Thriving in Leadership: One of the Best Ways Ever to Write a Book

Karen Longman at Cedar Springs, June, 2011

Since leadership is not the subject of this blog, I haven’t told you yet about a great leadership book writing project I’ve been part of.

Now, however, the book is being published, so I want to focus on a part of the experience that is relevant to this blog — the writing process.

Like all stories of accomplishment, this one has a hero. Her name is Karen Longman.

Karen is program direct for the doctoral programs in Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University. But her avocation is helping the previously disenfranchised,women and people of color, move into leadership roles, especially in Christian higher education, where the small percentage of leaders from these groups has been slowly increasing. Karen has tenaciously built a network of administrators and their protegees across a wide spectrum of institutions.

Her passion for changing the face of leadership among the member organizations of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities was apparent thirty years ago when I first met Karen . I was on sabbatical leave from Goshen College working as a Senior Fellow at the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education in Washington, DC. Even though I was reluctant at first, I joined her. Her cheerful spirit and total dedication inspired me then and still do.

Working with a group of private donors and foundations, Karen located an ideal place for leadership workshops — Cedar Springs Christian retreat center in Sumas, Washington. After many years of offering leadership workshops there, Karen turned her attention to gathering some of the more senior women mentors and putting together a book about leadership.

A Group Writing Project

In June, 2011, a group of women met to do another leadership workshop. Gordon T. Smith offered daily inspirational talks based on his biblical scholarship and practical experiences. After the workshop concluded, about 16 women remained at Cedar Springs to plan the book and to write drafts. We wrote and walked and talked and wrote and sang and prayed and ate great food together in a lush, gorgeous natural setting. By the end of the week, most people had completed their first drafts of chapters which would eventually become a book.

If you’ve never written with others in a retreat setting, you might want to try it. The resulting book breathes some of the spirit of the place. Here’s a slide show of some of the trees, flowers, nooks, swans, lakes, etc. And did I mention delicious food?

After that, editors got involved, and drafts were revised throughout the year. Karen was there with her gentle, insistent nudges, making sure busy administrators did not forget to continue making their chapters the best they could be. We had long conversations on email about the book title and cover, settling on the attractive one pictured here.

The rest of the conversations continued online, since the authors are located all across the country. The book has already sold out one printing! You can order through Amazon here or directly from ACU Press, 1626 Campus Court Abilene, TX 79601.

One of the things I like about this book is that it contains lots of memoir. Authors told real stories about what they have learned, often through the school of hard knocks, but also through formal and informal leadership education and mentoring.

It’s a book written with love for the blessings of the individual authors’ life journeys, but especially with love for future leaders.

It’s also a book that would not have been written without Karen Longman’s longterm vision, passion, and many volunteer hours.

But that’s what leaders do.

Have you ever written a book with a group of other writers? Do you have a retreat story to tell? A leadership story to tell?  Would love to hear from you. And if you know anyone or any group that would benefit from reading this book, please help spread the word!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Kathleen Friesen on August 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience with this process and, most importantly, a vision for a future for higher education. I am looking forward to reading this collection of essays.

    Here’s the Amazon link for the book:


  2. Kathleen Friesen on August 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience with this process and, most importantly, a vision for a future for higher education. I am looking forward to reading this collection of essays.

    Here is the Amazon link for the book:

  3. shirleyhs on August 21, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Thanks, Kathleen. You work with leaders all the time, so you will be a great reader for this book. I think you will find that the stories and principles contained within it are applicable across a wide variety of disciplines.

    And thanks for finding the link! I have updated the blog post itself to include a link now. Not sure why and how I missed it. That’s why we need each other. 🙂

  4. Karen Longman on August 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    How Fun! Working with this wonderful collection of chapter authors has been a high point of my professional life. So glad that the unique perspective of these leaders could be told for the benefit of others currently in the trenches or who may be considering senior-level leadership. Your legacy continues and is being multiplied, Shirley!! Karen

  5. shirleyhs on August 22, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Thanks, Karen, and so is yours! So glad you showed up here. How did you come up with the idea of doing a book/group retreat in the first place? I don’t think I ever asked you that question.

    • Karen Longman on August 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Hi SHS – Since 1998, we’ve offered life-changing leadership development opportunities for women working in faith-based higher education. I have had the privilege of hearing the Resource Leaders present out of their areas of expertise and felt like a much wider audience would benefit from the content being shared in those sessions.

      So, the “Thriving in Leadership” project gave these Resource Leaders the opportunity to think back over subject matter that has been on their hearts for quite sometime, sharing their lived experiences and knowledge of the relevant research literature with others.

  6. shirleyhs on August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for explaining the impetus for the book. I think the early indications confirm your hunch.

    I was really thinking about the retreat/group writing idea, this time, however. For me, this was a really creative, efficient, and inspirational idea. Think of it, virtually a whole book drafted in one week! Revisions took much longer, of course.

  7. Linda Gartz on August 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Sounds like a great collection, brought into being by a woman of passion and talent. It’s got to be a winner. Looking forward to reading it!

    • shirleyhs on August 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks, Linda. I hope you do.

      One story. The book doesn’t talk overtly about women in leadership. It’s a book about leadership that just happens to be written by all women. 🙂

      One male reader was perusing the table of contents and said, “All of these are women!”

      He then spied one written by Lee Snyder, former president of Bluffton University. “Oh, here’s a man,” he said. Lee’s given name is Lela. 🙂

  8. Faith Ngunjiri on September 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I am so looking forward to reading the book, I ordered it a couple of days ago from Amazon. There is a lot we aspiring and emerging leaders can learn from those who blazed the trail, and one of the ways to do so is through leadership stories. Thanks to KL and all of you for putting it together.

  9. shirleyhs on September 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks, Faith, for buying the book. I hope you will gain much from the essays. I know I have.

  10. […] feather in this picture actually came from another pilgrimage experience, my time at Cedar Springs, where I picked up a swan feather. Bird feathers have always fascinated me, especially after poet […]

  11. Karen Fisher-Alaniz on October 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    It sounds like an amazing experience (and book). I am just hungry for a new experience like this – how amazing and invigorating it must be! And how empowering! You inspire me!

  12. shirleyhs on October 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    So glad you are inspired, Karen. I highly recommend a communal writing retreat experience. I hope you can find a way to do this. Sometimes there are contests and/or anthologies that might create the occasion for a group to work together.

    Any writer’s retreat is fun. Hope you get to go on one soon. Thanks for the comment.

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