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Christian writers gain insights for seeing publication dreams come true

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–If the dreams of writers attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference come true, the world will be reading a lot of books, scripts, poems and articles written from a Christian point of view.

More than 150 aspiring and already-published writers attended the April 1-5 workshop at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C.

Keynote speakers for the conference included Ted Baehr, Camarilla, Calif., publisher of Movieguide, which features movie reviews from a Christian perspective; Janet Thoma, Fort Mill, S.C., editorial vice president with Thomas Nelson Publishers; and Ken Wales, Pacific Palisades, Calif., veteran Hollywood filmmaker.

Additional keynote speakers were Holly Miller of Anderson, Ind., coauthor of 13 books, contributing editor of Guidepost magazine’s Clarity magazine for women and travel editor for Saturday Evening Post; T. Davis Bunn, Melbourne Beach, Fla., author of 15 national best-sellers and former head of a German-based international business group; and Cecil Murphey, Tucker, Ga., ordained minister, former missionary and author of 73 published books.

Bunn told the group he had written seven books before having one accepted for publication. He said his secular publisher told him that, quite frankly, he didn’t care what Bunn wrote, or if he placed whatever message he cared to insert, be it occult, Christian, Jewish, Orthodox or Mayan human sacrifice. “All he cared about was one thing — that I make the company money.”

Bunn said he had to ask himself, “How am I to maintain balance and hold on to my Christian resolve, serve my God and make it in this world?” He said the answer was that he had been preparing himself for this moment in the previous 17 years in his writing career and his Christian walk.

Thoma discussed the team relationship between a writer and the editor. “Good publishing is a team process,” she said, “and when we don’t work as a team, we are not serving the Lord, or ourselves.”

Using the metaphor of a parable to talk about publishing, she said, “God still calls ordinary people, like fishermen, to do his work in ways they never dreamed possible.”

She told the group that when she was working on her master’s degree in journalism she realized she did her best work when she was writing about God.

“I remember going home [from school], standing on the sidewalk and talking to God. I said to the Lord, ‘When I write about you, that’s my best writing. I want to serve you with my writing. I don’t know how. I don’t know where. You show me.'”

In talking about how to tell real, authentic, good stories, Wales said the current Hollywood trend of producing “reality shows” on television is done for primarily for one reason. “They save the networks money.” He said the networks say they are done in order to show how people really live.

“If your thinking is similar to my thinking, you feel like yelling back, ‘That ain’t real at all!'” he said. “[Those shows have] no relationship to lives that are really led, and more importantly, to how lives should be truly and honestly led. I shudder to think that networks have reached so low where the survival of human beings, wonderful people God has created, hinges on if they are voted off the island.

“I want to start a new show that says, ‘Hey, guys, come on in. You don’t even have to be voted in. Just swim on out to us and you’re included,'” Wales said.

As writers and creators, “You — we — have a responsibility, and a blessing at the same time, to honor God through being honest and creating with authenticity,” Wales said.

Baehr told the group, “You are crucial to God’s plan. It’s important that you get out in the marketplace of ideas and be a herald proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.”

He said he sees his job with Movieguide as assisting the heralds, those who proclaim God’s truth.

“Part of the reason we want to reach people is to tell them about people in Hollywood, like Ken [Wales], who are doing good work. We want to be there to help the good movies succeed at the box office.”

Baehr said the reason he wants to do what he does is because America is in a critical position now. “God has no grandchildren. You all realize that. In societies where Christians have been the heralds, the gospel has flourished.”

Miller said in her address, “When I asked myself what was the common ground for everyone here, it hit me. It’s failure.”

Failure is not just something that happens to every beginning writer, but something that veteran writers need to aggressively pursue, she said, noting, “We need to cultivate failure, aspire to failure, celebrate failure.”

The key, she said, is that writers need to learn how to appreciate risk-taking.

“If we cling to the idea that failure is bad, we’ll always play it safe. We’ll never take risks, and we’ll never know how successful we might have been,” she said. “We’ll make some money. We’ll get some bylines, but I’m not sure those are really good yardsticks for Christian writers.”

Calling failure the last taboo in America’s success-driven society, Miller said, failure is not a stage to pass through on the way to success. It can come at any time.

“We are all so primed, so ready to succeed, but none of us practices failure. No one has shown us how to do it,” Miller said.

Murphey said that as writers, “We sometimes think if we say something in just the right way, structure our sentence just right, it can heal any situation.”

Words are important; they are a writer’s tools, he said. “As writers we are people of words. It’s our vocation, our livelihood, our passion.”

However, as Christian writers, “We have a heavier burden on us,” Murphey said. “Because not only do we want to say it well, we want to communicate the gospel in our words. Too many of us have worked on the assumption that if we say whatever it is we want to say in just the right way, the message will hit the mark and the deed is done.”

Murphey said he has learned through the years it is not primarily the craft of writing that writers need to perfect, although that’s part of it. It’s the inner character needed to energize. “We need to be the people who live the words that we write,” he said. “If we focus there, our words will have power.”

Conference participants were encouraged to submit entries for a writer’s competition in four categories: poetry and lyrics, articles and short stories, novels and novellas, and scripts. The top award, The Award of Excellence, was won by Linda Rondeau of Malone, N.Y., for her poem “Whispers of Hope.”

The conference included 40 afternoon workshops led by writers, producers and editors. Workshop topics included “Creating the Irresistible Query Letter,” “Internet Resources for the Writer,” “A 10 Point Plan for Getting an Agent” and “Writing Women’s Fiction.” Five ongoing conferences were offered each morning.

Linda Gilden, a freelance writer from Spartanburg, S.C., said she appreciated the quality of the conferences. “I’ve learned so much. I do a lot of writing, but hearing what these speakers have told me will help me be better. Something else that I love about this conference is how supportive and encouraging everyone is. I’ve heard a lot of ‘You can do this.'”

The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference was co-directed by Robin Hawkins, Ridgecrest events planning coordinator, and Yvonne Lehman, a local North Carolina author of 33 books.

“This conference was designed to train, motivate, encourage, equip and inspire Christian writers to develop their God-given gift to the fullest,” Hawkins said. “Participants were able to interact with editors, agents, professional writers and readers, fine-tune their skills and enjoy a most wonderful experience.”

The 2002 Writer’s Conference will be April 7-10. For more information, contact Hawkins at (828) 669-3596 or by e-mail at [email protected].
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KEN WALES, LEN GOSS and TED BAEHER.

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