The hope of the future always lies with the next generation. In this, I have been privileged to have mentored young people through my mission Press Service International since 2009 when I initiated a writer program for young Christians.
Their opinion articles are now published in Christian Today, which is an online Christian news provider and part of the international CMCi group. They have been given the honorary professional title of "Columnists".
How it all began
I started writing my own opinion articles for Christian Today in 2008 to satisfy then editor Szeleng Chan's request for more Australian content (I am still doing this daily). In 2009, new editor David Chang asked of me additional daily articles on sport.
So I thought to lighten my burden and also give young people a chance to develop their skills, an idea might be asking 5 young writers to contribute sport articles on a rota. It worked so well that I now mentor 85 young people who write on a wide range of topics, and whose opinions have been shown to engage other young people – as well as older readers - around the globe.
We still have a small group of sport writers, but in addition we encourage the others to comment on aspects of Christian living from their own viewpoint, but not to write sermons, devotionals or testimonials. And comment they do, and on an inexhaustible range of topics! There is a large group from Australia, half again a very talented group from New Zealand and a further nineteen who make up a group of "International young writers".
Their commitment is to write 10 articles a year, once every 5 weeks. Some young people enjoy writing so much, they would write under water and sustain this commitment for quite some years. Others write for 2-3 years for a "season". The Press Service International team makes a big play on commitment, but of course they grow and mature and move on to other aspects of their life (and do not remain "young writers" forever).
Prizes and awards
In 2010, I brought together the (then) sports writers for a small conference, in order that they could share experiences. I thought it would be beneficial for their professional development. I was right, and every year since we have had a conference with the burgeoning number of our writing team.
By 2013, we had 72 writers and supporter Mr Basil Sellers AM, initiated a substantial prize for the best young writer, as judged by a panel consisting of a diverse range of community members from a retired academic scientist / writer to teachers, home-makers, editors, retired lawyers and others – some with considerable theological background, and others with just plain common sense. We call these our "panellists".
We have separate Australian and New Zealand prizes, and some other book prizes and certificates for a variety of achievements by all the writers. We also have different panels judging the Australian, New Zealand, International and Sports articles. A full list of previous year awards and videos can be seen here.
But like all vibrant programs, the pool of writers is not static. In 2016, we are extremely pleased to welcome 18 new young writers, who will of course vie for the main prizes but who are also eligible for a book prize for the 'most improved new writer' of 2016. In 2015, this was shared by Michael Dehlenburg and Liana Monaghan.
2016 new young writers
Sunshine Coast: Cartia Moore, Caitlyn Furler
Brisbane: Talisa Pariss, Joseph Kolapudi
Gold Coast: Tim Price, Shane Rowney, Aaron Sabio (in LA)
Sydney: James MacLeod, Emma Froggatt
Melbourne: Cheryl McGrath, Rosie Timmins
Adelaide: Bonnie Dowie
Perth: Haydn Lea
New Zealand: Rachel Bartlett, Emma McGeorge (MAF PNG)
Internationals: Brendon Bell, Grace Wood, Janine Williams
This number of new young writers coming in each year obviously indicates others have moved on after writing for some time. The latest was Amanda Robinson from England who lived in New Zealand for six years. Amanda attended the 2013 Auckland New Zealand young writer conference.
Now Lisa Goetze from Canada is returning after a 5 month break. Rosie Timmins from Melbourne has returned as a young writer after a four year break and was the registrar and scribe at the 'One Day in Melbourne – Evangelicals Online' conference in April.
Experienced editor and previous winner of a New Zealand Christian Broadcasting Association Scholarship as well as PSI young writer awards, Sophia Sinclair, has taken on major editorial duties for the young writers' articles on a weekly basis and developing fellow young writers into 'week editors' to start in 2017.
On graduating from being a "young" writer
Some young writers have been with the program so long they are now too mature (over 35) to be referred to as "young writers" so I coined the phrase "senior writers" as an internal distinction. Their articles are not judged for any of the prizes and awards. A few of the even more senior panellists also write comment pieces.
In addition, several of the former "young writers" are taking their turn to be panellists, and a few help in the reviewing and collating of articles. We also have a Leadership Team of Russell Modlin, Sophia Sinclair and Sam Gillespie, their primary responsibility right now is to organise the annual conference in August.
The panellists were celebrated in a previous article and if you are interested in a complete who's who, the list of all writers and links to their articles on CTA can be viewed here.
Please join us ...
As you can see, this is a dynamic and highly interactive team, and we are always looking for new writers. The main focus is on young writers under 30. If you are interested, you are invited to enquire to Dr Mark Tronson firstname.lastname@example.org
0419 917 713
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html