As a member of Brandon Christian Writers, author Rick Christensen receives feedback and encouragement from his peers. • The group, which includes established and novice writers, cheered Christensen on through the writing of his first book, Discovering and Sharing Grace: Words of a Gentle Witness, a 30-day devotional published in February. • Christensen, 61, earned a master's in mental health counseling from the University of South Florida. Formerly a counselor to at-risk youth, he works full time in the financial business. Christensen, a Carrollwood resident, came to writing late in life to help others find their way to Christ, he says. • I spoke to him about his newfound craft and the benefits of joining a writers' group.
What inspired you to start writing?
The author thing is not something I expected. About 15 years ago, I started writing in a prayer journal. A few years later, I felt this call to my heart that I needed to write a daily devotional. I talked to my spiritual mentor and he said if you believe it is a real message you are hearing, then you need to start writing, so I did. First, I wrote a self-published 20-day devotional. Then, I started on the 30-day devotional. I joined Brandon Christian Writers and went to a writers retreat, which connected me with my now publisher. My second book is due out in September.
What type of devotionals did you include in the first book?
The devotionals cover a wide range of human emotions. There are days dedicated to everything from life struggles to the simple joys of God's amazing grace. I wrote it to help people see what they may think are random events or coincidences may really be God events.
Did you grow up in the church? Has faith always played a major role in your life?
I did grow up in the church, and I was very involved with the church through college. After that, I kind of lost my way. I walked away from it for a while. A friend brought me back to the church and that is when I started journaling. My story is a big part of my writing because my friend was a gentle witness to me. He didn't push but inspired me to reconnect with God. That is what I hope my writing can do for others.
What do you enjoy about being a member of Brandon Christian Writers?
It is such a big help. We meet once a month. We share samples of our writing and offer one another constructive criticism. It's helpful because I get immediate feedback. I get to hear what people like or don't like about my work. I receive helpful suggestions. Everyone in the group is welcoming and encouraging. It is open to anyone who enjoys writing, whether they are working on a book or just like writing poetry. There are very successful authors in the group to offer advice.
What is your advice to new writers?
To join a writers' group. Attend conferences and retreats. Most importantly, to write for the joy of writing.
Contact Sarah Whitman at firstname.lastname@example.org.