Let's talk with SCWC keynoter Todd Gerelds

The Southern Christian Writers Conference is excited to have two excellent keynote speakers with us on June 4-5 for our annual workshop.

Ginger Rue, a prolific novelist and contributing editor for Guideposts, will present on Saturday on the topic "For the Lord." Friday's keynote presentation will come to us from "Woodlawn" author Todd Gerelds. (Learn more about the Woodlawn story HERE.)

I recently talked with Todd about his writing and faith; we also talked about what SCWC attendees can expect from his keynote presentation and workshop.

(Register today for the SCWC. Email us at if you need more information or would like to sign up. The conference has limited in-person registration with vaccinations; it also will be offered virtually with all workshops and presentations included. You can click on "Speakers" on the main menu for information on all of the workshops; click on "Registration" for full registration information.)

Question: I know the background of the Woodlawn story, but when did you decide that you wanted to write a book about your experiences?

Answer: One week after my third daughter was born, July 19, 2002, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. For those who don't know the background, my dad was the football coach in the Woodlawn story. I knew that unless God intervened in a miraculous way, I would lose my dad soon. My children would never really know their Granddad and his story and the legacy of that amazing time. So, I decided that I wanted to document it all even if it was just a little book for my family.

Q: What was the process like in writing the book? (Was it your first attempt at writing a book-length work?)

A: It was my first book-length endeavor. I'd been blogging for years, but a book was a big undertaking for me. I enlisted the help of another writer to help me put stuff together. An accomplished journalist and author, by the name of Mark Schlabaugh did a lot of work to help this project take off. He also did a lot of research to make sure I hadn't made any errors on any matters of fact. I learned a lot from him about how the process. In my second book which is also based on life experiences with my father, I employed a lot of what I learned from Mark. I didn't have a co-writer on the second book. So, that process was just me and my computer and a lot of hours.

Q: Did you have anything to do with the filming process?

A: As the screenplay was being developed, they would send it to me for any input. There are a number of things in the movie that didn't actually occur or happened with different people/characters. Every new character costs money (actors) and time. Movies don't have unlimited budgets. So, most of the fictional stuff was due to some time and money constraints. It was clear that they were trying to be true to the overall theme of the story without the need to be completely accurate. As a result, I felt no need to change most of it. I thought it was great that I got to give input. I did spend a lot of time on the set. Many of the actors had questions about the characters. I especially talked a lot to Nic Bishop who played my dad. He is a great guy and did an exceptional job playing my dad.

Q: What other writing projects have you done, or are you working on?

A: I wrote another book called, Always Fall Forward: Life Lessons I'll Never Forget From the Coach (Tyndale House). I did a lot of blogging over the years. I've been on a bit of a sabatical as I started a new job this year that has kept me pretty busy. Prior to that, however, I had written a book that I haven't shopped to anyone that I contemplated self-publishing. It is meant to be a book and study guide for high school and college aged people to possibly work through with their parents. It is a tool to help prepare people for the philosophical and intellectual challenges to their faith that inevitably come during college and early adulthood.

Q: Why do you think it's important to write about our life experiences as Christians?

A: As I will communciate at the conference, I believe God is the God of the Story. His-Story. History. He is also the God of the Word. Jesus is the Word incarnate. We are made in His image. He is Creator. We as HIs image bearers are designed to be creators. We all have stories and it is through our stories that we find common ground with others. Life is messy. Stories are messy. In a world of facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. the messiness of our stories gets lost sometimes. We need to share our stories to reconnect with humanity.

Q: How should faith play a part in our writing?

A: I think our faith should play a role in all that we do. Whatever you do do for the glory of God. I Cor. 10:31 and Ecc. 9:10. God wants to be involved in all that way do. Even if it isn't inherently "Christian," when we use our God-given abilities, it is a reflection of Him. So, we should endeavor to be excellent in all that we do.

Q: What do you hope to instill to the SCWC attendees who hear your keynote presentation?

A: I want people to know that God gives us all a story to tell. We all are drawn to stories because we all have them. He wants us to share our stories as a means of communicating His work in our lives and to give others hope that they're not alone. Another key is to ask God to not let us miss the significance of NOW. Most of us get into a bad habit of always looking for the "Next Big Thing." Sometimes we miss the amazing stuff happening now. Life is happening now. Don't miss it!

Q: Tell me a little bit about your personal life outside of writing?

A: In November, I'll celebrate 27 years of marriage to the best writer in the family, my wife Jennifer. We have 4 daughters, Morgan, Bailey Kay (B.K.), Allison (Alli), and Maggie Leigh. Morgan is married to Christian Burhus, and B.K. is engaged to be married to Everett Young

in November. I'm very close to my two sisters Jessica and Jill, and to their husbands Stacy Norwood and William Christopher respectively. I'm also close to my mom, Debbie Gerelds, who is my biggest fan. I work with Medtronic Diabetes serving patients and their families and physicians and their staff. My job deals with basic diabetes education and the use of medical technologies to improve patients' lives. My favorite hobbies are mountain biking, cooking, playing guitar (and singing), and reading and writing. We attend Double Oak Community Church in Chelsea, Alabama.


Check out Woodlawn on Amazon; learn more about Todd at his website.

Todd's keynote address ("Writing From Life Experiences") will be presented in-person on Friday at 5 p.m.; his workshop, "From Book to Film" is Saturday at 7 p.m.

There are 24 total workshops on a variety of writing topics and genres; other features of the SCWC include private pitch sessions with agents and publishers, the awards ceremony for the 2021 SCWC Writing Awards; and much more!

Sign up today!

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