First, have you noticed the Writing Challenge is back in session? We started up again on Thursday, and the new topic is “War and Peace (not the book).” Be sure to get your writing muscles going. You could be the FIRST person to qualify for NEXT year’s Best of the Best.

And speaking of, gotta send another congratulations to Jim McWhinnie for being our 2011 Best of the Best. The lovely Lynda Schab interviewed him recently. If you’d like to hear his reaction, writing plans, and other such information, check it out here. And don’t miss the entry that won it for him: This Cathedral for Boys, This Cathedral of Dreams.

But Jim wasn’t the only winner. There were second and third place winners as well. And today, you get to meet one of them.

Eliza Evans‘ beautiful piece My Name Is Wachichi, the first place winner in the “Years” challenge, came in second place in Best of The Best.

Read on to learn about her background, her motivation for this piece, and plans for the future.

JOANNE: What was your reaction when you found out your piece did so well in the Best of the Best competition?

ELIZA: I was a little stunned. Still am! I was just running out the door to celebrate Canada Day at the park when I read the results. I walked around the grounds with my own private celebration going on. Made my day! It is such an honor, especially when you see the competing entries. Wow!  I’m so grateful and I’m very happy for Wachichi and Running Doe. :) It’s their story after all.

JOANNE: Tell me about yourself. What do you do besides enter the challenge?

ELIZA: I live a pretty quiet, simple life actually. (some might say boring) I go to a lot of concerts and plays. I love books, history, documentaries, nature and the outdoors.

I grew up in the city but now I live on 160 acres in Alberta, Canada and I love the country life. We have horses, chickens and dogs. Driving distances can be a drag and this last winter I was ready to move to town. We got snowed in for three days and stuck on the road many times. But summer is here and the grass is green, the ponds are full, the birds are back and the days are long. I don’t want to leave.

I am preparing to be more available to my parents at this time, as well. They are getting older and my mother has a slow form of dementia. They’re going to England in August and I’ll be tagging along to help. Not a bad deal! My youngest son and daughter will be coming as well.

JOANNE: Brag on your family a bit.

ELIZA: Gladly.

I have three grown up kids: a son who is 24, a daughter who is 22, and a son who is 19. They are the joy of my life and quite frankly the best kids in the world. Home is still their base but they are coming and going like crazy. We home schooled so we’ve been together a lot and for a long time. My youngest son just graduated, so now, for the first time in about 25 years, I am shifting my focus. My whole life is in transition, actually.

I’ve just recently been divorced. We were married 24 years when he left. I was going to say “so you can imagine how hard it is…” but really, no one can unless they have been through it.

I’m so grateful to God. He is so faithful, and I’ve had a lot of support. I didn’t expect to be alone at this stage but I love how God never changes. He has given me so much hope and peace. God is bigger than our circumstances!

JOANNE: For you, what is the best part of the Writing Challenge?

ELIZA: Getting something written! Woo-Hoo! What a fantastic opportunity to write. I love seeing the creativity in the different entries and I admire those who submit week after week. There is such a generous community spirit at FaithWriters. It’s a real testimony.

JOANNE: I loved your winning piece, My Name Is Wachichi. Where did you get the idea? How did it come together?

ELIZA: I’ve always been fascinated by Native culture and how they lived in the past. Plus, I live on the prairies! :)

I had the phrase “The Great Spirit has breathed upon the forest, turning trees to the color of fire” in my head for a long time. Months, probably. I just let it simmer and it sort of grew from there. I wrestle quite a bit in the writing process, molding and shaping, revising, but when I sat down to write this one for the challenge, it came fairly easily and was fun. I’d love more writing experiences like that, please!

JOANNE: When did you start writing?

Looking back, I think I’ve had a writer’s mindset for a long time. I have a sister who tells me I was always writing as a little kid. I don’t remember that. I do remember when I was about nine, copying the words of a song from “Bread” (a 70s pop band). I thought the words were so lovely and poetical. I read the lyrics to my mother and told her I wrote them. (I didn’t realize the song was about some long lost lover.) Mom was not impressed.

Reading Romeo and Juliet in 10th grade was another stepping stone on this journey. I fell in love with the language and bawled like an idiot during the film. My classmates thought I was nuts. :)

I really got interested in books and writing after my kids were born and we started reading out loud to them. Searching for good books, old and new, became an obsession and I found some real treasures. We have read all kinds of books together and had so many rich experiences. It’s a family memory I cherish.

In 2008 I took an online poetry class. I just clicked “yes” without thinking. That started some wheels turning. I found FaithWriters in 2009 and wrote my first entries during the “Countries Quarter.”

I continue to marvel. FaithWriters is such a cool idea.

JOANNE: What do you most like to write? What are your writing goals?

ELIZA: Writing fiction is really fun and challenging, but poetry is my first love. There is nothing quite like the “high” from writing (or reading!) a poem that works. But I’m still a toddler. I haven’t written very much fiction or poetry. Yet.

And THAT is my writing goal. To write. And write. And see where it leads.

**

Thanks so much, Eliza, for sharing your story – and your incredible writing talent – with us here at FaithWriters. And the rest of you: keep your eyes open for another interview soon, with 3rd place BoB winner Melanie Kerr and her entry The Frog and the Leper.

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