Gianna Russo is a life-long poet, writer, editor and educator. She is the author of a full length poetry collection, Moonflower, (Kitsune Books, 2011), winner of the Florida Book Award Bronze medal, the Florida Publisher’s Association Publisher’s Award Silver medal and the Eric Hofer New Horizons Award. She has also published two chapbooks, Blue Slumber (2006) and The Companion of Joy, a chapbook based on the paintings of Vermeer, (Green Rabbit Press at Saint Leo University, 2014). A Pushcart Prize nominee, Gianna has published poems in Green Mountains Review, Italiana Americana, Crab Orchard Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, Apalachee Review, Florida Review, Tampa Review, Ekphrasis, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, saw palm, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in saw palm and the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times). In her first stab at fiction, she contributed a chapter to the collaborative novel 15 Views of Tampa Bay, published serially on the website of Barrow Street Press in 2013.
Gianna is a fellow of both the Surdna Foundation and the Hambidge Center for the Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of an Arts Teacher Fellowship which allowed her to attend the Spoleto, Italy Writers Workshop in 2006. She has also received a Hillsborough County Artist Fellowship, an Emerging Artist Grant, and an honorable mention for the Florida Artist Fellowship and a Hillsborough County Arts Teachers Grant. She received the AWP Intro Journals Award honorable mention in 2016. Once dubbed the “doyen of Tampa poets” in Creative Loafing (then Weekly Planet), Gianna was named Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay Local Poet in 2017.
Gianna has been actively involved in the literary arts community for years. In 2005, she founded YellowJacket Press (YJP), an independent nonprofit all-volunteer press which is currently the premier Florida publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts. YJP has published the chapbooks of the Poet Laureate of Florida, Peter Meinke, as well as the Poets Laureate of Florida’s Big Bend, Tampa and St. Petersburg. In 2012 she won Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay Award for her work with YellowJacket Press.
Gianna has been an Artist-in-Residence with Florida’s Arts in Education program and served for over 10 years on the Hillsborough County’s Artist Advisory Committee. She has been a visiting poet and taught creative writing for USF, The Writer’s Voice, the Poetry in the Schools program and the Tampa Museum of Art. She is the former administrator of the Florida Suncoast Writers Conference and former director of The Writer’s Voice of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA. She also facilitated an outreach writing group for Hospice health-care workers.
With a master’s degree in English (University of South Florida), Gianna has over 30 years of experience as a teacher of writing. Since 2011 she has been Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she also founded the Sandhill Writers Retreat and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the university’s literary magazine, Sandhill Review. Expanding her writer’s toolbox, she returned to graduate school in 2014 and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Tampa in 2017.
Earlier in her career, Gianna was pivotal to developing literary arts education. In 1997, she designed and helped open the creative writing department at Blake Magnet School of the Arts in Tampa, at the time the most extensive creative writing high school program in Florida. Several of her courses were adopted by the state. She co-directed the program until 2007, earning Florida Lead Teacher appointment and Performance Pay along the way. She was recognized as Teacher of the Year, 2003-2004. She also as an adjunct professor for many years. She taught composition, technical and expository writing, literature and creative writing at Hillsborough Community College, The University of Tampa, and USF. From 2007-2011, Gianna served as the Curator of Education at University of Tampa’s Henry Plant Museum, where she honed her grant writing and marketing skills. After three years at the Museum, Ms. Russo became the sole grant writer for Academy Prep, a private, non-profit preparatory middle school.
An avid gardener and home cook, Gianna is the mother of two grown sons and daughters-in-law. She lives in a 1920’s bungalow in Seminole Heights, Tampa with her husband, the consultant, writer and editor, Jeff Karon and their cat, Gingko.