Chrissy Dennis always has a story in her head. From the time she was 12 she’s written some of those stories down.
It’s a good thing she did.
The most recent fictional piece that the Briercrest College and Seminary M.Div. student put to paper recently won an award from Word Alive Press that will soon make her a published author.
“I get full publication,” Dennis said explaining the benefits of the award. “(The book) goes across Canada to Christian and secular bookstores. It’s on Amazon. They do all the editing. They do the cover. They send it out. They market it . . . it’s insane what they do.”
Dennis’ book, entitled The Lion Cubs creatively looks at many issues that today’s youth face — such as cutting, drugs, and abuse. She got her inspiration from a textbook for seminary class.
“I was taking a youth course here and the book I had to read was called Hurt by Chap Clark,” she recounted. “He talks about this culture teenagers have created for themselves. Kids, because they don’t have adults pouring into them, they turn to their peers and create a sub-family that he calls ‘the world beneath.’”
The idea of a world beneath inspired Dennis. She incorporated the concept into the storyline for Lexi, one of her book’s main characters, who has been in four foster homes within two years.
“She runs away from the group home to these underground tunnels,” Dennis explained. “She’s heard there’s this group of kids who collectively joined to create this community of kids who’ve been forgotten by the adults in their life. Basically they’re living on the streets but they’re underground tunnels that have kind of been set aside for this group of kids.”
Lexi has a chance meeting with the book’s second main character, Liz. She’s running too — but in a different way.
“Liz is a doctor,” Dennis said. “Her husband died from cancer two years previous . . . She works all the time — 80 hour weeks. They’re both hurting and that’s kind of what will join them together.”
The lives of the two characters intertwine throughout the book in some interesting ways.
“They meet one day — just a random kind of encounter,” Dennis explained. “One encounter seems like it was nothing, but it wasn’t. Without giving it away, it shows how that one moment where they meet kind of starts things in a different perspective for both of them.”
Once Dennis started writing the story down, the words flowed. She completed the first draft of the 475-page book in just three months. The details of editing lengthened the process.“From the time I got the original idea until the time I finished editing it and closed the documents . . . was two years,” Dennis said.
The seminary student found the book contest as she was looking for a publisher for her story.
“By fluke I came across this website, Word of Life Press,” Dennis said with a smile. “(I) heard about the contest and I didn’t even think anything of it. (I thought) ‘Oh, it’s just a contest and I won’t win. It’s going to cost a lot of money.’”
Entering the contest required Dennis to print a copy of her entire book and send it to Word of Life Press.
“I knew it was going to cost a lot of money to send it,” she reflected. “So I kind of just left it alone for a while (but) kept feeling this ‘You should send it. You should send it. Just to say you did.’”
Last April Dennis finally did send a copy of her book to Word of Life Press. She found out in September that she had won the contest. She admits that the idea of other people buying and reading her work is a bit overwhelming.
“It’s my baby,” Dennis said. “I’m scared to know how it’s going to do. Is it going to succeed? Are people going to hate it? Are they going to like it? I have no idea what any of this is going to look like right now. This is so new. I’ve never been published before.”
One thing the aspiring writer does know is that she wants to be a youth pastor. Although she sees her writing as “a side thing” she wants to continue with that as well.
“I want to continue writing especially because I have such a passion for youth ministry,” Dennis exclaimed. “I want to keep writing about teenagers who are going through things and then adding the gospel into that so kids (who can) relate to the bad part . . . can see there’s hope.”
The writer’s passion for youth started at a young age.
“I think it started when I was in high school,” she recalled. “I had rough teenage years so as I got older I saw there’s a lot of pain in teenagers.”
A youth pastor made a huge difference for Dennis during her difficult teen years.
“A lot of (my youth pastor’s) wisdom is in the book, . . . things she’s told me over the years. She’s still a part of my life and still mentors me. I want to give that back to kids that are hurting.”
Another caring adult could be the main reason why Dennis is still writing.
“I had a Grade 10 teacher,” she reflected. “She said ‘You should keep writing.’ I actually emailed her recently and told her I got published. She did remember me and she was very happy, so I’m going to give her a copy. If it hadn’t been for her I don’t know if I would have kept writing. I think I might have given up. She totally gave me a voice.”