Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
This year marks Jerry B. Jenkins’ tenth anniversary as owner of the Christian Writers Guild. We asked Jerry, New York Times best-selling author of more than 175 books, including the 70,000,000-selling Left Behind series, to look back at the Guild and the effect it has had in the last decade. We asked him to speculate about the Guild’s future.
What is the Christian Writers Guild, and why did you attach your name to it?
I bought the Guild from my friend Norman Rohrer in 2001. Norm founded it in the 1960s to teach people to write through a correspondence course. Norm did this using the U.S. mail service, personally mentoring hundreds of students in a pastoral way.
Norm reached a point where he wanted out from under the stress of the business. I agreed to buy the Guild if he would stay on as Dean of Instruction and continue to mentor. I had the course rewritten and expanded, tried to reproduce Norm dozens of times, added an editorial board, switched the instruction from snail mail to e-mail, and poured advertising dollars into the effort.
My goals were: 1) to give back to an industry that had so blessed me; and 2) to restock the pool of Christian writers.
Why was this something you wanted to be involved with?
Norm had a wonderful reputation. His students had seen success, many getting published. I was at a point where I was unable to make the rounds of the Christian writers conferences as I liked. This was a way to teach more widely, though I was busier than ever.
What need were you trying to meet?
I believed—and still do—that there is a need for honest input to writer wannabes, wouldbes, and working writers.
You’ve said that the Guild is the realization of a dream. Could you explain that?
The dream is Goal #2: to restock the pool of Christian writers. My investment in the Guild has been in the multiple seven figures—and I don’t expect to ever make that back. But my goal is not to make money at this. My goal is to get it to where it is at least breaking even. Once it does that, any excess revenue over expenditures would be poured back into the business.
What is the mission of the Guild? Has that changed over the years?
Our mission statement is pretty straightforward and hasn’t changed since 2001: “The Christian Writers Guild exists to educate, train, and support writers who desire to promote a biblically based Christian worldview.”
What does the Guild offer students—beyond the courses, critiques, conferences, and contests that we’ll talk about later? What does the Guild provide to the writing community?
I want the Guild to be more than a club or hobby group. Too many writers are resorting to vanity (subsidy) or self-publishing, which—to my mind—is not legitimate publishing but rather glorified printing. I want to see writers get to the next level, where the publisher takes all the risks and pays the writer, not the other way around.
Beginning writers have a lot to gain from the Guild’s offerings. But what about writers who are already working? What does the Guild offer them?
Our advanced courses, annual conference (Writing for the Soul), and regional novel boot camps are at a level that should benefit writers, regardless how accomplished they are. We also offer manuscript critiques of various levels—including the opportunity in 2011 to have up to ten pages critiqued directly by me. I’m looking forward to becoming personally involved in this Guild service.
The Guild has recently revised (and added) courses and updated its Website, among other changes. Is this a refocusing? Why the changes?
At the risk of using a cliché, we want to remain on the cutting edge. The Guild, under my ownership, is ten years old. It was time to freshen everything: the look, the feel, the image, the course offerings.
Anything new to come?
We are in the embryonic stages of organizing local CWG writing critique groups, which I think has unlimited potential for growth. More on this as things develop.
Each student receives a one-on-one professional writer as a mentor. Why is this important?
This is one of our distinctives and something I wanted to offer from the beginning. The heart of the first incarnation of the Guild was Norm and his mentoring. Writers learn best when they have a mentor with whom they can personally interact.
Who are these mentors, and how are they chosen?
The first couple of dozen were handpicked by me from the hundreds of trusted colleagues I have worked with over the years. I look for accomplished writers, editors, and industry experts with reputations for humility, integrity, and professionalism. Later mentors have come from recommendations from others I respect. In the end, I am responsible for whether a mentor joins us. Our mentors’ pedigrees are outlined on our Website.
How would you answer the following: “I’m on the fence about taking a Guild course (or attending the Writing for the Soul conference) because of the cost. What will I receive that I can’t get by joining a local critique group of other authors who share my faith/passions?”
We don’t apologize for charging what it costs to offer top-of-the-line services from the best people in the industry. You will pay as much or more for college courses or adult education classes. If you are not sure you want to make that investment, local groups have a lot to offer. You can get your feet wet and see if you want to move to the next level. When you’re ready, we’ll be here.
The Guild’s Services:
Regardless your age or skill
level, the Guild offers a course
It all begins with Writing Essentials, your six-lesson initiation into professional writing. Beyond grammar or remedial writing, this course teaches you the secrets it took professionals a lifetime to learn.
From there, you progress through our Apprentice, Journeyman (fiction or nonfiction), and Craftsman (fiction or nonfiction) courses. Each includes the one-on-one mentoring the Guild is known for.
For four days, you’ll be challenged and encouraged to develop your writing craft through a variety of speakers, classes, and clinics, including Jerry’s “Thick-Skinned Manuscript Critique” workshop.
Keynote speakers for the 2011 conference include best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs, humorist Ken Davis, and creativity expert McNair Wilson.
Submission deadline for the 2011 Operation First Novel Contest is September 15, 2011. Winners have included 2010 Christy Award winner Jennifer Valent (Fireflies in December), Tom Pawlik (Vanish), and last year’s winner, Henry McLaughlin (Journey to Riverbend).
We remove names from submissions prior to passing them on to our Editorial Review Team—and neither do we share the names of our team members, allowing for complete freedom of expression.