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Fiction for the faithful: Denise Stinson's imprint, Walk Worthy Press, stakes out a future for Christian fiction. (faith).

Denise Stinson, a highly successful literary agent whose clients have included Bishop T.D. Jakes and CeCe Winans, launched Walk Worthy Press in 1997 out of her own desire to read Christian fiction that she could not find elsewhere. Presenting material on the tough issues that African American Christians face every day, Walk Worthy, based in Michigan, is the No. 1 publisher of Christian novels by African American authors.

"I wanted to publish books that not only tell a good story, but that also say something to believers and nonbelievers alike about the character of God," says Stinson. She partnered with Warner Books to release Walk Worthy's first novel, Temptation by Victoria Christopher Murray, in 2000. Stinson, a Cleveland native, also serves as editor-at-large at Warner Books.

Walk Worthy is offering readers three new titles this year. A Lova' Like No Otha' by Atlanta writer Stephanie Perry Moore (May 2003, $13.95, ISBN 0-446-67967-4) may appeal primarily to a younger audience. The book contains one seemingly simple message: Until you learn to truly love God and follow God, it is not possible to have a Godly intimate relationship with anyone else. The book's main character, Zoe, although a Christian, struggles to learn this message, particularly with respect to sexual purity. Ironically, she learns this important lesson through a love interest, a professional football player. "It was significant to me that the message of abstinence came through a strong African American male character," says Stinson.

Second Sunday, the latest Walk Worthy novel, by Michele Andrea Bowen (June 2003, $22.95, ISBN 0-446-53033-6) takes a behind-the-scenes look at two critical events in the life of any African American church: the search for a new pastor and the celebration of the church's anniversary. Bowen's writing humorously explores familiar terrain for anyone who has witnessed church politics. The book also contains important messages about redemption and love--that we are an imperfect people who serve a gracious and merciful God.

Readers may remember Bowen's first novel, Church Folk, which was widely successful, sold over 150, 000 copies to become an Essence magazine best-seller.

"If we sell one book or one million books, it doesn't matter," she continues. "Our success is judged solely by whether our books bring readers closer to God. Another new Walk Worthy title Joshua's Bible (April 2003, $23.95, ISBN 0-446-53032-8) is an historical novel by Harvard graduate Shelly Leanne. It explores the seldom-depicted experience of an African American minister who was the first "Negro" missionary in South Africa in the 1930s.

"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to publish a book like Joshua's Bible," notes Stinson. "I initially sought a publisher for the book as the author's agent. Other publishers did not seem to understand its significance. I am grateful to now be in the position to publish it myself."

The publisher, also plans a line of mysteries and trilogies. Walk Worthy has begun to offer a limited number of nonfiction titles, including Showing Mary by the Reverend Dr. Renita Weems (May 2002, $12.95, ISBN 0-446-53066-2).

In October, readers can also look forward to Ronn Elmore's first novel, Mercy, Mercy Me. Elmore, an ordained minister and psychologist is best known for his relationship advice books. His most recent title, An Outrageous Commitment: The 48 Vows of an Indestructible Marriage (HarperResource, 2003, $22.95, ISBN 0-066-21130-1) focuses on marriage.

Walk Worthy plans to continue giving voice to Christian authors who might not otherwise be heard.

--Kathryn V. Stanley is a writer and minister for development with the Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta.
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Author:Stanley, Kathryn V.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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