Chicago Heights, IL–(ENEWSPF)– A loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter are what inspired a Prairie State College (PSC) student to write his non-fiction essay, “Peanut Butter Sandwich.”
John Hamlin, of Glenwood, recently won a first place for the essay at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Writers Competition.
Hamlin, a veteran of the Iraq war, said he is often asked about his tour of duty. Hamlin said “Peanut Butter Sandwich” tells the story about a moment that sums up his entire experience.
“Because things were so miserable in Iraq, whenever one person would get a package, it was exciting for everyone,” said Hamlin. “One day I received a package from my wife with a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. That evening, my buddies and I sat on the roof, and watched the sunset while we enjoyed a comfort from home—a peanut butter sandwich.”
Hamlin wrote the essay as an assignment in Professor John Flannigan’s English class. The assignment was to write a story “only you could tell.”
“My professor told me to write something only I could write,” said Hamlin. “‘Peanut Butter Sandwich’ is my story. I didn’t expect it to win an award, let alone a first place.”
PSC student Dexter Overall, of Chicago Heights, also won a first place at the competition for his drama, “Real Men Don’t Cry: The War Within.” The drama explores the relationship between a father and son who deal with issues such as religion, gang violence, and drugs.
“I wanted to keep my drama realistic, and the rising gang violence in the Chicago area inspired my story,” said Overall. “This story doesn’t have a happy ending, but I thought it was important to tell a story about a tragedy to raise awareness of the violence affecting our youth today.”
Overall started writing plays three years ago when he was student at Bloom High School. Because he wanted to see his work in action, he started his own theater company, Coloring the Arts. Overall said getting recognized for his writing gives him confidence to pursue his love of theater.
“The Skyway competition was a chance for my work to get reviewed by professionals, and I will use their feedback to write my future plays,” said Overall. “I learned so much from the experience and to win an award was amazing.”
In addition to the awards received by Hamlin and Overall, Jessica Jasmine-Wilson, of Park Forest, won a third place award for her poem, “Kabuki.”
“Prairie State students not only demonstrate mastery in their ability to write, but also poignancy in the difficult topics they choose to write about, like race, adulthood, war, sexuality, and love,” said Patrick Reichard, associate professor of English. “This year, we had our strongest entries ever, and our winners—John, Jessica, and Dexter— are tremendous examples of the writing we put forth.”
The Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Writers Competition is a day long literary festival and competition. Students submit entries in poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and drama and are honored during the festival activities.