Announcing the 2016 Shann Palmer Poetry Contest!


JRW and Richmond magazine sponsor the Shann Palmer Poetry Contest to encourage Virginia poets to share their best work. The competition is held every other year (even years), alternating with the Best Unpublished Novel Contest.

The contest is named after Shann Palmer, a long-time JRW volunteer and board member, beloved poet, and a wild- and wise-hearted creative who shared her spirit and talents freely, inspiring and encouraging others in the literary community. She passed away in December 2013, and the contest (formerly “Best Poetry Contest”) was renamed in her honor the following year.


First prize: $500, publication of winning poem(s) in Richmond magazine, and a ticket to the annual James River Writers conference.

Two finalists will each receive $200.

Deadline (postmark):  Thursday, March 31, 2016

Submissions: Up to four original, unpublished poems.

Entry fee: $15.

First submit the entry fee of $15 using the “Register Today” button below and a credit card. Once you have submitted payment, you will receive a receipt via email. Print your receipt and follow the guidelines below to mail in your submission.




Submissions must be mailed to

James River Writers
2319 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23223 (more…)

Announcing the Winners of the Best Self-Published Novel Contest!

Jodi Lew-Smith

Jodi Lew-Smith, 2014 winner

James River Writers is pleased to announce the winners of our inaugural Best Self-published Novel Contest, an award created to recognize the writing talents and entrepreneurial skills of indie authors. Contest chair Erica Orloff and head judge April Eberhardt selected a winner and two finalists from forty entries. Each entry was judged on writing quality, editing, layout, design, and formatting.

The two finalists identified were Connie Biewald for her book Digging to Indochina and Connie Lapallo for her book When the Moon Has No More Silver. Jodi Lew-Smith was the first place winner for her book The Clever Mill Horse. (more…)

2014 Emyl Jenkins Award Winner Announced

 Richmond, VA — James River Writers is pleased to announce that Denise Golinowski is the 2014 winner of the Emyl Jenkins Award.

Emyl Jenkins Award Chair Shauna Christos and 2014 Award Winner Denise Golinowski

Emyl Jenkins Award Chair Shawna Christos and 2014 Award Winner Denise Golinowski

The award honors the memory of the late Emyl Jenkins, passionate writing advocate and much-missed JRW member, by acknowledging those in Virginia who best represent her love of connecting and encouraging all writers.

Denise is a founding member of the RichWriters critique group and has been an active member of James River Writers and Virginia Romance Writers over the years. Additionally, she runs her own blog and contributes to a blog for local romance writers called Tea and Strumpets. In these capacities, she has earned a reputation for providing thoughtful and constructive criticism and support in a manner that improves her colleagues’ writing and is encouraging toward other writers. (more…)

Emyl Jenkins Award Accepting Nominations

Emyl Jenkins 1941-2010








To honor the memory of Emyl Jenkins, who died in 2010, James River Writers presents an award to an organization or person who, as Emyl did, inspires a love of writing and writing education in Virginia.

An advocate for writers and their readers, Emyl had a knack for connecting both people and organizations. She shared her time and expertise with everyone she encountered. She encouraged writers at all levels, especially fledglings trying to get those first words down on the page. Her generous spirit and her enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone she touched, and her actions widened the circle of writing encouragement.

Award Details

Any Virginia individual or organization is eligible, except for members of the JRW board of directors or the advisory board.

Announcing the Inaugural Best Self-published Novel Contest

bookJames River Writers recognizes the writing talents and entrepreneurial skills of indie authors by creating The Best Self-Published Novel Contest, new in 2014. The contest will be conducted in alternating years with the Best Unpublished Novel Contest.

Contest Details

One first-prize winner will receive $500 and a ticket to the annual James River Writers Conference. The winner will be announced in October 2014 at the James River Writers Conference. Press releases will also recognize the winner.

Two finalists each receive $200.


To submit an entry, the author must be a JRW member or a student at a Virginia college or university. Join JRW.

Submissions for the 2014 contest will be accepted from May 1 through July 18, 2014 (postmark deadline of Friday, July 18). *Deadline has been extended from June 30. (more…)

James River Writers Announces the 2013 Best Unpublished Novel Contest Winner and Finalists

James River Writers is pleased to announce Laura Long of Charlottesville, for What Will Burn, as the first place winner of the JRW and Richmond Magazine 2013 Best Unpublished Novel Contest. Phyllis Haislip of Williamsburg, for The Viscount’s Daughter, and Derek Kannemeyer of Richmond, for The Memory Addicts, have been selected as finalists.

The Best Unpublished Novel Contest, held since 2008 in alternating years with the Best Poetry Contest, is at the heart of James River Writers’ mission of connecting and inspiring readers and writers.

Seventy-two writers submitted the first fifty pages of their manuscripts to be scored by a cadre of volunteer readers. The process was completely anonymous. A team of second-round judges—Maya Payne Smart, Gigi Amateau, and Douglas Jones—selected the three finalists from the top nine’s complete manuscripts. Head judge Virginia Pye then determined the winner.

“Long’s What Will Burn is written in simple, clear language that shows admirable restraint and even, at times, elegance,” says Pye, author of River of Dust (Unbridled Books, May 2013). (more…)

JRW Announces Emyl Jenkins Award Recipients Sophia Volpi, Louise Ball, and Hampton Roads Writers

James River Writers is pleased to announce the 2013 winners of the Emyl Jenkins Award: Hampton Roads Writers and the team of Sophia Volpi and Louise Ball.

Shawna Christos with Emyl Jenkins in 2009

Award Chair Shawna Christos with Emyl Jenkins in 2009

The awards honor the memory of the late Emyl Jenkins, passionate writing advocate and much-missed JRW member, by acknowledging those in Virginia who best represent her love of connecting and encouraging all writers.

“We all need the laughter and encouragement that she brought to our lives, and since she’s no longer with us, we need to know of the others who are making Virginia a better place for all of us writers,” said award committee chair Shawna Christos.


Emyl Jenkins Award Winners Sophia Volpi and Louise Ball

A powerful team strengthening the Charlottesville writing community, Sophia Volpi and Louise Ball have worked tirelessly as co-Municipal Liaisons for their local NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and as co-founders of the WriterHouse SFF (Sci-Fi/Fantasty/Speculative Fiction) Group. (more…)

Remembering Emyl Jenkins

Just Ten Days Left to Submit Emyl Jenkins Award Nominations

by Shawna Christos
JRW Board Member

Emyl Jenkins 1941-2010Being asked to write about Emyl Jenkins and the James River Writers award named for her has not been an easy task for me, many words have been written and many more deleted. These are the best ones I could find to try to explain the Emyl I knew, and why the JRW Award named for her is important.

She was so multi-faceted and involved in so many organizations and with so many people that I’m sure everyone thinks of her a bit differently. From her beloved garden, antiques, and work with several organizations, as well as her own writing and books, Emyl never seemed to slow down much. With all this, she also was never failing in her support and encouragement of other writers, no matter their age, no matter where they were in their writing skills or endeavors. (more…)

2012 Poetry Contest

BestPoetry-WendyMiles (2)Congratulations to Wendy Miles for winning first place in the 2012 Best Poetry Contest. Her poem, “Egg,” was chosen from 349 poems submitted by 105 authors. To read the winning poetry, please visit the Richmond Magazine website.


  • Allison Seay, “Secret Room”
  • Darren Morris, “Theory on the Occurrence of Cicadas”

Honorable Mentions

  • Polly Lazaron, “Aligning with Birth Stars”
  • Joanna S. Lee, “incongruent”
  • Wendy Miles, “The Green Place”
  • John L. Morgan IV, “The Barn House”
  • Shann Palmer, “Bad Girls”

Judging Process 2012

The head judge was Joshua Poteat, recent recipient of the Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts. A.M. Marshall, Allison Titus and Christina Trimarco assisted the judge in reading the entries.

The two-part process implemented to choose the winning poems was highly unscientific: (1) Find the good ones, and (2) Be generous and open when doing so. This seemed like the best way to proceed through over 300 poems. Luckily, the contest readers knew good writing when they saw it. They’d read widely, across many sub-genres — from experimental/avant garde to straight ol’ narrative, from neo-formalist works to prose poems.

Back to Best Poetry index page