Pops Walker, in memorium

Sad news to report for the West Virginia Writers family. WVW co-founder Kirk Judd has reported on Facebook that Pops Walker died on October 29, at his home in Luray, Virginia, surrounded by friends and family. Pops was a dear friend of West Virginia Writers, myself, and of this podcast in particular.

Pops was an amazing guy and so very supportive of the music community throughout the region and beyond.  He was also just a downright fantastic musician in his own right.

I came to know Pops in 2007 when he attended the West Virginia Writers Summer Conference as the main musical entertainment for Saturday night, as well as participating in a couple of workshops. However, I think Pops was there to hang out with Lee Maynard. Not long before the conference, the audiobook adaptation of Lee's book Crum had been released by Ross Ballard through his Mountain Whispers Audiobooks. Pops provided the music for the project and released a separate album called The Crum Session. For the 2007 conference, Lee, Pops and Ross were in attendance and we got to hear some of that adaptation live, as well as the three of them in a workshop speaking about the collaboration process. Pops concert on Saturday is among my all time favorite musical concerts, conference or no. His performances were so much fun to watch, partly due to the quality of the music, but also for the energy with which Pops attacked his work, seemingly devouring the notes from the air and grinding them in his grinning teeth.

After I told him how much fun I'd had watching him, he replied, "Nobody has as much fun at my show as I do. They might be having as much fun as me, but no one's having more."

That conference also marked the first time that Lee and Pops teamed up for what would become regular reading/music combo concerts for them, with Lee reading from his work accompanied by Pops on guitar. To say it was magical is an understatement. Lee and Pops, who had only just met, quickly became fast friends and remained so until Lee's passing in 2017. (Pops spoke about their friendship in a memorial podcast to Lee, which was the last new episode produced here.)  They would re-team for similar combos in 2011 as well.

Pops was gracious enough to return to the conference on two more occasions, and he always brought friends who quickly became new favorite musicians. In 2008, he brought West Virginia musicians Keith and Joan Pitzer, who were wonderful. And in 2010 he brought musical protégé Kipyn Martin Kae. They joined the West Virginia Writers family of musicians and fit right in.

When the idea first occurred to me to produce a podcast for West Virginia Writers, in 2009, I knew whose music I wanted to use as the theme song. I contacted Pops and he gave me permission to use any of his music that I wanted. His only requirement was that I needed to send him copies of the show on CD, because his internet in Luray was too slow for downloading them. It was one of the best deals I ever made, as Pops' music was a large part of making the show sound as good as it did. I chose his instrumental "Southeastern" as the podcast theme. Pops said he wrote that tune to sound like what might happen if Ravi Shankar and Greg Allman were to collide with one another while carrying stringed instruments. An apt description if there ever was one.

In 2012, I was invited to help plan the first Lewisburg Literary Festival. My first proposal was to bring in Lee and Pops for one of their combo concerts, and for Pops to be part of the festival entertainment on his own. They readily agreed, since they always like an excuse to hang out with one another. That summer we had their tag-team magic recreated on the stage of the historic Lewis Theater. Not only that, but Lee did a live reading of the infamous apple slice chapter from Crum, which was a piece he said he had never read live before. Truth be told, he was nervous about it, and had asked me in advance if I thought the audience might rebel. I explained that we were a literary festival first and foremost and the written word was something we celebrated, even if that word might potentially offend. We were pretty sure our audience would be up for it. They absolutely were. And, of course, Pops brought a guest musician to help out in the form of Kipyn Martin Kae, who the audience fell in love with as well. They joined one another for Pops' concert that night. Pops even played "Southeastern" for me.

Pops and his wife Bobbi liked to give back to the music community and I was honored to be able to attend two of the Shenandoah River Song Fests which they hosted near their home in Luray. These were tented concerts on the banks of the Shenandoah River itself, during which music lovers from all walks of life gathered to camp for three days punctuated by catered food cooked right there on the riverbank, libations, and, of course, music by an assembly of musicians. My CD collection grew with each festival, and it was always great to see familiar faces take the stage there, from Kipyn to the Pitzer Family, to WVW friends Doug and Telisha Williams' band Wild Ponies, and new faces like Beaucoup Blue. It was so much fun to experience these bands he'd curated, who jammed together as easily as they played their own wonderful tunes, You could also see the love Pops had for them. These were his friends he was showing off to the world, celebrating their talent and joining their with his own brand of what he called Southern Fried Zen Mojo.

During the last fest I was able to attend, in 2014, we were treated to another Pops/Lee Maynard combo show, as Lee was in attendance as well. It would unfortunately mark the last time I would to see both Lee and Pops in person.

Pops was not only a musical contributor, but the show's most frequent guest. Unfortunately, two of his three appearances were memorials to friends who had passed. The first was for Keith Pitzer, who had passed in 2010. And his second appearance was the last episode I produced, a tribute by Pops to his friend Lee Maynard, who passed in 2017.

If you've not heard them, I encourage you to listen to the Pops Walker podcasts, or revisit them if you've heard them before. Most of all, though, I encourage you to listen to his music. Two of his albums, Milepost 5, Live `N Drivin On, and The Crum Session can be found at Amazon. You can also find Pops work on the Crum audiobook as well as its sequel Screaming With the Cannibals courtesy of Mountain Whispers, also available via Amazon. You can also find Pops' book of essays, The Existential Redneck as an ebook for Amazon/Kindle.

Pops Walker's like will not be known again, but those of us who got to know him even a little bit are the better for it.

You can read Pops' obituary here. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions can be made to Page Alliance for Community Action.

Conference First Timer Guidelines 2021

As a service to first time attendees or potential attendees of WV Writers Summer Conference, this document is being provided as a guide to planning your conference experience. There are answers to frequently asked questions below...

  • If you plan to stay overnight, be sure to fill out the separate Cedar Lakes form, as well. You'll also need to fill it out if you plan to eat meals there, which we recommend, because it's hard to get out to a restaurant and back without missing a workshop or two.
  • On the weekend of the conference, please stop at the Cedar Lakes office when you first enter the grounds. The office is the first building on your right as you enter. You'll get your meal tickets (more like a typed sheet of paper) and your room keys. DO NOT LOSE YOUR MEAL TICKET.
  • Ask the Cedar Lakes staff to point out Jackson Hall to you, which will serve as our main assembly hall (due to the normal assembly hall being under renovations.)  They'll give you a map, too, but you can just barely see Jackson building from the office. Come there next and check in or register for the conference itself. If you have pre-registered and prepaid in full, there is usually a "quick line" you can jump to and simply check your name off the list, grab your name tag and goody bag, and head to step three. If you still need to register, that's fine too. We accept cash, checks, and can now accept credit cards via Square Up at the registration desk or bookstore.  (Cedar Lakes can accept credit cards for room and meals).
  • Stop by the reception table for a cold (or hot) drink and a snack.
  • For 2021, the the Writer's Wall competition will be held in Dining Hall Area 2, just off the main dining hall.  For the Writer's Wall, participants can bring in a one page piece of poetry and/or prose to anonymously post to the wall (which means, naturally, that your name must not appear on it). There will be a sign up book and an intern to help with the process, assigning each entry a number which conference attendees will be able to vote for using the ballot slip in their goodie bags. The winners will be announced at the Awards Banquet on Saturday night.
  • Similarly, there will be five total sessions of People's Choice, with prose and poetry sessions on Friday evening and prose, poetry and youth sessions on Saturday. During People's Choice, attendees are invited to read a piece of their own work that must come in at under 5 minutes in length. After all the pieces are read, ballots will be passed out for fellow readers and other attendees to vote on their favorite pieces. Winners will be announced at the Awards Banquet on Saturday night.
  • You don't have to register for the individual workshops in advance. Just pick them as you go. Some people find that it's easier to print out the schedule (or use the one given to you at registration, which will be the most accurate) and then highlight two classes each session that you're interested in. Then, when the time arrives, you can pick between the two. Some people like to have a "back up class" in case one is overcrowded, or in case you find yourself enjoying a particular track so much that you want to stick with it (poetry vs. non-fiction, for example). We would recommend that you take at least one class outside of your chosen genre; not just for the broadened experience, but because you might find inspiration or a particular nugget of writing wisdom that you can apply to what you're working on. For example, if you write fiction, take a poetry workshop or a nonfiction editing workshop, which can help with your craft.
  • Be sure to dress light but bring a sweater and an umbrella. It’s not uncommon for it to rain very hard on at least one of the conference days. The classrooms can also be hot. Be sure to wear shoes that are comfortable for walking, not only for walking to and from the dining hall but for taking strolls around the grounds of Cedar Lakes.  Oh, and open toed shoes can be sort of iffy, for there is a great deal of goose poo to be found in certain parts near the lakes.
  • We also hope you're planning to attend the banquet and stick around for entertainment in Jackson Hall on Saturday evening!

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) have you included it?

6) Have you double-checked to make sure you included all of your entries in your envelope or attached to your email to wvwcontest@gmail.com? In the past, we’ve received a few envelopes that are a story or poem shy of the intended amount.

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 previous coordinators. Please use the correct entry form with the correct address for 2021, which is available at our website and in our newsletter.

9) If submitting by email, have you paid for your entries via Pay Pal (making payments directly to westvirginawriters@gmail.com)?  Be sure to include your Pay Pal receipt of payment with your emailed entries.  

10) If emailing entries, have you made certain that they are in .doc format and not .pdf or another format?  We're only accepting .doc format this year.

Dos and Don'ts.

  • DO staple your individual entries if they have multiple pages.  (You can also paperclip them, but we just remove the paperclip and staple them again for added stability in transit to the judges.)
  • DO write legibly on your entry form.
  • DON'T forget to include your zip code on the contest entry form.  We 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 us at wvwcontest@gmail.com. Do know, though, that many of the answers to questions I have received about the contest are found at our Frequently Asked Questions list.

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #48

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:  Would I qualify for the Emerging Writers category since my news articles have been published?

ANSWER:  It kind of depends on how large the paper's circulation is. The rule is that you can't have won a cash prize in our contest before and you can't have been published in a publication with a circulation greater than 5000.  Most city newspapers will have a print run of over 5000, but perhaps a small town paper would not.  Check with the paper in question to find out.   The other major factor in this is that even if the print run is below 5000, the piece being submitted must never have been published at all.


WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #47

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: Is it permissible to re-enter a work that was rejected last year?

ANSWER:  "Rejected" is such an ugly word.  We prefer, "not selected."  But still.  You may certainly resubmit something from a previous year, provided it has never won a cash prize. There are different judges from year to year, so it can be a matter of a piece finding a receptive judicial home.

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #46

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: Is there an address where one can send the submission fees? Don’t have a credit card or use of Pay-pal, but would like to enter several of the contests. How do I pay the fees?

ANSWER: If you enter the contest by mail, you can send a check for submission fees. Just download the contest entry form you need from our CONTEST PAGE (either the Adult Contest Form or New Mountain Voices Student Contest form) and follow the instructions.  The address to send submissions to is on each form.   Find them at... http://wvwriters.org/home/annual-writing-contest/


WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #45

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 have about a dozen poems in a group, written over the past 40 years. Must I send $10 for each or will the $10 fee cover them all?

ANSWER:  While we have offered a chapbook or collection category for poetry in the past, we are not in 2021.  For this year, we have a poetry category which covers short poetry and long poetry, which we have previously separated.

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q.#44

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:  My fellow writers in my writers group suggested I submit my screenplay. Do you have a category for the 2021 contest?

ANSWER:  Unfortunately, not for 2021.  We usually do screenplays every other year in a round robin fashion and 2021 is the year for the stageplay category, named in memory of Joe McCabe, a beloved playwright from Martinsburg.


WV Writers Contest F.A.Q. #43

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 poetry entries, does one poem equal one entry? In other words, if I enter five poems, I would send in $50.00?

ANSWER:  For our Poetry and Emerging Writers Poetry categories, this is correct.  One poem per entry fee.

WV Writers Contest F.A.Q.#42

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

QUESTION:  I would like to submit to the contest, but I have taken an online class from the judge of the category I want to submit to.  I've made lots of changes to the manuscript, but I'm afraid they still might recognize my work.  Should I still submit?

ANSWER: This is a tough one, but in this case we would recommend you do not submit if there is any possible chance a judge might be familiar with your work already.  The WV Writers contest is judged blindly, so that the judges are never provided the names of the authors whose work has been submitted to them.  The only possible way for them to know who has written a piece is if they recognize it as something they have read before.  We pick judges from out of state to help minimize the chances of this happening, but with prevalence of online writing workshops, the chances can increase.  For this reason, we give our judges strict instructions that if they recognize a piece of writing and realize the identity of its author, they are to disqualify that work from consideration.

If you think there is even a possibility that one of our judges might recognize your work, we ask that you save that work for submission next year when a different judge will be assigned to that category.

This has happened in the past and it created one of the rare situations in which we had to disqualify the entry.