Why is Training Writers Important?

Lawrence Darmani, MAI regional trainer for Africa, has a passion for equipping writers through workshops, mentoring and seminars.  Lawrence is the managing editor of Step Publishers in Ghana and award-winning author of more than 10 books. In an interview with MAI President John Maust, Darmani shared ideas and tips from his long experience as a trainer. A series of blog posts will explore parts of their conversation.

Believing that Christian writing is a calling, I realized, by extension, that training is imperative in discovering and equipping talented writers to communicate the Christian message.  To become an effective trainer, we need to remember that training and equipping others is both a calling and an injunction. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  The Lord wants us to sharpen others for them to write for Him.

We need to remember that there is a dire need for this training. Writers need to be mentored and encouraged because many quickly give up for lack of skill development and success in publishing their works.

The Lord calls us to impart knowledge and share ideas … The apostle Paul urged young Timothy to train others who would be able to train others also (2 Timothy 2:2). In that way, the multiplication effect of soul-winning will be a reality.  I receive calls from many young writers who, after reading my books, seek help to write their own stories and articles. If you are an entrepreneur writer, editor, publisher or lead a training organization, such calls will come to you. Responding to them will open doors for mentoring and training.

I try to make training a part of my schedule because of this urgency and need.  Being a beneficiary of training, I consider it critical that we give writers, editors, and publishers the opportunity to grow and effectively make their contribution to the body of Christian literature needed to nurture faith and Christian living. I must add that my involvement with MAI over two decades has enhanced this desire, for as we receive invitations from around the world and through our flagship training conference, LittWorld, the opportunity has been given me to embark on training.

Lawrence Darmani

Lawrence’s full remarks on writer training may be found here.

Mexico: Publisher gains new vision and strategy

January 10-11, 2013     

“I had been asking God what else I needed to do to turn the publishing house around,” said Ruth Mozo, general director of Ediciones Las Américas (ELA), a firm located among the cobblestone streets and colorful shops of Puebla, Mexico. Her prayers were answered during a two-day consulting visit in January with Ramon Rocha III, our director of publisher development.

Mozo (middle in photo), a 33-year employee of ELA, began leading the companyimg_1666 two years ago. She and her five managers met with Rocha (left in photo) to articulate a mission, a vision and dreams for ELA.

“I was impressed with the commitment and dedication of Ruth and her staff,” Ramon said, “but they all agreed they needed to up their skills and be more open to change.”

In their discussions with Ramon, the team also focused on strategies for developing local and national writers. Only 20 of the 300 titles in ELA’s catalog were written by Latin authors; however, the team has identified several Mexican writers to challenge, nurture and develop. According to Ramon, ELA has raw materials that can be maximized: three particularly enthusiastic female authors and some titles with bestseller potential, such as a series of colorful activity books for kids.

Ramon and the ELA staff also discussed marketing, distribution and finance img_1597issues, including action steps to implement immediately. ELA will concentrate on rebuilding their ties with other Latin American countries and using the resources of Letra Viva, a network of evangelical publishers in Latin America.

“My team and I have worked hard to overcome some very difficult situations,” Mozo said. “At times we have felt very discouraged, because it seems like no matter how hard we work, things don’t get any better. But during the meetings with Brother Ramon, he shared his experiences, new ideas, and, particularly, words of encouragement that truly refreshed us.”

For more information about ELA, visit www.edicioneslasamericas.com.

By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern

Social Media Connects South African Youth to Scripture

andrewSouth African youth pastor Andrew Vaughn has launched a creative effort to share Scripture with young people via social media. In an interview with MAI staff intern Emma Stencil, Andrew describes his creation of “the WordSpace,” which sends youth short Bible readings and reflections using free mobile and online social media platforms.

What was the inspiration for this initiative?

As a youth pastor I was looking for a way to help young people in my youth group connect with God through the Bible during the week. They told me they often had short spaces of time before or during school but nothing to guide them. I started thinking of a way to send them something they could access on their phones. The problem was that many students used different social media platforms. It would be a huge effort to manually send a message to so many different platforms.

So I started researching a way to automatically send messages to all the various free cell-phone platforms in South Africa. I couldn’t find any existing program that met these needs, so over the past months we developed a web-based platform that can preschedule and automatically send short Bible texts and reflections to seven different free cell phone platforms.

Who is your target audience for these messages?

We aim to connect with youth in high school (13 to 18 years old) throughout South Africa.

How do you choose the topics for your short messages?

People tend to tune out if it’s the same thing every day, so we want to send content that is varied and balanced. Our subscribers aren’t going to tune in every day, so the messages also need to be independent of each other. Right now we are rotating messages around seven different topics–one for each day of the week. These are:

#whoisGod? – something about the nature of God

#Godsviewofyou – something the Bible says about our identity in Christ

#faithworks – what it means to live a life of faith in the real world

#yoursoundtrack – inspiring lyrics from a Christian worship song and some reflections submitted by a reader

#Fridayfeedback – a reflective prayer helping people look back on the week

#wisewords – some wisdom from the book of Proverbs

#GodsStoryNow – this is written ‘on the fly’ in response to a significant event that has happened that week

Every now and then we run a special focus week on a particular topic. For instance, during exam season we did a week focusing on helping people encounter God as they study. We planned a focus week on Christmas during mid-December, and so on.

Who writes the daily messages?

We’re building a team of writers that reflects the cultural and denominational diversity of South Africa. We started by approaching youth leaders who had experience in writing for young people in other Scripture Union publications. Almost everyone we’ve approached has been willing to give this new format a try. As the project grows we’re adding writers to the team.

How have readers responded to the messages?

The response has been very positive. We have run focus groups to gauge how readers interact with the content. This has helped us learn how to write more effectively. We began a trial phase in late August 2011 with around 100 subscribers on BBM and Facebook. Over three months grew to over 800 across the various platforms.

How do you tell people about the WordSpace?

At the moment it’s mostly word of mouth and through Scripture Union’s networks. We are planning a national launch and advertising campaign in February 2013.

What is the most challenging part of this new ministry?

At the start, the challenges were mostly about establishing a reliable technical infrastructure. Now we’re focusing on the challenge of writing content that will impact people in a short space of time. The opportunity that a mobile platform presents for reaching young people with God’s word anywhere comes with the associated challenge of being heard in a noisy and instant media environment. We sometimes have as little as 15 to 30 seconds to get our message across to our readers. Writing something that is theologically and biblically sound, relevant and interesting enough to keep a young person scrolling through the message in that environment is a big challenge.

Here’s how people can subscribe to the WordSpace:

• BBM: add 2A3E62A2 to receive a broadcast message each day

• Whatsapp: add 084 891 6789 (South Africa code +27) as a contact. Message ‘subscribe’ to register

• Facebook: like our page ‘Thewordspace’

• Twitter: follow @wordspacedevos

• Email: send a message with ‘subscribe’ as the subject to [email protected]

• Mxit: add [email protected] as G-talk contact. Message ‘d’ each day to retrieve the content

• Web: www.thewordspace.mobi The home page displays each day’s message.

 

How do you ensure your training “sticks”?

This question swirled in my mind at a one-day “training the trainer” seminar in Chicago. We want our adult learners to retain what we’ve imparted to them. Our training is supposed to meet their needs. So, how can we help our trainees apply the principles they’ve learned to address those needs?

“Practice and repetition!” the seminar leader emphatically said. We need to be practicing what we’ve learned and to keep on repeating it until it becomes a habit. Of course, this is not a new idea, but it bears repeating.

If we’re training writers, they must keep on writing and applying the writing principles to produce excellent articles or novels. If we’re training editors, they need to keep repeating the best editorial practices to help their local writers come up with life-transforming books. Publishers should keep on implementing the applicable ideas and insights for a successful publishing ministry and business. We trainers want to help men and women practice what they learned in our training. Practice, repeat, make adjustments, practice, repeat, make adjustments….until the principles become part of their system.

After a workshop or seminar, we need to follow up our learners to see how they are doing with their calls-to-action. We should write them emails, call, send letters to encourage them. I appreciated the phone call I received from the company rep one week after the training seminar in Chicago.

What other ways can you help your learners apply what they’ve learned from?

–Ramon Rocha III, MAI director of publisher development

 

How do you prepare your training materials?

We are sometimes tempted to do the easy thing: prepare “canned” materials.  Instead, get started by doing a thorough needs assessment of your learners.  This will enable you to customize your curriculum to address the needs.

Having done a needs assessment, you will be able to utilize a ‘problem-solution’ approach.  That is, you identify the problem and then pattern your material to provide the solution. Adult learners learn better if they discover the solution themselves. Thus, we trainers function best as facilitators, not lecturers.

Having a good understanding of learners’ needs and problems, you should then formulate a clear objective for the training.  Next, thoughtfully design the curriculum to meet that objective. Lastly, make sure that your desired outcomes are measurable.

What other effective ways do you suggest we trainers could design our training materials?

–Ramon Rocha III