Speakers

Keynote Speakers


Brian D. McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he is developing an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors, church planters, and lay leaders called Convergence Leadership Project.



Enuma Okoro

Enuma Okoro is an award-winning writer, editor, speaker, and creative consultant whose work focuses on the intersections of narrative, culture, diaspora and identity. She has published four books, and her articles and essays have been featured in The New York TimesThe Atlantic MonthlyThe UK and US GuardianCNN Africa, The Washington Post, Essence Magazine, and other media outlets. In 2014 Okoro delivered a TEDx talk in London focused on global perceptions of multicultural women, identity and the power of cultural narratives. In March 2018 she was recognized on the 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria list and featured in The Guardian Nigerian national newspaper. Her most recent speaking invitations include the Harvard Business School, the Atlantic Dialogues Conference, The Abu Dhabi Culture Summit 2018, and Oxford University. In 2012, Okoro was the first woman of African descent to speak from the historic 200 year-old platform of The American Church in Paris, France. Martin Luther King Jr. was the first man of African descent to speak from the same platform in 1965, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. In 2014, Okoro relocated from New York to Abuja after a lifetime overseas in four countries on three continents. She is working on her first novel. www.enumaokoro.com.

Seminar: Identity and Narrative
Identity, belonging, home, displacement, and marginalization are increasingly necessary topics for public discussion. As Christians, our primal identity is that of belonging to Christ but that does not negate the significance of our other identities. We need to learn to tell our unique stories of diversity and to find ways of listening to and engaging the stories of those different from us. How can creative nonfiction and the personal essay become a powerful means of listening to and telling necessary stories of identity? How can narrative help us better understand and engage these issues? This seminar will explore these questions by introducing participants to modern personal essays that broach these topics. The following two essays are recommended prior to attending this seminar:


Preacher & Seminar Leader


Jacqui Lewis

Jacqueline J. Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and earned her Ph.D. in Religion and Society/Psychology and Religion at Drew University. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Dr. Lewis hosted “Just Faith,” an on-demand television program on MSNBC.com and is a frequent media commentator. Her books include The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leaders in Multi-racial, Multi-cultural Congregations, The Pentecost Paradigm: Ten Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation (April 2018), and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! She is currently at work on a book about a path to revolutionary love.

Seminar: Write the Vision; Make it Plain
Psychologist Howard Gardner reminds us that leaders tell compelling stories that change the existing story; they invite followers into a new story. Writing – whether sermons, blog posts, essays, newsletter articles, Facebook posts or tweets – gives us incredible opportunities to change hearts and minds and grow a movement of love and justice. Bring your personal passion to the room. What is the core message you want to get out in the world? Let’s write together – moving, tight, inspirational writing that heals our souls and the world.

 


Seminar Leaders



Robert Benson

Robert Benson has written more than twenty books about the search for and the discovery of the Holy in the midst of our everyday lives, work critically acclaimed in publications as diverse as The New York Times, Publishers’ Weekly and American Benedictine Review. He is a lifelong churchman, an alumnus of The Academy for Spiritual Formation, a member of The Friends of Silence & of the Poor, and was named a Living Spiritual Teacher by Spirituality & Practice.com. He travels the country speaking for a wide variety of retreats and conferences. He lives and writes, pays attention and says his prayers at his home in Jackson, Mississippi. He is always happy to hear from folks at rbstudio2@mac.com.

Seminar: Dancing on the Head of a Pen
This is a seminar about the ten best practices that I know for becoming a working write: a writer who knows what they are writing and to whom they are writing, a writer who has a discipline and a process they stick to, a writer who can evaluate their work and finish the work and find it a home.

 


Nancy Bryan

Nancy Bryan is Editorial VP at Church Publishing Incorporated, an official publisher for the Episcopal Church. Her dreams for CPI include being the place “the conversations happen;” the acquisition of challenging, engaging, and thought-provoking books is a part of the fulfillment of that vision.

Seminar: “How’s that work?” The Process Toward Publication at Church Publishing Incorporated
While every house has its own distinct process, there are similarities along the way. Nancy Bryan will talk about the process used by CPI, an official publisher for the Episcopal Church, and how those particular decisions were made.​

 


Jeff Chu

Jeff Chu is an award-winning journalist, essayist, and author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?—which was featured on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. A contributing editor at Modern Farmer and a frequent contributor to Travel + Leisure, he grew up as a journalist at TIME and has also written for The New York Times MagazineFast Company, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. An ordained elder in the Reformed Church in America, he has a love-hate relationship with Twitter, suffers the agony of being a 49ers fan, and can’t imagine life without rice. He hates marzipan.

Seminar: The Essay: The Genre of Freedom and Possibility
We’ll examine the diverse possibilities of the essay, from its historical forms to its present-day manifestations. Drawing on insights and examples gleaned from the past 1,400 years of essay writing, we’ll explore questions including how much confession is too much confession, what an essay can (or should) do, and what you might want to do in your own experiments with the genre.

Seminar: Stop Right There: Being Your Own Best Editor
As writers, we have so much we want to do—with a sentence, with a paragraph, with a chapter, with a book. Often, it’s too much. We overwrite. Our prose turns purple to the point of garishness. Or we tinker and tweak until we have lost all sense of what makes sense. In this workshop, we’ll talk together about some strategies for editing yourself well. And we’ll explore some basic disciplines to help with that most under-appreciated fruit of the writing spirit: self-control.

Advanced Writer’s Workshop
The Advanced Writer’s Workshop is for seasoned writers who wish to take their writing to the next level and to examine more deeply the connection between their craft and their faith. Under the leadership of Jeff Chu, the class will begin with a pre-conference lunch on Tuesday, June 5th and will meet every afternoon. Meetings will not conflict with other seminars. Together, we’ll explore healthy writing habits, the role of fear, ruthless self-editing, and our sense of call to writing. Networking with other writers and industry professionals will be a key component, including group meals and other opportunities. Participation in the advanced offering is by application only and costs an additional $199. Only those registered for the Buechner Writer’s Workshop may apply and participate. A link to the online application will be included in your registration confirmation email.

 


Rachelle Gardner

Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary Management, representing both fiction and nonfiction. A publishing industry veteran since 1995, she has worked in-house at two publishing companies and worked with more than 150 authors to bring their books to publication. She has edited books published by HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random house and more. Rachelle represents an impressive list of more than 50 bestselling and award-winning authors.

Seminar: Get a Literary Agent and Get Published
Do you need a literary agent? This workshop covers what agents do, how to determine if you need an agent, and how to find the right one. We’ll discuss how to know when you’re ready to seek representation, and how to successfully attract an agent or publisher’s attention. You’ll learn the three-pronged approach agents and publishers use to make decisions; the three kinds of materials you’ll need to prepare when pursuing publication; the three parts of a terrific query letter; and the secrets for standing out from the crowd. You’ll leave this workshop with the tools and the confidence you need to pursue publication of your work.

Seminar: Book Proposals that Sell
Your book proposal is the tool that sells your book—first to an agent, then to a publisher. What makes a strong proposal? Why do we need proposals for fiction? We’ll look at all the elements, including:

  • How to write an attention-grabbing one-sentence hook.
  • How to summarize your book in one paragraph.
  • How to discuss the competition and include comparable books.
  • What author information you should include.
  • How to address marketing and platform in your proposal.
  • … and everything else you need to know to create a winning proposal.

 


Al Hsu

Al Hsu (pronounced “shee”) is senior editor for IVP Books at InterVarsity Press, where he acquires and develops books in such areas as culture, discipleship, church and ministry, and global mission. Al holds a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a master’s from Wheaton College Graduate School, and has served as a columnist for Christianity Today magazine. He is the author of three books: Grieving a Suicide, The Suburban Christian, and Singles at the Crossroads. He and his family live in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Seminar: What Makes for a Life-Changing Book?
Why do some books change people’s lives while others don’t? What makes for a truly transformative reading experience? IVP senior editor Al Hsu conducted his PhD research on how emerging adults read, and his findings shed light on the dynamics that contribute to actual transformation. Those attending this session will learn insights from educational theory and hear from readers on how books were life-changing for them.

 


Marilyn McEntyre 

Marilyn McEntyre is a writer and professor of medical humanities at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program. She cares about connecting spirituality, politics, food, healthcare, care for the earth and its creatures, care for language and public discourse, and finding new ways to live together on a planet that needs healing. Her writing has appeared in The Christian Century, Weavings, Sojourners, Prism, Conversations, Christianity Today, Academic Medicine, Medical Humanities, Literature and Medicine, and a variety of other academic and trade publications. She earned her B.A. at Pomona College, M.A. at U.C. Davis, Ph.D. at Princeton University in Comparative Literature. She has taught at Princeton University, the College of New Jersey, Mills College, Dominican University and Westmont College and now teaches at the UCSF/UC Berkeley Joint Medical Program. She is a vegetarian, has an expanding family of wonderfully interesting adult children and stepchildren, children-in-law, and grandchildren, loves to hear her husband read aloud, walks in the woods whenever possible, wants to help heal the planet, and doesn’t think we can do that without imagination, compassion, humility, and a massive paradigm shift.

Seminar: Make a List: How a Simple Practice Opens Avenues of Reflection 
This session—drawing on me new book, coming out in February—will focus on how list making leads to other things—how lists open new possibilities, help clarify purposes, how lists grow up to be poems or tables of contents for books that want to be born. We’ll take time for brief directed exercises in letting lists grow and take you where they will.

Seminar: Visions and Revisions
At various points in composition one’s “sense of the whole” can shift and change. This session will consider the gentle art of revision—what happens as you develop your first draft, and what can happen as you reread and rethink what you’ve written. Revision can range from tinkering and fine-tuning to radical reframing that takes courage, humility, and a sense of adventure.

Seminar: Writing to Find Out
“How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” is a question worth claiming. It’s a reminder to writers that the process of writing isn’t recording thoughts or feelings that have already happened, but a process of generating or discovering or allowing thoughts and feelings to come, giving them a place and a way to be made explicit. We’ll reflect together on writing as receiving, exploring, and allowing, and do a few exercises designed to encourage receptivity, curiosity and discovery in the course of writing.

 


Brian Allain

Brian Allain serves as Director of the Frederick Buechner Center, provides marketing consulting services, and produces two series of spiritual writers’ conferences: Writing for Your Life and Publishing in Color. At the Buechner Center, Brian led the launch of Mr. Buechner’s online presence and grew his social media reach to over 2 million Facebook fans and over 300 thousand Twitter followers. He also developed an international seminary partnership program that includes 48 seminaries in 13 countries. Brian partnered with Anne Lamott to create the self-published book Buechner 101: An Introduction to Frederick Buechner and supported Zondervan in the development of two new Buechner books released in 2017: The Remarkable Ordinary, and A Crazy, Holy Grace. Brian has co-developed writers’ conferences at Princeton Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Seminary, Belmont University, and other locations. He also provides marketing consulting services to several spiritual authors and institutions.

www.enlivenyourtribe.com | www.writingforyourlife.com | www.publishingincolor.com

Seminar: Marketing for Spiritual Writers
The quality of your writing is not the only component necessary for success as an author. It is also increasingly important for you to know how to reach people – in order both to get a book deal and to successfully sell your books.  You can’t help people through your books unless they find you and learn what you have to say.

This session will cover the most important elements of marketing yourself as a spiritual writer:

  • Strategic positioning – how to find your niche and become known 
  • Building your following – why it matters and how to do it 
  • How marketing is different for spiritual writers 
  • Social media marketing recommendations 
  • Tactical Facebook marketing guidelines 
  • Facebook advertising