WV Writers, Inc. - Established 1977
West Virginia Writers, Inc.
Serving literary interests throughout West Virginia

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WV Writers Annual Contest FAQs



• With the contest’s “blind entry” policy, how do judges know which entry belongs to whom?

The judges DO NOT know. Blind entry contests ensure judges are impartial, evaluating the work and not the author. In our contest, the contest coordinator maintains a database, cataloging each entry as it arrives. At that time, the entry is assigned an individual code, written on the first page before being sent to any judge. When judges have finished evaluating entries, they note the codes for winning and honorable mention stories, in ranking order. The judges never know who the author is until the awards banquet has concluded.

• Does the guideline about a work not having been published in a "publication" with a readership of not more than 1,000 refer to possible book distribution or just to periodicals?

“Published work” refers to ALL print publications with potentially a distribution of 1,000 or more and any works online. “Published work” also includes self-published books with either over 1,000 copies sold and/or printed; or available for sale via Amazon or another print-on-demand service. Self-published and/or print-on-demand IS publication.

• Is it permissible to re-enter a work not selected last year or in a previous year?

You may certainly resubmit something from a previous year, provided it has never won a cash prize from WVW. There are different judges from year to year, so it can be a matter of a piece finding a receptive judge.

• What should go on the title page?

Some include a separate title page with the title centered on the page, and the category and word count in the upper right corner. Others let the first page serve as the title page, with the category and word count in the upper right corner, the title centered below that, and the story or poem beginning immediately after. Either is acceptable provided the author's name does not appear anywhere.

• When submitting an excerpt, should the word count on the cover page indicate the number of words in the excerpt or the total number of words in the entire work?

The word count should indicate the number of words in the excerpt.

• I have a piece I would like to submit, but I have also submitted it for publication. If accepted, it won't be published until late spring. Who/how does one make the call on that as to the guidelines for the contest?

As long as the piece was not published before the contest opens, you're good to go.

• If I submit something for the contest, can I look to publish it before or afterward?

As long as the piece was not published prior to the beginning of the contest, of course. Your entry is your work, and entering our contest does not give us any right to control your work.

• If I win a prize does my work still count as unpublished?

Yes. We do not publish or gain rights to the works of contest winners. We do not retain copies of the winning entries. Judges destroy them one month after the winners are announced.

• If I submit a work to the contest (whether I win or not) will I be surrendering any aspect of my rights under copyright?

No. You retain full rights to your work.

• I live out of state. For membership, should I send my membership first before submitting?

(If you reside in-state, skip to the next question.)
WVW requires out-of-state writers to become members before entering our contest. Therefore, it's important the contest coordinator knows your membership status when processing your entry. You can submit your membership application and fee with your contest entry. Or you can submit it through the website. This way your status will be immediately known, and your membership information will be forwarded to the secretary.

• I am now, and I always have been a West Virginia resident. Is membership in WV Writers required to submit an entry?

No. Membership is NOT required for West Virginia residents. The contest is open to West Virginia residents AND current members. The only time membership in the organization is required is when the entrant is a resident of another state

• Does the word count include the title or just the body of the piece of writing?

Word count doesn't include the title. Or "The End" in case you've added that.

• I would like to submit writing to multiple categories. Do I just submit one copy for multiple categories (with an entry fee for each submission)?

You will need to upload your document for each category you are entering.

• The piece that I want to submit is just under 3,000 words, and 5,000 is the word limit. Is a smaller article going to be acceptable?

Absolutely. There's no minimum. You could have a 100-word story and it would still be eligible.

• I would like to submit, but I have worked with / learned from / attended a workshop / etc. with the judge of the category I want to submit to. I'm afraid they might recognize my work. Should I still submit it?

Do not submit if there is any possible chance a judge might be familiar with your entry. Because ours is a “blind entry” contest, judges are instructed to disqualify entries if they recognize a piece and/or realize the identity of the author. If you think there is even a possibility the judge might recognize your work, save that piece for submission when a different judge is assigned to that category.


• Can I submit a collection of my poems?

If the contest is not explicitly offering a Poetry Collection or Chapbook category in the current year, each poem counts as one entry.

• The Short Poetry category has a limit of 20 lines or fewer. Does a "line" consist of a new line no matter how short it is? Or does a sentence count as a line even if it extends on to the next line?

We count the number of actual lines of text on the page, regardless of length. (Spacing lines between paragraphs do not count.)

• I hope to send a poem for the contest previously published, but now I have revised and/or altered it. Is this permissible?

If the poem has been previously published, it cannot be entered, even if changed or revised.

• For the poetry entries, does one poem equal one entry?

Correct. One poem per entry fee.

• If you receive entries for poetry with no word count in the upper right of the page are the entries discarded? Since rules noted “any form up to four pages,” I didn't include a word count.

The word count rule applies to prose entries. Poetry only has a line limit for short poetry and a page limit for long poetry.


• I want to compete in the Book Length Prose category. The instructions say, "send 7500 words plus a one-page synopsis." Does that mean that I send the 1st portion of the book and then encapsulate the rest in a summary?

The Book Length Prose and Middle-Grade Novel/Young Adult Novel categories accept up to 7500 words. Send the 7500 words of the manuscript you feel best exemplifies your work. This may come from the beginning, middle, end, or a combination of passages from more than one of those. Keep in mind, a judge might prefer a cohesive segment, rather than samples. The synopsis included needs to show the judge the overall story.

• Is the Book-Length 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?

Book-length works are typically 60,000 or more words. The synopsis provides an overview of the entire story, but the 7500 words come from within that larger work.

• Am I correct that only the Book-Length category considers works over 5,000 words?

Book Length is the only category that accepts works of over 5,000 words. It accepts a 7,500-word excerpt plus a 1-page synopsis. The work itself may be 90,000 words. Other contest categories will accept 5000-word excerpts of longer work, but excerpts are less likely to line up with the purpose and intention of that category. Either way, works for all prose categories, unless otherwise specified, should fit within the 5000-word limit.

• For Book Length Prose, I know the cover page must include title, category and word count, but should the narrative also begin on the cover page or on the second page?

Cover pages and front matter are not necessary, though they do not count against you either. Our standard formatting is to include the category and word count at the top of the first page, placing the title just above the beginning of the text. Dedications and attributions eat into your word limit and are not necessary to the judging process.

• Should the one-page synopsis be more like the "teaser" summaries that explain what a book is about without spoiling the ending or should it try to tell as much as possible about how the story ends?

Your synopsis should definitely spoil the ending. Detailed synopses should give the full story of the manuscript. Describe the entire plot of the book, in thumbnail form, in one page. The judge needs to see the overall arc of the book's plot, which will help them see how the excerpt submission fits into that picture.

• Will the judges pick a subset of the best Book-Length entries and then request the full manuscripts to complete the judging?

Judges base their decisions solely on the excerpts and synopses.

• I know the excerpt must be double-spaced, but does the synopsis have to be as well?

The synopsis page may be single-spaced but must still fit on one side of a single printed page.


• I'm interested in entering a short story from a series 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?

Word limits are in place due to the number of submissions we receive. Short stories average 60 or more entries per year. If even half the entries are at the 5000-word limit, that's a LOT of words for a judge to read in th allotted time they have. Your piece of 7,100 words should be submitted elsewhere.


• Regarding the Social Change (Pearl S. Buck Award), would it be appropriate to include a photo I took with a story?

Photos are fine provided they do not lead the judge to be able to identify the author. You should definitely not appear within the photo, nor anyone in your family. Chances aren't high that the judge would know anyone, but because the contest is blindly judged, we must prevent all possibilities of that happening. Additionally, a photo or other visuals are not taken into account when judging.

• I was wondering if you could possibly forward a winning entry of the Social Change (Pearl S. Buck Award) category to me so I can get an idea what to shoot for?

Winning entries from previous years are no longer in our organizational possession. The entries are destroyed at the end of the judging period.

• For the Social Change (Pearl S. Buck Award) category, the guidelines note, "nonfiction, fiction, or poetry...on a topic related to social change." Do nonfiction submissions need to be creative (like poetry) or are academic, journalistic, and/or otherwise persuasive nonfiction acceptable?

The category itself has a lot of range when it comes to subject matter. Academic/journalistic and persuasive nonfiction essays are completely acceptable. First and foremost, entries need to be about Social Change, not simply espousing a viewpoint; secondly, they need to be well-written regardless of genre.


• Can homeschool children participate?


• I see you actually run two contests--one specifically for students, and the other just a 'writing contest'. I am a student interested in entering an adult writing entry, because the young writers one does not include book-length prose.

There are no rules against student-aged humans entering the regular "adult" contest. Students are welcome to do so, but then compete with adult writers, some of whom are quite accomplished in the field. In addition, the student winners are notified in advance of the awards banquet at our Summer Conference so they can attend if they wish. Adult winners learn of their placement at the awards banquet itself.

• In order to enter, must you attend the awards banquet?

You do not have to attend the awards banquet to win. We mail out certificates and prize money to the winners early in the week following the awards banquet.

• Is a teacher or parent allowed to make edits and recommendations on a student's writing?

Having an outside proofreader is a longstanding tradition for writers of all stripes. Students may certainly let an adult read over their submission before sending it. The adult may then offer editing and revision suggestions but should explain the reasons for those suggestions as a teaching opportunity. Then the students can make revisions themselves. In no way should a parent or teacher do any of the writing themselves.

• I'm a high school student, and I'm wondering if I enter the contest and place, can I enter again when I'm older for the adult contest?

You can certainly enter the adult contest later, but it would need to be with a piece that has not won a previous cash prize in the contest.

• For the New Mountain Voices contest, would it be okay if the entry was a little over the 2,000-word limit? Like, say about 300 words or so over the limit?

The contest has a strict word limit. We don't count the title, the contest category or word count in the corner of the front page, nor the "The End." All word of the actual entry must be within the word limit.


• Is there a way to read the winners’ entries for the past years?

Some of the winning entries from 1977-2008 have been published in five separate anthology collections. WVW retains no rights to publication of the winning pieces, so even the collections do not contain ALL contest winners, but only a majority of them. The last such volume, Seeking the Swan, was published in 2008.


• Is photography considered “artwork?” I want to make sure that if I submit photos within my stories, it won’t be disqualified.

Photography is considered artwork.