Mark, by way of introduction, tell us about your faith journey and how God led you to where you are today.
I came to Christ at age 21 from an utterly irreligious background. The beauty of the gospel captured me. I plunged fully in. No regrets.
You have written seven books and have another about to be published. Tell us about your calling to be a writer and how you got into this ministry.
I had a remarkable Grade 5 teacher who awakened my creativity. He had his students keep a journal and pushed us to use our imaginations. It sparked in me a love for language and story. At 18, I began writing short fiction. At 21— the same year I came to Christ—I enrolled in the UBC writing program. I started publishing in my early 20s. My first book came out when I was 40.
You will be one of the keynote speakers at Write Canada 2014. What is the title of your keynote speech and what will be the focus of your presentation?
I haven’t entirely decided at this point, but I’m leaning toward “Saving the Best ‘till Last.” I’d base the talk on John 2, Jesus turning water into wine, and explore the creative power of Christ’s life within us. Alternately, I might explore a similar theme from Acts 2, where the Spirit releases Christ-followers to dream dreams and see visions.
You will also be leading a continuing class on the topic of "Spiritual Writing." What is spiritual writing?
I’m not sure what spiritual writing is. My tack: it’s good writing. I want to inspire Christians to cultivate the craft of writing, the art of storytelling, the discipline of clear thinking, and a love for good theology. Spiritual writing, I suppose, flows from a man or woman attentive and submitted to God.
Can anyone become a spiritual writer? How can a person develop himself/herself to become a spiritual writer?
Hard question. Yes and no. All of us can become saints. This is God’s primary goal for us, and he bends considerable resources toward its fulfilment. But not all saints will be writers, any more than all will be pastors or missionaries or doctors, etc. Writing is tied up with the mystery of calling. Having said that, anyone called to write can become technically good at it. That can be taught.
You will also be conducting a workshop on "The Spiritual Life of a Writer." On a personal note, how are your spiritual life and your writing intertwined? How important is spirituality and faith to a writer?
It’s deeply important. Hemingway said that writing is easy; you open a vein and bleed on the page. It’s true: Good writing flows from the inmost places. It is literally our livelihood. So the quality of what we write depends on the quality of who we are.
My own life in Christ informs my writing at every point: establishing why I write, choosing what to write, finding the energy to write, determining what I am trying to accomplish by writing. I wouldn’t be able to separate the two at this point, nor would I want to.
Interview by Fred Ash