Tuesday, October 26, 2010

courage, endurance, and the Christian imagination...

Today I just want to clarify a few points before you all begin scribbling down plots and ideas for your stories. First, some details from the guidelines page:

The First Division:
Theme: Courage
Age group: 12-15
Word limit: 1,500

The Second Division:
Theme: Endurance
Age group: 16-18
Word limit: 2,500

Hint #1: Winning entries will thoughtfully reflect a Christian worldview, but not necessarily in an overt manner.

As I mentioned in my last post, there is always some confusion concerning “what I can/should/want to write about.” The themes this year are intentionally broad and open-ended. There are still parameters, of course, and your stories should stay within those boundaries; but I want to give you the freedom to tell stories you want to tell—not stories you “have” to tell or stories you might think the judges want to hear. Have fun, be creative, and don’t stress over it! You can write your story in any genre, any time-period, and any setting (real or imaginary) you choose.  

That said, what about the themes themselves? The first thing to know is that they overlap quite a bit. If you’d rather write a story based on “courage” instead of “endurance,” stop and think a moment. What is endurance? What is its relation to courage? They’re not identical: both words have different connotations. Courage suggests a conquered fear; endurance suggests long-term stamina during difficult circumstances. But there’s a definite connection. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Endurance is, in many cases, a kind of courage: a courage that is tested again and again, yet holds strong and does not snap under unrelenting pressure. Courage and endurance are complimentary virtues: each has a slightly different focus, but they are closely interwoven.

So if you have a good idea for a story that you think works well for the other division, chances are you can reconcile it to the theme of your own division. There’s some stretching room here.

One last note. Winning entries do reflect a Christian worldview, but not necessarily in an overt manner. Writing a “Christian” story does not require quoting Scripture or summarizing a moral at the end. Remember that stories are works of art: they must be believable and compelling. The “spirit” of the work must also be Christian, not merely the surface. We’ll return to this topic later on, since it touches on the connection between art and Christianity itself. Next week, I would like to share an essay on the relationship between art/literature and the Christian imagination that one of my professors wrote. It is short but fascinating and insightful, and I think you will find it very helpful as you consider your approach to – and purpose in – writing fiction.

As always, let me know if you have any questions!

In Christ,

Crista Richey
A Call to Pens Competition Coordinator

Monday, October 11, 2010

welcome back!

Welcome to the third year of A Call to Pens! I hope you're glad to be "back." I'm certainly excited to be coordinating the competition for a second time. I look forward to reading your stories, but I also look forward to the opportunity to stretch ourselves mentally and spiritually as a group and to reflect on the truth, the goodness, and the beauty of our God, and the mysteries that surround Him.

To briefly quote the announcement:

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the apostle Paul exhorts us to "do everything for the glory of God," whether "you eat or drink or whatever you do." Creativity is a gift from God, one of those essential characteristics that make us human and can have an immense impact on the way people think and feel. If we wish to glorify God and influence the culture by writing fiction, whether as a hobby or as a life-long career, we need to study our craft and think wisely about our creative choices. The purpose of the blog is to give practical advice about writing, but also to share valuable resources, encourage interaction between fellow writers, and provoke discussion about what it means to be a Christian writer.

What does this entail? Topics might include how to handle writer's block, the characteristics of an excellent writer, the power of the Christian imagination, clarity and style, the most influential Christian novelists of the past century (or of today), and much more. You'll reap the benefit of advice from several different writers: featured authors like C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton, for example, but also students, alumni, and even professors from Patrick Henry College, who will be contributing their thoughts to the blog as well. I hope you will find this not only an instructive experience but also a very enjoyable one!

But we want to hear from you as well. Much of what I post will respond directly to your questions and your concerns. So if you do have questions - about the contest, writing in general, the connection between Christianity and fiction, or whatever - let me know. Post them here or submit them to shortstory@phc.edu. And feel free to share your own insights or answer questions other people might ask. The more we interact with each other, the more we benefit from each other. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

Well, that's it for now. Next week I will post about the contest themes, courage and endurance. In the past, I've found that there is always some confusion concerning "what I can/should/want to write about." Hopefully, we can eliminate that obscurity. If you have thoughts or questions about the upcoming topic, let me know and I will respond to them in my post.

In Christ,

Crista Richey
A Call to Pens Competition Coordinator