Reflections of Faith & Fiction 2010: Catch me!!!

By:  ellis j. still

This post talks about both my experience at the Faith & Fiction retreat and my first experiences in Atlanta, GA in general. Usually I try to keep posts between 500 – 750 words, but we’ll see how this one goes :- )

Last week I attended the annual Faith and Fiction retreat, this year held at the Omni CNN center in Atlanta, GA. While I have met many of the authors through online social networking, this was to be the first time I would meet them in person. The goal for me in attending the retreat was to bring exposure to the bookstore, but it became much more than that…

Atlanta, GA

This was my first time visiting Atlanta, and I was really impressed from the start. The airport has a connecting commuter train system that took me to the Omni Hotel, which is where the retreat was being held. I could have taken a cab, but having grown up in Philadelphia, PA, I will forever be a city-boy, and the words “public transportation” isn’t a cuss word to me unlike many people nowadays. You would be surprised at how many metropolitan cities do not have efficient public transportation and me having to pay $60.00 for a cab to my destination… I have a strong appreciation for cities with thought out and appropriate transportation planning.

The Omni Hotel at CNN Center

The Omni ( ) was great!!! Being in retail, I am a stickler when it comes to customer service. Everyone at the Omni – even when I registered the room via telephone so many months ago – was courteous, friendly, and anticipated my needs.

I had to secure two separate reservations because I was in town a day earlier and the first day was not included in the discounted block of rooms. When I approached the front desk to check in, my mind was preoccupied with an armory of questions and talking points, because as a vendor I knew I would not have the time to deal with reservation items the next day. Nicole at the front desk noticed the two separate reservations and anticipated my needs by ensuring that there would be no disruption in my having access to my room. I felt relieved, yet kind of cheated at the same time… I had all this verbiage inside me that I was prepared to unleash because I expected the worst-case scenario, but it was all for naught. Nicole was personable, knowledgeable, and frequently asked how my stay was going as I passed through the lobby. Service like this is unheard of to me from a hotel. I don’t know if this is a function of Omni hotels, or Atlanta and/or the south in general, but this definitely left a lasting impression.

Faith & Fiction ( )

The Faith & Fiction retreat celebrates fictional writing by largely African American Christian authors who’s creativity centers on themes that reflect characters and situations within the African American community. Stories evolve from the combination of an author’s imagination and things experienced in real life. This area of writing tends to be fun, thought provoking, and entertaining, yet also exposes difficult subject areas that often tend to swept under the rug. To paraphrase, an overall goal of this fictional writing is to tell stories that promote healing, create dialog, and expose people who may not know Christ to His awesomeness in even our seemingly impossible circumstances. A good fictional book is not “preachy”, but speaks to the reader where they are.

The retreat  featured lively panel discussions geared towards up-and-coming writers, readers, book clubs, and anyone interested in this genre of writing.  Panelists were established authors… heavy-hitters in their own right, with a wealth of experience, knowledge, success stories, and not so successful stories to pass on to others. Informal networking and book signing sessions created plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with your favorite author, and there were also a series of book discussions, hosted by the book’s respective author.

I attended my first ever book discussion on the last evening of the retreat. Despite not having read the book, I could kind of follow along with the conversation, which actually touched on an area of life and writing that I have had concerns about how to handle if I needed to. And they had cake at the discussion, which kind of coaxed me into having a seat in the first place :- )

With everything being considered, from the chosen hotel, to working with the retreat staff as it relates to my vending area, to the atmosphere and camaraderie of the entire weekend, the entire retreat was done in excellence. Kym Fisher is the best!!! I don’t know what she gets paid, but she deserves a huge raise  :- )

There as a closing banquet in the Omni’s atrium that featured good food, good fellowship, and live gospel music. However an unexpected and powerful moment came when during the photo-op session of the author panelists, the up-and-coming authors were honored via a photo-op as well as a way of touching and agreeing that these authors are the Faith & Fiction panelists of the future. This gesture was symbolic of the Christ-like support system that permeated the atmosphere of the entire weekend. Business people (authors are in fact entrepreneurs) tend to play their cards close to their vests in trying to be a step ahead of their competition… even among some Christian circles. It was inspiring to see the acknowledgement of the fact that there is room for everyone’s gift in the world.

Faith & Fiction: Keynote

The highlight of the weekend was author Sherri L. Lewis’ keynote speech. In summation, she spoke about her life’s challenges and obedience to everything else except her dreams. Dreams never go away. Sheri’s dreams kept trying to punch and gnaw their way to the surface to the point where the she had no choice but to cry out in all confidence:

“God, I’m going to Jump, and I want you to catch me”.

Sherri’s eloquent address touched the very core of our (my) being… of my purpose. We all (should) have had moments of conversations with God about what we want out of life… about our dreams and purpose, but faith without works is dead. Me speaking for myself, I no longer want to wonder what it is like to life out my dreams. Catch me…

There were many discussion items during the retreat and it is impossible to revisit them all. You will just have to make sure you make it to the retreat next year.  :- ) All panelist authors and their body of writing will be featured on the The Burning Bush Christian Bookstore website ( ) in July. We will also highlight the 2010 up-and-coming Faith & Fiction authors as well, and if you are reading this and we were not able to connect in ATL, shoot me an email so we can talk.

When God exposes me to new things (Faith & Fiction) I try to take advantage of it the best way I can… it is my belief that it is God’s way of opening a door to new possibilities. It was a privilege to meet all of the authors, readers, and supporters at the Faith & Fiction retreat in Atlanta this weekend, and I look forward to 2011!!!

1,268 words… not too bad  :- )


“Write the story of your heart. If your story is connected to Him, it will always be the right story”.

Rhonda McKnight, Author


Question: If you missed this year’s retreat, what are doing to ensure that you make it next year? Have you bookmarked ?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255


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