In an effort to attract attendees to its Christy Awards gala, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) followed up its annual PubU training seminar for Christian publishers with a newly-launched The Art of Writing conference on Wednesday, Nov. 8. PubU, a conference for Christian publishing professionals, took place at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. this year, attracting roughly 250 attendees ahead of the annual Christy Awards.

"We do a PubU event every year, but this year we decided [on] Nashville, which is becoming a publishing hub second to only New York City," said Stan Jantz, executive director of the ECPA. "We asked ourselves how to keep publishers here to attend the Christy Awards, as well as offer authors who come to the Christys some added value.”

In addition to encouraging attendance at the Christy Awards, conference organizers hope to provide guidance to novelists while also strengthening diversity within Christian fiction during the event. More than 100 aspiring and established authors were in attendance at The Art of Writing conference, and plans are already underway for next year’s event that will again precede the Christy gala.

“Fiction writers have a reach; when Christian fiction features diversity, it creates sites for empathy,” said conference speaker Theon Hill, associate professor at Wheaton College. “When we empathize, we create a pathway to engage. Christian fiction can equip us to look at life from multiple perspectives.”

The Art of Writing, which featured four plenary workshops including panel discussions and speakers, was followed by the 18th annual Christy Awards on the evening of Nov. 8. Ten authors were honored from five different publishing houses during the awards, which honor the best in Christian fiction and takes its name from Catherine Marshall’s bestselling 1967 novel Christy. Also at this year’s awards, Gilead Publishing announced a 50th anniversary reprint edition of Christy to be published under its Evergreen Farm imprint.

Nancy LeSourd, daughter-in-law of Marshall and spokesperson for the Marshall-LeSourd family, introduced the hardcover edition in front of the 150 audience members. “We’re very conscious of trying to introduce this book to all readers,” said LeSourd, talking to PW. “My heart is particularly with the millennial generation—which are little Christys in that they are eager to help and give back to people like she did.”

The new cover for the novel, which is on sale now for $24.99, features a photo of Leonora Whitaker, Marshall’s mother who taught in the Appalachian region as a young woman and who inspired the story.

Dan Balow, president of Gilead Publishing, said that Gilead has released Christy as an e-book for the first time in its long history, and will eventually offer a softcover edition of the book, which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, according to Gilead/Evergreen Farm..

The complete list of the 2017 Christy Award winners follows:

Historical Romance (tie):

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group)

The Lady and the Lion Heart by Joanne Bischof (Mason Jar Books)

Contemporary Romance:

Her One and Only by Becky Wade (Bethany House, Baker Publishing Group)

Short Form:

Looking Into You by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)


The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green (Bethany House, Baker Publishing Group)


The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson)


When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson)

First Novel:

Stars in the Grass by Ann Marie Stewart (Barbour Publishing)

Young Adult:

Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson)

General Fiction:

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

2017 Book of the Year:

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin (Thomas Nelson)