by Jessica Moses '10
Cedarville University assistant professor of English Ryan Futrell '97 has a shoebox. It doesn't contain his sneakers. It's not filled with a boyhood collection of action figures. No, what's inside this box motivates Futrell to keep writing. From behind Malcolm X-type glasses, he explains, "It's filled with rejection slips from various publishers."
But for all the struggles associated with writing, there are moments of greatness. Early this year, Futrell received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency that helps fund and support various art forms.
Colleague and associate professor of English Julie Moore believes Futrell's accomplishment is something worth celebrating. "Hundreds of writers in the state apply for these awards each year," says Moore, "but very few receive them, since state funding for the arts is so limited, and thus so competitive." In fact, only 8 percent of all applicants earn such awards.
Still, Futrell would admit there's a lot more to it. "The award encourages me to be an active participant in the arts, not just teach them," he says. "In this way, I can model for my students what a Christian writer should look like."
Futrell earned his English degree from Cedarville University in 1997 and then went on obtained a masters of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina. He has published several works of poetry and short fiction in various journals and literary works such as "The Cresset, 88: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts," "Poetry Model," "Virginia Adversaria," "Harper Palate," and "Zone 3." In 2006, W.W. Norton and Company - the oldest largest independent book publishing company - published Futrells story "Mythologies" in an anthology entitled "Flash Fiction Forward." Futrell has been teaching at Cedarville since 2003.
"The writing life is full of rejection," he concludes, "but this motivates me to keep at it.' And Futrell tells his students the same thing: "Dont be afraid to put yourself and your work out there."
So what does he plan to use some of the grant money for? "Postage," he says with a grin. After all, he has plenty more work to send out.