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Writers called to convey truth amid postmodern challenges

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Slow and steady may win the race, but time is of the essence for Christian writers to tell God’s truth to an increasingly postmodern world, novelist Ann Tatlock said during the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.

New Age and pagan influences -– such as yoga, which means literally “yoked” to the Hindu gods, and labyrinths, which originated as a pagan tradition -– are seeping into the church and being billed as Christian practices, Tatlock said, voicing the need for writers to help people understand the serious concerns about such practices.

The 2006 conference was the largest yet for the literary retreat held at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C., drawing 410 participants from 39 states and from England and Germany.

Tatlock’s conference series on postmodern trends and the emerging church had to be moved to a larger room to accommodate the interest among attendees in the subject.

The advantage for the Christian writer, Tatlock noted, is that people with a postmodern mindset have a hunger to build relationships through stories –- even if they consider the author irrelevant. The stories can open the reader’s mind, she said, at least to the possibility that God exists.

Author Allison Bottke, a self-described former New Age poster child, humorously told the conference that “I was so opened-minded my brain slipped out.”

The road from a tragic childhood, followed by poor choices and hardships, to successful Christian author explains her persona as the “God Allows U-Turns Poster Girl.” Bottke’s God Allows U-Turns series, now up to 21 books published by Bethany House, features real-life stories of God’s healing power.

Ginger Kolbaba, managing editor of Marriage Partnership magazine, urged conference participants not to sound preachy in their writing. Prayerfully search for original approaches to important subjects, she advised in reviewing practical tips for how to get published.

“The problem with some writing isn’t that it’s bad writing. It’s just boring,” Kolbaba smiled.

Storyteller and author Steven James entertained attendees with his stage presence, puppetry and energy -– all to convey the importance of telling a story.

“When God chose to reveal Himself, He did it through stories,” James said.

“There are some things we cannot tell,” he said. “Some things have to be contained in a story.”

The May 21-25 conference featured numerous mentoring clinics that ran the gamut from children’s literature to fiction after age 50.

Thelma Kephart, 84, of Charlotte, N.C., didn’t realize she wanted to write until well after her husband of 40 years, John, died in 1994. She volunteered and then worked part-time for SIM Missions, (formerly Sudan Interior Missions and now Serving In Missions), and wrote for the Charlotte World for six years.

Looking to pursue her interest in missions and writing, she started going to at least one writer’s conference a year about five years ago.

“You learn something new every time,” Kephart said. “I don’t know of anyplace else where you can get it in such a well-organized format.”

Participants met formally and informally with established authors, editors and agents for advice, critiques and insider tips in the field of Christian writing.

“The networking is the top thing,” author Linda Gilden said. “It’s invaluable. In the secular world, it’s very competitive, and this is a business. But people here recognize that God has a place for all of us.”

Gilden echoed the conference theme of perseverance -– even if it seems at a tortoise pace -– because it is the most important race being run:

“We are missionaries in print.”

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  • Andrea Higgins