Today, February 26, 2017, marks the 40th birthday of West Virginia Writers, Inc.
West Virginia Writers
A Brief History
(By Mike Pauley, originally published in Catching the Crow,
the first WV Writers anthology in 1982.)
West Virginia Writers began at a meeting in February 1977 at the Cultural Center in Charleston. The meeting was called by James B. Andrews, Director of Arts & Humanities, W.Va. Department of Culture and History of the State of West Virginia, after Mr. Andrews had received numerous suggestions that such a group needed to organize. About 25 people attended, including Shirley Campbell, Jim Comstock (editor of W. Va. Hillbilly), poet-historian Doris Miller, poet Kirk Judd, poet Lyle Parkins, Michael Pauley (president of the Appalachian Literary League), Pat Love (co-editor of The Illustrated Appalachian Intelligencer), Helen Carper, Dolly Withrow, Dr. William Plumley, poet Jane Somerville, poet Bonnie McKeown, and others. At this meeting a committee was formed to further investigate the possibilities of forming a permanent organization.
The West Virginia Writers Committee, chaired by Shirley Young Campbell, met several times during the following months, enlisted further support, compiled mailing lists, etc., and in April 1977 incorporated as West Virginia Writers, Inc. The first officers were president, Dr. William Plumley; vice president, Lawrence Levy; treasurer, Helen Carper; and secretary, Shirley Young Campbell. A constitution and by-laws were drawn up and adopted.
In June 1977 the organization held its first constitutionally mandated business meeting (officers to be elected from July 1 to July 1) at the Cultural Center. At this meeting it was decided to hold a state-wide Writers Conference the following year. Officers for 1977-78 were elected as follows: president, Dr. William Plumley; vice president, Michael J. Pauley; treasurer, Betty MacQueen, secretary, Julia Canady.
The first W.Va. Writers Conference was held in June 1978 at the Cultural Center in Charleston and was an overwhelming success. Nearly 200 writers from all over the state attended the three-day affair, and there was much excitement and comraderie in the air.
Since 1978, West Virginia Writers has held a conference every year and continues to grow in membership and activity.
Regional literary magazines and publishers have had great input into the organization and have allowed for the wide publication of members’ works. New books have been published due the influence of WVW and, most importantly, WVW has served to bring many writers, editors, publishers, critics, etc., from all over West Virginia and the region together.
In 1981-82 WVW sponsored its first state-wide Writers Awards Program, as well as the first state-wide Poetry Contest. Altogether, nearly 1300 individuals entered both contests and over $6,000 in award money was distributed by WVW.
In addition to the annual conferences and to the awards contests, West Virginia Writers was the leading force in bringing about the “Poet’s Corner” program done by the W.Va. Dept. of Culture and History. During the Poet’s Corner series, which spanned 1979-1981, over 100 West Virginia poets read their works at the Cultural Center in Charleston and were paid substantial honoraria, plus expenses, for doing so.
WVW also sponsored and administered the one-year residency of famed native author Davis Grubb during 1987-79, sponsoring his many readings and talks throughout the state during that period. WVW has promoted regional meetings and gathers of writers from around the state.