Nickole Brown grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and Deerfield Beach, Florida. Her books include Fanny Says, a collection of poems published by BOA Editions in 2015; her debut, Sister, a novel-in-poems published by Red Hen Press in 2007; and an anthology, Air Fare, that she co-edited with Judith Taylor. She graduated from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, studied literature at Oxford University as an English Speaking Union Scholar, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She worked at the independent, literary press, Sarabande Books, for ten years, and she was the National Publicity Consultant for Arktoi Books and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. She has taught creative writing at the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, and was on faculty at the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference, the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Murray State, and the Writing Workshops in Greece. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for four years until deciding to write full time. Currently, she lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs. She teaches as part of UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program each fall and will be on faculty at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program this coming summer 2017.
As a poet with an MFA in Fiction, Nickole Brown has a strong leaning toward cross-genre work, an interest reflected in her two collections of poems. Fanny Says, published by BOA Editions in 2015, is a biography-in-poems about her grandmother, Frances Lee Cox, and Sister, her debut collection published by Red Hen Press in 2007, is a novel-in-poems. She is currently at work on her next manuscript, a linked collection tentatively titled Down The Center Line of Spine.
Though much of her childhood was spent in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Nickole considers herself a Kentucky native. For nearly ten years, she worked at Twice Told, a used bookstore in Louisville, where she received the vast majority of her literary education from its cranky and brilliant proprietor, Harold Maier. There, she also gained much of her early experiences as a writer with a local movement called Rant for the Literary Renaissance. It was with this raucous group that she gave some of her first readings, published her first chapbook, Mud, and later traveled to New York University to share the stage with poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg. Shortly after this period, she met Hunter S. Thompson (also from Louisville) and in 1996, went to Woody Creek, Colorado, to work as his Editorial Assistant. Upon Thompson’s death in 2005, Nickole wrote a short feature documenting her time there for Poets & Writers.
Early on, she received her first training as a writer at Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts and thereafter had the honor of winning a Scholastic Writing award whose prize was a beloved Brother Word Processor, weighing in at thirty pounds, and an invitation to read her winning entry with Garrison Keillor at New York's Waldorf Astoria. She graduated summa cum laude from University of Louisville and studied Romantic Poetry at Oxford University as an English Speaking Union Scholar. In 2003, she received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has continued her engagement with that program by returning to campus as a Visiting Poet and by assisting with the coordination of their writing residencies in Slovenia and Puerto Rico.
For ten years, Nickole worked at the nonprofit, independent, literary press, Sarabande Books as Director of Marketing and Development. There, she helped to garner national attention for the press and its authors. With over a hundred titles in print or under contract, this press is considered to be one of the strongest independents in the country. In November of 2008, Publishers Weekly ran an article featuring her work as a publicist, and for several years after her tenure at Sarabande, she continued to work as a publicity consultant for individual poets as well as for national venues including the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Arktoi Books, an imprint founded by the poet Eloise Klein Healy dedicated to publishing literary fiction and poetry by lesbian writers.
Now, as a professor, Nickole passes on what she has learned of the publishing industry to her students, regularly teaching seminars on independent publishing both to her university students and to writers at conferences. She has participated in many panels on publishing, including presentations at the Associated Writing Programs Conference, The Palm Beach Poetry Festival, The Florida Literary Arts Conference, The Virginia Festival of the Book, The Oxford Conference for the Book, and Ball State University. She also keeps a toe in the publishing industry by working with Robert Alexander as Editor of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series. This series is dedicated to the appreciation, enjoyment, and understanding of American prose poetry and publishes about one book annually through White Pine Press. She is also an Advisory Editor for Orison Books and on the Advisory Board of Sibling Rivalry Press.
Nickole began her work as a teacher in 2008 and, feeling it was her true calling, dedicated herself to the classroom. Since then, she’s led many workshops in Fiction and Poetry, and has also designed and taught interdisciplinary courses that use literature to spark history to life, particularly African-American and Queer Civil Rights in the United States. She has taught at Bellarmine University, University of Louisville, and Antioch University Midwest. For four years, Nickole worked as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and in addition to tending to her classes there, she mentored independent writing projects and served as the advisor for the student-run literary magazine, Equinox. In 2015, she made the difficult decision to resign from this tenure-track position in order to have more time to write and work with students in a deeper, more concentrated way. Since then, she has spent time teaching as part of the Writing Workshops in Greece and the Sewannee Young Writers Conference, and she often works with graduate students at the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Murray State. She also regularly teaches workshops at conferences and residencies, including Poets House, the Poetry Society of North Carolina, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and the Sanibel Island Writers Conference.
Nickole thinks of poetry as an audio art—something to be heard and not just read on the page—and enjoys giving readings. When Sister, her first collection, was published in 2007, she toured for years, giving over eighty readings in venues as far and wide as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Virginia, Ann Arbor, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, and Portland, Oregon, and her most recent tour for Fanny Says covered over twenty states in one year. She’s shared the stage with many poets she admires, including Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, and Matthew Zapruder. But she also enjoys low-key venues—in the past, she’s given readings on summer lawns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the wobbly stages of roughneck bars in Nashville, and in a packed Waffle House in Eastern Kentucky.
She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, and their motley collection of ill-behaved, highly lovable pets. There she is happily on the Advisory Board for Orison Books and teaching each fall as part of UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program. Currently at work on a collection of lyric essays and poems about animals, she is thrilled to spend two days a week volunteering at Animal Haven of Asheville and the Western North Carolina Nature Center. She also spends vast amounts of time hiking in the mountains, trolling around her favorite indie bookstore in town (Yay, Malaprops!), and sipping into a frenzy drinking yerba mate at the nearby Dobrá Tea.
Nickole has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. With their support, she was able to make the changes in her life that allowed her to keep writing. It's no understatement to say that without their generosity, the vast majority of her poems would not exist.