2017 Conference Faculty - Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference | Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference

2017 Conference Faculty

Our stellar 2017 faculty has the passion and ability to help Christian writers meet the challenges of today’s writing and publishing world. We will continue to add additional information as the conference date nears.


Sandra Aldrich | Author & Speaker

Sandra AldrichSandra P. Aldrich, the 1977 founder of the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference, is a popular speaker and award-winning author or co-author of twenty-three books. Her Appalachian coal camp novel, Zetta’s Dream, won the 2016 Silver Scroll Award from the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She has a Master of Arts degree in literature and communications, but says her “Ph.D. in the School of Hard Knocks” is more useful when she is writing books or speaking to varied audiences. She handles life’s serious issues with insight and humor, and her speaking style is “make a point, tell a story.” The tweet tag of “Loves the Lord, family and all things Appalachian” quickly summarizes who she is. For additional information, please visit her website at sandraaldrich.com


Dennis Hensley | Author, Chairman of Professional Writing Department, Taylor University

DrDennisEHensley2015 Dennis E. Hensley holds four college degrees in communications, including a Ph.D. in English from Ball State University. He is chairman of the Department of Professional Writing at Taylor University, where he holds the rank of full professor. He is a columnist for Christian Communicator magazine and the author of more than 60 books. His ten novels include Pseudonym (Whitaker House, 2016), and his nine writing textbooks include How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It (Random House), Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan) and Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (Bold Vision Books, 2016).  More than 3,500 of Dr. Hensley’s freelance articles have appeared in such periodicals as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, People, War Cry, Evangel, Reader’s Digest, Essence, People, and Vital Christianity, among many others. He served as a sergeant in the United States Army and was awarded six medals for service in Vietnam. Dr. and Mrs. Hensley have two grown married children, Nathan and Jeanette, and four grandkids.

Worship Leader

Scott Griffin

Scott Griffin - 2994Scott Griffin, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, has been playing the piano as long as anyone can remember. In his school years, Scott was an active participant in many musical events, receiving awards at the regional and national levels. After graduating from the Moody Bible Institute as a piano performance major, he was Pianist and Music Ministry Coordinator for The Moody Church from 2004–2013. Over the past few years, Scott has teamed-up with Alan Curtis Tripp to present duo piano concerts throughout the country, where together they are known as Captivating Keyboards. When in the Chicago area, Scott is the regular keyboardist for Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago, and provides original music for the Unshackled radio drama produced by Pacific Garden Mission. He loves to arrange and improvise in all kinds of musical styles, and in everything that he plays, Scott aims to communicate Christ’s love, joy, purpose, comfort and victory through the gift of music.


(Listed alphabetically)

Dan Balow | Literary Agent, The Steve Laube Agency

Dan started in Christian publishing in 1983 and over the last 30+ years has been invScreen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.42.34 PMolved with the business side of the industry in marketing, sales, foreign and domestic rights management, audio books, digital publishing, and acquisitions.  He joined The Steve Laube Agency in July 2013.  Dan’s strengths would be his understanding of book marketing, what it takes to be successful in the current publishing environment and how all the pieces of the publishing “puzzle” fit together.  Dan served on the executive board of the Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association, the trade association for Christian publishers in the U.S.   In addition, he is a founding member of the advisory board of the Christy Awards and is involved in training and mentoring Christian publishers from around the world through Media Associates International.  Dan is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in Communications, is married to Carol, a speech therapist in the public schools, making Wheaton, Illinois, their home. They have four grown children (and two grandchildren).

Ingrid Beck | Acquisitions Editor, Moody Publishing

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.44.35 PMIngrid Beck is a publishing veteran with more than 13 years in the industry serving in a variety of roles including development editor, managing editor, editorial director, and acquisitions editor. After more than ten years at David C Cook in Colorado Springs, Ingrid recently joined the acquisitions team at Moody Publishers in Chicago as an acquisitions editor serving the core evangelical audience. Ingrid is creative, collaborative, and passionate about equipping the church with spiritual growth resources that are filled with grace and truth. Ingrid is a travel enthusiast who is always dreaming about her next adventure. She is also an avid reader who loves cooking, staying active, and exploring the outdoors, all while seeking to be constantly growing and learning more about herself, God, and his world.

Kelsey Bowen | Acquisitions Editor, Revell

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.44.27 PMKelsey Bowen is the Acquisitions Editor at Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, where she’s worked for four years.  She has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and, when she’s not editing, she loves to write fiction with a good cup of Starbucks coffee close by.  She is also active in her church as a worship leader, and does some freelance work as a virtual assistant and editor for HoffmanFit, an online-based personal fitness and nutrition training program.  She currently lives with her husband Kyle and her adorable Hava-doodle, Izzo, in Jenison, MI.

Kelsey will be taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.

Crystal Bowman | Author/Mentor Children’s Books

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.52.33 PMCrystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of over 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for Kids, The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers, My Grandma and Me, and M is for Manger. She also writes lyrics for children’s piano music and stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine. She is a Mentor and speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and teaches workshops at writers’ conferences. She is currently writing children’s books for Discovery House, Tyndale, and Zonderkidz. Her desire is to teach children that God loves them and cares about them very much. Crystal is a mother and grandmother. She and her husband live in Florida.  Crystal will be teaching a workshop and taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.

Kathy Bruins | Author/Mentor

Kathy Bruins helps writers, authors and infopreneurs take the next step in their journey through consultation, teaching, coaching and praying. Kathy has a freelance business along with being an editor/ghostwriter for SDP Publishing. Prayer is important to Kathy. She has led many organizations in corporate prayer. She currently is serving as Director of the Christians Ignite Prayer Center at the Orange County Christian Writers Conference. Kathy serves as President of Word Weavers, West Michigan. Her speaking topics include Promo and Media with Punch with Andrew Hamlet, The Book Proposal Studio with Kim de Blecourt, Fearless Ghostwriting, Mind Mapping Treasure Hunt and other helpful writing workshops. She speaks at women’s retreats, churches, and human trafficking events. Kathy also includes drama in her presentations when possible. Kathy is our conference prayer coordinator, and will be taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.

Susan Call | Author/Mentor

Susan CallSusan Call is an author and speaker whose passion is encouraging contagious hope and inspiring faith-filled strength to overcome life’s challenges. She loves tapping into her 15+ years of project management experience to help equip other writers and speakers to reach for their goals.  Susan’s memoir, A Search for Purple Cows shares her remarkable story of betrayal, abuse, finding faith, the power of forgiveness, and the joy of redemption. She has also published a fiction short story “Secondhand Miracle’ in A Cup of Christmas Joy by Guidepost Books, and has written for Guidepost Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and for Focus on the Family Magazine.

A native of Pennsylvania, Susan now calls New Hampshire home. She holds a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. Susan speaks fluent Swedish and enjoys pursuing a hobby of photography. She’s a proud mother of two children, a wife and a stepmother.  Susan will be teaching a workshop and taking 15-minute appointments.

Cheri Cowell | Owner and Publisher of EABooks Publishing

Cheri-CowellCheri Cowell, brings a unique blend of publisher and author experience to her company which benefits new, aspiring, and accomplished authors. As an author herself, with four traditionally published books, she understands the traditional publishing world. She also has books published by EABooks Publishing, so she is well versed in both sides of the publishing world.  Cheri began EABooks after learning how to get her own materials into e-book format.  With her passion of helping others see God’s Word come alive, she is excited to expand that mission by helping fellow authors take advantage of all the new publishing trends.  Recently EABooks added editing and author marketing services to enhance the publishing experience and expand the reach of God’s messengers into the world.  Cheri looks forward to meeting you, hearing about your book, and showing you how EABooks Publishing can help make your publishing dreams come true.


Bob Hudson | Senior Editor, Zondervan/HarperCollins & Owner, Perkipery Press

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 2.29.38 PMBob Hudson has been an editor for Zondervan/HarperCollins for thirty years and has been making chapbooks for twenty years longer than that. He and his wife, Shelley, own the Perkipery Press, a Michigan-based chapbook publisher that has issued dozens of volumes in the last three decades. Bob is the author of three books, including The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, and many, many chapbooks.

Bob will be teaching one workshop and taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.

Eddie Jones | Acquisitions Editor, Lighthouse Publishing

EdEddie-Jones-03032013-2-v2-cropped-72-facebookdie is founder and CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  He is also an award-winning author of middle-grade fiction for boys with Harper Collins.

Eddie will be teaching three workshops and taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.



Vern Jones | Owner, CEO, Principia Media

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 4.17.44 PMEntrepreneur. Scientist. Public speaker. Christian writer. Mountain climber (Kilimanjaro – 2014, and Mt. St. Helen with ten family members including four grandchildren).  Of Special relevance to this conference, Vern and his publishing consultant, Dirk Wierenga, created their own publishing company, Principia Media, devoted to working with a select group of authors assuring their manuscripts are published using the highest standards of editing, design, and printing with a plan to reach the greatest audience.  Vern lives with his wife Irene, and their Australian Labradoodle Mika, in Jenison, MI. Vern will be taking 15-minute appointments.

Susan King | Associate Editor, The Upper Room Magazine

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.23.36 PMFor over 22 years, Susan King has served with The Upper Room magazine. Also for over 27 years, she taught English and feature-writing classes at Lipscomb University, Biola University, and Abilene Christian University. Formerly, she served as book editor and radio-program producer/on-air talent for The Institute of Scriptural Psychology, wrote magazine features as a freelance writer, and functioned as a seminar facilitator in leadership and group dynamics.

Susan and Joe have three grown children and two young grandchildren. While Joe and their children are whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River, Susan can be found with her daughter-in-law and the grandchildren at a children’s museum or aquarium.

Cindy Lambert | Publishing Strategist, Collaborative Writer and Editor

cindyLCindy Lambert publishing strategist for Somersault Group and collaborative writer, began her career as owner of an award-winning independent Christian bookstore, then expanded into leadership roles in distribution, editorial, consumer research, and publishing at Ingram, Simon & Schuster, and  Zondervan, where she served as vice president and associate publisher of trade books. As a collaborative writer, Cindy has co-authored the bestselling book UnPlanned with Abby Johnson  (Tyndale and Focus on the Family, 2010), 40 Days for Life with Bereit and Carney (Cappella Books, 2013), One Light Still Shines with Marie Monville (Zondervan, 2013), and Unstoppable with Christine Caine (Zondervan, 2014). She and her husband, Dave, have six children and nine grandchildren.  Cindy will be teaching and taking one-to-one appointments.

David Lambert | Editorial Director, Somersault Group, Author

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 11.09.23 PMDave Lambert is the author of ten published books. He has received numerous awards for magazine articles and short stories published in such places as Virtue, Moody, Story, Christian Parenting Today, Sweet Sixteen, Decision, Montana Magazine, Campus Life, Outreach, and many other periodicals. David has an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Montana. He has held a variety of positions in publishing, spending eighteen years as an acquiring editor at Zondervan, most of that time as executive editor for fiction, and more recently, three years as senior fiction editor at Howard Books, a division of Simon &  Schuster. David is the editorial director for Somersault.  Dave will be teaching and taking one-to-one appointments.

Courtney Lasater | Editor, Keys for Kids

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 10.52.40 AMCourtney Lasater is the editor at Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour), where she acquires, edits, and develops content for the quarterly Keys for Kids devotional and other products for kids. She graduated from Calvin College and has over a decade of experience in Christian publishing and retail. In her free time she often finds herself scoping out the shelves at the local bookstore or discovering fun things to do in the great city of Grand Rapids.


Jillian Manning | Editor, Zonderkidz/Blink (Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

Jillian Manning is Jillian-Manningthe Custom Editor at Zondervan and a member of the Zonderkidz/Blink acquisitions team. In addition to pursuing new children’s, middle grade, and young adult titles, she also works with the fast-paced custom sales team to create fresh and exciting products for retailers, ministries, and distributors from Zondervan’s backlist. Prior to joining Zondervan in 2014, Jillian worked as a project editor for children’s and young adult books at Sourcebooks, Inc. and as a contributing editor for Independent Publisher magazine.


Kate Motaung | Author/Mentor

Kate MotaungKate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She and her South African husband have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the weekly Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and contributes regularly to various publications. She blogs at katemotaung.com, and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung. Kate is represented by Credo Communications and her memoir is scheduled to release through Discovery House in 2018.  Kate will be teaching a workshop and taking 15-minute appointments.

Mary Morgan | Children’s Author/Mentor

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.49.25 PMMary is a busy woman.  She is a Pastor’s wife, church secretary, and children’s worker.  She and her husband, Randy, have two married adult children and two grandchildren.
Mary first attended Maranatha in 2008 and then used what she learned in her writing and marketing.  Mary has a passion to write, travel and do photography, so when the idea of writing a mystery series for children presented itself, she fell back on her personal experiences and began writing the National Park Mystery Book series set in places they had visited as a family.  As a Michigan author, Mary does school presentations, speaks at civic organizations and libraries, plus radio and television interviews.  Mary will be taking one-to-one appointments.

Gloria Penwell, Acquisitions Editor, Bold Vision

Glori1613922_10203497089816227_632751512_na Penwell’s expertise and love of the writing world comes from years of traveling with her husband, Dan. Together they attended many writers’ conferences while Dan was Acquisitions Editor at AMG Publishing. Gloria is the CLASS Christian Writers Conference Assistant Director. She loves to encourage new writers and understands what the writing life is about. Gloria represents Bold Vision as acquisitions editor.

Gloria will be teaching one workshop, and she will be available for 15-minute appointments.

Shannon Popkin |  Author/Mentor

Shannon PopkinAuthor and speaker Shannon Popkin loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. Shannon is the author of Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, and is a contributing blogger at TrueWoman.com.
Shannon is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every day. Together, they live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens. For more from Shannon, please go to shannonpopkin.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Katie M. Reid | Social Media Expert

Katie ReidKatie M. Reid encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. With transparent confessions, memorable object lessons, and biblical truth, she inspires others to live for Jesus through her writing and speaking. She is honest in her struggles, genuine in her warmth, and anchored in truth and hope. Katie delights in her husband, five children, and their life in ministry.  Katie has been published through Focus on the Family, Huffington Post, (in)courage, For Every Mom, Crosswalk, MOPS, and many other sites. She speaks at conferences, events, and camps. Katie also offers consultation for social media assistance, book proposals, and brand-building.  Katie will be teaching a workshop and taking 15-minute appointments.

Jillian Schlossberg | Acquisitions Editor, Tyndale Publishing

Jillian Schlossberg joined the Tyndale Momentum team in 2014. As acquisitions editor, she guides every Momentum product through the publication process, from acquisition to release. Jillian holds bachelor of arts degrees in English literature and Spanish language from the University of Michigan. She has worked in academic publishing and previously served as senior editor for the ministry Love and Respect Now. Jillian uses her knack for building relationships in working with the design team to develop eye-catching covers and position books. Aside from a love of tacos, her favorite thing is her new husband, Jake.

Linda Taylor | Author/Mentor

Linda-1Linda Taylor has been a publishing professional for three decades and continues to work as a freelance writer and editor. She is an instructor in the Professional Writing concentration at Taylor University in Indiana. She has her M.A. from Ball State University and is pursuing her M.F.A. through Ashland University in Ohio. She is the author of a book about editing titled Word by Word: An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-editing Process released through Bold Vision Books summer 2017. She blogs about writing, editing, teaching, and living in the country (with lots of cats) at www.lindaktaylor.com.

Travis Thrasher | Youth Fiction/Author/Mentor

Travis ThrasherBestselling author Travis Thrasher has written over 50 books and worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. His passion is encouraging writers to persevere in their craft. He has written fiction in a variety of genres, from love stories and supernatural thrillers to young adult series. His inspirational stories have included collaborations with filmmakers, musicians, athletes and pastors. He’s also co-written memoirs and self-help books. His novelizations include Do You Believe? and God’s Not Dead 2. Upcoming projects he is working on include Olympic Pride, American Prejudice about the lives of the other 17 American black athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and Baby Don’t Hurt Me about comedian Chris Kattan’s life and time on Saturday Night Live. Travis lives with his wife and three daughters in a suburb of Chicago and fittingly enough will have a children’s book entitled Brave Girls Confidential released later in 2017.

Janyre Tromp | Developmental and Acquisitions Editor, Kregel Publications

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 11.59.24 PMJanyre Tromp has worked in the CBA industry for 17 years, spending time in both marketing and editorial. Currently she is a developmental and acquisitions editor for Kregel Publications by day and a writer at night. And that all happens from her kitchen table when she’s not hanging out with her husband, two kids, and slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog.

In case you’re wondering, you pronounce that first name Jan-air…kind of like the stove, but not like the book. She’s a graduate of Taylor University and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Janyre will be taking 15-minute appointments.

Christopher VanOosterhaut | E-Commerce Consultant

christopherChristopher VanOosterhout is an e-commerce consultant with 20 years of experience helping organizations across the United States build effective eBusiness operations. His experience includes work with all types of businesses from sole proprietorships to multi-billion-dollar corporations and a broad portfolio of non-profits and ministries. He speaks to wide cross-section of business, trade and community groups on issues related to eBusiness, privacy, digital security and computer literacy. In addition to his consulting work he is a full-time faculty member at Muskegon Community College where he teaches business, advertising, marketing, web development, social media and computer literacy courses. For more information visit: www.vanoosterhout.com

Jim Watkins |  Editorial Consultant, ACW Press

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.37.26 PMJim is an award-winning author and contributor to over 30 books and has taught around the world.  He has spent 30 years in Christian publishing and taught writing for 15 years at Taylor University.  He is currently editorial consultant at ACW Press.  His www.hopeandhumor.org website has been recognized by the Billy Graham Association for its creative presentation of the good news.  Jim will be teaching a workshop and taking 15-minute one-to-one appointments.


Dick Wierenga | Director of Publishing, Principia Media

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 8.36.07 PMDirk Wierenga, Director of Publishing at Principia Media, has guided over two hundred books through the publishing process as editor and publisher. In addition he is a photographer and videographer who has shot and produced several book trailers and is currently working on three documentaries. Many of the projects he is currently involved in with Principia, a secular publisher and media company, are multifaceted and include a book, video or documentary and learning materials. Dirk enjoys talking with prospective authors about their projects and provides help for those who are both experienced and new to publishing. He lives in Grand Haven, MI.

Brenda Yoder | Social Media Specialist

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 12.06.17 PMBrenda is a freelance writer, national speaker, educator and counselor whose passion is encouraging others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image. She has a BA in Education and a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She’s been a stay-at-home mom, teacher, and is currently a school counselor with a private practice. She was awarded the “Powerful Connection” award for teachers in 2003 & 2004. She’s a parenting columnist for online magazines, has been featured in Chicken Soup For The Soul and The Purpose magazine. Her first book, Magnified, Finding God’s Best In Busyness was released in 2015. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, can be found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life and parenting beyond the storybook image.

Brenda loves connecting with people. She will be teaching 1 pre-conference session, 1 workshop, and taking 15-minute appointments.

Cyle Young | Agent, Hartline Literary Agency & Editor, A3 Publishing

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 11.46.42 PMCyle Young is a force-sensitive dragon rider trapped in the modern world. When he and his three muggle padawans aren’t racing chocobos, they search for a magical wardrobe or time stone that may help them return home before The Nothing, Skeletor, or Skynet takes over this dimension. Cyle credits his 20+ writing awards to his discovery of the One Ring to Rule Them All. He lives in the Midwest and when he is not shopping manuscripts for Hartline Literary Agency, he can be found pastoring a growing church or lounging in his hammock beside the tranquil Grand River. Cyle will be teaching a general session, a workshop, and taking appointments. More at www.cyleyoung.com

Estee Zandee | Editorial Assistant, Zondervan

Estee ZandeeEstee joined the Zondervan Trade team in 2014 and serves as the Editorial Assistant, supporting the acquisition editors and authors in editorial development. Starting early by publishing book reviews at age 12, Estee went on to graduate with a degree in Professional Writing. She has 11 years of experience in the publishing industry, spanning freelance writing, serving in project management, publishing administration, social media management, and editing. Away from the desk, Estee is usually mountain biking with her husband and their energetic pup, Harper.