Wendy Elaine Nelles

July 2018

Dear Members and Friends of The Word Guild –

Word Guild members will be saddened to learn that Wendy Elaine Nelles, a founding and always key member, passed away Thursday, July 26.

From long time friend Patrica Paddey on Facebook:

“I t is with deep sorrow that I share the news that Wendy Nelles has gone to be with her Lord. For four years, she fought cancer with courage and strength, choosi ng to LIVE each moment of her final years to the fullest, and to remain as focused on others throughout her cancer journey as she always had been. She passed peacefully tonight, at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, surrounded by people who love her. She was 63.

Her razor sharp intellect and passionate curiosity remained with her to the very end. A co-founder of The Word Guild, there are countless Canadian Christian writers and editors today who can thank Wendy for having found their voice due to her tireless advocacy on their behalf, and efforts at encouraging excellence and creativity. An award-winning journalist, writer, editor, speaker and writing instructor, Wendy was a passionate supporter of the arts. Her faith in God was the driving force of her life, and so while we grieve the loss of our friend, we know she has found her rest. Wendy is survived by her mother, Lois, who will need our love, support and prayers.”
Interim chair of The Word Guild (TWG) board of directors, Lloyd Mackey, recalls Wendy as someone who knew and understood the Canadian Christian writing community and enjoyed serving it to the best of her considerable abilities. "I watched, as a journalist writing in both mainstream and faith-based settings, as she worked with others to keep the cause of writer development in the Christian venue moving forward and adapting to frequent changes. She was an encourager to writers who were Christian and did much, as well, as a TWG co-founder, to see that structures were in place to continuously support such writers.

"Just a few months ago, I was able to examine research she had done to identify potential recipients for TWG's lifetime achievement marker, known as the Leslie K. Tarr Award. Her work was thorough and her professional and spiritual sense of the Christian writing community was obvious in that work." 
Former chair of the board and friend Thom Froese commented: 
“For many years Wendy was a tireless supporter, networker and advocate of The Word Guild affairs, seeking always to encourage writers to produce work of professional quality and Christian virtue. 

“In many ways, Wendy was a very private person, and for this reason some of you may not have been aware that she was, in fact, fighting renal cancer for several years."
Wendy retired formally from The Word Guild in 2010 but continued to care about it and the Canadian writers and editors who are Christian that it represents.

Excerpts from her retirement press release in 2010

Nelles, a Toronto-based writer and editor whose background includes journalism and corporate communications, co-founded The Word Guild in 2001 and assumed responsibility for directing Canada's largest Christian writers' conference, together with author N. J. Lindquist of Markham, Ont." Except for small honoraria, this has all been done as full-time volunteers.

"We started The Word Guild to strengthen and develop Canada's Christian writing and publishing community, with the long-term vision of impacting the Canadian cultural landscape," Nelles explained at the time of her retirement. "I'm passionate about mentoring and encouraging other writers and promoting excellence. Over the 22 years I've been involved with the God Uses Ink/Write! Canada conference, and the last 9 years with The Word Guild, it's been wonderful to see hundreds of people affected by our work."

Nelles and Lindquist both received the Leading Women Award for outstanding achievement in Communications and Media in 2006, for their work in co-founding The Word Guild. Bill Fledderus, senior editor of Faith Today magazine, said at the time, " Nelles and Lindquist have raised the bar for excellence in their sector of Christian ministry and encouraged many young and aspiring writers to make a difference in Canada through the written and spoken word." (Picture with Lorna Dueck who presented the award.)

"We worked very well together. Wendy sees how to implement and improve plans, and makes sure the details are looked after." Lindquist commented, "Wendy is highly intelligent, passionate in her desire to use her gifts to serve God faithfully, and great at everything she does."

Wendy has set an example of excellence. Her attention to detail, her amazing memory, her familiarity with the history of The Word Guild and Write! Canada, her knowledge and experience, let alone her passion, faith, patience, help and encouragement, have meant a great deal to The Word Guild and its members.
Excerpts from an interview with the co-founders published in Maranatha News on the founding of The Word Guild

WEN: I had completed an MA in Communications from Wheaton College in Illinois in the early 1980s, and I had come back to Canada eager to use my communication skills within the Christian community. I became very discouraged; at that time, few Christian organizations had the budget or the vision for professional communications. I didn’t know how to find writing opportunities or connect with other Christian writers. I longed to find someone to mentor me. I returned to my corporate job in the financial services industry, then found out about God Uses Ink and decided to attend the 1988 conference because the famous missionary author Elisabeth Elliott was the keynote speaker.

MN: When the conference was threatened with ending in 2001, you two determined it was just too important an event to let it die. Why did you think so?

NJL/WEN: We, along with a number of other people, had benefited from the conference. It was the only point of contact most of us had with other Canadian writers who were Christian. We had found a place where we were part of a community of people with similar interests and dreams. We had learned a great deal from the classes, we had networked with colleagues and editors, we had found writing work through the contacts we made. And we had made many good friends. We felt we couldn’t just let it die.

Keeping the conference going was a team effort. We’re grateful that a number of people shared the vision, and came alongside us to give moral support or take various jobs. 

WEN: We were all left reeling when EFC told us they no longer considered God Uses Ink to be part of their mandate, and that 2001 would be the last conference. I had been part of the conference’s leadership team for 13 years, and I knew that I couldn’t just let it die. It had played too big a part in my own life, and in the lives of many others. I believed too much in its potential. 

In the fall of 2001, we started having brainstorming meetings with key stakeholders. We quickly realized that beyond a three-day event, we needed to help writers and editors who are Christian across Canada 365 days a year! That led to the launch of The Word Guild, an association with the mandate of connecting, developing and promoting Canadian writers and editors who are Christian. The vision kept growing—far beyond keeping the conference alive for one year—to an all-encompassing goal of strengthening the Canadian Christian writing and publishing industry, and of impacting the Canadian culture through the words of people who write from a Christian worldview.

WEN: I’ve always been passionate about making my life count. I’m passionate about the conference and The Word Guild, because I know how much they would have meant to me when I was a student longing to find someone to give me some guidance and encouragement. I’m passionate about encouraging excellence, and about building up our Canadian writers and editors, because I want to see people who write from a Christian faith perspective published by mainstream publishers and recognized as thought-leaders in our culture. I want to see well-written, high-quality books by Canadian authors in our Christian bookstores, to counterbalance the American product we’re overwhelmed with. But I didn’t know the personal cost I would pay when I embarked on this faith adventure, or that my own writing would have to be put on hold for so long. 

WEN: The Lord has been with us every step of the way, guiding us. We’ve tried to honour Him by doing things well to the very best of our abilities, and then we trust Him to bless and multiply our efforts.

WEN: The ground is shifting under our feet on a daily basis. Everyone knows that the old models of publishing are broken, but no one knows how to fix them, or how the new age of digital publishing on the Internet is going to make any money. But we know that people still want to tell their stories, and other people still want to read their stories. Readers are looking for stories to inspire, encourage, entertain, motivate, help them. 

WEN: The Internet has opened up a world of opportunities, where anyone can set up a Web site or blog for free and be read by others all over the globe. It has leveled the playing field. Traditional media are no longer the gatekeepers, deciding what stories should be published or what views should be publicized. Bloggers are replacing the role previously played by journalists on staff at traditional media. They often break news stories and are quoted by traditional media. The main issue is that people expect Internet content to be free, so how can anyone publishing on the Internet earn his or her rent money? Paradoxically, those bloggers who attract a large following can then be approached to write columns or a book for traditional media, so the lines are blurring.
Writer and Editor

As a journalist, Wendy wrote articles for magazines such as Faith Today and Christian Week . As an editor, she co-edited the first two Hot Apple Cider books, which were done as joint projects of World Vision, The Word Guild and That's Life Communications. Both were Canadian bestsellers. She won The Word Award for and two Awards of Merit for "Soulmates," the story she wrote for A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.  Stories from the book itself won an unprecedented 13 awards, six first-place prizes and seven awards of merit. Several of the writers attributed their awards to the editing of the pieces.
Most recently, Wendy edited the book The Game Changers: True Stories About Saving Mothers & Babies in East Africa, written by Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese and Patricia Paddey, which won The Word Award's Culture Book Award, as well as The Debra Fieguth Award (for social justice writing). (picture with Patricia Paddey at The Word Awards Gala.)

As an editor she not only helped produce great products, but mentored the writers she worked with to improve their talents. She was justifiably proud of the work she did with the writers in the first two Hot Apple Cider books Some of her thoughts on that project were captured in this interview by Janet Sketchley http://janetsketchley.ca/interview-the-editors-of-a-second-cup-of-hot-apple-cider/
Death Notice

  NELLES, Wendy Elaine 1955 - 2018 – surrounded by her family and friends at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto on July 26th, 2018, in her 64th year. Loving Daughter of Lois Nelles (nee Miles) & late Raymond Nelles (2015) of Boston. Beloved niece of Keith & Margaret Miles of Waterford; She will be missed by several cousins; their spouses & families. Friends are invited to share their memories of Wendy with her family at the JASON SMITH FUNERAL CHAPEL, 689 Norfolk St. North, Simcoe, for visitation on Monday, July 30th from 2-4 p.m. & 7-9 p.m. A funeral service will be held in the chapel on Tuesday at 2 p.m. with Pastor Ron Humphries officiating. Interment at Greenwood Cemetery, Waterford. Donations may be made in Wendy’s memory to Gideon’s or Christian Service Centre. Online condolences at  www.smithfuneralchapel.com.  (519) 426-0199