Aspiring Writers Place in National Contest

This February, senior Jessica Saddington and junior Christina Comer spent some time with author Jerry Jenkins, along with several other popular authors, due to essays they entered into the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild writing contest.
"We had to write about how best to be salt and light in the world," said Saddington. "I wrote about how Christians should be aware of cultural differences … they should learn about other cultures and accept the people for who they are …"

Comer's essay, using the same theme, took a slightly different twist.
"This past summer I spent a bit of time around a Nazi who constantly pressed my buttons and tried to make me stumble in my Christian walk, but … with the Lord's help … I ended up getting the chance to witness to him …"

Jenkins, best known as co-author of the popular "Left Behind" series, is the newest leader of the Christian Writers Guild. Among the many attempts to expand the guild, Jenkins offers a contest to college students who are serious about their writing. Associate Faculty of Writing Kim Peterson assigned her Writing Modes and Models class to write two essays for publication. She presented this contest option to the class and both Saddington and Comer grasped the opportunity to contribute.

"I was shocked to receive an e-mail saying that I won an honorable mention," said Saddington.
"I had forgotten I had even submitted," said Comer. "Then I received an e-mail congratulating me on receiving an honorable mention!"

In addition to the honorable mentions, the students also received free admission to the "Writing for the Soul" conference in Colorado Springs, Col.—a $490 value. However, Saddington and Comer needed to raise the funds for other expenses, such as traveling, hotel and food. Fortunately, Peterson shared their excitement and helped them find ways to locate funds from several generous individuals and departments across campus.

"I was so excited when I read Jess' e-mail that I ran up and down the hall whooping and hollering," said Peterson. "I'd come in early that morning, so no one else was in the office to hear me …  I've worked with Jess since her freshman year and I'm so pleased that she has received this honor. She is a dependable, strong writer who delivers quality material every time. She has a number of professional bylines now and this opportunity to attend the conference is the logical next step. I feel God has provided the means for her to go to a prestigious conference through her honorable mention prize."

"Later that morning I announced it in class," said Peterson. "Christina raised her hand to say she'd placed, too. I was shocked … I haven't known Christina as long, but I've already been impressed by her desire for a career in book publishing. She's a talented writer and has a flair for editing, designing and other aspects of the field. I'm thrilled that she also won the conference. I think this will give her an edge in the pursuit of an exacting and highly competitive career."
The conference proved to be beneficial in helping each of the students reach their goals in writing and focus their vision as Christ-followers contributing to the arts and media.

"I would like to write a book … possibly about my experiences in China," said Saddington. She approached the conference as a chance to gain valuable writing tips and opportunities to make connections that would benefit both future publication and job opportunities.

Comer's ambition is to be an editor for a children's book publishing house. For Comer, the opportunity to attend the writer's conference was a "sign from God that my ambitions are in the right direction."

"I see their success as an affirmation of their talent and that Bethel is doing something right in the Professional Writing major," said Peterson.

After returning from the conference, Saddington shared the highlights of her trip, including the instruction and inspiration she received from one of the speakers. "Robin Jones Gunn, … author of the Christy Miller book series, challenged the writers by reminding them they had a gift from God:  How were they going to use it? I haven't quite figured out what I can do with my skills yet, but her comment made me think twice," said Saddington.

The aspiring writers were greatly challenged in their practice of manipulating words. Other speakers, such as Dennis Hensley, a professor at Taylor University in Fort Wayne, urged the conference attendees to, write descriptively, calling on all of the readers' senses, so that those who read their works can truly experience them.

Saddington added, "I was impressed with the spiritual atmosphere. I wondered if the conference focus would be, ‘We're writers, and we're Christians, too' or if it would be ‘We are Christians who are writers.' It was definitely the latter, the speakers stressed the importance of honoring God with our writing and writing as he directs, not based on what would make money."

The conference was a success in many ways. Hearts were encouraged, minds were expanded and, as a result, souls may be won in the near future through two writers who want more than anything—more than being noted in the most prestigious publication—to be "salt and light" in a dark and oftentimes tedious world.

Photo caption (from top to bottom): Jessica Saddington and Christina Comer