Category Archives: 2015 WVW Writing Contest

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #5

Continuing the series of Frequently Asked Questions about the West Virginia Writers, Inc., Annual Writing Competitions. To see all of the questions, please click HERE.

QUESTION: I'm interested in entering a short story from a series that I'm writing, but although some are under 5,000 words my favorite one is just under 7,100 words.  Is there a category under which such a story could be entered... or am I just out of luck there?

ANSWER: I'm afraid this is indeed a situation where we don't have a category to fit the bill. When I used to enter, it was forever the bane of my existence that many of my own favorite stories were over the 5000 limit, too. The reason we have the limit is because of the number of entries we receive. For short stories, we average 100 entries per year, all of which have to be read by our judge. If even half the entries are at the 5000 word limit, that's a LOT of words for a judge to get through in the month and a half they will have. The 5000 word limit can still lead to a fairly overwhelming experience for the judge, but it is manageable.

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WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #4

Continuing the series of Frequently Asked Questions about the West Virginia Writers, Inc., Annual Writing Competitions.  To see all of the questions, please click HERE.

QUESTION:  I had a question concerning the book length prose category, and was hoping you could help me out. Is the submission supposed to be a 7500 word excerpt from a longer work, or a complete story that is simply longer than the submissions in other categories?

ANSWER: The 7500 word excerpt is to be from a book-length work (which, as THIS LINK shows, are typically over 80,000 words). The synopsis is there to provide an overview of the entire book-length story, but the 7500 words comes from within that larger work--though not necessarily the beginning of it.

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WV Writers Contest Checklist

West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contests are in the home stretch for the March 31 FINAL deadline.

To help things run smoothly for both entrants and our contest coordinator (me) here’s a handy checklist that you should go over before sending in your entries.


1) Have you read the contest rules to make sure you’re complying with them? Even if you’ve entered a dozen times in the past, please don’t assume you know the rules by heart.  Mistakes happen, so please read the rules again.  The CONTEST GUIDELINES are guidelines, not merely suggestions. Follow them and you cannot go wrong.

2) Is your contest category and the word count for your entry printed in the top right corner of your entry?  The word count means the actual number of words in your entry.  (You don't need word count for poetry entries.  You DO for all prose entries.)  Your word processing program will be able to tell you this. Please do not estimate. For Book Length Prose, this means the word count of your submitted excerpt, not of the overall novel.

3) Have you filled out your entry form correctly and marked which categories you’re entering?  Not filling out the category section would be okay if you’re sending only one entry and its category is noted on the entry itself, but in the case of multiple prose entries it can be important to have it in both places.

4) Have you double and triple checked that your name is NOT printed on your actual story or poem? The ONLY place your name should appear is on your contest entry form.  (We assign each story a code corresponding with that author’s entry in our contest database, where the author’s name and their story are recorded.  This way our judges have no idea who has written a given piece.)

5)  If your entry requires a one-page synopsis (Book Length Prose, Screenplay, Middle Grade Children's Book) have you included it?

6) Have you double-checked to make sure you included all of your entries in your envelope? In the past, we’ve received a few envelopes that are a story or poem short of the intended amount. (In fact, I once received an envelope that only had an entry form and no submission at all.)  I always contact entrants to make sure of their intentions.  But the more careful you are in submitting the easier it is on me. Which brings me to…

7) Have you included accurate contact information for yourself? Every year people send entries in that require followup to correct an error or two, and every year many of those emails sent bounce back because they are incorrectly written on the form. (And, sometimes, handwriting interpretation on my part may be at fault.) Please legibly print your contact info, especially your email address, and make sure it’s all correct.

8) Have you addressed your envelope with the correct address of our contest coordinator?  We have occasionally received entries forwarded from Patsy Pittman, who was our contest coordinator for many years, but has not been since 2008. Please use the correct entry form with the correct address for 2015, which is available at our website and in our newsletter.

Dos and Don'ts.

  • DO staple your individual entries if they have multiple pages.  (You can also paperclip them, but I'm just going to remove the paperclip and staple them again for added stability in transit to the judges.)
  • DON'T staple all of your entries together in one big stapled document.  You may use a paperclip to hold multiple entries together, but stapling them all together does not help and may actually hurt.  (I've received several stabbings while trying to remove such staples.)
  • DO write legibly on your entry form.
  • DON'T forget to include your zip code on the contest entry form.  I don't know the zip code for every town in the state and having to find your envelope to double check the return address slows down the process.)

If you have questions feel free to send them to me at Do know, though, that many of the answers to questions I have received about the contest are found at our Frequently Asked Questions list.

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Contest Countdown: 5 to Go

Today is Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

For those of you following along with your calendar at home, that leaves only 5 days until the 2015 edition of the WV Writers Annual Writing contest reaches its first deadline on March 15.

What do I mean by first deadline?

Aren’t deadlines supposed to be set in stone?

Well, that’s often true. But we’re writers and deadlines mean nothing to us! We watch them sail right past and call our editors and beg for an extension.

However, with the extension often comes a penalty and WV Writers has one, too.

West Virginia Writers will continue to accept contest entries til March 31. However, the penalty is that any entry postmarked between March 16 and March 31 will require a $2 late fee per entry for the adult contest and a $1 late fee for the New Mountain Voices Contest.

If you’d like to avoid paying late fees, please have your entries in the mail to me postmarked by March 15.

"But Eric," those of you with a calendar in front of you are saying, "March 15 falls on a Sunday. How am I supposed to get my entries postmarked by March 15 if the post office is closed?"

Ahh, well, I have a solution to that problem too.  And you can hear all about it at the end of this week's episode of the West Virginia Writers Podcast.  (Don't worry, I'll post it here, too, toward the end of the week.  Just know that there is a way and it's not hard to do if you have an internet connection and an accurate kitchen scale.)

Now here’s the part where I’m going to give you a bit of insider information.

If you are still on the fence about submitting your writing to our contest, where it can potentially be in competition with work by dozens of other writers, and you have a mind to submit to a category where your odds of winning are better than average, I, the contest coordinator, have a few suggestions on ones you might have a second look at.

For instance, Appalachian Writing, Short Story, Short Poetry and Long Poetry are the categories that traditionally receive the most entries of the entire contest.  Whole buncha entries for each of those.

However, if you’re looking to enter a category where your odds are better, you might look at Nonfiction, Screenplay, Book Length Prose, and Children's Book, which are a bit more specialized and don’t get quite as many entries as the first four.

Or, if you’d like even better odds than those first eight, you should try one of the more niche categories we offer such as The Pearl S. Buck Award for Writing for Social Change, and our two topic categories,  Survival and Genre— Fantasy.  The niche categories, with a few exceptions, receive the fewest entries and therefore have the best odds.  Don't get me wrong; you're still going to be competing with good writers regardless, there will just be fewer of them in those niche categories.

Also please remember that if you’ve never won a cash prize in our contest and have never been published in a publication with a print run of 5000 copies or more, you qualify for the Emerging Writers categories, that are designed to give newer writers a leg up against more seasoned writers.  We’ve seen some amazing work come from these categories, which you can hear for yourself on a podcast featuring last year's 2nd place Emerging Writers Prose winner, Rachel Garringer, coming up later in the month.

Find all the contest info at this very website on our contest page.

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2015 WV Writing Contest Judges List

The following is the assembled list of judges for the 2015 version of the West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contest.  Read bios for individual judges HERE.

Appalachian Writing -  Tom Douglass

Book Length Prose - Brad Barkley

Children's Books - Sarah Sullivan

Emerging Writers Poetry - T.K. Lee

Emerging Writers Prose - Rhonda Browning White

Genre: Fantasy - Briane Keene

Screenplay - Glenn Payne

Long Poetry - Valerie Nieman

Pearl S. Buck Award for Writing for Social Change - Marjory Wentworth

Short Nonfiction - Stephanie Kadel Taras

Short Poetry - Soren Stockman

Short Story - Ed Davis

TOPIC: Survival - Lee Maynard

New Mountain Voices: Elementary - Rene K. Nicholson

New Mountain Voices: Middle School - Natalie Sypolt

New Mountain Voices: High School - Pam Hanson

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WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Stephanie Kadel Taras (Short Nonfiction)

Concluding our series of bios for the judges of the 2015 West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contests.  


Stephanie Kadel Taras wrote a book about her grandmother seventeen years ago and has been writing people’s life stories ever since. Through her Ann Arbor, Michigan, company, TimePieces Personal Biographies, she has used her skill as an interviewer and storyteller to write more than 50 full-length, privately published biographies and institutional histories. She has interviewed hundreds of people about their lives and work, including parents, teachers, farmers, business owners, community leaders, lawyers, musicians, factory workers, and even a Great Lakes ship captain. Her book On Solid Rock, about the founding of Eckerd College, won an Independent Publishers book award.

Stephanie grew up in Elkins, West Virginia. In 2013, she published a book about her own life called Mountain Girls. The combination memoir and social history features the lifelong friendship of two girls whose resilience, humor, and creativity shape unexpected lives. Inspired by stories from other West Virginia women, they learn what generations of Appalachians have long known—it’s up to you to make the life you want. Mountain Girls won a West Virginia Writers, Inc., book award while still in production and has been praised by scholars of Appalachian history and culture as an important new work in the field.

Stephanie has a B.A. from Eckerd College, a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in sociology and education from Syracuse University. She is a leader in the Ann Arbor community, where she is currently president of the Ann Arbor City Club’s board of directors. She is also a leader in her profession, having served as vice president of the international Association of Personal Historians, where she is considered the go-to teacher of business development skills to others who want to start a career writing life stories.

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WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Brad Barkley (Book Length Prose/Young Adult)

Continuing our series of bios for the judges of the 2015 West Virginia Writers Annual Writing Contests. 

BRAD BARKLEY (Book Length Prose/Young Adult)

A native of North Carolina, Brad Barkley is the author of the novel, Money, Love, a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection and a "BookSense 76" choice.  Money, Love was named one of the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post and the Library Journal.  His novel Alison's Automotive Repair Manual was also a "BookSense 76" selection.  His short fiction has appeared in over two dozen magazines, including  Southern Review, Georgia Review, the Oxford American, Glimmer Train, Book Magazine, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, which twice awarded him the Emily Balch Prize for Best Fiction.  His work was anthologized in New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2002.  He has won four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.  He is also the co-author of three Young Adult novels, Dream Factory, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, and Jars of Glass.

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WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Natalie Sypolt (New Mountain Voices – High School)

NATALIE SYPOLT (New Mountain Voices - High School)

Natalie Sypolt lives and writes in West Virginia. She received an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University in 2005 and currently an Assistant Professor at Pierpont Community and Technical College. She also teaches community creative writing classes and workshops. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Switchback, r.kv.r.y., Ardor Literary Magazine, Superstition Review, Paste, Willow Springs Review, and The Kenyon Review Online, among others. Natalie is the winner of the Glimmer Train New Writers Contest and the Betty Gabehart Prize. She is also an active book reviewer whose work has appeared in Los Angeles Review, Fjords Review, Paste, Shenandoah, Harpur Palate, and Mid American Review. Additionally, Natalie serves as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, is the High School Workshop Coordinator for the West Virginia Writers Workshop at WVU, and is co-host of SummerBooks: A literary podcast.

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WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Pam Hanson (New Mountain Voices – Middle School)

Pam Hanson (High School)

Pam Andrews Hanson, a former reporter and West Virginia University journalism teacher, is the co-author with her mother/writing partner Barbara Andrews of 40 novels including romance, inspirational women’s fiction, and mystery for Harlequin and Guideposts. Last spring Guideposts released Chesapeake Antique Mysteries, Forgotten History, and Hidden Treasures, a two-book set by the duo. In addition, she and her partner have several indie inspirational romances for Kindle on Amazon.

Currently she is working on a new cozy mystery project of her own.  Pam, a past recipient of the JUG Award, now resides in Nebraska where she writes fulltime when she’s not procrastinating on Facebook:

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WVW Contest Judge Bios 2015 – Renee K. Nicholson (New Mountain Voices – Elementary)

RENEE K. NICHOLSON (New Mountain Voices - Elementary)

Renée K. Nicholson splits her artistic pursuits between writing and dance. She is Assistant Professor in the Multidisciplinary Studies Program at West Virginia University.

Renée studied English at Butler University, and holds a MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University where she won the Rebecca Mason Perry Award for Outstanding First-Year MFA Student and the Russ MacDonald Prize for Graduate Writing, Fiction. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Chelsea, Mid-American Review, Perigee: A Journal of the Arts, Paste, Poets & Writers, Crosstimbers, Naugatuck River Review, Honey Land Review, Dossier, Stymie, ABZ, Prime Number, Blue Lyra Review, Switchback, Fiction Writers Review, Moon City Review, Redux, Cleaver Magazine, Barely South Review, Saw Palm, Bluestem, The Superstition Review, The Gettysburg Review and elsewhere. Her work has been included in the anthologies Not A Muse, A Generation Defining Itself, and in Keeping Track: Fiction of Lists from Main Street Rag. She has served as Assistant to the Director of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop since 2007, serves on the book reviews staff at Los Angeles Review, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She co-hosts the literary podcast SummerBooks and co-founded the journal Souvenir. Her collection of poems, Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center, was published in 2014 in the Crossroads Poetry Series at Urban Farmhouse Press.

In 2011, Renée was the Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona.

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