Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013 6:52 pm

By Cecily Markland, Special to Tribune |; vertical-align: top; background-position: 0% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; “>0 comments

Music and motivational messages will be among the highlights of an evening designed to showcase individual courage and resiliency, while raising money for cancer research

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, bestselling author and illustrator James A. Owen and recording artist Vanessa Joy will headline the celebration that will recognize winners in the Second Annual Writers Unite to Fight Cancer writing contest.

“The theme for this year’s contest—‘The Drive to Thrive’—emphasizes thriving versus merely surviving life’s challenges and obstacles,” said Mesa-resident Margaret L. Turley, founder of Writers Unite to Fight Cancer (WUFC) and administrator of the nonprofit organization.

“We are so very honored that James A. Owen will be our guest speaker this year. He exemplifies our theme in his life and writings,” Turley said.

Indeed, Owen learned this concept early on, as he dealt with serious health issues as a child. His mettle—and drive to thrive—have been put to the test several times since, including when an automobile accident resulted in severe injuries to his drawing handthatcould have ended his dreams to be an illustrator.

Today, Owenis author and illustrator of the bestselling series, The Chronicles of the ImaginariumGeographica, the inspirational nonfiction book Drawing out the Dragons, and more. He has written and illustrated two dozen StarChild comics and the award-winning MythWorld series of novels (published in Germany and France). More than a million copies of his publications are in printand are sold all over the world.

“The very concept of thriving is worth supporting all on its own,” Owen said. “I often write about overcoming obstacles because people lose sight of the fact we are meant to be happy.”

“I think the greatest responsibility I have is in showing people that one can face adversarial circumstances and still find a way to use the gifts you’ve been given to find joy and to help other people and enrich their lives,” Owen said.

Following Owen’s remarks, theatrical soprano, Vanessa Joy, will sing selections from her CD, “The Voice.” A multiple award-winning vocalist, Vanessa Joy has performed around the world, including for the USO at the Wounded Warriors Center in Germany and for the US Ambassador in Cairo, Egypt.

“I am honored to be invited to participate in this event. I’m excited to be teaming up with this great cause, and I’m happy to contribute by singing,” she said.

As part of the celebration, said Turley, “We are excited to announce the winners and finalists for the 2013 WUFC Writing Contest whose writings embody the spirit of the ‘Drive to Thrive.’”

The contest is part of the ongoing mission of WUFC, to foster community awareness about cancer and to raise money for cancer research. Any contributions made at the awards ceremony, all contest entry fees and profits from sales of the anthology, will be donated to a collaborative cancer research program at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine with Arizona State University.At the event, research lead, Dr. Robert Waters, PhD will explain the program and a check will be presented to him by Lisa Finder, founder of the White Lions Foundation,( ) and administrator with WUFC.

Vanessa Joy will sign her CDs andsigning books will be Owen and distinctive judges, Conrad J. Storad, a multi-award winning children’s book author, Connie Flynn, Ethel Lee Miller, Penny Freeman, and WUFC administrators, Turley and Finder.

The awards ceremony is free and open to the public. It will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Changing Hands Bookstore located at 6428 S. McClintock Dr. in Tempe.

For information about Writers Unite to Fight Cancer, visit All donations to WUFC and / or WUFC’s fiscal agent, White Lions Foundation, are tax deductible.