Stephannie Menough Brajot is a mother, lover of language, animals and kids, and an aspiring poet. She hopes those who read her poems find solace and solidarity in them through difficult times and are moved to let their own voices be heard to make meaningful changes in their own lives and for the greater good.


Retired public school music teacher Kathleen S. Burgess is senior editor at Pudding Magazine: The Journal of Applied Poetry. Published in North American Review, Main Street Rag, Sou’wester, and HeartWood, she’s a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of a Sheila-Na-Gig Poetry Prize, honorable mention in Passager. Kathleen edited the anthology Reeds and Rushes—Pitch, Buzz, and Hum (Pudding House), and four collections including What Burden Do Those Trains Bear Away (Bottom Dog Press, 2018) and The Wonder Cupboard (NightBallet Press, 2019).


Juliana Caldwell works as the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Mount Airy (NC) City Schools. Juliana is completing her first poetry collection, entitled “Echo Wants Her Voice Back”, after earning an MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. She is active in local theater, having worked in past years as an actress and professional stage manager. The proud mother of two adult children, Juliana is delighted that recently she has been promoted to Grandmother.


Deborah Tilson Clark, a native of Southwest Virginia, lives in Grayson County, in a log house on the banks of Guffy Creek, with her husband and a hoard of garden-raiding chipmunks. She has been a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a friend; she has worked as a craftsperson, storekeeper, park naturalist, house cleaner, newspaper writer, and teacher. She first submitted a story to a publisher when she was eight years old. It did not sell, but she was undeterred.


Jessica Cory teaches in the English Department at Western Carolina University and is the editor of Mountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene. Her creative and scholarly work has appeared in North Carolina Literary Review, ellipsis,... Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and other wonderful venues. She's also a PhD student in the English Department at the University of North Carolina--Greensboro.


Shea Daniels' writing appears in publications including The Hillbilly Speaks of Rhetoric, The Journal of Appalachian Studies, The About Place Journal, and Middle West Review.


Mary Lucille DeBerry is a “Mountain State” native who worked 35 1/2 years as a producer/ director for West Virginia Public Television. She has published two poetry collections: Bertha Butcher’s Coat and Alice Saw the Beauty along with a chapbook: Frogs, Fog and Flourishes.  Her work is found in anthologies: Wild Sweet Notes: 50 Years of West Virginia Poetry, Weeping with Those Who Weep, Coal: A Poetry Anthology and journals including Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, and  Now & Then.


Kara Edmonds was born in Gallipolis, Ohio to teenaged “hippie” parents.  Becoming a teenage parent herself after a chaotic childhood, she built a career at Community Action and became passionate about helping communities thrive. Now residing near Buchtel Springs at the edge of Wayne National Forest, she is currently finishing a small cabin built with creative flair and spends her free time writing stories and songs with her granddaughter, Aubree


CJ Farnsworth has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has appeared in Kenning, Kestrel and Poetry on the Move. She is an active member of WV Writer’s, Inc. She has also written for WVLiving. She is a life-long resident of Wheeling, WV where she currently resides with her husband and son.


Andrea Fekete was born and raised in West Virginia. She's daughter, granddaughter, and niece of union leaders and coal miners, granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants. Her historical fiction novel of the coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (2010) explores women and immigrant life in the coal camps. Her poetry and fiction appear in many publications.

Kathleen Furbee’s short stories, poems and essays have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Kestrel, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Voices in the Attic and others. She is a recently retired RN and lives and writes in her native West Virginia.

Three times a Pushcart nominee, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s work can be found in many fine journals, anthologies and publications – Rattle, CALYX, Main Street Rag, The American Journal of Poetry , Crab Orchard Review and The LA Times.– as well as on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. Her latest chapbook Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press) was released in 2018. She is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project, a recently retired Instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and Poet Laureate for Athens, OH.

Kenna Hambel is many things but if she had to pick, her best features are that she is a graduate from Ohio University with BAs in psychology and English, leader of the Dover House Youth Writers group in McConnelsville, Ohio, and an avid cheesecake connoisseur. She aspires to be a children’s author.


Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in English and an MFA in poetry; she is Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online (https://sheilanagigblog.com/) and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.


Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky.  She is a writer, avid yogi, and spiritual explorer. Kelli’s most recent work has appeared in the anthology Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and Yoga Journal.

Terri Ingalls is a story teller. She has told stories and taught workshops at festivals, libraries, and retirement homes.  She is a tour guide at Mayberry Spirits (Surry Co, NC’s only LEGAL distillery), and conducts Ghost Tours in Mount Airy. She earned a degree in Theatre at UC San Diego and has recently completed and performed a one-woman show, “Flights of Imagination” – the saga of her three years as a stewardess for Piedmont Airlines in the 60’s.

Libby Falk Jones is the author or co-author of two books of poems (Balance of Five, Berea 2015, and Above the Eastern Treetops, Blue, Finishing Line 2010). Her poems and creative nonfiction have been included in many national and regional journals and anthologies. Professor Emerita of English at Berea College where she taught creative and professional writing, Jones regularly leads contemplative writing workshops. She is a past president of Kentucky State Poetry Society.


Danielle Kelly was born and raised in Beverly, WV but now resides in Parkersburg, WV where she serves as Instructor of English at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. She holds an MFA from West Virginia Wesleyan College and is Managing Editor of HeartWood, an online literary journal. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in Deep Water Literary Journal and rkvry


Stephanie Kendrick writes from within the hills of northern Appalachia. She lives in Albany, OH with her son and husband and cats. When she isn’t working as an SSA for children with developmental disabilities, or writing poems, she is training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, attending workshops, painting mandalas on the walls in her home or watching trash TV. You can find other work by her in WOAP Women Speak: 10th Anniversary Collection, Not Far From Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio, and elsewhere.


Connie Kinsey is a writer living in a converted barn with two dogs and a cat on a dirt road in West Virginia.  She writes a little bit of everything and is pursuing happiness one cup of coffee at a time. Her writing has won the West Virginia Writers Annual Contest in both the emerging writers and nonfiction categories. Her memoir as a military brat during the Vietnam era is published online at the Longridge Review.


Patsy Kisner’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Appalachian Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, and The Red Moon Anthology, among others. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Inside the Horse’s Eye and Last Days of an Old Dog, both from Finishing Line Press.

Eileen Lynch is the mother of 4 adult children and a retired family law paralegal who specialized in domestic violence. She assisted victims in shelters and a Prosecutor’s office. She moved to Athens County 2011. She loves to write and has been creating stories for forty years. She is an Athens County Casa/GAL volunteer for abused/neglected children, serves on the board for the women’s recovery house, Serenity Grove and sews and hand quilts.


A life-long resident of the Mid-Ohio Valley, Barb McCullough split her time between teaching in WV and literary projects in river cities in WV and OH. As an educator, Barb worked as a WV Humanities Scholar and as an OSU Asian Studies Fellow in literature/poetry. Barb also collaborated as a grant writer, editor of Confluence literary magazine, and as coordinator of the Becky Thatcher Reading Series. In August 2018, Barb read with Artists/Poets at Riverside Gallery. 


Karen Salyer McElmurray’s Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey was an AWP Award winner. Her novels are The Motel of the Stars, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, and Wanting Radiance (April 2020, University Press of Kentucky).  An essay collection, Voice Lessons, will be published by Iris Press in late 2019.  She has also co-edited Writing into the Forbidden: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia.  She teaches in the low residency program at West Virginia Wesleyan College.   


Mimi Railey Merritt began writing professionally as a newspaper reporter in the early ‘80s. Her career has included technical writing and editing at Virginia Tech and for the software industry, grant writing, freelance feature writing, and 20 years as a communications professor at Bluefield College in Bluefield, Va. Most recently, Merritt served as the college’s interim vice president for academics before managing assessment and accreditation projects. Retired now from academia, Merritt writes poetry and short stories about relationships and forgiveness. 


Effie Mullins was born and raised in southeast Ohio. She dabbled with painting, sculpting, and woodcarving. None of these mediums grabbed her attention as fiercely as poetry. Effie extracts meaning from past trauma to depict the depths despair can reach. Every scribbled thought is tethered to specific sentiments. Effie hopes her writings will help elucidate the extent of suffering that can occur within the confines of one’s own mind and illuminate the role that others play in assisting or hindering recovery.


Karen Whittington Nelson calls Southeast Ohio home. She attended Ohio University, raised a family and worked as both a registered nurse and teacher before realizing that she had a lifetime of stories to tell. Her fiction and poetry can be found in the Women Speak chapbooks, Gyroscope Review, Pudding Magazine, Common Threads and Dover House Writers Volume 1. Karen facilitates a writers’ group and shares her work at venues throughout her rural community.


Valerie Nieman’s third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, is “steeped in sideshow tradition, and addressing issues of race, gender, self-concept, and creative expression,” according to The Coney Island Museum. She is also the author of four novels, including the newly released To the Bones, a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia. A WVU graduate, she has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships.


Barbara Marie Minney writes personal and emotional poetry that describes her feelings, thoughts, and passions while struggling to live her truth as a transgender woman.  She began her transition to living authentically as the woman that she now knows she was meant to be a little over two years ago at the age of 63 after repressing her true gender identity for over 60 years.  She and her wife reach out to others by presenting workshops describing how they strengthened their relationship during Barbara’s transition, and they posted a video of the presentation on YouTube. Barbara also serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Aids Network/Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI).


Tina Parker is the author of the poetry collection Mother May I and the poetry chapbook Another Offering. Her current work springs from historical research into the lives of women labeled as “other”—whether that be witch, insane, or hysterical. She grew up in Bristol, Virginia, and now lives in Berea, Kentucky.


Cat Pleska is an award-winning author, editor, educator, publisher, and storyteller. Her memoir is Riding on Comets (WVU Press, 2015). She edited the anthology  Fearless: Women’s Journeys to Self-Empowerment, with 30 women contributors, for Mountain State Press (2019). Her essays and memoirs have appeared in Still: the Journal, Heartwood, Traditions and Hamilton Stone Review, among many others. Cat received the 2016 West Virginia Governor’s Arts Award for Support of the Arts. She lives in Scott Depot, West Virginia.

Lisa M. Pursley’s poetry has been featured in The Chaffin Journal, ABZ, Floyd County Moonshine, Mountain Ink, The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel and the 10th Anniversary Edition of Women Speak along with other journals. Her work was included in Wild Sweet Notes II: An Anthology of West Virginia Poets and has been honored by West Virginia Writers, Inc.


Sue Powers’ Appalachian inheritance lives in stories and music from her father’s family. They performed for square dances and sang sacred music. Her mother’s family arrived at the beginning of the twentieth century with a wave of Slovak immigrants to work in the coal and coke region of Fayette county Pennsylvania. The use of traditional claw-hammer banjo techniques combined with contemporary song styles and a sense of place influence her songwriting.


Bonnie Proudfoot, of Athens, Ohio, is a writer and a glass artist. Bonnie has published poetry and short stories, and her chapbook was a semi-finalist for the Slapering Hol competition. Her glasswork has been exhibited at the Best of Ohio and Athens Voices. She was a former co-editor of Riverwind, Hocking College’s literary magazine. Her first novel, Goshen Road, a collection of linked narratives set in rural West Virginia, is forthcoming from Swallow Press in January of 2020.


​McKenna Revel is a writer based out of Appalachia in Eastern Kentucky. Growing up, she was drawn to all things mystical, and found great comfort and pleasure in learning about archetypes, world religions, and the social issues therein. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Justice Studies and a Master’s degree in Justice, Policy and Leadership from Eastern Kentucky University. All of her writing is drawn from her unique background and perspectives.


Tonja Matney Reynolds resides in Warren County, Ohio, but lived in Clermont County for most of her childhood. Her parents were raised in Buchanan County, Virginia, and moved to Cincinnati just before she was born. Her dad says he’s Appalachian and she’s a Cincinnatian, but she knows better. This is her third year participating in WOAP Spoken Word events. She has several short story publications and recently completed a novel set in a 1930s Appalachian coal town.


Debbie Richard is  a poet and creative nonfiction writer. Her work has appeared in Torrid Literature Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, Halcyon Days and others. RAPUNZEL was shortlisted for Best Poem in Adelaide Literary Award for Poetry, 2018. PIVOT, an illustrated volume of poetry, won Honorable Mention in the New York Book Festival Awards 2019. Other publications include a chapbook of poetry (Resiliency, 2012) and a memoir (Hills of Home, 2014)


S. Renay Sanders is a poet excited to have her first chapbook Dancing in Place recently published. She learned to love the spoken word amidst a family of storytellers, secretly writing her own stories as poems. Renay is venturing into telling stories based on her memories and family tales. Her poetry continues to be inspired by her life as a social worker, her family, and the beauty of the Cuyahoga Valley where she resides.


Rikki Santer’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, The Journal of American Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Crab Orchard Review, Grimm, Slipstream and The Main Street Rag.  Her work has received many honors including four Pushcart and three Ohioana book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her seventh collection, In Pearl Broth, was published this spring by Stubborn Mule Press.


Susan Truxell Sauter’s poems appear in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Wiley Cash Volume X, (2018); Women Speak: 10th Anniversary Collection (2019); Women of Appalachia Project: Women Speak (2018); Nasty Women & Bad Hombres (2017); Fracture: Essays, Poems, & Stories on Fracking in America (2016); and Voices from the Attic (2015, 2017, 2018). The Allegheny Front, an environmental radio program, twice featured her work. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Ohio State University and lives in West Virginia.


Karen Scott is a poet and substitute teacher in Columbus, Ohio.  She is a member and ardent supporter of Ohio Poetry Association (OPA), a past participant in the Women of Appalachia Project (2017-2018) and a proud member of the SALON writing group.   Some of her work has been published in the OPA members-only anthology Common Threads (2013, 2018), Women Speak, [WOAP anthology (2017, 2019)],  and Delirious: A Poetic Celebration of Prince.


Lucretia Shattles traces her Appalachian roots back to the American Revolution. She has studied storytelling at the feet of her great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, as well as at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at the Appalachian Writers Workshop at the Hindman Settlement School. While her physical body currently resides in Nantucket, Massachusetts, her heart calls the mountains home. 


Sue Ann Simar grew up in the Allegheny Mountains of northern Pennsylvania.   She believes the urge to pray and the urge to write poems both involve voice and are often the same.  (Perhaps, also, the urge to prey).  Since 2013, Simar has participated in the Madwomen in the Attic workshops affiliated with Carlow University. Her group is lead by poet Lori Wilson and meets in Morgantown, West Virginia.


Anna Egan Smucker lives and writes in West Virginia. Her first chapbook, Rowing Home, was published by Finishing Line Press, Fall 2019. With poems published in several journals and anthologies, she is also the author of eight award-winning children’s books. Her website is www.annasmucker.com.


Appalachian resident and retired English teacher, Lois Spencer is an adjunct instructor at Ohio Valley University in Vienna, West Virginia. She also conducts memoir writing workshops and takes part in three writers’ groups. Since 1979, Lois’ short stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in several publications, among them Ohio Teachers Write, ByLine, Iris, and Dover House Writers: Stories, Poems & Essays. A memoir, In the Language of My Country, is her first book.


Shelley Stevens, artist, educator, author began her academic studies at Ohio University thirty-four years ago. She went on the complete an MA in Art History at Emory University and PhD in English at Georgia State University. She returned to Athens County three years ago to write through the accumulated detritus of her experiences living a life divided between Appalachian roots and city life. She finds suffering and pleasure invested in the lived complexities of rural life.


Natalie Sypolt lives and writes in Preston County, West Virginia and is an Associate Professor of English at Pierpont Community & Technical College. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, Willow Springs, Glimmer Train, and Appalachian Heritage among others. She works as an editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers and is currently the Vice President of the Appalachian Studies Association. Natalie’s first book, The Sound of Holding Your Breath, was published in 2018 by West Virginia University Press.


Judi Tarowsky grew up in Western Pennsylvania and has lived her entire life within the Appalachian region. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in journalism at West Virginia University, and received a graduate certificate in storytelling from the University of North Texas. After a career in newspaper reporting, followed by a stint in advertising, Judi is now focusing on professional storytelling. She performs historic narratives, original stories, folk and fairy tales, and Appalachian ghost stories.


Barbara Wade is drawn to lyrical poetry and enjoys the surprise that sometimes comes from following a strict pattern or playing with words. A retired professor of writing and literature from Berea College, she is author of the chapbook Inside Passage (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and has been published in three anthologies and various periodicals, including Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, Pegasus, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.  Her writing is a form of contemplation that reminds her to be awake.


Jayne Moore Waldrop is a writer, attorney and eighth-generation Kentuckian. She is from a family of displaced Appalachians. She's the author of Retracing My Steps (Finishing Line Press 2019), a finalist in the New Women's Voices Chapbook Contest and Series. Her work has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, New Madrid Journal, Limestone Journal, Kudzu, Deep South Magazine, Minerva Rising, The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, and other literary journals. Waldrop lives in Lexington.


Kristi Stephens Walker is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in various print and online publications, most recently in East of the City magazine in Nashville, TN, for which she is a regular contributor. A native of West Virginia, her writing often features characters and settings that reflect the uniqueness of life in her hometown. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and three children. She recently completed her first novel.


Donna Weems finds her inspiration in West Virginia’s beautiful farms and forests. Since retiring as an educator she has found joy writing poetry. She won the 2012 Mountaineer Week Faculty/Staff division of the “Voices of Appalachia”, the “Fernow Forest” writing contest and her poem about rafting the New River at flood stage won second place in the 2019 emerging poet category of the West Virginia Writer’s Contest. She has published poems in the “Highlands Voice” and “Mad Women” anthology.


Through carefully chosen words, Sherrell Wigal encourages readers to move beyond their expectations, advise only a West Virginia country girl could give. Sherrell’s poems always challenge and inspire.


Kristine Williams lives and writes in Athens, OH. She has been both a contributor to and a juror for Women Speak since it began. She has been published in Huffington Post and Hawk and Whippoorwill. She has recently retired from teaching college students and has graduated to substituting as a teacher's aid at a Montessori preschool. She lives with her husband, and has two adult children, both of whom are teachers and writers.


Beth Wolfe is an educator, mentor, leader and communicator living in Scott Depot, West Virginia. A native Appalachian harboring a life-long love affair with words, her writing is as eclectic as her background as an English and chemistry teacher would suggest. Her poetry was featured in the annual Body Shots performance at Marshall University in 2018 and 2019. Her house is full of jazz thanks to her husband, and dog hair thanks to her Golden Retrievers, Nica and Basie.


Beverly Zeimer is of Appalachian descent, whose writing celebrates life in rural Ohio.  Her first chapbook, Pick a Way was published by Pudding House as winner of a Pudding House Chapbook Competition and she has published a second chapbook, The Wildness of Flowers by Night Ballet Press. She is working on a full-length collection of poetry and stories. She shares her work as a featured reader at coffee houses, poetry events, and festivals throughout Ohio. She lives in Southern Ohio by Big Darby Creek where she enjoys the quiet of nature.

2019-2020 JURORS


Randi Ward is a poet, translator, lyricist, and photographer from Belleville, WV. She earned her MA in Cultural Studies from the University of the Faroe Islands and is a recipient of the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Nadia Christensen Prize. Ward is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee whose work has appeared in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Vencil: Anthology of Contemporary Faroese Literature, World Literature Today, and other publications. Her work has also been featured on Folk Radio UK, NPR, and PBS NewsHour. Cornell University Library established the Randi Ward Collection in its Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in 2015. Whipstitches, Ward’s second full-length poetry collection, was published by MadHat Press in 2016. For more information, please visit randiward.com/about.

Savannah Sipple is a writer from east Kentucky. Her debut poetry collection WWJD and Other Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) explores what it is to be a queer woman in Appalachia. With a beer-drinking Jesus as her wing-man, she navigates this difficult terrain of stereotype, conservative Evangelicalism, and, perhaps most, shame. Her writing can be found in Southern Cultures, Salon, Appalachian Heritage, Waxwing, and The Offing. She is the recipient of grants from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. A writer, editor, and teacher, Savannah resides in Lexington, Kentucky with her wife, Ashley. Find her at https://www.savannahsipple.com.