The Shann Palmer Poetry Contest

Shann Palmer PoetThe Shann Palmer Poetry Contest is a partnership between James River Writers and Richmond magazine to encourage Virginia poets to share their best work.

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.


The next Shawn Palmer Poetry Contest will be held in 2018.

Submissions: Up to four original, unpublished poems.

Entry fee: $15.

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. Or you may submit a check made out to James River Writers for $15 with your submission.

Submissions (with credit card receipt or a check) must be postmarked no later than the date indicated and mailed to:

James River Writers
2319 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23223


Poems must be original, unpublished, not scheduled for publication prior to November of the contest year, and must not have previously won an award in this or any other contest. Up to four (4) poems may be submitted in one packet. Poets may not enter more than once per contest year. Employees and board members of either James River Writers or Richmond magazine are ineligible to submit work, as are Shann Palmer Poetry Contest committee members and judges.

Each submission packet must include a cover sheet with the author’s name, contact information (include email, mailing address, and phone number) and the title of the poem or poems. One cover sheet is sufficient for up to four poems. Please include all titles on your cover sheet.


  • Maximum of one page in length per poem
  • Single-spaced
  • 12 point
  • Standard font (such as Times New Roman, Arial, or similar)
  • Typed on one side of white, 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper
  • Written in English

Additional Information:

  • Poet must be a resident of Virginia, a student at a Virginia college or university, or a member of JRW.
  • Submissions must be mailed to the above address, postmarked no later than the date indicated, and will not be accepted by email.
  • Author retains the copyright.
  • Entries will be recycled upon completion of the contest.


Entrants will be notified of the results by the end of June of the contest year. The winning entry will be published in Richmond magazine in the September issue, and the winner will be celebrated at the next James River Writers Conference in October.


Previous judges have included luminary Virginia poets Henry Hart, Joshua Poteat, and Ron Smith.

2016 Winner:

Zoa 2016 JRW Poetry Contest Winner

Zoa accepting the award for the Shann Palmer Poetry Contest. Photo by Caroline Brae.

James River Writers and Richmond magazine partner to announce Zoa as the winner of the Shann Palmer Poetry Contest, for his poem “A New Emotion.” Head judge and Virginia Poet Laureate, Ron Smith, said “Every time I come back to this poem, it moves me and intrigues me.” A native of Ortonville, Michigan, Zoa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and literature at Eastern Michigan University. He works as a copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.



2014 Winners:

Gail Giewont 2014 JRW Poetry Contest WinnerFirst place was awarded to the poem “The Planets Move but Not Alone” by Gail Giewont. Ms. Giewont is an educator at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology and was inspired to begin work on “The Planets Move but Not Alone” while watching a Pittsburgh building burn in 2002 and returned to the poem for revisions over the years.

Fred E. Maus and Polly Lazaron were awarded joint Second Place for their poems, “South Beach in Winter” and “Creamed,” respectively. Polly Lazaron is an artist and former Richmond resident who now lives in a rural setting near Charlottesville. Fred Everett Maus is a musician and writer who teaches music courses at the University of Virginia. He returned to poetry writing a year ago, and the Shann Palmer Contest is the first poetry contest he has ever entered.