2014 Conference Faculty | Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference

2014 Conference Faculty

Our stellar 2014 faculty has the passion and ability to help Christian writers meet the challenges of today’s writing and publishing world. We will continue to add additional information as the conference date nears.


Newell and Colleen Cerak, Authors of #1 New York Times Bestseller, Mistaken IdentityNewell and Colleen are the parents of Whitney Cerak who was mistakenly identified as deceased at the scene of a tragic car accident in the spring of 2006. A month later, it was discovered that Whitney was in fact alive, and another family, thinking she was their daughter, had been caring for her all that time. While the Ceraks were overcome with joy that Whitney was alive, they soon found that their happiness was met by the despair of the other family newly grieving a month old loss of their own daughter. The Ceraks along with the Van Ryns released a book about all these events and their emotional struggle called Mistaken Identity. This New York Times #1 Bestseller brings to life the joy and pain of two families who have over come so much, and in the midst of it all, point to God’s love as the source of their strength.

Cliff Graham, Author, Speaker. Cliff Graham is the author of the Lion of War series of novels based on King David’s Mighty Men, soon to be a major motion picture franchise. He was an officer in the United States Army and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cliff speaks around the country, and he and his wife Cassandra live in the mountains of Utah with their children. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, finding adventure and inspiration in the mountains that are his backyard.

Jay Payleitner, Producer, Speaker, Author. Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States. He has worked on Josh McDowell Radio, Today’s Father, Jesus Freaks Radio for the The Voice of the Martyrs, and many others. He’s also a popular speaker on parenting and marriage, a bestselling author, and executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Jay and his wife, Rita, make their home in the Chicago area, where they’ve raised five great kids and loved on ten foster babies.


Dawn Anderson, Editor, Kregel. Dawn Anderson passionately loves the career to which God has drawn her. A graduate of Cornerstone University with an English major and a psychology minor, she began proofreading professionally in college, but took the circuitous route through typesetting, teaching high school English, homeschooling, and play directing before finally settling down to editing full time. Kregel employee of the year for 2012, wife of twenty-plus years, mom of tweens and teens, and involved with youth at church, she enjoys reading proposals (and a few published works) in her free time.

Dan Balow, Agent, Steve Laube Agency. Dan Balow, director of publishing development and literary agent at the Steve Laube Agency, started in Christian publishing in 1983 and over the last 30+ years has been involved with the business side of the industry in marketing, sales, rights management, foreign sales, audio books, digital publishing, web management and acquisitions. 

With half of his experience coming with Tyndale House from the early 90’s to the mid-2000’s, Dan has developed a wide-ranging perspective on the industry. 

He joined The Steve Laube Agency in July 2013.  Dan is a graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois) with a degree in Communications, is married to Carol, a speech therapist in the public schools, and they make Wheaton, Illinois their home. They have four grown children (and one grandchild).

Crystal Bowman, Author of children’s books. 

Ann Byle, Agent, Credo Communications. Ann Byle is a freelance writer for local and national publications and a literary agent with Credo Communications. She writes for Publishers Weekly, Christian Retailing, Thriving Family, NovelCrossing.com, and Grand Rapids Magazine, and wrote for many years for The Grand Rapids Press. She is also author or coauthor of several books. She lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, children, and pets.

Bill and Nancie Carmichael, Deep River Books

John Chisum, Musician, Worship Pastor

Lyn Cryderman, Writer and Publishing Consultant.  Lyn Cryderman began his publishing career as a high-school English teacher where every night he took home a briefcase full of essays and attacked them with his red pen. In his spare time he wrote for newspapers and magazines, making the transition to the publishing industry in 1985 as the editor of a denominational magazine. After serving as managing editor of Christianity Today and publisher of Zondervan’s book group, he left to pursue freelance writing and consulting opportunities.

Don Gates is the founder of The Gates Group, a multi-faceted communications agency, where he works with well-known pastors, authors and ministry leaders. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Wheaton College. Prior to starting his own venture, Don was Vice President of Marketing for Zondervan where he collaborated with such accomplished authors as Rick Warren, Anne Graham Lotz, Philip Yancey, Lee Strobel, Ann Voskamp, Kyle Idleman, and Max Lucado. Previously, he spent fifteen years in brand management and food marketing. Don received a BS degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA degree from Kellogg at Northwestern University. He is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and serves on the board of several faith-based organizations. Don has been faithfully married to Amy for twenty-two years and is very active in the lives of their three children.

Linda Glaz, Author, Agent, Hartline Literary Agency

Timothy Haines grew up in Upstate New York but fell in love with Michigan after attending Hope College. He launched a digital social media agency called TechBridge in 2009 and works full time as the Social Media Specialist. In a world where social media is constantly changing, Tim hopes to make a difference by providing hype-free education to clients trying to make their message heard.

Bob Hudson, Senior Editor-at-Large, Zondervan

Chris Jager, Fiction Buyer, Baker Book House.Chris Jager has been the fiction buyer for Baker Book House for the past 18 years. An avid reader her entire life, she loves fiction. She has an enviable grasp of the genre with a solid understanding of authors and publishers alike. Customers value her judgment and recommendations, and publishers often seek our her opinion for advice on both content and cover designs. She is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Christian Librarians’ Association (ECLA) in Chicago and is consultant to numerous church libraries.

Lissa Halls Johnson, Author, Collaborative Writer, Editor

Eddie Jones, Lighthouse Publishing

Jack Kuhatschek, VP & Publisher,  Baker Publishing Group. Jack Kuhatschek is executive VP & publisher at Baker Publishing Group. He is a publishing veteran with over thirty years in the book business, having worked at InterVarsity Press, Zondervan, and Baker. Jack has worked with such authors as Rick Warren, John Ortberg, Bill Hybels, and David Kinnaman. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Sandy, and their dog Annie. Jack and Sandy have two children.

Cindy Lambert, Publishing Strategist, Collaborative Writer and Editor. Cindy Lambert publishing strategist for Somersault Group and collaborative writer, began her career as owner of an award-winning independent Christian bookstore, then expanded into leadership roles in distribution, editorial, consumer research, and publishing at Ingram, Simon & Schuster, and Zondervan, where she served as vice president and associate publisher of trade books. As a collaborative writer, Cindy has co-authored the bestselling book UnPlanned with Abby Johnson (Tyndale and Focus on the Family, 2010), 40 Days for Life  with Bereit and Carney (Cappella Books, 2013), One Light Still Shines with Marie Monville (Zondervan, 2013), and Unstoppable with Christine Caine (Zondervan, 2014). She and her husband, Dave, have six children and nine grandchildren.

David Lambert, Editorial Director, Author. Dave Lambert is the author of ten published books. He has received numerous awards for magazine articles and short stories published in such places as Virtue, Moody, Story, Christian Parenting Today, Sweet Sixteen, Decision, Montana Magazine, Campus Life, Outreach, and many other periodicals. David has an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Montana. He has held a variety of positions in publishing, spending eighteen years as an acquiring editor at Zondervan, most of that time as executive editor for fiction, and more recently, three years as senior fiction editor at Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. David is the editorial director for Somersault.

Gail Gaymer Martin, Author. Gail Gaymer Martin, multi-award-winning novelist, writes Christian fiction with fifty-five published novels and nearly four million books in print. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance and a co-founder and executive board member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), as well as a member of Christian Authors Network(CAN).  Gail was named one of the four best novelists in the Detroit area by CBS local news. She is a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at writers’ conference across the US. Visit her website at www.gailgaymermartin.com.

Shayne Moore, Author and Speaker

Andrew Rogers, Editor, Discovery House. Andrew Rogers writes fiction, non-fiction, and emails that are just a bit too long. He has worked in the book industry since 2007 in both publishing and retail, on marketing team and on editorial team. He is currently an editor at Discovery House Publishers. Andrew is a member of a writers group called The Weaklings. Together they host Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference. Andrew is married, a father, and lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. His writing has appeared in Catapult Magazine, The Write Michigan 2013 Anthology, The West Michigan Christian News, Prodigal Son Magazine, the Upper Room, and elsewhere. Twitter: @ALRstories Website: www.tellbetterstories.wordpress.com

John Sawyer, Brand and Marketing Strategist, Somersault

Dave Sheets, AuthorOneSource, Christian Writers’ Guild

John Sloan, Zondervan Executive Editor, HarperCollins Christian Publishing House

Jeannette Taylor, Product Development and Marketing Strategist

Rob Teigen, Baker Book Group.

Gabriele Udell, Editor, Beacon Hill Press.  Gabriele Udell serves as editor for the consumer product line at Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (a division of Nazarene Publishing House).  Gabriele has served in several positions at Beacon Hill, including marketing, administrative, project management, and editorial.  She has worked on titles including Angry  Birds and Killer Bees: Talking to Your Kids about Sex; Simply Rejoicing: 12 Months with God; Developing a Giving Church; and A Faith of Their Own: An Experience Guide for Parents and Preteens.  She works exclusively with nonfiction titles. Gabriele graduated with a B.A. in English at Olivet Nazarene University in 1999 and obtained her MBA from the University of Kansas in 2006.  During her time as an undergraduate, she also had the privilege of studying at Oxford University, during which she developed a passion for rugby. Gabriele and her husband Scott reside with their six-year-old son Nate in Olathe, Kansas.
Sandra VanderZicht, Associate Publisher and Executive Editor, Zondervan
James Watkins, Author, Speaker, Editor. Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella! He is author/contributor to over 30 books and over two thousand articles, conference speaker throughout North America and overseas, editorial advisor for ACW Press, instructor at Taylor University and most of all, child of God. The “hats” are what he does, but not who he is. “Whether I succeed or fail in those jobs, I know that my identity is secure in being an unconditionally loved child of God.” Jim has also served as an editor/writer for the American Bible Society, full-time editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, and weekly columnist for three secular newspapers for fifteen years—but not all at the same time. Most important, he’s married to the Rev. Lois, has two married children and five adorable grandchildren.
PeggySue Wells, Author, Editor, Speaker. Multi-tasking author, editor, teacher, and speaker, PeggySue Wells is the author of thousands of articles and two dozen books published nationally and internationally, translated into five languages, including a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, which is an audio finalist and made for TV film. PeggySue is a broadcast co-host, columnist, and writing coach. Her books focus on strengthening relationships, the intrepid human spirit, and our great God with whom all things are HIMpossible.