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The Official Writing Challenge

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EDITOR'S CHOICE winners will also be eligible for the yearly "BEST OF THE BEST" Grand Prize Winners! These winners will be chosen by our panel of judges from all of the EDITOR'S CHOICE winners throughout the year. First place will win $300.00, Second place will win $100.00, and Third place will win $75.00. Winners will be announced July 1st of each year.

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Competition was fierce this year for the FaithWriters annual Best of the Best contest! The Writing Challenge continued to escalate in popularity and the quality of writing exceeded the highest expectations. Now, out of almost 8,000 entries, Mid Stutsman's entry, "Shavings," has been judged 2007's, Best of the Best! Join interviewer, Lynda Schab, as one of the first to gauge Mid's reaction to receiving this honorable and coveted award. And learn more about the woman beneath the crown.

Lynda Schab: Mid, first of all, big hugs and congratulations on winning the coveted title of BoB!

So tell us…were you hovering at your computer on July 1st waiting for the winners to be announced? Or did you just "happen" to check sometime that day and Voila! There was your name! And when you did realize it was your very own name at the top, how did you react?

Mid Stutsman: Thank you, Lynda. And thank you to all of you who have commented and sent congratulations. I've tried to keep up, but am really overwhelmed by all of this.

As for checking the winners, I always turn my computer on early every morning and I checked FaithWriters first thing for any indication as to when the winners would be announced. But, finding none, I decided to enjoy my garden and just wait and see.

Around midday, I came back up (yes, I love my garden that much!) and turned on the computer again. That's when I saw the email from Scott. I thought it was just an announcement, but when I really read it, I started crying. My husband was washing his hands and couldn't hear my pitiful "honey… honey…" but my son, Travis, and his wife, Savannah, were in the living room and thought something was wrong. When I could finally tell them about it, they were all excited for me, which was a blessing, because I still couldn't believe it. That's when Verna Cole, from FaithWriters, called from South Carolina to congratulate me, and it started to register!

Lynda: Your winning entry, "Shavings," is a beautiful piece written for the topic of "Craft." It reflects on John 14:2 - the Master preparing a place for us. Do you recall whether the idea for your entry was immediate? Or did you mull the topic around in your head for a while before coming up with this masterpiece?

Mid: I always pray when I see the topic, asking the Lord what He wants to say through my writing. That's important to me. Most of the time, it's an immediate idea, and I start typing. This was no exception, except, that it was so anointed and I really got caught up in the moment. It almost seemed like a vision and I felt inadequate trying to describe it. I remember the tears when I wrote the last line; it was that strong.

Lynda: Well, I'm sure many who have read that piece have had to dry a few tears, as well. You truly do create a breathtaking vision. As a matter of fact, your writing has been described by fellow members as, "flowery prose" and "poetic." Do you consider yourself a poet?

Mid: I LOVE to write poetry but typically not the most conventional kind. I really like internal rhyming as opposed to having it at the end of the lines. I think my poetry and my prose do overlap, because I try to "describe" my feelings in a way that is inspirational and visual in both mediums.

Lynda: Did your love for writing begin early in life or did it develop over time?

Mid: I was more of an artist first, but definitely an avid reader! My favorite book was The Green Grass of Wyoming, by Mary O'Hara. Then, in my high school Lit class, I wrote a short story that had my teacher gushing. Because of my home life and background - which you can read about on my website ( www.midspoint.com ) under Writings, called "Life in General~Mine in Particular" - to have anyone pay that much attention to me in anyway was thrilling. I only wish I would have begun to develop that talent then…maybe things would have turned out differently in my life. But that's one of those, "what if" kind of things I'll spend a long time sorting out with the Lord one day.

I didn't get back into writing until the 1980's, when I started writing simple poems and sending them to an anthology. Somehow I read or heard about that particular poetry anthology thing being a scam and immediately stopped sending them my work.

I then started reading my poetry at church, and decided to self-publish. I did my own illustrations and looked up scriptures to go with each poem, which made it a devotional of sorts. At the time, I thought I could sell the books and help my husband with the money from the profits (here I chuckle knowingly as a much wiser being! I still have boxes of them in my closet!! ) Remember, it was the 80's and I typed them on my little typewriter and made so many writing errors…veeery embarrassing! But even still, people I "gave" the book to tell me they are blessed by what I wrote.

After that major disaster, which cost us money we didn't have, I continued writing poetry, but my style changed and I got more into the meaning of what I was trying to say, instead of trying to make it rhyme. I also started writing essays.

Then in 2003, I came across a website for families which sponsored a children's short story contest. Entries had to be exactly 500 words, no more, no less, and I decided to take the challenge. To my complete surprise, my story, Arcelia, won. Suddenly, I was hooked!! I think I have enough short stories now to approach an editor. And that's outside of what I've written on FaithWriters.

Lynda: What was the first piece you ever wrote?

Mid: It was the short story in Lit class I mentioned, which was called Nova Lee. It was about a young white girl who had been brought up by Indians. Her tribal name was Nova Lee. When considering marriage to the chief's son, she had to make a decision as to whether she would cling to her past, or fully become a member of the tribe. It ends with her taking off the necklace her mother had given her as a child, which had her English name engraved on it, and letting it fall to the ground as she walked away.

Lynda: Other than your FaithWriters winning piece, Shavings, is there one particular piece you've written (for the Challenge or not) that is closest to your heart?

Mid: Oh, I'm glad you asked that! There are two others, actually: When Heaven Held Its Breath and On the Wings of Praise. Both came in second place on the Editor's Choice lists, and were ones I felt were especially anointed. Like Shavings, they came to me in real vivid vision-like experiences. The biggest problem when it happens, though, is that it's so hard to find the words to describe what the Lord is showing. There are only so many words we have at our disposal, which really makes it tempting to make some up! (Hmmm…a Challenge topic written with words you've made up………………...) :

Lynda: (laughs) Now THAT would be a Challege!

As you mentioned above, not only are you a writer, but an artist as well - and, may I add, a gifted one at that (I checked out your website!) Tell us more about that aspect of your creative ability.

Mid: I loved to color when I was very young. I learned to outline the picture and carefully color within the lines. I couldn't have been more than 4 or 5, but I actually remember trying my best to make each picture look perfect. I took my art in school very seriously, and had a picture published in the Washington Farmer when I was a teenager. When I couldn't attend my 20 year high school reunion, some of my class mates autographed a page, and actually mentioned remembering me for my art!

To me, art and writing are totally connected. It's a way the Lord has given me to deal with life. And now that life is not an emotional drama, I am able to express my heart in a different way…hopefully one that ministers to others instead of only to myself.

Lynda: Tell us something interesting about yourself. Maybe something you like to do for fun or a tidbit of information we might find surprising.

Mid: Something interesting…is this a trick question?? !!!

One thing is that I'm a hopeless romantic. Wait. If you've read my writing or my banter on the message boards, you probably already knew that. Well, since I haven't been shy on the boards, there's probably not much I can spring on you.

Oh - there is one thing you may not know. I make my own botanical paper, and from it, make greeting cards and unique boxes and containers. Two years ago, at the county fair, one of my cards was given the sweepstakes ribbon and several others received first and second place ribbons. I also figured out how to make books using my paper for the cover. They are a little labor intensive, so they become gifts since I live too far from Chicago to get into the upscale market for homemade botanical chap books!!

The only other thing I can think of is that I am a…um…kleptomaniac when it comes to rocks and shells and nature related objects like moss and driftwood. This year, I set up my own miniature Michigan beach in my garden with the rocks I've kind of…uh…stolen from the beaches along the western shoreline. You probably see me from time to time. I'm the one who walks funny when coming up from the beach because my pockets are hanging halfway down to my knees! (Disclaimer: I always look for signs that say you can't remove rocks from the beach, which I've never seen...anywhere…honest!)

I had acquired quite a collection from our 30 years of visiting the beaches, so I made my own little get-away complete with sand and lined with stones from our field. I also made a small round pond out of hypertufa, which is a lightweight stone made with Portland cement, sand and peat moss. It's all just big enough for me to enjoy the sight of the stones and feel the sand beneath my feet. We have acidic soil and with constant watering, I have beautiful shaggy moss on some of the rocks right above the pond. I also made an adjacent patio out of cement and lined it with street pavers. A carved cement bench gives me a place to sit and relax when I'm gardening. It's a great vantage point from which to watch deer and hummingbirds and butterflies. Living on an 85 acre farm with 22 1/2 acres of classified forest brings many surprises when you're just sitting still and enjoying the beauty of the moment. If this all sounds familiar, it's probably because I wrote about it in my second challenge entry, Guarded Haven.

My next project will be a Shishi Odoshi, a bamboo water feature that will spill water into the pond. Oh yes, and I'm making a brick patio for the front of our house, edged by a crescent shaped moon garden! Of course, that's along with writing challenges and finishing my novel's…I have two unfinished works, and one I'm just starting. It's all good; I just need more hands and time!

Lynda: You mentioned right off the bat how much you love your garden. And your answer to the last question proves it. Your passion shines through every gushing sentence! Let me add that being one who does NOT love gardening, your description and obvious love for it almost makes me want to give it a try. Almost. :

Gardening abilities aside, your family must be very proud of you and your accomplishments, particularly your creative accomplishments. What were their reactions when you told them you won BoB?

Mid: When I first mentioned that I only had one entry in contention, my husband said, "It only takes one to win." When I was finally able to communicate that Shavings had won, he was very happy and gave me the "I told you!!" hug. All of my children have been very excited for me. They want to see me get out there in the real world and go for it. Maybe this IS what I've needed as an assurance that I can do it and succeed.

Lynda: Well, your second family-your friends at FaithWriters-are very proud of you too. Although it hasn't even been one year since you joined our "family," your name has definitely become recognizable to almost everyone. And especially now that you've taken the crown for Best of the Best. Since this is the FaithWriters Academy Awards, if you were accepting your award in person, what speech would you give?

Mid: Wow! Well, first of all I would definitely give praise to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for His amazing Grace, and for the blessings He brings into my life on a daily basis. To be recognized for something that is a gift from Him, is a little difficult to accept. I feel humbled, as I know I am only a vessel. To be used in this way is like double rich chocolate fudge frosting on an incredibly delicious chocolate cake. (I had to get chocolate in this conversation somehow!!)

I would say, "thank you and I love you", to my husband, Fred, who is very supportive, and to my children who are behind me all the way and provide such inspiration.

I would also express my gratitude to Scott for such an amazing, inspirational website, and to Deb Porter for all of her hard work and diligence. I would personally thank the judges for their vote of confidence, and I don't know what I would do without the support and encouragement from my friends at FaithWriters. I would give a special "thank you" to Kenn Allan, who has become a wonderful friend, and whose work I greatly admire. He was the first one to congratulate me online. He also wrote me an amazing private message of encouragement on Shoutlife that I am going to print out and keep with me at all times. I would thank Verna Cole for her endearing friendship along with her patience and willingness to help me learn the finer points of writing. And I'd thank William, Karen and Ed (Pup) for all the sharing and the special times in the Lord's presence, and Joanne and Betty, who are true Challenge Buddies. The truth is, I wish I could mention all of you, for you have all become family, and I love you all.

I can't begin to tell you how much I have grown as a writer, but more importantly as a person, here at FaithWriters. This is my true reward!! My prayer is that Shavings will inspire and encourage people to view Heaven as a very real place where the One who redeemed us is working hard to make us feel welcome and loved. After all, it will be our home for all of Eternity…

Lynda: That is probably the best acceptance speech, if I've ever heard one. Well said!

Finall,y Mid, what are your hopes and dreams for the future? Is there anything you'd like to accomplish in your writing? Perhaps winning two BoB's in a row? :

Mid: Lynda, honestly, I would love to see someone else win next year…I do much better applauding than taking bows. And there are so many who are just as deserving of this honor.

Like every writer, my highest aspiration is to have my work published. I have hundreds of poems I've categorized into collections. I also have short stories, children's stories, and now I've started a collection of really short essays I've titled, "Moments," some of which you can read on my Shoutlife Blog.( www.shoutlife.com/midstutsman )

I've also written a novel, The Faeren Lands, an allegorical autobiography, and I entered my latest WIP, Barriers, in the 500 Club First Chapter Contest. My only problem is selling myself and my work~ probably the hardest part for any writer. Perhaps winning Best of the Best will be the catalyst for launching my writing career. I'm actually beginning to think it could happen!


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