WV Writers 2021 Contest Judge Bios

Kari Gunter-Seymour lives in Albany, OH. Her award-winning poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen and Serving. Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Verse Daily, Rattle, Still, The LA Times. She is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project and editor of the WOAP anthology series, Women Speak, volumes 1-6. She is the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year and Poet Laureate of Ohio.

Short Story:
Rhonda Browning White resides near Daytona Beach, FL. She is the winner of The 2019 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction for her short-story collection The Lightness of Water & Other Stories, a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Four of the stories are nominated for 2021 Pushcart Prizes. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in Spartanburg, SC and was awarded the Sterling Watson Fellowship from Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise. She is currently at work on her first novel.

Matthew Ferrence is the author of Appalachia North: a memoir, the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia 2019 Book of the Year, and All-American Redneck. His essays and short fiction have appeared widely in North American literary magazines. He teaches creative writing at Allegheny College, where he also serves as Chair of the Department of English.

Emerging Writers Prose:
Brooks Rexroat is the author of Pine Gap and Thrift Store Coats and his stories have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, The London (UK) Telegraph, and Midwestern Gothic. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a BA in print journalism from Morehead State University. He lives in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and serves as editor and publisher at Summer Camp Publishing.

Emerging Writers Poetry:
Bonnie Proudfoot moved to the Appalachian region in 1979 and has lived here since. She’s taught for many years at Hocking college in Nelsonville, Ohio. She’s a fiction writer, a poet, and a glass artist. Goshen Road is her first book. She currently lives in Athens, Ohio.

Middle Grade Books:
Rachelle Beckner spent 10 years as a journalist with news outlets in Florida, Ohio and her home state of West Virginia, most recently at the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette. She now lives in Clemson, S.C., with her two daughters, Belle and Lilly; husband, Andrew; and dog, Whittaker. Rachelle works with Tigers United University Consortium, which is dedicated to saving tigers in the wild, but also enjoys writing freelance articles for various publications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University.

Social Change:
Daniel Abbott is the author of the novel The Concrete and the co-author of the collaborative memoir Wounds. His writing has appeared in Lit Hub, the Noctua Review, the Ginosko Literary Journal, and the Owen Wister Review. He has a BA in Writing from Grand Valley State University and an MFA in Fiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Daniel lives with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Stage play:
Jonathan Joy is the author of fifty plays published and/or produced in twenty US states, including a dozen stages in NYC and Los Angeles, and nearly a dozen more in his home state of West Virginia. Overseas shows include recent work with schools and theatres in England, France, and Russia. Mr. Joy can be heard on Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab, a podcast produced with his family, which includes hundreds of children’s stories that have been downloaded over 100,000 times. He is a Professor of English at Ashland Community & Technical College in Eastern Kentucky.

Book Length Prose:
Donna Stanley Meredith has called Tallahassee, Florida, home for the last thirty years. She graduated from Fairmont State College, West Virginia University, and Nova Southeastern University, and studied creative writing at Florida State. She is active in the Tallahassee Writers Association, serving as president, vice president, newsletter editor, website manager, conference chair, and Seven Hills Review coordinator. In 2017, she became the associate editor of the Southern Literary Review.

New Mountain Voices, Grades K-5:
Diana Pishner Walker is a West Virginia native who attended Fairmont State College and was an employee of the Marion County Board of Education for over 25 years. Her first book, the memoir, “I Don’t Want To Sit In The Front Row Anymore,” was written after the loss of both of her parents. Diana then embarked on writing illustrated children’s books, Her titles include Spaghetti and Meatballs: Growing up Italian, Hopping to America: A Rabbit’s Tale of Immigration, Hopping to America A Rabbit’s Tale of LaBefana, Hopping to America A Rabbit’s Tale of A Wedding, and her most recent, A Christmas Feast , A Fishy Tale.

New Mountain Voices, Grades 6-8:
Sarah Dooley has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for Free Verse, she has published four novels for middle grade readers. Sarah lives in Nitro, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

New Mountain Voices, Grades 9-12:
John Van Kirk is the author of the novel Song for Chance published in 2013. His short fiction has earned the O. Henry Award and the Iowa Review Fiction Prize and has been published in numerous literary journals and several anthologies. He is an Emeritus Professor of English at Marshall University.