Annual Literature Fund announces winners for 2022 contest

This month, the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority will be celebrating the winners of this year’s Literature Fund Writing Contest. An annual tradition made possible by Wyoming County native Lonnie Bailey, the Literature Fund provides students and adults from our region to submit their best original works.

Every spring, we encourage Wyoming County residents to show off their writing skills in response to various prompts about our culture, community, and world affairs. 

Rebecca Adams, whose poem “Whistling in Glory” earned first place in the 18+ category, said she knew she wanted to submit an original poem she’d written in tribute to her dad, Lonnie Lusk, who recently passed away. 

“The day after his passing I was alone in my home and I grabbed a piece of lined paper and started jotting down my thoughts,” Rebecca said. “I wanted to express my feelings, and I was unsure how to do it until the lead hit the paper. I erased a lot and watched tears fall on the page, a lot. We needed a poem for the back of the program for his services, and we wanted something fitting. What better way than to write one?”

Rebecca, who’s originally from Oceana, has spent the last 17 years teaching at Baileysville Elementary and Middle School. Throughout her career, she’s inspired countless students to pursue their own love for writing. 

I would not have ever thought to classify myself as a writer, but more as an editor,” Adams said. “I teach middle school English and Writing. I have for about 14 years. I’ve led kids in their writing endeavors and aspirations for many years. It felt good to put my passion into something of my own.”

Rebecca said she was “stunned” to receive word that her poem had placed first in the contest.

“It was close to Father’s Day when Christy told me. It’s always a tough holiday for me, but this year I felt such peace and happiness. My dad really was one of the best.”

Rebecca said the Literature Fund’s recognition has encouraged her to pursue publishing her poem.

“It’s the one writing piece I have that is the most dear to me,” Adams said.

Read an excerpt of “Whistling in Glory” here:

“Memories of mining were told to all who would listen

Painfully you were dealt a hand you could not hold

Talk of family made your blue eyes glisten

Proudly sacrificing your life to mine that black gold.”

See the full poem here.

Ty Eller, of Pineville, won first place in the High School category for his essay, “Roots Give Us Wings: An Anthology of Famous Wyoming County Natives and Their Success Beyond the Border.” 

Ty’s essay explores the lives and legacies of two famous Wyoming County natives, Bernie Casey, a professional football player and artist, and professional boxer Christy Martin. 

For Ty, writing has been a long-time passion. He said he was thrilled to learn he’d been awarded this honor. 

“I’ve been writing ever since I was a child; from silly ‘movie scripts’ to the poetry and essays I write now, writing is definitely a big part of my creative process and will continue to be as I mature,” Ty said. 

Ty, a student at Wyoming East High School, said his English teacher encouraged him to submit an entry for the writing contest. 

“It ended up being a great opportunity for me to shine a spotlight on celebrities native to Wyoming County and their success and to imply that their success is a result of their upbringings here in Wyoming County.

Read an excerpt from “Roots Give Us Wings: An Anthology of Famous Wyoming County Natives and Their Success Beyond the Border,” here:

“From wrestling to acting to governmental roles, many native West Virginians who were born in Wyoming County have thrived beyond the border, but it is their southern West Virginia roots that shaped them into who they are today.”

Read Ty’s full essay here.

All winners will be recognized at a formal ceremony at the Wyoming County Board of Education on July 25th, where they will each receive medals, certificates, and cash prizes courtesy of Lonnie Bailey and his fund at the Beckley Area Foundation.

2022 Winners of the Literature Fund’s Wyoming County Writing Contest:


1st Place:  Rebecca Adams, Whistling in Glory – $500

2nd Place: Sante “Sonny” Boninsegna, Jr., For Ukraine – $400

High School:

1st Place: Ty Eller, Wyoming East High School – Roots Give Us Wings: An Anthology of Famous Wyoming County Natives and Their Success beyond the Border – $200

2nd Place:  Charleigh Price, Wyoming East High School – Wyoming County on the Rise – $150

Middle School:

1st Place: Landon Belcher, Herndon Consolidated – My County My Home – $200

2nd Place: Abby Graham, Herndon Consolidated – Oh, Wyoming County – $150

Elementary School:

1st Place:  Jordyn Lester, Berlin McKinney – Monsters in WV – $150

2nd Place: Abby Laxton, Glen Fork Elementary – The Lost Lovers – $100

3rd Place: Dylan Toler, Glen Fork Elementary – Making Wyoming County a Better Place – $50

The awards are made possible by Lonnie Bailey, of Pineville, who created the Literature Fund for Wyoming County through the Beckley Area Foundation. The writing contest is coordinated through the Wyoming County Planning Commission, the Wyoming County EDA, the Wyoming County Board of Education, and local judges.