Each year, the James Jones Literary Society sponsors a contest for seniors at area high schools in both Crawford County and in Marshall, Illinois, where Jones was part of the Handy Writers Colony. The essays are responses to James Jones’s short story “The Valentine,” which was first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1963 and was later included in The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories. The story features a young boy who presents a box of Valentine candy to a favorite girl in his class, and the humiliation and rejection he suffers as a result.
The contest was established by the late Helen Howe, who organized the annual event for many years. A retired English teacher, Howe was a long-time friend of Jones and one of the founders of the JJLS.
First place winners are awarded $75, second place receives $50, and third place receives $25. Honorable mention winners are also recognized. Winners are also presented with a certificate denoting their placement and a copy of the book, Writings from the Handy Colony, edited by Helen Howe, Don Sackrider and George Hendrick. JJLS chairperson of The Valentine Essay Contest and finals judge is Diane Reed of Robinson. Special thanks to those who supported the program this year: Amy Gard of Marshall High School, Susan Hyde of Palestine, to Alyson Thompson, director of Marshall Public Library, who presented the awards to the Marshall winners and to Don Sackrider and Jerry Bayne.