Colorado Teaching Certification, Western Colorado University, 2006
B.A., Albertus Magnus College, English, Concentration in Creative Writing, 2004
Johanna Parkhurst is the author of multiple young adult romance novels and adult contemporary romance novels. The majority of her works feature LGBTQ+ characters, as she considers herself to be primarily a writer of LGBTQ+ romance. Her most recently published ghostwritten work was a YA romance that received a Kirkus-starred review. She has been traditionally published, published by small presses, and she currently self-publishes her own works; she is the owner and operator of Maple Mountains Press, LLC. Her recent novel Counterpoint, which was published by Heart Eyes Press under the name J.E. Birk, was a bestseller in several Amazon categories upon its release. ILYBSM, a novel she penned with two co-writers, spent multiple weeks in the top 100 Gay Romance novels category on Amazon in December of 2022. Her novella The Worst Bad Thing was a Rainbow Romance award-winner.
Johanna is a long-time teacher who is happiest in any writing classroom. She was a Faculty of the Year recipient at Pueblo Community College and is currently the Director of the Genre Fiction M.A./M.F.A. program at Western Colorado University. She enjoys paddleboarding, skiing, and traveling. She does not enjoy vacuuming.
How did you discover Western?
I first fell in love with Gunnison and the Western Colorado University campus when I was studying to receive my teaching certification here in 2005 and 2006. The Gunnison area has held a special place in my heart ever since then, and I’ve visited many times over the years. I’ve formed so many wonderful memories in Gunnison: everything from disastrously beautiful camping trips to boating and paddleboarding adventures to discovering my favorite sandwich in Colorado. (It’s the Plymouth Fury from the Firebrand, just in case anyone is curious.) Returning to teach at an institution I love so deeply, one which was such a part of my formative years in writing and education, feels like coming home.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
My teaching practice and my writing practice have always been deeply intertwined, so the highlights of my career span across those two areas of my life. I’ll never forget graduating my first class of students or signing my first publishing contract. Earning my first bestseller label will always hold a special place in my memory, as will winning the Faculty of the Year award at Pueblo Community College.
What most excites you about your field?
There have been many times in my career when I felt as though there was no place for genre fiction in academia. I often worried that I would never be able to fully merge my love of writing genre fiction with my love of teaching writing. I am absolutely thrilled to now be working in an academic program that celebrates genre fiction in so many new and exciting ways.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
I’m not sure I can choose! I will say that skiing at Crested Butte is very high on the list.