Into the whirlwind Reply

PWG-funded summer intern reflects on her experience at the 221st General Assembly (2014)

By Rachel Shussett

Being a cradle Presbyterian, I have been to my fair share of General Assemblies. My father is a Presbyterian pastor, now executive presbyter, and my mom is always heavily involved with whichever church the family is attending, so going to GA has always served as our vacation for the summer.

However, this GA was remarkably different from any that I have attended previously.

When I was younger, I served as an observer: I ran freely in the exhibit hall, getting lots of Frisbees, pens, highlighters, and laughs. At the 2012 General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I served as a Young Adult Advisory Delegate, helping to make major decisions for the church within the Immigration Committee and plenary.

But this year, as one of the reporters on the staff of the Communication Center, I wrote articles for the General Assembly newspaper, which was published daily for those attending the Assembly in Detroit. The articles were also published online for those tracking the events from afar.

This GA was a whirlwind experience for me. I was all over the place, serving multiple purposes at the same time, as I ran around COBO, the convention center of Detroit.

Initially, my main duty was to write for the daily newspaper. I wrote stories about breakfasts, worship services, the translation and interpreter teams, and the number of people attending GA virtually this year. It was quite the gig and resulted in my meeting a lot of really cool people who have important roles both within the PC(USA) and other denominations.

My other role was to handle social media for Presbyterian Today. On a normal day, this would mean posting a link or picture or two on the Facebook and Twitter accounts and maybe posting a relevant picture on Instagram.

At GA, this drastically changed. I was doing live posting from all three accounts, particularly during plenary sessions, to keep those following the action from afar in the loop. Sometimes it meant posting a quote from the sermon at a daily worship service, and other times it meant reporting the results of an important vote in plenary session.

I learned a lot in the 10 days that I spent in Detroit. Prior to GA, I had never written for a daily newspaper–talk about riding by the seat of your pants! It was a crazy adrenaline rush, getting my assignments for the day and then running around chasing the stories before sitting down and writing the actual text in time for deadline. I was forced to really pay attention to the proceedings so that all the information being posted was correct. The work was hard, but so worthwhile.

Overall, I can definitely say that working in the Communication Center at GA 221 (or maybe I should say #GA221) was probably the best way to experience GA. I loved being able to experience so many aspects of the meeting, from the exhibit hall, worship, meals, committees, and plenary.

I am so blessed to be having this opportunity–not only to serve at General Assembly but to be able to work in communications with the Presbyterian Mission Agency as an intern for the summer. Stay tuned for more tales of the Floor 5 Intern!

Editor’s note: Rachel Shussett is the recipient of a Jameson-Hines Scholarship from the Presbyterian Writers Guild. Her General Assembly assignment was part of her work as summer intern for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communication in Louisville, where she is dividing her time between Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterians Today, and the
Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study.

This fall Shussett will be a junior at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. She is majoring in public relations and minoring in journalism.

“These boots were made for writing” Reply

Kathy Bostrom is congratulated by J. Barrie Shepherd at the Presbyterian Writers Guild lunch

Kathy Bostrom is congratulated by J. Barrie Shepherd at the Presbyterian Writers Guild lunch

2014 Distinguished writer talks shoes

By Eva Stimson

Kathleen Bostrom sees parallels between shoes and writing.

“Sometimes we writers have to try on a lot of shoes until we find the ones that fit,” she said June 19 at the Presbyterian Writers Guild lunch at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 221st General Assembly. She said it took some years for her to find her niche as a writer. Bostrom, whose works have been translated into 17 languages around the world, received the Guild’s 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award.

Bostrom said she first tried on “the soft leather shoes of a poet.” She tried the running shoes of a short story writer, then the hiking boots of a novelist, and then the “sensible sturdy shoes of a nonfiction writer.” None of these felt right.

“The shoes I ended up going back to time and time again were the playful shoes of a children’s book writer,” she said. After four-and-a-half years and hundreds of rejection letters, Bostrom finally had her first children’s book accepted for publication.

“Once I found the shoes that fit best, I poured my energy into writing for children.” When writing for children, she said, “I become like a child myself.”

Bostrom confessed that at various times in her career she had the audacity to wish she could be the next Frederick Buechner or the next Katherine Paterson or some other writer she admired. But a woman in her congregation gave her some advice: “You don’t have to worry about filling someone else’s shoes. Your own fit just fine.”

Bostrom challenged listeners: “Go out and do a little shoe shopping. Experiment with a variety of styles. But remember, your shoes fit just fine.”

The distinguished writer award is named for the late David Steele, Presbyterian poet and essayist best known for his “Tuesday Morning” column in The Presbyterian Outlook. The award is given biennially to a Presbyterian writer who blessed the church with his or her writing over the course of a career.

Previous winners include Katherine Paterson, Fredrick Buechner, Ann Weems, Eugene H. Peterson, Gustav Niebuhr, Marj Carpenter, Gayraud Wilmore, Eva Stimson, Kathleen Norris, Bill Tammeus, the late Vic Jameson, John Buchanan and Doris Betts.

Bostrom, who served as co-pastor of Wildwood (Ill.) Presbyterian Church for 22 years, has published numerous articles and more than three dozen books, most for children. Her book Who is Jesus? was a finalist for the 2000 Gold Medallion Award and What About Heaven? was nominated for the People’s Choice Award.

Bostrom’s books have sold several million copies in the 16 years since her first book was published. Sales of her “Little Blessings” series total more than 3 million in the U.S. alone and have been printed in 17 languages, the most recent of which is Indonesian. Italian translations of her books can be found in the Vatican bookstore in Rome.

Robert John Andrews accepting his award for Best First Book

Robert John Andrews accepting his award for Best First Book. Photos by Jerry L. Van Marter.

At its luncheon, the Presbyterian Writers Guild also honored Robert John Andrews, a pastor in Danville, Pennsylvania, as recipient of this year’s Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) First Book Award for Nathaniel’s Call, his novel set during the Civil War. The award honors the best first book by a Presbyterian author published during the calendar years of 2012–2013.

Andrews’ book, self-published in 2012, was selected from among 17 entries in a variety of genres to receive the biennial award. His novel is told from the point of view of a Presbyterian chaplain and a physician attached to a Pennsylvania regiment during the Civil War.

Andrews has been the pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville since 1989. He has been moderator of Northumberland Presbytery and writes a weekly column for the Danville News.

Accepting the award, Andrews said, “I love fiction—could be because I’m a preacher.” He said what he enjoys about fiction writing is “the power of truth being conveyed and getting into the minds and hearts of characters and influencing their motives.” He added, “My aim in fiction is to have readers put the book down and exclaim, ‘That was religious!’”

 

Introducing Rachel Shussett Reply

RachelShussett

Presbyterian Writers Guild-funded summer intern begins work in PC(USA) communications office
By Jerry L. Van Marter

Rachel Shussett, recipient of a Jameson-Hines Scholarship from the Presbyterian Writers Guild, has begun work as summer intern for the Office of Communication in Louisville. Shussett will be dividing her time between Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterians Today, and the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study.

Shussett will be a junior at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. She is majoring in public relations and minoring in journalism. This past year she was a staff writer for Westminster’s weekly newspaper, Holcad (Shussett says the name has something to do with ships). Next year she will be News Editor and is in line to be Editor-In-Chief her senior year.

Shussett currently officially resides in Allentown, Pa., where her father, Steve, is executive for Lehigh Presbytery.

During her May 15-August 15 internship, Shussett will be writing for Presbyterians Today, writing and editing for Presbyterian News Service, and helping prepare the 2015 Mission Yearbook for publication later this summer. Her “bosses” will be Patrick Heery of PT, Billie Healy of MYB and Bethany Furkin of PNS, who will serve as Shussett’s day-to-day supervisor.

Her first BIG assignment will be traveling to Detroit in June to serve on the news reporting staff for the 221st General Assembly. In July, she will cover the New Wilmington Mission Conference for PNS. In August, she will help cover the annual Evangelism and Church Growth Conference.

Of her internship, Shussett says, “I am looking forward to learning from people who have been in communications ministry for a long time and learning how to integrate my ideas into theirs.”

Look for reflections written by Shussett on her summer internship in future editions of The Writer.

Join us in Detroit! Reply

If you will be in Detroit next month for the 221st General Assembly, please plan on attending the Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon on Thursday, June 19. Highlights of the luncheon include:

  • Presentation of the 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award to Kathy Bostrom, author of more than three dozen books, most for children
  • Presentation of the Best First Book Award to Robert John Andrews for his Civil War novel Nathaniel’s Call
  • Brief addresses by the award-winners
  • Information about new membership benefits
  • Election of Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) officers
  • Opportunity to purchase signed copies of PWG-award-winning books

A much-anticipated ritual at the luncheon is the singing of the PWG hymn written by late member Vic Jameson. The luncheon also is an excellent opportunity to meet other PWG members and board members and to network with other writers and aspiring writers.

Tickets for the luncheon may be purchased online for $38 each by anyone registering for General Assembly. Tickets will also be available for $40 each at the COBO Center (convention center) in Detroit prior to the June 19 event.

Novel set during Civil War wins First Book Award Reply

Presbyterian Writers Guild selects Robert John Andrews for prize

By Jerry L. Van Marter

ImageThe Presbyterian Writers Guild has selected Robert John Andrews, a pastor in Danville, Pennsylvania, to receive this year’s Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) First Book Award for his novel set during the Civil War, Nathaniel’s Call. The award honors the best first book by a Presbyterian author published during the calendar years of 2012–2013.

Andrews’ book, self-published in 2012, was selected from among 17 entries in a variety of genres to receive the biennial award. The PPC First Book Award winner is recognized at the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s General Assembly luncheon, which this year will be Thursday, June 19, in Detroit.

Announcing the award, Jane Hines of Nashville, retired director of communications for the Synod of Living Waters and chair of the PPC First Book Award Committee, said, “Several genres are represented in the 17 books we received (teen science fiction, memoirs, poetry, young adult fiction, novels, journals, dissertation re-writes). We were just looking for the best writing in any category and found it in Nathaniel’s Call.

Andrews’ novel is told from the point of view of a Presbyterian chaplain and a physician attached to a Pennsylvania regiment during the Civil War. “From the first page to the last page,” Hines said, “we were captivated by the vivid descriptions, the characterizations, the historical research, the love stories, the flow of words.

“As a Nashville-based committee comprised of Southerners,” Hines added, “we don’t think it will be a best-seller in Vicksburg and Richmond, but we see Nathaniel’s Call as a splendid example of the art of writing.”

Andrews has been the pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville since 1989. He has theology degrees from Princeton and Pittsburgh Theological Seminaries and was ordained in 1978. He and his wife, Elaine, have three children. He has been moderator of Northumberland Presbytery and writes a weekly column for the Danville News.

Other notable entries in the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s PPC First Book Award competition:

  • Second place: Tuesday’s Muse, a book of poetry illustrated with black-and-white photographs, written by J. Todd Jenkins, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville, Tennessee, self-published in 2013.
  • Third place (tie): Something Greater: Culture, Family and Community as Living Story, by Jeanne Choy Tate, published by Pickwick Publications in 2013; and Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, by Ruth Everhart, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans in 2012.
  • Fourth place (tie): Take My Hand, a Theological Memoir, by Andrew Taylor-Troutman, published by Resource Publications in 2012; and Learning from My Father, by David Lawther Johnson, published by Wm.B. Eerdmans in 2012.
  • Honorable mention: Matthew A. Rich for A Week from Next Tuesday, published in 2013 by Wipf and Stock; Neal D. Presa for Here I Am, Lord, Send Me: Ritual and Narrative for a Theology of Presbyterial Ordination in the Reformed Tradition,published in 2012 by Wipf and Stock; and MaryAnn McKibben Dana for Sabbath in the Suburbs, published in 2012 by Chalice Press.

All those who entered the First Book Award competition will be given a chance to stand and be recognized at the Presbyterian Writers Guild luncheon at General Assembly. Those who entered, and especially those who placed in the competition, are encouraged to bring a copy of their book to the luncheon.

Register for January 28 webinar on “Celebrating the Church Year in Verse and Rhyme,” led by Barrie Shepherd Reply

BarrieShepherdIs there a poet hiding inside your soul? Are you a preacher wanting to bring fresh color to your words to move your congregation? Are you ready to spice up your congregation’s liturgy in ways that evoke deep responses and produce lasting memories?

Barrie Shepherd, one of the most renowned church poet-preachers of the past 40 years, wants to share his gifts, his heart, and his skills with you in a webinar at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday, January 28.

This webinar includes:

* Finding your inner poet

* Unleashing your imagination in pulpit and liturgy

* Learning seasoned poets’ best techniques

* Discovering fresh resources in literature

* Exploring the role of poetry in the liturgical seasons

Barrie Shepherd has published 15 books of poetry, preaching, and prayer and more than 600 poems in the Presbyterian Outlook, New Republic, Christian Century, National Catholic Reporter, Christian Science Monitor, America, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and other publications. He is minister emeritus of historic First Presbyterian Church in New York City and has been guest preacher in many major pulpits in the United States, Europe, and Africa. He also has served as Lyman Beecher lecturer at Yale and William Beldon Noble lecturer at Harvard.

Register for the live event (2 p.m. ET, Tuesday, January 28) or the on-demand web replay for $29.95. (All participants in the live event receive complimentary access to the on-demand web replay.) You may also order a DVD of the webinar for $39.95. DVDs will be shipped after the January 28 live event. Visit the website to register, order the DVD, or get more information. For group pricing, to register a group, and if you have any other questions, please contact Jana Blazek at jblazek@pres-outlook.org or 800-446-6008, ext 758.

2014 dues payments due Reply

Your 2014 Presbyterian Writers Guild dues are due. Members will soon receive a PayPal request for funds for the $25, which can be paid by credit card. If you would prefer to pay by check, send $25, plus any additional contribution, payable to “The Presbyterian Writers Guild,” to Bill Lancaster, Treasurer, 105 Rapid River Trail, Greenville, SC 29615. Send questions about your dues to Bill at wlancastertoo@gmail.com.

Presbyterian Writers Guild seeks best new author Reply

Award goes to best first book by a Presbyterian writer

by Jerry L. Van Marter

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) is seeking entries for its biennial First Book Award. The award, previously known as the Jim Angell Award, has been presented since 1996 to the Presbyterian author of the best first book published during the previous calendar year.

Nominations are being accepted now for the best first book by a Presbyterian author published during the calendar years of 2012-2013. Books may be of any type — fiction, non-fiction, theological, how-to, photos with commentary, poetry, etc.

The award was established by the Guild and the estate of the late James W. Angell, a prolific and respected Presbyterian writer, as a means to recognize and encourage new writers. It is now sponsored by the Guild and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

Entries may be submitted by the authors or by others on their behalf. Three copies of the book and a brief statement attesting to the author’s current active membership in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation or presbytery should be sent to the First Book Award Committee, c/o Jane Hines, P.O. Box 50832, Nashville, TN, 37205.

Deadline for submissions is April 1, 2014.

The book needs to be the author’s first book, and has to have a publication date in 2012 or 2013. Include an e-mail address if the sender wishes to be notified that the books were received. The three copies of the book cannot be returned.

Questions about the award or entry process may be directed to Guild President John Underwood or Jane Hines.

Previous Angell Award winners are listed on this website.