Professor prized with prestigious writing award
Communications professor Richard Erlendson won ‘The Word Award’ from The Word Guild
Richard Erlendson, professor in communication studies at Mount Royal University, received a national 2012 Word Award last year. He spoke Thursday last week at the Mediation Centre.
“I’m really glad Diversity and Human Rights decided to host the event,” says Erlendson.
The annual Word Awards are selected by editors and publishers representing The Word Guild — which supports authors who write from a Christian perspective and publish work in a variety of genres.
“It was totally unexpected,” says Erlendson. “I didn’t expect to win the award. Winning a national award doesn’t happen too often.”
The article featured the life of Peter Penner, who witnessed first hand Stalin’s Russia and was in Hitler’s youth camps before being reunited with his family, minus his father, who had been murdered by the Soviet Secret Police (known as the Black Raven).
Penner eventually moved to Southern Alberta and became a Mennonite pastor. Erlendson, being neighbors with Penner, understood the potential of a story.
Erlendson went through lengthy interviews over the course of several weeks in order to tell his story.
“I had multi-hour interviews with several people. His children gave rich and honest accounts of his life,” says Erlendson. “They gave amazing interviews, they were very fruitful.”
Erlendson submitted the article in the Profile/Human Interest category of Faith Today, a national magazine affiliated with Christianity Today. He says he chose the publication because the article was, “a story of faith. How [Penner] went through crises and God would appear in grace.”
Soon after submitting the story, Erlendson received a phone call from the senior editor at Faith Today. According to the press release, the contest received almost 300 entries from writers across Canada. From that, three contestants were chosen and presented awards at a black-tie gala event in Toronto each June.
Erlendson said the most difficult part of writing the article was relaying the story in its full capacity.
“His story is remarkable. I wanted to tell his story well,” says Erlendson, “I wanted to capture all the hard parts and his ability to recognize God’s intervention.”
Erlendson conducted several weeks of interviews and research.
“I knew this was going to be a national story. His life was remarkable, I knew the window was closing.”
Erlendson says that receiving the award has been a humbling experience. He plans on continuing to be an independent freelance journalist and photojournalist as well as being a professor at the university.
To read Erlendson’s story, go here.