Inspired by Jesus’ practice of teaching with parables, the Presbyterian Writers Guild is offering a three-phase writing contest as it builds toward its luncheon at the 2016 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly in Portland, Or. The Guild chose the format as a way to inspire theological reflection on issues that confront the church.

Open to all members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, the contests will accept submissions from any genre including mystery, romance, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction and others.

There are three levels to the contest, and entrants may participate in any or all of the levels. All entrants must agree to adhere to the identified deadlines and give permission for their work to be used in the manner described.

Level 1—The Opening Hook—Deadline Sept. 27, 2015

Participants are invited to submit an opening hook for a fictional story based on the theme of their choice connected to an issue that confronts the church in 2016. It should be a sentence or a small paragraph of no more than 75 words that will grab the reader’s attention.

Entries will be placed into a single numbered document without names attached. The document will be sent to all participants and within five days of receiving the document, participants must vote for the best single entry apart from his or her personal entry. Winners will be announced by Oct. 16, 2015.

The top ten winners will be published in the next issue of The Writer, the Presbyterian Writers Guild electronic newsletter.

Level 2—Flash Fiction—Deadline Nov. 3, 2015

Participants are invited to submit a piece of flash fiction with a maximum of 1,000 words. The piece should center on themes or issues that currently confront the church, but connection the opening hooks of Level 1 are not required.

The top 20 entriesas determined by PWG board memberswill be emailed to all participants to vote on the best story within 10 days of receiving the documents. Participants can not vote on their own entry.

The top three winners will be announced Jan. 15, 2016, and published in the January issue of The Writer.

Winning stories will also be shared with editors of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the Presbyterian Outlook and the Communications Network.

Level 3—Short Story—Deadline Feb.15, 2016

Level three builds on the first two levels, although additional topics may be introduced. Participants are invited to submit a short story of approximately 4,000 words that will stimulate readers’ appreciation for an issue confronting the church in a fictional format.

The goal is for participants to submit a story that introduces the reader to the ethical and theological challenges before the church as a contemporary parable.

No fewer than 15 of the top storiesas determined by PWG board memberswill be returned to all participants for voting.

Within 10 days of receipt participants are asked to send their vote for the best story submitted, excluding their own entry. If there are sufficient entries, the Guild may send different sets of fifteen stories to two or more groups and conduct a second vote by all participants.

The opening paragraph of the top eight stories will be published in The Writer. The top four winners will each receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate, and the top winner will be published in subsequent issues of the Presbyterian Outlook in serial form. Winners will be informed by April 22, 2016.

Contest participants need not be present at the General Assembly Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon, but the Guild hopes to provide exposure to as many winners as possible. Plans are underway for a bound copy of submission winners to be available at the luncheon. This booklet will also be available to the larger church at a minimal price.

All submissions must be emailed to Presbwriterscontest@gmail.com by the stated deadlines. More information and membership details for the Presbyterian Writers Guild are available at http://presbyterianwritersguild.org.