Courageous. Soulful. Inspiring.
These adjectives and others were among those used to describe the recipient of this year’s Oakley Hall Literary Prize given Friday night to Jane Ball-Groom.
The third annual award was announced during the Warren Artists’ Market’s First Friday Poetry Night by prize sponsors Dr. Don Arnold and Ernie Fleming.
Arnold and Fleming, owners of Oakley Hall Antiques & Art in Warrenton, give the prize as a way to recognize writers in the greater Warren County region for outstanding contributions to Southern literature and encouragement of Southern writers.
In making the announcement, Arnold said the word of the evening was “to inspire.”
“This is actually why we created this award,” he said, describing himself as an evolving writer of sorts.
Arnold noted that writing is a lonely art and that artists are special people who need encouragement and inspiration.
“So this award is more of an award to someone who knows how to inspire other writers,” he said, “…most of all to someone who helps others to know what they’re doing right.”
Arnold presented a surprised Ball-Groom with a plaque and $100 check. Previous years’ winners, Thomas Park and Arlene Bice, helped congratulate Ball-Groom as she came forward.
One of the first residents of the Soul City community in western Warren County, Ball-Groom was personal assistant to Soul City’s founder, Floyd McKissick, Sr. She is a renowned writer and writing coach, a grant writer, workshop facilitator, motivational speaker, life coach and community volunteer.
She created the GENEA (Gaining Empowerment, Nourishment and Education through Ancestry) program, which produced the book, “From These Roots Their Voices: A Truly Amazing Grace”; authored “Yet Another Day, Journey of My Soul,” “When the Rainbow is Gray” and “The Salad Pickers, Journey South”; and led a series of workshops that culminated in stories to accompany a quilt created for the project “Stitching Life Stories.”
Ball-Groom is executive director of Pier View Community Innovations, Inc., a nonprofit organization that recently completed the Golden Journeys program. She is currently guiding writers for another publication of ancestry stories.
In accepting her award, Ball-Groom said she, too, finds that writing is lonely.
“I think about poetry all the time,” she said. “Writing consumes me.”