Making a Way in the Wilderness


It is so exciting to be back this year for the second Faith & Culture Writers Conference on April 5 and 6, 2013.  I am especially grateful to be at Multnomah University where I serve as the faculty advisor for MUSE student publication, which I helped launch in 2011.  I have been an adjunct professor at Multnomah since 2010, and I am thrilled that Multnomah has caught the vision for this conference.

I have been a freelance journalist for The Oregonian since 1996, specializing in faith, culture, family and community stories.  Bottom line is I pen positive stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  Over the years, people have asked me how I got started writing and how am I able to share so many stories of faith. I believe that our culture is hungry for stories that share hope and faith and community.  We need to be looking for those stories and be willing to share them.  Creativity and the literary arts — indeed, all the arts — are a gift from the Creator.

I love connecting and networking engaging fellow people of faith to encourage them to embrace their creative calling. I have always viewed my writing as a ministry, as a calling, as a way to share truth.  Quoting Martin Luther on my Twitter account, I believe that, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”

At Rolling Hills, I had put out a call for writers of any and all genres to meet for a time of fellowship.  We had 50 people show up in a space for 25. It showed me that people of faith are interested in this creative calling and they want to gather in community to encourage one another.  Fellow believers are looking for a place to bond around their mutual love for creativity and the Word.  That is when we began dreaming of a larger event, where we would gather hundreds of creative people of faith together for a day to engage, encourage, challenge, and inspire one another in this mutual creative calling on our lives.

I had been involved with the Network for Women in Leadership at Western Seminary, where they used to host a women’s writers conference every other year under the direction of Bev Hislop.  She decided to cease that conference, but was open to something new.  That is when we began meeting and talking about my vision for the Faith & Culture Writers Conference.  She loved the idea and allowed us along with a great leadership team to bring the conference to their campus in 2011.

It was such a wonderful, overwhelmingly positive day filled with creative energy.  I had people come up to me during the event and say they’ve never been to anything like it.  One man wanted to duplicate this in the Seattle area.  Something about the event struck a cord.  People asked if we would return in 2012, but my daughter Rachel was getting married that year and so I knew I could not plan it.  But, 2013 was on my radar.

When the time got closer to think about another conference, Western Seminary decided they were going in another direction (plus, we had outgrown that venue our first year), so I approached Multnomah University.  That made the most sense to me as I am on staff there.  I am grateful that Dean of Campus Life Dave Groom–whom I report to as the faculty advisor for MUSE student publication–love the idea as well.

God laid on my heart those who should help head up the conference this year.  It was a no-brainer to have Bethany Jackson return.  I asked her to join our conference leadership planning team in 2011 and her expertise in event management and facility coordinating was priceless.  This year, Bethany serves as Administrative Assistant.  Kari Patterson was another one that came to mind right away as another potential planning team member.  Kari introduced herself to me at the 2011 conference after the breakout session I led on Freelance Writing.  A fellow West Linn mom, Kari’s soft heart and drive to write is contagious, and she happily joined the team for the 2013 conference, serving as the communications coordinator.  I met Ashley Larkin, this year’s literary agent and mentor coordinator, two years ago, falling in love first with her writing on her blog.  With so many shared connections, including West Linn and the University of Portland, I invited her to my Writers Connection at Rolling Hills, and we have been friends ever since. Her soft heart and get-it-done attitude are exemplary, and our theme verse Isaiah 43:19 came from her.  Ana Brors, our Social Media strategist and web designer, reached out to me on our Faith & Culture Writers Connection Facebook page this year.  She had attended our 2011 event and loved it.  I found her expertise in social media so helpful, asking her to join our leadership planning team as well.

We are excited about our top-notch line up of speakers for 2013. S ome big names — William Paul Young, author of the Shack, Ken Wytsma, The Justice Conference Founder, Brian Doyle, author of 13 books, Dan Merchant, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers filmmaker and producer — and we also have some lesser known names whom I am excited to introduce into the conversation around the intersection of faith and culture and the arts– Keith Turley, author, publisher and marketer from Seattle, Tyler Braun, 20-something pastor, blogger, and author, and Christal Jenkins, speaker and author of three books.  And, Martin French, an exquisite artist, illustrator and art professor, once again designed our classy WORDS logo, incorporating our new theme.

One of the things noted on the survey we took after the conference in 2011 was that people wanted more fellowship during the conference. Time to talk with fellow attendees and speakers.  So we have added Friday night this year, and an after the event social hour on Saturday.

Feel free to shoot me an email with questions at

Or text or call me 503-318-3480

You may also get a hold of our conference administrative assistant Bethany Jackson at



  1. Bethany Jackson says:

    We are so excited for the conference! Thank you for all of the hard work you have put into it and the vision you have shared to make it possible.

  2. Cornelia says:

    Bethany- Thanks for your comment and it brings me a lot of joy to be able to bring together so many creative people, to help encourage and inspire them in their creative calling. I believe the vision is from God and I am glad you are back helping us again, this time in an expanded role. Thank you for your enthusiasm and sacrifice!- cornelia

  3. Joan Callander says:

    I can’t encourage you enough to attend. Chad Dingle (my adopted son/grandson) and my book, Adiction & Families: A Survival Guide was shaped and changed dramatically by what we learned at the faith and cultural writers conference two years ago. YOU, as an attendee, will gain a lot but you never know when someone you speak to or encourage at the event will change their life and the lives others by something you say or share.

    Cornelia and Bethany have again put together an amazing slate of speakers and event — you’ll learn more here than anywhere about the art and hard work of honoring God by sharing your gifts through whatever media you choose from tweets to digital books to movies.

    Joan Callander

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