Have you written the next great Christian novel?

Some of the books that have caught my attention over the past several years.

Some of the books that have caught my attention over the past few years as CT’s fiction judge.

In addition to writing books, one of my coolest gigs is serving as the preliminary fiction judge for Christianity Today’s annual book awards. (I know, right?!) Since I have some studied opinions about the state of Christian fiction, I published an article for CT last week in which I outlined my criteria for how I choose the winning titles. And I threw down a challenge: Who will write the novel I want to read in  2017?

Since Friday I’ve received a veritable avalanche of responses–email, messages, comments, tweets from authors, aspiring authors, and even publishers–all while stuck at home in a polar vortex with two small boys on Christmas break. I hate to say this, but the boys played rock-paper-scissors with y’all and the boys won. I’m simply unable to reply to everyone personally. So, here’s my open letter about my open letter to Christian novelists and publishers:

Dear writers,

First off, let me say how awed I am by the fact that so many of you have finished or even published novels. This is a huge accomplishment. Lots of writers never manage to sustain and complete a complex work on that scale, ever. Congratulations!

Second, since there seems to be some confusion about how the CT judging works, let me clarify: I don’t review unsolicited material; it all comes through CT via their nominations process. Obviously the judging is finished for anything published in 2016, so the next round will open next June for books published or forthcoming in 2017. Stay tuned through CT’s online community for details. UPDATE: You do not have to be published with a Christian publishing house to qualify–trade publishers are also welcome to nominate titles.

Third, you are not required to accept everything I say as gospel (as my three-year-old will tell you). Here’s my hour-long interview by Chris Fabry of Moody Radio’s Chris Fabry Live on Dec. 20, in which he offers some thoughtful responses to my article as well as some helpful pushback. (And in which both he and I studiously avoid talking about his novel The Promise of Jesse Woods even though it was this year’s runner up. Such a humble, generous guy!). I hope the interview provides encouragement and food for thought.

Fourth, if you wish to learn more about how to submit material to publishers or about the state of publishing in general, please check out the writing conferences and webinars offered by Writing For Your Life.

Finally, as my Christmas gift to you, here’s a week’s worth of free Christmas reflections adapted from my anthology Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany (Paraclete Press). “It is a Word that has come to us, and words that tell the story of that Word from generation to generation.” How can we become the kind of people who both inhabit and tell a more lasting story?

In summary, the work you are doing as writers is worthy work–don’t give up!

Christmas blessings,


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4 Responses to Have you written the next great Christian novel?

  1. Josh Kelley says:

    Thank you again for the article and now the post. Just one question: Does it matter if one is published CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) or general market?


  2. Dear Sarah, Thanks for writing this. It’s like you read my mind (or vice versa) because I talk about this ALL.THE.TIME. I was a literature major and I write literary fiction, and am completely marginalized at “Christian writers” conferences — in fact, I just don’t go. People actually do not know what “literary fiction” means. So, I posted a response to your article, throwing down a new challenge for faith writers. Please check it out at http://www.sharoncairnsmann.com/blog-a-good-read. Happy reading!

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