Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 Winner Spotlight

 I'm very proud to announce our excellent winners of this year's Call to Pens competition! Read below to find out a little bit more about them, click the links to read their stories, and consider entering next year!

Division 1

First Place | Sarah McCleskey, 15, Virginia | "Princesses"
I’m a 15-year-old high school freshman, I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, and I get a lot of ideas for my writing through my position as the second-oldest of 7 kids!  When I was little, I used to just go off and write in my free time. However, my serious interest with words began when I was diagnosed with a challenging chronic illness at age 12.  Since then, I have discovered a passion for writing that God has used in amazing ways.  Witnessing to the world through the poems, novels, essays, and short stories I create has become one of the greatest joys of my life!  I also enjoy photography and caring for people.

Second Place | Hannah Williams, Oregon | "The Mailman and the Princess"
I am a 10th grade homeschooler living in Oregon with my parents, Grammie, and big brother.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved storytelling, and writing stories has developed into my passion over the past few years.  I am currently working on fantasy novels which I plan to publish.  Occasionally, I write a lighthearted fairytale such as the one in the contest.  I also love to illustrate my books.  I hope to use my gifts for God's greater glory!

Third Place | AnneMarie McPherson, 15, Virginia | "As Many As the Stars"
I am a fifteen-year-old 10th grade home schooler who loves all things book related! I've always enjoyed reading, and as a natural outcome I spend much of my time writing my own stories. My favorite genres to write (and read) are fantasy and science fiction, but I also like poetry. There are many reasons why I write, such as I appreciate a creative outlet, but my main purpose is so that I can communicate Christ's love with form and feeling.

Fourth Place/Honorable Mention | Spencer Kolssak, 15, Illinois | "The World Above"
I am a fifteen-year-old homeschool sophomore. I currently live with my mom and dad, three brothers, and two cats. I have been writing stories ever since I first learned to write. Since then, I have penned many short stories and even a few novels. I also tell stories in other forms, including art and video. I hope to continue my pursuit of creative writing in the future. Most importantly, I hope to glorify God in my writing and use my gifts for the good of His Kingdom. 

Division 2

First Place | Shelby Griffith, 17, Tennessee | "The Writing Desk"
My name is Shelby Griffith, and I am a 17-year-old homeschool senior with a passion for words. My tastes range from Shakespeare to Star Trek, and when I’m not writing, you can find me reading, playing piano, making birthday cards, or watching Alias. Job 32:18 says, “For I am full of words, and the Spirit within me compels me…” This verse is who I am. I love to write because it makes my soul sing. When I’m at the computer keys or scratching a pen across the page--that’s when I know I’m where I belong. It doesn’t matter what I write; whether poetry, fan fiction, blog posts, or short stories, I write them because I must. My greatest dreams are to serve the Lord with every word that I write, and to let my readers know that I understand.

Second Place | Olivia Heisey, Idaho | "The Wind Forgets"
My name is Olivia Heisey. I am 17 years old and live in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where I am homeschooled. I’ve always loved writing, and can never remember a time when I wasn’t writing books. I used to make picture books with construction paper and put them together with yarn and give them to my parents. Giving stories as gifts to my cousins, grandparents or aunts and uncles was something I was famous for. I am also an avid reader, and can never get enough of the written word. It’s pretty convenient that I have a part time job working at our local library. I love hanging out with friends. We like going for walks, watching movies, and swimming at the lake. In the winter, we go sledding and skiing. Photography is another hobby of mine and I have won ribbons at the North Idaho Fair for my pictures and drawings.

Third Place | Emma Justis, Nevada | "The Cost of Leaving"
Emma is currently a junior in high school and is homeschooled. She is a writer fascinated by history and inspired by travel. Her pen is carried with her everywhere because story ideas always seem to arise unexpectedly! Writing, for Emma, has always been a passion. Recently she has taken to the skies and found the love of flying as well. Her goal is to find ways to do both of the activities that she is devoted to.

Fourth Place/Honorable Mention | Scott Bradley, 17, Missouri | "Become the Mask"

My name is Scott Bradley, and I am a home-educated lover of the art of written expression of thought. I am 17 years old, and doing everything I can to build the skills necessary to become a professional writer. Currently, I am working on a novel, the first draft of which I plan to finish by the end of my senior year (summer 2012). The short story I submitted for the Call to Pens contest is placed in the same world (though the events do not coincide with those in the novel).

My interest in story writing has evolved naturally from a voracious appetite for good fiction. This is true of many others, but Tolkien and his grand tales have inspired me more than perhaps anything else. Though my own stories are often not as hopeful in theme, I suspect traces of Tolkien's influence can be seen in my works.

Keep writing.

When I was around 14, I entered a poetry contest. I made sure the entry form was filled out just right and I met all the guidelines. Then, I set my manilla envelope in the mail and waited for the truth. This is the test of my ability as a writer, I thought secretly. I didn't tell anyone, but I hoped that I'd be the lucky one, that one person good enough to make it to the top, or at least make it to an honorable mention.

I didn't win.

I didn't even place, or get even so much as a nod from the powers-that-be. That's it, I thought. I don't have a gift.

So I stopped writing. I told myself I'd never write another poem, or, at least, never enter another poetry contest.

I learned two things from that experience. The first was that writing contests are subjective. As much as you'd like to believe there is a single paragon for the perfect short story, it's not out there. Every story will have its flaws because every writer-- even Lewis or Sayers or Dickens or O. Henry-- has his or her flaws. We live in a fallen world and it's just a reality.

Though I believe there are objective standards to what makes writing good, true, and beautiful, sometimes contest decisions will come down to the judge's personal taste. Perhaps you've written a fairy story, and the judges have just read 16 stories about fairies and miss the unique facets of your piece. Perhaps the judges were sick to their stomachs, and you wrote a story about a delicious banquet that to them sounded purely revolting. Though we try to avoid such subjectivities in our judging as much as possible, you can't write for your audience because you don't know us. You have to take your chances, do your best, and hope your story stands on its own merits.

The second thing I learned was not to let one writing experience define you. At 14, I presumed I had the ability to decide whether I had talent worth pursuing. You may look back someday on the story you submitted and realize that though you thought it was good at the time, it was actually trash. That's what happened to the poem I wrote for that contest. I dug it up in some boxes from my childhood a few months ago, and realized I had attempted to manufacture something for a contest theme rather than letting something from my life inspire me. I was still trying to find my voice and figure out where I belonged. And the poem's images didn't ring true because they weren't. They were simply awkward words on a page, and I, in my attachment to my creation, thought them perfect.

Admitting you still have a lot of growing to do takes humility. A wise person once told me, "There will always be someone out there that can write better than you." Who is the best writer in the world? Who knows? All those writers who've won Newbery Medals might be topped by a single old lady in Nebraska who weaves tales for her grandchildren while she rocks on the back porch. As I learned that summer, reading bitterly through the winners of the poetry contest I'd entered (and thinking bitterly, of course, that my poem had been better), writing is not about being best. It's about telling a true story. It's about portraying the world as it is and should be, the already and the not-yet. It's about creating something of beauty to glorify our Creator.

There is a vast difference between current ability and potential. Even if your writing frustrates you now, or even if you're pretty good for your age group (even if you won this contest!), your growth will be shaped by how much you keep writing. You might have a very bright writing potential, but if you let one person's negative comments or one contest's results keep you from telling the stories in your soul, you'll never get there.

I still write poetry, and probably always will. You see, despite my resolution, poetry bubbled up from my soul. I'd see the wind herding a line of shopping carts like branding cattle into a corral, or a friend would hurt me and I'd feel the pain of not belonging. And I'd have to write about it. I couldn't just live; I am a writer, and writing is an intrinsic part of how I live. And as I've kept writing, I keep growing. Though I still have a long way to go, I've come a long way from my 14-year-old musings. Hopefully by the time I'm 80, I'll have gone a lot further.

Winners announced!

Hi everyone!
At long last we have our winners! Please visit the PHC Call to Pens site for more info and to read the winning stories.
Thank you to everyone who entered; you make this contest possible, and enjoyable for me and the rest of our judging panel. May the Lord bless your writing.

For the judges,

Alicia Constant
A Call to Pens Contest Coordinator

P.S. In a couple days, we'll be posting bios of our winners on the blog. Stay tuned, and check back for next year's topic!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Winner notifications

Hi everyone!

At long last, the judges' votes have been tallied, and we have our winners! E-mail notifications are going out now; expect an announcement on the blog at the end of the week.

Thank you for sending your stories and making this competition so much fun to judge! Every year the judges and I  enjoy reading your works. May the Lord bless your writing development!


Alicia Constant
A Call to Pens Contest Coordinator