WVW Contest Judge Spotlight: Children’s Books


Jennifer Allison

Jennifer Allison grew up in a small town in Michigan. One of her best friends lived on a sheep farm, and the two girls found the spooky atmosphere of the barn hayloft to be perfect for séances. As it turned out, the experience was also perfect inspiration for a novel about a thirteen-year-old psychic investigator in her Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator series.

Ms. Allison holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.F.A. from American University. Her various careers have included work as a news reporter and high school English teacher. She has also held numerous odd jobs — piano player in a shopping mall, assembly-line worker for General Motors, waitress, preschool teacher — that have helped her generate ideas for characters and stories.

Jennifer Allison currently lives in Chicago, with her husband, Michael, and their three children — Max, and the twins, Marcus and Genevieve (“Gigi”).

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #52

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

QUESTION:  For the Pearl S. Buck Category, can one submit a manuscript of 20 poems (under 5,000 words) about social change, wherein each poem draws its inspiration from a singular experience in the life of the poet and, as a whole, speaks to social change?

ANSWER:   Typically in the contest, each submission is one poem or one prose piece per entry. However, in the topic categories, such as Pearl S. Buck, Appalachian, The Flood, or Inspirational, the rules of the contest as written do not necessarily disallow it.  The topic categories that accept prose or poetry just say "up to 5000 words, (prose or poetry)" which one could argue would not necessarily prevent multiple poems as part of an overall manuscript focused on a single topic.  One could also make the point that prose writers have up to 5000 words at their disposal, while most poems would come nowhere close to that word count.  As contest coordinator, I also just like the idea of a small group of poems that are dedicated to a single topic.  I think it would be good to try this out.

Without changing any rules, for 2017 the special topic categories of the West Virginia Writers Contest (such as Inspirational, Flood, Appalachian, and Pearl S. Buck) will also accept limited collections of poems that must be entirely about the topic for which they are submitted.  By "limited" here's what we're saying:

  • All poems within the manuscript submission must be on theme to the category.  These should not be poems that only loosely fit the theme, but poems which reinforce one another to speak directly toward the category's theme.
  • The word count for the manuscript of poems may not exceed the 5000 word limit of the category and that word count must be indicated below the category in the upper right corner of the first page, as in accordance with contest guidelines.
  • The entry fee to do this is the standard category entry fee of $10 per manuscript.
  • All poems within the submission must be previously unpublished, unless the previously published poems account for less than 25 percent of the whole (as in accordance with our eligibility rules as stated on the contest rules page of the entry form).
  • No poem within the collection can have previously won a prize from West Virginia Writers, Inc. (excluding honorable mentions).
  • Judges for those categories will be instructed that any collection submissions should be judged as a whole work and not by their individual parts; meaning if one or more of the poems is not up to the quality standards decided by the judges, that poem or poems may drag down the score for the whole.  So choose your words wisely.  Similarly, if a judge finds there are poems present which are off topic, that too may play a factor in their ranking of the work.
  • Submissions such as this should be stapled together and have an overall collection title.
  • Regular poetry-only categories of the contest (Short Poetry, Long Poetry, Emerging Writers Poetry) still allow only one individual poem per entry.

WVW Contest Judge Spotlight: Book Length Prose/Young Adult

Tom Douglass

Tom Douglass is the Appalachian Echoes fiction editor for the University of Tennessee Press. He is the author of A Room Forever: The Life, Work and Letters of Breece D’J Pancake(1998) and the upcoming Voice of Glory: the Life and Work of Davis Grubb (2017). He has edited reprints of Hubert Skidmore’s Hawk’s Nest and Davis Grubb’s Fools’ Parade. He teaches Contemporary Literature at East Carolina University. He is a graduate of Davis & Elkins College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

WVW Contest Judge Spotlight: Appalachian Writing


Dana Wildsmith

Dana Wildsmith is the author of an environmental memoir, Back to Abnormal: Surviving with an Old Farm in the New South (MotesBooks), which was a Finalist for Georgia Author of the Year in Essay, four collections of poetry: One Good Hand, Iris Press, 2005), Our Bodies Remember (The Sow’s Ear Press, 2000), Annie (Palanquin Press, 1999), and Alchemy (The Sow’s Ear Press, 1995). One Good Hand was a SIBA Poetry Book of the Year nominee. She has served as Artist-in-Residence for the Grand Canyon National Park and for The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and has been a Poetry Fellow with the South Carolina Academy Of Authors. Her work is widely published in journals and anthologies, including most recently: Writing By ear (MotesBooks), Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia (University Press of Kentucky), The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press, 2007), and Women, Period(Spinsters Ink). Wildsmith lives in Bethlehem, Georgia.

WVWriters at Arts Day at the Capitol

West Virginia Writers, Inc. will be participating in "Arts Day at the Capitol" this Wednesday, Feb. 15.

The event takes place from 10 am to 1 pm, and will be held in the upper rotunda of the state capitol. We will have a table (#7) and be set up in Display Hall alongside over 40 other WV arts organizations.

Besides representing WV Writers, it's also a good chance to network and see what other artists are doing around the state.

We'll have information available on the contest, membership, and the 2017 conference.

Please stop by our table. We're also looking for any volunteers to help out at the table. No advance notice needed, just show up.

You can bring books to display, but no sales are allowed.



February 3, 2017 – West Virginia Writers, Inc. continues to accept submissions for its writing contests for 2017, offering $5850 in total cash prizes.  Among the 13 writing categories in the adult contest, this year West Virginia Writers is offering a specialty category called The Flood, inspired by the historic flooding last summer in Greenbrier, Fayette, and Nicholas Counties.  The flooding in June, which resulted in 23 deaths and devastated over 1200 homes in the state, has forever altered the lives of those who survived.

Sarah Elkins is one of those people.  A resident of White Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County, she was a first-hand witness to the fury of nature in that town.  “There has been a stark line drawn in people's minds,” she says.  “I hear many people talk in terms of ‘before the flood’ and ‘since the flood.’”  Elkins, who is a regional representative for West Virginia Writers, Inc., in her area, says that the rebuilding effort will take years to complete, with some homes still in need of demolition before that rebuilding can even begin.  “There are many subtle ways the flood waters are still present here,” she says.

That ongoing presence of metaphorical flood waters is precisely why West Virginia Writers wanted to include a contest category inspired by the flood.

“You can’t go through that kind of tragedy and not have a story to tell,” says contest coordinator Eric Fritzius, who resides in nearby Lewisburg.  “From the people who experienced the flooding first hand—who maybe even lost their homes or loved ones—to the thousands of people who stepped in to help with relief efforts, everyone has a story.”  Fritzius says that even seven months afterward, whenever he’s in a gathering of people, inevitably the conversation turns to the amazing and harrowing stories of the flood; of neighbors helping neighbors; of the rescuers who worked for days on end to ensure that a greater number of people were not lost; and to the stories of those who were.  “We wanted to help inspire people to tell those stories, and capture those emotions on the page,” he says.

Elkins agrees.  “As both a White Sulphur Springs resident and the regional representative of West Virginia Writers, I am so pleased the organization included a flood category in this year's writing contest. It's a compassionate acknowledgment of the devastation that impacted an enormous swath of this state,” she says.  “And, perhaps more importantly, this category creates an opportunity for healing, not just for those of us who experienced the 2016 flood, but for anyone who has lived through a natural disaster of magnitude.”

Indeed, the category is not limited to experiences from the 2016 flood, but can be about similar flood disasters in other states, or even the concept of “The Flood” from a thematic standpoint.  Floods, after all, come in many forms.

Elkins points out that Painter Georges Braque once said, "Art is a wound turned into light." She adds, “Sometimes that art needs a gentle nudge, and my hope is this contest will be that nudge into light.”   West Virginia Writers hopes this category can help do that.

Since 1982, WV Writers has held an annual writing contest for adults, accepting original, unpublished entries in a variety of themed writing categories.  Categories for the contest this year include: Children’s Books, Short Story, Short Nonfiction, Short Poetry, Long Poetry, Appalachian Writing, Book Length Prose/Young Adult, Short Plays (under 15 minutes), the Pearl S. Buck Award for Writing for Social Change, Inspirational Writing, and the Emerging Writers categories for prose and poetry (for writers who are unpublished and who have not previously won a cash prize in the WV Writers contest).

The adult contest is open to all residents of West Virginia as well as to any member of WV Writers, Inc. residing outside of the state. There is a $10 fee for each adult contest entry, and a $12 fee for the book-length category.

For students in grades 1-12, WV Writers offers The New Mountain Voices Student Writing Contest.  Students may choose from six suggested writing topics or they may make up their own story or poem.   There are three age group categories in this contest (for grades 1-5, 6-8, and 9-12), each of which will have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes awarded.  The New Mountain Voices contest is free to enter and is open only to student residents of West Virginia.

Submissions for both contests are accepted from January 2 through March 15 (with a late deadline of March 31).  Winners will be announced June 10, 2017 at an awards ceremony during the annual West Virginia Writers Conference held at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, W.Va.  The conference this year will celebrate the 40th anniversary of West Virginia Writers, Inc., which was founded in February 1977.   All winners, including honorable mentions, will receive certificates suitable for framing, with cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each category.

For official contest entry forms, contest rules, our list of contest judges, a handy contest submission checklist, and a frequently asked questions list, please visit the contest webpage at wvwriters.org/contest.html.  Or email contest coordinator, Eric Fritzius, at wvwcontest@gmail.com.

Poets Cafe reminder

(From Danny McMillian)

Poets Cafe will take place tomorrow, Saturday, January 21, 2017, from 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm, at the Beckley Art Center, 600 Johnstown Road, Beckley, WV USA

Doors open at 6:30; readings begin at 7:00 p.m.

FREE Admission; Donation of art supplies encouraged (drawing paper, pencils, markers, crayons, scissors, etc.)