See the interview with first place Best of the Best Mariane Holbrook here

Allison Egley has been around FaithWriters for a VERY long time, entering the Writing Challenge and encouraging others in their writing pursuits. And now, her poignant piece Strength and Dignity has brought her a second place Best of the Best “crown.” Join us as we learn more about Allison, her winning entry, her writing journey, and her life outside of FaithWriters.

JOANNE SHER: First of all, congratulations on your BoB win! What was your reaction when you found out you were chosen as  second place in Best of the Best?

ALLISON EGLEY: Well, once I found out this piece was judged “Best of the Quarter,” I was hoping it might find its way to the top three, but I was still definitely happy and a little surprised when I found out. 

 JOANNE: Your winning piece, Strength and Dignity, is well-structured and very thought-provoking. How did this entry come together for you? Any particular struggles getting it the way you liked it?

ALLISON: To get ideas for a topic, I often play what I call “The Alphabet Game,” where I try to come up with something related to the topic for each letter of the alphabet. For C, “cult” came to my mind immediately. Then, the idea went back and forth. At first, I was going to write a story about a cult that is very “proper” and where much is forbidden. Then I played with the idea of the opposite — a cult in which vanity is not only encouraged, but the main value of the cult. But I didn’t think I could really pull that off. And then I realized… I could combine the two, in a roundabout way – a cult that says that vanity and pride are forbidden, when, in reality, they think they are better than everyone else, which can be both pride and vanity.

As far as actually writing the piece, this came together pretty easily, and actually turned out better than I had thought, which is a rarity for me. I continued Esther’s story a few weeks later and have been encouraged to try to write more of her story. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after I wrote this story that started reading a couple of non-fiction books about people who have been caught in cults. Unfortunately, even in the modern day, the extreme corporal punishment I mention in my story is not uncommon in cults.

JOANNE: Thanks so much for sharing your creative process. You have been at FaithWriters for almost 15 years – and this is your second time being recognized for Best of the Best (the first time, you got first place in 2012 for Upload Complete – a VERY different entry than this one 🙂 ) What has kept you around FaithWriters, and what do you most like about it?

ALLISON: What I like most about FaithWriters is the people. Honestly, if it were just the writing, I probably wouldn’t have stayed around. It’s the people and the community, and the support from the people and community, not only in writing, but in all aspects of life. I have met so many amazing people on FaithWriters. Some of them I’ve had the opportunity to meet in person at the various conferences we’ve had in the past. Others I’ve never met in person, but I still consider them dear friends.

JOANNE: I absolutely second that! Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something that developed later? 

ALLISON: Oh, I am SO glad you asked this question, because it’s one of my favorite stories to tell. I think it would be fairer to say that I never disliked writing. As a child, it’s not like I was constantly writing. I wrote for school assignments, and that was it. As I stated earlier, I never disliked writing assignments, and I always got good grades, but writing wasn’t anything I sought after.

When I was in my junior year of college, I was taking a class called “Senior Seminar.” It was team taught by Dr. Hamblin and Dr. Azuma. I had had Dr. Hamblin before for one of my core English courses and I liked him. So when I noticed this class fit my schedule, was a topic I’d enjoy (sports and literature), and a professor I knew I liked, I decided to take it.

On one of the first days of class, I stayed after class to talk to Dr. Hamblin because I didn’t technically meet the prerequisites for the course, since I was taking it my junior year. (Because I was an education major in college, and due to field experience courses senior year, it was recommended we take our seminar class one year early) I was telling Dr. Hamblin this, and this next part is what I’ll never forget. He said to me, “Allison, I know you. You’ll be fine.” Then, he turned to Dr. Azuma and said, “Have you ever met Allison? I’ve had her in class before, and she’s a good writer.” I just stood there in complete shock. A college English professor just called ME a good writer, to another professor. Wow. Up until that point, I had always considered my good grades in English part of being a good student in general. I had never really separated it out. About a year prior to this comment, I had written a prompt for a book, but it never went anywhere. After the comment by Dr. Hamblin, I decided to find a place to publish that piece and found FaithWriters in a Google search. I’ve been writing on and off since then. An edited version of that piece that first brought me to FaithWriters was eventually published in the first “Trials and Triumphs” book, and I’ve been able to share that story with many others.

I’ve recently been able to reconnect with Dr. Hamblin through Facebook, have given him a couple of the FaithWriters books that have my stories in them, and have generally tried to keep him up to date on my writing. He’s told me that I was one of his greatest success stories (even though I wasn’t even an English major), and that he really misspoke in his comment to Dr. Azuma… That he should have said I was an “outstanding” writer. So, thank you, Dr. Hamblin!

JOANNE: What a wonderful story about the influence one person can have on another! How about reading? What’s your favorite type of book to read? Who are your favorite authors?

ALLISON: Recently, I’ve been into Sci-Fi and young adult dystopian novels. There’s something about them that’s so intriguing. With the dystopian novels, especially, it’s so easy to say, “Oh, that would never happen.” But then, as you think about the back story, it doesn’t seem as far fetched. It’s great insight into what could happen if human behavior is left unchecked.

I’ve also enjoyed Jodi Picoult books. She’s not a Christian author, and there’s a bit of language that some may not like, but her books are raw and poignant, and help you look at things from a perspective you might never have considered.  

JOANNE: Tell us a bit about you and your family.

ALLISON: I sometimes feel like there’s not too much to tell about me! Besides going to work, I spend time on the internet, and help with various church activities. Every summer, I help with a community children’s musical at my church generally with 40 to 60 kids involved. This year we have just over 55 kids. It’s so much fun watching these kids work together to perform a musical while also learning and sharing Biblical truths. It’s always one of the highlights of my year. The performance is always at the end of July, so it’s coming up pretty quickly now! During the school year, I help with the AWANA program at my church, which is a Bible memorization and service program for kids, from toddlers to high school. I’m also going back as an adult to do the AWANA books. 

For family, I live with my mom and oldest brother in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri… Go Blues, 2019 Stanley Cup Champions! Sorry. I’ve got to give a shout-out to my local teams. On a more serious note, my dad passed this past December, after battling Lewy Body Dementia. It’s been hard, but I know he’s with his Savior, and that makes a huge difference. The three of us living together has also helped all of us. I have another older brother who currently lives in Virginia with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. We get to see them about once per year, which isn’t enough, but we also try to call and video chat with them.

JOANNE: Sounds like a busy, but fulfilling, life 🙂 What are your hopes and dreams for the future, both personally and professionally?

ALLISON: Professionally, I’ve worked for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for the state of Missouri for over ten years now. It’s not what I ever expected to be doing as an education major, but I love my job, and don’t see myself leaving any time soon. VR is a program which helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment. I do intake interviews when clients first come in, to figure out what types of services and assistances they need.

Personally, I’ve become an advocate for Hip Dysplasia, also called Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). I had it as a child, and it’s actually what led me to write the piece that I mentioned above that brought me to FaithWriters in the first place. Each year, I do a Color Run 5k, and I walk (NOT run…) it in honor of a child currently going through treatment for DDH. It’s actually quite common, and yet so few people know about it. I see myself continuing to do that, as well as helping out with the church activities. 

As far as writing is concerned, I see it remaining a hobby. I have no aspirations right now for a book or novel, and I’m happy in my current job. Of course, God could always surprise me, but for now, it’s not something I see doing much beyond the challenge and other leisure writing activities. 

JOANNE: Sounds like you have a servant’s heart. Where can folks connect with you? 

ALLISON: My email address is ajegley at gmail dot com [not writing it out to hopefully minimize spam]. I’m on Facebook, FaithWriters, and honestly, that’s about it. I technically have Twitter also, but I think I have a grand total of about five tweets. So… you know. Not the best we to actually contact me.

JOANNE: Anything else you’d like to share?

ALLISON: I always just have to smile and shake my head in awe about how God brought everything together in my life to bring me to where I am today. There are a few things that may seem like tiny details to anyone looking in on the outside, but if just one of those were changed, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m so thankful for all the pieces God has brought together, and I’m so thankful to call Jesus my Savior. He is worthy! 

JOANNE: Yes He is! And we are glad He did too –  it is a blessing to have you as a FaithWriters regular. Congratulations again, and many thanks for sharing!

Be sure to watch for an interview with Sally Hanan, third place Best of the Best, on the blog soon!

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