Elizabeth Sherrill Master’s Writing Workshop—Monday

Authors of such Christian classics as The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom), Cross and the Switchblade (David Wilkerson), and God’s Smuggler (Bro. Andrew), Elizabeth and John Sherrill have ghostwritten, co-authored and edited more books and articles than I can grasp. They were editors and contributors of the Guideposts Magazine back in the day when people thought it was a travel magazine, if they’d heard of it all. The Sherrills traveled coast-to-coast, up to Alaska and around the world, writing over two thousand stories of real people and the great work God had performed in their lives.

In April 2012, I had the privilege of attending Elizabeth Sherrill’s Master’s Writers Workshop. The week I spent at YWAM (Youth with a Mission) Woodcrest was so huge it’s hard to approach in a mere blog post. So I’m going to make it a six part series, taking it one day at a time with the hope I can be as interesting my witty teachers.

Monday—A Day with God’s Greats

I didn’t sleep much Sunday night. Much of the night was spent watching for the dawn, waiting for my alarm to go off. I was up getting dressed before it had the chance.

No one else at the dorms did much breakfast, so it was just me most mornings. I didn’t mind. It was good quiet time and a peaceful view.

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I was the first in the classroom, straightening things and asking Joyce what she needed done. I folded name table tents and tried to meet people as they came in. I knew some.

I saw Elizabeth and John Sherrill when they arrived but was too busy lining out last minute arrangements to introduce myself. That was okay. I sat across from Ms. Elizabeth the whole week.

Masters Writing Workshop

Phyllis, sister of Janice Cunningham Rogers and Loren Cunningham, led our first devotion of the week, regaling us with stories of their humble beginnings including the time she and her husband were down to their last set of wheels. It had carpet on the dashboard and they had to tie the muffler up.

“God took care of our pride real quick.”

Loren Cunningham and his sisters Janice and Phyllis

Loren Cunningham and his sisters Janice and Phyllis

Then Elizabeth Sherrill prepared to take charge. She didn’t care for the table set up, putting her at the head. She moved to the side, and we rearranged the other end so that everyone faced each other as much as possible. She called it the “editorial board.” All the writers were on it. She partnered us with the person on our left, to serve as their “editor,” the one who would start the evaluation of the manuscript.

Ms. Elizabeth passed the mic around for us to introduce ourselves, talk about our writing and what our ultimate goal was. I’d established mine some time back:

To meet someone in heaven who says, “I’m here because of the stories you wrote.”

I know Elizabeth Sherrill will have that. There were people in that room who had were saved and dedicated their life to ministry after reading one of the Sherrill’s books.

Right off that first day, my story came around for critique, to be used as a teaching tool, good or bad. I wasn’t nervous. Much. Just thought about stepping out of the room for the whole time…

Really, it wasn’t so bad. The main thing that came out was my lack of enthusiasm for research. Then I got to talk about my novel (Update: I finished the first draft in February, 2013). Everyone liked the premise, giving me another spur in the side to get it done.

That first day, I felt comfortable with everyone, with my place at the table. We were writers, trying to figure it all out and knowing we wouldn’t before our lives ended. But this was the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest Christian writers of our time.

Around noon that day, we had a special visitor, Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM and the one credited with Is That Really You, God?: Hearing the Voice of God. The Sherrills worked on that book with his sister, Janice, who co-wrote with him.

I sat stunned at the stories that poured out of him, the laughter, and the connection between old friends. For only the second time ever, four special people were together in one place—the Sherrills, Loren Cunningham, and Janice Rogers.

Masters Writing Workshop

After an hour and telling about the thousands of militants coming out of the jungle after YWAMers ministered to them, Mr. Cunningham leaned forward. “I said all that to say this—we need more Christian writers!”

I’ll never forget those words.

Masters Writing Workshop

The day was far from over as we all packed up after dinner and headed to one of my mentor’s home, the one God used to get me in that week, Sandi and Scott Tompkins. There, we stuffed with desserts and sat around for an open questions time with the pros.

How do I describe such a mind-blowing experience of the stories that poured out, the theories about Christian media, trans media, filmmaking, writing, and culture today in America? Why didn’t I have a recorder?

See me on the floor? I was literally sitting at their feet to learn...

See me on the floor? I was literally sitting at their feet to learn…

The evening ended way too soon.

In the next post are details of how the workshop proceeded.

Special thanks to Scott Tompkins for most of these photos!

What’s your ultimate goal with the life God has given you? Do you realize you are one of God’s great?

Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer is an award-winning inspirational author, speaker and Choctaw storyteller of traditional and fictional tales based on the lives of her people. Get a free e-copy of her first book, "Touch My Tears: Tales from the Trail of Tears": Free e-book

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