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.

Nominees sought for best Presbyterian writer Reply

Presbyterian Writers Guild will honor winner at 221st General Assembly (2014)

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) is accepting nominations for its 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award.

The award is given biennially in even-numbered years to recognize the cumulative work and influence — regardless of genre or subject matter — of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) writer. The award will be presented at the PWG luncheon at next summer’s 219th General Assembly.

Previous winners include The Christian Century editor/publisher John M. Buchanan, The Message author Eugene H. Peterson, former Presbyterian News Service director Marj Carpenter, former Presbyterians Today editor Eva Stimson, novelists Doris Betts and Katherine Paterson, poet Ann Weems, Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus, African-American religious historian Gayraud Wilmore, essayists Kathleen Norris and Frederick Buechner, and journalists Gustav Niebuhr and the late Vic Jameson.

The award is named for R. David Steele, a Presbyterian pastor best known for his whimsical books of poetry and thought-provoking column, “Tuesday Morning,” in The Presbyterian Outlook.

Nominations for the award should include the writer’s PC(USA) affiliation, list of published work, and a 100-word essay describing why the nominee is deserving of the award. Contact information for both the nominator and the nominee should be included.

Send nominations to Emily Enders Odom by email; by fax to (336) 299-5304, or by mail to 308 N. Chapman St., Greensboro, NC 27403.

Deadline for nominations is Jan. 15, 2014.

PWG board okays summer 2014 internship grant Reply

Jameson-Hines scholarship will support Rachel Shussett’s work with PC(USA) Office of Communication

by Jerry L. Van Marter

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) board of directors has approved a $3,000 grant from the Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund to support a summer internship in 2014 for Rachel Shussett.

Shussett, a student at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, was approved for a 2013 summer internship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communication, supported by a $3,000 scholarship from the PWG, but the internship was cancelled when the communication office underwent a reorganization last January.

Office of Communication leaders Jerry Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service, Patrick Heery of Presbyterians Today, and Billie Healy of the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study have resurrected the internship and the PWG has renewed its financial commitment to the program. Shussett will divide her time writing for all three participating Office of Communication entities.

The Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund was created by a bequest from Vic Jameson, the late former editor of Presbyterians Today, and an endowment created in honor of Jane Hines when she retired as communications director for the Synod of Living Waters and editor of its newspaper, The Voice. She currently serves on the PWG board of directors.

Scholarships are awarded to Presbyterian college or seminary students who have a demonstrated interest in writing for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to further their education or skills development.

Big Tent Is Big Success 1

By Jerry L. Van Marter

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) played an important part in the success of 2013 Big Tent, which drew more than 1,700 Presbyterians to Louisville Aug. 1-3 to celebrate Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry and mark the 30th anniversary of Presbyterian reunion and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.

The Guild’s signature event at Big Tent was a “Poetry Jam,” featuring PWG board members J. Barrie Shepherd and Dee Wade. A large crowd nearly filled the chapel at the Presbyterian Center for an evening of inspired readings by Barrie and Dee. Bill McConnell, director of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and a gifted jazz pianist, punctuated the poetry readings with beautiful musical selections. Several who attended commented that the Poetry Jam was the highlight of Big Tent for them.

The Guild, along with The Presbyterian Outlook, Presbyterian Media Mission and the Office of Communications Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, co-sponsored the Presbyterian Communicators Network conference, one of 10 partner conferences that comprised Big Tent.

PWG board member Bill Lancaster led a workshop on “Electronic Self-Publishing” that drew a large crowd. Bill has enjoyed tremendous success with his self-published novel, The Beast and the Cross.

Barrie Shepherd’s workshop on writing poetry, a last-minute addition to the Big Tent schedule, was also well-attended.

Board member Emily Odom moderated a popular workshop entitled “Testimony Time: Techniques for Getting and Telling Faith Stories.” She was joined by the Rev. Cheyanna Losey, pastor, and two elders from United Church in Woodhull, Ill., who have collected faith stories from church members and gathered them into a book.

Through a personal connection with the PWG’s Bill Lancaster, a workshop on “The Use of Drama in Ministry,” led by ruling elder Anthony Dawson of Greer, S.C., and his troupe of actors, drew one of the largest crowds at Big Tent. The Guild sponsored Anthony’s workshop.

Guild members were also prominent in the Big Tent Communications Center. More than 60 stories were published by a staff of 11 reporters, led by Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service.

The Presbyterian Communicators Network Conference drew among the most registrants for Big Tent of all the partner conferences, and PCN-sponsored events consistently drew more attendees than were actually registered for the PCN conference itself. This is a tribute to the quality of the workshops and events offered.

Thanks to all Presbyterian Writers Guild members for your continuing support of the Guild. That support lifts up the art and craft of writing as well as the mission and ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

2012 in review 3

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Get ready for marketing Webinar Reply

Building the Market for Your New Book
November 6, 2012; 2 pm EST
A 90-Minute Webinar
Co-sponsored by
The Presbyterian Outlook
and the Presbyterian Writers Guild

Thom Kephart

Okay, so you have written this fantastic novel, perhaps a sizzling romantic mystery, so what do you do now? Since you are neither famous or infamous enough to have agents lined up at your door, you decide to go the self-publishing route. Building on the wonderful information derived from the previous webinar by the Presbyterian Writer’s Guild and The Presbyterian Outlook, you work your way through the process of identifying a publisher and even getting your novel digitalized. Your book now exists.

Thom Kephart

Thom Kephart

Your novel would rival the DaVinci Code, but how do you build a market for your work? Even though you do not have a lot of money to invest in an advertising campaign, you have the amazing resource of the Internet. How can you make use of this rapidly developing resource to market your new book?
The Presbyterian Writer’s Guild, in cooperation with The Presbyterian Outlook, is providing you a Webinar to address this question. Thom Kephart will again be guiding this webinar. Thom Kephart works at as Community Outreach Manager responsible for independent publishing, brand building and awareness expansion He has emerged as a major player in developing the rise of independent publishing.

Plan ahead and save the date. Get ready to let the world know about what you have written.

Tuesday, November 6
at 2:00 p.m. EST
(11:00 a.m. PST)

Price: $29.95
$19.95 for Presbyterian Writers Guild members
To register, click here

–Stephen McCutchan

Guild honors Buchanan, Kovacs at luncheon Reply

Guild honors Buchanan, Kovacs

by Kim Coulter, Office of the General Assembly

John Buchanan (right) receives award from John Underwood, PWG president

PITTSBURGH (July 5, 2012) – The Presbyterian Writers Guild sponsors a General Assembly luncheon biennially and issues awards for distinguish writer and first-book. At this year’s luncheon the Rev. John M. Buchanan was named winner of the 2012 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award. The award is given to a writer who has distinguished himself or herself in journalism, literature or scholarly writings. Buchanan has written books, including A New Church for a New World; Being Church, Becoming Community; and Sermons for the City, sermons and weekly columns as editor and publisher of The Christian Century.

Linda Valentine was there to say a few words about her friend and former pastor from Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Buchanan, who retired at the end of January after 48 years of ministry. Valentine was present at his retirement. “Buchanan was present at our children’s baptisms and confirmations”and throughout the time she and her family were members at Fourth, Valentine said. See text of her full remarks below.

Jack Haberer, editor and publisher of The Presbyterian Outlook said, “I don’t think of John so much as a distinguished writer, but as a distinguished pastor.” For four decades Buchanan has been pastor of the one of largest churches in the PC(USA) “and the church is still growing,” Haberer said.

“I’m honored beyond words. Especially because of the award name, the David Steele Award,” Buchanan said as he accepted the award. He went on to say, “I see myself not as a writer, but as a reader.”

Buchanan said he loves his work at The Christian Century, partially because he “gets to hang out with some great writers.” For those who love to read, he added, “How incredibly powerful it can be. The Word of God is powerful. When the word becomes flesh in our words. This is what we (pastors) are about.”

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation’s First-Book Award recipient is the Rev. Kenneth E. Kovacs, for his book The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter and Conviction, published in 2011 by Peter Lang. Judges said he won for superior writing skills evident in this effort to make a scholarly work understandable and interesting.

Kovacs started his acceptance speech by telling about a dream he had three years ago, in which he saw papers from a box of his, blowing away in the wind. He felt this dream was referring to his 500-page Ph.D. dissertation that was put away in a box collecting dust. “It was then that I contacted a publisher,” he said.

He spoke of the Princeton Theological Seminary Professor James Loder with admiration and affection. “He was the most demanding professor,” Kovacs said. He said he especially admired Loder for “his faith, insight and reliance on God.”

Also announced this year is the Jameson-Hines Scholarship for Presbyterian students, graduates or under-grads enrolled in an accredited college, university or seminary. If you are planning or willing to write for the church through books, poems, blogs, news reports, feature stories, editing or curriculum writing, apply through PWG, The maximum scholarship amount is $5,000.

The Distinguished Writer Award carries a monetary grant of $1,000, plus travel and expenses to General Assembly. The 2009-10 winner was Eugene H. Peterson, author of more than 30 books including The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (NavPress Publishing Group, 2002).

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation’s First-Book Award, formerly called the Angell Award, is given to Presbyterian authors of fiction, non-fiction, theological, how-to, photos with commentary, etc.– but should be the first-ever published book. The 2010 winner was Rebecca Barnes-Davies for her book, 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Help Make a Difference (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY).

If you are interested in following their website blog or PWG membership, go to: or join them on Facebook at “The Presbyterian Writers Guild.”

Linda Valentine pays tribute to John Buchanan Reply

Tribute to John Buchanan upon receiving the David Steele Distinguished Writer Award from the Presbyterian Writers Guild at the 220th General Assembly (2012) in Pittsburgh, Penn. 

Remarks by Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Council PC(USA) 

John Buchanan

“I spoke at the [Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago] congregational meeting to dissolve the  relationship with John Buchanan. I began by saying we certainly have some strange nomenclature in the Presbyterian Church-– Stated Clerk, Moderator, Ruling Elder, Session.

“But dissolve the relationship??? The one who is likely to dissolve today is me!

“I ended by saying no act of Presbyterian polity can dissolve our relationship with John.

“And indeed that has been true. John and I serve on the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation board. And John continues to serve the church and to be a friend.

“Our family grew up with John as our pastor.                                                                                                         

“Chris [Valentine] and I joined as newlyweds shortly before John came.

Linda Valentine

“He came in the year our first child, Ben, was born. He baptized our daughters, Jackie and Christie, and confirmed all three. We have all gone on mission trips, been in pageants, served meals, lit the Advent candle, learned in Sunday school, and served as elders or deacons, or both. Many of our closest friends are those we made here. Fourth Church, and John in particular, have shaped our lives. John’s pastoral care, his leadership and the words of his sermons have guided us through losses and disappointments, vocational ups and downs and joys – so many, many joys.

“And we’re not here [in Chicago] anymore because of John.

“About six years ago, I received a call – out of the blue – from a recruiter who was searching for someone to lead the mission work of the denomination. I sensed John’s hand in this, and so immediately called him.  As we spoke, he told me what a huge challenge it would be. ‘Can it be done?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know’ was his honest reply, ‘but it’s worth a try. The world needs what Presbyterians do best,’ he said.

“John believes that in his soul. John believes deeply in the Presbyterian Church, a church that is open and democratic, that respects diversity of opinion as each and every one of us is called to wrestle with what it means to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In his words, John ‘wants the church to be involved in sticky issues,’ to be bold and prophetic, to challenge and at the same time to do so respectfully. And no one does that better, no one models that more, than John himself.

 “In these past six years, I have travelled extensively, meeting thousands of Presbyterians and hundreds of Presbyterian leaders. Sitting for so many years in the pews at Fourth, I had great reverence for John, but I honestly had little awareness of the church beyond this congregation. And what I’ve seen is this:

“No one in the whole denomination is mentioned as often with such respect as John Buchanan. Seminary presidents and professors, pastors, denominational leaders, staff – even those who do not know of my connection to Fourth – will quote him, cite him, speak of his leadership.

“Through his service in the denomination, as moderator of the General Assembly, speaker and writer, on innumerable committees and projects, in Christian-Jewish dialogues, as leader of the Covenant Network and through his writing and work on the Christian Century, John’s impact on the church is tremendous.

“John has cultivated leadership for the whole church. His congregation is like a great teaching hospital. John’s protégées are everywhere.  Fourth church members have served on the boards of every denominational agency. Former ministers are serving in congregations throughout the country, and in leadership positions in seminaries and church related organizations.

“John has a remarkable gift for seeing the talents and potential in others. By calling those forth he has blessed people beyond what they would have imagined for themselves. I have been a beneficiary of that great gift of John’s as have so many others.

“My husband Chris gets to travel with me, and we have seen scores of preachers across the country and in other parts of the world. More than once Chris has said, ‘I think I’m more a Buchanatarian than I am a Presbyterian.’

“That’s funny, but John wouldn’t like it said. John loves being Presbyterian and would never claim that he invented it — although he certainly and completely embodies what it means to be Presbyterian.

“In a book[1], John describes the Presbyterian, Reformed tradition. He writes that it is not a list of specific beliefs but a way of being Christian that is characterized by ‘intellectual rigor, intentional worldliness, an open-minded trust in God’s sovereignty, God’s gracious and good creation, the God-given freedom and responsibility of the human creature, a realistic appraisal of the human condition, and an always hopeful trust in God’s care and providence – all growing out of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, who is head of the church and Lord of all.’

“No wonder Chris is confused.  That way of being Christian describes John and how he has lived his life, the model he has been for us, and the message with which he has inspired us again and again.

“May God bless you and keep you, John, as you continue to take your light into the world.”


[1] Presbyterians Being Reformed, Reflections on what the Church Needs Today, ed. Robert Bullock, Jr., Geneva Press 2006