2008 Student Writing Contest Winners
Winners of the 2008 Student Writing Contest and details about that contest are below. Some winners chose to make their selections accessible on this site; those entries are available below to be downloaded as pdf files.
List of Winners and Judges' Citations
Poetry, selected by Thom Satterlee
First Prize: "Young Entrepreneurs"
Katherine Hartline, Trinity Western University
This poem impressed me with its serious, but never melodramatic, tone. The poet has brought together two stories from two generations and skillfully sewn them with the common thread of faith. As interesting as the stories are, however, the poet has carefully kept the poem a poem, focusing on imagery, suggestive language, and beautiful phrasings.
Downoad copy of Hartline poem
Second Prize: "On Caravaggio's The Incredulity of St. Thomas"
Daniel Luttrull, Indiana Wesleyan University
Poems about artworks, themselves about recorded events, have the difficult task of bringing a scene before our eyes without being too obviously derivative or too unhelpfully obscure. This poem compresses its subject into one carefully arranged sentence, ending with a strong image that helped me re-imagine the story of Saint Thomas.
Download copy of Luttrull poem
Third Prize: "when fathers leave"
Kallen Akers, Pepperdine University
This poem is touching without being in the least bit sentimental. Although I'm never quite sure of the reason behind the father's absence, the need for human tenderness is plain and compelling. I love the complex possibilities involved in the mother applying "sun block long past / its expiration date" onto her children's shoulders.
Fiction, selected by Marsena Konkle
First Prize: "Stars Over Triglav"
Michael Doyle, Redeemer University College
As with all my favorite stories, I am at a loss to describe exactly why "Stars over Triglav" is so amazing. I could point to so many things technical and otherwise: how the first sentence takes on new meaning as the story progresses; how the din and tumult of a wedding reception is a perfect contrast to the internal, stunned silence that accompanies grief; how being in a crowd heightens loneliness; or how drunkenness and the cold, cold water from a garden hose represent the grief that binds a father and his son together. Then there's the sense of astonishment and wonder I have felt ever since reading this story, a feeling of gratitude to the author for so deftly handling his (her) characters and topic, making grief seem utterly new and yet utterly familiar at the same time, as if I could thrust this story into your hands and say, "See? This is what no one has managed to say before this. This is exactly how it feels."
Second Prize: "And We Were Gone"
Lydia Melby, Abilene Christian University
There is heat in this story. In the oppression of a trodden-down neighborhood in the middle of summer, in the tempers of adults with too little money and too many concerns, in the ritual of daily races that determine which neighborhood boy is king of the Flats, in the heart of a boy struggling to come to terms with his family's poverty and the pain of being unable to tell his newly crippled father that he is the fastest boy around. "And We Were Gone" captures the nuances of a young person who is a heartbreaking mix of innocent and battle-scarred, and who is beginning to realize that even after a summer as king, the hardest races are yet to come, but still chooses to give it his all.
Third Prize: "Desert Fathers"
Michael Doyle, Redeemer University College
A quiet tenderness pervades "Desert Fathers," the story of a father who has left his teaching and his family to become a lay apostolate, and who, even as he seeks spiritual enlightenment, is bewildered by his life, and most of all, his children. The protagonist desires to love and to do good (and I mean that in the best, most un-clichéd way), but is hampered in his endeavors, not by evil or even sin, but by an inability to truly know himself. "Sometimes I can't bear the knowledge," he says when thinking of his children, "that both Evelyn and I, for all our imperfect love, have proven such insufficient guides." It is an age-old struggle: that we resist facing the worst in ourselves for fear that we will be undone, while knowing on some level that until we do, we will remain bound by the very things we are trying to avoid.
Non-Fiction, selected by Karl Gunther
First Prize: "Trojan"
Jay Jameson, Trinity Western University
This is an intelligently constructed and engaging essay. Its most immediately striking feature is its form: an archive that effectively weaves together literary quotations, emails, newspaper clippings, and personal reflections into a larger mediation on creation, destruction, and time in between. Another striking feature is its evocative use of imagery: "traveling thoughts...stream over the back of the eyeball" as the author travels to Trojan; the Trojan nuclear tower as "a cigar being smoked by the planet as it faces a firing squad"; the mountain ridge surrounding Trojan as "the EKG of a dying man" at dawn; the "bony fingers" of gravity pulling down the tower and reducing it to "one hundred thousand headstones." On the whole, this is a thought provoking and richly textured piece of writing.
Download copy of Jameson story
Second Prize: "Of Distrust"
Katherine Klein, Cedarville University
This is a concise, yet forceful essay. In three short vignettes, the author explores different manifestations of distrust: skepticism about a boyfriend's fidelity, the desire for privacy and independence from an older sibling, and finally the emotional vertigo produced by an unsettling revelation about another boyfriend. By refusing to resolve the questions raised by these situations with pat answers or simple resolutions (and by adopting a direct, matter-of-fact tone), this essay provokes the reader to grapple with the issue of dis/trust for herself.
Third Prize: "A Dream in the City of Fires"
Matthew Ryan Worthington, Abilene Christian University
This is a powerful essay that narrates the extraordinary experiences of a young boy whose family disintegrates around him. The essay's greatest strength is its strong narrative voice and often blunt, conversational tone. Part one of the essay vividly conveys the fear and confusion that the narrator experiences; the dream sequence is simultaneously comical, terrifying, and uplifting in its expression of hope. In part two, the author steps back and brings his own experiences to bear on the similar traumas of other children, evoking the need for hope in the midst of seemingly insurmountable troubles.
Judges for the 2008 contest
Fiction: Marsena Konkle. The author of A Dark Oval Stone, Konkle has an MFA in writing from Vermont College and lives in the Chicago area where she is at work on her second novel.
Poetry: Thom Satterlee. His volume of poems, Burning Wyclif, won the 2006 Walt McDonald Poetry Prize. Satterlee is a published translator who teaches in the English Department at Taylor University.
Non-fiction: Karl Gunther. The author of essays published in Books & Culture, Past & Present, and elsewhere, Gunther recently completed a Ph.D. in history at Northwestern University and now teaches at Rice University.