Saturday, August 23, 2014

R.P. Barr to represent Prince William in state writing competition

Manassas writer R.P. Barr’s short story “Dinner Dishes” and poem “Pink Ribbon Afternoon” won first place in the fiction and poetry categories of the first tier (local chapter) competition of the Virginia Writers Club’s annual Golden Nib Contest. Barr’s entries have been forwarded to the VWC for statewide competition; statewide awards will be presented during the VWC Annual Meeting November 1 in Richmond.

Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, recognized winners of the chapter writing contest – the first tier of the VWC’s annual Golden Nib Contest – at their Aug. 21 meeting.

The distinguished panel of judges included:

·         Ann Marie Stippey, the 2014 Washington Post Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year for Manassas City Public Schools and an Osbourn High School English teacher (fiction);
·         Robert Scott, co-Prince William Poet Laureate, novelist and Osbourn Park High School teacher (poetry); and
·         David Fawcett, sports editor for Prince William Today (nonfiction).

Maureen Arvai, Content Director at Brandt Social and a freelance writer, organized the local contest.

These winners were chosen:

·         Fiction) First-Place: R.P. Barr, Manassas, “Dinner Dishes”; Second-Place: Dani Ambrose Rogero, Manassas, “The Pin-Up Girl of the Lucky Lou”
·         Poetry)  First-Place: R.P. Barr, Manassas, “Seasons”; Second-Place: Kim Lervold, “Native American’s Perspective as Columbus Arrives”
·         Nonfiction) No entries submitted

Write by the Rails will sponsor  Fall for the Book’s “Haute Cuisine at the Hylton,” a celebration of fine food, superior drink and the various stories behind the scenes of every aspect of the food industry from farm to table and beyond on Thursday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 9 pm at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Cookbook authors, food writers, chefs and chocolatiers, novelists incorporating food into their fiction, and even the newly minted Prince William Poets Laureate will be there. This is a free event, open to the public.

Local Teen Writers Win State Competition

Scholarship winner; 8 of 10 Golden Nib Contest winners are Prince William teens

The Virginia Writers Club has announced winners of their annual Teen Scholarship and Teen Golden Nib Contest competitions:


Renee Christina Ordoobadi - Bristow, Virginia



1st Place - "Recess" by Renee Christina Ordoobadi

2nd Place - "Identity" by Teja, Janai Barnes, Dupree

3rd Place - "Acute Regression" by Neil Adair McMillan Hailey

Honorable Mention - "Homeless" by Leah Madeline Gaush


1st Place - "Glimpsing the World" by Katherine Brown

2nd Place - "When Life Gives You Lemons" by Phebe Ciemny

3rd Place - "Pilot" by Leah Madeline Gaush

Honorable Mention - "The Face of Depravity" by Renee C. Brittigan


1st Place - "Imperfect" by Erin Marguerite McCall

2nd Place - "Puppetmaster" by Kayleigh McCoy

3rd Place - "A Heavy Conscience" by Katherine Brown

Honorable Mention - "Awaiting the Fury" by Morgan Nicole Shaffer

Eight of the 10 teen winners live in Prince William, attend Woodbridge Senior High School and are enrolled in the CFPA Creative Writing Program.

Scholarship winner Renee Christina Ordoobadi recently graduated from Woodbridge Senior High School, and was enrolled in the CFPA Creative Writing Program. In March, she taught poetry at the Write by the Rails’ Rising Writers Workshop in Manassas. In June, she was one of 14 poets nominated for the Prince William Poet Laureate and became part of the Prince William Poet Laureate Circle at Tackett’s Mill. She is a contributing writer to and lives in Bristow, Virginia.

Phebe Ciemny, who recently graduated WSHS, and Neil Adair McMillan Hailey, a junior, were also among the 14 poets nominated for the Prince William Poet Laureate and in June became part of the Prince William Poet Laureate Circle at Tackett’s Mill. Ciemny taught poetry at the Write by the Rails’ Rising Writers Workshop in Manassas in March, along with Erin Marguerite McCall, who also recently graduated WSHS. McCall taught writing and the arts at the Write by the Rails’ Rising Writers Workshop. Teja, Janai Barnes, Dupree is a WSHS junior, and writes for the Valkyrie newspaper; Renee C. Brittigan is also a junior; Katherine Brown is a sophomore, whose winning piece, “Glimpsing the World,” was published in Eddas 2014 Bifrost. She attended the Write by the Rails’ Rising Writers Workshop in Manassas in March. Leah Madeline Gaush is a freshman at WSHS. Brittigan, Brown, Ciemny, Hailey, McCall and Ordoobadi all have additional writing published in Eddas 2014 Bifrost.

“I’m so proud of all of them,” said Woodbridge Senior High School creative writing teacher Cathy Hailey, who was herself featured in the March issue of Prince William Living magazine as one of the five Influential Women of 2014.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Belinda Miller Announces Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars

Pre-order a copy of Belinda Miller’s: Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars, now!  It will also be available on Amazon in November, just in time for Christmas.  
Above the Stars is the second book in the Phillip’s Quest series, a magical tale about a gnome named Phillip, a squirrel named Edward and a dinosaur named Stinky on their exciting quest to find the castle of Winterfrost. This book is the sequel to the popular Winterfrost and will be filled with the same type of beautiful color illustrations, maps and recipes.   

Order a signed, first edition copy at on the "Buy Phillip’s Quest or The Ragworts" page now, for your favorite children or yourself!

Please cut/copy and paste this announcement to your newsletter or webpage.  Thanks so much for your help!

--Belinda Miller

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Write by the Rails Founder Katherine Gotthardt Named to Northern VA Poetry Post

The Poetry Society of Virginia, a statewide organization promoting the writing and enjoyment of poetry, has appointed Bristow poet Katherine M. Gotthardt Vice President of the Society's Northern Region. The Northern Region includes the D.C. Metro area, Stafford and Fredericksburg. As VP, Gotthardt will coordinate existing local programs, create new programs, raise the profile of the Society and recruit new members.

Gotthardt holds an M.Ed. with a writing concentration and has been writing and teaching for more than 20 years. A former community columnist for the News and Messenger, Gotthardt taught college level writing online and in the classroom and English as a Second Language (ESOL) at the Manassas Regional Adult Detention center. She currently freelances as a writer and editor, sets up websites and blogs, teaches blogging and writing and reports for Haymarket Beat.
Gotthardt's work has appeared in various online and text journals. Poems from the Battlefield, a collection of her Civil War themed poetry, original and archival photos and period quotes, was published in 2009. Gotthardt's illustrated children’s book, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, an epic poem, was published in 2010. Approaching Felonias Park, a novel focusing on predatory lending, was released in 2011. Weaker Than Water, a second collection of her poetry, came out in 2013. Gotthardt expects to release a new collection of poetry in 2014.  Her full profile can be found on LinkedIn.

Gotthardt is a founding member Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. As part of an effort to bring more Poetry Society events to the Manassas/Prince William area, Write by the Rails will co-sponsor "Blogging for Writers," an introductory workshop to help writers improve web presence, credibility and branding. Open to the public, the workshop will be held Thursday, August 21, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 9325 West Street, Manassas, from 5-7 p.m. Gotthardt and social media expert Stacia Kelly will present. The seminar will be followed by the open, monthly meeting of Write by the Rails during which Gotthardt will discuss how to run a writing critique session. For more information, email

The Poetry Society welcomes published and unpublished poets, as well as those who just appreciate poetry. For more information about the Society, visit

Write by the Rails is a group member of the Prince William County Arts Council, which also recently named two Prince William Poets Laureate, Robert Scott and Zan Hailey. Gotthardt is one of a 15-member Prince William Poet Laureate Circle that was formed to support and fulfill the projects of the poets throughout 2014-2016, including Scott’s 10,000 Poem Project at

For more information about Write by the Rails, visit

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Three Year Anniversary: Write by the Rails Gets It Right

Three years ago, on a steamy August afternoon in Manassas, four local writers--Cindy Brookshire, Katherine Gotthardt, Sheila Lamb and Pete Pazmino--met at what was then the Simply Sweet Coffee Shop on Main Street to talk about ways they could encourage and support other writers in the area.

As the meeting ended, they agreed to meet later at Okra’s to organize. Recognizing the railroad heritage of Manassas, they named their new group Write by the Rails.

Since that day, things have changed. Simply Sweet has become Grounds Central Station, where owner Matt Brower continues to serve great food and drink and supports all manner of the arts—music, ballet, art, phonography and, of course, writing. And Write by the Rails has grown from those four writers to 257 members signed up through Facebook and other means. Early members joke about not meeting their Facebook friends face to face for months. About forty members are active.

That first year the club held networking meetings at area restaurants, started a email distribution list; publicized the group through local newspapers, online news sites and blogs; staged a literary panel discussion; sponsored multi-author book signings and displays at la Grange Winery in Haymarket, the Manassas Neighborhood Conference and the Arts Alive! Festival (sponsored by the Prince William County Arts Council) at the Hylton Performing Arts Center

The group staged a book signing at the Manassas Railroad Festival in June, 2012, and in the fall of 2012, became the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The group also published New Departures in November, an anthology featuring poems, short stories, essays and artwork by its members. Eleven members of WBTR (as its members call it) joined the Prince William County Arts Council, and one member was elected to the Arts Council Board of Directors.

This past year Write by the Rails has become a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Chapter member June Forte and others worked to establish a Prince William Poet Laureate Program, the first a county (Richmond and Alexandria and a few other cities name laureates.). On June 14 at the Poetry & Jazz on the Lake event at Tacketts Mill, the club named Robert Scott and Zan Hailey as twin Poets Laureate.

Book clubs aren’t new, with some dating to the eighteenth century in England and perhaps even earlier. In the opening years of the twentieth century in this country, a group of writers in the San Francisco Bay area (including Jack London, poet George Sterling and short story writer Herman Whitaker among others) held informal meetings at first but soon became the Press Club of Alameda. In 1909, a faction broke off from the Press Club to form the California Writers Club, which is still active today.

The Virginia’s Writers Club dates back to November, 1918, founded by a group of writers including James Branch Cabell, the first president. Poet Ellen Glasgow hosted the first meetings at her house.

News, plans, members' writings and more are posted on our homepage,, and in the Facebook group, group is open to the public. If you are a writer (published or unpublished) affiliated with Manassas, Manassas Park or Prince William County, consider officially joining by emailing us at There is no charge to join.

--Dan Verner, Vice President, Write by the Rails

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Poem by Leigh Giza

Ephemeral arteries
Invisible conductors
Turning the stiles
Restraining and retraining
The water in the gound
So that it will perk
Where it should be still
Until nobody thinks it’s
Unusual any more.

Commuter virus
Infects the system
Emergency brake
Squeals, squelches the panic
But it can’t make this train move
In reverse
So we sit
In the darkness, waiting for
Live streams
Feed our oceanic appetite for
Cultured pearls of
Corruptible, tainted
With untruths and type-os
All the Type O blood
In the world won’t
Save us now from
Going off the rails.