When WORLD put together a fiction contest with WestBow Press, I was hoping we would have some entries. When we had 50, I was pleased. A few weeks before the entry deadline, we had close to 100, and I was impressed. By the time of the deadline, we had more than 1,000. I was overwhelmed.
I read hundreds of them, as did other people at WORLD. A panel of editors at WestBow, who knew what they were looking for, went through them all and picked 10 finalists. Here they are, with a brief summary of each story: •
• Patricia Anders, "The Crossing." Why did the old man cross the road? •
• Jaime Driggers, "Wanted: Perfect Life (Will Settle for Mediocre)." A funny, yet serious tale about a woman who tries to be the blessed woman of Proverbs 31, but keeps falling short. •
• Megan Dunham. "A Lost Art." A daughter tries to understand her mother through her paintings. •
• Mandy Houk, "Never Another." A story of commitment in marriage. •
• Heather Humrichouse, "The Will." A grandmother leaves an inheritance. •
• Jeremiah Montgomery, "The Fall." Knowing the light after glimpsing the darkness. •
• Christa Parrish, "Up the Mountain, Then Down." An estranged daughter learns something about her father. •
• Harold Paxton III, "The Package." A science-fiction tale about smuggling the Word of God. •
• Rebecca Schmuck, "The Results of a Dog Going Blind." Blindness in Sumatra. •
• Richard Young, "My Parents' House." Ashes to ashes, memories to understanding.
These winners will receive a year's subscription to WORLD and $100 worth of books from WestBow. A panel of authors will select one for an all-expense-paid trip to WestBow's offices in Nashville for some personal mentoring in the world of publishing.
What about the hundreds whose stories were not selected? Everyone who read even some of the stories had personal favorites that did not make the final cut. Lots of good stories did not make the finals.
Of the thousand stories, many were about conversions. Many dealt with spiritual warfare. Some took the form of well-worn genres: medieval fantasies, Westerns, science fiction, horror stories, romance. A popular subject was marriage and kids, both the joys of family life and how sometimes everything can seem to go wrong. Some of the stories were sentimental, and some were tough-minded. They varied widely in tone, subject matter, sophistication, and quality. Of the winners, fully half were about coming to terms with a loved one only after he or she has died.
Taken together, as a whole, they demonstrated the range, the scope, and the complexity of the Christian worldview. The biblical view of reality is vast enough to encompass everything in heaven and on earth, from the explicitly spiritual to the apparently secular, the simple and the complicated; the whole range of sin and righteousness, creation and redemption.
Did the contest discover fresh new voices in Christian fiction? That remains to be seen. WestBow was looking for talent that, with the help of mentoring, might develop into a fresh new voice. Many of the stories followed time-honored formulas, but the contest gave many new authors the motivation to finally write that story they had inside them. The contest also gave them a forum for honing their skills and practicing their art. And who knows where that may lead?
The contest did lead to a fresh new medium for Christian fiction. Random stories-and now all 10 finalists-were posted on WORLD's blog (go to worldmagblog.com, then click the red WORLDview Fiction contest icon). The fiction sub-blog alone has been getting a thousand reader visits a day, and the selected stories posted on the main blog may have been read by as many as 6,000 people.
It is hard to be published. That remains the goal of writers. But the internet provides an outlet for communication and creativity that is not dependent on paper and ink. We are thinking about keeping and expanding the literary blog so that it becomes a forum, a workshop, and a medium for Christian writers and readers. We plan, for example, to add a site for poetry, a literary form that is most suited to Christian expressions but that hardly anyone is publishing at all these days.
Christians made good literary use of the printing press. Now Christians can do the same with the new media.