A Brief History of Utmost Christian Writers
The dream of Utmost began long before the name "Utmost Christian Writers" was conceived—years before the web site was created. Nathan Harms, a Christian writer and poet, observed the meager rewards and recognition that often accrued to Christian poets and was determined to change things. He felt that Christian poets deserved more.
Public poetry readings
In 1998 Nathan and his friend, Barbara Mitchell, founded "The Odes of March," a series of public poetry readings by Christian poets. The readings were meant to publicize the work of Christian poets and encourage them.
At the beginning, the readings were run under the umbrella of Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship.
These readings, hosted in various restaurants and coffee shops in the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, were popular and drew significant audiences for several years.
The first poetry contests
In 2001 Nathan personally funded a poetry competition called "The Odes of March Poetry Contest." (The contest had nothing to do with "odes," but was intended to be a play on "The Ides of March.")
The first contest was timed to coincide with the poetry readings in March. Prizes were modest in 2001—about $300 in total—but the response from poets was encouraging. In 2002, the prizes increased.
Utmost Christian Writers web site
In the fall of 2003 Nathan founded the web site, "Utmost Christian Writers," and shortly after—in early 2004—Utmost Christian Writers Foundation was incorporated with the Government of Alberta as a non-profit association. The first Board of Directors included Barbara Mitchell, Ev Heffernan, Ross Lynem, Mary Elizabeth Lauzon and Nathan Harms.
The poetry contest was then renamed the "Utmost Christian Poetry Contest," and it was determined that prizes would be paid in US dollars, rather than Canadian dollars. By April 2006 prizes had increased dramatically, with about $3,700 in cash prizes awarded to winners. Utmost's first International Christian Poet Laureate, Violet Nesdoly, was also chosen in 2006.
As of 2007, Utmost sponsored three poetry contests annually:
• Utmost Christian Poetry Contest (US$4,000)
• Novice Christian Poetry Contest (US$2,000)
• Christian Publishers Poetry Prize (US$1,000)
Each of these contests can be accessed from the Utmost main web page (http://www.utmostchristianwriters.com)
The Gathering of Christian Poets
Other activities of Utmost Christian Writers Foundation include the sponsoring of occasional "Gatherings of Christian Poets," and the first annual "International Christian Poets Day" which was celebrated on April 12, 2008.
Nathan recently turned over the operation of his publishing firm, "New Leaf Works," to Utmost, providing a means whereby Christian poets can have books of poetry published by Utmost Christian Writers Foundation.
It is our primary hope that the work of Christian poets will give glory to God, inspire faith and increase the Kingdom. It's the hope of the Directors of Utmost Christian Writers Foundation that Christian poets be rewarded financially as well as with increased readership.
Dreams of great things for Christian poets continue to inspire Nathan and the Board of Directors. We hope you'll decide to support us in whatever way you can, especially through prayer.