Giving Back

Portland, Oregon

This week I have the privilege of coaching a group of writers at the Oregon Christian Writers’ Coaching Conference in Portland. I’m flying there today, in fact. This wonderful event offers writers a chance to meet with editors, authors, publishers and literary agents during the four-day conference. I’m really looking forward to being part of it!

Ever since I was asked to speak to writers for the first time years ago, I have leaped at the chance. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and my way of giving back to the wonderful, generous people who have mentored me along the way. I think especially of my first mentor, a dear Christian author named Alma Barkman. We first met more than thirty years ago.

S__36F4I lived in Canada back then and had just begun to write. But I was too timid to tell anyone except my husband about the novel I was working on during my children’s nap time. One day I felt God challenging me not to keep it a secret anymore. I needed to have the courage and faith to admit to anyone and everyone that I felt called to write Christian fiction. It was a scary step to take. What if people laughed at me? What if I failed?

One morning when my husband Ken was teaching music lessons at our home, one of his students, a friendly young fellow who was waiting for his turn, noticed me typing away at my desk. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.

I could have replied, “Just typing,” but I decided to be brave and admit the truth. “Well, I’m working on a novel. I want to be a writer.”

I waited for him to laugh or make a joke of it, but he smiled and said, “That’s really cool! My mom is a writer. You should meet her sometime.” When I asked what kind of writing she did, he got a little shy and said, “Well, we’re Christians. She writes devotions for a publisher called Moody Press in Chicago.”

mom and kids
Celebrating my first books with my kids

I was astounded! The next week his mother, Alma Barkman, came with him to his lesson. For the next few years, this amazing woman took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know about writing and getting published. She invited me to join her critique group and took me to my first writers’ conference. When my book was finally published, Alma said, “I feel like a proud, new grandmother!”

We lived in a city of some 300,000 people at the time, and yet God had brought one of the few published Christian writers right to my door! I still wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t taken that step of faith and found the courage to admit that God might be calling me to write.

quoteI understand the hopes and dreams of the writers I’ll be coaching in my class this week. And I can’t wait to encourage them to have faith, and to put their dreams in His hands, because God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20).


  1. I’m at step one and feel as you said you felt at that stage. I keep telling myself I’m writing as an act of obedience weather or not anyone else reads it.

    1. That’s an excellent start, Marilyn. Put your writing in God’s hands and trust His timing. Someday you’ll look back at how far He has brought you and you’ll be amazed by His faithfulness when we’re faithful to His calling.

  2. Thank you so much for posting that. I’m always reading the story about how you became a writer with tears in my eyes.
    I remember very well when you were having a speech in Switzerland maybe three years ago and you were sharing your story. I was sitting in the audience and listening in wonder to every word.
    At that moment I had already finished my first novel and was in desperate search for a publisher. I was very much in doubt about my writing. But I remember very well my way back to the train station. The sun was shining though there was a heavy wind blowing and I really felt God’s presence in this moment and I was so encouraged to hang on, no matter what.
    Two years ago, I found a publisher. My first novel “Die Kreuzträgeirn” has been published in German and in Dutch. Now, my second novel is about to be published.
    God really is faithful! Thank you so much for all the encouragement. I still remember many things you told us then and pray for you too that God may bless you abundantly, because you have been such a blessing to me.
    Greetings from Switzerland

  3. What an amazing story! I’m here with all these aspiring writers and remembering how I began so I’m already emotional but your story has brought me to tears. A thousand congratulations!

  4. Thank you for coming to speak to us. You greatly encouraged me. Just hearing you say that you thought we were good writers meant a lot. Thank you for sharing your journey and the lessons you learned along the way. I can’t wait to put all of it into practice. I hope our paths cross again in the future.

    1. I enjoyed myself very much, Kristen. It was a great conference! I’m glad my class was encouraging for you. I look forward to seeing your book in print, someday. Keep writing for God’s glory! Lynn

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