Two Different Kinds of Writing Conferences

My wife and I have spent most of this past week at a Novelist Retreat at the Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, NC.

Ridgecrest is a beautiful place, situated in the mountains. It’s like home to me, and no wonder. I don’t know how often I used to go there with my parents when I was a child. And then I worked on summer staff from 1967-1972. It’s where I met my first wife.

I returned several times during the 1990s to play guitar or bass on the praise team for the International Mission Conference. And then during the mid-2000s I started attending the BRMCWC (Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference).

The Novelist Retreat is a relatively new event. Just five or six years old, it was started by romance novelist Yvonne Lehman (pictured above), who lives just a few miles from Ridgecrest in Black Mountain. Yvonne had been the founder and director of the Blue Ridge Conference until turning that over to suspense and speculative novelist Alton Gansky.

He also writes military thrillers and non-fiction books. Some of you read my post about 60 People Who Shaped the Church; that’s one of his books.

Both conferences are for Christian writers and wanna-be authors. The BRMCWC hosts as many as 400-500 people who write everything from poetry to novels to greeting cards.  The Novelist Retreat is limited to 50 participants, all of whom have written, are writing, or want to write a novel.

Both conferences allow participants to schedule fifteen-minute appointments with the faculty. The Retreat, however, doesn’t ordinarily have agents and acquisition editors, the two most important kinds of people to help get writers’ manuscripts into print. The BRMCWC does, which helps to explain its popularity.

Both conferences hold a number of helpful classes, taught by top-notch writing professionals. And both have  outstanding keynote speakers. Past BRMCWC speakers include Fox news commentator Todd Starnes, Maj. Jeff Struecker, who was a key person in the real action the movie Black Hawk Down was based on, and Cecil Murphey, who co-authored the amazing best seller, 90 Minutes in Heaven.




This year’s Retreat featured best-selling author Robert Whitlow.




And up-and-coming actor, comedian, and author Torry Martin. Torry will be appearing in a Hallmark movie sometime around Thanksgiving.



I recommend both conferences. Highly.

If you’re a writer who’s serious about doing his best, you’ll never stop learning. And you’ll always be striving to do better. A writer never “arrives.” The struggle to have the next book published and do everything possible to help it sell never ends.

Perhaps you’re not a Christian writer. And perhaps the Christian elements of the two conferences at Ridgecrest wouldn’t appeal to you.

I understand.

But you would do well to research other writing conferences. Perhaps you’ll find one somewhere in your general area, one that’s not terribly expensive. You can Google “writing conferences” or check Writers Digest magazine.

What do you think? Have you ever attended a writing conference? Do you see the value of going to one? How about leaving a comment?


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Best regards,

60 People Who Shaped the Church


Al Gansky Novels   60 People

Alton (Al) Gansky has been one of my favorite novelists for eight or ten years now. Wonderful suspense novels. Sometimes with a bit of the supernatural thrown in. Some of Al’s novels are military thrillers co-written with such notable men as Major Jeff Struecker, one of the key players in the real-life event the movie Blackhawk Down was about.

But Al Gansky also writes non-fiction.

As a former Christian pastor, he was well qualified to do the mountains of research necessary to write a book like 60 People Who Shaped the Church. In his Introduction, he says, “History intimidates us; historical characters intrigue us.” I suspect that’s one reason historical novels are so popular.

Would I have pored through a history book about the French Revolution even once? I doubt it seriously. Would I read A Tale of Two Cities, not once but three or four times (so far)? Absolutely!

But 60 People is not a novel. It’s a 316 page look at the “sinners, saints, rogues, and heroes” who played a key role in shaping the Christian church as we know it. Al admits–not surprisingly–that cutting the number of people down to sixty was a challenge.

Al starts with Jesus’s disciple, Simon Peter, and the apostle Paul and moves smoothly through 20 centuries, ending with Dr. Billy Graham. Many of Al’s vignettes–few of the chapters are longer than three or four pages–are about men one might expect to find in it book like this: Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Isaac Watts, John and Charles Wesley (yes, the brothers do have separate chapters), Charles Spurgeon, Dwight L. Moody, and Billy Sunday.

But Al has some real surprises. Like scientists Copernicus and Galileo. And mathematician Blaise Pascal.

And writers. Like John Bunyon, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. And T. S. Elliott, who was important for far more than his poetry and plays. And C. S. Lewis and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

And composers like Handel and prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby.

Included in this collection are some people who would seem highly unlikely to play a role in shaping the church. Like the emperor Diocletian, “who persecuted the church and in doing so helped spread the gospel.” And King Henry VIII, “who separated church from state and started the Anglican church.”

Because of the way this book is organized into short chapters, I found it convenient to read just a chapter or two a night. I wish I could remember all of the fascinating details Al Gansky presented about each person, but one stands out even months later.

Slave trader John Newton was quite a rough character during the earlier part of his life and he once fell overboard while drunk. His crew (reluctantly) saved him by harpooning him in the leg and pulling him back to the ship. He bore that scar the rest of his life.

If you’re the least interested in the history of Christianity, but totally disinterested in reading a book about Christian history, you may find 6o People Who Shaped the Church to be just the kind of read you’ll enjoy.

Next on my list is another of Al Gansky’s books, 30 Events that Shaped the Church.

What do you think of the idea of 60 People? How about leaving a comment?


Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,