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Senior Wins Prestigious Writing Award
May 16, 2006

A Calvin College senior has won the first prize in the fiction division of the 2005-2006 Conference on Christianity and Literature Student Writing Contest.

Jennifer Langefeld, an English major and writing minor from O'Fallon, Illinois, won the prize (and the $100 gift certificate from the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company that goes with it) for her short story, “The Patron.”

Langefeld, a blogger for the Calvin admissions office, says the award is an encouragement to her as a writer.

“My family has been especially supportive, as has the English faculty and my classmates,” she says, “but it is really encouraging to hear from an outside, objective judge. I know I still have a lot of growing to do as a writer, but it helps to hear that I'm doing some things right.”

The fiction category was judged by Betty Smartt Carter, a frequent contributor to Books and Culture and The Christian Century who has written several novels and is most recently the author of a memoir, Home is Always the Place You Just Left.

The Conference on Christianity and Literature, a national organization dedicated to both scholarly excellence and collegial exchanges, annually sponsors this contest for student writers. Entries must be original and unpublished and reflect the author’s Christian vision.

“The competition was keen this year, and all of the judges commented on the unusually high quality of the entries, so your department can be especially proud of the results,” read the letter announcing Langefeld’s award to the Calvin English department.

“This competition has been going on for close to 20 years. It’s to recognize the best student writers,” says John Timmerman, the Calvin English professor for whose creative fiction class Langefeld first wrote The Patron. “I encouraged any student who wanted to send a story in, and we would pay the postage. We have not had a prize winner in a few years, and I thought it’s about time we got in there to show what we could do. Jenn is an extremely gifted young writer, and her short story was a mind blower.”

Timmerman considers Langefeld’s win as a victory for the entire class.

“We celebrated by bringing in donuts,” he says.

Langefeld, whose honor’s thesis took the form of a short story collection, has revised her post-graduation career plan. Though she originally planned to work in the publishing field, she has decided to devote a whole year to full-time writing.

“This was a huge change in what I had been planning on, but my family continues to be amazing,” Langefeld says. “My parents are letting me come back home for a little over a year, and I'll be saving money from a part-time job while writing full-time. I have some ideas for novels, but I'd also like to pursue personal essays, poetry and short fiction.

“It's scary to decide to do something as 'unstable' as writing right after graduation, but I’m also really excited,” she concludes. "This feels right, somehow.”

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson