrator living right outside of Philly. Newham is the illustrator of three children's books: Razzmatazz!, "Bullet" Joe: A Kansas City Monarch, and The Little Brown Hen (forthcoming). She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Florida State University and her Master of Fine Arts in Drawing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Anna Oakes is a 20-something writer and editor living in the college town of Boone, the center of North Carolina’s High Country. After graduating from Appalachian State University, Oakes worked briefly in the Raleigh area before returning to Boone to write for High Country Press newspaper, where she is now managing editor. Raised in the northern mountainous end of Caldwell County in a small community called Buffalo Cove, Oakes has a great love for the Blue Ridge Mountains and will always call them home. In the summers you’ll find her on the New or Watauga rivers, and in the fall the fervent football fan will be rooting for the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Carolina Panthers. She tolerates the cold mountain winters while she waits for late April, when she dedicatedly attends her favorite music festival, MerleFest, in nearby Wilkesboro. As a writer and editor, Oakes cherishes the opportunity to build relationships in her mountain community and share with readers stories about music, public policy, agriculture, sustainability, culture and personalities.
Marla Hardee Milling is a lifelong resident of Asheville, N.C. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and her work has appeared in Our State, WNC, Charleston, Denver, Blue Ridge Country, Luxury Living, Health, Parenting, Redbook, Pregnancy, American Style and many others. She spent ten years at WLOS-TV as a news producer and six years as Director of Communications at Mars Hill College—but her greatest role is that of mom to Ben and Hannah.
Jo Harris is a Pigeon Forge, Tenn., native. Her ancestors were among the earliest to settle the wilderness we call the Great Smokies. She began writing in 2011 when her other hobby—collecting American and post-WWII Japanese china—was abandoned for lack of cabinet space. She found freelance writing more fun than ad copy, press releases, and stockholder reports she’d written during her twenty-year banking career. She lives in Kodak, Tenn., within sight of her daily inspiration—the Great Smoky Mountains.
Angela Raimondo Rosebrough is associate editor of High Country Magazine and a freelance writer. She loves hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway and has fun experimenting with cooking, entertaining friends and traveling whenever she can. She lives with her son in Asheville, N.C.
T. Wayne Waters is a Knoxville-based wordsmith who loves to write about almost anything regarding Southern or Appalachian culture and society. He has a master’s in journalism and nearly a decade of freelance writing experience. A native Georgian, Wayne lived in Asheville during the ’90s before taking up residence near the Smoky foothills of Tennessee. He thinks the beauty of the region and of the people who live here is often breathtaking. When not at the keyboard wordsmithing, Wayne enjoys the occasional Smokies hike, a kayak glide on the Tennessee River, savoring a dark ale while enjoying Knoxville’s extraordinary music scene, or just sitting around at home nibbling on tropes and bon mots. Wayne includes the initial T of his first name in bylines. It may be that he’s just pretentious. It may be because there are several other Wayne Waters out there who have the unmitigated gall to top him in a Google search. Or it may be to facilitate a fun guessing game for readers (Thomas? Ted? Tiberius? Thaddeus?)
Gary Carden is a playwright, storyteller and dramatist who has been recognized by the North Carolina Folklore Society for his contributions to folklore. Presently, he resides in his grandparents’ old farm house with his dog, Jack, his kitty, Booger and a rooster named Chauncey. He refused to give names to the groundhogs that live in his garden.
Mary Casey-Sturk is a freelance travel and features writer. The daughter of a travel-hungry British ex-pat and a multi-talented mountain man from Pike County, Kentucky, she brings an unusual and humorous perspective to everyday events. Growing up with a slight British accent made her somewhat of a curiosity and she has returned the favor by speaking of the virtues of a hot cup of tea on a warm summer day to anyone who will listen. Now residing in Northern Kentucky, she can often be seen squatting accommodations in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Becky Johnson grew up in Raleigh, raised by parents who instilled in her an appreciation for the outdoors and wild places, which in turn gave rise to a strong environmental ethos. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1999 as a double major in journalism and anthropology and a creative writing minor. She worked as a park ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a year before pursuing journalism in Western North Carolina. She has been with the Smoky Mountain News, based in Waynesville, since 2003, where she is reporter and news editor.
Jack Neely is a reporter and associate editor for Knoxville’s alternative weekly, Metro Pulse, where he may be best known for his award-winning column, “Secret History,” about the city’s often-startling past. He is the author of Market Square: A History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth (2nd ed., 2011) and Knoxville: This Obscure Prismatic City (2009). Neely also is co-host of the live-audience radio/internet show, Scruffy City Roots. He grew up in Knoxville, and spent many, perhaps most weekends of his childhood hiking and trout fishing with his dad in the Smoky Mountains.
Rebecca Tolley-Stokes is a writer, librarian, and East Tennessee native/resident who no longer has time to knit, sew, quilt, play accordion, ride horses, or enjoy any other favorite pastimes because she is teaching her daughter to throw Frisbee with their border collie, how to fall without injury whilst on roller skates, and most importantly, she is providing Elsa with a baseline repertoire of animal noises that will make her the popular girl at parties. She hates the way that people from “off” mispronounce Appalachia, especially on NPR, and loves how the Southern Appalachian region is rife with opportunities for learning about ecology, community, and culture.
Alli Marshall is the lead Arts & Entertainment Reporter and Fashion Editor for Mountain Xpress. She’s also the creator of AshevilleStreetstyle.com, a blog documenting the unique street fashion of Asheville, N.C. Marshall has long been interested in all aspects of fashion and style, but she’s especially inspired by North Carolina’s long history in the garment industry, from its cotton mills and traditional handicrafts to its contemporary small-batch textile mills, organic fibers and independent designers.
Jim Casada is a son of the Smokies, born and raised in Bryson City, N.C. A self-described “recovering professor,” he describes the region as “the home of my heart and the primary inspiration for my literary endeavors.” A full-time freelancer for the past decade and a half, Casada’s most recent efforts include Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider’s Guide to a Pursuit of Passion, and an anthology he edited, Classic O’Connor, which contains stories by the great hunting writer Jack O’Connor. His writing focuses on fishing, hunting, natural history, Appalachian folkways, and cooking nature’s wild bounty, along with history.
Joel Osgood is a registered Landscape Architect, serves on the North Carolina Advisory Council for The Trust for Public Land, and is an advocate for the use of green design initiatives in projects around the world and throughout Western North Carolina. He and his wife, Heather, a graphic designer, enjoy applying their creativity and design principles to their own home in West Asheville where they coexist with four cats and two dogs.
Colby Dunn is a writer, reporter, and terrible golfer currently living in her native Asheville, N.C. She has degrees in journalism and international affairs and has spent the last half-decade living and working in London, Ireland, Spain, Georgia, and Tennessee. She loves writing about the human experience (especially if there’s delicious food involved), knitting, outdoor markets, antique children’s literature and, unfortunately, has never met a pastry she couldn’t get along with.
Quintin Ellison is a longtime chronicler of the Southern Appalachians, with a newspaper career spanning some eighteen years at three different mountain newspapers. During a three-year hiatus from the crazy world of constant deadlines, however, she operated a successful organic farm. She still dreams of those days of bliss and serenity. Today, Ellison lives in Sylva, N.C.
Lewis Garnett’s maternal lineage traces to medieval France, but he doesn’t wear funny clothes or eat snails. Rather, in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, he was weaned on pinto beans, cornbread, molasses, garden peas, and a small town chock full of colorful personalities. After a near-schizophrenic career path of social work, technical writing and long-haul trucking, Garnett now writes about this plethora of influences and treats audiences to his eclectic storytelling. Several of his stories have been featured on National Public Radio.
Carrie Eidson is a writer, reporter, waitress and photographer based in Sylva, North Carolina. She is a native of the Appalachian mountains and attended Western Carolina University, majoring in Journalism and Religious Studies. She is presently a writer and co-editor for Quiet Magazine, an online publication focusing on arts and entertainment reporting in the far western corners of North Carolina. She loves to write about music, fashion, street art, the stories of small mountain communities and local foods.
Chris J. Hartley is a North Carolina native who grew up in the foothills. He has worked in marketing and communications for several large companies, and is currently vice president of marketing for Blue Rhino. On the side, he chases the history that has fascinated him since childhood. His most recent book, Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, is now in its second printing. His first book, Stuart’s Tarheels: James B. Gordon and his North Carolina Cavalry, has been honored with the Jefferson Davis award by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. He lives in Pfafftown, N.C., with his wife and two daughters, who lovingly call him their “history nerd.”
DeeAnna Haney, a Western North Carolina native, has an enduring love for the mountains. After graduating from Appalachian State University in 2010, she worked in the communications department at the Asheville Art Museum and is currently with The Smoky Mountain News. Her interests include food of all kinds (particularly anything sweet), arts, entertainment, travel and cultural studies. Haney’s daily life runs on caffeine, chocolate and cereal.
Teresa Killian Tate spends her working hours in the public relations field at Western Carolina University and her playing hours in the great outdoors, often on a bike and often with her husband and four-legged friends. She lives in Sylva, N.C.
Ryn Hayes lives on a small farm in the wilds of Haywood County, NC. She graduated from the University of N.C. at Wilmington with a master’s degree in Literature and a bachelors in Professional and Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in: The N.C. Poetry Society, Celebration, Atlantis, and N.C. Humanities.
Mackensy Lunsford is an avid foodie and adventurous eater with approximately thirteen years of professional culinary experience. Lunsford is now a civilian, generally limiting her cooking to parties of less than one hundred, and spending the majority of her time eating and writing about food (and visiting the gym). She is an award-winning food writer for the Mountain Xpress who has lived in the Asheville, N.C. area for twelve years, and finds herself continuously amazed by the quality of the food, landscape, and people that surround her on a daily basis.
Sam Boykin is the editor of Lake Norman Magazine, an award-winning journalist and a freelance writer. He lives in Mooresville, N.C, with his wife, Kimiko, and their two-year-old daughter, Lily June. Over the years he's contributed to dozens of regional and national publications, including Men's Journal, Garden and Gun, Scientific American, Reader's Digest, Our State and WNC. Boykin developed a love for the North Carolina mountains when he attended Lees McRae College in Banner Elk, where he spent far more time hiking, biking and exploring than he did hitting the books.
Erin W. Davis, a former New York state native, is a recent transplant to Western North Carolina. Her love of the rich culture and landscape of Smoky Mountains sprung from frequent family visits during her teenage years and was sealed with her first taste of hickory-smoked barbeque. After graduating with a B.A. in English from the State University of New York at Fredonia, Davis wrote briefly for the Cuba Patriot and Free Press newspaper before seizing the opportunity to relocate to North Carolina. In her spare time, Davis is working to fulfill her culinary bucket list: a compilation of 52 things to cook and eat before she leaves this earth.
Jon Elliston is an Asheville-based writer and editor. The former managing editor of the Asheville newsweekly Mountain Xpress, at present he’s a contributing reporter for Carolina Public Press, a nonprofit news site covering Western North Carolina, and a contributing editor for WNC Magazine. Elliston has an avid interest in the history of the mountain region, and is at work on his third book, A Cruel Summer, which will tell the little-known story of a mob attack on Camp Summerlane—an experimental, integrated children’s camp near Rosman, N.C.—during the height of the civil rights movement.
Joe Hooten was born in Macon, Ga., but spent his formative years surfing the beaches near his home in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. He eventually found his way to Western North Carolina for college at Cullowhee. He received his B.A. in Education from Western Carolina and his M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Hooten taught public middle and high school history in Hendersonville, Cary and then Raleigh for ten years before moving back to Asheville with his wife and three young kids in 2008. Hooten writes about his all-time favorite hobby—music—for The Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living. A second-rate guitarist, he can be found most evenings pickin’ some tunes on the back porch while enjoying the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
Sarah Nester is a wedding and event planner, former newspaper journalist and communications jack-of-all-trades living in Washington, D.C. She was born and raised in Western North Carolina and tries to fascinate urban people with her tales of mountain upbringing. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in English and publishing from Rosemont College. She has worked as a newspaper journalist and columnist in Tennessee, North Carolina and Philadelphia, Pa. She enjoys writing about fashion, culture and regional interests. She likes beautiful shoes and fly-fishing (but not at the same time). She is married with a brand new baby daughter and too many cats to disclose.
Don Hendershot is a freelance writer, naturalist and biological consultant living in Waynesville, N.C. He has written in magazines including Our State, Native American Journal, and Smoky Mountain Living. His weekly column, The Naturalist's Corner, appears in The Smoky Mountain News. Hendershot was nominated by the Roosevelt-Ashes Society for Outstanding Journalist in Conservation 2010. He is contracted with the USDA Forest Service to conduct bird point surveys in six of the eight North Carolina Ranger Districts. His most coveted title is “Daddy” to 10-year-old Izzy and 6-year-old Maddie. Read more at thenaturalistscorner.com.
Constance E. Richards is a seasoned travel, arts, and food writer, who spent half her life in Europe, and was based in Russia as a foreign correspondent for seven years. She has written for Time, Life, the New York Times, Southern Living, People, Conde Nast Traveler, and the London Daily Telegraph, and is contributing food editor for WNC Magazine. She has penned a literary guide to St. Petersburg, Russia; Artful Asheville - Along the Urban Trail; and continues to co-author the Insiders’ Guide to North Carolina’s Mountains with her father. Along with working as update editor for the most recent edition of North Carolina Curiosities, she is director of an international art gallery. Her most recent project is writing a catalog raisonné about the work of her late husband, sculptor and painter Vadim Bora.
Amy Fitzpatrick has been living in WNC her whole life, and specifically, in Canton, since 2007. She has been married to her best friend, Thomas, for a long time, and is a mother to 3. She loves to snoop around old houses and frequent thrift stores. Vegetarian, Calvinist, Southern in habit, and older than you think, Fitzpatrick just hopes she can finish renovating 21 Pennsylvania Avenue before it kills her.
Brianna Willis was born in Charleston, S.C., but moved to Haywood County in 1992 and has lived there ever since. She bought a turn-of-the-century home with her husband in Canton in 2003 and has since modernized to a 1932 bungalow. Willis is an avid blogger and is interested in a number of activities including DIY projects, home gardening, and party and event-planning. While these interests have yet to pay the bills, she hopes one day her ideas will lead her on to great things a la Martha Stewart, but without the home confinement.
Patrick Willis was born and raised in Durham, N.C., and moved to Canton in 2003 with his wife. Since his arrival to western North Carolina, he has worked for a couple of the area’s old houses, including the Biltmore House, and currently, the Thomas Wolfe House in Asheville, N.C. Patrick remains extremely interested in the region’s history. He co-authored Haywood County’s bicentennial history book, Haywood County: Portrait of a Mountain Community, in 2008, and is currently working to place the historic Francis Mill in Waynesville on the National Register of Historic Places.