Presented by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the 2019 Christy Awards recognized 11 Christian books that have had an impact on contemporary culture during a gala on November 6 in Nashville, Tenn. The night’s top award, Book of the Year, went to Patti Callahan for Becoming Mrs. Lewis (Thomas Nelson). The book also won historical romance of the year in a tie with Tamera Alexander’s With This Pledge (Thomas Nelson).

The Christys also honored author Janette Oke on the 40th anniversary of her novel, Love Comes Softly, which has sold more than 1.6 million copies, according to Bethany House. The novel “headlined the launch of Christian fiction,” said Carol Johnson, who first published Oke as an editor for Bethany. For a full list of the 2019 Christy Award winners, visit here.

Taking place directly ahead of the Christys, the third annual The Art of Writing conference attracted 165 published authors, new writers, and publishing professionals—a 65% increase over last year for the one-day event. “This is a conference for professional writers, not those coming to have a manuscript evaluated,” said Stan Jantz, president of the ECPA. “This is a place to hear how to make your book better.”

The conference kicked off with Lysa TerKeurst, the bestselling author of It's Not Supposed to Be This Way and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries—an online community for women. Her presentation, titled Reaching the Heart of Readers, was also part of PubU, a two-day event hosted by the ECPA for Christian publishing professionals.

“As I sit down to write a book, I never think about what I can teach this person,” TerKeurst said during the event. “I start with asking where this person is in pain. I want my book to be a good roommate to my readers.”

Other sessions included on writing featured authors James Rubart and Anne Bogel. A panel titled Publishing Pros Share Their Secrets about Marketing featured Revell’s marketing director Michele Misiak, B&H’s v-p of marketing Dave Schroeder, literary agent and publisher Steve Laube; and Bogel.

“I learned something from every panelist and speaker,” said Of Fire and Lions (WaterBrook) author Mesu Andrews, who was a 2019 Christy Award finalist. “There are so many nuggets of wisdom to be scooped up when so many writing professionals are in one place.”

2020’s Art of Writing and the Christy Awards Gala will take place on Nov. 11 once again at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.