Born in 1953, Chris enjoyed writing as a child and would silence nosy adults who asked what she wanted to be when she grew up by replying, ‘An Authoress.’
She gained an honours degree in English and Theology from Southampton University in 1975 but, lacking the necessary private income to become ‘An Authoress’ trained as a Chartered Librarian. Shelving books instead of writing them, she reached the dizzy heights of Branch Librarian with Surrey County.
Chris enjoys: gardening, photography, the countryside, walking, bird-watching (not twitching) reading, a good laugh and chatting with friends. More recently her husband has retired and their grandchildren have become a great joy. Chris and her husband are involved in a local church where Chris leads the non-musical side of worship sometimes. Until she ran out of time, she also led a church home group.
Chris dislikes: driving, housework – especially clearing up, hype and formulae.
Chris hadn’t many more books to her name when she was approached by the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) in 1995: ‘Would you consider being on our committee?’ She said, ‘Yes’ out of sheer surprise – and her five year term became another series of steep learning curves. They put her in charge of ‘experienced writers!’ Later, as Vice President, she was one of the first three Trustees and Directors of the 1000-strong incorporated charity and led the ‘raising the profile’ team, liaising with external organisations. She led a 5-day writing course on behalf of ACW at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and 2003 and a MasterSun writing holiday in Turkey in 1999.
When her second child was small, two Ghanaians came to speak at a meeting organised by her church. Chris intended to write it up as an article but sat open-mouthed thinking ‘this isn’t an article, it’s a book!’ How Chris came to write this, her first book, is a very long story. Sufficient here to mention that all advice says, ‘Write about what you know’ and Chris knew nothing about Ghana. Or about writing a biography-cum-church history. Despite the steep learning curve, Chris found she loved research and when she finally finished, she had the ‘writing bug’ good and proper. Finding a publisher wasn’t easy but A Giant in Ghana was published in 1989 in the UK – and subsequently in Ghana too. Amazingly the Ghanaian church, which has grown hugely and spread across the globe, contacted Chris in 2013 with a view to republishing her book! You can find out more about Chris’ 19 other books on the Books page of this website.
Chris met her husband, John, at Southampton and their children were born in 1980 and 1983. When they were small, her church needed articles for its monthly news-sheet and for several years Chris interviewed people – leaders, new arrivals, those who’d done something interesting, anyone brave enough to let her near them. The results got published on A4 sheets stapled at one corner, but Chris said it was a good way to learn to write, ‘Because I knew the people who read my articles – and they told me what they liked and didn’t like.’
‘I realised how much I enjoyed helping others to write,’ Chris said, ‘especially seeing their confidence increase. They grow as people too and you get to know each other really quickly.’ Wanting to do more after her fixed ACW committee term ended, Chris began leading creative writing holidays at Ashburnham Place, a Christian conference centre in Sussex. ‘The ACW/LICC course is about how to get published. It’s very good but hard work and non-residential, in central London,’ Chris says. ‘On an Ashburnham creative writing holiday people discovered depths of creativity, within a beautiful, relaxed setting.’ Chris led these holidays in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and two in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 there were two in Devon, one in Crete and one in Jersey and in 2007 ones in Mallorca, Devon, Jersey and the last one for a while at Ashburnham, where the conference centre was changing direction to become more focussed on prayer. (There have been more changes recently and Chris is delighted to be back leading a writing breaks at Ashburnham again from 2014.) From 2008 until now Chris has led between two and four writing holidays a year in different venues, so the total number must be well in excess of 40.
After coming off the national ACW committee Chris also wanted to do something more local. Since 2000 she has been running writing courses initially through Mole Valley District Council Arts Development and a similar course in Bookham weekly in school term time, plus groups for people with on-going writing projects. She leads other one-off writing days, locally and further afield, has taken part in Arts Festivals, and gives talks from time to time about her books and related subjects. Sometimes she leads creative prayer and meditation events for churches or for one of her publishers.
Chris Leonard Writing