Writer Spotlight: Dr. La Verne Tolbert, Ph.D.

Writer Spotlight: Dr. La Verne Tolbert, Ph.D.

Tolbert IMageFor the past two weeks, we have been featuring some of the speakers and panelists of the upcoming UMI Christian Writers Conference that will be held on Friday, April 22-23. Up next is a brief Q&A with Author and UMI’s Vice President of Editorial Dr. LaVerne Tolbert, Ph.D. In addition to being a best-selling author of her book Teaching Like Jesus: A Practical Guide to Christian Education in Your Church, Dr. Tolbert is also a former editor of Family Circle and Bride’s Magazine. Find out more about Dr. Tolbert and her journey to become a successful writer below:

 

When did you discover that you had a passion for writing?

During my early childhood years, my father required me to read at least 5 books every summer. I loved reading and found that I also loved writing.

Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
When I was a magazine editor, I focused on writing non-fiction, and today this remains as my preference. I enjoy writing “how-to,” and my classic text, Teaching Like Jesus, explains how to teach.

What are you looking forward to most about the UMI Christian Writers Conference?
I’m looking forward to networking with and meeting new writers who are interested in working for Urban Ministries, Inc.

With so many other genres and styles of writing, how did you make the decision to pursue a career in Christian writing and publishing?
I’m a former professor of Christian education (Talbot School of Theology). Since my masters and doctoral work are in this field, it’s natural for me to also write for a Christian audience.

Do you have one piece of advice that you’d like to share with someone who is interested in pursuing a career in writing?
My advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in writing is this…write! Often, people say they want to write, and they think about writing, but they don’t actually sit down and write. At the conference, I’ll share my easy-to-follow steps for beginning this process.

 

For more information about the UMI Christian Writers Conference, visit the website.

Writer Spotlight: Katara Patton

Writer Spotlight: Katara Patton

Katara ImageFor the next two weeks, we will be featuring some of the speakers and panelists of the upcoming UMI Christian Writers Conference that will be held on Friday, April 22-23. Up next is a brief Q&A with Author, Editor and Publisher Katara Patton who will be hosting a workshop on top writing tips. Find out more about Katara and her journey to become a successful writer below:

When did you discover that you had a passion for writing?

I loved writing as a child; I really liked my 8th grade grammar class and my teacher too. In that class, I won an essay contest and I got to read the essay on a local radio show program. My teacher was the most supportive. When I told her of an idea to publish a school newspaper, she helped me do it. I think we only had one issue, but I was bitten by the desire to write and publish then.

Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

I like writing non-fiction, however I’ve done a bit of fiction within work (like Sunday School curriculum) and it can be fun too.

What are you looking forward to most about the UMI Christian Writers Conference?

Seeing a lot of old writing friends and giving new faces information to help them break into writing for UMI as well as in other outlets.

With so many other genres and styles of writing, how did you make the decision to pursue a career in Christian writing and publishing?

I’ve always loved Sunday school and studying God’s word. When I realized that UMI was in the Chicagoland area, it seemed like a natural fit. While working on Christian material, I noticed my spiritual life growing by leaps and bounds. I actually get to read the Bible as part of “work” and have often found answers to apply to current personal situations–just by writing Christian material. My faith is so integral in my life, it would show up in any style of writing, but I’m thankful I get to call my work: Christian.

Do you have one piece of advice that you’d like to share with someone who is interested in pursuing a career in writing?

Write. Honestly, that’s it. Write whenever you have the opportunity. Don’t snub your nose at the outlet or the way you begin…if it is only a poem on the back of a church bulletin, it is an opportunity to use your gift. Any writing opportunity can lead to so many other opportunities to write. My first book series was “given” to me by a publisher because I had written anonymously (without credit) for several other authors. If I had only been looking to write books that I got to plaster my name over, I would have passed up those great opportunities and would not have been on the publisher’s mind.

 

For more information about the UMI Christian Writers Conference, including how to register, visit the website here.

 

 

Writer Spotlight: Crystal McDowell

Writer Spotlight: Crystal McDowell

Crystal-McDowell_IMG_4505-2-458x458For the next two weeks, we will be featuring some of the speakers and panelists of the upcoming UMI Christian Writers Conference that will be held on Friday, April 22-23. First up is a brief Q&A with Author, Editor and Blogger Crystal McDowell who will be speaking on “Writing Great Devotionals.” Find out more about Crystal and her journey to become a successful writer below:

When did you discover that you had a passion for writing?

I discovered my passion at a writers conference in 1999. I didn’t have a full understanding of the reason that I was there–but I knew that God was leading me in that direction. One evening at the conference, I called my husband and said, “I’ve found my people!” There was a common bond of exploration and discovery of God’s deeply embedded gifts within us that drew us together. From that very first conference, I landed writing Sunday School lessons leading to bigger writing projects. Bottom line…I never lost that feeling of “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for what I love to do!”

Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

I see potential in writing both–however, in this season of my life writing Christian nonfiction is my strongest impact. I haven’t read as much fiction as I used to, but I’m beginning to explore it more. I believe that a writer’s greatest influence lies in what we are reading–it will be reflected in our work

What are you looking forward to most about the UMI Christian Writers Conference?

Jesus said, “It’s better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I’m looking forward to encouraging other people to follow their dreams in the same way I was strengthened and encouraged to move towards my destiny. There’s something about strengthening others that gives me the fuel to continue to stretch myself as well.

With so many other genres and styles of writing, how did you make the decision to pursue a career in Christian writing and publishing?

I’m open to all genres and styles of writing that give opportunities to shine the Good News of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if I chose Christian writing and publishing–or if it chose me. The gift of creative writing in the Christian field is wide open right now for those who are willing to take the first steps of faith. As believers, our light is to shine wherever we go to whomever partakes of our writing.

Do you have one piece of advice that you’d like to share with someone who is interested in pursuing a career in writing?

The best advice given to me was from a professor at graduate school: practice your A-B-Cs which means Apply the Behind to Chair! Writing is something I do whether I feel like it or not. Alex Haley’s advice also rings in my head when he said, “Your attitude is everything. Believe in yourself and trust your material. To be a successful writer, write every single day whether you feel like it or not…”

 

For more details about the UMI Christian Writers Conference, including registration, visit here.

 

Someone You Should Know: Melvin E. Banks

Someone You Should Know: Melvin E. Banks

Dr Banks1 1Dr. Melvin E. Banks is the founder of Urban Ministries, Inc., the largest independent, Christian, African American publishing company in the world.

Dr. Banks began his spiritual journey at a young age. By the age of twelve, the Alabama native was already sharing Bible stories with younger children and traveling with his mentor to remote parts of Birmingham to give his testimony to adults. During one of their trips, Banks recalled an elderly man reciting a verse that Banks would never forget: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This made a great impression on young Banks, and he dedicated himself to God to help bring the knowledge of God’s Word to Black people.

After receiving degrees in theology and biblical studies from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, Banks began working for Scripture Press, Inc., where he specialized in literature distribution for black churches nationwide. However, he discovered that many African Americans were not interested in the biblical curriculum because they did not see themselves represented in it.

In 1970, he founded Urban Ministries, Inc. (UMI). It was a revolutionary concept at the time to portray positive images of African Americans in the biblical experience. During its first 12 years, UMI operated out of the basement of the Banks’ home. In fact, Banks marketed his first Sunday School curriculum, InTeen, to churches out of the trunk of his car. Over the next few decades, his company has grown to serve over 100,000 Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers across the country, as well as materials for adult education.

Under the leadership of Dr. Banks, UMI has grown to be the largest independent African American-owned and operated religious publisher. UMI materials include Sunday School curriculum, Vacation Bible School resources, books, videos, music, and, of course, Urban Faith, all of which depict or speak to people of color in the context of their culture.

You can listen to Dr. Banks’ daily podcast, Daily Direction, right here on UrbanFaith.com.