Campbell professor braves storms to participate in Christian writing seminar

October 25, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Buies Creek, N.C.-In late September, Tropical Storm Ondoy dumped more than 30 inches of rain in 30 minutes in the Phillippines. It was just the beginning of a series of storms that were to batter the country for a period of two weeks. But that didn't stop Campbell University's Dr. Michael Ray Smith from hopping a plane to Manila to teach at an intensive three-day seminar for writers and editors, Oct. 2-7.

Conducted by Magazine Training International (MTI), the seminar is part of the mission organization's purpose to coordinate a variety of publishing training resources and systems in order to strengthen Christian magazine publishing. MTI has been active in Eastern Europe since 1989, in the countries of the former Soviet Union since 1996 and in Asia since 2000, providing consulting help and organizing some 50 conferences on every facet of magazine publishing. Smith, who is a communication studies professor, taught feature and devotional writing to editors and writers from 20 countries while storm winds buffeted the 14-story Bayview Park Hotel where the conference was held.

"Each day we prayed for relief for the Phillippines, a blessing on the editorial work of the conference and God's work in the lives of believers," Smith said in an article about the trip.

Tropical Storm Ondoy and the storms that followed led to nearly 500 deaths, yet Smith marveled at the resilience of the Filippino people.

"A young man collects trash left over from back-to-back tropical storms from the past two weeks. That man, like so many others, may find something to sell to thousands of Americans just like me who visit Manila. As cars stream along Roxas Boulevard, young men and some small children dart in and out of traffic, offering to clean a windshield or sell some dubious item or two. …..Life goes on."

Back in the U.S., Smith uses his experiences in Manila to teach students in his own classes.

"In features classes, we talked about the issue of accuracy, one of many issues discussed at the conference," he said. "And students were required to write a 200-word piece on the reasons why they write. Some mentioned vanity, some mentioned legacy and a few talked about writing as a way to serve the Lord."

One of Smith's students, Nick Woods, said that he loves words and wants to use his talent as a writer and a Christian doing excellence in the field, Smith added.

Since 1998, more than 50 experienced publishing professionals from around the world have taught at MTI conferences in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Croatia, Austria, Slovakia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea and the United States. More than a thousand staff members of over 325 Christian magazines from some 50 countries have taken advantage of training at one or more of the conferences.

A former journalist, Smith spent a decade working as a reporter and editor of newspapers including Gannett Co., owner of USA Today, Lancaster Newspapers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and others.

Since coming to Campbell University in 2003, he continues to write while helping others to win a byline. The author of several books on communication, Smith's fourth book, "FeatureWriting.Com," is a step-by-step approach to snagging and completing a story. Smith is the recipient of the Archie K. Davis Fellowship from the North Caroliniana Society.