Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Discussion: Inspirational Writing


Dee Stewart, Nikki Arana, Marilynn Griffith, Susan May Warren, Marlo Schalesky, Shelia Lipsey, Cecelia Dowdy, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Tia McCollors


Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Welcome Conference Attendees! My name is Shelia E. Lipsey. I am a Christian fiction novelist. I presently have two books that were released thisyear, one of them just a few weeks ago! Into Each Life was released in January '07 and Sinsatiable was released August 1, '07. Both books are published through Kensington/Urban Christian Books. I am the founding president of MAAW (Memphis African American Writers Group), the president of UC His Glory Book C( and an inspirational speaker. I am a single mother and I am a very proud grandmother, I must say that I feel honored and truly blessed to be a part of the '07 Sormag Conference. It is a new experience for me and one that I am enjoying tremendously. I am learning so much and I am meeting many people from all over the world! The power of technology is another blessing God has given us. Another mission for me happens to be spreading God's word through the written word. Therefore, I have no choice but to do what God instructs me to do unless I want to live a life wondering what my purpose is on this earth. Since it is clear what my purpose is in life and while I travel this journey, I have vowed to write in the manner that God has so destined. For me that happens to be Christian fiction. In doing so, I am not only ministering to others through the written word (my novels), but I am also finding enjoyment, peace contentment, healing and fulfillment in the words God places on my heart to put on paper. As you continue with the conference, I'd like to encourage you to seek to find what your true gift and talents are. Don't set out to do something just because someone else is successful at it. Don't write because you think that if one person can write a book then you can too. Instead, be sure to follow YOUR dreams. Be sure to chase down your TALENTS. Never fail to SEEK your heart's desire. Be CERTAIN to listen to what God has told you to do. Whatever dreams lie in your heart, unbirth them by taking the first step to make them into a reality. Nothing is impossible for God. I am a living witness that His word is real and He will give you the desires of your heart.
As we discuss the differences or similarities of CBA vs. ABA, I'd like to pose the question to you first and foremost: What is CBA? What is ABA? The first step in comparing the two of these is the beginning of gaining knowledge and information about each of them, which play key roles in the world of Writing, with one contributing more to the world of Christian writing than perhaps the other. Or should I say, that one may do more to support the world of Christian literature in some cases. However, which one of these organizations' standards and procedures are truly beneficial to those of us who write CF? Send the questions as we prepare to widen the arena of what really constitutes CF and who has the ball in their court?

I plan on darting in and out of the conference most of the day. Have a great day! And remember: Write the Vision - Make it Plain!

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Hello, all. I'm Dee Stewart. Here are the answers to the Christian Fiction Panel Questions.

What are the standards/restrictions?

Inspirational Writing or Christian Fiction Writing uphold standards that uplift the Body of Christ. Although we do not limit profanity, violence and sensual content to our topics we do limit the context and the intensity. Certain subjects are strongly discouraged:

v Sexual Content
v Graphic Violence
v Profanity
v Satanic/Demonic Worship
v Denomination Traditionalism

Is it still inspiration if it has sex, divorce, addiction etc?

Yes. Christian Fiction should serve as a light to the world of readers. Our stories do not glorify sexual misbehavior or violence or other religious thought. Stories that do speak on the subject of :

Relief Journal
Sherri Lewis- My Soul Cries Out- homosexuality

Lynn Bullock- Love the Sinner, A Grace Lee Mystery Series
Allison Bottke- A Stitch in Time

Drug Addiction
Creston Mapes- Rock Star Trilogy

How much is too much?

When the subject glorifies the act instead of presenting its problem. Strong content. A sex scene can be written in a way that does not give strong sensual content, but illuminates the reader.

In Christian Fiction a sex scene—although heavily discouraged—should be presented in a way that brings the reader closer to God. Some great examples – Norma Jarrett’s Sweet Magnolia, Frances Ellen Harper’s Iola Leroy, David Long’s Ezekial’s Shadow.


CBA represents Christian Book Publishers who provide products to Christian Retail Stores: Family, LifeWay, etc. The main publishers in CBA are: Bethany House, Waterbrook Press, WestBow, Multnomah, B & H, Barbour, Harvest House, Berkley, Paraclete, Avon, Warner Faith, Revell, NavPress,GuidePosts, Moody, New Spirit, Steeple Hill, Zondervan, River Oak, Howard, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Heartsong and Cooke. These publishing houses follow the same canon for Christian Literature. The themes and content must meet a universal Church orthodoxy. All stories are redemptive with main characters reacting to their world through their faith. CBA publishing staff are usually Christian. Their objective is to publish great redemptive stories that are marketable to a national Christian platform.

ABA publishers do not follow orthodoxy or support one religious belief unlike CBA. ABA publishers may or may not be Christian. Their objective is to publish great stories that are marketable to a national platform. ABA does publish Christian writers: John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Marilynne Robinson, Victoria Christopher Murray, Jason Scott Bell, Ann DiStefano and Anne Rice. Some publishers have inspirational imprints that meet the Christian market need: Urban Christian, Dafina, Center Street. While others include stories with faith themes in their imprints. Ann DiStefano for SuperRomance, James Scott Bell for Center Street.

Today’s Christian Authors have the ability and opportunity to write for both ABA and CBA. Claudia Mair Burney writes for Cooke and Simon & Schuster. Jason Scott Bell writes for Zondervan and Center Street .

What does this mean for the Christian author?

There are no limits for your writing to be published. There are moral and orthodoxy boundaries that you will make based on both your judgment and the publishing house you write for. However, your focus should be on edifying the body of Christ through your writing. Let God decide which house and which market will His Word receive the most benefit for the Body of Christ.

Dee Stewart is the Gospel Diva Mama of her seven-year-old daughter, Selah Skye. She is also an editor and book critic, and she is a publicist to gospel recording artists and actors living in the Atlanta area. She hosted two reading event series in The A, and coordinated the Christian Fiction Workshop Panels for the 2007 RT Book Club Convention in Houston, TX. She’s written articles for Spirit Led Woman, Gospel Today, and Precious Times Magazines. She has been a Christy Awards Judge for the past two years. She's also penning a novel about you and the blinged-out skeleton in your closet. Visit me at Christian Fiction Blog. Or on Mondays at

Bob Medak said...

Waiting to find out what CBA and ABA are. I figure CF stands for Christian Fiction.

Dyanne said...

Good Morning all,

I wish you all a very good day


Shopgurl said...

I'm curious to know what is ABA?

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Shopgurl, ABA stands for American Booksellers Association. You can lear more about them at

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Sorry, Bob. CBA stands for Christian Booksellers Association, which is now called The International Trade Association of Christian Retail. You can learn more about them at

There is also CAABA, which stands for The Christian African American Booksellers Association. Which works with CBA. You can learn more about them at

Fon James said...

Great information and references Dee! Thanks so much.

Linda Beed said...

Good morning.

My question to the panel is, do the various associations mentioned work with independently published authors?


Patricia W. said...

Dee, you referenced Ann DiStefano who writes for Superromance with faith themes. It is one of the lines I'm interested in. Would you know whether she has a website or blog, or what one of her titles might be?

I can't find her on the eHarlequin site, my library, or Amazon. Perhaps the spelling is different?

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Patricia, Anna's book is The Prodigal Returns. Her blog is

Correction: Her name is Anna DeStefano. Sorry, Ann :)

Stacy Hawkins Adams said...

Hi Everyone,

This is Stacy, checking in to say hello and let you know that I'm looking forward to your questions.

Dee has done a great job of outlining the biggest differences between writing Christian Fiction for the ABA (American Booksellers Association, which publishes mainstream books) and CBA (Christian Booksellers Association, which solely publishes Christian fiction and nonfiction books).

My first three novels have been published by a CBA house, which means that no graphic violence or sex were allowed in my work.
Some writers consider those rules too confining; however, I've found that having such guidelines has challenged me to become a better writer - I have to be more creative to convey a sensual scene without literally describing it, and I'm led to be more descriptive to explain a character's frustration and inner turmoil rather than rely on an expletive.

Is this the only way or the best way? I'm far from worthy of judging that. Each of us as Christian writers must trust the story that God has given us and pray for wisdom and guidance on how best to write it. We should want to feel proud of and at peace with whatever ends up in our manuscripts by the time we complete the final draft.

Readers from all walks of life come to our books wanting and needing to be validated, wherever they are on their journeys. Whether we write for an ABA or CBA house, our goal should be to tell realistic stories in which readers can lose themselves, relate to the characters, and finish with a longing to know God better and some idea of how to do so.

Anyone else want to share their views on this subject?

Patricia W. said...

Thanks Dee!

As far as ABA vs. CBA, as a reader, I certainly don't think about the imprint when I pick up a book. I think the author has to be true to their voice and the story God has given them.

Rather than looking at this as an either-or situation, I choose to view it as a multiple-choice, depending on the story. Authors have more than one avenue for their work.

Of course, I'm sure it's not that simple, having yet to publish a novel. A question I would have is whether authors find it difficult to write for and be accepted by both ABA and CBA houses?

Another question I have is on pseudonyms because this one comes up all the time when talking about Christian authors. There was a bit of discussion yesterday but I'd like to hear what folks think.

If an author publishes both Christian and secular fiction--not overly graphic but not necessarily having a faith theme--should the author use a pseudonym? Do readers really care if an author writes, say sweet romance, as well as inspirational fiction?


LaShaunda said...

Good morning everyone,

Welcome to the panel. Thank you for taking time to offer your wisdom.

I'm excited to learn all this new information.

l.cote said...

Hi, Just checking in.

For over a decade every spring, I've contacted all the CBA publishers and provide a Christian Publishers List (Fiction) on my website:

I provide the editors' name, submission guidelines and tips. If you are interested in the Christian fiction market, please drop by.

Also something new this year, if you join my Yahoo egroup (on my site), I also send out updates of market information when they occur.

My purpose in doing this listing and reporting is to help authors make wiser submissions and save editors from receiving misdirected submissions.

Hope this helps!
Lyn Cote

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hi Friends,

I see I'm a little late to the party and much excellent discussion has already been going on. That's what I get for being a west-coaster. :-) So, for now, I'll just introduce myself with a short bio. Here it is:

Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of five books, including her latest novel VEIL OF FIRE, which explores the great Minnesota firestorm of 1894 and the mysterious figure who appeared in the hills afterward. She has also had over 500 articles published in various magazines, had her work included in compilations such as Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, and is a regular columnist for Power for Living. Marlo recently earned her Masters degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently working on three contemporary novels for Multnomah-Waterbrook Publishers, a division of Random House. She lives in Salinas, California with her husband and four daughters. Find out more about Marlo at her website at

Marlo Schalesky said...

About writing both CBA (Christian) and ABA (secular) fiction:

I don't think publishers have any problem with authors who publish in both CBA & ABA. For ABA, it's all about the sales numbers. If you've published in the CBA and the sales numbers are strong, then that's an added incentive for the ABA publishers. For CBA, they see ABA publishing as added validity as well.

As for pen names, I don't think it's necessary unless the ABA work would be offensive to Christian readers. If a person establishes themselves as a Christian author, the reader will be greatly put off is he/she picks up another book by that author and finds it sprinkled with foul language, graphic sex scenes, or characters that live in sin without the consequences of that sin (as someone mentioned before, characters in the CBA can deal with all manner of behaviors, but sinful behaviors must be portrayed as having negative consequences -- i.e., a woman can't have an affair and have that be a good and helpful thing for her, people can't have sex outside of marriage and have that be inconsequential in their lives -- such behaviors must be shown as being destructive in the character's life). So, the question regarding pen names really needs to be answered by asking if the reader will feel betrayed when reading either type of book (for sweet romances & inspirational fiction, I don't see any need for a pen names).

Of course, for an author who's a Christian, the things that make a book offensive to a Christian reader may be things she doesn't want to include in any of her books anyway. I know romance authors who are Christians in the ABA who will not write explicit/detailed sex scenes on principle.

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

I agree that whether we write for ABA, CBA or both, as Christian writers our work should edify and glorify God. I do, however, want my writing to be realistically portrayed, and I know that God wants me to minister to those who are unsaved as well as those who are. Therefore, I write about subjects and people whose walk with God is far from perfect. And since the word of God says that we all fall short, then I use this passage of scripture to remind me of such, when I am writing. The only thing about CBA that I have found out is that its market seems to cater more to non AA in regard to the stocking of AA Christian fiction novels and ABA includes such imprints as the one that I write under, which is Urban Christian.

l.cote said...

What's AA Christian fiction novels?

Marlo Schalesky said...

About AA authors in the CBA:

In Christian fiction, I know that Sharon Elwell Foster has done well in the CBA, not only with sales but also with awards.

However, I would say that if a book is meant exclusively for an AA audience within the CBA, then I would expect publishers to think that that market is too small. The CBA market itself is small, so to narrow it further by writing a book that appeals only to people of a certain race, would be a real problem for sales. However, I know lots of books with ethnic main characters that are meant to appeal to readers of all colors/races/ethnicities. As for myself, I've written 3 novels with Native American main characters and themes.

As for realistic portrayals and ministering to the unsaved, I strongly believe that can be done (and is being done) is the CBA now. Authors are portraying characters who struggle with homosexuality, addictions, homelessness, assault, you name it. But they're doing it without writing out offensive language or showing sex and violence in minute detail, because those things are truly distracting to the story. It's like TV shows, who have to tell a compelling story without all that. And the stories are better for it. (Note: Even movies these days are cutting back the nudey scenes and all the language. They're finding that the PG and PG-13 ratings sell better than the R movies. That's telling for us too.)

Marlo Schalesky said...

Sheila means African American (AA).

Linda! said...

Response to Stacy

Stacy you have concisely relayed the sentiments of many authors. Guidelines set in place may for some be restrictive. For others it is the challenge that helps to hone their skill. As Christian writers we have the responsibility of relaying stories that uplift Christ, that are insightful and entertaining.

The struggle among many is what is or is not offensive to readers. The debate can go on forever. What cannot, is the insertion of profanity, gratuitous sex and acts of violence under the guise of ‘keeping it real’. We live in a world with people from all walks of life seeking to fill a void. Our, what some may call controversial stories, written with care, may be their saving grace.

As Stacy stated, “each of us must trust the story God has given us.” There may be a story burning in you that you feel is too controversial in terms of subject matter (incest, pornography, etc.). Where He gives vision, God also supplies provision. As we pray for understanding as to how He wants us to proceed with the work, He will reveal it. The key is following His direction.


Hi, I'm Dee said...

Sheila, I agree that CBA stores haven't had a great track record stocking titles written by African-American Authors. That is why they joined forces with CAABA to provide better placement. We have to remember that although AA Inspired books go all the way back to Iola Leroy written in 1865, but Christian Retailing is a new market. We also have to take into account that Christian retail stores do not carry many books in the stores anymore regardless of race. However, there are quite a few AA authors making strides in the market and helping and encouraging others to write for this market. Stacy, Tia and Marilynn are definitely some of them.

We're just getting out feet wet with CBA.

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Hey, Linda. :)

Linda! said...

Marlo and all,

I am loving the conversation this morning.

Not trying to be controversial, just stating my opinion here. I have read Christian works of historical, multi-cultural, Asian, exclusively Caucasian and African American origin. They were selected based upon the possibility of providing insight, inspiration and entertainment. Some of the content was not my experience. Some were way on the other side of the moon in terms of family settings and worldviews. I strove to grasp the central theme within in order to broaden my scope of how others think and may or may not address various situations.

That said, I say this – I don’t feel the same attempt at inclusion is often applied to African American literature.

African American authors, like others from a variety of ethnicities, write out of experience. Our goal, like others, is to be read by all. However, it seems that nine times out of ten, the consensus is that when the author is African American the work is viewed as exclusively for African Americans; and our works are automatically relegated to the outer regions of possible marketability.

Linda Beed

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hi Linda, thanks for your comments. I appreciate the voice of experience. That AA authors are viewed as writing exclusively for AA readers is a terrible drawback. I wonder if that's only for fiction or also nonfiction. I know there are some highpower AA authors on the nonfiction side. I also know that women writers are viewed as writing for women only, for the most part, for both fiction and nonfiction. So there may be some similarities there.

At any rate, I would expect that marketing plays a big role in publishers' decisions about novels with AA characters and culture. I know my NA (Native American) novels were rejected at some publishers because they felt the NA themes weren't as marketable and may put off some readers. Obviously other publishers accepted them anyway, but with some that was a concern. I wonder if it's the same thinking with AA? Where it all comes down to perceived market? I

f so, that's too bad, because it's fun to read novels with cultural flavor - I think that's appealing to people. I think of the huge success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for example, where the Greek culture added much flavor and richness to the story. It was a story everyone could relate to, but the cultural stuff made it just that much more fun and interesting.

--Marlo Schalesky

Anonymous said...

Hi All, Nikki here. Short Bio: An award-winning author of women’s fiction, essays, poetry, and magazine articles whose work has been published in the United States and Canada. She has won several national awards for her novels. To learn more about her, visit .

Now on to the discussion. I have read with interest the comments about books written for an AA audience. That is a niche market though some CBA publishers, Revell for example, have sought exactly that kind of book in the past. My first sale in 2003 was because my romance, The Winds of Sonoma, had a Mexican hero. An illegal Mexican alien to boot! Talk about controversial when it came out in Nov. of 2005. Why would a CBA publisher publish such a book? Were they condoning his illegal act? The book sold because of the internal story. The external story is about an illegal Mexican that comes to America and falls in love with the daughter of wealthy ranch owner. Poor boy, rich girl, the story has been told a thousand times. But it is the internal story, the moral dilemmas, and even the aspect of the mixed marriage, Catholic/protestant-Mexican/White that gave the story texture and depth and garnered the attention of a publisher. The book went on to win many awards. So my input on the ethnic character element of fiction is - the more universal the internal story, the broader the appeal, no matter the ethnicity of the characters. Tell a compelling story and it will touch the reader. I received many fan letters where the writer told me they had been prejudiced to Mexicans; in some cases they had not even realized it. But after reading the book they say that they will never look at the Mexicans who labor in our fields the same way again. I praise God for that. We are all one blood.

Linda’s comment: However, it seems that nine times out of ten, the consensus is that when the author is African American the work is viewed as exclusively for African Americans – I agree with. But that can be broken by having AA stories with deep characterization that allows every reader, of any race, to relate to the internal goal that the character is struggling with. I would love to see an AA author write a story and not reveal the heroine is AA until the end. I did this in my second book, In the Shade of the Jacaranda. The heroine’s best friend was AA, but the reader only knew the character as the pretty, raven-haired, wise best friend. In the last pages of the book in dialogue the best friend says something about race relations that lets the reader know she is AA. My point was clear, her race was a total non-issue. The story worked no matter the race of any of the characters. I hope this is true of all my books. In my current WIP, the hero is an Arab American.

Nikki Arana

LaShaunda said...

I for one appreciate Lyn’s listings. I check them every year. They help me decided who I want to target. I’m also on her email list and a big fan of her books.

LaShaunda said...

OOOWEEE! This has been a good panel today.

Linda I wanted to address your statement about not being accepted.

As a writer who started in romance when there was no AA romances, I kept on hoping that would change. Somebody would see we wanted our own stories too. It happen with the Arabesque line. When I became saved, I looked for the AA Christian books, there weren’t any at the time, so I started praying and slowly the books started coming in.

It takes time for the big wigs to realize that our books are not just for AA readers they are for everyone, just as the non AA writers books have been for years.

This is still a big issue with AA romance writers, they want to cross over but they are pigeon holed into only AA slots.

I believe a good book is a good book no matter what color the author is.

Keep praying the Lord open their eyes sooner than later.

Lacricia said...

Hello my name is Lacricia and I am a new author. I feel when we create Christian/ Inspiration works our readers should be able to see it. In my experience I have come across some books that are promoted to be inspirational, however when you read them they are more like church bashers than anything. In my opinion, when a reader picks up a book intended to be inspirational in nature, they shouldn't have to squint their eyes because of the content.

LaShaunda said...

How did you know that you were called to write Christian fiction?

Marlo Schalesky said...

Great question! Here's how it happened for me:

When I was thirteen years old, I wrote a poem on the bus on the way to school. It was about an old tree, forlorn and desolate, standing alone in a field. I read that poem at every recess, tweaked it, polished it, and for the first time, felt the thrill of how the written word can convey profound beauty. That day, I fell in love with writing.

Shortly after that, I told my mother (with all the angst of a newly-turned teenager), “I will just die if I don’t write!” So naturally when I grew up I decided to get my degree in Chemistry. And, oddly enough, I didn’t die. I enjoyed chemistry. But always that desire to write was with me, in the back of my mind, saying “Someday, someday.”

Someday finally came. I sensed God whispering, "Now's the time. Write!" So, I started writing articles for various magazines and putting out proposals for book projects. I thought it would be easy to get my first book published, but alas, it took years of writing and honing my craft (6 years, in fact). And more than that, it took giving up my dream entirely. For me, I had to come to a place in my heart where I didn’t have to write to be content. I had to let go of that strong desire born at thirteen years old and embrace God’s will for me whether that will included writing or not. Only then, only when my dream had given way to God’s, was I offered a contract by Crossway Books for my first published book, Cry Freedom, in 1999.

As for why Christian fiction in particular - I don't seem to be able to write anything else! My writing comes from the deepest part of me, and Christ is there, at the center. So, I themes of struggling with faith, the wonder of what Christ has done for me, when prayers aren't answered, what trust means in the darkenss, are what come out naturally in my writing.

--Marlo Schalesky

Donna D said...

When you write, what do you hope is the outcome? Do you write for fame and fortune, or do you see your writing as ministry - or both?

Tia McCollors said...

Hello everyone -
I'm swinging through in the late afternoon, but I finally got here.
Who am I? A woman trying to get it "write" being a mother, wife, and author. After just over a year as a stay at home mother and wife to an entrepreneur visionary, I'm finally getting things settled the way it works best for my family.

Oh, you want the "official" bio? Here's that too:

National bestselling author Tia McCollors secured her spot in the publishing industry with the release of her debut novel and the Essence bestseller, A Heart of Devotion, followed by her second release, Zora’s Cry. She continues to pen inspirational works and is also writing a series of children’s early reader chapter books targeted towards girls, ages 7-9. After leaving a 10-year career in the corporate arena as a public relations professional, Tia has emerged as a steadfast author of faith-based novels. Her third novel, The Truth About Love, will hit the bookshelves in March 2008.

In addition to being a novelist, Tia is a motivational speaker and instructor for writing workshops. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization, and serves as the vice president for Visions In Print (V.I.P.), the Atlanta Southeast Chapter of the ACFW. She also facilitates a writer’s critique group that she co-founded in 2003. In 2006, Tia was voted as the Breakout Author of the Year by the Open Book Awards of the African American Literary Awards Show.

Patricia W. said...


Just added The Truth About Love to my TBR list since I enjoyed the first two books so much.

I believe your publisher is Moody, not one particularly known for publishing AA fiction, but I think they have a special program. How did you connect with them and can you say more about their program?


Tia McCollors said...

Now on to the questions.
I think Dee did a detailed job in explaining ABA vs. CBA so there's no need for me to expound on that anymore.

In a nutshell, I believe that CBA publishers focus on works where faith and a belief is one of the central elements to the story (speaking of fiction). Even if the characters are facing "real life" issues such as adultery, drug addiction, etc., the driving force that helps them make decisions during the plot is their faith and beliefs.

Like Dee said, it is the intensity of how things are addressed that makes the difference. In my book, A Heart of Devotion, there was a scene with sex between two unmarried people...however I "introduced" the act but left the rest to the reader's imagination. Nothing graphic. When there is sex between married couples, any person can tell the difference between when intimacy is tastefully described or graphically described. If it makes you blush, or you wouldn't read it out loud to your grandmother, it's probably too much!

Tia McCollors said...

Where can you find a "home" for your Christian fiction?

Inspirational/christian authors have found success in both ABA and CBA publishing houses.

A good story is a good story -- and that's what botuh ABA and CBA publishers want.

I think it was Donna who asked if "do you write for fame, fortune, or ministry?"

I, for one, write the story that God gives me first, so I guess ministry would be the "reasonable" answer. However, fame and fortune is a wonderful added benefit as well! SMILE!

If you stay true to yourself, you will write the best story. Write based on the story of your heart, not based on the trends -- everyone knows a trend will change overnight. Then what?

Marlo Schalesky said...

Why do I write? For me, it's an act of faithfulness. I want to write the story that God presses into my heart.

It used to be that I wrote to "follow my dream," but God broke me of that (ouch - that was painful). Now, it's not about my goals and dreams, but simply doing what I'm asked to do.

I hope people will be changed by reading my books, I hope their wonder in God and what Christ has done for them will be renewed. I pray that what I do will make a difference in readers lives and in the world. But the bottom line is that I just need to be faithful. The rest is out of my hands.

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Hi, Nikki. Hey, Tia, girl :) Where's Rhonda?

Nikki I love the Regalo Grande series and how you slide diversity in there. :)

As an African-American, however I don
't think an author has to hide her character's identity to be universal. James Patterson's Alex Cross character is black. It is mentioned briefly at the opening of the story in a slight conversation just to ground the reader.

Like you I agree that universality is the key. As a reviewer and book judge I can agree that the books that resonate with readers across cultural are the stories whereby the characters address issues that everyone can relate to.

On the other hand, there is also a stigma attached to books written by African-American authors that keep readers from purchasing these books. I did a survey and a discussion at Faith in Fiction message board years ago about this subject. Linda Beed and I have talked about it often as we both work together. Race matters, which shouldn't be in Christian Fiction or anything tied with Christ's name to it.

As authors we need to write more universal with a national platform. As readers we need to support authors of color. We need to promote them on our blogs more than we do. We need to invited them to participate in group book signings with us, as well as teaching opportunities at writers' conferences.

Hi, I'm Dee said...

Lacricia, you are correct. There are stories out there that are not CBA titles that are considered church drama or mainstream books with church settings. The marking of an inspired title will meet you at the first paragraph. Unfortunately church book clubs aren't fully aware of the difference because AA Christian titles are few and far in between. ABA authors know this market is very hot and will create stories to address the need.

I do believe in the near future these works will not imbrue the marketplace. We have some great CBA and ABA authors coming out the pipeline: Tia, Mary, Claudia Mair Burney, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Sherri Lewis, Ashea Gordon, Sharon, Stephanie Perry Moore, Angela B.,Tiffany L. Warren, Cheri, Victoria Murray, Jacquelin, Kendra, Leigh, Norma, Jarrett, Linda, Pat Williams, Vanessa Griggs, Vanessa Miller, I could go on and on. And tons more that I know have book deals lined up for 2008 and 2009 releases. hint, hint, Rhonda :)

Stacy Hawkins Adams said...

When I think of why I write, my first instinct is to say I couldn't help it! Writing is as much a part of my life as breathing - has been since I first learned how to use a pencil. In terms of how I settled on writing Christian fiction, that wasn't necessarily purposeful either. I knew I wanted to write a novel and sat at my computer several times to draft a compelling story. My professional writer friends kept telling me the story was interesting, but I needed to add some sex scenes in order to get published. My gut (which we call the Holy Spirit) told me to write what I felt; to write the story that felt true to me and create characters who were authentic, yet flawed and faithful. This story wasn't the one my colleagues kept saying would sell, because there were no graphic scenes, no baby mama drama and none of the "grit" they insisted on. Those same friends later read "Speak To My Heart" and seemed pleasantly surprised that they enjoyed the book without all the stuff they thought it had needed.

Regarding the marketing of AA Christian fiction in CBA, it is indeed a challenge. I've been blessed to work with a publisher (Baker/Revell) that decided earlier this year to devote a sales rep focused on the urban market to pitch my work and Mary Griffith's and other authors of color in the Baker line to bookstores that traditionally cater to African American readers, primarily the independent black bookstores. This is important because traditionally the CBA has had no need to target these stores. The sales reps can get our books into Barnes & Noble and other mainstream bookstores, and maybe into some of the Christian stores, but without specifically targeting the AA market while also pitching our books to all readers, we aren't being as effective as we can be.

All that said, it IS important to be in both arenas. While my characters are clearly African American and celebrate who they are, I've had non-African American readers of my newspaper columns pick up the books and tell me how the stories resonated with them or left them wanting more. I received an email recently from a Caucasian 70-plus Alabama woman who found my books on her daughter's bookshelf because her daughter works with my sister. She loved the stories so much that she has made it a personal campaign to get the books in every Christian bookstore in central Alabama.

I couldn't have orchestrated something like that if I had paid off Oprah! I take blessings like this as reminders that even with all of the marketing and promoting and selling we authors MUST do, our primary role is to first honor God through our writing. When we plant the seeds and keep watering them - book by book, newsletter by newsletter, book signing by book signing, he'll help us get the books into the hands of readers who can benefit from them, one way or the other.

The Paperback Diva said...

Thank you all! Your comments and talks have been an eye opening experience for me. I'm a Christian and an author of traditional romance who has struggled with many of the issues you talk about. I have learned a lot today, been given much to think about. Today's workshops and panels have been an answer to my prayers!


Anonymous said...

Stacy wrote: I couldn't have orchestrated something like that if I had paid off Oprah!

This really hits the nail on the head. Those who feel God’s call to write the story of His heart must do the work . . . and release the outcome to Him. He prospers what He ordains. Every once in a while I loose sight of that and before long I find that I lose my joy and my focus. You have to write the book you’ve been given. Write your passion, write His truth and the rest will take care of itself.

Sean D. Young said...

I too am grateful for this discussion. You can feel the dedication each of you have for your stories and craft.

I'm a contemporary romance author of two novels. My agent is having a hard time selling my work because the editors are telling her that my novels are too sweet. They want more graphic and urban stories. (I don't know what that is). That's not what I write. I want to give the reader a story that will touch their hearts.

I agree with Nikki, you must write your passion and His truth.


Shelia E. Lipsey said...

I know i'm late responding to all of the posts today. They are fantastic. I learned quite a bit today from each of you. As a Christian fiction writer, I only want to do God's will. So many of you have already expressed what our ministry is all about. It is my desire for my novels to be read by anyone and everyone who desires to read it, rather than because it's an AA (African American) novel. People all over the world are dying and going to hell and they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. I just want to do God's will and minister to those in need of a special word from God regardless of there nationality. I'm glad we already have authors who are doing just that. Blazing the trail for those of us who are just entering this ministry. Thanks for ALL of the feedback, comments, suggestions, questions, etc. This is what it's all about - sharing with one another so we can be the best servants of God that we can be. I love Y'all but God really does love you even more! I'm signing off for the night. May God Bless each of you over and over again.

Rudelle Thomas said...

Wow, this has been an excellent discussion. I've learned sooo much. I printed this discussion off for future reference. I didn't know I had so much to learn. I'm so grateful for you all. Your insight, experience, and wisdom have been invaluable today. Thank you so much!!!

Rudelle Thomas

Marlo Schalesky said...

Just wanted to thank all of you who stopped by this panel today with questions, comments, observations, etc. Thanks for a great day!

Marlo Schalesky

Shelia said...

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I've learned a lot.

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