Space to Create


Sundress Academy hosts visiting writers at Karns farmhouse

Nestled into a verdant holler in the Karns area of Knoxville, you’ll find a small farmhouse surrounded by lush foliage and serenaded by the bleating of sheep, the buzzing of cicadas, and the intermittent sounds of chickens and ducks. Two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs protect the grazing herd while two writers—a poet from Washington state and a novelist from Tennessee—share the shade of the front porch to beat the summer heat. The two writers in residence at the farm lead very different lives thousands of miles apart, but they have come to the farm for the same reason. They are seeking the space and solitude to work on their craft. Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is the perfect place to meet this need.

Erin Elizabeth Smith founded Sundress Publications, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in January of 2000, as a home for literary journals. In 2011, Sundress published its first print book. Although it is a national organization, Sundress believes it is important to engage with the Knoxville community. That’s why they offer many free literary events, both online and in person, such as a monthly reading series at a local brewery and an online poetry series.

SAFTA is the residency arm of Sundress, located on the 45-acre Firefly Farms, founded by Erin and her partner, Joe Minarick, in 2013. Erin characterizes the beginning days of renovating the old farmhouse and the property as a year of “a bunch of poets with chainsaws, taking down trees, doing big bonfires, taking out walls, redoing plumbing, and doing tiling.” This communal effort to reimagine an aging farm as an artist’s residency breathed new life into the property, and they welcomed their first residents in the fall of 2013. Over the intervening years, SAFTA has brought writers such as Chen Chen, Kathy Fagan, and Ruth Awad, among many others, from all over the world to the hills of East Tennessee. One resident traveled all the way from Pakistan. 

 As the managing editor of Sundress Publications and the creative director for SAFTA, Erin’s dedication to the arts and the artistic community have made a lasting impact in the lives of many emerging and established writers and visual artists. She encourages the Knoxville community to take advantage of the many readings, Holler Salons, and other events that are offered free and open to the public. You can find information about upcoming events online at   

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