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  Name:   Ms. Rachel Harper
Month: April 2007
Schools: Brown BA 1994
University of Southern California MFA 1996
Organization: Spalding University MFA in Writing Program
Title: Faculty

Rachel M. Harper's first novel, Brass Ankle Blues, was published in 2006 by Simon & Schuster's Touchstone Division. Shay Youngblood, author of Soul Kiss, said "Rachel Harper's debut is a tender, passionate, and moving read," and The Providence Journal called the novel "wonderfully luminous and lyrical."

During her years at Brown University Harper concentrated in Modern Culture & Media, where she wrote, shot, and edited a 12-minute narrative film entitled, "Acknowledgement," as her senior thesis. She served as Editor of UWEZO, the Black Literary Journal, and was also a Minority Peer Counselor. She supplemented her film production studies by spending a summer at New York University, where she took an intensive film production course and learned to shoot and edit her own short films. She went on to earn her MFA from the University of Southern California's Professional Writing Program, where she was awarded an MPW Merit Scholarship and worked as Assistant Poetry Editor at the Southern California Anthology. While in graduate school she interned at Walt Disney Studios and the American Film Institute (AFI), and worked in production on several TV shows and music videos.

Harper later moved back to Providence, where she worked for AIDS Care Ocean State, a non-profit AIDS Service Organization. As the Harm Reduction Coordinator, she ran the agency's HIV Prevention & Education Program, which targeted at-risk adolescents, and organized ENCORE, the state's only needle exchange program. For two years she was co-chair of the Community Advisory Board for the HIV Vaccine/Prevention Trials Network (HVTN & HPTN) at Miriam Hospital, where she worked to enhance community involvement and promote an understanding of the risks and rewards of volunteering in clinical studies.

During this time, she continued to write on the side, initially publishing poems and short stories, and eventually selling her first novel, Brass Ankle Blues, in 2005. Her poems and short fiction have been published in Chicago Review, African American Review, Prairie Schooner, and the anthology Mending the World: Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers. Her One-Act play, "Bluffing on a Queen's Playground," was part of the New Black Playwrights Festival at Actor's Express in Atlanta, and she recently collaborated on the performance piece, "The Book of Daniel," by interdisciplinary theatre artist Daniel Alexander Jones, which premiered in Austin, Texas in 2005. Harper has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and won the 2002 Fellowship in Fiction from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

She has been a teacher/educator for many years, working with children, teenagers, and college students in various settings. She has organized art programs at summer camps in Los Angeles and Providence, taught creative writing at several after-school programs in both cities, and been a guest lecturer in many college classrooms. She is presently on the faculty at Spalding University's MFA in Writing Program where she teaches fiction. She lives in California, where she is currently working on her second novel, This Side of Providence. Website: www.rachelmharper.com

 

 

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