Judges

Joy of the Pen Judges are chosen from the Topsham Public Library community and are kept a secret until the reception. Similarly, all judging is anonymous. The judges only see the applicants’ work, with no names or bios attached.

2020 Judges

Fiction
Paulla Estes is a writer who spent much of her early life in Colorado and California. Now, having lived in Topsham twenty-two years, she hikes daily on local woodland paths with her German shepherd, Dinah. She enjoys reading memoir, essays, literary fiction, psychology, and stories about the natural world. Currently working through her final MFA semester at Stonecoast, she is a nonfiction editor of The Stonecoast Review and her thesis is a memoir about her childhood. Follow Paulla on Twitter and Instagram at @paullaestes. Cheers!

Poetry
John Reinhart is an arsonist, father of three, and poet. The recipient of the Horror Writers Association Dark Poetry Scholarship, his work ranges from fantastical to experimental, and has been published worldwide and online, in various anthologies, and across seven collections of poetry.

Nonfiction
Born in Stephen King’s home state, Robin Hansen loves stories that ring true but have a twist of magic or off-ness—a blond European tribe kept as livestock in central Africa, mittens that become a compass when you’re lost, that sort of thing. I have a writing background in journalism and knitting traditions, but write stories and poems when deeply moved. My articles and stories have appeared in regional and national publications from Yankee Magazine to Family Fun and Saturday Evening Post.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, in radio and television, and as a public relations specialist. An active community citizen, Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.org.

Teen
Laufey is is a reader of much, writer of few. You might guess their name, but I can’t tell you who.

Kids
The kids’ fiction and poetry judge this year preferred to remain anonymous.

Pandemic Reflections
Sally Von Benken grew up in Connecticut, went to Simmons College (now Simmons University) in Boston and got a degree in Library Science which she actually did not use very much.  Most of her professional career was in school facility planning, working for a consulting service  in Framingham.  Lots of traveling, lots of interviews, lots of meetings with the public.  Mostly good. Sally is married with two children and two granddaughters, 3 of 4 of whom are out west of the Mississippi River.  Sigh. She loves to walk, is a NY Times crossword puzzle addict, a nonfiction reader, and a devotee of Spider games on the IPad (her current win streak is 705 games). You can probably tell all of these activities have increased during the Pandemic. And she loves the library!

2019 Judges

Fiction
Lydia Stevens is a full-time author and freelance writer and has written over 75 novels for clients-with two series having become Amazon Bestsellers. She is an active member of the Maine Romance Writers Association, The Horror Writers of Maine, The Fantasy Writers of Maine, The Maine Women Authors, The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Sigma Alpha Pi’s, National Society of Leadership and Success, and Sigma Tau Delta’s, International English Honor Society. Lydia graduated from the University of Southern New Hampshire with a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and English on May 11th, 2019. She’s the author of a paranormal/humor trilogy, The Ginger Davenport Escapades and is contracted with an eight-book series, The Hell Fire Series with Dragon Soul Press. Lydia worked as an internist within a literary agency and plans to pursue a PhD in Creative Writing.

Poetry
Steve Bloom began writing poetry and fiction after retiring from a career as history teacher and musician in Vermont, Maryland, and New York, and as a librarian in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Portland ME.  Recently, two of his poems received honors from the Topsham Public Library’s Joy of the Pen, and a short story is included in the 2017 Goose River Anthology. Besides writing, Bloom plays Irish music and conducts a recorder ensemble in the area.  He and his wife, Mary, recently moved from Falmouth to South Portland.

Nonfiction
Lynne Schmidt is the author of Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press) and a mental health professional in Maine who writes memoir, poetry, and young adult fiction. Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. She is a five-time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and regular contributor for Marias at Sampaguitas. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, in radio and television, and as a public relations specialist. An active community citizen, Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.org.

Teen
Laufey is is a reader of much, writer of few. You might guess their name, but I can’t tell you who.

2018 Judges

Fiction
John Leggett has had numerous stories published in literary magazines, anthologies, periodicals, on-line publications, and serialized in Maine newspapers. He has also published two novels, The Five-Cent Gang, and Diamonds In The Rough. His most recent short story, Penciled In, can be found in the current issue of bewilderingstories.com. John has won awards for Joy of The Pen for both fiction and non-fiction and is currently working on his third novel.

Poetry
Diane Waterhouse works for the local school district in the business office. She earned her Associates Degree in business from University of Southern Maine and her Certificate in Library Science from University Maine Augusta. She has volunteered at the library and also served as a board member. She is an avid reader and enjoys gardening and hiking.

Nonfiction
Dana Cary is a native of Topsham, Maine and a graduate of the University of Maine (Business Degree). His career was split between commercial banking and independent consulting to small Maine businesses. Now retired, his activities are volunteering with interests in history, reading, social work, ecology, music and physical exercise.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, in radio and television, and as a public relations specialist. An active community citizen, Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.org.

Teen
Laufey is is a reader of much, writer of few. You might guess their name, but I can’t tell you who.

2017 Judges

Fiction
Peter N. Dudar was born and raised in Albany, New York. He attended the University at Albany, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1994. Upon receiving his degree, Peter resettled in Portland, Maine the following year, and began his writing career. Since then, his debut novel, A Requiem for Dead Flies, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, his novella Where Spiders Fear To Spin, received the Solstice Award for best long fiction, and his other books and short stories have received both critical praise and adoration from fans of dark literature. Peter currently lives in Lisbon Falls with his wife and children. His new novel, The Goat Parade will be published by Grinning Skull Press in early 2018.

Poetry
Helene McGlauflin is an educator, yoga teacher and writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.  She holds a BA in English Literature, an MS in Counselor Education and is a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher.  Helene’s numerous articles and stories have appeared in books, small presses, parenting magazines, newspapers, professional journals and online resources. Her poems have appeared in books and small presses. She has two books of poetry: Tiny Sabbath and Teacher, I Honor You.  Helene’s hope in all her writing is to help people understand themselves, their children and our world more deeply, and to be accessible enough that anyone can find comfort and reassurance in her poetry and prose.

Nonfiction
Shannon L. Bowring is 27 years old and lives in Bath. She graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Her stories have appeared in The Maine Review, the Hawaii Pacific Review, Sixfold, and the Joy of the Pen online journal, for which she won the Verdi L. Tripp Fiction Award. She is the author of Twice Sold Tales, a blog published by the Bangor Daily News from October 2015 – February 2017. Shannon works as a Library Assistant at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, where she is delighted to share her love of reading and writing with the community.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. In 2015, Just Write Books released Topsham, Maine: from the River to the Highlands by Robert C. Williams. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, in radio and television, and as a public relations specialist. An active community citizen, Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.org. Just Write will soon release a history of the last century of the First Parish Church in Brunswick.

Teen
Laufey is is a reader of much, writer of few. You might guess their name, but I can’t tell you who.

2016 Judges

Fiction
Anne Britting Oleson lives and writes in the mountains of Central Maine with her family and cats. She has published two poetry chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (Moon Pie Press, 2007) and The Beauty of It (Sheltering Pines Press, 2010), as well as a novel, The Book of the Mandolin Player (Bedazzled Ink Publishing, 2016). Another chapbook, Counting the Days, and another novel, Dovecote, are due out in 2017.

Poetry
Gary Rainford lives year-round on Swan’s Island with his wife and daughter.  Gary is the author of the poetry collection, Salty Liquor and founder of Island Verse, a creative writing literacy enterprise. This summer Gary’s suite of poems called We Are Here was an honorable mention selected by Betsy Sholl for The Gabriel Zimpritch Memorial Poetry Contest at the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth. Gary’s next collection of poetry, Liner Notes—64 ekphrasic poems describing 64 musicians as artists making music—is forthcoming.

Nonfiction
Sharon Ross is a part-time faculty member at Southern and Central Maine Community Colleges and is the part-time development coordinator at the Topsham Public Library. She grew up in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada and San Bernardino mountains and loved exploring her favorite places in Yosemite, Laguna Beach, Lake Arrowhead, and Cabazon. She has a penchant for road trips, easy sewing projects, and getting lost. She loves building community with her family and friends in the midcoast area. Her alma maters include Riverside City College, California State University San Bernardino (BA-English), and the University of Southern Maine at Stonecast  (MFA-Nonfiction/fiction). She has published poetry and creative nonfiction in Pacific Review and Lake Effect and news and feature articles in Portland Press Herald’s Raising Maine, The San Bernardino Sun, and the Mountain News.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. In 2015, Just Write Books released Topsham, Maine: from the River to the Highlands by Robert C. Williams. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, in radio and television, and as a public relations specialist. An active community citizen, Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.org. Just Write will soon release a history of the last century of the First Parish Church in Brunswick.

Teen
Marti Crippen is currently a senior at the University of New England in Biddeford. Her major is Elementary Education with a minor in Psychology. She plans on teaching at Williams-Cone school in Topsham as that is where she grew up. She has been going to the library for as long as she can remember and is glad for the opportunity to volunteer with the library.

2015 Judges

Fiction
Dianne Benedict’s stories, which appeared in North American Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Rosebud, and Gargoyle, among other magazines, have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories series, and in The Best Fiction from the Atlantic Monthly. Her first collection, Shiny Objects, won the Iowa short Fiction Award, judged that year by Raymond Carver. She is a recipient of grants from The National Endowment of the Arts, the Ohio Arts Counsel, and Maine Counsel for the Arts. She teaches at The University of Southern Maine, and lives by a saltwater marsh in Brunswick, Maine.

Poetry
Gary Lawless is co-owner of Gulf of Maine Bookstore in Brunswick, and the editor/publisher of Blackberry Books. He has published 16 collections of poems in the United States and 4 in Italy, and has given readings and workshops in a number of countries including Italy, Slovenia, Turkey, Latvia, Lithuania and Cuba. He currently teaches at MidCoast Senior College and is poet in residence at the Cathance River Preserve in Topsham.

Nonfiction
Nicole Rancourt spent a year traveling and performing in Up With People before earning her degree in Education from the University of Maine and diving into teaching Humanities. While teaching, Nicole participated in Maine Humanities Council’s Teaching American History program and in 2013, MHC welcomed her on as a Program Officer. As part of her work with libraries, she shares the title of Collaborative Summer Library Program State Representative. Nicole’s eclectic array of interests includes the outdoors, music, art, animals, cooking, reading, baseball, hockey and much more.

Maine-related Nonfiction
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. Just Write Books recently released Topsham, Maine: from the River to the Highlands by Robert C. Williams. During the 1970s, Randolph served as a Navy Journalist working on newspapers, radio, television and public relations. Randolph is currently completing her Maine Secondary English teaching certification. Randolph served on the Topsham Board of Selectmen in the late 1980s and the Brunswick Town Council in the early 2000s. She co-chaired the rehabilitation effort of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge and still serves on the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.Org.

Teen
Melissa Walshe mucks about with words in just about every possible way. She published her first book, Autumn’s Daughter in 2014 and will soon be releasing the sequel, Autumn’s Sister. She is a professional copywriter for shines & jecker laboratories and the creator of ReadMaine.com, an online resource that supports writers who are living and working in Maine. She has an Ed.M. in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in linguistics from the University of Southern Maine. Melissa also leads the Writers Meetup here at the Topsham Public Library. Most of her waking (and dreaming) hours are spent thinking about how to tell a more compelling story.

2014 Judges

Fiction
Linda Aldrich has published two collections of poetry, Foothold (2008) and March and Mad Women (2012). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and her poem “Woman-without-Arms” won the Emily Dickinson Award 2000. Linda holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She served as director of the Young Conservatory and a member of the repertory at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco for ten years, and later, as Associate Professor of English and Humanities at Aims Community College in Greeley, Colorado.  She also taught writing at Colorado State University and Keene State College.  Linda is currently the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance (MWPA) and lives in Portland with her husband David and their exceptional dog Simba.

Teen
Although born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Nicole Jakubowski grew up in Connecticut. She loves the mountains of New England and graduated from Plymouth State University with a BA in English Literature. She has written two Young Adult books. When she is not working as a senior data analyst for Thomson Reuters in Portland, she is reading or writing.

Nonfiction
Larissa Vigue Picard is Director of Education and Interpretation for Maine Historical Society and is Secretary of the Topsham Public Library Board of Trustees. Prior to returning to her home state of Maine in 2007, Larissa lived in Vermont for 15 years. She has worked as a freelance writer and helped co-found the Young Vermont Writers’ Conference at Champlain College. At the time she left Vermont, she was Director of Community Programs at Vermont Humanities Council. Larissa holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from Bates College and Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English, respectively. A member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Larissa continues to write creative non-fiction in her spare time. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 10-year-old son, volunteering at her son’s elementary school, cooking and eating really good food, and, of course, reading.

Poetry
Maryli Tiemann has been a teacher for over 30 years, sharing her love of communication and community with others.  As founder of Longfellow Days, a celebration of the life of Henry W. Longfellow, she has gathered others around poetry and area poets in Brunswick each February.  Maryli lives in Brunswick with her husband, David and their son, Joe and grandson, Eli.

2013 Judges

Fiction
Stephanie Doyon studied creative writing at Colby College with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Richard Russo. She is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and a work of literary fiction entitled The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole, which received the Maine Literary Award for Fiction. Her novel was also featured in the New York Times, on CBS’s Sunday Morning program, and was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

Nonfiction
Jennifer Balser is an English major at USM and the recipient of the 2013 Richard W. Carbonneau, Jr. Scholarship for “active English majors who are non-traditional students with outstanding writing ability.” She used this scholarship to attend the Stonecoast Writers Conference where she was enrolled in the Memoir class under the guidance of Susan Conley. See Jennifer talk about the Richard F. Snow award here.

Poetry
Steve Gibbon has a MFA in Fiction and Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has featured in various publications including Harpur Palate, PANK Magazine and Words and Images, where he won the 2008 Excellence in Expression Award. He also served as the 2011 Words and Images poetry editor. In 2014, he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short story, “An Animal under the Ground,” published in Armchair/Shotgun, a Brooklyn-based literary journal.