Her husband died of a brain tumor leaving her with four children to raise. Struggling as a single mother, Marion Bond West had more than her share of troubles. Her twin sons were a challenge - one was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the other has fought addictions most of his life. But West found comfort in her faith - and words of inspiration that have now filled seven books and countless articles.
A renowned Christian author, West will be the featured teacher at an upcoming writers' conference hosted by the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers group on Saturday, June 14, at DeKalb Technical College's Newton Center in Covington. The conference is from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and is open to anyone interested in writing. The $40 fee includes instruction, lunch, breaks and a book signing.
Joining West will be her daughter, Julie Garmon, also a noted author and award-winning writer in her own right. Garmon began writing in 2001 and is a published author and ghostwriter for Guideposts magazine and other publications. Her writing focuses on rebellious teenagers, the homeless, women trapped in fear and people with additions.
"I'm honored to be coming to Covington," Garmon said. "It'll be the first time I've taught alongside my mother... We use different teaching methods, so it should be fun. I use notes, handouts and visuals. I don't teach without my Barbie doll and a few other odds and ends. Mom shoots from the hip."
Growing up as an only child in the small Georgia town of Elberton, West said it was not until she was married and had four small children that she saw her own "desperate need for God." Her husband, Jerry, was diagnosed and soon died with terminal brain cancer, leaving her to care for their two boys and two girls.
She found solace in her faith and in writing about her life's experiences. West has now been writing for more than 30 years and said she is Guideposts magazine's "most published and most rejected" writer. She has written numerous articles for the internationally recognized Guideposts, as well as for Home Life, Today's Christian Woman, Reader's Digest, Atlanta Journal Constitution, the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series and many others. She has been writing for Daily Guideposts for more than 37 years.
In 1986, West wrote about the loneliness and sadness in her life and about how she had battled depression. The article appeared in a 1986 issue of Guideposts and was read by a widower in Oklahoma, Dr. Gene Acuff. A retired sociology professor from Oklahoma State University, Acuff replied to West's article via a letter and a phone call. The correspondence blossomed into a whirlwind romance and marriage - now almost 20 years strong.
The author of seven books, including "Out of My Bondage," "No Turning Back," "Two of Everything But Me," "Look Out Fear" and others, West is the grandmother of six and lives with her husband in Watkinsville. Garmon lives in nearby Monroe with her husband Rick and their three children.
"I look forward to encouraging the writers and would-be writers and I look forward to giving them some shortcuts to success," West said of the upcoming writers' conference. "I'll tell them a few things I did wrong for about 10 or 15 years, finally learning what editors want... (My daughter and I) both have a goofy sense of humor. We don't take ourselves too seriously. We've had a lot of hard times in both of our lives, but we still rely on humor. Everyday we need to laugh. The Bible says it does good like a medicine."
West writes "the old-fashioned way." She types everything on her IBM Selectric typewriter.
"I just don't like the whole idea of a computer," she said. "I know I'm out of step, but Julie has one and she's computer savvy. I still like the old-fashioned way. I can write a six-page story 13 times to get it right, when on a computer you can just delete."
Garmon began her writing career in 2001.
"Before that time, I played with story ideas in my mind," she said. "My first publication came in Homelife in January 2002. It was 'The Hardest Battle,' a story about losing our baby, Robbie. Then I wrote an article on something I could barely talk about - my year of clinical depression. Guideposts published 'Resurrected' in March of 2002."
In subsequent years, Garmon was chosen to participate in the Guideposts writers workshop. She and her mother have both won awards from Guideposts for their work.
West said she and Garmon are looking forward to the Covington conference and she urges participants to come prepared to ask questions.
For more information or to register, call 404-444-7514, or visit www.emacw.org to download a registration form. DeKalb Technical College is located at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington. Participants may register at the door the day of the conference.
Later this summer, the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers group will sponsor a conference with author Elizabeth Sherrill. Also held at DeKalb Technical College in Covington, this event will take place Saturday, Aug. 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sherrill has published 1,500 articles and more than 30 books with sales in excess of 50 million. Along with her husband, John, she has written a number of well-known books, including "The Hiding Place, " The Cross and the Switchblade" and "God's Smuggler." The fee for the Aug. 9 session is $99 if registered by July 11, or $129 after that date.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If you go
If you go
What: East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers
When: Saturday, June 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: DeKalb Technical College, 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington
Cost: $40 fee includes instruction, breakfast, lunch and a book signing
8:30-9:30 a.m. - Opening time: doors open, continental breakfast, book store opens
9:30-10 a.m. - General session: devotional, praise and worship, announcements
10-11 a.m. - How to write an inspirational article: Marion Bond West
11 a.m.-noon - How not to write a devotional: Julie Garmon
12-12:45 p.m. - Catered lunch and bookstore open
12:45-1:45 p.m. - Take away value: Garmon and West
1:45-2 p.m. - Question and answer session