Best First Book announced Reply

By Jerry L. Van Marter

Change of Heart coverChange of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer by Jeanne Bishop has been named winner of the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s 2014-2015 Best First Book Award.

The award–with a $500 cash prize funded by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation–is given at each General Assembly to the best first book by a Presbyterian writer during the previous two years. Bishop will receive her award at the Writers Guild’s General Assembly Luncheon June 23 in Portland, Oregon.

Bishop’s story begins on the night before Palm Sunday in 1990 when, after returning home from dinner with family, her sister, Nancy, and husband, Richard, and their unborn child were all brutally murdered by an intruder. The book then takes the reader through a gut-wrenching but ultimately heart-warming journey as Jeanne Bishop’s life is transformed from revenge seeking to restorative justice.

The Best First Book Award judges noted: “Many of us see a violent news story and if it doesn¹t impact us personally, we move on, not considering the long-term impact that violence has on the community and the family. The author is honest about the awful actions of the man who murdered her family members, her own struggles, and the ways in which her faith pushed her beyond the usual platitudes and commitments into advocating for a new way to see and seek justice, personally as well as legally. Transformation is hard, and this story disturbs and challenges every reader’s belief systems and commitments as a Christian.”

Bishop, who still lives in Winnetka, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, where her sister and family were murdered, is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

year without a purchaseThe Writers Guild’s Best First Book Award committee also awarded an Honorable Mention to Scott Dannemiller, a former PC(USA) missionary in Guatemala who now lives with his family in Franklin, Tennessee, for his first book, The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting.

 While acknowledging that money is important, Dannemiller writes that “preoccupation with money is a symptom of something larger lurking just beneath the surface.” Through often hilarious anecdotes, he chronicles his family’s exploration of what’s wrong with a life overly influenced by consumerism.

One judge noted: “This book is fun, funny, and faithful–sharing both the moral quandaries of consumerism in the U.S. and practical stumbling blocks for those of us seeking to live differently. I found myself laughing at the stories, finding great meaning in the insightful observations made by the author’s children, and thinking of ways I could get out of the frantic cycle of buying stuff.”

 

 

Flash Fiction contest deadline is November 30 Reply

Practice Thinking Like Jesus

By Stephen McCutchan

Jesus wrote parables that confronted major issues in society. You can too. Submissions are coming in for the second phase of the Presbyterian Writers Guild An Experiment in Modern Parables contest. You are invited to submit Flash Fiction (1000 words or less) that lifts up some of the major issues that confront both the faith community and society. Deadline is November 30.

If you want examples of artful flash fiction, review some of Jesus’ parables. In less than 320 words (English version), Jesus engaged his listeners in probing our response to violence, bigotry, and hypocrisy in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In approximately 200 words, Jesus probed the destructive impact of materialism in the parable of the Rich Fool. In just a little over 100 words, Jesus paints a picture of the effort to which God will go in recovering those who have lost their way in this world (Luke 15:3-7.)

Whether or not you participated in the first phase of the PWG three-phase contest, you are invited to participate in the Flash Fiction phase. Please send your entry by November 30 to presbwriterscontest@gmail.com.

The contest is open to all members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild. Join or renew your membership for $25 at https://presbyterianwritersguild.org/join-the-presbyterian-writers-guild/

The top three winners will be published in future issues of The Writer. Also, the winning stories will be shared with editors of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the Presbyterian Outlook, and the PC(USA) Communications Network. (The editors have no commitment to act on these winners, but it does introduce them to skilled writers within the Presbyterian community.)

If you feel the 1,000-word limit is too restrictive, consider entering the Short Story phase (under 4,000 words, due by February 15). Remember that the Bible takes on the whole issue of nationalism, bigotry, and religious narrowness in around 1,500 words in the book of Jonah. Ruth and Esther are other examples of short stories that examine complex issues.

Those who write the stories will be involved in judging them. We will ask all of you to read the stories and evaluate them according to some suggested criteria: Did the story grab your attention and hold your interest? Can you picture the main characters—how they look, feel, interact with others? Do you know what the tension or conflict was at the center of the story? Did reading the story expand your thinking?

The opening paragraph of the top eight short stories will be published in The Writer. The winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Second, third, and fourth place will receive $50. In addition, the winner will be published in subsequent issues of the Presbyterian Outlook in serial form, and the second place story will be published on the PWG web page.

An experiment in modern parables 1

Three-phase writing contest

PWG path to General Assembly 2016

Inspired by the way Jesus’ taught with parables, the Presbyterian Writers Guild has chosen to offer a three-phase writing contest building towards our luncheon at the 2016 General Assembly. We have chosen the fictional format as a parabolic way to inspire theological reflection on some of the issues that confront the church. Any genre—mystery, romance, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, etc.—is acceptable.

The contest is open to all members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild. There are three levels to this contest, and you may participate in any or all of these levels. By entering the contest, you agree to adhere to the timelines identified below and give permission for your work to be used in the manner described. (Join PWG for $25 by going to https://presbyterianwritersguild.org/join-the-presbyterian-writers-guild/. You may pay by check or through PayPal.)

Level 1—The Opening Hook

Participants are invited to submit by October 12, 2015 an opening hook for a fictional story based on a theme of your choice connected to an issue that confronts the church in 2016. It may be a sentence or a small paragraph (no more than 75 words) that will grab the reader’s attention. (You need not have written the story, only created the hook.)

Send your submission by email to Presbwriterscontest@gmail.com by October 12, 2015. All entries will be placed into a single numbered document without names attached. This will be sent to all participants. Within five days of receiving the document, participants will vote for the best single entry apart from his or her personal entry. (We trust in your integrity not to vote for your own entry.) The winners will be announced by November 3 (Election Day). The top 10 winners will be published with names attached in a future issue of The Writer. This exposes your skills to a larger public.

Level 2—Flash Fiction

Participants are invited to submit a piece of flash fiction (maximum of 1,000 words) centering on themes or issues that currently confront the church. (Connection with the opening hooks is not required.) Your submission is to be emailed to Presbwriterscontest@gmail.com by November 30, 2015 (beginning of Lectionary Year C). The top 20 entries (as determined by PWG board members) will be emailed to all participants to vote on the best story. Again, you are on your honor not to vote for your submission but to select the best entry among other submissions and submit your vote within 10 days of receipt of the documents.

The top three winners will be announced January 6, 2016 (Epiphany of the Lord) and published in a future issue of The Writer. In addition, the winning stories will be shared with editors of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the Presbyterian Outlook, and the Communications Network. (The editors have no commitment to act on these winners, but it does introduce them to skilled writers within the Presbyterian community.)

Level 3—Short Story

Level three builds on the first two levels, although additional topics may be introduced. This time, participants are invited to submit a short story (approximately 4,000 words) that will stimulate the readers’ appreciation for an issue confronting the church in a fictional format. The goal is for participants to submit a story that introduces the reader to the ethical and theological challenges before the church (e.g. a contemporary parable). The date for submission is February 15, 2016 (Presidents’ Day). The stories are to be sent via email to Presbwriterscontest@gmail.com. At least 15 of the top stories, as determined by PWG board members, will be returned to all participants. Within 10 days of receipt, participants are asked to send their vote for the best (apart from his or her own) of the stories submitted. If there are sufficient entries to merit this, we may have to send a different set of 15 to two or more groups and then have a second vote by all participants on the best entry.

The opening paragraph of the top eight stories will be published in The Writer. The winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Second, third. and fourth will receive $50. In addition, the winner will be published in subsequent issues of the Presbyterian Outlook in serial form, and the second place story will be published on the Outlook Web page.

Winners will be informed by May 20, 2016 (Anticipating Trinity Sunday). While participants in any of the three levels of the contest do not need to be present at the PWG luncheon, we will seek to provide exposure to as many winners as possible. Our current intention is to bind the submission winners of all three levels in one bound copy that can be shared at the luncheon and also with the larger church for a minimal price.

The purpose of the three-level contest is to engage PWG members in creatively reflecting on the issues confronting the church in a fictional format. We want to challenge, in a parabolic manner, the thinking of the whole church. In the process, emerging writers among our membership will gain recognition among those within the Presbyterian media and beyond. Authors retain copyright on their submission but grant PWG permission to make use of their writings in publicity and in the manner identified in the contest. This permission includes having your piece included in a PWG book of all the winners. Our hope is that several participants will be invited to contribute their writing skills at many levels within the church.

If this initial effort is a success, we may offer future contests in areas of nonfiction, poetry, hymn writing, curriculum pieces, etc. We are learning as we go, so we invite your feedback and suggestions to improve our effort to identify and nurture the writing skills that exist within our Presbyterian community. We encourage you to spread the word about all three phases of this contest to your friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. We would like to be overwhelmed by participation. Join the Guild today and enter any of the 3 phases: https://presbyterianwritersguild.org/join-the-presbyterian-writers-guild/

Here’s what your DUES can do Reply

By Bill Lancaster

Small amounts add up to a lot for your Presbyterian Writers Guild. Your $25 annual dues payments make it possible for the Guild to carry on all its work.

With the help of your dues, the Guild publishes The Writer (this electronic newsletter), supports a website, offers a biennial General Assembly Luncheon, sponsors webinars, and gives prestigious awards. Two of these awards, the David W. Steele Distinguished Writer Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award, are funded by dues. The PPC First Book Award is now funded by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

The General Assembly Luncheon brings many members together, gives us an opportunity to draw others into the fold, and provides a setting for hearing world-class writers speak about their work.

The webinars bring experts in electronic publishing, marketing, and writing to your computer to assist you in your writing endeavors. These can be life-changing events in our fast-changing publishing world.

The Distinguished Writer Award allows us to recognize outstanding authors such as Eugene Peterson in 2009-2010, John Buchanan in 2011-2012, and Kathleen Bostrom in 2013-2014. This award carries a monetary grant of $1,000, plus travel and expenses to General Assembly.

The Lifetime Achievement Award allows us to honor singular writers who have shown greatness over a lifetime of work.

The PPC First Book Award allows us to lift up emerging authors and showcase their first book.

The Writer supplies guidance for effective writing and gives members a place to share news about their latest publications and accomplishments.

Through your $25 annual dues, you belong to this group of distinguished Presbyterian writers, receive support for the art and craft of writing, and CONTRIBUTE to the awards the Guild is able to give.

Your dues allow the Guild to support writers as they seek to express beauty, truth, and faith through writing.

You will receive an email soon with a way to pay your 2015 dues electronically through PayPal.

If you prefer to pay by check, please send $25, payable to the Presbyterian Writers Guild, to Emily Enders Odom, Vice President, 308 N. Chapman St., Greensboro, NC 27403. And while you are at it, share with other members news of your writing by including a note with your check, and do send us any new email or other address changes.

Thank you for your continuing support of the Guild!

Bill Lancaster is treasurer of the Presbyterian Writers Guild.

Join us in Detroit! Reply

If you will be in Detroit next month for the 221st General Assembly, please plan on attending the Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon on Thursday, June 19. Highlights of the luncheon include:

  • Presentation of the 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award to Kathy Bostrom, author of more than three dozen books, most for children
  • Presentation of the Best First Book Award to Robert John Andrews for his Civil War novel Nathaniel’s Call
  • Brief addresses by the award-winners
  • Information about new membership benefits
  • Election of Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) officers
  • Opportunity to purchase signed copies of PWG-award-winning books

A much-anticipated ritual at the luncheon is the singing of the PWG hymn written by late member Vic Jameson. The luncheon also is an excellent opportunity to meet other PWG members and board members and to network with other writers and aspiring writers.

Tickets for the luncheon may be purchased online for $38 each by anyone registering for General Assembly. Tickets will also be available for $40 each at the COBO Center (convention center) in Detroit prior to the June 19 event.