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Five local writers honored in annual contest

By Staff | Jun 26, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — West Virginia Writers, Inc., has named five local residents as winners in its 2020 writing contest. The organization is the largest state-wide writing organization in West Virginia.

The annual contest has awarded over $122,000 in prize money since it was founded in 1982. It is open to entries from West Virginia residents and West Virginia Writers, Inc., members from around the globe.

“This was indeed a righteously good showing by local authors this year,” said Shepherdstown Poet Laureate Ed Zahniser. “[I can’t] remember having had so many winners from the Eastern Panhandle before. Nor having local winners in so many different genres of writing in a given year.”

Zahniser himself has won in the long poetry category several times in the past, but chose not to submit anything for this year’s competition.

Shepherdstown Bookend Poets host Tom Donlon, of Shenandoah Junction, won third place winner in the short poetry category for his poem, “Haircut.” He also won second and third place and an honorable mention in the long poetry category for his poems, “On the Beach in Rota, Spain,” “Death Row Interview,” and “Meditations on a Bowl of Rice,” respectively.


Donlon, who is the regional representative for WVW, said he remembers one other year similar to this one, when several Jefferson County residents won in the competition.

“The Eastern Panhandle has gotten a lot of recognition in this state-wide writing organization,” Donlon said. “Over the years, more and more Eastern Panhandle writers have won in the annual contest. A few years ago, we had another handful of winners. I hosted a reading at Charles Town Library, where some of the winners came and read from their work. I may try to do that again this year.”

The other four local winners are: David Borchard, of Shepherdstown, who was given an honorable mention for his piece, “Asses and Adolescence,” in the nonfiction category; Patricia Donahoe, of Shepherdstown, who won third place in the social change category for her piece, “Thick and Thin”; Jane Freeman, of Kearneysville, who won third place in the speculative fiction category for her story, “Cross Over”; and former Shepherdstown Bookend Poets member Stephen Willingham, of Glengary, who won first place in the short story category for “Mortar.”

Writing submitted to this year’s contest had to be submitted at the beginning of the year, so it largely reflected societal influences from 2019. However, Zahniser anticipates the 2021 contest entries will be heavily reminiscent of this year’s events.

“The pandemic that we are experiencing will surely have a long-term impact on the Arts, because it has effected lives in so many ways. And the Black Lives Matter movement, for finally validating the thrust of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights — Liberty and Justice for All — will definitely impact all facets of the Arts and artistic activity,” Zahniser said. “The Arts of every age grow out of basic concerns and frustrations of that age.”

Donlon agreed with Zahniser, noting he personally writes to reflect hope.

“I am a healer. I will work to heal our nation,” Donlon said. “I am connecting with black people whenever I can and trying to show that we are all the same people, Americans, worthy of loving — love thy neighbor.”

“I worked for Verizon for 20 years and had the great experience of working with African Americans who were highly educated, smart and wonderful colleagues,” Donlon said. “I am 100-percent on board to heal our nation. As a nation, we must continue to grow to overcome the mistakes of the past.”