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. In November of 2012, thanks to the creativity and cheerleading of Volpi and Ball, dozens of Charlottesville participants finished the 50,000 word challenge with smiles on their faces. The team organized weeknight write-ins, a sleepover (SLUMPerparty), a pancake breakfast, and two potlucks. They refereed Word Wars, in which participants competed for the highest word count in a 15-minute period. They blogged, tweeted, and posted to encourage participation in this month-long mini-marathon, and organized post-NANO novel finishing and editing events.

In 2009, this dynamic duo saw a need for a community of writers in the genre of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and began a writers group through WriterHouse. Since then, they have held monthly meetings, provided writing prompts, organized outings, and for the past two years have presented public readings of the group’s work.

“Without these two organizers, this group of writers would never have found each other,” said Rachel Unkefer, who nominated the pair and serves as President of WriterHouse. “Sophia and Louise have both given many hours and boundless energy to the support and cheering on of their fellow writers over the past four years.”

The award’s judges – all JRW members and writers – saw a clear reflection of Jenkins in Volpi and Ball’s enthusiastic and selfless efforts.

The organizational winner of the award, Hampton Roads Writers, similarly embodies the spirit of championing writers. Since its founding in 2008, the nonprofit group of professional and aspiring writers has offered a wealth of valuable programs and resources to the Hampton Roads community, including the Traveling Pen Series writers workshops, Open Mic Nights, and Show and Grow your Prose with Professional Critiques. Their annual conference, now in its fifth year, features best-selling authors, New York agents, critiques, as well as no-fee contests and workshops. HRW provides scholarships to their conference to ensure that no one is turned away because of finances.

Hampton Roads Writers has also led outreach efforts to engage and encourage younger writers, through book donations to the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, a teen writing contest with Samaritan House, and children’s literary events celebrating Black History Month. Their invaluable website lists literary events, writing groups, expert advice, writing prompts, and submission opportunities, in addition to providing a forum to showcase members’ publications.

“By its nature, writing is a solitary pursuit, but writers need feedback, guidance, and inspiration,” said Linda Carol Cobb, HRW board member, in her nomination of the organization. “HRW offers numerous opportunities for seasoned writers to hone their skills, as well as for fledgling writers to learn their craft in an encouraging atmosphere.”

All the winners represent the giving nature of Jenkins, an author of numerous nonfiction works and two mystery novels. While she impacted the community broadly with her service on local non-profit boards, including James River Writers and the Library of Virginia Foundation, it was Emyl’s personal touch that truly inspired those fortunate enough to know her.

The winners will receive their awards at JRW’s annual spring soirée, June on the James, on Thursday, June 6. Tickets to the event may be purchased through James River Writers. Proceeds support Emyl Jenkins’ legacy of making Virginia a better place for writers.

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