Have you wondered what they were thinking as you read the story? Here’s a sample of the minds of the writers from the 2023 Write of Passage. Development Executives (DE’s) are writer’s mentors, who critique writers and pick finalists. Enjoy!
Interview with the 2023 Winning Writer and DE.
OTHER VOICES IN THE COMPETITION:
Development Executives (DE)
DE: Cindy O’Halloran
I live in rural Wisconsin… work as Script Supervisor/Consultant/Prayer Team Coordinator. Mountains move when prayer is top priority. My first time as a DE. I discovered; I really love mentoring.
I took 2nd place in the (WOP 2019) competition. A Hollywood producer took notice and contacted me. Long story short, I pitched a feature I had written and they loved it! It’s in the development process. My DE helped me to achieve that quality in my script. In turn, I wanted to be a DE that helped bring real quality to other’s scripts. My goal this year is to play drums in a movie. We’ll see…God can do anything!
DE: William G. Jones
I live in Western Kentucky. It’s my 6th year as a DE. As a DE, I force myself to figure out what I wish I’d known as a Write of Passage writer. I wrestle with how to communicate that most effectively to my writers. I improve my own writing from reading the scripts turned in by others. Writers (should) jump at the opportunity to be a DE. Right now, I’m writing novels with the intent of self-publishing.
In 2011, I blew out my lower back getting into a car in a parking lot beneath the Hollywood sign. The next twelve years involved one failed surgery, spinal degeneration, nearly three years of constant bed rest, four years of physical therapy, lots of medication, neck and shoulder pain, plus life crisis after life crisis. Twelve years later I’m healthier & stronger than I’ve ever been, pain-free and defying every expert prognosis.
There were at least a dozen events that were out of my control, that had to happen exactly the way they did. If one thing had gone differently, I would have ended up one hundred percent disabled with no hope of recovery. The rest of my life moving forward is a gift.
For anybody who feels trapped by their circumstances, I want to encourage you to have faith. Do what you can where you’re at, even if it feels like it doesn’t make any difference right now. Find ways to learn and grow. Trust God for the unseen future. Trust also that the work you put in will not be in vain. Have hope.
DE: James M. De Vince in North Myrtle Beach, SC
I have been writing since I was 12 years old and have been in screenplays and film since 2004. I am currently working on Postproduction of the feature film, “My Name Is Melissa.” After, I am hoping to become re-engaged in my next screenplay.
WP is a great opportunity for writers and DE’s, whether they are aspiring or seasoned pros. I love helping others achieve their dreams, and being a DE allows me to do just that. I have done it now for 9 years and still have friendships with writers I met in the early years.
I enjoy helping writers to look at their work from the Reader / Viewer standpoint, coming up with fresh angles on their premise, and how to help make their story more appealing to the audience.
The successful storyteller will learn how to make a story with appealing commonalities, but also identifiable to the uniqueness of the audience they are trying to reach. It is not a matter of always agreeing on every approach but learning to appreciate the viewpoints of others.
I say this same thing to all the writers: Working with others can not only enrich your story but also your experiences and your viewpoints; regardless of whether or not everyone agrees.
There is no other contest I know that offers writers the one-on-one interaction that WOP does; all included in the modest contest fee.
I just want to encourage everyone that it is never too early or too late to pursue your dreams. Being 80 years old is not too late to start writing. Being 5 years old is not too early to learn to share your stories. ”With God, all things are possible.”
Writer: J.D. & Latifa Hughes, La Habra, CA “Split Second” (2023)
I’m currently an at home caregiver for my son, Jackson, who is 6 years old. I have a 5-year-old son named Liam. I know one day they will read everything that we write. As for obstacles, I think letting go of past baggage. When we consider our life before Christ, there are so many habits and thought processes that just weren’t right.
How did this year’s theme hit you? I’ve always been fascinated by time. It works for us and against us. Time relates to all emotions and really every aspect of life relates to time in some way. I had to mediate on the scripture for a day and in doing so it helped me accept time more. We don’t always like change or know when it’s time to change but the verse makes it easier to process that. I’m just learning more and more to incorporate God in the process of my writing.
Having the deadline helped me not to overthink and to trust my instincts more. I would definitely recommend it to others, obviously for spiritual growth reasons, but also because this contest gives a mentor to help you. That to my knowledge is unheard of in other festivals and invaluable.
It’s easy to get impatient but I’m learning to keep God first and keep moving forward regardless of how I feel. I took up surfing this year as a new hobby.
Writer: Sandi Eberhardt, Bree, CA "Adjusting the Offense" (2017)
We live in Southern California. The Children's Ministry at my church lets me give Biblical lessons in a theatrical and fun/entertaining way using my favorite skills, acting and writing. I've participated in WOP since it began. I won first and second place in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
I loved this year's theme, Time. I knew I wanted to write something about either freezing time, buying time, or going back in time in order to right some kind of wrong. I think that's a universal thought.
I am a self-taught writer who only began writing because I wanted to write stories that I could act in and create characters I was not ashamed of. I surprised myself in learning that I actually have things I want to say through writing. I prefer writing with other really great writers because together, magic can happen.
JDW: How has WP helped you grow as a writer? I don't have enough paper to answer that question. I'm so grateful to WP. It has pushed me to the next level. WP has jump-started me to finish writing a feature film I am trying to complete but pushed to the side.
Writer: Simon Kennedy, Queensland, Australia “Everything” (2023)
What do you do for work? I was a part-time physical therapist (called a physiotherapist in Australia) and part-time screenwriter, but most of my income was from my YouTube channel of kids’ songs, Songs with Simon. This year, with my wife’s support, I decided to take the scary step to go full-time as a screenwriter and producer. I live in Brisbane, Queensland with my wife and three kids. Working through the emotional issues around the loss of my mother prompted an interest in the way trauma affects us as humans, along with pathways to restoration. This has also impacted on the stories I tell.
How did you learn about Write of Passage (WP) &168 Film Project? I was a member of Omega Writers, an Australian group of Christian writers, and the president passed on information about 168 to me.
Is this your 1st time in WP? Have you won awards, been optioned, etc? I wrote a 168 script in 2012 (SPOTLESS) and entered Write of Passage in 2013 and 2015. At the end of 2015 I sold a TV concept to an Australian production company and have had a few feature film scrips optioned.
How did this year’s theme hit you? Twelve pages didn’t seem enough to do justice to “A Time to Kill,” and I wanted to keep it to a two-hander. I’ve had many theological conversations with my dad, so my script became about a father and son wrestling with an exception to the rule in a difficult season.
In my 20s, many people told me I had a good singing voice, so I organized some musicians who were much better than me and became lead singer and rhythm guitarist in a band for seven years. I tended to gravitate towards lyrics, so I decided to have a go at writing. Early on, I entered a lot of competitions and won Australian short story and poetry competitions. Screenwriting was the next challenge and ten years later I’m still trying to master it!
I write almost every day. Often, I’m developing concepts for film or TV (and lately animation) so it’s great when I get to open Final Draft and write a script. When I first started out, I’d slavishly follow the beats in Save the Cat. Though I’m still aware of three-act structure as I write, now I tend to listen more to character and the motivations that drive action. I’m aiming for authentic yet surprising.
I love writing things that my kids can read – they’re great at keeping me grounded.
Writer: Mirachelle Canada, Dumfries, VA “In Her Time” (2023), "What Life is Like" (2011)
Currently, I am focused on writing fiction, playwriting, and screenwriting after teaching seven and a half years as a high school television production instructor.
We were Marine Corps military brats. I have moved every 3-4 years, whether it’s a location, residence, or for a job. I try to use my travel and moving experiences in my writing for authenticity and creating unique characters. This is my 7th entry into the WP contest.
Besides the verse, what inspired you to write “IN HER TIME?” The theme of Time captured me from the moment it was announced. My mother’s older sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around 2012. The disease is very confusing, frustrating, and heart-breaking, much like the chaos of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes has a “life is meaningless” bleak tone, not something we expect when we seek wisdom and inspiration from God’s Word, but it’s real and it’s needed. We often want to throw in the towel at our lowest point. But then, in the midst of the chaos, hope shows up like in the verse 3:1, “To everything there is a season,” meaning the suffering we face has a start and a finish. As all seasons come to an end, it will come to an end. And there is “...a time for every purpose under heaven,” meaning God’s purpose in our circumstance will prevail. Hope will prevail. It’s powerful to know God has His hand on us and in every situation. We don’t have to have all the answers or the control because He always will.
My hope is that this script resonates with those that read it. That they are changed by it, encouraged to seek out those they love and spend precious time they have together.
The arts are in my DNA. My mother was an opera singer, so music has been a staple in our family. Singing and reading together often got us through long road trips. Now, I write my own fiction, direct and produce plays I wrote, and develop screenplay ideas that go into my “future” file for the possibility of someday. You just never know what creative work God is going to use and when, or for whom.
My DE, Tela Kayne pushed me to go deeper and to be authentic. The story is raw and emotional, which is not easy to go through when it’s also personal to your own experience. There are so many others going through or being affected by a debilitating disease. It’s so important to shine the light of hope on them. To let them know in any season they are not alone.
Writing this year’s script was unique. I didn’t have to work as hard, it seemed to write itself, once I relinquished control to God and also tapped into my personal experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult. Being raw is never fun, but it is healing when you let Him use it for a greater purpose.
How has WP helped you grow as a writer? Would you recommend it to others? Having a theme and verse helps to define the structure quickly and to stay true to the story’s overall meaning. Having a DE also helps. If you get stuck, you have someone to consult. That makes it a team effort, which if you want to get into writing film, you need to appreciate. I would recommend anyone who wants to be a screenwriter or even just to try screenwriting to enter this contest.
I wish to dedicate the story “IN HER TIME” to my aunt Kay Gerspacher, my mother, Alicia Canada, and their youngest sister, Helena Ryan. Three of the strongest, most inspiring ladies I have ever known.
Writer: Darlo O. Gemeinhardt, Alexander City, AL “The Thyme Keeper” (2023), No Grownups
Aloud Allowed (2018)
This is my seventh year in WP. I love this year’s theme. When I started thinking about the verse, I thought about how much time we have been allotted. I started by reading the chapters surrounding the key verse. Then I read commentaries and ran my ideas by my husband who is a minister.
I usually write freehand on notebook paper then type my notes into the correct format. Trouble is, sometimes I can’t read my notes because I scribble them so fast.
I paint and lately have been working on dog portraits in pastel. I belong to a K-9 Search and Rescue Squad and train my own dog. Also, I always include a dog in everything I write. Even my initials are D.O.G.
Writer: Rhonda Dragomir, “A Season for Rose” (2023), Grace Comes Home (2022)
I’m a full-time multimedia creative, writing screenplays, fiction, and nonfiction. I live my fairy-tale life in Versailles, Kentucky. We just built a home near my only child, a daughter we adopted in Romania, and her family. My writing is built on my personal experience, both with my own challenges (including infertility and a painful pastoring experience) and my observations and insights as I study God’s Word to be a good counselor and friend to others in pain.
I was honored to win First Place in the 2022 WP contest. It was the first screenplay I’ve ever written.
Besides the verse, what inspired you to write “A SEASON FOR ROSE?” I preached at a funeral in 2018 honoring a dear, sweet man who suffered a long bout of Alzheimer’s before he died. God inspired me that the true fragrance of his life was not released until he endured a season of crushing. This analogy has tumbled in my thoughts ever since.
How did this year’s theme hit you? Only my hairdresser knows the true effects of the passage of time in my life. But one thing about being old enough to be on Medicare later this year is that my life experiences have proven the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1. I often counsel people in distress that, trouble is only for a season, and seasons change. I combined the theme verse with another passage to create my story: 2 Corinthians 4:8-12. Like Rose, we may feel we’ve been struck down, but we are not destroyed. God is able to bring healing and transformation if we turn to Him in times of trouble instead of becoming bitter and angry.
I’m a voracious consumer of stories in every form. I read 2-3 books per week, and I enjoy watching films that tell a great story. I’m also a graphic artist and a musician (I play flute and piano), and nothing gives me more joy than seeing words, images, and music woven together in a skillful way to communicate an important message.
I’d like to say I just write and out it comes—perfect—but the truth is I’m a vicious self-editor.
One of my faults, or so I think, is how much introspection I permit myself as I’m writing. So much agony over finding the exact, right word slows me down and sometimes hinders the creative process. Writing on a 168-hour deadline forced me to find an ending that worked. I highly recommend the 168 WP experience.
I’d never have had the confidence if not for my WP win last year. I keep grounded by a saying my parents taught me: It’s important to have both wings AND roots—wings to fly wherever the breeze blows, but roots to keep me from straying from my God-given purpose.
I’m rabid for God’s presence, revived by His Word, and revved up for whatever the future holds according to His will.
Writer: Lynn Page, Port Elizabeth, South Africa “Uprooted” (2023)
I raised two children and later I remarried, inherited two additional children, and started my own training consultancy. We lost a daughter when she was 25. Dealing with pain at that level was hard for all of us especially for her young husband and grieving dad. My daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 30. Her rising up, overcoming, and moving ahead, taught me much about bravery and focus.
I feel some of the pain others experience and, at some level, realize and remember, that the hard times cut deep especially without the Lord. I long to reflect this in my writing. Unravelling some of my experiences in writing gives me personal insight and realization. And the hope that others benefit in the process.
Writer: Larry Kimber, Fukuoka, Japan “Reaching Naomi” (2023)
I am a professor at a university in Japan. My field is foreign language acquisition. I grew up in Canada and have spent about half my life in Japan. My wife is Japanese, and we have two boys, now adults. I suppose the intercultural environment I live in rubs off on the way I write. I strive to interact with themes from credible yet possibly unanticipated perspectives, always keeping biblical truth at the center.
I began my foray into screenwriting about two years ago. The harder I worked at developing my skills, the more I realized how desperately I required quality feedback. I searched the Internet for screenwriting contests that were Christian-friendly. When Write of Passage popped up, I couldn’t believe it – a DE would actually coach me with my writing!
How did this year’s theme hit you? Describe your journey from theme and verse? As I read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes, scouring it for the manner in which the concept of “time” is presented, with 3:1 as a focal point, I learned that God is the architect of time although we, created in His image, are also active agents. We may do our best to read the seasons and act wisely, but God determines whether or not our pursuits will be carried out. If we fear God, keep his commands, and know that He will judge us for every deed, whether good or evil (12:13-14), I believe our feeble attempts at using the time we are given in ways that please him will intersect with His will. Moments will come when we experience God making something beautiful in its time. In Reaching Naomi, that moment comes as members of the church dedicate themselves to caring for Ms. Sato, causing her to leave her time of hate and open up to love, exactly at the moment God wakes Yuri from her sleep.
Tell us about your pursuit of the arts? I have written only academic papers throughout my career. However, a hunger has always existed within, to tell stories. I broke free from my left hemisphere chains a few years ago and I am finally exercising the part of my brain that has been crying out to be heard ever since I was a child.
How did your Mentor/Development Executive help shape your story? Wonderfully! Before we began, I had expectations for the time and energy a DE would likely provide. These were shattered! He guided me the whole way, going far beyond the call of duty and then some, making suggestions so that the story flowed, and character arcs rang true. I definitely couldn’t have done it without him.
Tell us about your writing process… As an academic, I am a slave to structure – introduction, literature review, research questions, methods, procedures, findings, discussion, conclusion. These components are always included in a scholarly paper. Interestingly, I discovered they each have their counterparts in screenwriting. My writing process begins by acknowledging that all my ideas for a story must fit into a structure. Once I have that worked out, I add what goes in-between.
How has WP helped you grow as a writer? It has given me much greater confidence, thanks to the support of my DE and the ten jury members who gave of their precious time to evaluate my script. By all means, I would recommend it to others.
With the insights I have gained from taking part in this incredibly educational process, I hope to make improvements on the screenplays I am presently writing, keep my eyes on the Lord, and see where it all leads me.