For the sixth year, West Virginia Writers, Inc. has joined forces with the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation in Hillsboro to celebrate West Virginia’s best-known literary daughter with a special category in the organization’s annual writing contest. Because of Buck’s legacy as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction that changed viewpoints on a national and global scale, the PSBBF has sponsored the Pearl S. Buck Award for Writing for Social Change.
Buck, who was born in Hillsboro, grew up in China as the child of missionaries, and spent half of her life there gaining a first-hand perspective on life in the East. Her literary work reflected this in books like The Good Earth, Sons, and A House Divided, among dozens of other works. Buck’s writing radically changed how people in this country viewed China, exposing her readers to the realities of life in a nation that had seen ugly stereotypes accepted as fact for decades beforehand. Her efforts did not go unrecognized. In addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize and the Dean Howells Medal for her work, in 1938, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.”
With writers such as William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as her peers, it might seem surprising for Buck to be granted such acclaim at the time, given her writing style designed to emulate the plain-spoken lyricism of the language used by the people she wrote about. However, at the time the prize was granted, Fascism was on the rise in Europe and Hitler had come into power in Germany. In the face of this, the Swedish Academy, one of the governing bodies of the selection process for the Nobel Prize, wanted to recognize writing that promoted understanding and tolerance, and they found much of that in Buck’s work.
The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation began sponsoring the contest category for West Virginia Writers to continue honoring Buck’s tradition of work that impacts the way people see each other. As such, the Pearl S. Buck Award for Writing for Social Change category accepts prose and poetry designed to inspire or highlight the need for social change. The issues addressed don’t have to be global in scope, but should address matters in which the writer believes change is required. The stories or poetry submitted to the contest must be previously unpublished works of under 5,000 words in length.
Judging the category this year is a person who has personally worked for social change through legislative efforts, Monongalia County delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, who has passed important legislation affecting women, children, veterans and disabled West Virginians.
Last year’s winners included Dawn A. Baldwin from Bartow, W.Va. with a 3rd place win for “Ode to Stickerz: A Hen to Love”; Maria McKelvey from Valley Head, WV with a 2nd place win for “She’s Leaving”; and Catherine Johnston from Charleston, W.Va.with a 1st place win for “Breathe.”
West Virginia Writers annual writing contest also offers 12 other writing categories to choose from in its adult contest. Submissions are accepted through March 15 (with a late deadline of March 31). The contest is open to all residents of West Virginia as well as to members of WV Writers, Inc. from other states. There is a $10 fee for each adult contest entry, and a $12 fee for the book-length category.
For all other information and an official contest entry form and contest rules, visit the contest page ofWV Writers website at wvwriters.org/contest.html, or email contest coordinator, Eric Fritzius, at email@example.com.
West Virginia Writers, the largest writers’ organization in the state will celebrate its 40thanniversary this year.