Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer
With occasional humorous asides and Monty Python allusions at his disposal, one student has broadened his writing platform by submitting his work to the acclaimed RELEVANT magazine.
Peter Northcutt, senior from Calvert City, Kentucky, began writing for RELEVANT in January to fulfill his New Year’s resolution to be published in the magazine. So far, the magazine has chosen to publish two of his articles: one about heresy and one about biblical community.
He said his article topics usually address his latest thoughts and his passions.
“Usually, that’s showing people a different side of spirituality and a different side of how they see the world,” Northcutt said. I try to write in such a way that it’s not just entertainment and not just a waste of four minutes—that they walk away feeling challenged to think about a certain topic critically.”
RELEVANT reaches about 2.3 million readers each month through podcasts, print media and online content, all of which focus on Christ-centered living. Any writer can submit an article to RELEVANT for review.
Northcutt said he began writing in elementary school, and he has always loved the process of writing. He said it was during his college years that he began to explore greater possibilities.
During spring 2015, Northcutt started a blog and received positive feedback on social media.
An inspiration for Northcutt is one of his favorite authors, Donald Miller, author of “Blue Like Jazz.” Northcutt said Miller’s take on a memoir and the beauty of honesty in writing influenced his own work. In the book, Miller talks openly about the messiness of his life.
“By doing that, the writing becomes so much more relatable and personal, and it affected me incredibly—reading that book—and gave me the desire to share my own story and to share the messiness of my own life with others,” Northcutt said.
One of the reasons he said he loves reading and writing is because they are ways to convey experiences with other people.
“When I write, I’m hopefully giving someone else my perspective on the world,” Northcutt said. “Not that my perspective is any more valid than theirs, but it’s just a different one. By everyone sharing their experiences with one another, we can become so much more sensitive to one another and to what one another is going through.”
Northcutt comes from a family of writers. Both his sister and mother graduated from Murray State with journalism degrees and have extensive writing experience.
Some of his inspiration comes from his mother, Leigh Ann Northcutt, and he said he’s taken on her humorous style while adding his own twist to it.
She said she felt more demanding than her children’s English teachers at times, and she still suggests they rewrite their stories today if it’s not their best work.
“I don’t know that I encouraged Peter to write as much as I insisted that if he was going to write, he should do it well,” Leigh Ann Northcutt said.
Andrew Black, assistant professor of English at Murray State, was one of Peter Northcutt’s professors. Black said he’s glad Peter Northcutt took his strong analytical skills and unusual eloquence to a venue beyond the classroom to reach a broader audience.
“Writing papers for a class can be rushed and feel arbitrary, like a one-way exchange between a teacher and a student, but that was never the case in the classes I had with him,” Black said. “His arguments were always challenging and creative, and I love reading papers like that.”
Peter Northcutt said “building things out of words” for RELEVANT is just a stepping stone in his career. He will be taking his writing interests to the classroom as he joins Teach for America in the fall.
“The only way to improve as a writer is to write,” Peter Northcutt said. “The blog and the RELEVANT articles and all the stuff that I write mostly serve to enhance my communication abilities. I’ve learned so much through the process.”