2021 & 2023 Christian Writers Retreat
THURSDAY, FRIDAY, SATURDAY – MAY 18-20, 2023
Thursday, Friday & Saturday, September 23rd-25th, 2021
Vanessa Davis Griggs – Author, Motivational Speaker, Minister aka “God’s Cheerleader”, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Mentor, and Confidant
Vanessa Davis Griggs, Author, Entrepreneur “God’s Cheerleader,” Vanessa Davis Griggs is an author and motivational speaker who adores the power of words both written and spoken. At the end of 1996, this former BellSouth employee left 18 years of service stepping out on faith and decided to pursue her purpose
and passion–writing. Proving out Proverbs 18:16, A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men, she began her own company (Free To Soar) emphasizing the taking off of limits as she travels inspiring and encouraging others–both young and old–to take flight like an eagle and do the same.
Vanessa is the recipient of numerous recognition’s including: 2010 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented by Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.; 1st Quarter 2009, Practicing What You Preach was named one of EDC’s “On the Shoulders of Giants” Faith-based Books Best Book Award; June 2007 recipient of the Arts and Letters Award from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Birmingham Alumnae
Chapter; the March 2006 recipient of The Greater Birmingham Millennium Section National Council of Negro Women Inspiration Award, 2004-2005 Jasper Outstanding Achievement Award.
Vanessa resides in Irondale (home of the Whistle Stop Café and Fried Green Tomatoes), a community just outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
- Vanessa is the author of 18 novels: Destiny Unlimited, The Rose of Jericho, Promises Beyond Jordan, Wings of Grace. Blessed Trinity, Strongholds, If Memory Serves, Practicing What You Preach (the #1 Bestselling Christian fiction for June 2009 BCCN1/BCBC Bestseller’s List) Goodness and Mercy, The Truth Is the Light, Ray of Hope, Redeeming Waters (the #1 Bestselling Christian fiction with BCNN1 for August 2011), Forever Soul Ties.(the #1 Bestselling Christian fiction with BCNN1 for February 2012 and nominated for Romantic Times 2012 Best Multicultural Fiction), The Other Side of Goodness, The Other Side of Dare. and The Other Side of Divine an RT Book Reviews 4.5 Star Top Pick and nominated for Romantic Times 2013 Best Multicultural Fiction. Steely Gray and Countless Blessings are now available as both e-books and printed version (printed is exclusive Two books in One!).
- Having said all of this, the most important thing Vanessa wants you to know is that she is a child of the Most High King.
2018 Stay Focused Christian Writers Retreat
Thursday, November 29th thru Saturday, December 1, 2018
Bishop J. Wayne Arnold, Sr.
Bishop Arnold is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his wife, Carlis, have been married for over 30 years, and have five adult children, all of whom reside in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In 1995 Mt. Zion elevated Pastor Arnold to Bishop and he serves as a listening ear and a strong shoulder to give advice, support, instruction and leadership to other Pastors. Many ministers have been nurtured and taught within the walls of Mt. Zion and under the supervision of Bishop Arnold. Those same ministers have answered the call to be pastors themselves. To this day they are a Blessing to and fully supported by Bishop Arnold and Pastor Carlis.
In addition to the responsibilities of Overseer and Pastoral Care, Bishop Arnold also serves as Chaplain for Serenity Hospice of Las Vegas. In this position Bishop Arnold has become a Bereavement Specialist and provided Spiritual Care for hundreds of people outside of the church. It is a door to do outreach and an opportunity to bring entire families to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, The Christ; for this he is eternally grateful.
Bishop Arnold has served as Senior Pastor of churches in Arkansas and Missouri. Bishop Arnold preached his first sermon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Little Rock under the leadership of Rev. E.D. Doyle.
Bishop Arnold fulfilled one of his life goals in 2017. He wrote and published his first book entitled “Just A Thought!”. This Christian Devotional is available on Amazon.com and his websites. Just A Thought (with pictures in full color), is a compilation of wise healthy words put together with you in mind. In this book you will find success tips, life lessons, and Godly wisdom from Bishop J. Wayne Arnold, Sr.
Bishop Arnold attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith where he received his Associate of Arts degree in Education.
He received further studies at the
Kansas City Bible College, Pastor Jack Hayford’s Pastors seminars and Dr. Creflo Dollar’s Pastors/Church Leaders Conferences. He is also part of the Southern Baptist Association, Nevada/California Interstate Baptist Convention, and the Ministerial Alliance of Las Vegas.
For many years Pastor Arnold was the host of “Our Daily Bread”, a weekly radio broadcast on KKVV-AM 1060 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This gave Pastor Arnold the opportunity to systematically teach the word of God to a broader audience as well as feature other guest ministers.
Pastor Carlis assists her husband in shepherding the members of Zion, and also host her own conference called “You Don’t Know My Story”, where women from across the country come annually and are blessed, encouraged and inspired. In addition to their pastoral responsibilities, Bishop and Pastor Carlis together provide Spiritual support to bereaved families, both family and marital counseling, and Officiate funeral and wedding ceremonies. They continue to work throughout the Las Vegas community to bring various groups together for the common good. You can follow them on Facebook and Word Press.
2017 STAY FOCUSED RETREAT
Thursday, September 21st thru Saturday, September 23, 2017
VANESSA DAVIS GRIGGS — DEBORAH WILSON SMART —
LYNN PINDER — MARLENE BAGNULL
As we approach the fifth year of our annual STAY FOCUSED CHRISTIAN WRITER’S RETREAT we are excited to bring back all of our previous Keynote speakers to give you their lessons learned and share the path they have chosen to success. Our previous keynote speakers range from full-time writers, authors, ministers of the gospel, long time business owners, and publishers, all committed to ministry, working for The Lord!
We are blessed to be in such a position of sharing. We know that you will soon experience the kindness of these awesome people of God. All bios will be posted soon. Please refer back to this page often for retreat registration information.
2016 STAY FOCUSED RETREAT
September 23rd & 24th, 2016 Keynote Speaker
Pastor Bert W. Wright, Jr.
Bert Wendell Wright, Jr. was born in the City of Camden, New Jersey, to Bert and Janice Wright. He attended the Camden City School System and successfully graduated from Camden High School in 1996. He would later earn an Associate’s Degree in Elementary Education from Camden County College. In 2010, He furthered his education and received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ashford University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree. Presently, Bert is employed in Human Resources with the Camden County Police Department.
Elder Bert’s quiet demeanor tends to veil his inward passion. His heart’s plea is to help people and to see them prosper both spiritually as well as naturally. This desire is what led him and his wife, Danielle to birth a consulting company called, “The Wright Decision” in 2007. The Wright Decision’s mission is to assis
t churches, businesses, and individuals to wisely manage their material resources.
In 2012, Elder Bert and his wife, Danielle were presented with an opportunity to have a six day/week segment on the talk radio station WTMR. During their daily broadcast, they lifted up the name of Jesus and presented numerous guests, including health & wellness experts, pastors, recording artists and politicians.
Elder Wright has attended the St. John Church of the Apostolic Faith all of his life. He faithfully served under the auspices of Bishop Carlyle, Mother Mary Tarte and the leadership of Pastor Arnetha Thompson. In his years at St. John, Berthas served in many capacities. He has been Youth President, Men’s Fellowship Advisor, and Sunday School Teacher; and he remains willing to do any task that God has set before him. Elder Bert accepted his calling to the ministry in 2000 and was affirmed as a Minister of the Gospel in 2003.
Also in 2003 he was joined in holy matrimony to his best friend and ally, Evangelist Danielle Wright. Through this union two gifts of God were created, Bert Wright, III and Madison Lauryn. He also fathers Ashley, Marc, and Anthony Williams. In 2008, Bert was ordained an Elder, and in June 2014, at the Christian Covenant Fellowship of Ministries Annual Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Michael Blue, he was confirmed Co-Pastor of St. John Church. In accord with Pastor Arnetha Thompson’s repeated public endorsement of his leadership, he was duly appointed Pastor-Elect under the auspices of Bishop Blue with the officers and members of St. John. Supported by his wife and the church family, Elder Wright has accepted full responsibility of Senior Pastor of the St. John Church of the Apostolic Faith.
Elder Bert W. Wright, Jr. is undeniably blessed of God. He fully acknowledges that this most solemn moment in his life and ministry is orchestrated only through the grace and mercy of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One of his favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11, “For, I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
2015 STAY FOCUSED RETREAT
April 2015 Keynote Speaker
Marlene Bagnull, Litt.D. – Author, Speaker, Editor, Publisher Ampelos Press, and Director at Write His Answer. Best of all, a child of God.
Marlene Bagnull has made over 1,000 sales to Christian periodicals and is the author of seven books. As the founder of the Greater Philly Christian Writers Fellowship in 1983 and director of their yearly conference, Marlene has embraced God’s call to encourage and equip you to write about a God who is real, who is reachable, and who changes lives.
She teaches Write His Answer Seminars around the nation and also directs the Colorado Christian Writers Conference since 1997.
Write His Answer Ministries is the umbrella for Marlene Bagnull’s writing and speaking ministry and her ministry to other Christian writers through:
- Bible studies
- the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference that she founded in 1983 and continues to direct
- the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship (CWF) that she also founded in 1983
and that meets monthly, September – May in Newtown Square
- the Lansdale Critique Group (women only!) that meets in my home bi-weekly
- the Colorado Christian Writers Conference that she began directing in 1997
- Christian writing seminars and retreats
- At Home Writing Workshops (a correspondence study program)
- editing and mentoring services to Christian writers
- helping Christians publish affordably but professionally through Ampelos Press
I felt a call to full-time Christian service as a teenager. If anyone had told me then, however, that God was calling me to a writing and speaking ministry, I would have said, “A loving God would never do that to me!” I hated English in high school, and I was terrified of the public speaking class we were required to take.
God’s plan was certainly not my plan. Instead, it is “infinitely beyond [my] highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Eph 3:20 TLB)!
He has given me the joy and privilege of being part of Christian publishing since 1968. I have made over 1,000 sales to Christian periodicals and have authored five books including an expanded edition of Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers. I am the compiler and editor of For Better, For Worse – Devotional Thoughts for Married Couples and two editions of My Turn to Care – Encouragement for Caregivers of Aging Parents.
The Lord has opened so many doors, including the opportunity to serve on the faculty of over 75 Christian writers conferences and to give my one and two-day Christian writers seminars over 50 times around the nation. When He blessed me with an honorary Doctor of Letters in May 1999, all I could say was, “Wow!” Only God could take someone who felt as inadequate as I did (and often still do) and make all this happen.
Marlene and her husband, Paul, have been married over 50 years and have three grown and married children and three grandchildren.
2014 STAY FOCUSED RETREAT
May 2014 Keynote Speakers
Deborah Wilson Smart – Author, Freelance Writer, Publishing Editor, Publisher and Coach
Deborah Wilson Smart is a Senior Publishing Editor and Producer with One Smart Lady Productions and lives in Newark, Delaware. She is an Author, Freelance Writer, Publishing Editor, Publisher and Coach. Ms. Smart founded Gladstone Publishing Services in 1998 as a mainstream publishing company; and One Smart Lady Productions in 2014 to address the Independent Publishing market. Deborah works with new and emerging authors to help them fulfill their dreams to become published authors.
Deborah was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. Her first writing experience was as High School Columnist “Dear Gabby”. She published her first book, “Joy Comes Through the Mourning”, an inspirational collection of letters, poetry and short stories reflecting on her 4 years as a widow. She began The String of Pearl series with “Pearl the Little Light that Shines”, followed by “The Refined Pearl”. She co-wrote a children’s chapter book with her niece, Hadana Trinity Smart titled “Hadana and the Skating Club”.
Deborah has published 45 books in total and counting. It is her passion to work with writers and authors at all stages of the publishing platform. She has completed her training in Social Media Marketing and is prepared to take authors struggling to sell their books to the next level. “It’s all about knowing what you want and where you want to go in this process.”
Her latest book project is “Smart Lifestyles Online: Finding Your Inner Core Confidence”.
Her websites are: http://gladstonepublishing.com http://onesmartladyproductions.org http://smartlifestylesonline.com