Ramona Richards

Ramona Richards started making stuff up at three, writing it down at seven, and selling it at eighteen. She’s been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one. Twenty-five years later, she’s edited more than 350 publications, including novels, CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Ramona has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and many others. The author of eight books, she’s now the fiction editor for Abingdon Press. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

Track Changes

Are You a Cyfarwyddion?

Don’t worry about looking up that word. I’ll get to the meaning in a minute.

Recently, one of the Abingdon authors, Krista Phillips, posted a blog about marketing and the inner conflicts we sometimes have about selling our own work. As Christians, we are taught to embrace humility and to reject bragging, especially about ourselves.

Yet we also believe that God has gifted us with unique voices and hearts for telling great stories that embrace His Word and share that message with others, just as He directed us to do. We remember that He shared His lessons in the form of parables, and that storytelling is something that resonates in all of our hearts―more than some folks want to believe.

I sometimes hear from people who “never read fiction; those stories are just made up.” Oh, what they’re missing! Because centuries before nonfiction books clustered on library shelves, back when the world was lit only by fire, our history, our heroes, our faith, and our traditions were passed on, generation to generation, by storytellers.

You, each and every one of you, are one of their heirs.

In almost every language, a special word (often more than one) is used for the guest who was revered, welcomed, and embraced around every hearth.


And that’s just a few. The word we’re most familiar with—bard—was a particular class of poet storyteller, usually connected with one household, supported by the lord of the land. The bard composed verses that passed on history, tales, and legends of the household. Other, less lofty (and less compensated) storytellers committed to memory prodigious numbers of tales. In one Celtic tradition, a potential storyteller spent at least twelve to fifteen years learning and reciting, memorizing more than 250 prime stories and 100 secondary stories that could be shared at anytime.

That’s a lot to keep in mind. In the case of the Welsh cyfarwyddion, this contributed to the creation of the triads,

which made easy memory cues. They’d use them to remember kings, battles, heroic tales (“The Three Chieftains of Arthur’s Court” or “The Three Battle-Leaders”), but they would also have triads that passed on common wisdom. One of my favorites: “Three things to be controlled above all others: the hand, the tongue, desire,” familiar words if you’ve ever read James 3.

Storytelling is, if you will, a part of our cultural DNA.

Like many writers, I come from a long line of storytellers. As a kid, I perched on my grandfather’s knee and listened to a bunch of folks who’d just spent their days in the fields tell one story after another, most of them full of fun and pranks, with lessons hanging barely beneath the surface. When I grew up, I turned all intellectual and pretentious, and wrote such pieces as In the Image of Our Fathers: Formulaic Heroes as Classic Myths―a grand title for a master’s thesis that compared modern genre heroes to the classic quest myth.

In other words, Louis L’Amour’s tales of the Sacketts bear a great resemblance to Beowulf―and the travels and travails of the Bible heroes. Are there any greater adventures than that of Paul’s shipwreck or David’s battles? (I’ve always said that if you really want to bring boys to Scripture, delay teaching them John and start with 1 and 2 Samuel.)

So what does all this rambling about storytelling have to do with marketing books?

You have two gifts from two traditions: one of words; one of faith. You also have the directive to share your faith with as many people as possible. Your gift, your biggest opportunity to do that, is with your words.

Fiction may be entertaining, just as the stories of the cyfarwyddion were. But the lessons are always, always “hanging barely beneath the surface.” So whether you’re gathered around a fire or curled up in a recliner, if you’re reading or writing, you are in the process of sharing our traditions, history, and faith.

So to market a book is not bragging. It’s taking your light out from under a bushel.

Whoever tells the story, shapes the culture.