Prime of Life by Peter Bekendam was announced February 14, at the Writing for the Soul conference, as winner of Operation First Novel. Bekendam receives $20,000, plus publication by contest co-sponsor Worthy Publishing.
Bekendam, an eye surgeon in Southern California, is happily married and the father of two boys. His novel tracks a surgeon who abandoned his career and has become a janitor at a retirement facility. But his past catches up with him, forcing him to face deep issues about life, love, and God.
“Prime of Life did not happen overnight,” Bekendam says. “Eight years ago, fresh out of medical school, I found myself wandering the halls of the hospital at two in the morning when I passed a guy mopping the floor. I was working eighty hours a week as a woefully underpaid intern, while he was listening to his headphones and dancing with his mop. As I glanced at him with genuine envy, the premise for Prime of Life planted itself in my tired brain. It was my fifth manuscript, but as I worked on it during my spare time throughout residency, I knew this one had a chance.”
In 2007, when he felt the manuscript was in good shape, he secured a literary agent, who began to shop it to publishers. “It got some serious attention,” Bekendam says, “but no contract.”
He entered the story, under the title Too Late, in the 2009 Operation First Novel, where it placed as a semifinalist.
“Around this time my wife was diagnosed with cancer,” he says, “and I put my writing on hold. The Lord, in His grace and mercy, brought us through that difficult period, so last year I dusted off the manuscript, subjected it to its fifth re-write, said my millionth prayer, and entered it into the contest again.”
“I thank Jerry B. Jenkins, the Christian Writers Guild, and Worthy Publishing for everything they do to invest in new voices,” Bekendam says. “This contest provides an invaluable avenue for unpublished writers to break into a very difficult market. I encourage my fellow entrants to continue to hone their craft. Next year it could be you.”
Christian Writers Guild owner Jerry B. Jenkins began Operation First Novel in 2004. The contest is open to Guild members who have not yet had a book released by a traditional, royalty-paying publisher. Check the Guild website in March for details on how to enter this year’s contest.