Calling All Writers
to send in their work.
On an early-dark winter’s evening, nearly twenty years ago, a group of local writers gathered in the picture-perfect living room of the founding member of the group, listening to her read a short story she was preparing to submit to the annual WV Writers Inc. writing contest.
I was the newbie of the group, having reached my thirties before ever knowing writer’s groups existed, much less a long-standing all-volunteer, writers' resource and service organization serving literary interests in West Virginia. WV Writers sponsors both an annual writers’ conference as well as the annual writing competition.
As always, I wanted to deem myself worthy. I wanted to let the world know I was award-winning. I wanted my writing group to see my talent, I wanted to prove to myself I was a writer, a real writer, a West Virginia writer. The first two years I entered the contest, I remained awardless.
And then I received an honorable mention! And another year, third place! And another year, finally, first place and a lovely check! My first “payment” as a creative writer.
Writers, overall, are a quirky crew. We spend a good portion of our time writing, and trying to prove to ourselves that we “are a writer.” In the many years since our monthly gathering that evening long ago, I have come to understand that if you write, you’re a writer. If no one reads it, you’re still a writer. If no one pays for what you have written, you’re still a writer. Even if you’re only jotting down notes, quotes, and daily reflections in a journal — if you write, you’re a writer.
I understand that now, after twenty-plus years in the writing field, a B.A. in Written English, and an MFA in Creative Writing. After winning contests, not winning contests, getting rejections, getting published, and self-publishing — to prove to myself and the world that I am “a writer,” I find I no longer even need to label myself as such.
I paint, I write, I create. I express. I define my work. That is the nature of creating, the secret to a creative lifestyle. Focus on the process, because it’s the process, not the product, that soothes souls — your own and others’. Julia Cameron notes, “We’re in control of quantity, the Creator is in charge of quality.”
Writers are often a self-deprecating bunch. Afraid to share their works, stuffing napkin-scratched poems into the back of a drawer, terrified to read their work aloud, much less let someone wallow and immerse themselves in words on a page. If they aren’t published, or degreed, or wide-read, or award-winning — most writers humbly create alone and need encouragement and understanding from other quirky, self-deprecating writing-inclined folk.
I have met all kinds of writers, from doctorates on down. Poets, storytellers, essayists, journalists; published, unpublished, self-published. In fact, the writing talent in West Virginia and Appalachia shatters any and all stereotypes that might assume mountain and hillfolk can’t or don’t write much less do it well. So much talent and well-written powerful works are tucked away in hollows and on hilltops, scratched on napkins, in yellowed journals, never to be seen or shared.
And that’s one main reason WV Writers, Inc., exists — not just for West Virginia residents, but for all writers of the region.
Years ago, I wanted to win in the WV Writers, Inc. contest, and now I have been appointed as the Contest Coordinator, managing the blind submissions before they are sent to this year’s judges, making sure all is organized, submissions and funds and membership fees all processed properly.
The contest is open to any WV resident and members. (Out-of-state residents must be members of WV Writers, Inc., but you can add that membership option to your submission.)
What do you have tucked away? What works have you written that you feel are ready to take to present? Even if you don’t win, your submission fees help support and empower writers. And that, too, is a win.