David Aikman, former journalist with Time Magazine and a friend and colleague of mine, has organized a writing contest designed to revitalize the genre of the “Testimony.” That’s not just a conversion narrative, though it can be, but it can also refer to any true story of faith in a person’s life. (For example, think of the tradition that ranges from St. Augustine’s Confessions and Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the more recent The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.) The contest is for writers 35 and under, and it features a grand prize of $20,000! And the contest doesn’t require an entire manuscript, just a proposal of 1,000-1,500 words!
We Lutherans tend to be leery of focusing on our lives, since we need to be focusing instead outside ourselves, on the Cross of Jesus Christ. But there is a Lutheran way to write in this genre. Notice too that you don’t need to write about yourself. You can also write about someone else whom you’ve interviewed, researched, and whose story you are telling. (For example, refugees from Ethiopia who have fled Muslim persecution; a survivor of the Soviet Gulag; an ordinary member of your congregation who has undergone great hardship with great faith). Here is the website. [More details after the jump.]
The press release about the contest:
Patrick Henry College, Guildford Media Ltd., and PHC History Professor, former TIME Magazine correspondent and author David Aikman announced this week the launch of The Aikman Opportunity Award for Young Christian Writers. The goal of the award, say the organizers, is to identify, encourage, and support a new generation of Christian nonfiction testimony writers. Such writers can inspire both Christians and general readers with true stories of how God has worked transformatively in the lives of individuals and communities.
NOT A TYPICAL WRITING CONTEST
Most writing contests award prizes for already completed manuscripts. The Aikman Opportunity Award is different. It promises a top prize to the writer who can compose the most compelling and best-reported book proposal of the testimony story he or she wants to write. The prize, of course, will provide a solid financial base for the writer as the manuscript is being assembled.
Grand prize: $20,000 plus potential for publication
First runner-up award: $1,500 plus potential for publication
Second runner-up award: $1,500 plus potential for publication
Third runner-up award: $1,500 plus potential for publication
To qualify, contestants must reside in Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland and be between the ages of 18 and 35 years of age. All contestants must submit a 1,000 – 1,500 word article that leaves the reader yearning for a longer narrative. The article should focus on a remarkable true story of God’s grace and intervention in the life of an individual and/or their community.
A carefully selected panel of judges will short-list the applicants and create a list of finalists. Upon notification, the finalists will then be required to prepare a 2,000 – 4,000 word proposal outlining their vision and offering verification of the authenticity of their story.
Dr. Aikman recalls how he first became interested in writing and reporting.
“When I was in graduate school in the US in the 1960s,” he says, “there were many demonstrations and speeches being made by radical students. As a history student I was fascinated by the parallels I thought I was seeing in the history of societies in other parts of the world. I wanted to draw attention to these parallels and so I started writing for the campus newspaper. Shortly after being hired at TIME Magazine, I was sent to cover several historical events. It was wonderful being able to combine both of my passions—history and reporting. You get to be a fly on the rim of the mixing bowl of history!
Later, I came across heart-wrenching stories of suffering when I covered the war in Indochina. Few things moved me more than observing the courage of Cambodian Christians as they prepared to face the cruel uncertainties of the incoming Khmer Rouge insurgents. Most of them knew they would be killed as Christians when the Communists won. It was humbling to be an observer of all this.
I witnessed war and unrest in Israel and the Middle East in the early 1980s, and the tragedy of the massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. I also began to meet China’s valiant Christian community.
I was already a Christian by conviction, having been converted in my early twenties. But all of these experiences confirmed for me the advantage and the wisdom of looking at the world through Christian eyes.
I have heard several Christian testimonies during my career—stories that were beautifully crafted about people experiencing the faithfulness of God in a great variety of circumstances. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were many books of these testimonies being published. In recent years, though, the wellspring of good testimony writing has become drier. Yet, today it’s more important than ever to tell people what God is doing in the world. At the end of the day writing, especially Christian writing, is a God-given calling. In this writers’ contest I want to provide a spark of inspiration and a real practical incentive for Christian writers to be started telling the most wonderful story we will ever hear: what God is doing in the lives of ordinary people.”
To read more about the contest guidelines, visit http://aikmanaward.com/about/how-to/index.html
For general information see www.aikmanward.com.
To receive regular updates, follow The Aikman Opportunity Award group on Facebook at facebook.com/AikmanAward or on Twitter at @aikmanaward.