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Executive Director

Joanne V. Gabbin, Ph.D.
Contact Info

A professor of English at James Madison University, Joanne V. Gabbin founded the Furious Flower Poetry Center in 1999, prompted by the overwhelming success of the historic gathering she hosted at the university in 1994, which was the first academic conference on black poetry. As executive director of the center, Dr. Gabbin remains a visionary leader, building key relationships with scholars, poets, and corporate partners, as well as conceiving, overseeing, and fundraising for special projects and events.

She is the author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, editor of Furious Flower: African American Poetry From the Black Arts Movement to the Present and The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry, and executive producer of the Furious Flower video and DVD series. She is also founder and organizer of the Wintergreen Women Writers’ Collective, owner of the 150 Franklin Street Gallery in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and author of the children’s book, I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum.

A dedicated teacher and scholar, Dr. Gabbin has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Among them are the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book Sterling A. Brown (1986), the James Madison University Faculty Women’s Caucus and Women’s Resource Network for Scholarship (1988), and the Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education. Recently, Dr. Gabbin was the recipient of two faculty awards: the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Service and the JMU Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award.

In October 2005, Dr. Gabbin was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.

Courses Taught

ENG 260 Survey of African American Literature

ENG 360 Major Black Writers

ENG 361 African American Fiction Writers

ENG 362 African American Poets

ENG 410 African American Literary Texts

ENG 412J Life Writing: Lives of Contemporary African American Writers

ENG 672 Studies in African American Literature


Communication Specialist

Karen Risch Mott
Contact Info

Karen Risch Mott manages Furious Flower’s communication with the public through its websites and social media outlets, as well as traditional media outlets, directs the children’s poetry camp, assists with event planning and logistics, and handles many of the business functions of the department.

She began writing professionally in high school, earned a BA in English with a minor in philosophy from California State University, Fullerton, earned a professional certificate in marketing from the University of California, San Diego, and has taught college-level courses in writing, editing, and business. A collaborative writer (“ghostwriter”) who has produced several bestsellers, Ms. Risch Mott continues her freelance work.

Graduate Assistant

John McCray
Contact Info

John McCray assists in planning and executing Furious Flower’s events, supports the operations of the academic center, and works with the student organization Word is Born Writers' Society. He recently graduated with his B.S. in Public Policy & Administration and Psychology from James Madison University and is currently pursuing his Master of Public Administration degree, concentrating in Non-Profit Management. He is involved in several projects with non-profits around the greater Harrisonburg area, promoting and advocating for social and environmental justice.

Student Assistant

Andrew Dudka

Andrew Dudka assists Furious Flower primarily with video editing, most often for The Fight & the Fiddle,  and production of print promotions. He is studying integrated media in the School of Media Arts and Design at James Madison University.

Student Assistant

Mary Hannah Vaughn

Hannah Vaughn assists Furious Flower primarily by producing posters and flyers for readings and other events, as well as writing for The Fight & the Fiddle. She is an undergraduate student pursing a degree in Health Services Administration at James Madison University. 

2015-16 Furious Flower Advisory Board

Chair: Opal Moore, Atlanta, Ga.
. . .
Lynn Carter, Lansdowne, Va.
Jon Cawthorne, Morgantown, W.Va.
Carter Moffett Douglass, Staunton, Va.
Christopher Jones, Harrisonburg, Va.
John Lowe, Athens, Ga.
Patrick Oliver, Chicago, Ill.
Saranna Rankin, Broadway, Va.
Myra Sklarew, Bethesda, Md.
Paul Somers, Harrisonburg, Va.
Stephanie Wilson, Harrisonburg, Va.
. . .
Members Emeriti:
Deborah Gille, Carolina Beach, N.C.
Merle Wenger, Harrisonburg, Va.