The luminous flash of a sentence


Mark Twain wrote, “To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worth to rank as a prize composition just by itself…”

And that is the achievement of nearly 40 main campus students who will be lauded and feted March 9 through 13 in the Atkins-Holman Student Commons for their good writing. The Festival of Writing, sponsored by the Seabrook Writing Center, is now in its fifth year and recognizes students who have written well on any subject. Some of these students will also win a $100 Barnes & Noble gift certificate.

Here is the schedule of events:

Opening ceremony, Monday, March 9, 3:30 p.m.
Dr. Brouder will speak and Dr. Smith confer certificates to winning students. William Tyler Moore will then read from his winning paper, “Theocentric Humanism;” a reception will follow.
Game Day, Wednesday, March 10, at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.
Scrabble contests and Verbosity Challenges! Those who participate are eligible for a drawing of $10 gift certificates.
Reading one, Thursday, March 12, 11 a.m.
Dr. David Karr, assistant professor of history, will read from “Invisible Mutinies: Political Exiles in the South Atlantic Ocean, 1794 - or - How (not?) to Write about Events that Never Happened.” Chelsea Redding, the annual Schiffman essay student winner, will then read from her work. This essay competition, with a top prize of up to $2,500, is tied to the theme of the March 10 Schiffman lecturer Edward James Olmos: Does a filmmaker have a moral obligation to society?
Reading two, Thursday, March 12:30 p.m.
The Microphone Artists, students of associate professor of English and poet Dr. Pamela McClure and of Dr. Bob Boon, adjunct instructor in humanities and travel writer, take the floor.

Lynda Dunham, Seabrook Writing Center coordinator, says any A paper written by a main campus student is eligible as long as it is:

  • correct in grammar, punctuation, spelling and citing errors, and all of the instructor’s suggestions are used
  • at least two pages long
  • clear and original
  • flowing, with sentences clearly, logically and persuasively connected
  • written in a lively, interesting style
  • possessed of excellent mechanics with no grammar, punctuation, or diction errors.

Only about one-third of papers submitted were selected for the Festival.

Still, why reward students for being able to write? Isn't good writing a prerequisite in today's academic and working worlds?

“It shows Columbia College's commitment to writing excellence,” said Dunham, “and that we truly do value the intellectual discussion that goes on at this college. I think this lively exchange of ideas should not be limited to student and one professor, that writing is enhanced by having an audience and a clear sense of the value of one’s own voice. So, yes we definitely are honoring good writing as a way to model and promote it, but also as a way to encourage and empower students.”

Here’s the complete list of 2009 Festival of Writing award winners, a cursory examination of which shows a decided literary bent, but also features trenchant sociology, Glock pistols and Watergate. The list is proof that these student writers understand Toni Morrison’s statement, “Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.”

Adobe ReaderComplete list of 2009 Festival of Writing award winners. (*NOTE* - you must have Adobe Reader to open this file. You can download the lastest version for free at

The Seabrook Writing Center, 212 Missouri Hall, has writing consultants and tutors available to all main campus students. Find out more information on their schedule or phone (573) 875-7616.