A Writer in Wonderland


By Ivanova Nono Fotso, Cameroon

I know a young woman who has many grown-up responsibilities: university studies, work, chores, volunteering and church. Yet unbeknownst to the rest of the world, this young woman has a secret room in her heart. In that room, she revisits the world of a five year-old girl, filled with wonder at seeing a butterfly, running after a cat, dancing in front of the mirror and enjoying cartoons. That little girl also enjoys spending time with her invisible Father, telling Him about her day, and allowing Him to soothe her heart with His unconditional love.

This is my reality as a children’s author. It’s like sharing time between my young readers and the child in me. While translating Sunday school curriculum, the truth of a lesson, “God hears our prayers,” boosts my faith. As I write my children’s book, “Don’t Be Afraid,” I myself find peace. Even in the simple act of writing memory verses for Christmas, my heart dances in the tinsel light of truth affirmed.

Some people say to me, “You write for children? It’s a good start. Keep working, you will soon be able to write for adults.” They don’t hear the little girl in me chuckling. She knows she will always be ready to dance, skip and wonder.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Writing for children can help mold in us a loving and humble heart, an eagerness to learn, and trusting dependence on our Heavenly Father—all characteristics of little ones. Writing for children also gives us a glimpse of the greatest Wonderland, the kingdom of God.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me the privilege to write for children. Help me to seek you and to keep a trusting and humble heart.

This article was published in our unique book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 Devotions by global Christian writers.

Order your copy on SALE until 12/21 for only $9.99USD with FREE shipping within the USA.  Place your order now. Email: [email protected] or call 630.260.9063.  Light_Writers_Soul_MAI_2D

Ivanova Nono Fotso has written the children’s book, Même Pas Peur, short stories and articles for Jouv’Afrique and AMINA magazines, and parts of the comic collection Eclats d’Afrique. She resides in Cameroon.

Read more about Ivanova’s work in A Comic Strip That Borders Heaven.


“I Felt Locked In…”

By Mark Carpenter, Brazilmark_carpenter

As a young teenager growing up in a small town in Brazil, I had little access to the outside world. Only two TV channels were available, and the city newspaper carried only local news. I felt locked in.

Then the son of a Japanese immigrant opened a news kiosk downtown, featuring periodicals from all over the country. I was enthralled. It became my favorite haunt, and there I began to discover news about the dictatorship in our country, the war in Vietnam, the counterculture movement, and much more. I couldn’t afford to buy more than one or two newspapers a month, but Massao, the owner, would allow me to flip through the books and magazines. I was exposed to great journalism and news about economics, politics, art and culture. And my world was never the same. These writers, photographers, designers and editors opened up new channels of understanding. From a young age I had wished to serve Christ with my life, and now I began to imagine the world and dream about my own future.

Photo courtesy Chai25182518, Freedigitalphotos.com

Photo courtesy Chai25182518, Freedigitalphotos.com

I ended up dedicating my life to expressing truth through writing and publishing. Every week at our publishing house in São Paulo we receive letters from readers who live in remote areas, or who are locked up in prison, or who feel imprisoned in difficult churches, families or marriages. As we respond to them, I remember my teenage years, and I am reminded that our own writers, photographers, designers and editors can be the channels of truth and insight that will encourage, broaden perspectives, introduce biblical reality and point the way to new solutions.

Massao opened my mind to the world. As writers, we too hold the power to unlock imagination, inspire action and provide encouragement to those who feel excluded or unimportant, or who can’t see a way out of hopelessness, or who feel trapped by the circumstances of life.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lord, thank you for the education I’ve received and for the access you’ve given me to your Word, to good books and to your wisdom as expressed by those who are close to you. As a writer, I need your help in deciding what and how to write in order to become a source of instruction, encouragement and inspiration to my readers. Give me humility and perfect my gifts. Amen.

This article by Mark Carpenter is published as “The News Kiosk”  in our book, LighLight_Writers_Soul_MAI_2Dt for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions by global Christian writers. Order your copy of this inspiring and unique devotional book, available in print or ebook formats.

Mark Carpenter is chairman and CEO of Mundo Cristão, one of Brazil’s largest publishers of Christian books, and an MAI board member.



Meet Our Traveling “Physician”

Like a doctor who pays house calls to patients upon request in many parts of the world, our “Dr.” Ramon Rocha treks the globe to offer a confidential listening ear and advice for various publishing ailments. Since 2012, he has extended MAI’s consulting services to Christian publishing leaders and writers in 25 countries as Director of Publisher Development. In many cases, no other professional help is available. We asked Ramon to give you a sneak-peek at his itinerant consulting.

Ramon enjoys a break with Ukranian publisher Andrew Kravchenko of Ezdra Publishing at LittWorld 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Crespo.

Ramon enjoys a break with Ukranian publisher Andrew Kravchenko of Ezdra Publishing at LittWorld 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Crespo.

What does your consulting visit look like?
I try to come more as a friend than an expert. My ideal three- or four-day visit allows me time to listen to the publisher’s challenges and issues, brainstorm solutions with the team, identify possible action steps, and pray with the team. I check in afterward by email and at times video calls. A follow-up consulting visit may be as short as a day. Occasionally I lead brief trainings for local writers upon the publisher’s request.

Sometimes I have the privilege of sharing a meal or staying with the publisher’s family. I’ve been touched many times by the love and care of my hosts and their generous hospitality.

Consulting with the marketing and sales team of Editions PBA, an IFES-related publisher, in Benin.

Consulting with the marketing and sales team of Editions PBA, an IFES-related publisher, in Benin.

What do you carry in your “medical kit”?
I try to assess the publisher’s situation before my arrival so I have an idea if the need is marketing, finance, editorial or publishing leadership. I create a presentation and come ready with templates, Word or Excel files and links to helpful websites.

Sometimes I have to respond to an issue that surfaces during the consultation. Then I refer back to my “medical kit” of previous Powerpoints, charts and my Evernote files to find the appropriate tools. The publishers have appreciated stories from my business background and/or helpful steps other publishers have taken.

Have you ever found it particularly hard to help a publisher? If so, what did you do?
Publishers struggle with a relatively small reading public in some countries. Others face political, economic and social conditions that make it hard to achieve a healthier financial standing. Or a publisher may be involved in a long legal battle or a soured relationship with a problematic staff or director.

I urge them to refocus on their vision of how Christian materials can impact peoples’ hearts and minds. I also propose ideas to challenge publishers to look beyond their problems.

A magazine publisher in Bangladesh shares his concerns.

A magazine publisher in Bangladesh shares his concerns.

What is the most common publisher’s ailment that requires a clear solution?
Pricing with a profit is a major concern especially where people expect Christian books to be either free or very cheap. Sometimes the healthy tension between being a ministry and a business is evident, especially in determining the right price. How to reach a broader audience beyond the Church is another struggle.

A publisher has to be willing to change paradigms and do more than the status quo. I’d like to see more publishers become goal-oriented and disciplined to measure outcomes, and make adjustments quickly.

Tell us about a recent highlight on one of your visits.
On one return visit, I was so encouraged to find a publisher reporting higher sales and showing a net profit, plus soliciting feedback intentionally from readers. In another instance, I applauded a publisher’s success in moving books from its former inventory “cemetery” by slashing prices and donating.

What results have you seen?
One Asian publisher emailed me, “After you left, we tried to implement your recommendations to gradually increase our price to help our cash flow, to produce quarterly sales reports to monitor our bestsellers and slow-movers….We even renovated our showroom as you suggested. We are now seeing improved operational results.”

On one sad occasion the action steps we identified during my first visit were not implemented. I tried my best to be extra tactful not to scold, and to be even more encouraging. I knew I could only make suggestions; the actual work is with the publishing team.

Enjoying a boat ride with Georges Late, manager of Editions PBA, in Benin.

Enjoying a boat ride with Georges Late, manager of Editions PBA, in Benin.

How would you advise publishers to stay healthy?
Keep an eye on maintaining high quality editorial standards while remaining passionate about your mission and vision. Ingredients for long-term publishing success include: quality writing by reader-sensitive local authors, polishing by skilled editors, creative marketing strategies and effective distribution.

How does your own faith play into your work? How can friends pray for you?

I need to be consistent in drawing strength and encouragement from God’s Word myself. Please pray that I will not be too technical as a consultant or teacher but serve more as a caring friend.

Please pray for publishers to persevere, especially amidst a lack of peace and order, and political and economic tensions. Pray they will be courageous in publishing God’s truth in creative ways, build bridges to unbelievers and strengthen the national Church. Pray that these publishers will be financially sustainable, profitable and growing.

Christian publishers and writers “on the front lines” are being equipped and encouraged because of your partnership with MAI.

What is the role of a developmental editor?

Learn the nuances of developmental editing and how to collaborate effectively with an author. Kim Miller is a senior editor at Tyndale House Publishers, located near Chicago, USA.

Watch this six-minute video. Enjoy a summary below.

Developmental editing is not copyediting—correcting grammar, cleaning up mistakes, or cleaning up a manuscript. It is a partnership between an editor and author who work to strengthen a book’s structure and content. The author is a key partner and his or her voice is strengthened and maintained.

Editors come with attitude of humility, recognizing the author is producing the book. We are there to assist and help. With humility, we come with confidence that we bring a set of skills, life experience and objectivity.

Developmental editing is a collaborative process— the editor and author always work together. The editor is always there to assist but ensures the author has the final word.

The reader is the important unseen person in developmental editing. The first time we read the manuscript, the editor is sitting in the reader’s place.

Steps in developmental editing:

  1. Read the manuscript for the first time. We editors come with questions: Who is the intended audience? What is the overarching message? As the reader, what do we see as its strengths and weaknesses that the author may not see?
  2. Create an editorial plan, a form that lists the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s very important to list the strengths in particular, and to bring ideas on how to improve the manuscript. This form will serve as a blueprint to use with the author through the developmental editing process.
    Get the author’s input and then make some adjustments. Remember, your focus on the big picture, going back to the audience and message.
  3. How complete is the manuscript? Does it address the readers’ “felt need”? Is there something worthwhile for the reader?
  4. Does it carry through to the end and offer a resolution to the story or a pay off on the topic?
  5. Is there spiritual value and is it biblically sound?
  6. How is the structure? Does it flow logically and in a good order from beginning to end? Does the chapter order makes sense? Do headings break up chapters? Could some content be put into maps or glossaries?
  7. Is the writing clear, compelling and logical? Give feedback to the author.
  8. Give specific direction in all these areas. Don’t just say, “Sometimes your writing is general or awkward.” Give examples of places where work can be done. Ask the author to do the work, but always give examples, feedback and ideas. Talk through things with the author because he/she may likely feel unsure of how to proceed.
  9. Once the editing is complete, get the author’s approval on a final manuscript. It’s their book and you want them to be satisfied.
  10. Turn over your work to the copy editor for spelling, factual and grammar errors. You’re still involved as the process continues, perhaps serving as conduit between copy editor and author. Your role is to stick with the author until the project is complete.
  11. Finally, celebrate with the author when the project is complete. Congratulate him or her and rejoice as you begin to hear feedback from readers.

This video was shot by Team David at MAI’s LittWorld 2015 conference in Singapore.

A Comic Strip That Borders Heaven

Timazi Magazine of Kenya recently featured part one of “Big Day,” a comic stripcomic birthed by friendships made at MAI’s LittWorld 2012 conference. There John and Maggie Gathuku, who lead the Christian youth magazine, met Mexican illustrator José Carlos Gutiérrez (right in photo below) and author Ivanova Nono Fotso of Cameroon (left in photo).

José Carlos crafted illustrations for the comic script written by Ivanova, and submitted the comic to Timazi. When José Carlos’ computer crashed, Timazi’s designer in Kenya, James Njoroge, completed coloring the illustrations.

The seven-page comic, based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, will be published in three issues of the magazine.

ivanova-jose-carlos-by-ian-darke-cropped-resized“This comic has a great emotional value since I started the drawings and sketches in a hospital room, a few months after returning from Littworld,” José Carlos said. His 21-year-old brother had been diagnosed with leukemia and began chemo treatments.

“He got saved in that same hospital as I prayed with him at the very beginning of his treatment,” José Carlos recalled. On the same day that his brother passed away, José Carlos completed inking the comic at the hospital.

Today comic books are the world’s most widely-read type of popular literature, capturing the interest of both children and adults. Christian publishers around the world are harnessing the genre to spread the Gospel.

Maggie hopes that “by reading this comic strip, students will understand and appreciate the message of our Lord Jesus Christ by preparing well for His coming.”