West Virginia Writers, Inc. continues to accept submissions for its writing contests for 2017, offering $5,850 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 1,200 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.
Late submissions for both contests are accepted through 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 email@example.com.