The medal winners will receive their prizes and recognition at the Vinnie Ream Banquet in Washington, D.C., in April 2022. See the full list of first-place winners and runners-up.


Art: Sue Lynn Cotton, Sarasota | ‘Feelin’ His Music’

“Feelin’ His Music” by Sue Lynn Cotton

Sue Lynn Cotton’s painting, “Feelin’ His Music,” was one of 32 art submissions. Juror Jane McGovern made her initial selection of pieces she felt best answered the question of emotion evoked in the visual piece. Of these 11 selected pieces, she chose Cotton’s work based on the quality of the artwork and how well the artwork and the artist’s statement supported each other.

McGovern’s juror statement reads, “Sue Lynn Cotton painted ‘Feelin’ His Music’ to express the feeling of sadness she experienced in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She captured it with watercolor, painting the guitar blue, yet softened it by applying a pinkish color on his shirt. The frown on his face tells a story of sorrow. Hanging in the background we see a disturbance of brighter colors, possibly suggesting hope. However, three-quarters of the background carries the dark and gloomy tone of the music. Sue’s painting is executed well using values, color, and composition to demonstrate the subject’s sadness.”

Letters: Georgia A. Popoff, Central New York | ‘Living with Haints’

Georgia A. Popoff
Georgia A. Popoff

Georgia A. Popoff earned first place overall based on an excerpt from her poetry manuscript, titled “Living with Haints.” Judges in the preliminary and finalist rounds had high praise for all of the exemplary finalists, but Popoff’s work drew particular praise: “Her poems are haunted in several ways: by grief, by the poetic tradition, by the changes in life that come with aging. Their language is inventive and often surprising, tinged by turns with humor and loss. It was a pleasure to read, from first page to last.”

Popoff is an editorial consultant, book coach, and educator. Her fourth poetry collection, “Psychometry,” was released by Tiger Bark Press in 2019 and was a finalist in Utica College’s 2021 Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize.

She is the co-author of “Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy, and Social Justice in Classroom and Community” (finalist for 2012 NAACP Image Award) and co-editor of “The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience and Change Agent,” a collection of critical and creative essays to mark the centennial anniversary of Brooks’ birth. The book received the 2017 Central New York Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the Chicago Review of Books nonfiction award that same year.

Currently, Popoff is workshops coordinator for the YMCA of Central New York’s Downtown Writers Center, where she also teaches. For many years, she was a mentor and judge for the NAACP ACT-SO poetry competition. With a background in technical writing, editing, and advertising, she is also skilled in public relations and social media communications.

Music: Dawna Hammers, Member-at-Large | ‘Deep Inside’

musician head shot
Dawna Hammers

Dawna Hammers (member-at-large, Falmouth, Massachusetts), a prolific singer-songwriter, was chosen as the winner of this year’s Vinnie Ream Music Competition by Deen Entsminger, PhD, professor of music composition at the Belmont University School of Music.

Hammers had recently traded her spinet and keyboard for a beautiful parlor grand piano, whose rich, vibrant sound helped inspire her while writing “Deep Inside,” one of her masterpieces.

For the 2021 Vinnie Ream competition, entrants were asked to state the emotion their work was intended to evoke in the viewer or listener. “I was moved by the honesty of emotion in the composition,” Entsminger wrote. “The performance was most impressive and communicated the lyric.”

Read more about Hammers, who was the featured music member in the Summer 2021 edition of The Pen Woman.

See the full list of first-place winners and runners-up.