2019 Contest Judges

The following are the judges for the 2019 West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contests.

Karin Fuller (EMERGING WRITERS PROSE) -- Karin Fuller is a long-time newspaper columnist whose stories appear weekly in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram, Huntington Herald-Dispatch and Williamson Daily News. She has also been published in Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, Woman’s World, and Appalachian Heritage, among others, and is a two-time first place winner of both the Writer’s Digest short genre fiction competition and the Shepherd University Fiction Competition. She currently resides in Atlanta.

Tasha Cotter (EMERGING WRITERS POETRY) -- Tasha Cotter is the author of the poetry collections Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013), The Aqua Notebook (Anaphora, 2019), and three chapbooks. Her work has appeared in journals such as Contrary Magazine, NANO fiction, and Thrush. A graduate of the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Writers Studio, she makes her home in Lexington, Kentucky where she works in higher education and serves as the president of the Kentucky State Poetry Society. You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.

R Dean Johnson (BOOK LENGTH PROSE) -- R Dean Johnson is the author of Californium: A Novel of Punk Rock, Growing Up, and Other Dangerous Things (Plume-Penguin) and Delicate Men: Stories (Alternative Book). He is an Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University and serves as director of their low-res MFA in creative writing program, Bluegrass Writers Studio. His essays and stories have appeared in Ascent, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, New Orleans Review, Salt Hill, Santa Clara Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, the writer Julie Hensley, their two children, three cats, two hermit crabs, and one very patient dog.

Kristi Davis (ROMANCE) -- Kristi Davis is a Dyslexia Specialist and author. She adores the written word and spends most of her days assuring that others have the same opportunity. Her book Lexy, written for parents and children, teaches the gifts and early warning signs of dyslexia. Enlightening parents and educators on recognizing these signs and preventing a lifetime of sorrowful vexation is Kristi's mission.  As a youngster in West Virginia, Kristi spent much time hidden in the woods leaned against a tree or lying on a grand-sized rock basking in books. She read Scholastic fun, Peanuts to Pippi, and on to classics like Little Women and The Secret Garden. During her teens, Kristi discovered her favorite genre: romance. She read Harlequin, Rosemary Rogers and day dreamed of her own Mr. Darcy. Presently, romance with fractions of risqué outrank her old favorites, and you will find her on evening strolls reading via Audible. No matter the delivery, the written word persists as her prize of passion.  If you struggle with reading and spelling or know someone who does, you can find Lexy here:
www.amazon.com/Lexy-Kristi-Davis/dp/1547281294/   And you can find Kristi here: KristiDavis.org

Dr Hunter O’Hara (SOCIAL CHANGE) -- Dr. O'Hara is professor of Education at The University of Tampa. He is also is the author of an original philosophical construct of the transcendent teacher learner relationship. His pedagogical relationship research also led him to develop the foundational construct of the shamanic teacher. The transcendent and shamanic constructs were built on data derived from heuristic methodology studies that were conducted in Denmark and the United States over a 25-year period. His research stands at the intersection of education philosophy, education psychology and best practice. O'Hara's book, Transcendent Teacher Learner Relationships: The Way of the Shamanic Teacher is available through Sense Publishers: Rotterdam, Boston Taipei. The first two chapters of the book are available at www.sensepublishers.com/. His research is published in a range of journals including: Childhood Education, Journal of Early Childhood Education, Multicultural Education, Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, College Quarterly and Journal of the Professoriate. O'Hara is a former public school teacher, grades 1-12. He taught choral music at Saint Albans High School in Saint Albans, West Virginia and later he was assistant conductor of choirs at West Virginia University. He is an academic leader having served as UT Department of Education chair for 11 years. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. He also serves on doctoral committees at the University of Hawaii and the University of South Florida. He is currently writing his memoir.

Elizabeth Harris (STAGE PLAY) -- Elizabeth A. Harris possesses a BA in acting, and a MA in Theatre with an emphasis in directing from Morehead State University and a MFA in playwriting from Spalding University.  She has been a practicing professional theatre artist for 25 years and teaching theatre for 23 years.  Elizabeth has worked for such theatre companies as Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and Flat Rock Playhouse.  She has also had several original works produced in Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.   Elizabeth served as Artistic Director of New Edgecliff Theatre from 2004 to 2006.  She is co-founder and serves as co-artistic director for Cincinnati LAB Theatre, a theatre focused on developing new works.  Elizabeth taught in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Northern Kentucky University from 2002 to 2015. Currently she teaches in the Theatre Department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department and the Theatre Department at St. Xavier High School, where she teaches acting and playwriting. Elizabeth is also Co-Director of Theatre Xavier at St. Xavier High School.

Dr Carla Wilson (MIDDLE GRADE / YOUNG ADULT BOOK) -- Carla Wilson holds a bachelor’s degree in English and math education, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Wilson began her teaching career in the hills of West Virginia and has been an educator for nearly twenty years. Wilson has taught various subjects to students in grades five through adulthood, served on state education committees, presented at teaching conferences, and assisted in creating the rubric for the state writing assessment. She was nominated as teacher of the year and earned a Golden Apple award when she was teaching middle school. She currently resides in southern Ohio with her family where she volunteers at the local elementary school and teaches undergraduate and graduate students for Hannibal LaGrange University. To learn more, visit http://www.firststopeducation.com.

Michaela Amaral (CHILDREN'S BOOKS) -- Michaela Amaral has been encouraging young minds for more than twenty years as a teacher, education mentor and a teacher leader in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Michaela holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College and M.A. in Special Education from Providence College. She also holds several teaching certifications from early childhood to special education to school principal.  Michaela began her career as a special education teacher and transitioned to fourth grade and kindergarten classrooms. Michaela’s library of children's books serves as the foundation to her day-to-day teaching strategy. She is especially sensitive to children’s social and emotional needs within and beyond the classroom.  Taking center stage in her classroom is collaborative learning activities. Her years of experience have landed her in front of her peers as a kindergarten teacher mentor. Most recently, she is serving as a member of an embedded support team focused on technology and blended learning. To get a glimpse inside her classroom, check out her blog at... https://sites.google.com/a/warwickschools.org/llkinders/weekly-blog

Valerie Nieman (POETRY CHAPBOOK) -- Valerie Nieman’s third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, features work that has appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, Southern Poetry Review, and other journals. Her writing has appeared widely and been selected for numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods (WVU) and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (U Georgia). She has held North Carolina, West Virginia, and NEA creative writing fellowships. She teaches workshops at John C. Campbell Folk School, NC Writers Network conferences, and many other venues. Her readings have included the WTAW, Piccolo Spoleto, and Joaquin Miller series. Her fourth novel, To the Bones, is coming out from West Virginia University Press in spring 2019. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.

Kari Gunter-Seymour poses for a portrait at the Dairy Barn Arts Center on March 6th, 2018.

Kari Gunter-Seymour (SHORT POETRY) -- Three times a pushcart nominee, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s chapbook Serving was chosen runner up in the 2016 Yellow Chair Review Annual Chapbook Contest and nominated for a 2018 Ohioana Award. She won first place in Still: The Journal’s 2018 Literary Contest and at the 2018 Hocking Hills Poetry Festival. Her poems can be found in many fine journals – Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, CALYX, Main Street Rag– as well as on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. She is the founder/curator of the “Women of Appalachia Project,” (www.womenofappalachia.com) an arts organization she created to address discrimination directed at women living in Appalachia. She holds a BFA in graphic design, an MA in commercial photography, is an Instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and Poet Laureate for Athens, OH.

Mary Carroll-Hackett (LONG POETRY) -- Mary Carroll-Hackett's poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat, The Prose-Poem Project, and Cultural Weekly among others. She was named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. Her chapbook, The Real Politics of Lipstick, won Slipstream's 2010 poetry competition, and another, Animal Soul, was released in 2013 from Kattywompus Press. Her full-length collection If We Could Know Our Bones was released January 2014 from A-Minor Press. Another collection, The Night I Heard Everything, came out from FutureCycle Press in April 2015, and another, Trailer Park Oracle, from Kelsey Books in February 2016. FutureCycle Press released A Little Blood, A Little Rain, in April 2016, and Death for Beginners from Kelsey Books in October 2017. A new chapbook, (Un)Hinged, is due out later in 2019. Mary founded and teaches in the Creative Writing programs at Longwood University and with the low-residency MFA faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan. She also teaches workshops on Writing through the Chakras, Writing the Spiritual Life, Writing Prayer, and Writing the Mother, at The Porches Writers Retreat, the WriterHouse, and through other venues in Virginia and North Carolina. Mary is at work on a novel.

Anna Dickson James (SHORT STORY) --  Anna Dickson James earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and is an Assistant Professor of English at Garrett College.   Teaching creative writing, literature, and composition at the college level with the opportunity to encourage beginning writers is a dream come true for her.  She’s won numerous awards in poetry, short fiction, and novel from WV Writers, Inc., and her work has appeared in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers.  She lives with her one-eyed dog in Friendsville, Md. where she enjoys hiking, and on lazier days, watching the river float by.  You can reach Anna on Instagram  or Facebook.

Jane Congdon (NONFICTION) -- Jane Congdon grew up in Glen Ferris, West Virginia, surrounded by mountains. After graduating from Concord College (now Concord University) she made a career of words, working as an English teacher and a newspaper reporter before finding her niche as a textbook editor in Cincinnati, Ohio. She retired from that career in 2009 after 30 years to write and take on selected editing projects. At age 59, Jane followed Dracula’s footsteps through Transylvania with a guide, resulting in the memoir It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me. She then co-authored her brother’s memoir, Mr. Joe: Tales from a Haunted Life, the story of a struggling single dad who became a night custodian in a haunted school. Mr. Joe was a finalist for the 2014 Ohioana Book Award in Nonfiction. At 69, Jane returned to the mountains as a backpacker on the Appalachian Trail. Her third memoir, How the WILD EFFECT Turned Me into a Hiker at 69 (2018)--the story of her 17 weeks on the trail--is an American BookFest Best Book Award winner.

Sharon Stackpole (NEW MOUNTAIN VOICES GRADES 1-5) -- Sharon Stackpole is a former reporter and copy editor for the Wheeling Intelligencer and News-Register who has won awards from the Associated Press for her enterprise, investigative and industry reporting. She has also done freelance writing for Wonderful West Virginia magazine and both written and illustrated several books for the Sketchbook Project in Brooklyn, NY including “The Yellow Kite” and “Lipstick Courage”. Her artwork has been featured in the volume “Peace, Love, and Understanding: 2013” published by The Peace Project as part of a fundraising effort to better living conditions for the people of Sierra Leone. She also volunteered teaching art at the elementary school level for six years and in 2013, was both a contributor and then on the editorial board for the online literary journal Topaz Review. Additionally, Sharon volunteered with the Read Aloud program reading to special needs children in Kanawha County.

Jennifer Deitz Weingardt (NEW MOUNTAIN VOICES GRADES 6-8) -- Jennifer Deitz Weingardt is a freelance writer and author of short stories. Her articles and short fiction have appeared in various publications, including National Geographic Traveler, Bay Weekly, New Lines From an Old Line State, the Anthology of Appalachian Writers Silas House Volume II, and Diner Stories:  Off the Menu. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the West Virginia Writers, Inc., and the Cheshire Cats children's books critique group. She is working on her first middle grade novel about a horse rescue.

Rachelle Beckner (NEW MOUNTAIN VOICES GRADES 9-12) -- Rachelle Beckner, a native West Virginian, has a bachelor's of science degree in Journalism from West Virginia University and an executive MBA from West Virginia University. She spent the early part of her career working in newspapers, including the Naples Daily News in Naples, FL and the former Charleston Gazette in Charleston, W.Va. Beckner left journalism and began a career in philanthropy, raising money for social service, healthcare and higher education organizations. She currently resides in Clemson, SC, with her husband, two daughters and dog.

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