Lin (Mason) Johnson ’71 (center, in pink) enjoys lunch at the 2008 Write-to-Publish Conference with longtime friends and WTP supporters. From left: Jane Rubietta, writer, speaker, and WTP assistant director and manuscript coordinator; Joyce K. Ellis, writer, speaker, and WTP assistant director; and Carla Williams, editorial and publicity director for WinePress Publishing Group. Photo credit: Sharyn Kopf/ Cedarville University
by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio
March 30, 2009
If to write is to bleed, then Lin (Mason) Johnson ’71 is a very brave woman. She has not only devoted her life to the craft, but she has also made guiding others toward writing success her life’s pursuit.
For the past 14 years, Johnson has served as director of the Write-to-Publish Conference (WTP), held each June at Wheaton College in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. The conference offers aspiring and published writers the opportunity to improve their skills and, more importantly, see their work in print.
Featuring inspirational evening sessions, a variety of workshops, and continuing classes in various genres, the main focus of WTP is bringing glory to God through the written word. In addition, one-on-one interviews with editors from major publishers like Tyndale House, WaterBrook Press, and Bethany House offer authors a chance to pitch their work. Considering just how hard it can be to break into the world of writing, this presents an unparalleled opportunity.
Being a part of something like WTP is a perfect fit for Johnson — who also serves as managing editor of Advanced Christian Writer, Christian Communicator, and Church Libraries — for it combines two of her passions: writing and glorifying God.
Putting Pen to Paper
Johnson transferred to Cedarville University her junior year as a Christian education major. She laughingly says she did what she doesn’t recommend: finished an entire major in two years, including a quarter at an internship. Her last year of college, she interned at a church in Columbus, Ohio, as their director of Christian education and youth. She moved into the position full time as soon as she graduated.
After about a year and a half, Johnson landed a job at Regular Baptist Press in Des Plaines, Illinois, as assistant editor of curriculum, where she wrote some lesson plans in addition to editing. “I didn’t plan to be a writer,” she says, “but I enjoyed it.”
Three years later, she married and, subsequently, left Regular Baptist Press to freelance part time and volunteer in ministry at her church. When she learned about WTP — which, at the time, was a two-week study course held at Moody Bible Institute — Johnson signed up. It seemed like just what she needed to take her writing to the next level. One of the classes she attended taught magazine writing. When Johnson handed in an assigned article for grading, the editor asked her to make a few changes … then submit the article for publication.
“It’s not the normal story,” she admits. “God just dropped things in my life.”
She also began working on a second bachelor’s degree in Bible theology, knowing it would provide her with more credibility as a curriculum writer. Thinking outside the box — like a true writer — Johnson would approach her professors and ask for permission to do writing projects instead of tests and other assignments. In the meantime, she was writing proficiently and selling almost everything — including her first book, a Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit.
Having received her second bachelor’s in 1981, Johnson followed the encouragement of others to teach professionally. She decided to apply at Moody and, as a result, began teaching part time in Christian education — which led her back to Write-to-Publish.
“The professor directing the WTP workshop at the time knew me and asked if I would help,” says Johnson. Four years later, another professor took it over, turning it into a big conference. “During his second year, I assisted him and found it very rewarding.”
Eventually, Johnson’s involvement evolved into something more. When Moody decided to drop the event in 1993, she asked for the rights to the name. “It was one of my better moments,” she says. A publisher of a small book company sponsored it the following year, but Johnson decided not to work with him again. Not having the money for a full-blown event, she ran one-day Saturday seminars for two years. Then, in 1995, Glenn Arnold, who helped start WTP at Moody and was then professor of communications in the graduate school at Wheaton College, arranged for credit to be available to those attending … and the first big WTP was held at Wheaton College the following year.
“I couldn’t let go of it,” Johnson says. “It was this burden from God, and I couldn’t let it die.” In fact, during a time of sharing at her church the fall before, she mentioned the need for funding. Again, God blessed her efforts, and enough money came in to get the conference going again ... and it’s been growing ever since.
“Writing So Heaven Will Be Different”
Last summer, WTP celebrated its 35th anniversary. A book was presented to Johnson titled “Writing So Heaven Will Be Different,” a challenge she’s incorporated into radio interviews the past few years. About two dozen conference alumni contributed inspirational stories about their own writing success to the publication.
“We have no idea how God will use what we write or who will read it,” she says, then adds, “My big passion now is training writers internationally.”
In fact, she has already done that, starting with attending a conference in Manila, Philippines, to work with writers and editors from around the world, followed by a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2005 to teach a book-writing course. Last she heard, nine out of 23 of her students in Nairobi had been published.
At first, Johnson hadn’t even been sure she wanted to go to Africa. But after much prayer — and conversations with people who had been there before — she decided to make the trip. Today she says, “It was probably the best investment for God’s Kingdom I’ve ever made.”
Of course, there’s one really good reason to continue working with writers — whether here or on the other side of the world. As Johnson says, “We’re kindred spirits.”
The next Write-to-Publish Conference will take place June 3–6 and will feature speakers Mary E. DeMuth, Jane Rubietta, and Travis Thrasher, along with a faculty of more than 40 editors, agents, and professional writers. For more information, visit www.writetopublish.com.