2009 Writing Contest 

Oct 26, 2009 - The Smith Mountain Arts Council (SMAC) and its Lake Writers group announced the winners of the 2009 SMAC Novel Contest. Thirteen area writers entered the contest by submitting the first 50 pages of their novels. From these thirteen submissions, the judge selected three finalists. The finalists were then asked to submit their complete novels for final judging.


Contest Winners

SMAC Novel Contest Winners (left to right): Betsy Ashton, first place; Judy Reap, SMAC President; Becky Mushko, second place; Jennifer Merritt, third place.

First Place

The first place winner is Betsy Ashton for her novel Unintended Consequences. Ashton lives in Moneta, writes for the Laker Weekly, is a budding novelist, and is a member of Lake Writers and Valley Writers in Roanoke.


Unintended Consequences features Mad Max Davies, a reluctant boomer grandmother, who finds herself taking care of her grown daughter and two grandchildren after her daughter is badly injured in an accident. She and her grandchildren become involved with solving a murder and exposing why the killer kills.

Second Place

The second place winner is Becky Mushko for her novel Stuck. Mushko lives in Penhook, is a retired teacher, blogger, and former columnist. She writes children’s literature.Ferradiddledumday, her new spin on the Rumpelstiltskin tale, will be published in January. Her work also appears in A Cup of Comfort for Writers and It Was A Dark and Stormy Night. She has self-published five books.


In Stuck, eleven-year-old Jacie—stuck in grief over her mother's death, stuck at camp with her worst enemy, and finally stuck on a Franklin County farm with her father's new fiancée—helps a ghost who is stuck on earth until she learns what happened to her young daughter.

Third Place

The third place winner is Jennifer Merritt for her novel Archer’s Storm. Merritt, originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, lives at Spring Lake Farm in Moneta with her husband, children, and father-in-law. She is a free-lance writer who makes time to write while chasing after her three young sons.

Archer’s Storm, Merritt’s first novel, features Archer Brookwood. Nothing extraordinary ever happens to Archer. He dreams of traveling to distant worlds, but one summer he realizes this world is larger than he ever imagined. Magic is as close as his own back yard.

Presentation of Awards

SMAC President Judy Reap presented Ashton with a check for $1,000 at the SMAC Annual Meeting on October 27. Mushko and Merritt have received checks of $400 and $200, respectively. The winners may use their cash awards to help them in seeking to have their work published or for any other purpose they choose.

The contest was coordinated by Fran Nielsen, a member of the Lake Writers, who found the judge and handled the coordination of the contest.

The Judge

The judge was Sandra Clayton-Emmerson. Currently the archivist of Manhattan College (New York), she teaches college-level composition and information literacy. A graduate of Walla Walla College and the University of Maryland, Clayton-Emmerson has more than twenty-five years experience as a researcher, writer, college and high school teacher, editor, and archivist. She is the editor and publisher of three collegiate magazines and the author of several annotated bibliographies.

Clayton-Emmerson, who critiqued each of the thirteen initial 50-page entries, gave each author feedback, chose the three finalists, and then selected the first, second, and third place winners from the three complete novels, commented at the conclusion of the contest, "This was a lot of fun! I just wish I could read all the novels now!"




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