DJ Mansker lives in southeast Arizona. By day, DJ puts her twenty plus years of experience in the trenches of social work to use in the protective services. By night, she is a closet novelist and wait staff to her cat Trinidad. As a member of several local and national writers organizations she continues to hone her writing skills as she works to complete her first novel.
Confessions of a Roving Reporter
A report from CBE by guest columnist Linda Attaway
The Christian Book Expo in Dallas was a bibliophile’s dream. Unfortunately, it was also either Dallas’ best-kept secret or a victim of today’s struggling economy and Spring Break in Texas. I hurt for those who worked hard planning and implementing it, and I hated to think of all the folks who were missing out. But for those who were there, it was a time of joy and fellowship–and the lighter crowds just gave us more time to hang out together!
Thursday night featured the ECPA Christian Book Awards Dinner. Susan Meissner’s The Shape of Mercy received the golden accolade for fiction. I had the privilege of sitting down with Susan Saturday afternoon for an interview. Discussing the award, Susan said, “I was very surprised. I was in a field of wonderful writers. Anyone really could have won, and all of our writing is different enough that it could have appealed to the panel of judges in any number of ways, so yes, I was surprised and pleased.” She also said “it’s affirmation for me, which is one of my love languages. It will help me remain confident that I have a gift and I’m meant to use it – because I do struggle with confidence. . . This helps me feel that I have something that God has given me to do and I am meant to use it and I’m using it in the way He wants me to.”
Friday morning the general Expo opened. William Ewart Gladstone said, “Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books - even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.” That captures my feelings upon entering the Exhibit Hall Friday morning! The sizes and layouts of the booths varied, but their content was universal – books! I felt as if I had walked into the Garden of Readin’.
Deep discounts and free books were the order of the day. The publicists were happy to meet a blogger/reviewer and grateful for the service we provide in sharing about what we have read. Some were folks with whom I communicate regularly, and it was fun putting a face with a name. It was a wonderful way to network and make connections for future reviews. My arms and shoulders soon ached from the bounty of books I obtained.
And then, the crème de la crème: the authors!
So many times I have been stirred by a book and longed to let the author know. I wasn’t at all certain what to expect. After all, these are authors whose books have been published. Essentially celebrities to a bookworm! I wondered: what would they be like? I had no cause to worry, for I learned an important reciprocal statement: Readers love authors, and authors love readers! Several authors said, without readers, authors would have no books to write. And the delightful bonus of the internet and blogging is that some of us felt like we had already met!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview over a dozen authors in addition to speaking informally with a host of others. I can unequivocally say that these folks are a blast to be around! And one theme resonated consistently in virtually every conversation: a desire that their books point folks to Christ.
I’ll be featuring authors and interviews in more detail on my blog at Mocha With Linda. over the coming weeks. My conversations included interviews with experienced writers and some new and soon-to-be-published authors! Here are a few excerpts:
DiAnn Mills believes “Christian writers are in a ministry. It is my ministry. We all have friends and neighbors and family who are unchurched, unbelievers, and they have no desire to come to church; they don’t want any part of it. They don’t want a Bible, they don’t want a non-fiction book; they won’t even come to our house because we might say the big J word, but they’ll pick up a fiction book and see a character who has a Christian world-view and suddenly they begin to get it. It’s like a seed so I think we’re farmers.”
Nancy Rue co-writes the Healing Fiction series with Stephen Arterburn: “We wanted to tell stories of people who are really on the tough journeys, who are facing the hard things, for which [they can’t say] ‘I can look at this scripture and claim this verse, live it, and I’m going to be fine.’ There are many, many situations that you have to get to the root of what’s going on there. . . How many times did someone ask Jesus a question and He didn’t answer that question: He addressed what really needed to be addressed.”
Mary DeMuth (Daisy Chain), writes about broken, hurting people for a reason. “What I’d like to come across is: you can go through the grittiest, darkest thing in your life, but God is still bigger and still brighter and lighter than that tragedy. My moniker is Turning Trials to Triumph. If I can show the darkest dark, it shows God’s lightest light even more spectacularly. So that’s my heart and my passion.” A Slow Burn (October), the sequel to Daisy Chain, “is full of hope.”
Mary Lu Tyndall based her current Charles Towne Belles series on “three of the seeds in the parable of the sower. In The Red Siren, Faith is the seed that falls on rocky soil, and when difficulties come, she loses her faith. The second book, The Blue Enchantress, comes out in August and tells the story of Hope, the seed that fell among thorns; she’s the “bad girl” who follows the pleasures of this world. The final book, The Raven Saint, is about Grace, the 3rd sister, who represents the seed on good soil. She’s a good girl who goes to church and follows the Commandments, but she has a small problem with judgment and being critical.”
Tracie Peterson’s A Love to Last Forever (The Brides of Gallatin County #2) releases April 1, and the final book in her Broadmoor Legacy, A Surrendered Heart, co-written with Judith Miller, will be out August 1. She shared a little secret about writing with Judith Miller: “she always, always leaves me the last chapter to write because she can’t bear to say goodbye!” A “voracious reader,” Tracie enjoys watching the History and Discovery Channels as well as reading history books and “finding little threads of things that I want to know more about.” Her favorite line is “And we don’t know how this happened” or “We don’t know who was involved.” That just makes her long to fill in the blanks. I teased her that she’s the Paul Harvey of Christian fiction – she gives us The Rest of the Story!
DeeAnne Gist – Her “system” involves finding an interesting historical fact and building a story around it. A Bride in the Bargain (June 1) is based on a fascinating, deliberate (and underhanded!) miscommunication that really happened in Seattle when it was being settled. And her daughter is the one pictured on the cover!
And oh my goodness, I can’t forget Beth Wiseman, Candace Calvert, Erynn Mangum, Deborah Raney, Mary Connealy, Colleen Coble, Christine Lynxwiler, Davis Bunn & Janette Oke, Wanda Brunstetter, Robert Elmer, Beverly Lewis, Randy Alcorn, Robert Liparulo, Cara Putnam, Brandt Dodson, Terri Blackstock (who, due to a printed schedule snafu, had a book signing that most of us didn’t know about until she was long gone); the list goes on and on! Not to mention a host of non-fiction writers as well.
In addition to book signings, the authors led workshops on topics related to their books as well as practical tips for new or would-be writers. Friday and Saturday nights featured a special time of worship and focus on THE WORD, Who gives all words their meaning. It was a fitting close to each day.
I hope this Expo births a great tradition of many more in years to come. It was a beautiful celebration of how Christ uses ordinary words written by ordinary people to make extraordinary changes in their readers’ lives. I urge you to attend the next one; you’ll be Exponentially blessed!
You can view the whole host of pictures I took by going over HERE
Linda Attaway has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. A blog reviewer for CFBA and a variety of publishers, her blog, Mocha with Linda, also contains her miscellaneous reflections on life, faith, music, and family. A self-described word enthusiast and grammar geek, she also enjoys proof-reading and editing. Linda lives in central Texas with her husband and two teenagers and finds joy in serving as her church’s Pastoral Care Coordinator. You can visit her blog at Mocha With Linda.