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Annual essay contest encourages nonfiction writing

The Department of English is offering students a chance to win $500.
Its 12th annual James Ballowe Personal Essay Contest is open to all Bradley students and requires a creative, nonfiction essay, ranging from an autobiography to a personal commentary on any subject.
The essay contest began in 1997, from the endowment of family and former students of essayist and emeritus English professor James Ballowe.
“Professor Ballowe established the contest to promote high quality writing and thinking among Bradley students,” said associate English professor Thomas Palakeel.
The contest draws an average of 30 essay entries from across campus, and is judged anonymously.
“The judges are made up of retired and current faculty,” Palakeel said. “In the past, we’ve even had students on the panel of judges.”
Last year, the winning essay was “John and Challys,” by senior English major Chelsea Pfiester.
“I entered the Ballowe contest because I had been working on a non-fiction piece about the lives of my grandparents during the depression and World War II, and I was just curious to see how it would do in the contest,” Pfiester said. “I think this contest is a great way to encourage student work in creative non-fiction, which is a category of writing that really appeals to me, and undoubtedly to many Bradley students.”
In previous years, cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100 have been awarded to first, second and third-place winners respectively. However, due to financial difficulties, this year’s contest will have one $500 cash prize and three Honorable Mention certificates.
“I was a bit disappointed to see that they downsized the competition this year so that only one person gets a cash prize,” said John King, an Honorable Mention recipient in last year’s contest. “Dr. Palakeel said at the award ceremony last year that he thought the top-10 essays deserved cash prizes, but there simply wasn’t enough money.”
However, King, a sophomore English major, said he thinks the contest was worthwhile for students to participate in.
“I think this competition is definitely a good thing, encouraging everyone to write essays about significant events in their life,” he said. “People write very powerful essays for this contest.”
Kyle Mulligan, a junior mechanical engineering major, said the Ballowe essay is a great way for students of any major to gain recognition for their writing abilities.
“This essay is a great opportunity to not only showcase Bradley talent, but also to reward and recognize truly deserving students,” he said.
In addition to the $500 award, the first-place essay will be Bradley’s official entry into the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Intro Journals national writing contest. In the past, two Bradley student essays have won the Intro contest.
Entry into the contest requires a creative, nonfiction essay of 3,000 words or less. Quotations do not count in the final word count. Students interested in entering the contest must obtain an entry form from the English department office or download one from the English department’s Ballowe Prize Web site.
Essays must be turned in no later than Nov. 2 to the English department office in Bradley Hall 380.