Denise George's popular writing course impacts wide range of seminary studentscomment (0)
April 8, 2009
By J. Norfleete Day
Almost any day of the week you can find Denise George sitting at her computer writing. As the author of 24 books and hundreds of articles, George’s passion for writing requires a strict discipline of daily work. Yet, in the fall of every year, George leaves her own writing behind and sets out for Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham to teach a writing class for seminary students.
So why would a prolific and professional writer give up precious, productive hours to teach unpublished, aspiring writers?
Because “seminarians will have numerous future opportunities to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” George said. “To do that effectively, they need to know how to write well and how to approach an editor with their manuscripts.”
George, herself, received encouragement and guidance from other writers when she was getting started as an author; she is eager to provide similar guidance and help for other aspiring writers.
George’s course, The Writing Minister, is a popular, but rigorous one. She requires the students to learn by doing. They write articles, devotions, newspaper features and even book proposals, and then, they re-write, and re-write again — as many times as it takes to make their work communicate clearly, succinctly and interestingly. At each stage of their work, George guides and coaches her students to improve their writing and market their work to potential publishers.
Cary Hughes, youth pastor at Celebration Church, Helena, and a 2008 student noted, “Denise George, in a very short amount of time, has already changed my writing skills beyond what I could have imagined.”
Since beginning to teach this class in 2000, initially in collaboration with retired Beeson professor Calvin Miller, George’s efforts have paid off in the lives of many of her students.
For some, their first published work was written in her class, and some now write regularly for various publications. They credit George’s class with giving them the knowledge and courage to launch their writing ministry.
Beeson graduate Kelly Brown, a member of Mountain Brook Community Church, was a student in George’s class in 2007. Since then, she has had a devotion accepted for publication in the September/October 2009 issue of The Upper Room, a Methodist publication.
Leslie Ann Jones, another graduate of Beeson and member of Iuka Baptist Church in Iuka, Miss., took George’s class in 2007. She hopes to write full-time.
Since taking the class Jones has had an article, “Biscuits,” published in the September/October 2008 issue of Mississippi Magazine.
“Denise taught me how to get published,” Jones said in an e-mail interview. “That's important if you want to make a living with writing. I really enjoyed spending time with some of the other writers around Beeson, and I'm excited about our futures. Denise George is churning out a small army of Beeson writers.”
George’s interest in writing began early in life: “I was a severely shy child, and writing gave me an opportunity to freely express myself.”
Her very first “publication” was a letter to the editor of The Chattanooga Times, when she was 17. Remembering that event, George said, “Seeing my words in print stirred the ‘writing fire’ in my bones, and I knew I wanted to pursue a writing career.”
Along with most successful writers, George learned a lot through trial and error, but she was also helped by mentors.
“Three professors took me under their wings and taught me writing skills I could never have learned from reading books. C. Michael Curtis, a professor at Harvard University, and editor of The Atlantic Monthly; Dr. Wayne Oates and Dr. Lucien Coleman, both professors at Southern Seminary, had a ministry to beginning writers, and they selflessly launched my writing career. I don't think I would be an author today without their help. In gratitude to God and to them, I also want to give back and help launch beginning writers.”
Some seminarians sign up for George’s course thinking it will teach them to write better academic papers, and it will, but George’s focus is on writing to publish.
“Writing to publish is a profession and a ministry,” she said. “When seminarians, pastors and Christians diligently learn the art, they can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Recently, Zondervan translated and published my book, “What Women Wish Pastors Knew,” in Korean. I can't read a word of it, but it excites me to think that Korean pastors will be reading my words. Imagine, half a world away, I can speak to people I will never meet. That's the magic and beauty of writing to publish.”
George also has the distinction of being part of a writing family. Her husband, Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, has published more than 20 books and hundreds of articles in journals and newspapers.
Together, Denise and Timothy edited and published a dozen volumes in The Library of Baptist Classics with Broadman & Holman several years ago. Their son, Christian, a doctoral student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, has already published five books and many articles for magazines. The Georges also have a daughter, Alyce, a graduate student at The University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, but thus far, the family writing passion has not captured her.
George is a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, in Birmingham Baptist Association.