Contests & Ministry

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

During my thirty-plus years of writing, I never entered a writing contest… until recently. Why not? One word—fear. As a child, I was usually one of the last children who got picked at recess for softball and other competitive activities. Oh, I did win a few board games and such, so I’m only speaking in general terms. But the truth is, I simply wasn’t very good at much.

So, when it came to writing contests, I shied away from them. I feared that losing would cause me to quit writing altogether, which I did not want to do. In recent years, however, I’ve entered a few. Have I won any? Nah! But my novel, Vengeance & Betrayal, was a finalist once. Because I have lots of bylines and publishing credits now, losing doesn’t bother me. Hey, winning wouldn’t be so bad either.

Contests, I’ve learned, are a great motivation for doing our best work. Sometimes, the judges will give us a critique to help us improve. And if we’re a finalist or winner, it encourages us to keep at it. But if we lose, well, don’t get discouraged. Learn from that and work harder at the craft. I’ve discovered that contests are fun!

Having said that, because I’m a Christian as well as a writer, I see my writing as a ministry. If God has called us to be writers, we can enter contests, of course, especially those that involve our published works. However, our motivation and purpose should go beyond winning them. If all we’re concerned about is winning contests, we miss the point of our calling. Though they are great and can be rewarding, eternal rewards are in store for those who write for Christ’s kingdom from a heart that seeks to win others to Him.

So, let’s check our motivations. For whom do we write? For ourselves and earthly rewards or for Christ?

Guilt-Free Writing


For many years during my writing career, I suffered from guilt whenever I took time off from writing. I needed to be at my typewriter (laptop) pecking away at the keys. What was I accomplishing in a literary sense if I wasn’t? On the other hand, what was I accomplishing by staring at my typewriter paper or my laptop screen all day, struggling after ideas and stories ? Nothing, nothing at all.

I’ve since learned that little breaks are great for writers, that they’re not a waste of time. It’s how we recharge and get fresh ideas. Many a day I’ve walked away from my desk, my mental activity exhausted. Whenever I reach this point I know it’s time to do something different. Go for a drive, go for a walk, or take an entire day or weekend off. Get up from your work every ninety minutes or so instead of writing long hours on end. Nothing wrong with doing that, and I recommend it.

So, don’t feel guilty about the times you don’t write. Look at it this way: even when we’re resting, we’re working. Why? Because proper rest contributes to greater productivity. Your writer’s brain will be forever grateful.

Till next time, friends!

Shakespeare’s Row, Gentlemen Only

Gideon Deshler, c. 1850s
Gideon entered the game room and strode straight to the bar to purchase a beer. Tobacco fogs swirled over tables, and lights from gaslit chandeliers danced in their mist. Murmurs punctuated whirring roulette wheels. Along a far wall, men played games of twenty-one and faro. Billiard balls cracking against each other echoed from an adjoining room.
Gideon never played roulette, though he did sometimes play billiards, and he occasionally engaged in twenty-one and faro. Poker, though, was the pastime he’d come to love. Men who stood beside him at the bar conversed while drinking their liquors of choice. The entire place smelled of beer and tobacco.

In the above scene the protagonist in my WIP, Gideon Deshler, enters a game room in antebellum Mobile’s popular gaming establishment, Shakespeare’s Row. Like New Orleans, Mobile attracted gamblers from a variety of backgrounds—gentlemen, professional gamblers, and the unsavory types.

Shakespeare’s Row, however, only catered to well-mannered and honest gamblers, those who at least appeared to be gentlemen. Troublemakers and dishonest players weren’t allowed on its premises. One writer described it as a string of brick buildings housing numerous businesses along the street, then when a person entered through one of its two arched doorways, he’d find a courtyard. In the middle of this courtyard stood a three-story building, with stairways, that housed twenty-eight game rooms facing it. Gambling activity continued there all night.

Shakespeare’s Row is one of the central settings of my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled Thoroughbreds and the Prodigal. 


Amos, Harriet E. Cotton City: Urban Development in Antebellum Mobile, Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1985.

Chafetz, Henry. Play the Devil: A History of Gambling in the United States from 1492 to 1955, N.p.,Bonanza Books, 1960.