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Author Interviews: My favorite part of ETS and SBL meetings.

Categories Theology

One of the distinct privileges of working for Zondervan Academic is the face-to-face interaction I am able to have with some of today’s foremost Christian scholars. I’m not trying to brag, and I will do my best not to “name drop” in what follows. Rather, I simply want to acknowledge that I am blessed to work at Zondervan. And it’s not just because Grand Rapids, MI is such a sunny vacation spot and/or a cultural mecca (sigh...) but I’m blessed because of the interactions I have with authors who genuinely love the Lord Jesus, and who have devoted their life to glorifying him in their scholarly pursuits. These are driven, brilliant people who, on occasion, I get to interview as a result of my work. This, for me, is the highlight of the annual ETS and SBL meetings.

Why write this up today? Because I think others might want to attend these meetings for different reasons. Some might just want to go for the discounted books alone (read: disinterested librarians). Some others might only be interested in hearing papers on the bleeding edge of research within their discipline (read: rabid doctoral students). And still others are likely there just to network (read: most everyone else). Me? I like to interview professors about the textbooks they are writing. Nerdy, I know, but here’s why:

The annual ETS and SBL meetings (and the weeks leading up to them) are THE busiest weeks of the year for Zondervan Academic. Our days at these meetings are packed with activity, literally 6am to midnight. On these days our team sets up displays, hauls books, carts around signage, catches cabs, runs-down-busy-city-blocks-in-dress-shoes-with-heavy-copy-paper-boxes-of-fliers, keeps Mike Bird out of jail, and a myriad of other tasks related to putting on a good showing at a conference. We also entertain authors, agents, journal and magazine editors, event planners, publicists, potential authors, and retail managers at these shows. We have to be at our best, and “on” all the time. We must be ready to answer questions at any moment, and to represent Zondervan well. Not to mention the weeks leading up to the shows that are filled with meetings, deadlines, and emails all focused on creating great booths and fun and productive meetings with authors.

It’s all very exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. I’m sure our colleagues at Baker, B&H, or any of the other fine publishing houses that attend would say the same.

But back to the author interviews....

Since the ETS and SBL meetings of 2008 the Zondervan Academic team has been filming author interviews throughout the weekend. Most of these videos have been shown on Koinonia before, and nearly all of them are on YouTube. [Here’s an example from 2008, 2009, and 2010.] These videos are meant not just to sell books, but also to “introduce” authors more fully to Zondervan readers. We hope to capture some of their personality and passion in each video.

I’ve been privileged to interview authors at each show over the last four years. What that means is that myself, the author, and a camera guy sit down in a room and spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour talking about their books and research projects. Often, by the time I get to these interviews I’m usually sleepy, drained, and maybe hungry. Not the best shape to be in before conducting an interview. I’ve found however (and herein lies the real blessing) that when you talk to someone who is passionate about serving Jesus through scholarship it can be an exciting, uplifting, and even spiritually edifying experience.

I can’t tell you how many an author has said something times during an interview that cuts right to my core. As if God was trying to say something just to me.

This year it happened when I was interviewing Mark Strauss for Textbook Plus about his book Four Portraits, One Jesus. I asked him a question about the birth narratives in the gospels and while he answered I was reminded in a fresh way that God really did come to earth. The profoundness of that truth powerfully affected my spirit as if I was just hearing it for the first time.

I also remember during the interviews of the 2008 meetings that I was stunned (and even convicted) by Craig Keener’s genuine humility, and his obvious, infectious love for the word of God. I walked away from his interview thinking something like, “How can I have ignored the power of God’s word in my life? Why am I not more thankful for the Bible?”

These little moments of.....what should I call it....spiritual clarity(?) are not something I plan on. They certainly aren’t something I would have imagined would come as a result of making simple marketing videos. They are unplanned (and certainly undeserved) blessings of being around folks who so genuinely love the Lord. I’ve had similar experiences when talking with certain pastors, or some elder members of my church. The kind of folks who positively hum with spiritual vitality. I hope you know what I mean. When glorifying Jesus is the end goal, even something as dry as a marketing video about a textbook can come alive! (At least that’s been my experience.  ;-)

So, I hope you enjoy the next batch of videos we have for spring 2012. The videos our team made will be seen here, on Textbook Plus, as well as other sites. They all may not necessarily make you well up with worship, but then again...they might. I’ve learned that God will often bless me in ways, and in places, that I don’t expect him too.

-        Andrew for Zondervan Academic

 

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